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Review – Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin

Wolf by Wolf (Wolf by Wolf #1)

By Ryan Graudin

SummaryHer story begins on a train.

The year is 1956, and the Axis powers of the Third Reich and Imperial Japan rule. To commemorate their Great Victory, Hitler and Emperor Hirohito host the Axis Tour: an annual motorcycle race across their conjoined continents. The victor is awarded an audience with the highly reclusive Adolf Hitler at the Victor’s Ball in Tokyo.

Yael, a former death camp prisoner, has witnessed too much suffering, and the five wolves tattooed on her arm are a constant reminder of the loved ones she lost. The resistance has given Yael one goal: Win the race and kill Hitler. A survivor of painful human experimentation, Yael has the power to skinshift and must complete her mission by impersonating last year’s only female racer, Adele Wolfe. This deception becomes more difficult when Felix, Adele twin’s brother, and Luka, her former love interest, enter the race and watch Yael’s every move.

But as Yael grows closer to the other competitors, can she bring herself to be as ruthless as she needs to be to avoid discovery and complete her mission?

From the author of The Walled City comes a fast-paced and innovative novel that will leave you breathless.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Wolf by Wolf was such a great book! The premise is what hooked me at the bookstore. I don’t read a lot of alternate history, but the idea intrigues me, especially when it comes to WWII. I love stories about Hitler, the Holocaust, and the various assassination attempts. 

This book rolled all of those ideas into one. In Wolf by Wolf, the year was 1956 and the Nazis won World War II. The Axis powers were ruling most of the world. Each year, the motorcycle race celebrated their victory. The year before, Victor Adele Wolfe stole her brother’s racing papers and entered the race as him and won. Instead of being mad, the Third Reich celebrated her victory. This year, Adele would compete again, but not as herself. Yael, a death camp survivor and experiment, had the ability to change her appearance. She studied Adele, practiced everything she’d need to know and do, and took her place in the race. If she won, she would be close enough to Hitler to execute him. 

The book took history and fact and morphed it into a thrilling alternate history story involving a little bit of fantasy, since Yael had such a unique ability. I loved the mixture and I loved being thrown into the chaos of the race. Yael occasionally thought about her past and we learned a lot about her as a character, her mission, and the importance of it all. We also got to know Adele, despite her not actually being in the race, because of the interpersonal connections between her and her brother, her and Luka, and even some of the other racers. Yael was a little out of her element because no amount of studying prepared her for the possibility that there were unreported incidents between her and the other racers and she had to struggle to maintain her identity and be believable as Adele.

I thought Wolf by Wolf was the perfect blend of history and imagination. I thoroughly enjoyed it and I can’t wait to pick up the conclusion, Blood for Blood. I highly recommend Wolf by Wolf. It ends in a satisfying way so that I crave the sequel, but don’t feel like I got a cliff hanger ending or anything, which is always a plus. It was imaginative in a realistic way. Despite Yael’s ability, it felt like a believable story. I could tell the author was well researched based on the setting he weaved. And while it wasn’t the first book to pull off a What if the Nazi’s won the war train of thought, it was unique. The motorcycle race was fast paced and ruthless, giving a little grit to the story. It was well done and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Star 4

Review – The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova

 

The Historian

By Elizabeth Kostova

SummaryTo you, perceptive reader, I bequeath my history…

Late one night, exploring her father’s library, a young woman finds an ancient book and a cache of yellowing letters addressed ominously to ‘My dear and unfortunate successor’. Her discovery plunges her into a world she never dreamed of – a labyrinth where the secrets of her father’s past and her mother’s mysterious fate connect to an evil hidden in the depths of history.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

The Historian was a well researched and fascinating book that mixed history and legend together to weave a tale about Dracula. Part historical fiction, part horror, The Historian was very well done. The author did her research and was able to combine fact with the legends we know about Vlad the Impaler/Dracula and tie it together with a fictional tale about a daughter and her father. 

The story involved professors proficient in history and anthroplogy who happened upon a strange book that lead them to research more about the Dracula legends. For the characters involved, the research became highly dangerous. The main character, a sixteen year old girl, happened upon her fathers strange Dragon book and it prompted him to finally tell the story of his travels and his experiences with the book. 

The book shifted from present day, with the main character narrating in first person, to the father’s tale that he told verbally throughout many of their trips together. Then, a series of letters were introduced by her father’s mentor and colleague, another Profressor who disappeared many years ago. Other series of letters were introduced, so the reader was slowly introduced to the full picture and everything came together at the end.

