Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: Madame Picasso by Anne Girard

Madame Picasso
by Anne Girard
Release Date: August 26th 2014
2014 Harlequin MIRA
Ebook Edition; 432 Pages
ISBN: 978-0778316350
Genre: Fiction / Historical
Source: Review copy from Historical Fiction Virtual Book Tours

4.5 / 5 Stars

When Eva Gouel moves to Paris from the countryside, she is full of ambition and dreams of stardom. Though young and inexperienced, she manages to find work as a costumer at the famous Moulin Rouge, and it is here that she first catches the attention of Pablo Picasso, a rising star in the art world.

A brilliant but eccentric artist, Picasso sets his sights on Eva, and Eva can't help but be drawn into his web. But what starts as a torrid affair soon evolves into what will become the first great love of Picasso's life. 

My Thoughts
Madame Picasso is a very intriguing novel that takes the reader back into pre-WW1 Paris when Pablo Picasso was beginning to take the world by storm and delves into his character and his personal life.  Although I love art and have been fortunate enough to visit the Musee Picasso in Paris as well as the Centre Pompidou and Le Louvre, I didn't really know a lot about his personal life so I found this book quite absorbing and quite fascinating.  To be honest though, I don't know if I was more intrigued by the amazing amount of famous figures of which Picasso was acquainted or with the man himself.  

Upon reading a bit more about Picasso, I thought Ms. Girard captured the essence of his personality quite well; he was known to be quite self-absorbed, selfish, manic, frenzied, and arrogant.  Yet at the same time, there was a fragility to the man that showed through the pages, one that constantly questioned his ability, questioned who he was, questioned what he was doing.  As a foreigner, he never quite fit in Paris and felt quite distrustful of the political system and the police.  He constantly felt judged for his foreign thoughts and ideas, yet this is what made him so different and so amazing.  Critized for his Cubist ideas, he is now known to be the co-founder of the Cubist movement during the time period in which this book is set and I found the discussions surrounding the concept quite interesting.  Anything new would have been looked upon with skepticism, and pre-WW1 was such an interesting time period in Paris.  I did find it interesting that his political views, other than his deep distrust of the police, were not really mentioned in this novel.  

Eva is a character in whom I could identify quite readily.  Brought up in a rather strict household, her parents goal for her was to marry well and have children; Eva however wanted to spread her wings and explore a world that she thought quite fascinating and she and her parents disagreed over her dreams and her fantasies.  With the old world and new world colliding, I found this to be quite fascinating as I've always really enjoyed hearing the stories about women who really pushed the boundaries during this time period.  These are the women we have to thank for the freedoms we have today, but the ordeals and the timeless traditions that had to be broken just astound me.  Eva however, is a rather strong personality despite her diminutive size and naivete and she finds herself in the midst of exciting times by working at Le Moulin Rouge.  I really liked how she had doubts about Picasso and his womanizing and really tried to keep him at fingers' length, not an easy task to do.  She didn't have blinders on when it came to him and I thought she dealt with his the best way she knew how.  I wonder how their relationship would have stood the test of time?  I also thought it was quite interesting that Picasso never painted her like he painted his other 'muses'; did he feel something really different for Eva, was he protecting her from a rather unforgiving Paris, or was it something else?  

Madame Picasso is a wonderful novel about the turbulent times of Belle Epoque Paris, a time period that was coming to an end.  With a cast of characters literally stepping out of the history books, we are swept into Picasso's world of art that was quite amazing.  I thought Ms. Girard's research was quite meticulous and I could imagine myself waltzing through salons and having discussions with Gertrude Stein, Guillaume Apollinaire, Henri Matisse, Juan Gris, Georges Braque, and so son.  It was quite apparent that Picasso was enamored of Eva and you can sense this throughout the novel.  I thought the novel was beautifully written, the descriptions were very well done, and I look forward to reading more from this author in the future.
Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Review: Children of the Revolution by Peter Robinson

Children of the Revolution (Inspector Banks, Book #21)
by Peter Robinson
Release Date: March 25th 2014
2014 William Morrow
Hardcover Edition; 352 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062240507
Genre: Fiction / Murder / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

The body of a disgraced college lecturer is found on an abandoned railway line. In the four years since his dismissal for sexual misconduct, he'd been living like a hermit. So where did he get the 5,000 pounds found in his pocket?

