March came and went in a flash! I visited California, celebrated a few birthdays (including my own!) and managed to read 8 books, many of which were wonderful!
1. Cybele’s Secret By Juliet Marillier
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis: For Paula, accompanying her merchant father on a trading voyage to Istanbul is a dream come true. They have come to this city of trade on a special mission to purchase a most rare artifact—a gift from the ancient goddess, Cybele, to her followers. It’s the only remnant of a lost, pagan cult. But no sooner have they arrived when it becomes clear they may be playing at a dangerous game. A colleague and friend of Paula’s father is found murdered. There are rumors of Cybele’s cult reviving within the very walls of Istanbul. And most telling of all, signs have begun to appear to Paula, urging her to unlock Cybele’s secret. Meanwhile, Paula doesn’t know who she can trust in Istanbul, and finds herself drawn to two very different men. As time begins to run out, Paula realizes they may all be tied up in the destiny of Cybele’s Gift, and she must solve the puzzle before unknown but deadly enemies catch up to her.
My Thoughts: Juliet Marillier is one of my favourite authors and I generally love everything she writes. Of the ten books I’ve read from her so far, this was unfortunately my least favourite. After reading Wildwood Dancing, the first book in this series, I fell in love with the magic of the Otherworld, a mystical realm full of wonderful creatures. I was hoping this story would have the same focus on the Otherworld as the first story did, but it didn’t. This story follows Paula, one of the five sisters from the first book, as she travels to Istanbul to help her father with his merchant business. There she meets two very different men that both tug at her heartstrings and later embarks on a dangerous journey with them. She is described as a scholar but in this book it is evident that she still has a lot of learning to do. I think part of the reason I did not enjoy this story as much as other Juliet Marillier books is that the relationships between the characters did not feel as real. I also think the love triangle was lacking in its development. Overall, I am happy I read this story to see where the characters from book one ended up, but a bit dissapointed that I did not love it as much as I anticipated.
2. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Conceived by a shy British don on a golden afternoon to entertain ten-year-old Alice Liddell and her sisters, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass have delighted generations of readers in more than eighty languages. “The clue to the enduring fascination and greatness of the Alice books,” writes A. S. Byatt in her Introduction, “lies in language. It is play, and word-play, and its endless intriguing puzzles continue to reveal themselves long after we have ceased to be children.”
My Thoughts: This story is even more bizarre, more complex and more full of non-sense than I imagined it would be. I’ve seen some of the Alice in Wonderland movie adaptations and recently finished reading Heartless by Marissa Meyers, and was curious to learn more about the origin of Alice in Wonderland. While much of this story was over my head (I typically don’t like poetry and riddles), I did find it very fascinating to read the foot notes and author’s history that was provided. They show that the story is much more complex than it appears on the surface. I’m very interested in learning even more about the Wonderland universe now!
3. Over Ruled by Brittney Joy
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Nova Hart knows nothing of Sterling, the kingdom she was born in. She has never been exposed to strict rules, a controlling monarchy, or black magic. So when Nova and her Dad travel back to Sterling to rescue her recently orphaned cousin, she quickly understands why her family packed up and left Sterling sixteen years ago – before Nova could crawl. Stunned by the way magic is used to control the kingdom, Nova is ready to leave the second she arrives, but what she doesn’t know may stop her. Inside the boundaries of Sterling, Nova is being watched, hunted – for a power she’s not sure she has. Princess Jade has never stepped foot outside the castle, bound by its walls for protection as she’s the sole heir to the throne – and the magic that comes with it. But the Queen’s not ready to give up her royal status. Not now. Not ever. Queen Katrina sees Jade as a hurdle, rather than her legacy. And Jade has started to wonder if the castle walls are truly there to keep her safe. Fighting for freedom against a queen that wants to crush them both, Nova and Jade are forced to discover their own powers as their separate lives become intertwined by Chael, a royal guard with secrets of his own. But does Chael have the knowledge to help them break free of the queen, or is he using them both to secure his own agenda?
My Thoughts: Over Ruled is a fast paced, action packed fantasy story with a good mix of magic and danger, and some great female leads as well. At first I was worried the pace would be too fast for my liking (I typically like slow burning stories), but I was pleasantly surprised by how well the pacing worked for it. I found the main characters to be instantly likeable and the story captivating from the beginning. This story follows two girls: Jade the princess and Nova the horse-loving commoner (or so she thinks). Both girls are looking for freedom and their stories get intertwined in more ways than one, and it was fun reading from both of their perspectives. I would love to learn more about the magic system and the characters backgrounds so I’m hoping the second book will be longer. Overal, a very exciting story, and I’m looking forward to book two!
