Review – The Master of Heathcrest Hall

The Master of Heathcrest Hall is the third book in the Magicians and Mrs. Quent series following The Magicians & Mrs. Quent and The House on Durrow Street. I’ll try to avoid spoilers but you’ve been warned. It’s a series afterall.

Ivy Quent is living a calm and happy life with her husband, Mr. Quent, and her sisters. Her husband’s star is rising and things are going very well for them personally. Suddenly, their calm life takes a turn, and Ivy, who has been successful with the help of her husband in hiding her magical abilities, begins to find the task difficult especially when questions are being raised by prominent members of society. Things in the city begin changing fast. War is imminent, spies crawl all over the city looking for people to turn in, and soldiers begin occupying the city waiting for it to come under siege. Lord Rafferty, a close friend of Ivy’s, is doing what he can behind the scenes as a member of Parliament but his efforts seem trivial compared to what he is up against. Eldyn Garritt, the illuminist, has turned spy and using his skills to help the realm. It’s only when Ivy, Lord Rafferty, and Eldyn come together does the realm stand a chance.

It took me a very long time to read this book. I think I may have waited too long in between book and found myself wondering about a few details here and there but it wasn’t anything major. My big problem was that I felt it just took long for things to happen. Flipping between Ivy, Lord Rafferty, and Eldyn, and seeing all of their stories and what they were going through was interesting but it took a long time for the three to come together. This wasn’t something specific to the third book but something with all three in the series for me.

The world building is interesting though and that was the reason I continued with the series. The magical parts are solid and the way it’s integrated it in the story makes it feel normal in the course of these characters’ lives. They just don’t discover they have these abilities all of a sudden, it grows and changes. I also enjoyed the Austen-esque feel of the series — the etiquette, the dress, the manners. Austen feel mixed with fantasy, well, yes please. It’s a yes with a but though. I’m glad I finished the series because I was interested to see where the story would go after book two, and I was satisfied with the ending. I didn’t lack for answers and didn’t think the story needed more. It was a story finished. And here’s the but part, it was a slow read for me. I’m qualifying this but statement with a for me because that’s the case. I’ve read reviews of this book that loved the pacing and the way the story drew out the lives of the characters. It didn’t work so much for me on that end.

This was an average read for me but it’s an interesting world, the magic is a likable element and feels very much a part of the world and not something apart from it. The characters are likable but I wish they had more opportunity to interact. Their lives don’t permit that to happen often, understandable part of the story actually but it would have been more interesting if they had. If you like fantasy with a hint of Austen-esque manners, give it a try and don’t let time lapse between reads. I think these books are meant to be read successively for full affect.

The Master of Heathcrest Hall

By Galen Beckett

Random House Publishing Group

ISBN: 9780345532480

3 stars

Review – Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5)

Timeless is the fifth and final book in The Parasol Protectorate series following Soulless, Changeless, Blameless, and Heartless. Be warned, there might be spoilers.

Two years since Alexia and Connal have has the child — the infant inconvenience if you will — and two years into living in Lord Akeldama’s closet as he is the child’s adoptive father. The adoption was an agreement made with the vampire hives to keep them happy and keep them from killing Alexia and her daughter. Life is ticking along normally as can be imagined for the family. Married to the leader of the London werewolf pack, the mother of a child who can render the supernatural mortal again, and soulless herself, well, as normal as anyone with any knowledge of the family can envision as normal. When a summons arrives from the oldest known vampire in the world, Alexia packs up her small and sometimes troublesome family, her best friend Ivy, Ivy’s husband and their twins, an acting troupe, trucks full of Ivy’s numerous hats, and sets out on a trip to Egypt to answer the social call. In fact, it’s an invitation that can’t be ignored.

I adored Ivy and her ridiculous hats and outfits once again. She’s so much fun and really you have to give her credit, she’s much more observant and smart than she gets credit for. I love how she works into the ending as well. It’s unexpected but with a good twist. Alexia and Connal’s daughter, Prudence, is also a treat. A child with supernatural powers who can speak in complete sentences one moment and garbled baby talk the next, she not only tries her parent’s patience but teaches them much about patience as well.

And now my favorite character — Biffy. I couldn’t end my review of the series without talking about him. He’s found a place in the pack, has learned to control his wolf form, and he’s found love. Yes, love! Love for Biffy and…nope not telling. I was so happy to see where this one was going and to see how life was progressing for Biffy.

