Review of The Silver Skull by Anne Renwick

Synopsis (from Amazon):
An illegal border crossing. A fake marriage. A mad German count determined to create an army of unbreakable soldiers.

Lady Olivia is not all she seems. Trained for marriage to an assigned political target, her skills lie in programming household steambots to serve tea, dress her hair… and sound the alarm while she picks locks and listens at doors. Humiliated by a failed assignment, she decides to redeem herself by tailing a suspected double agent.

Lord Rathsburn must flirt with treason. Struggles to cure a horrible disease have met with unexpected complications. The cells he engineered can make a man’s bones unbreakable, but the side effects are fatal. He believed the research terminated… until his sister was kidnapped by a German count. Her ransom? A cure.

Piloting a stolen dirigible, he uncovers an unlikely stowaway, Lady Olivia. Arriving together at a crumbling castle, an impossible task is set before them: cure the count’s guardsmen. Amidst their fake marriage, a very real growing attraction, dying guardsmen and escalating hostilities, Lady Olivia and Lord Rathsburn are thrust deep into the world of international medical espionage from which there may be no return.

Review:
In the beginning I was quite sad because I expected that the Elemental Web Chronicles would continue on with Thornton and Amanda, and that they would continue solving crimes and working for the Queen. Once I got over that and gave Olivia a chance, I came to find the story quite amusing and enjoyed it.

Although I understand that Olivia’s abilities and intelligence were supposed to be suspect in The Golden Spider, I found it hard to believe the complete change in mentality that her mother was now shown/said to have. Although some characteristics of Olivia’s remained the same, the difference in her in this compared to how she was in The Golden Spider was at times hard to fathom. Treating this like a completely different novel, not necessarily one that should have flowed from one book to the next, made the changes easier to accept.

I quite liked Lord Rathsburn. He was gruff and not the greatest at dealing with people, much like the scientists I know. His familial loyalty was endearing, as was his sense of honour.

I did enjoy this novel quite a bit, though not as much as The Golden Spider.

Star Rating: 

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Review of The Golden Spider by Anne Renwick

Synopsis (from Amazon):
A stolen clockwork spider. A forbidden romance. A murderous spy on the streets of London who must be stopped before it’s too late.

Lady Amanda is tired of having both her intelligence and her work dismissed.
After blackmailing her way into medical school, she catches the eye of her anatomy professor from the moment she walks into his lecture hall. Is he interested in her? Or only her invention-a clockwork spider that can spin artificial nerves?

Lord Thornton, a prominent neurobiologist, has been betrayed.
Secret government technology has been stolen from his laboratory, and a foreign spy is attempting to perfect it via a grisly procedure… using gypsies as test subjects. The last thing he needs is the distraction of a beautiful-and brilliant-new student, even if her spider could heal a deteriorating personal injury.

Until her device is stolen and used in the latest murder.
Lord Thornton has no option but to bring her into his laboratory as well as the investigation where they must fight their growing, yet forbidden, attraction. Bodies accumulate and fragile bonds are tested as they race across London, trying to catch the spy before it’s too late.

Review:
Why did I wait so long to read this book? It was absolutely wonderful! There was everything one could want in a steampunk/gaslamp style novel: there was a plucky and intelligent protagonist who wasn’t willing to just take what society deemed acceptable as her future, a brooding intelligent gentleman, mystery, and forbidden romance!

Amanda was instantly connected to me (perhaps due to us having the same first name, Amy being a short form used for publishing). She is so intelligent but also a society lady, so her struggle to find someone who didn’t just see her as a baby maker was both realistic and frustrating, making her quite relatable. Thornton was equally relatable in his desire to get things done, done right, and even if it killed him to do it himself, he’d be sure it was finished.

I definitely recommend this book to anyone and everyone. I loved it, especially the ending!