Leading the investigation, Detective Chief Inspector Alan Banks begins to suspect that the victim's past may be connected to his death. Forty years ago the dead man attended a university that was a hotbed of militant protest and divisive, bitter politics. And as the seasoned detective well knows, some grudges are never forgotten-or forgiven.

Just as he's about to break the case open, his superior warns him to back off. Yet Banks isn't about to stop, even if it means risking his career. He's certain there's more to the mystery than meets the eye . . . and more skeletons to uncover before the case can finally be closed.

My Thoughts
Children of the Revolution is the twenty-first entry in the Inspector Banks series and while I have been a huge fan for quite a while, this novel was definitely not my favourite one of the series.  Typically, Robinson's novels are quite compelling, and I am often worried for Banks who tends to push the boundaries of his job to the point I am always afraid he will finally take that one step too far and have to deal with the consequences.  As a result, I am usually on the edge while reading these books, but lately, it feels as if that 'edge' has disappeared and I am feeling a bit disappointed in the plot and the storytelling.   

One of the things where Robinson does shine is in his dialogue.  I thought he took a rather simple plot, embellished a couple of things quite skillfully, and pretty much drove the plot through his characters and their dialogue, a lot of it being rather witty and interesting.  Having been a long time reader of this author though, I thought he relied too much on this type of storytelling and I was a bit disappointed. It could be very easy to get caught up in that type of storytelling, but I was not willing to let go of the suspense I expected from a Robinson novel.  Yes, I get that Banks is a rebel, enjoying the fact that he can push everyone's buttons, likes to listen to a certain type of music such as Grateful Dead, and drinks an awful lot, but that gets old rather quickly.  I just find it stereotypical to assume that young people would not have heard of classical rock artists and other things from the sixties just because they are young, and again, that gets old fast.  Don't get me wrong, I like Banks a lot, but I would like to see some development in his character as that would make it far more interesting to read about as right now he just seems stale.  

The plot was definitely not as interesting as in previous books, and I was sad to see that Winsome and Annie did not feature as much in this one as I really like their characters.  I really felt like the author was reaching in this novel as Banks took chances that a seasoned professional really would not take, even if he was a rebel police officer.  And while I absolutely enjoyed the details of the setting as usual, it just didn't make up for the predictable plot that is not a trademark of this author.  The ending was interesting, and I did like it, but I wish it had that "omg" that is so characteristic of these novels.  It was rather humdrum and I found myself not really caring what choice Banks would make in the next novel, which would definitely not have been the case in previous novels.  That is rather telling, don't you think?

Children of the Revolution reminds of one of those novels that get pushed out there because an author is on a timeline to publish a novel under pressure.  It's not that thisis wasn't interesting as that is not the case; there were definitely parts of the novel that kept my attention and kept me riveted to the book.  The conclusion to this book could have been rather riveting and interesting, and quite controversial, as it put Banks in a very intriguing position, but for the first time, I felt that the author took the easy way out and I was rather disappointed as the unexpected and controversial is almost an expectation from this series.  I am hoping that the author takes his character Banks much more seriously in his next novel, Abattoir Blues, and please, bring back the suspense and the intrigue that long-time readers expect from this series. 
Sunday, August 24, 2014

Review and Giveaway: Murder Strikes a Pose by Tracy Weber

Murder Strikes a Pose (A Downward Dog Mystery, Book #1)

Genre: Cozy Mystery
Published by: Midnight Ink
Publication Date: January 8, 2014
Number of Pages: 288
ISBN: 978-0738739687
Purchase Links:

3.5 / 5 Stars

When George and Bella—a homeless alcoholic and his intimidating German shepherd—disturb the peace outside her studio, yoga instructor Kate Davidson’s Zen-like calm is stretched to the breaking point. Kate tries to get rid of them before Bella scares the yoga pants off her students. Instead, the three form an unlikely friendship.

One night Kate finds George’s body behind her studio. The police dismiss his murder as a drug-related street crime, but she knows George wasn’t a dealer. So Kate starts digging into George’s past while also looking for someone to adopt Bella before she’s sent to the big dog park in the sky. With the murderer nipping at her heels, Kate has to work fast or her next Corpse Pose may be for real.