It is the end of the series, so while I’m not going to offer up any spoilers, I will say that most questions are answered and characters’ lives sorted. I would gladly welcome more books in this series but I can say that I’m not left with any questions about what’s going to happen. I can easily imagine the lives of the characters going on, which is how I like to end a series. I’ll miss reading these but I can see myself going back to this series to enjoy the fun.

Timeless (The Parasol Protectorate #5)

By Gail Carriger

Orbit

ISBN: 9780316194006

4 stars

Review – Among Others

I’m not sure where to go with this review. On one hand, I loved this book and on the other, I felt somewhat lost. Maybe not lost but not part of the story but outside it.

Told through the diary entries of Mori, we come to find out she’s now living with a father she doesn’t know, is being shipped off to boarding school, is doing what she can to escape the magical wrath of her mother, and using books to ease the pain in her world that is both physical and mental. Having survived an accident that took the life of her twin sister, Mori lives every moment with a reminder of that day — a shattered leg that pains her. Not interested in anything her father, her aunts, or the boarding school can offer, she sets out to find herself a place in the world. She employs a little magic to make things happen and worries each day that what she’s done will attract the mother she’s running from.

There is one aspect to this book that I loved and that was the books. Mori is a voracious reader and I adored her love of science fiction and fantasy. I wanted to read everything she was reading. Really I’m going to now pull that Roger Zelazny book off the shelf and read it. I swear it. This was the part of the book I fell deeply in love with. Not knowing the details of Mori’s life and having to pick up small hints here and there made me feel as though I was on the outside — much like Mori herself. Maybe it was an effective way to tell the story after all looking back on it.

Fairies do feature in the story and I’ve never been a fan. I love fantasy and almost all elements that go with it but fairies are sort of so-so for me. I didn’t see the appeal but I gave Mori and her woodland friends a chance. I’m glad I did. After finishing, I felt a much stronger tie to this book and a great appreciation for Walton’s writing so much so that I picked up another of her books soon after. A quick skim through that book tells me I’m going to enjoy that one too.

Among Others

By Jo Walton

Doherty, Tom Associates, LLC

ISBN: 9781429991520

4.25 stars

Review – Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4)

Heartless is the fourth book in The Parasol Protectorate series following, Soulless, Changeless, and Blameless. Consider this your spoiler warning.

In book four of The Parasol Protectorate series, we meet up with Alexia, who at this point is very much pregnant and still very much living her life. Her husband, Lord Conall Maccon, is trying to integrate a new member into his pack, Biffy, who used to be a drone of Lord Akeldama’s, and get Alexia to sit still for a moment. Alexia, however, is less concerned with daily life and whether or not she should still be in public in her condition than with solving a problem with the local hives, surviving assignation attempts on her life (of which there seem to be many), and solving a pack problem. When things finally start to come together, another problem arises leaving Alexia once more the only person with answers.

It’s amazing that Alexia manages to survive her pregnancy at all. She doesn’t slow down at all; in fact, there are more attempts on her life in one week than maybe the three previous books combined. It’s highly entertaining. I also loved the addition of Biffy to the werewolf pack and all the adjustments that come with it. Biffy has always been a favorite of mine and to see him struggling with his new, unasked for life, was a nice addition to the story that’s mostly lighthearted and ridiculous in the most wonderful way possible. I also enjoyed the way Alexia, the most practical and analytical of people, thinks of the soon to come child — the infant inconvenience. She talks to it with commands — Alexia isn’t one for loving tones. When she yells in a much displeased tone, it’s her way of telling a person she loves them.

These books have been a guilty pleasure of mine these last few months and I’ve been dolling them out slowly knowing there are only five and the series will soon be coming to an end. What I love about them is the crazy lives of the characters, their habits, the totally unbelievable situations they get into and out of, and how everyone fits together in some way or another. These books will entertain you to the very last page. Crazy hats, Victorian manners, vampire hives, dapper drones, messy werewolves, pack politics, and ever messier pack leaders. Read them and be entertained.

Heartless (The Parasol Protectorate #4)

By Gail Carriger

Orbit

ISBN: 9780316179959

4 stars

Review – Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3)

This is book three in The Parasol Protectorate series following Soulless and Changeless.

You know the drill. This is book three in a series, and I’ll try to stay away from specific spoilers but consider this your warning.

Alexia Tarabotti, Lady Maccon if you will, is pregnant. Conall, her werewolf husband, has tossed her out and she’s the scandal of the day for London society. She wants out of her parent’s house, not only are her sisters and mother incorrigible, but she can’t stand them or the gossip any longer. When she finds out they leaked her “condition” to the press, she packs up and heads to Lord Akeldama’s house, the rogue vampire she’s close friends with, only to find he’s flown town. So, with few other options open to her, she heads to Italy to hide and see if she can find out if anyone knows whether or not she’ll be able to carry her baby — the infant inconvenience — to term and whether or not she’ll be able to be in the same room with it once it’s born.

