Review: Heart of Iron

Heart of IronAshley Poston, Heart of Iron

Ana was raised an outlaw on the spaceship Dossier, under the rough but loving care of the infamous Captain Siege and her crew. She remembers nothing of her life before the Dossier found her; the only connection to her past is her Metal (robot), D09, who also happens to be her best friend. When D09 starts to malfunction, Ana is so desperate to save him that she’ll even steal the coordinates for the long-lost spaceship Tsarina, which is rumored to have the information she’ll need to repair D09. But her plan goes wrong when Robb, an Ironblood (upper class) boy who has his own reasons for seeking the Tsarina, gets the coordinates first. Now Ana and Robb find themselves on the same side as they search for answers. Meanwhile, the Iron Kingdom needs a new leader, since a rebellion several years ago killed the entire royal family. Robb’s corrupt brother Erik is next in line, but legend has it that one of the murdered emperor’s children may have survived after all. . . .

This book was originally pitched as “Anastasia meets Firefly,” and since I love both of those things, I figured I’d be the ideal reader for this novel! Unfortunately, that didn’t turn out to be the case, but I want to emphasize that my problems with the book are very specific and may not be problems for another reader! It’s certainly a fun read overall, with a nice blend of outer space action and political intrigue. But for me, the book is missing the elements I was hoping for based on the premise. My favorite aspects of Anastasia are the con angle and the enemies-to-lovers romance, neither of which are present in this book. Instead, one of the main plot lines is a romance between a human and a robot, and I just couldn’t get past it. I think the discussion about artificial intelligence and consciousness is absolutely fascinating, but there’s not much debate about it in the novel; rather, all the “good” characters simply accept D09’s humanity, which just left me with a lot of questions and frustration. Also, I found the Firefly elements to be a little superficial: yes, there’s a ragtag crew of space pirates/adventurers, but only a few of them get any significant characterization. In short, all I can say is that this book didn’t deliver what I was hoping for based on the premise. But again, that has a lot to do with my own subjective expectations, and I expect that many other readers will love it!

Library Sale!

My public library’s semi-annual sale was this weekend, and I’m pretty excited about my book haul!


Robert McCrum, Wodehouse: A Life — I love Wodehouse’s work but know nothing about his life (except that the P.G. stands for Pelham Grenville, which is amazing). Looking forward to learning more!

Lisa Hilton, Queens Consort: England’s Medieval Queens from Eleanor of Aquitaine to Elizabeth of York — Medieval queens are the best! Ominously, the subtitle is incorrect, as the first queen discussed is Matilda of Flanders, the wife of William the Conqueror. Hopefully the book itself won’t contain such egregious errors.

Rose Macaulay, The Towers of Trebizond — Humorous portrayal of Anglican missionaries in the Middle East.

E.F. Benson, Lucia in London / Mapp and Lucia — I’ve been told that, as a fan of 20th century British fiction, I really need to read the Mapp and Lucia novels.

Martin Edwards, ed., Murder at the Manor: Country House Mysteries — Short stories generally aren’t my favorite, but I cannot resist an English country house mystery (or the British Library Crime Classics imprint!).

Anthony Wynne, Murder of a Lady: A Scottish Mystery — Another British Library Crime Classic.

Eva Ibbotson, Which Witch? — I love Ibbotson’s books for adults, but I’ve never tried one of her children’s books. This one looks adorable and should be a great choice for the 24-hour readathon!

Catherynne M. Valente, The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making — I’ve been meaning to try this one for a while. I also have one of Valente’s books for adults, but from what I’ve heard, she seems like an author I’ll probably need to ease into.

Sharon Kay Penman, A King’s Ransom — My SKP collection is now complete.

V.E. Schwab, A Darker Shade of Magic — I’ve already read and loved this book, but I couldn’t resist the hardcover in pristine condition!

Kate Parker, The Vanishing Thief — First in a mystery series set in Victorian London, and the heroine is a bookseller. Seems relevant to my interests! 🙂

E.M. Delafield, Diary of a Provincial Lady — This one’s been on my TBR list for ages.

Jennifer Nielsen, The False Prince — This book has been compared to the Queen’s Thief series by Megan Whalen Turner, which I love.

C.S. Harris, When Gods Die and Why Mermaids Sing — Books two and three in the Sebastian St. Cyr mystery series, which is set in Regency England. I already have book one, so I’m excited to continue acquiring the series.

I also bought two DVDs, Letters to Juliet and Becoming Jane, both of which I have seen and enjoyed. And the best part is, I was able to fit all my new books on my shelves without too much rearranging!