My Thoughts
Murder Strikes a Pose is the first book in a proposed series featuring Kate and her yoga studio.  I thought the book was fairly well done and enjoyed it quite a bit, although upon reflection, I think I liked it more for its discussion on yoga and how it keeps the body healthy, than for its mystery.  And honestly, I thought Bella was the real 'star' of this book; I just enjoyed the scenes with her and thought some of the thing she did were hysterically funny.  I'm sure all previous, and current, dog owners will appreciate her antics.

Kate was an interesting character and I really liked following her inner struggles about following her instincts or following the teachings she has been taught with regards to yoga.  These ideologies sometimes clashes as yoga tends to teach serenity and non-violence, and Kate sometimes had difficulty controlling her impulses and her temper.  I especially liked the scene where she throws the cup of coffee across the lobby just as a client walks through the door and has to deal with the consequences of her outburst.  Personally, I found her easy to like and easy to relate to as we all have moments like that, ones in which we just want to throw something, but Kate actually does it.  I also liked the secondary characters in the book and am looking forward to getting to know Rene and Michael a bit better, especially Rene as she seems so down-to-earth, but I sense a little something there that could be interesting.  My only beef with the characters is their focus on their weight and food issues; since when is 130 pounds overweight with thunder thighs?  I just think it sends such a bad message to women everywhere!!!!!  And focusing on the healthy aspects of yoga and the body/health connections would be much better as it is much more positive and healthier.  I get what the author was trying to portray, but I'm not convinced that it was done in the way she meant to achieve.

I really enjoyed the characters and the dialogue between the characters, but where I got lost somewhat is in the mystery aspect of this novel.  To be quite honest, it was quite easy to figure out who did it, and I didn't really find the reasoning to be that plausible.  However, the overall feel of the novel was good and I did enjoy it, so I was able to somewhat overlook the problems with the mystery side to things.  I think if it wasn't for Bella, the crazy, beautiful dog, I don't think I would have it enjoyed it as much.  For me, that dog was the story.  Having had a labrador retriever with a pancreatic disease, one that cost me well over $150 in medicine every month to keep healthy, I was completely sympathetic to Bella's issue and hoped everything would go well for her.  This is one aspect of Kate's personality that I really did admire as she definitely went all out for those who needed her help; giving money to George, taking Bella in when she had no one, helping her friends in need, and so on. 

Murder Strikes a Pose was a decent first book in the new Downward Dog mystery series.  I really liked Kate and the dog Bella, and I definitely enjoyed learning a bit about yoga, something of which I know absolutely nothing.  Unfortunately, the characters and their various shenanigans as well as the scenes with Bella did overshadow the mystery, an aspect that I thought was somewhat lacking; it was far to easy to figure out who did the deed, and I thought the reasons were not very plausible.  There are a lot of good reasons though, for me to take a look at the next book in this series, Killer Retreat, when it is released next year.

Author Bio:

My writing is an expression of the things I love best: yoga, dogs, and murder mysteries.

I'm a certified yoga teacher and the founder of Whole Life Yoga, an award-winning yoga studio in Seattle, WA. I enjoy sharing my passion for yoga and animals in any form possible.

My husband and I live with our challenging yet amazing German shepherd Tasha and our bonito flake-loving cat Maggie. When I'm not writing, I spend my time teaching yoga, walking Tasha, and sipping Blackthorn cider at my favorite local ale house.

I am a member of Sisters in Crime, The Pacific Northwest Writers Association, and the Dog Writers Association of America.

Catch Up With the Author:


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Friday, August 22, 2014

Spotlight and Giveaway: Betraying Mercy by Amber Lin

 photo f3d4985f-882d-42ae-9246-eebefc6c780c.jpg

Please join Amber Lin as she tours the blogosphere with HF Virtual Book Tours for her dark historical romance novel Betraying Mercy from August 4-22.

