Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers – Book Review

Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers
Published by Houghton Mifflin Books for Children, an imprint of Houghton Mifflin

This is the second book in the His Fair Assassin series. I have previously reviewed the first book, Grave Mercy. This review may contain spoilers for Grave Mercy.

Picking up just where Grave Mercy left off, Dark Triumph focuses not on Ismae, as the first book did, but on her fellow initiate from the convent of St. Mortain, Sybella. Damaged and hurting, Sybella is forced by the sisters at the convent to return to the home that tortured her, that made her the creature she is today.

Can she find a way to save her friends and Brittany, or will her time at home return her to the thrall and control of her father.

I am absolutely thrilled that LaFevers chose to tell Sybella’s story in Dark Triumph. For one thing, it is a much more involved and compelling story than I had imagined when we met her in Grave Mercy. For another, telling Sybella’s story allows LaFevers to move the story of the Franco-Breton war and Anne’s duchy forward without falling prey to the middle-of-the-trilogy slump. Much of what happens in regards to Anne’s story is in the background, but Sybella’s engaging story means there is significant narrative thrust to keep the reader entertained.

I can’t wait to see what is next for us in this series. Highly recommended.

For more information, please see the author’s website.
Source: Library.

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The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark – Book Review

The Demon Lover by Juliet Dark
Published by Ballantine Books, an imprint of Random House

Since Callie was little, a strange man has always visited her in her dreams. A prince, she once believed him to be. Perhaps it was this nightly visitor that inspired her love of fairy tales and Gothic literature, even the subject of her best-selling book, The Sex Lives of Demon Lovers. Thanks to her book, Callie has gotten a position at Fairwick College’s folklore department. With her new job and the new house she’s bought, the man who used to haunt her dreams is back. This time, though, the dreams are graphic, and starting to suck Callie’s energy away from her. Callie is, it appears, being haunted not by simple dreams, but by an incubus, and he’s not the only mythical creature in Fairwick.

Callie’s midnight romps with her incubus get to be a bit much towards the beginning of the book, but once she starts to realize that something strange is going on and trying to figure out exactly what that is, it picks up. By the time I was about a third of the way through the book, I was thoroughly entranced (heehee) by the magic and academia. The Demon Lover reminds me somewhat of A Discovery of Witches, but with a slightly different bent.

Altogether a great start to a trilogy. Recommended.

Buy this book from:

Powells | Indiebound*

Source: library.
* 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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Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple – Audiobook Review

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? by Maria Semple, narrated by Kathleen Wilhoite
Published in audio by Hachette Audio, published in print by Little, Brown and Company


From the publisher:

Bernadette Fox is notorious. To her Microsoft-guru husband, she’s a fearlessly opinionated partner; to fellow private-school mothers in Seattle, she’s a disgrace; to design mavens, she’s a revolutionary architect, and to 15-year-old Bee, she is a best friend and, simply, Mom.

Then Bernadette disappears. It began when Bee aced her report card and claimed her promised reward: a family trip to Antarctica. But Bernadette’s intensifying allergy to Seattle – and people in general – has made her so agoraphobic that a virtual assistant in India now runs her most basic errands. A trip to the end of the earth is problematic.

To find her mother, Bee compiles email messages, official documents, secret correspondence – creating a compulsively readable and touching novel about misplaced genius and a mother and daughter’s role in an absurd world.

Thoughts on the story:

Where’d You Go, Bernadette? is charmingly told, the story of a young girl and her missing mother. There is a series of improbable events that seem like they should be ridiculous, but which instead become a lovely story that will captivate readers. 

Thoughts on the audio production:

I may be the only one who feels this way, but I don’t totally love Kathleen Wilhoite as a narrator. She is talented and does pull off the voice of a young girl well, but – in a totally nitpicky way – I find her voice almost TOO little girl-like here, and it sorts of grates on my nerves. This is a totally subjective thing, objectively she’s good, but there’s just some quality in her voice that doesn’t thrill me.