Alexia and her little band of friends can’t go anywhere without a problem following them, trying to bite them, or trying to eat them. You get the point. While I preferred the settings of London and Scotland to Italy, it was still entertaining. Alexia, and her love of food, finds pesto to be the most wonderful food and coffee to be the most abhorrent thing ever. While I missed Conall in the beginning, he being at home in Scotland drunk on formaldehyde (there are only so many things that can get a werewolf drunk you see), I did like seeing so much of Professor Lyall, his Beta, in this one. And Conall managed to prove he’s still Alpha — drunk and stupid as ever.

I think that’s enough for now. I don’t want to give everything away and you were warned of spoilers. I leave you with me pining for Heartless and Timeless which will be read sooner rather than later.

Blameless (The Parasol Protectorate #3)

By Gail Carriger

Orbit
ISBN-13: 9780316082563

4 stars

What I’m Reading Today

I started Among Others by Jo Walton the other day. It took me a few pages to get into but I’m really enjoying it now. At first, I had trouble with the tone and the fact that I have no history on the characters with the exception of what Mori, the narrator and main character, offers up, which isn’t much. Somewhere in those first few chapters, more accurately dairy entries, I started to admire her for her reading choices — J.R.R. Tolkien, Ursula La Guin— and her love of the library. For a story I wasn’t sure I was going to finish, this book is ending stronger than it started for me.

Have you read this book? Thoughts?

Review – A Wrinkle in Time

A Wrinkle in Time is a book I wish I would’ve read as a child, although as an adult I was still pretty impressed with it. I just kept wonder what my small self would’ve thought of it.

Meg Murry has trouble in school. She’s a smart kid, especially when it comes to math, but she has a temper and lands her in trouble more often than not. She has a lot to worry about too — her father, a government scientist, has been missing for months and it’s taking a toll on the Murry family. During a late night thunderstorm, Meg sneaks down to the kitchen for a snack and finds her little brother, Charles Wallace, already there. Soon their mother joins them and then the eccentric new neighbor, Mrs. Whatsit, shows up unexpectedly. After an eventful night, Meg’s next day is shot and she can’t wait to get home from school. Later, Meg and Charles Wallace head off to visit Mrs. Whatsit when they run into her classmate, Calvin O’Keefe. After some questions, Charles Wallace decides Calvin can come with them and the three set off. They meet the neighbors, Mrs. Whatsit, Mrs. Who, and a third Mrs. W who announces that they can help the kids get Mr. Murry back. The three children are then transported to another planet to help their father escape.

When I was reading, I got semi-wrapped up in the story and didn’t really think about the heavier aspects of it until I’d finished. One, the science fiction aspect is huge and I would have loved to have heard about wormholes before I discovered Star Trek. Another time… There is a strong religious element although, again, this one didn’t hit me until I realized that some of the quotes Mrs. Who was rattling off were bible passages. The Whatits are also, and maybe I’m remembering this wrong, at one point referred to as angel-like. Not being a religious person, these things usually pass over my head in most books.

Character wise, I loved Meg. She’s feisty, doesn’t like to hear she’s wrong, and happy to be a little different than most. She fights back when IT on the planet of Camazotz tells her he can make her happy just like everyone else. She tells him she doesn’t want to be like everyone else. Yep, an “Ahh,” moment for me. Meg has her quirks, but overall, she’s such a sweet character that I could see my small self really liking her. Although, Charles Wallace gave me the creeps. He’s a child of about five but he’s more like 30 and I found him to be a tad much at times. I wanted to like him, but his speaking like an adult one minute and being on the verge of a temper tantrum the next was weird.

The adult version of me was happy to see that L’Engle didn’t back off when it came to tough issues for what are essentially children — a missing father, school problems, family issues, etc. As child me, I probably never would have noticed that and simply thought this was just their life. Interesting how that happens. Oh, the years, they bring perspective.

Has anyone out there read the entire series? Is it worth it? I’m thinking of continuing but worried the rest might not live up to this one.

This was a BHA Book Club read and you can find more comments here. It was an April 2012 pick but I’m behind on reviews so this is a May review instead.

A Wrinkle in Time

By Madeleine L’Engle

Farrar, Straus and Giroux
ISBN: 1429915641

4 stars