02_Betraying MercyPublication Date: August 4, 2014
Harlequin E eBook; ASIN: B00JTPU42G
Genre: Historical Romance  

Can she be more than a mistress? With a tarnished reputation, Mercy Lyndhurst expected to become the Earl of Rochford’s mistress, not his wife. Immediately abandoned by her husband after their wedding, Mercy transformed herself from commoner to countess, vowing to protect the lands and people her husband was forced to leave. Over the past six years, William has restored the family fortune all the while tortured by his memories of Mercy…and the dark night he killed a man. When a threat draws him home, William learns just how much has changed—including his wife. While the passion still flares between them, he fears he has wounded her too badly to regain her trust. But as the danger grows they must unite to save the estate…and possibly their marriage.

Buy the Book

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03_Amber LinAbout the Author

Amber Lin writes erotic romance with damaged souls and deep emotion. Her debut novel, Giving It Up, received The Romance Review’s Top Pick, Night Owl Top Pick, and 5 Blue Ribbons from Romance Junkies. RT Book Reviews gave it 4.5 stars, calling it “truly extraordinary.” She has been published by Loose Id, Carina Press, and Entangled. Amber married her high school sweetheart, birthed a kid who’s smarter than she is, and spends her nights writing down her dirty thoughts. In other words, life is good. For more information on Amber Lin and her novels please visit her website and blog. You can also connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Goodreads. Sign up for Amber Lin's Newsletter.


To enter to win a signed copy of Amber Lin's FALLING FOR THE PIRATE, please complete the Rafflecopter giveaway form below. Giveaway is open internationally.
Giveaway ends at 11:59pm on August 22nd. You must be 18 or older to enter. Winner will be chosen via Rafflecopter on August 23rd and notified via email. Winner has 48 hours to claim prize or new winner is chosen.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Review: Under a Silent Moon by Elizabeth Haynes

Under a Silent Moon (DCI Louisa Smith, Book #1)
by Elizabeth Haynes
Release Date: April 15th 2014
2014 Harper
Hardcover Edition; 368 Pages
ISBN: 978-0062276025
Genre: Fiction / Mystery / Suspense
Source: Review copy from publisher

3 / 5 Stars

In the crisp, early hours of an autumn morning, the police are called to investigate two deaths. The first is a suspected murder at a farm on the outskirts of a small village. A beautiful young woman has been found dead, her cottage drenched with blood. The second is a reported suicide at a nearby quarry. A car with a woman's body inside was found at the bottom of the pit.

As DCI Louisa Smith and her team gather evidence, they discover a shocking link between the two cases and the two deaths-a bond that sealed their terrible fates one cold night, under a silent moon.

My Thoughts 
Under a Silent Moon is the first book in a new series featuring DCI Louisa Smith.  I had really enjoyed Into the Darkest Corner and was looking forward to the psychological suspense that I had encountered in that novel.  Under a Silent Moon attempts to be suspenseful and complicated, with twists and turns that may trick a reader not used to reading mystery novels, but for me, I felt the book tried too hard to be tricky and because of this, felt a bit flat and mundane.

Haynes works as a police intelligence analyst and what she attempted to do in this novel was show the more behind the scenes work of intelligence gathering of a crime scene.  I think that we are so inundated with shows like CSI and Criminal Minds that we often forget that police crime investigations can be rather slow and humdrum, with many different people involved rather than just the main inspectors.  This is what this book was trying to show; the rather important work of an intelligence analyst.  And while I definitely appreciate the work, and I definitely found it interesting, I'm not sure if the reports injected into the book actually worked as I thought they were somewhat repetitive and slowed down the pace of the novel. I didn't have an objection to the analyzing; I just thought that if the author wanted to focus on the analyst side of things, maybe she should have made Jason (the analyst) the main character as it would have been interesting to have everything focus around him.  Otherwise, keep the analyzing to the background and focus on the work of the inspectors. 

There was an interesting mix of characters, but to be honest, I could do without Andy Hamilton.  The author kept stressing how good of a cop he was, but personally, I just didn't see it in this novel.  Unfortunately, I can't mention too much about the events surrounding him or I will give away an important plot point, but I wasn't overly impressed with him at all; his carelessness almost cost him his life and the case.  Louisa Smith, the DCI, attempts to be tough, but I didn't see a lot of that in this novel.  I really liked her in this novel, but to be in the position she is in, I would imagine she would have to grow a set, and she seemed a bit soft to me.  I understand this was the first case the actually led, but she would have been involved in other cases in order to be in the position she was in.  She just seems so naive and trusting for a DCI.  I am curious to see how both of these characters develop in future novels.  I did like the camaraderie amongst the other police officers and the banter though; some of the dialogue was fun and witty, and I enjoyed it. 