Star Rating: 

Review of The Ink Master’s Silence by C. J. Archer

Synopsis (from Amazon):

It should be a happy time for India and Matt, but forces beyond their control conspire to ruin their future. A distraction from their troubles comes in the form of murder.

When the editor of The Weekly Gazette is killed, controversial journalist and ink magician Oscar Barratt asks India and Matt to investigate. As the recipient of threatening letters written on magic paper, he believes he was the intended target. With suspects ranging from Oscar’s brother to guild masters and London’s elite, India and Matt have a lot of investigating to do.

But the more they dig, the more dark secrets they uncover. Secrets that involve blackmail and an exclusive club of magic collectors who want to preserve the value of their collections. When one of the secrets can give India and Matt the future they desire, will they give in to blackmail or sacrifice their happiness?

Review:
Oh, India. Finally, the chance of love with Matt, but family drama keeps them apart. I had expected that Matt’s uncle threatened something very different, and I am somewhat sad that Matt was so easily assuaged. This particular book felt like more family issues and like a set up for something more.

The way that relationships were portrayed in this novel, as they would have been then, was sad yet likely accurate for the time, but what was more sad was the stigma that having magic placed on people, and how some would be so prejudiced against it.

I cannot wait to see what happens in the next book!

Star Rating: 

Review of Enchant: Beauty and the Beast Retold by Demelza Carlton

Synopsis (from Amazon):
A beastly prince. An enchanting beauty. Only love can break the spell.
Once upon a time…
The wicked King Thorn forced the enchantress Zuleika to cast a terrible curse. She fled his court to travel the world, helping those who need her magic most. Until a search for her merchant father’s lost ships leads her to an enchanted island, where Prince Vardan, the island’s ruler, is afflicted by the most powerful curse Zuleika has ever encountered. She’s not sure she can reverse the spell, but she’s determined to try. After all, a prince who fights pirates can’t be all bad…no matter how beastly his appearance.
Together, can the enchanting beauty and the beastly prince break the spell?

Review:
I loved this take on Beauty and the Beast. The premise was unique and refreshing. I did have some issues with the heroine’s name, but that didn’t stop me from enjoying the book. I quite liked Zuleika’s growth and humility throughout the novel, as well as Vardan’s, however, instead of speaking and troubleshooting feelings and emotions verbally, Vardan brushes off Zuleika’s issues and essentially says “It’ll be great because I’m great.”

Unlike most versions of the story, Zuleika knows from the beginning that Vardan is cursed, so instead of being railroaded to liking him and spending time with him by his servants, she understands and wants to help. What irritated me was how long it took Zuleika to realize what had happened to Vardan, considering how intelligent and knowing in magic she is supposed to be by the time she meets him.

Most Amazon reviews seem to have a problem with the sexual mindset of the male protagonist, as well as the sexual parts of the story. I had downloaded this book knowing it was a fairy tale retelling, and that it had been on my list of ones I wanted to eventually read, picking it at random to read from the titles on my kindle. While it is a fairy tale retelling, it likely should be listed under romance first. Though not as carnal as Lidya Foxglove’s Fairy Tale Heat, with only a few instances, there is still a sexual mindset that if one isn’t expecting, might be found irritating.

**WARNING** BOOK BEGINS WITH GRAPHIC (SEXUAL) VIOLENCE

Star Rating: 

Review of Bellamy and the Brute by Alicia Michaels

Synopsis (from Amazon):

A fresh twist on a classic story, Bellamy and the Brute proves true love really is blind.

When Bellamy McGuire is offered a summer job babysitting for the wealthy Baldwin family, she’s reluctant to accept. After all, everyone in town knows about the mysterious happenings at the mansion on the hill―including the sudden disappearance of the Baldwin’s eldest son, Tate. The former football star and golden boy of Wellhollow Springs became a hermit at the age of sixteen, and no one has seen or heard from him since. Rumors abound as to why, with whisperings about a strange illness―one that causes deformity and turned him into a real-life monster. Bellamy wants to dismiss these rumors as gossip, but when she’s told that if she takes the job, she must promise to never, ever visit the third floor of the mansion, she begins to wonder if there really is some dark truth hidden there.

