The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees – Book Review and Giveaway

The Island of Doves by Kelly O’Connor McNees

It is really no secret that I love the books that McNees writes. I’ve been looking forward to The Island of Doves for a long time, and happily, my anticipation was rewarded with a lovely reading experience. If you’re interested in hearing more about the plot, check out this description from the publisher:

Susannah Fraser lives in one of Buffalo’s finest mansions, but her husband has made it a monstrous prison. When a mysterious woman offers to help her escape, Susannah boards a steamboat for Mackinac Island. But after being a dutiful daughter and obedient wife, it is only as she flees that she realizes how unprepared she is for freedom.

An exceptional woman of early America, Magdelaine Fonteneau has overcome convention to live a bold and adventurous life, achieving great wealth and power as a fur trader. But Magdelaine has also seen great tragedy and lost all that was dear to her, and she is no longer sure her hardened heart is capable of love.

Now, Magdelaine seeks redemption by offering safe harbor to Susannah. But as their friendship grows into something miraculous, it changes each woman in unexpected ways. Each needs to learn to love again, and only together can they realize a future bright with the promise of new life…

I think my favorite thing about The Island of Doves is the setting. Mackinack Island is a semi-frontier landscape in this time period, but still without the wild west sort of feeling that often turns me off. It is also a novel setting (pun not intended, I swear), bringing something newly vibrant to the world of historical fiction.

The story itself could probably have been told at a variety of different time periods – including, with some significant changes for technology – today. However, McNees still makes it feel fresh, mostly by creating characters who are fully fledged enough to seem truly alive, and giving them time to form relationships, as well as impediments against which to struggle.

While I’m not surprised that I loved this, I am happy that McNees continues to live up to my now very high expectations for her work.

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If you want to read The Island of Doves for yourself, enter at the Google form below by 11:59pm Central on Sunday, April 6th. One winner in the US will receive a copy of the book from the publisher.

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The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard – Book Review

SO. I was listening to Pop Culture Happy Hour for the billionth time, as is my wont (I promise, a post about this is coming), and it was an old one in which Glen Weldon mentioned Free Comic Book Day. This inspired me to look up the comic book stores around me on the Free Comic Book Day website. It turns out we have more independent comics shops around than we do bookstores, including chain bookstores. So then I decided that my new project is to explore both our local comics shops and comics and graphic novels in general by buying something from each of the stores. For my first attempt, I found the local shop to be small and dominated predominantly by single issue comics. Since I don’t feel quite ready for those yet, I focused on the small rack of compilations and works originally published as complete graphic novels. I was hoping to be the beneficiary of some good hand selling, but the clerk was busy most of the time we were in there, so I just browsed until I found THIS little gem.

The New Deadwardians by Dan Abnett and I.N.J. Culbard
Published by Vertigo, an imprint of D.C. Comics

EDWARDIAN VAMPIRES VERSUS EDWARDIAN ZOMBIES. #FTW

In The New Deadwardians, Britain has been frozen in time by a horrid disease and a cure that might even be worse. In 1861, Britain began to be plagued by the Restless Curse, something that effectively turned people into zombies. In an attempt to counteract the curse and provide an ability to fight the Restless, the Cure was invented and taken by the upper classes. The Cure was able to make those who took it invisible to the Restless, but it did it by making them dead as well, vampires to be exact, referred to as the Young. Although the lower classes are still human, their lives are basically ruled by interactions with the two types of dead creatures around them, and they’re starting to revolt. George Suttle is one of the Young, and the last detective in the Scotland Yard murder squad. There’s not much need for a homicide detective when everyone who is considered to matter is already dead. Except then a Young man is found dead, and not by any of the common causes. How can someone dead die again? Chief Inspector Suttle may have gotten in over his head in this investigation.

I completely loved this book. First of all, Edwardian vampires and zombies? SOLD. SOLD. The story is told well and paced beautifully, I really didn’t run into any problems considering this compilation was originally sold as single issue comics, it flows very nicely. I also adored the illustrations; color is used to great advantage, setting the scene and communicating even the slightest change in mood.

I adored this x1000000. If you have any recommendations for me on the graphic novel front, I’d love to hear them, in case the next comics store I head to isn’t so much on the hand selling, either.