The book is a rather quick read, and because I am familiar with her other books, I felt the psychological suspense was rather lacking in comparison.  I also thought the clues were rather glaring this time round, and the fact the police missed them actually bothered me as they were rather in your face clues and not subtle ones at all.  There were definitely a lot of subplots in this one, and not all of them were actually resolved so I am curious as to whether some of them will reappear in future novels or if they will just drop off the radar.  I rather hope not as I know one of them will nag at me for some time if it is just dropped, especially as the author went to a lot of trouble to randomly throw in reports about the subject and it really didn't have anything to do with the actual plot in the end.  I hate loose ties!!

Under a Silent Moon was a well-written police procedural that tried a bit too hard to be twisty and tricky.  And while I definitely enjoyed the analyst side of things, I constantly felt like there was a conflict between the analyzing and the inspecting, the balance of the two not having been found.  Because of this, I really felt the psychological suspense was rather lacking in this one in comparison to her other novels and the book felt a bit flat to me overall.  There is a lot of room for her characters to develop though, so I am curious as to what will happen in the next book, Behind Closed Doors.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Spotlight: Racing the Hunter's Moon by Sally Clements

Racing the Hunter's Moon
by Sally Clements 
Release Date: August 18th 2014
2014 Entangled: Bliss
ISBN: 978-1633750548
Genre: Fiction / Contemporary Romance

Blurb: Pretending to be a couple may drive them crazy.
Feisty mechanic Betty Smith should have only one thing on her mind—catching the conman who swindled her mother. Not the sexy stranger who kissed her then completely disappeared.
Undercover FBI agent Joe Carter needs to focus on the bad guy who got away, not the gorgeous headstrong brunette who watches too many cop shows and keeps interfering in his case. Unfortunately, catching their prey before he skips town means working together.
But while entering the vintage car rally as a couple seemed like a good idea at the time, faking feelings for each other turns out to be the easiest part. Neither one can allow anything to get in their way, but staying away from each other is impossible. They both know, though, once their plan is complete, so is their time together.
Authors Bio: Sally Clements writes fun, sexy and real contemporary romance, partnering hot heroes with heroines who know what they want, and go for it!

She is a full-time author, who lives in the Irish countryside, and when she isn’t writing can usually be found in traffic, driving ‘Mum’s taxi’.

Always a voracious reader, she considers writing for a living the perfect job—the only downside is saying goodbye to her characters at book’s end!

Fun, Sexy, Real Romance!

Website  *  Twitter  *  Facebook  *  Goodreads  *  Newsletter

Betty’s heart pounded hard enough to burst. She swung around, and her startled gaze shot to the man who filled the doorway. A man with midnight-blue eyes.
Her hand fluttered at her throat. What on earth was the stranger from this morning doing here? Had he followed her?
You’re Betty?” His eyes scanned her face with an I-don’t-believe-it look. He took a step forward, then another.
Everything in Betty rioted with the urge to escape. She eyed the doorway behind him and edged farther behind the table, putting solid pine between them. Her mouth was so dry it was as if she’d spent days crawling through the desert. He knows my name. She swallowed. “What are you doing here?”
 “Calm down.” As if realizing her agitation, he stopped. Held up his hands palms-out. “I’m Joe Carter.”
You’re Joe Carter?”
“Is there an echo in here?” His hands lowered to his sides. The tension seemed to leave his shoulders and the corners of his mouth lifted in a smile.
Smoothing a hand over her hair, she glanced down at the table. A funny, fluttery feeling on seeing that smile replaced the panic she’d felt moments earlier. Unwanted awareness of him chased the tension from her body and filled it with warmth.
She rubbed the ache blooming at her temple. “Very funny.” To her annoyance, her words came out husky-soft, rather than sarcasm-laced. “I’ve been waiting here for almost two hours for a carpenter to show up, and now you? If you’re Joe, what were you doing grabbing me this morning?”
He avoided the question and looked past her at the open freezer door. “Looks like you were keeping yourself busy. Raiding the freezer, were you?”
Huh. “I was hungry. Someone kept me waiting.” The only reason she would ever break into someone else’s freezer was under desperate circumstances. “What are you, carpenter or…”
“It’s complicated.” He smiled, and once again attraction grabbed her insides with both hands and twisted. “But I have got a job to do this evening before we talk. I’m hungry too.” A black eyebrow arched. “Maybe you and I could have dinner after I’ve assembled the bed?”
Faded jeans rode low on his lean hips and clung to his thighs. Above them, he wore a chunky navy sweater under a battered black leather jacket. Average, everyday clothing. But the breadth of his shoulders, the glimpse of tanned collarbone evident in the dip of the sweater’s crew neck, were far from average or everyday. She scanned down. Work boots. Big work boots. Big feet, big… Cutting that thought off at the pass, Betty’s gaze shot up to collide with his.
Amusement danced in his eyes. “Well? Like what you see?”

