Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: the Heretics by Rory Clements

If you've been following me for a while, you might remember Franklin's review of "Death of Kings" by Bernard Cornwell. Well, today I'm excited to be hosting Franklin as a guest blogger once again! Lyndsey from Hodder and Soughton was so kind as to send us a copy of it, and it seems like Franklin loved it, so enjoy! Title: The Heretics

Author: Rory Clements


Who Should Read It?
This book should be read by anyone that is interested in Elizabethan politics and religious intrigue of 16th century England. Any fan of C. J. Sansom, the author of the “Shardlake” series, or Rory Clements would thoroughly enjoy the 5th installment of the Shakespeare series.

What I (Franklin) Have to Say:
“The Heretics” is the fifth book in the series by Rory Clements. The series is centered around John Shakespeare, an intelligencer in the employ of the Queen’s secret service that was established by Sir Francis Walsingham and passed to Sir Robert Cecil, and he is the brother of the famous William Shakespeare. Not only is England at war with Spain, the Protestant Church is continuing to struggle with, and attempt to extinguish the Catholic Church in England. Consequently, The Queen has to fear both an invasion from the Spanish and the constant threats against her life from staunch ardents of the Catholic faith. John Shakespeare is asked by Queen Elizabeth to find a young lady that has suffered the ritual of exorcism by priests. At the same time he has to investigate a possible threat to the Queen that is revealed in a letter that is discovered on a deceased merchant seaman. He will soon discover that the two cases are related via the Catholic Church. Throughout the book, and the series, the reader will get a glimpse at the great animosity that took place between the Protestants and the Catholics in 16th century England, very often leading to the loss of life.
In “The Heretics”, as well as in the prior four books in the Shakespeare series, Rory Clements brings to life the world of Queen Elizabeth’s 16th century England. He describes in detail the misery of being placed in jail at Newgate prison. The reader will understand the threat of being tortured in order to extract information from a suspect and then being brought to Tyburn to be hanged. Furthermore, he describes the effects that the plague had on everyone that resided in London. Not only where there constant political struggles for the throne and who will be the successor to Queen Elizabeth, but there were passionate struggles between the Protestants and Catholics.
“The Heretics” is easy to read, and the use of old English terms in the dialog and descriptions of the locations in 16th century London are interesting and piqué an interest in wanting to understand more about this time in history. This is another well done book by Rory Clements.

The Spanish make a quick raid in Cronwall, England. Are the Spanish planning an invation of England or is something else taking place? Sir Robert Cecil wants answers for the Queen. John Shakespeare is tasked with finding the answers, but his network of spies is murdered. Will he find the answers in Wisbech Castle? The playhouses of London? Newgate prison? Will Shakespeare be able to solve the mystery in time to save the Queen?

Cover Story:
“The Heretics” – are they the Catholics or are they the Protestants? Thanks so much, Franklin! And thanks so much to Lyndsey as well, for sending the book this way! :-)

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Review: A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness

Title:A Discovery of Witches

Author: Deborah Harkness

Rating: 1/2

Who Should Read it? Like books about magic? Quirky, adorable witches? Vampires and Demons? Then this book is for you; especially if you are tired of the nonstop romance that most vampire books seem to be. Don't get me wrong, this book has romance, but it's also got something that makes it feel a little more literary. It's important, though, that you don't a book with a lot of detail that takes a while to get to the point.

What I Have To Say:
Diana Bishop is not your typical witch. Born to a long line of witches, she decided to give up witchcraft at a young age, in an attempt to live a normal, magic-free life. But I guess normal is all relative, and witchcraft may be more impossible, and more dangerous, to give up than she ever thought.

I loved this book. It was like historical fiction meets magic, thus combining two of my favorite genres. The history comes from Diana herself - she is a quirky, independent, strong-willed and totally lovable character (who seems way more like a high-schooler than a full grown historian), and she has given up the life of magic to lead a totally ordinary life in academia, where she studies, of all things, alchemy. I immediately connected to her.