The Historian was very long and slow. I’m glad I read the book during a time when I didn’t have much going on and didn’t have any reason to start the lofty 2017 reading goals I set for myself. In some ways, I feel like the length and the slowness were worth slogging through, as the story was well told. In some ways, I feel like the book was too long, too over the top, and the author could have told the same story and condensed in quite a bit, solving both the length and the issue of it being very slow and somewhat boring in some sections. But The Historian was a debut novel and one written by an author more geared towards the historical and academic aspect of everything. 

If you enjoy the idea of Vlad the Impaler, the Dracula legends, and the history surrounding all of it, The Historian is very enjoyable and worth the read. It’s sort of a combination of Dracula and perhaps The DaVinci Code, in that the main characters galavant all over the world in search of history and monuments, meeting just the right people at the just the right time in order to further their research, with a major threat hanging over them if they fail. I think the writing is likely a bit more intellectual than that of The DaVinci Code, but I still think it’s a fair comparison. For some, the coincidental convenience of the characters and their research will be too much and too unbelievable. I don’t know much about spending time in a dark and dusty archives and how plausible it is to happen upon people with similar research topics, but I was happy enough to let it slide by. After all, perhaps the history and location the characters were researching was one of those “small world” type of scenarios and they got lucky.

I recommend The Historian and I enjoyed it quite a bit, but I do warn anyone that it is very very long. 

Star 4

Review – Worlds of Ink and Shadow by Lena Coakley

 

Worlds of Ink and Shadow

By Lena Coakley

SummaryCharlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne. The Brontë siblings have always been inseparable. After all, nothing can bond four siblings quite like life in an isolated parsonage out on the moors. Their vivid imaginations lend them escape from their strict upbringing, actually transporting them into their created worlds: the glittering Verdopolis and the romantic and melancholy Gondal. But at what price? As Branwell begins to slip into madness and the sisters feel their real lives slipping away, they must weigh the cost of their powerful imaginations, even as their characters—the brooding Rogue and dashing Duke of Zamorna—refuse to let them go.

Gorgeously written and based on the Brontës’ juvenilia, Worlds of Ink & Shadow brings to life one of history’s most celebrated literary families.

Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate.

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Review:

Worlds of Ink and Shadow was a fictional story involving the Bronte siblings and the worlds they created before some of them became published authors. In the book, their fictional world of Verdopolis was a place they could visit through a doorway of sorts which allowed them to be a part of their world. I received the book in an Owlcrate box, but I’ve left it sitting on my shelf for awhile. I’m not a huge fan of the Bronte sisters and their literary works, so I was afraid that the story wouldn’t interest me.

Worlds of Ink and Shadow is great for fans of the Bronte sisters and those unfamiliar with them. While the story does involve the siblings and the actual works of fiction they created and historical fact, aside from those details, the story was just an interesting blend of fact and fiction and the author took liberties with the characters and created a great world.  

I can see why Owlcrate chose the book. It was unique and interesting. It was a bit like the Inkheart novels and Narnia in a way because the siblings jumped into a fictional world. I think I would have appreciated the book more if I was more educated about the Bronte sisters and if I enjoyed Jane Eyre a little more. I could see the way that Roque related to Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights, but a lot of the Jane Eyre connections were kind of lost on me. As far as the idea of having a fictional world, being able to step into it, and having to pay a price to be there, I thought it was an awesome idea but the execution wasn’t as interesting as I felt it could’ve been. I think other books do it better and perhaps the biggest reason for that is that those books weren’t worried about tying history in with a fictional plot.

I recommend Worlds of Ink and Shadow, but it wasn’t as amazing as I’d hoped. It is a great book and if you have it on your shelf already, dive in, because it’s short and a standalone, and quite fun. I just don’t necessarily recommend seeking it out on purpose.

Star 3

Review – Winterspell by Claire Legrand

 

Winterspell

By Claire Legrand

Summary: The clock chimes midnight, a curse breaks, and a girl meets a prince…but what follows is not all sweetness and sugarplums.

New York City, 1899. Clara Stole, the mayor’s ever-proper daughter, leads a double life. Since her mother’s murder, she has secretly trained in self-defense with the mysterious Drosselmeyer.

Then, on Christmas Eve, disaster strikes.

Her home is destroyed, her father abducted—by beings distinctly not human. To find him, Clara journeys to the war-ravaged land of Cane. Her only companion is the dethroned prince Nicholas, bound by a wicked curse. If they’re to survive, Clara has no choice but to trust him, but his haunted eyes burn with secrets—and a need she can’t define. With the dangerous, seductive faery queen Anise hunting them, Clara soon realizes she won’t leave Cane unscathed—if she leaves at all.