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Review: Treachery by S.J. Parris

Treachery (Giordano Bruno, Book #4)
by S.J. Parris
Release Date: June 17th, 2014
2014 Doubleday Canada
Softcover Edition; 544 Pages
ISBN: 978-0385679985
Genre: Fiction / Historical / Mystery
Source: Review copy from publisher

4 / 5 Pages

Summer, 1585: As English ships are held captive in Spain, fear mounts of an Invincible Armada, built by King Philip II, and intended to invade English shores. Sir Francis Drake prepares to embark on an expedition by royal commission to cross the Atlantic and seize major Spanish ports, diverting Philip's American treasure supplies to Queen Elizabeth. Giordano Bruno, radical philosopher and spy, accompanies his friend Sir Philip Sidney to Plymouth to oversee Drake's departure. Unbeknownst to Bruno, Sidney intends to join the mission - and he wants Bruno to go too. But when a ship captain is brutally murdered, and Drake's life threatened, it becomes clear that someone plans to destroy the expedition before it begins. Bruno and Sidney hunt for the killer, but are they being lured into a trap? And when Drake's young wife and her cousin arrive, Bruno and Sidney find themselves thrown into an unexpected rivalry.

My Thoughts 
Treachery is the fourth book in the Giordano Bruno series and this time, Dr. Bruno heads to Plymouth on the eve of a momentous occasion, the Great Expedition, led by the famous Sir Francis Drake.  For those of you not familiar with this time period, the Expedition was mounted to attack the Spanish colonies when Spain (Philip II) declared war after the Treaty of Nonsuch.  In command of over 1800 men and 21 ships, Sir Francis left in September 1585.  Knowing quite a bit of this history, I was intrigued to see how how Ms. Parris would treat the subject, and I was not disappointed.  Intrigue, mystery, secrets, and her usual flair for historical detail abound in this novel and I was somewhat disappointed when the ending came, knowing I would have to wait for the next book.

For those of you not familiar with this series, Giordano Bruno is a real-life figure and his story is very interesting, creating controversy even today.  It was because I was familiar with his story that I began reading this series, and I have not been disappointed at all.  Bruno is one of those characters with whom I identify, and his character has just developed from book to book.  In all of his books, he is hunted, constantly having to watch his back living in exile from Italy, defending his works that are famous in Europe, and defending his principles and his morals.  He is constantly struggling with himself and his beliefs, wondering if he did the right thing, often being haunted by past actions.  I adore the character that Ms. Parris has created, and knowing what will happen to him, read each book with trepidation and fear.  I find in this book, Bruno has kind of taken on a different role, one where everyone looks upon him as being a 'saviour', the person who can resolve all difficulties without causing a huge scandal and allow Drake to continue his expedition as planned.  Interesting!!

I also liked the secondary characters and their development.  Sir Philip Sidney was given a bigger role in this one, one that makes him seem petulant, like a child whining about a toy he has trouble getting, but also you get a better understanding of the walls that surround such a man because of his birth.  One of the things I definitely have admired about this series is the serious gap between the gentry and everyone else;  Ms. Parris definitely shows the reader how difficult life was for either class, but in different ways.  