The book starts when Diana uncovers a book, Ashmole 782, that just so happens to be a book all the witches, demons, and vampires have been searching for for ages. How did she get her hands on it? Will she do it again? Suddenly, the library where she is working is FILLED with all sorts of magical creatures trying to figure out the answers to these questions. And of course, one of the creatures to show up is, naturally, a REALLY HOT vampire by the name of Matthew Clairmont. And, as must happen, because he is a vampire and a creature of lust, and despite Diana's natural and understandable fear of vampires, they fall immediately in love and, within 3 weeks, are wondering how they could ever be separated.

I understand that vampires supposedly have that effect on people, but I'll admit it - I'm sort of tired of reading about it. Diana is witty and charming and, most of all, INTELLIGENT, and I just can't believe that she would allow herself to be enamored so quickly. By a vampire. I know, I said I loved it, and now I'm ranting - this bit really did bother me, and I wish Harkness had managed to make this book happen WITHOUT vampires and love-at-almost-first-sight, but I also understand that it was necessary to set things up for the rest of the book.
Which was AMAZING!

Harkness uses lavish descriptions, painstaking and well-researched details, and witty conversation to move the plot along. And even though it was only her first novel, she masterfully weaved the world and idea of magic together with the world of academia and logic. It's beautiful, historical paranormal fiction, and I loved it. I'd read a lot of reviews that said some of the research and detail was overdone, but in the end, I totally disagree. I had a great time imagining all of the beautiful places, the intricate architecture she described. And I was presented with just enough information on the history of alchemy that I found myself wanting to actually research it myself.

So, the verdict - this book was amazing; I loved the detail, I loved the information on alchemy, and the only things I would change are the love story and the vampires. And I will definitely be reading the sequel just as soon as I manage to catch up on all the other books I have to read.

Summary: A richly inventive novel about a centuries-old vampire, a spellbound witch, and the mysterious manuscript that draws them together. Deep in the stacks of Oxford's Bodleian Library, young scholar Diana Bishop unwittingly calls up a bewitched alchemical manuscript in the course of her research. Descended from an old and distinguished line of witches, Diana wants nothing to do with sorcery; so after a furtive glance and a few notes, she banishes the book to the stacks. But her discovery sets a fantastical underworld stirring, and a horde of daemons, witches, and vampires soon descends upon the library. Diana has stumbled upon a coveted treasure lost for centuries-and she is the only creature who can break its spell. Debut novelist Deborah Harkness has crafted a mesmerizing and addictive read, equal parts history and magic, romance and suspense. Diana is a bold heroine who meets her equal in vampire geneticist Matthew Clairmont, and gradually warms up to him as their alliance deepens into an intimacy that violates age-old taboos. This smart, sophisticated story harks back to the novels of Anne Rice, but it is as contemporary and sensual as the Twilight series-with an extra serving of historical realism.

Cover Story: Totally love it! Just looking at it makes me want to study witchcraft. :-)

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Let's Go On Vacation

So, it may SEEM like I have abandoned Brizmus Blogs Books once again, as I haven't written in an extraordinarily long time, but I am here to let you know that I have not. I've just been preparing for and then ON VACATION!

This is where I've been hanging out for the last weekish!

And while on vacation, I did LOTS of reading, so I've got some great reviews coming up for you! Reviews to expect in the weeks to come:
A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy) by Debora Harkness
The Registry by Shannon Stoker
Insatiable by Meg Cabot
Along for the Ride by Sarah Dessen
The Dark Heroine: Dinner with a Vampire by Abigail Gibbs

Three whole books about vampires in there - I don't know how that happened. I do know, though, that I am TOTALLY vampired out. :-) The Dark Heroine, which I have ALMOST finished, might have to fight for stars, just because it was last.

In other news, I have also joined a book club, which I am SUPER excited about! I voted on the booklist for the next year today, and we should know by next week, so I'll definitely be posting about that! Yay!

My Contests

None for now!