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Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau – Book Review

Independent Study by Joelle Charbonneau
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children

I previously reviewed the first book in this series, The Testing, this review will include spoilers for The Testing.

Cia made it through the Testing, but now that she has a record of what she went through during that time – most of the participants were made to forget it – she is constantly uneasy. Will her next mistake cost her her life? Things don’t get any easier when Cia is placed in her learning program. First she is assigned an unheard of number of classes, and then she is put through an initiation by the older students in her program. As things escalate, Cia becomes increasingly determined to figure out just what exactly is going on and who – if anyone – she can trust.

Independent Study is perhaps not quite as action packed as The Testing, but this is to be expected for the second book in the trilogy. What impresses me is that it doesn’t suffer from the mid-series slump, despite being quite a bridge book between what happened in The Testing and what is coming in Graduation Day. Charbonneau keeps up a good amount of action, particularly with the initiation rites. At the same time, Cia and the reader are able to gain measure of insight into what exactly is happening in the United Commonwealth.

Independent Study continues the story of The Testing and sets up Graduation Day while managing to tell its own story as well. This makes for a very nice middle of the series book. Recommended.

For more information, please see the publisher’s page.
Source: Author.

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How Not to Write a Novel by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman – Book Review

How Not to Write a Novel: 200 Classic Mistakes and How to Avoid Them, a Misstep-by-Misstep Guide by Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman
Published by Harper Paperbacks, an imprint of HarperCollins

There are hundreds, thousands, millions of ways to write a novel, many of them good. Of course, many of them are also oh so very bad. Luckily, if you WANT to write a bad novel, Howard Mittelmark and Sandra Newman have got you covered. These two long-time denizens of the world of writing have identified 200 Very Bad Things writers do in their novels in categories such as plot, character, style, and world building and have laid them out with detail so you can either avoid them or aim for them, depending on what you’re going for.

The advice here is wonderful. Mittelmark and Newman are not telling you what to write or how to write, because there are so many different things that work for different people. But seriously, no matter who you are, this stuff is bad and should be avoided at all costs. I’m not sure that by simply avoiding all of this you can write a good novel, but you can definitely make your novel better, something that will be hugely helpful for all of you beginning your NaNoWriMo work (you may want to revise with this by your side).

There was something that seemed slightly off, I felt that I didn’t always know from one moment to the next whether they were warning writers away from something bad or pretending to encourage the terrible thing. However, the fact that the conceit didn’t always seem consistent never impeded my ability to understand just what was horrible and what was not. I am also able to forgive any inconsistencies because this conceit made How Not to Write a Novel hugely engaging to read. I figured I’d get some pointers for my own potential writing and more ways to think about what I read, but my reading of How Not to Write a Novel was as much about enjoyment of the style and authorial voice as it was about analyzing specific writing issues.

If all writing books were as fun and helpful as How Not to Write a Novel, I might have a blog of nothing but writing books.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Personal.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout – Mini Book Review

Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout
Published by Random House

From the publisher:

At times stern, at other times patient, at times perceptive, at other times in sad denial, Olive Kitteridge, a retired schoolteacher, deplores the changes in her little town of Crosby, Maine, and in the world at large, but she doesn’t always recognize the changes in those around her: a lounge musician haunted by a past romance; a former student who has lost the will to live; Olive’s own adult child, who feels tyrannized by her irrational sensitivities; and her husband, Henry, who finds his loyalty to his marriage both a blessing and a curse.

As the townspeople grapple with their problems, mild and dire, Olive is brought to a deeper understanding of herself and her life-sometimes painfully, but always with ruthless honesty. Olive Kitteridge offers profound insights into the human condition-its conflicts, its tragedies and joys, and the endurance it requires.

I read Olive Kitteridge after thoroughly enjoying Elizabeth Strout’s new novel, The Burgess Boys. The two books are so different that it is difficult to compare them, and I believe I did them a disservice by attempting to do so. Olive Kitteridge is fascinating, the linked stories an intriguing way to get at who Olive is. It was hard for me to come into the linked stories after the more cohesive The Burgess Boys. It is a brilliant book, I just wish I had read it at a time when I could better appreciate it.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: personal copy.
* These links are all affiliate links. If you buy your book here I’ll make a very small amount of money that goes towards hosting, giveaways, etc.

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