Top Ten Tuesday: Fall TBR

Top 10 TuesdayFall is here, and the weather has finally recognized that fact, so it’s a great time for this week’s Top Ten Tuesday topic: 10 books on your fall TBR list. I’m too much of a scaredy-cat to read actual horror, but a lot of the books on my list are spooky, gothic, Halloween-appropriate reads. I’m also excited to read a few new/upcoming releases, and then there are the fluffy romances that I’ll be enjoying during the 24-hour readathon in October! So, in no particular order…

1. Carl Hiaasen, Skink — No Surrender — I’ve had an ARC of this book since Book Expo America 2014. Time to finally read it!

2. Jay Kristoff, Nevernight — My lovely former secret sister Natasha (go visit her at A Binding Attraction!) got me a signed copy of this book! We’re going to buddy-read it in October. 🙂

3. Neil Gaiman, The Ocean at the End of the Lane — Halloween is the perfect time for some creepy, magical Neil Gaiman.

4. Leigh Bardugo, Crooked Kingdom — I wasn’t blown away by the Grisha trilogy, but I loved Six of Crows and am dying to find out what happens to everyone in this sequel!

5. Shirley Jackson, We Have Always Lived in the Castle — I’ve never read anything by Shirley Jackson but have always been curious. My impression is that her books will be creepy enough to get me in the autumnal spirit without actually, you know, terrifying me.

6. Emma Mills, This Adventure Ends — I thought First & Then was very cute, so I’m definitely looking forward to reading Mills’s new book!

7. Connie Willis,  Crosstalk — My most anticipated release of 2016 by a mile! I’m such a Connie Willis fan, and this techno-rom-com sounds right up my alley!

8. Donna Moore, Old Dogs — The description of this one caught my eye: “Two septugenarian sisters take the classic heist to new levels in this addictive caper.” Sounds delightful, no?

9. Kasie West, P.S. I Like You — A young adult version of “You’ve Got Mail” is the perfect book for Hour 22 of the readathon!

10. Lindsey Kelk, We Were on a Break — Huzzah, a new Lindsey Kelk book is coming out! Obviously I’ll need to read it immediately.

Top Ten Tuesday: Need books now!

Top 10 TuesdayAfter several years of writing about books on the Internet, I’ve finally started paying attention to things like release dates. 🙂 I’m not entirely sure this is a good thing, however, since knowing a book’s pub date only increases that impatient, anxious, “NEED BOOK NOW!” feeling. But I can’t seem to help myself, so here are 10 books with 2015 release dates that I can’t wait to get my hot little hands on:

1. Lauren Willig, The Lure of the Moonflower — I’ve been a fan of the Pink Carnation series since the very beginning, and the twelfth and final book is coming out this summer! I can’t wait to (finally!) read Jane’s story! Release date is August 4.

2. Ellie Marney, Every Word — I preordered this sequel pretty much as soon as I finished Every Breath! Mycroft and Watts make a great crime-solving duo, and Mycroft in particular practically leaps off the page! Release date (U.K./Australia version) is August 13; the U.S. hardcover will follow on September 8.

3. Kristan Higgins, If You Only Knew — Kristan Higgins is one of my auto-buy authors, so I definitely won’t be missing her latest romance…although this one looks like it has a healthy dose of family drama as well. I’ll be interested to see how it compares to her previous work! Release date is August 25.

4. Sylvia Izzo Hunter, Lady of Magick — This is the sequel to The Midnight Queen, which I really enjoyed. I hope some of the loose threads from the first book will be resolved here! Release date is September 1.

5. Seanan McGuire, A Red-Rose Chain — This is another series I’ve been following since the beginning, and the last book (The Winter Long) had some pretty huge plot twists, so I can’t wait to see where things go from here! Release date is September 1.

6. Kate Beaton, Step Aside, Pops — I don’t read many webcomics, but I LOVE Kate Beaton, and if you’re not reading Hark! A Vagrant, YOU SHOULD BE. This book is a collection of her comics from the site, probably with a few new ones mixed in. Release date is September 15.

7. William Ritter, Beastly Bones — This is the sequel to Jackaby, which was a very pleasant surprise when I read it last year. I’m definitely looking forward to reading more about the intrepid Abigail Rook and her mysterious employer, R.F. Jackaby. Release date is September 22.

8. Rainbow Rowell, Carry On — It’s no secret that I LOVE Rainbow Rowell, but I’m actually pretty nervous about Carry On. It’s a novel about Simon Snow, the fictional Harry Potter-esque character about whom Cath was writing in Fangirl. I’m concerned — and I will probably post something closer to the release date detailing WHY I’m concerned — but I’m also very curious! So I’ll definitely be reading the book when it comes out; release date is October 6.

