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Review: Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon

[ 3 ] October 4, 2015

romantic outlaws book coverReviewed by Nina Longfield

Romantic Outlaws by Charlotte Gordon is a dual biography of Mary Wollstonecraft and her daughter Mary Godwin Shelley. Freethinker Mary Wollstonecraft, although somewhat dated in philosophy to this modern world, was an early advocate for women’s right and the education of girls. Mary Godwin Shelley, a novelist of the late Romantic Era, is best known for running away with poet Percy Shelley and later as the author of Frankenstein.

Although the concept of a dual biography about this pair of writers, mother and daughter, of the Romantic Era is not singular, Charlotte Gordon does take a unique non-linear approach in relating the two women’s lives. Gordon skips about her subjects’ timelines bringing more warmth into the retelling of known stories as she parallels the mother’s life to that of her daughter’s upbringing. In other biographies, as far as I’ve read (or perhaps I’ve always skipped ahead), both Wollstonecraft’s and Godwin Shelley’s lives seem to begin with their writing; Gordon did a wonderful job digging into her research to bring out the early years of both women. The insight into Mary Wollstonecraft’s childhood shed a great deal of light into her later philosophy regarding women’s rights and the education of girls.

I generally read introductions after I’ve read the book. I should have kept to that rule with Romantic Outlaws. Introductions generally contain spoiler information, summarizing the body of the work, which leaves me wondering why I need to read the book. In some cases, I find introductions to be presumptuous and as though written down to an undeveloped comprehension and reading ability. The introduction in Romantic Outlaws pretty much covered almost everything I do not like about an introduction. It was presumptuous, belittling, and an attempt to summarize the whole of the book in a patronizing way.

The book, Romantic Outlaws, is not the introduction. I would recommend skipping the Introduction and jumping right into the biography. I found the biography intriguing; it is at times written with clear incisive depth, while at other times skimming the surface of its subject. This is a long biography since it is covering the lives of two extraordinary women, but Romantic Outlaws is insightful, is easily read, and at time narrated like a story. Through Charlotte Gordon’s retelling, I’ve gained greater understanding into both women’s lives, especially Wollstonecraft’s early years, which has led to a greater appreciation of both Wollstonecraft’s and Godwin Shelley’s writings.

Admittedly, I have read the works of Mary Wollstonecraft, Mary Godwin Shelley, and several biographies related to each woman. Romantic Outlaws sets itself apart from other works through the warmth Gordon seems to imbue within her subjects’ stories. I don’t believe one has to have read either writer to get both insight and entertainment from Charlotte Gordon’s Romantic Outlaws.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Nina Longfield is a writer living in Oregon’s fertile wine country. When she is not reading or writing in her spare time, Nina enjoys hiking in the hills surrounding her cabin.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Random House. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Mailbox Monday

[ 11 ] October 4, 2015

Welcome to Mailbox MondayMailbox Monday is hosted by Marcia at the Mailbox Monday blog.

Here are the books that made their way into my physical and digital mailboxes last week:

Paper Review Copies

hunters in the dark book coverroad back book covergood neighbor book coverpower surge book covergift of charm book covera thousand nights book covera step toward falling book coverseafront tearoom book coverbliss book coveragainst a brightening sky book coverchef next door book cover

Digital Review Copies

a respectable actress book coverdarken the stars book covertell the story to its end book cover

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Review: Torn by Avery Hastings

[ 2 ] October 3, 2015

torn book coverReviewed by Jessa Larsen

Davis has been shipped off to Tor-N, a Narxis research center that might not be doing the good things it has been advertising to the public eye. While there, she meets another patient, the quirky Mercer, who gives her a glimmer of hope that all might not be utterly and completely lost as well as a potential spark, if she can get over the loss of Cole, her one true love. Together, Davis and Mercier quickly put together an escape plan and look for clues that will both reveal a cure as well as reveal the true intentions of the doctors in charge at Tor-N.

Cole, on the other hand, has faked his death and is in the midst of adopting a new identity so he can compete in the Olympiads. He trains with Mari, the fiesty daughter of a retired Olympiad competitor and he is truly dedicated to winning so that he can save Davis and be reunited with his one true love.

Torn is the concluding chapter of the Feud series but the first book I’ve read in the set. Perhaps if I’d read the beginning of Davis and Cole’s stories, I might have found them more endearing, or rather endearing at all. Like the tsunami of supernatural love stories after Twilight became a hit, Feud reeks of the same “strong female character in a post-apocalyptic setting” we’ve grown to love in The Hunger Games as well as the Divergent series.

I understand Cole fighting his budding feelings for Mari; his whole purpose is to have the means to save Davis. On the other hand, Davis thinks Cole is dead and I think we could have focused on the grieving process instead of making it sound like Davis equated falling for Mercer as cheating. I could be completely off, but it just felt like the storyline was trying too hard.

Without spoiling anything, the whole “experimental plan that came about since the exact character we needed just conveniently walked up to the door” idea was a little too convenient and thrown in there without any preamble. I also felt that if the author was going to go through all the trouble to add the convenient character, we could have focused a bit more on that character; I would have liked to get more details. Instead, that set of characters were constantly forgotten for long stretches at a time.

Overall, I think this was an OK story with tolerable characters, but with all the other series being made into movies and overshadowing it, I see Torn and its companions being lost in the rubble.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, two kids, two small chihuahuas, and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She balances her work as a website admin with her hobbies of watching anime and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by St. Martin’s Griffin. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Leveller by Julia Durango

[ 2 ] October 3, 2015

the leveller book coverReviewed by Benish Khan

The Leveller is a new contemporary novel about virtual reality. Nixy Bauer is a self-made Leveller–a bounty hunter who takes kids out of the virtual reality world, MEEP, and brings them back to their parents and the real world. Kids in the MEEP play with their minds while their bodies remain in an almost sleep-like state. The MEEP allows players to create whatever world they might desire.