Inspired by The Nutcracker, Winterspell is a dark, timeless fairy tale about love and war, longing and loneliness, and a girl who must learn to live without fear.

Source: I received a paperback in a Yureka Book Box

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Review:

Winterspell was a story of a crime infested city, a curious girl, a statue, and a bit of magic. The book was inspired by The Nutcracker with plenty of parallels, but felt like a totally unique story.

Clara’s father was in deep with the various criminal bosses of New York, but after the brutal murder of Clara’s mother, he lost his way and couldn’t seem to keep everyone happy. His position as mayor was certainly crumbling, which meant a quite unfortunate fate for Clara and her younger sister. Fortunately, Clara had a secret with her Godfather, a life of training and stealth that allowed to her at least prepare for some of the unseemly events that others had been plotting to take down Clara’s father. And then, all hell broke loose from another plane. Godfather burst in with mad ravings and Clara stood in front of what used to be a statue and appeared to be a human. Which lead her to a place called Cane, where an even bigger battle of power would have to take place.

I loved the plot and Clara as a main character. She was smart, determined, and relatable. All she really wanted was to save her father, in both worlds. She didn’t realize she was something special and she certainly never realized her weird magnetism with the statue would eventually turn into a weird sort of attraction to a guy who was real. 

I thought the book was a bit long, but I kind of enjoyed the length. I enjoyed seeing Clara balance the conflict in her New York life. It wasn’t really the fast paced OMG I Just Found Out I’m Special and I’m In Fairy World Now kind of book that gives a main character a normal life as just a backdrop. Clara had a real life in New York and she wasn’t just some extra in a play who wouldn’t be missed which made her feel a little more real. I admired her and the way she handled her strength. 

I suppose the whole statue thing can be considered odd, but I enjoyed the relationship between Clara and Nicholas, from statue to prince. It was intriguing and different. 

My only main complaint is that I’ve always been under the impression that iron was lethal to any fairy beings and it’s a product of the fairy ruling over Cane, as she created a bunch of mechanical beings and structures that didn’t seem to be lethal to anyone and so I think the fairies should have been something else in order to make sense in my brain. Also, it’s weird that a person half human and half mate or half fairy would be more powerful than undiluted fairy or made blood, so that was a little weird, too. Those things made sense in the story, but are way different from similar mythology which was the only reason it was a bit off putting for me. 

I enjoyed Winterspell. I love Legrand’s writing and her imagination is quite vivid. I’m definitely happy I received the book in my Yureka Box and I recommend it to anyone looking for a winter fantasy with a little bit of magic and adventure. It was a little bit Nutcracker, Gotham City, and fantasy rolled together.

Star 4

 

Review – Rook by Sharon Cameron

 

Rook

By Sharon Cameron

SummaryHistory has a way of repeating itself. In the Sunken City that was once Paris, all who oppose the new revolution are being put to the blade. Except for those who disappear from their prison cells, a red-tipped rook feather left in their place. Is the mysterious Red Rook a savior of the innocent or a criminal?

Meanwhile, across the sea in the Commonwealth, Sophia Bellamy’s arranged marriage to the wealthy René Hasard is the last chance to save her family from ruin. But when the search for the Red Rook comes straight to her doorstep, Sophia discovers that her fiancé is not all he seems. Which is only fair, because neither is she. 

As the Red Rook grows bolder and the stakes grow higher, Sophia and René find themselves locked in a tantalizing game of cat and mouse.

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Rook was basically a futuristic France where technology failed society and they no longer trust or use it, living in a society that resembled time before technology. It was quite the unique situation and I enjoyed the blend of historical with post apocalyptic. It wasn’t so much a retelling of The Scarlet Pimpernel, but there were certainly elements that were obviously inspired by the classic. While I have not read the classic, I was familiar with the gist, and the book paid homage to it in a way I enjoyed. 

It was thought that the fall of society was due to their complete dependence on technology, unable to do hard labor or make difficult decisions because of their dependence, so when the world fell, so did most of the world. The exact details weren’t given, but the overall result was a society that was anti-technology, punishing and executing those who used and cherished inventions with many societies adopting Anti-Technology Laws. While I don’t know that I agree with the conclusions and I wonder why, if history was all but lost, they’d so closely adapt to a time period. Instead, I would’ve expected a blend of pre-technology societies and habits, but I’m not picky about the result. I understood the point and the reasoning, even if I don’t find it all that plausible. I think the author did well with her setting, despite whether I agree with the plausibility of that setting.