A good production and a wonderful book, but I didn’t love the audio as much as some others do.

For more information on this book, check out the publisher’s page.
Source: Publisher

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Quiet by Susan Cain – Book Review

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking by Susan Cain
Published by Broadway, an imprint of Random House

America is the land of the extroverts, or so our national mythology goes. In truth, some 1/3 of Americans are introverts, and the number is even higher in other countries. In Quiet, Susan Cain addresses both the problem of how introverts can succeed in a world that values extroversion, and the ways that introverted leadership benefits companies, as well as the issue of introverted students in schools that value participation and group work.

Quiet is an absolutely fascinating book. Cain quite ably makes the case for the value of introverted leadership, and the problems that come from shutting it out (such as some of the behaviors that led to the most recent economic crash). Perhaps what is most valuable is the explanation of how we got to this place. The American population is already more extroverted than many (perhaps due to immigration patterns), but we have not always been as enamored as the extrovert ideal as we are now.

This is a well-reasoned and informative book. If you aren’t an introvert yourself, you likely have one in your close family or one close to you at work, and Quiet can help you understand the way that (or those) introvert(s) can contribute. Highly recommended.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* 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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The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling – Book Review

The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling
Published by Little, Brown and Company

When Barry Fairbrother dies of an aneurysm in a parking lot, the town of Pagford is thrown into chaos. Not only are the gossip mills working overtime, but Barry’s death throws into disarray the Pagford town council, which now has a casual vacancy. Barry was one of the leading supporters of the Fields, the low-income housing at the edge of town and the nearby addiction clinic. Without him, Howard Mollison may just be able push through the reassignment of the Fields to the larger town nearby and the retraction of the addiction clinic’s lease. In the days following Barry’s death, many long-dormant hostilities flare up, as the election to fill his seat forces people to examine their own beliefs and relationships.

At its heart, The Casual Vacancy is about the politics of small town life, both the actual governance and decisions made by a (theoretically) elected few and the politics of interpersonal relationships in a place where everyone is connected to everyone else in one way or another. There is a strong theme of social responsibility and the social contract in The Casual Vacancy, as citizens of Pagford debate what should become of the Fields. Opinions run the gamut, as prominent characters include the old guard such as the Mollisons, as well as a young woman growing up in the fields with a drug addicted mother, a social worker, and many others.

It is this thread that makes the timing of the The Casual Vacancy release in the United States so interesting, as many similar issues are being debated in the lead up to our national election. Obviously with a world-wide English release this is unlikely to have been calculated, but I can see this working both for and against The Casual Vacancy, depending on the reader. Many US readers may not want to indulge in political rancor and electioneering during this final stretch of a seemingly interminable political cycle; others, however, may have a heightened appreciation of just what the stakes are in this fictional election due to the high profile of political decisions in the US at the moment.

All this is not to say that civic politics is the be all and end all of The Casual Vacancy, relationships are just as crucial to the story Rowling is telling. There are tense relationships between parents and children, affairs, relationships that have changed over time so they are no longer recognizable to the people within them. There are friendships and mentoring relationships as well. Although not unendingly bleak, there is certainly more darkness and less support in most of these relationships than in Rowling’s Harry Potter wizard world. There are times that Pagford seems to have echoes of her Muggle world, Howard Mollison called to mind Vernon Dursley occasionally, albeit the more complex Vernon Dursley of the later books.

The Casual Vacancy probably has much less universal appeal than Rowling’s Harry Potter books, both for the cynical look a life and for the focus on politics. The writing is not going to blow anyone away – and Rowling uses parentheses strangely to indicate that characters are recalling something, sometimes with up to half a page contained in a single pair – but it is strong enough that it generally does not distract from the fascinating story Rowling is telling.

Buy this book from:
Powells | Indiebound*

Source: Library.
* 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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