In terms of plot, I figured out who was the murderer quite early, but I think it was because all the novels are formulaic when it comes to the set-up and the denouement so if you have read all of the novels it can be easy to pick up the patterns.  I actually didn't mind knowing as Ms. Parris is such a skillful writer that it was fun seeing how she would pull all the threads together in the end and how Bruno would eventually discover who actually committed the crime.  There were several sub-plots to this novel, one that has carried from a previous novel, so I am not sure if this novel is the best one to begin with if you are new to the series;  I think some things might make more sense if you read the books in order.  The twists and turns were quite fascinating and I was caught unawares with some of them, putting Bruno in lots of danger.  There was a good mix between the action and the dialogue which I liked.

Treachery is a good addition to the Giordano Bruno series and had plenty of action and suspense.  There was a lot of intrigue, some of which will carry over into the next book of the series, and that is something I look forward to.  As always, Ms. Parris' research is fantastic, and I can definitely picture Plymouth as it looked during that time period; I love her descriptions of everything from dress, to food, to the ships, to the behaviours of the people.  One of the things I would like to see more of in future novels though, are Bruno's personal works, which were quite famous during this time period, as I feel this is an area that has been somewhat neglected.  Naturally, I can't wait to read about the further adventures of Bruno when the next book is released May 2015.

Review: The Agben School by Jo Sparkes

The Agben School (The Legend of the Gamesmen, Book #2)
by Jo Sparkes
Release Date: June 24, 2014
2014 Oscar press
Softcover Edition; 386 Pages
ISBN: 978-0985331863
Genre: Fiction / Young Adult / Fantasy
Source: Review copy from Pump Up Your Book

3.5 / 5 Stars


Agben had stood for a thousand years. A mysterious school housing more than students, it was the seat of the powerful Women of Agben, and the center for harnessing the potency of herbs. Few knew all that transpired within the walls.

And now Marra stood at its gate.

Friends and support stripped from her, the fragile life she’d built for herself now lay in tatters. And the source of this evil hunted her like a deer culled from the herd.

The gateway before her was her only hope.

For as the city itself crumbled, all depended not on a prince trying to save his people, nor the valiant men who’d brought them this far.

Everything depended on finding a magic powder in the vaults of Agben itself.

Everything depended on her.

My Thoughts
The Agben School is the second book in the Legend of the Gamesmen series and while I didn't read the first book, I had no problem following along and keeping up with the storyline in this book.  I actually thought the author did quite a good job at describing events in the first novel in such a way as to foster understanding of the characters and events and situations in which the characters now find themselves.  I enjoyed this novel on a surface level, but felt character development was a bit lacking and thought there were too many coincidences in the plot to be always convincing.

First of all, I did enjoy the setting and liked the world that was described in these pages.  I find it interesting that even with minor descriptions I could actually picture a lot of the places that were described in this book when I closed my eyes; it actually reminded me a lot of Gondor in Lord of the Rings with the different tiers overlooking sudden drops and I kind of dropped that city at the edge of an ocean with some alterations and we now have the main city itself.  I wondered what this author could do with if she really described the thoughts, feelings, and surroundings in more depth.  I am one of those people who like descriptions and like to drown in sensations.

I thought Marra was an interesting character and really liked her desire to help her friends and her loyalty.  While appearing meek and mild at first, she is anything but, and she definitely grew on me throughout the book.  I really admired her tenacity to learn and her desire to protect those she loves.  There were a lot of interesting characters in this book, but I thought many of them were overshadowed by the plot, and weren't really allowed to grow and develop in a way that would endear them to readers, at least not to me.  I felt compassion for the gamesmen when they lost against the Skullen team and hoped they would find redemption, but it was definitely passive compassion, not active.  I think Marra was the only one I started to feel empathy towards, but this was probably because her voice was the one I read the most, not necessarily because her character really developed.  I enjoyed the plot and thought it was rather interesting, but there were times when I did wish for less dialogue and more introspection on the character's part.  There were also times when I wished for a deeper explanation of events as well.

The Agben School was a nice entry into the Legend of the Gamesmen as it was interesting and charming.   I definitely liked the setting and thought there were some unique elements that made it interesting to read; the Comet game is one of those aspects, although I don't think I have a full grasp as to how that game is played.  I have this vision of the old Aztec games that were played and I can't seem to get that out of my mind when I visualize the game and I'm sure I'm way off.  I did feel the plot overshadowed the characters and would like to see a bit more character development as there were some characters that I really enjoyed and would like to know a bit better, get a good grasp of their character.