I enjoyed Rook. The story was compelling. Sophia acted as the Red Rook, saving prisoners with elaborate plans, while everyone chased who they thought would most obviously be a man. Her arranged fiancé was intriguing, but related to the man who sought the Red Rook, which created a major conflict full of miscommunication, mystery, and adventure. My only major complaint was that, despite the short length, it took longer than expected to get through. Something about the writing made it difficult and slightly boring at times, but other times I was completely sucked in. I’m not completely sure if the author was using a lot of passive voice, but that’s kind of what it was like.. not a whole lot of straight and to the point action, but elaborate Ah-ha moments that took forever to uncover, like the end of a Scooby-Doo episode where they sit around and talk about how they knew what was what. Which was fun in it’s own way, but it certainly made for a less engrossing book.

Still, I’d recommend Rook to fans of historical fiction and YA dystopian who feel like they’d appreciate the unique blend and aren’t afraid of the somewhat slow pace.

Star 3

 

 

Review – My Lady Jane by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

 

My Lady Jane

By Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows

SummaryThe comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.


At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane is about to become the Queen of England.


Source: I received a hardcover in an Owlcrate and an Uppercase box. 

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Review:

My Lady Jane was written by three authors I totally love, but I wasn’t sure that it was really the kind of book I would enjoy. It stayed on myself for awhile until I kept hearing about how entertaining it was. I picked it up when I was in the mood for some laughs and something entertaining and I’m glad I finally read it!

My Lady Jane was awesome. It was funny, full of references (even Monty Python references), jokes, and tons of emotions. It was a lighthearted and fictional take on a historical event and I was definitely rooting for all of the characters. The main character was Lady Jane Grey, cousin to King Edward. Edward was sick and convinced to give up the crown to Jane in the event of his death. To help speed up the process to get Jane to have some heirs, she was married to Gifford Dudley right away, who happened to the Duke’s son. How convenient. In this world, there were shapeshifters and a ton of conflict revolving around them and much of the story centers on the conflict and the existence of these creatures. For example, Gifford Dudley spent much of his time as a horse. And Edward’s father, the previous King, was a lion. The whole book was great fun. It was adventurous and Jane was a character who appealed to the book nerds reading… She loved to read and learn new things, above all else. 

I highly recommend My Lady Jane. It’s just so much fun! There is way too much horribly serious and dramatic YA fiction out there and this book was just so refreshing! The tone was perfect. The characters were worth rooting for. The story was charming, the adventure kept me guessing, and the entire plot was unique and fun. I can’t imagine how anyone wouldn’t enjoy the book unless you were just completely not expecting humor. I am so glad I finally picked it up. I was super bummed to receive it twice and I didn’t think I’d like it, so I’m relieved and excited that it was so much fun. Now I realize why two amazing book box subscriptions had it that month!

Star 5

Review – Wolf Hollow by Lauren Wolk

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Wolf Hollow

by Lauren Wolk

Summary: Growing up in the shadows cast by two world wars, Annabelle has lived a mostly quiet, steady life in her small Pennsylvania town. Until the day new student Betty Glengarry walks into her class. Betty quickly reveals herself to be cruel and manipulative, and while her bullying seems isolated at first, things quickly escalate, and reclusive World War I veteran Toby becomes a target of her attacks. While others have always seen Toby’s strangeness, Annabelle knows only kindness. She will soon need to find the courage to stand as a lone voice of justice as tensions mount.

Source: I purchased a hardcover on a whim at the airport.

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Review:

Wolf Hollow was a middle grade novel that was well written and moving. The story was just as gorgeous as the stunning cover that caught my eye at an airport bookstore, which is really saying something. It was set during World War II, but not it was not a war historical novel by any means. Instead, it was a story in a small town in Pennsylvania where twelve year old Annabelle was learning about fear in the news reports of the war and in the bully who was starting to become a problem outside of school.

Annabelle was fascinated by a war veteran living in her town named Toby. People judged him for being strange and quiet, but all she had ever seen from him was kindness. She was beginning to experience bullying by a girl in school named Betty. It began with small things, but they soon escalated and Toby also became the subject of her amusement. Annabelle fiercely defended Toby and the story took on a mind of its own as Betty’s lies put Toby’s reputation on the line.

Wolf Hollow was all about judging others, learning how to lie, learning how to tell the truth when it counts, and knowing someone’s character. Annabelle learned a lot the year she turned twelve. It does deal with some violence, but if fits well in the middle grade genre and is certainly a book I’d recommend for kids and parents alike. I enjoyed the story and I highly recommend it. I honestly didn’t expect the book to live up to the gorgeous cover, so I’m shocked and happy to know that the story turned out to be so great.

Star 5