Nixy’s new mission has her in for the biggest adventure of her life. The game’s billionaire developer loses track of his own son, Wyn, in the virtual reality world and Nixy is hired to retrieve him back. Wyn, it seems, does not want to be found and he even leaves behind a suicide note. Nixy discovers that Wyn’s not actually hiding but is being held captive; she does not know who the captor is but must find out if she’s to rescue Wyn.

Nixy is a strong heroine and it was great to see her dedication to her job. The male lead is Hispanic so there is a hint of diversity in the novel. The action was different, in a good way, and reading about Nixy’s take downs of bad characters provided plenty of entertainment. That said, despite the potential to be great, the overall plot was disappointing. The book was fast paced but the virtual reality world building faltered. The Leveller was all gaming references and quick romance; it tried so hard to be “cool” but ultimately failed. The writing was off and the overwhelming use of slang left me unable to connect with the characters.

I would recommend The Leveller to gamers; it does have a promising premise and a beautiful cover and the plot may improve as the series progresses.

Rating: ★★½☆☆ 

Benish Khan has her B.A in Psychology and Religion from the University of New York. She’s a psychologist and artist by day, and a bookworm by night. She currently blogs at

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by HarperTeen. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Chergui’s Child by Jane Riddell

[ 1 ] October 2, 2015

chergui's child book coverReviewed by Neriza Alba

Olivia is a mother now. This news was revealed to her when her aunt passed away, leaving her a substantial amount of money and a letter. The letter required her to use the money to find her daughter, who unbeknownst to her, survived almost six years ago when she gave birth in Tangiers.

That’s how Chergui’s Child started, quickly letting the readers know what was in store for them. What I was not expecting is how the rest of Olivia’s life – her on-off relationship, her parents and her job – were impacted by this development. Olivia pretty much embarked on a new life, lived in a new country and took care of other people’s children to follow the trail of the last person who had her daughter.

It is not a unique plot, in fact, it is a bit of a soap-opera story line. However, Jane Riddell has managed to include characters that are realistic, and not just Olivia, the protagonist. There is such a mix of players that the reader cannot help but identify with at least one of them. The topical dialog give the story a pragmatic tone–far from the soap-opera cliché.

The use of various locations was equally effective. Troubled and restless in London, at peace in Gibraltar, in turmoil in Tangiers and determined and purposeful in France. Each one is an extension of Olivia’s feelings and seems to reflect Olivia’s state of mind, as she wanders through each place.

What I particularly like is the way the author used different tones. The flashbacks were told in the third person while the present time is told in the first person. This change gives me the impression that Olivia is already detached with what has happened in her past. She just sees herself as another participant with equal culpability, instead of the one who was at fault.

Olivia’s search for her child is a heart-warming journey and one that every reader would not regret taking with her.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Neriza Alba works a regular 9-to-5 job in Stockholm where she resides with her husband. In addition to reading, she enjoys travelling and curling up with a glass of good wine.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Jane Riddell. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Blog Tour: A Fine Summer’s Day by Charles Todd

[ 6 ] October 1, 2015

a fine summer's day book coverPlease join the writing team of Charles Todd, authors of A Fine Summer’s Day, as they tour the blogosphere with TLC Book Tours!

Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

A Fine Summer’s Day is the 17th book in the Inspector Ian Rutledge mysteries. It goes back in the past before the war (and the 16 other stories) and gives us a look at Ian before the war changed him. It was a good book and a very interesting mystery; I’m glad it was written to add to Ian’s story.

Inspector Rutledge is still learning how best to interact with his boss, Chief Superintendent Bowles, who likes all cases to be closed as quickly as possible, with a nice clean acceptable explanation. This means that he’s not always particular about the guilty person being put on trial. This doesn’t sit well with Ian who expects to find the guilty party, not the most convenient scapegoat available.

Ian has also just proposed to the woman he has been seeing, Jean Gordon. Her father is a retired Major in the Army. Ian proposed on the day that Archduke Ferdinand was assassinated. So throughout the summer, the tension of the possible impending war is building.

The Chief sends Rutledge to Moresby to look into a questionable death–a man is found hung in his home and it’s clear that this is no case of suicide. But he was a well liked man and no one can think of a reason anyone would want him dead. The local constable, against Ian’s wishes, arrests a man for the deed more because of his past than because of any evidence against him. As expected, this is good enough for Bowles who summarily sends Rutledge on to another case. Another case that turns out to be another questionable death with no reason for the apparent suicide. When the third man dies under similar circumstances, a red flag begins to fly briskly in Rutledge’s vision.

Other than living near Bristol at some point in the last 20 years, none of the men appear to have any connection to each other financially, socially, or even geographically. There are a couple other recent incidents that when looked at in the right light make a convincing theory. Well, convincing to anyone except Chief Bowles.

Inspector Rutledge has to dance around Bowles in order to save an innocent man, while finding proof of the real culprit. At the same time, he wants to keep his new and naive fiance happy, despite having to leave her alone as he drives all over the countryside looking for clues and his suspect.

We learn a lot about Ian and it ties in well with how the Bess Crawford stories relate, much more explicitly than in any other book. We only get a little glimpse of Hamish at the beginning and then again at the end of the book. I had my reservations about this book, but they were unfounded. This was an excellent addition to the series and even opened the possibility of a cross series book with Bess.  Great book, good mystery and although the ending was a little too neat, it’s definitely worth a read!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by William Morrow Paperbacks. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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