4. The Exceptional Seven Percent by Gregory K. Popcak
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: What Do Exceptional Couples Know That Others Don’t? If roughly fifty percent of marriages fail, what about the other fifty percent–the ones that “succeed”? Are those couples who stay together necessarily happy? No, not necessarily. In fact, many marriages that remain intact are far less than ideal. A mere seven percent are really good–in fact, exceptional. These couples have much greater than average passion, happiness, longevity, and fulfillment. But if less-than-exceptional marriages are made up of men who are supposedly from Mars and women who are supposedly from Venus, what planet do exceptional husbands and wives come from? What are the secrets of exceptional couples. . .and what can they teach us? Marriage therapist Gregory K. Popcak believes that ways of relating employed by exceptional couples can benefit all marriages. In The Exceptional Seven Percent, he looks at the most successful couples and exposes their secrets
My Thoughts: I often feel so blessed to be in such a happy relationship and sometimes wonder how common it is to feel this way. I have no idea who gave me this book, but I found it on my shelf and was intrigued to see how many of these “secrets” my husband and I are already doing naturally in our marriage. I find psychology very fascinating and am always interested in learning more! Reading this book was a great way to validate all of the things that my husband and I are doing “right” in our marriage and a great reminder about why all of the things we do for each other are important. I even picked up some new tips for strengthening our bond. I would recommend this book to both happy couples as well as to couples searching for more.
5. Blackhearts by Nicole Castroman
My Rating: 5 of 5 stars
Synopsis: In this stunningly creative debut “filled with well-drawn characters…and smoldering passion,” (Booklist) Nicole Castroman reimagines the origins of history’s most infamous pirate—Blackbeard. When Edward “Teach” Drummond, son of one of Bristol’s richest merchants, returns home from a year at sea, he finds his life in shambles. Betrothed to a girl he doesn’t love and sick of the high society he was born into, all Teach wants is to return to the vast ocean he calls home. There’s just one problem: he must convince his father to let him leave and never come back. Following the death of her parents, Anne Barrett is left penniless. Though she’s barely worked a day in her life, Anne takes a job as a maid in the home of Master Drummond. Lonely days stretch into weeks and Anne longs to escape the confines of her now mundane life. How will she ever achieve her dream of sailing to Curaçao—her mother’s birthplace—when she’s trapped in England? From the moment Teach and Anne meet, they set the world ablaze. Drawn together by a shared desire for freedom, but kept apart by Teach’s father, their love is as passionate as it is forbidden. Faced with an impossible choice, Teach and Anne must decide whether to chase their dreams and leave England forever—or follow their hearts and stay together.
My Thoughts: I want more! This book was a recommended to me during the #loveathon when I was looking for a good pirate story. Because of this, I dived into the story without reading the synopsis and I did not realize until the very end that this is a re-telling of Blackbeard’s early life. After reading the authors note at the end about all of the links between the real Blackbeard and this retelling, I gained a whole new level of appreciation and excitement for the story! This story follows Teach (aka Blackbeard) as a young man as he struggles to gain independence from his father, and Anne, the illegitimate daughter of a wealthy merchant and his cook as she tries to create a life for herself. I loved the pacing of this story and all of the twists and turns. The ONLY thing that I was a bit disappointed with was that all of the great romantic tension that Teach and Anne had at the beginning so suddenly changed to “I love you and want to be with you forever” instantly after their first kiss. I wish their love would have built up at a bit more realistic pace. Regardless, I was able to overlook this because I liked both of their characters so much and was excited to see where the story progressed. I will be impatiently waiting for book 2 to come out!
6. Faete by Aimee Oswald Sellars
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: They say your life can turn on a dime. In my case, it was a book. An ancient Celtic book of magic to be precise. While most of my classmates are worried about filling out college applications, I’ve got bigger concerns about the future. Like trying to unravel some pretty dark and disturbing family secrets I unearthed in the old springhouse. And then there’s the little matter of the side effects caused by dabbling in magic under a Blood Moon. When seventeen-year-old Renny McGuire agrees to close her mother’s bookshop one night, her life is irrevocably changed. She inadvertently opens the gateway between the mundane world and that of the fae, setting in motion a dangerous chain reaction that threatens not only her life, but the lives of those she loves. From the moment Keegan Doyle and Tristan Byrne enter her life, Renny feels a powerful and inexplicable connection to the two enigmatic strangers. Her best friend Jesse starts acting strange. Her mother and housekeeper whisper and exchange furtive glances. Renny is haunted by unsettling dreams and visions. And suddenly it seems everyone has something to hide. Can Renny reverse the chain of events she’s set in motion? Can she uncover the truth behind family secrets buried long ago? One thing is certain. Her fate depends on it. Her very heart and soul depend on it.