Tate’s condition may not be the only secret being kept at Baldwin House. There are gaps in the family’s financial history that don’t add up, and surprising connections with unscrupulous characters. At night there are strange noises, unexplained cold drafts, and the electricity cuts out. And then there are the rose petals on the staircase. The rose petals that no one but Bellamy seems to be able to see. The rose petals that form a trail leading right up to the 3 rd floor, past the portrait of a handsome young man, and down a dark hallway where she promised she would never, ever go…

As Bellamy works to unravel the mysteries of Baldwin House and uncover the truth about Tate, she realizes that she is in way over her head… in more ways than one. Can her bravery and determination help to right the wrongs of the past and free the young man whose story has captured her heart?

Review:
This story felt like it went on forever, and I never wanted to set it down. There are twists and turns everywhere, both supernatural and common teenage problems to see and deal with, and all of it very relatable. Bellamy’s father is known for being crazy, and people worry or laugh suggesting she’ll be the same, so already, Bellamy has to deal with being ostracized and belittled, even if just for being smart at times.

With supernatural uncertainties, Tate and Bellamy find themselves having to figure out a mystery, while also learning about each other and how to associate with someone physically disabled. All in all, I thought the situations, and their reactions to them, were very realistic, and the story was gripping and quite wonderful. I certainly recommend, especially to those who enjoy Beauty and the Beast.

Star Rating: 

Review of The Wisdom of Madness by C. J. Archer

Synopsis (from Amazon):
With Alice determined to discover the truth about her past, and Seth determined to help her, the couple find themselves sucked into a world where nothing is as it seems and no one can be trusted. On the run to escape a mad queen’s wrath, and with an entire realm looking for them, tensions fray and friendships are tested.

Even worse for Seth, shocking secrets he’d rather leave buried are brought to the surface.

Joined on their adventure by an irritable Gus and a mysterious Eva, the four friends must learn the truth of Alice’s past so she can forge her future.

But a future with whom? And where?

Review:
I was wrong about what would happen with Alice! How frustrating! I would like another book (or series) to wrap up everyone’s lives… okay, I just never want to leave this series and want it to go on forever.

Charlie and Lincoln are not truly present in this book, and are more like the side characters that most of the our others have been throughout the series, however, I didn’t find that detracted from the story at all. I ended up liking Eva more than I did before.  Alice really grew as a person, instead of being a shy wallflower, she did what she believed right to keep everyone safe. Eva was very similar, instead of sitting back and keeping quiet, had to learn to use her voice and all of her hard learned knowledge to help those she cares about.

All in all, this book series is my current favourite in its genre, with my only other most favourite series being Harry Potter.

Star Rating: 

Review of The Princess Search by Melanie Cellier

Synopsis (from Amazon):
An outcast.
A prince.
And a deadly rebellion…

After a lifetime of rejection, seamstress Evie can’t trust Frederic, the crown prince of Lanover–not his words of friendship or the way the warmth in his eyes seems to ask for even more. But when they end up on a tour of his kingdom–one filled with increasing danger–Evie’s mistrust might doom them all.

In this spin on the classic fairy tale, an ugly duckling must discover her true worth in order to save her kingdom and maybe even find true love.

Review:
This book truly shows that your past experiences will aid you in your future, and that the way you look at your life is just as important, if not moreso, than what you’ve gone through in the past. Although things hurt, experiencing pain is a part of life.

I quite loved how Evie, a seamstress who designed all sorts of clothes, ended up among a royal tour, getting to help the kingdom and teach the crown prince how to see beyond the obvious, and look for little details, reliving the life she had before, and realizing that getting out of it and being in a position to help isn’t something to be ashamed of– she should be proud of how she’d worked to elevate herself, and become something.

Star Rating: