Saturday, August 30, 2014

Shades of Milk and Honey

So. Shades of Milk and Honey is the first book in the series I recently fell in love with "The Glamorist Histories" by Mary Robinette Kowal. I read and reviewed the second book before reading the first one. You can check out my very favorable review here.  I was of course very excited to read the first book in the series. 

As I expected it was not as good. However seeing as it was the author's first published novel and that the second book was amazing I decided to love it for what it was and not be disappointed.

Shades of Milk and Honey is an intimate portrait of Jane Ellsworth, a woman ahead of her time in a world where the manipulation of glamour is considered an essential skill for a lady of quality. But despite this key change in history, other aspects of Dorchester’s society are not that different: Jane and her sister Melody’s lives still revolve around vying for the attentions of eligible men.

Jane resists this fate, and rightly so: while her skill with glamour is remarkable, it is her sister who is fair of face, and therefore wins the lion’s share of the attention. At the ripe old age of twenty-eight, Jane has resigned herself to being invisible forever. But when her family’s honor is threatened, she finds that she must push her skills to the limit in order to set things right--and, in the process, accidentally wanders into a love story of her own.
As with Glamour in Glass the worldbuilding was beautiful. The descriptions of how glamour worked were harder to understand but aside from that I found the setting well described and delightful. It had a real Jane Austen feel to it.

In all honesty I don't believe I would have tried the second book if I had read this one first. The plot was cliched, rushed, and the side characters lacked development.  The book seemed to rely on concept rather than on plot, characters, or writing. Don't get me wrong it's a great concept Jane Austen with magic, {read my review of the second book to see how I felt about the magic part of it} but it wasn't enough to carry the whole story.

Because I had already fallen in love with jane and Vincent I got a certain "yessssss!" feeling out of their romance but the writer side of me was increasingly frustrated by the lack of development.

I would not suggest reading this book first. Overall I had a blast reading it but I could see very clearly that if I wasn't already invested in the characters I would not have enjoyed it. I would instead suggest that you do as I did. read the second book and then try the first one for kicks.

Overall rating? Two and a half out of five stars.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Fly Away Home

Fly Away Home is Rachel Heffington's debut novel. Rachel is one of my mentors and friends and it
was her writing that finally made me realize that I wanted to actually sit down and write a book. So of course I am slightly biased going into this review. However I do NOT believe in gushing about a friend's book simply because it is a friend's book. This story is good in it's own right and any gushing i will gush, I believe is fully deserved.
Self Preservation has never looked more tempting. 1952 New York City: Callie Harper is a woman set to make it big in the world of journalism. Liberated from all but her buried and troubled past, Callie craves glamour and the satisfaction she knows it will bring. When one of America's most celebrated journalists, Wade Barnett, calls on Callie to help him with a revolutionary project, Callie finds herself co-pilot to a Christian man whose life and ideas of true greatness run noisily counter to hers on every point. 
The new friendship sparks, the project soars, and a faint suspicion that she is fall for this uncommon man grows in Callie's heart. When the secrets of Callie's past are exhumed and hung over her head as a threat, she is forced to scrutinize Wade Barnett and betray his dirtiest secrets or see her own spilled. Here there is space for only one love, one answer: betray Wade Barnett to save her reputation, or sacrifice everything for the sake of the man she loved and the God she fled. The consequences of either decision will define the rest of her life.
So on to the review!

I am a stickler for good worldbuilding. My favorite books are the ones that immerse me in the story world and make it seem real. Heffington's portrait of 1950's new York was vibrant, enjoyable, and felt true to life. The intimate scenes between two characters or the scenes with just Callie were wonderful as far as world goes. The more crowd scenes were less vibrant but on the whole I really enjoyed the setting of the book. It felt warm and lemonade fizzy.

Characters now. Characters are where Rachel Heffington's true genius lies. These people live. They are witty, colorful, diverse. Callie made a lovely narrator, self aware enough to not be annoying but still delightfully human and prejudiced. Shores, Jules, and Nalia all of whom served as antagonists on varying levels were like pickles. Sour but enjoyable and tangy.  

But the icing on the cake? Wade Barnett. Ohhhhhhhhhhh Wade Barnett.  Even if I hadn't known that Rachel "Character cast" him as Gregory Peck, I would have ended up seeing that most swoon-worthy of actors in my mind. Mr. Barnett has everything you want in a good hero: Witt, kindness, good looks, compassion, faith, failings, and a private yacht. He's a man who smacks his lips over life and makes you want to taste what he tastes.  My favorite thing about him was his comforting presence. He made me feel so safe reading about him and i had no trouble understanding why Callie fell for the man.

And Jerry Atwood! If I had one complaint about the characters it was that Jerry wasn't in it enough. He was a doll an absolute duck and I wanted to hug him on numerous occasions.

Now on to the books one "problem area" the plot. The plot was hole free, and though I guessed how it would end it was a good kind of guessed how it would end. A satisfying guessed how it would end. Personally I wanted more development, development of the romance, development of the theme, development of Callie's journey towards God. While certain aspects of the plot seemed to fall into place quite naturally others felt slightly rushed, like you knew it was coming but you had expected more reason for it to come.

Rachel's writing style is superb. She always picks the right word and her prose is not only light, funny, and articulate it sounds lovely too. If you read it aloud to yourself it just has this snappy, bubbly, buttery feel to it. You can describe Rachel's prose with z words. Zest and zing and zazzy!

The whole novel was full of light, it sparkled and glimmered and glowed. All in all despite the minor feeling of jumpiness I mentioned this was one of those books you read again and again and again. One of those satisfying books you know?

Overall rating? Four out of five stars.

What are three books you find immensely satisfying to read? The ones that make you feel warm and cozy inside and wriggly when the turn out right in the end?