My Thoughts: This story was pure entertainment. I highly enjoyed it and am itching to read book two (the story ends with a big cliff hanger – so be prepared to be sucked in). This is the story of Renny, a high school girl who accidentally summons two of her lovers from a past life. She feels an incredible pull towards both of these guys that she can’t explain, and embarks on a journey of discovering the magic and mysteries hidden in her past. This story gave me a Twilight type of feel (maybe because of the love triangle and how different the two guys are) but instead of vampires and werewolves we get reincarnation and fairies. The pacing of the story was PERFECT – not too rushed, not too slow. I love how we got to “follow Renny around” even on normal days…it made everything seem more realistic and we really got to know the characters. There was a ton of plot building preparing us for book number two, and tons of questions I’m dying to have answered in the next instalment. The two things that prevented me from giving this story a 5 stars were: #1 I didn’t fully connect to Renny as a character, I think because she was so calm about many of the bizarre discoveries she made about her past. I would have freaked out more and flipped out on my mom for keeping such a secret! And #2 The cover just did not do the story justice! I found it to be too old fashion, but am so happy I overlooked that and gave the book a chance, since it really was so entertaining to read!
7. Eragon by Christopher Paolini
My Rating: 4 of 5 stars
Synopsis: One boy. One dragon. A world of adventure. When Eragon finds a polished blue stone in the forest, he thinks it is the lucky discovery of a poor farm boy; perhaps it will buy his family meat for the winter. But when the stone brings a dragon hatchling, Eragon realizes he has stumbled upon a legacy nearly as old as the Empire itself. Overnight his simple life is shattered, and he is thrust into a perilous new world of destiny, magic, and power. With only an ancient sword and the advice of an old storyteller for guidance, Eragon and the fledgling dragon must navigate the dangerous terrain and dark enemies of an Empire ruled by a king whose evil knows no bounds. Can Eragon take up the mantle of the legendary Dragon Riders? The fate of the Empire may rest in his hands.
My Thoughts: I’m happy I finally got around to checking out Eragon…I’ve been curious about it for years. I listened to this as an audiobook, and while it took me awhile to get used to Gerard Doyle as a narrator and to the voice he used for the dragon, I eventually overcame those obstacles and started to enjoy the story. I do think this is one of those books that is better enjoyed as an audiobook, since there were moments that I could imagine myself finding a bit boring if I were reading the physical book (lots of world descriptions) but as an audiobook it was easy to kind of just relax and zone out. I have seen negative reviews for this one saying that it’s too similar to Lord of the Rings (except with dragons), but I haven’t read Lord of the Rings so I can’t comment on that. This is the story of Eragon, and boy who discovers a dragon’s egg. After the egg hatches he becomes a wanted man and begins an epic journey of escaping danger and learning about who he really is. There was quite a bit of world building and action but no romance (although I’ve heard that this changes in future stories). Overall, an enjoyable read and I’ll be starting the second book asap!
8. The Different Girl by Gordon Dahlquist
My Rating: 3 of 5 stars
Synopsis: Four nearly identical girls on a desert island. An unexpected new arrival. A gently warped near future where nothing is quite as it seems. Veronika. Caroline. Isobel. Eleanor. One blond, one brunette, one redhead, one with hair black as tar. Four otherwise identical girls who spend their days in sync, tasked to learn. But when May, a very different kind of girl—the lone survivor of a recent shipwreck—suddenly and mysteriously arrives on the island, an unsettling mirror is about to be held up to the life the girls have never before questioned.
My Thoughts: This book had so much potential, but was ruined by the fact the very important parts of the plot line are never explained. This is the story of four robot girls who are living on an island with two human caretakers when a human teenager gets washed up on shore. I actually loved the writing style of this story and loved reading from the point of view of one of the robot girls. It was so cool to see the world the way the robots do and go along with them on their journey of becoming individuals. What I really didn’t like was all of the pieces of the plot that were missing. Towards the end of the story something bad happens on the island, but we never get to learn much about it. If we could have learned more about WHY the girls were created and WHO this organization was coming after them, it would have been so much more fulfilling…even if this information was not introduced until a sequel or something. Overall: fun but lacking at the end!