9. Emma Mills, First and Then — The Goodreads description of this book calls it “Pride and Prejudice meets Friday Night Lights.” SOLD! Plus, the cover is completely adorable. 🙂 Release date is October 13.

10. Charles Finch, Home by Nightfall — Yet another series installment! I very much enjoy these Victorian-set mysteries featuring gentleman-detective Charles Finch. This latest one will be released on November 10.

Some thoughts on World War II

So I haven’t been around here in a while, and I’m not really sure why. I’m still reading a lot, and they’re mostly good books that I want to recommend to people! But I’m about 15 reviews behind now, and the thought of trying to catch up is daunting. Nevertheless, I wanted to post today because it’s the 70th anniversary of VE Day, and I want to talk a little bit about my interest in World War II history and literature, and then recommend some of my favorite WWII books.

ww2 - anne frankww2 - number the starsww2 - nightww2 - verity

Growing up, I had no particular interest in World War II or in literature set during the period. I read The Diary of Anne Frank like everyone else, but I don’t think it made a particularly big impact on me at the time. I do remember reading and loving Lois Lowry’s Number the Stars, however! When I got older, I started to get really excited about a few historical periods, but they were primarily the Regency era (thanks to Jane Austen) and the Middle Ages (probably thanks to my Catholicism, but I’ll give Ellis Peters and Sharon Kay Penman some credit too!). So I’m not really sure what prompted me to start reading more about World War II. Maybe it was the 2001 movie “Enigma,” which dealt with breaking the German submarine codes. (It’s a good movie, and I definitely recommend it to fans of the period!)

But regardless of what initially sparked my interest, I’ve become fascinated with World War II and especially with fiction set during the period. I must admit, though, that my interest is heavily skewed towards the British experience. That’s partly an issue of language, I’m guessing, and partly an issue of simple geography. Although America was attacked at Pearl Harbor, the war never really came to us the way it did to England. We didn’t live through the Blitzkrieg. We didn’t have to evacuate our children or plan for an imminent invasion. So for me, WWII novels set in England have much more tension and immediacy than those set in the U.S.

But of course, there were many other countries involved in the war, and I must admit that I haven’t read so much about them. I don’t think I’ve read anything at all set in the Pacific theater, which is especially shameful because my grandfather actually fought there! And as for Holocaust literature…well. Obviously it is incredibly important and valuable and necessary. I think everyone in the world should read Elie Wiesel’s Night, even though it will break your heart. But for me, reading descriptions of what happened in the concentration camps is just too much. Thinking about it for any length of time is just too horrible. So instead, I gravitate to WWII books set in Britain, which generally have plenty of gravity and pathos without being unspeakably horrific.

ww2 - blackoutww2 - all clearww2 - guernsey literaryww2 - operation mincemeat

So, without further ado, here are some of my favorite books about World War II:

Elizabeth Wein, Code Name Verity — This book is about two young women and their extraordinary friendship. One is a pilot for the Air Transport Auxiliary. One is a spy who has just been captured by the Germans. The spy begins the story, stating that she is writing her confession, but her narrative is much more complex than meets the eye. I cannot recommend this novel highly enough. It’s suspenseful, fascinating, and utterly heartbreaking. My review is here.

Connie Willis, Blackout / All Clear — This novel is an extremely detailed account of the experience of Londoners during the war, particularly during the Blitz. I can’t explain the spirit of this book any better than by quoting the dedication to All Clear:

To all the ambulance drivers, firewatchers, air-raid wardens, nurses, canteen workers, airplane spotters, rescue workers, mathematicians, vicars, vergers, shopgirls, chorus girls, librarians, debutantes, spinsters, fishermen, retired sailors, servants, evacuees, Shakespearean actors, and mystery novelists who won the war.

The books are a bit long-winded, but they are so, so worth it. My review is here.

Mary Ann Shaffer and Annie Barrows, The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society — This book is quite a bit more light-hearted than the previous two, even though it deals with the fairly serious subject of German occupation of the Channel Islands. It starts with a thank-you note from a Guernsey man to a London woman who had donated some books to the occupied islands. The two characters strike up a correspondence, and eventually the woman, who is a journalist, travels to Guernsey to write about the experiences of the people there. The war almost takes a backseat to the various personal stories and relationships that emerge. But it’s one of my very favorite books, so I have to include it on this list! 🙂 My review is here.

Ben Macintyre, Operation Mincemeat — A nonfiction work that reads like a novel, this book tells the story of an absolutely outrageous Allied plan to feed misinformation to the Germans — and how that plan, against all odds, succeeded! Espionage is another longstanding interest of mine (although that’s another post, haha), so I was fascinated to read this account! Now that a lot of information about WWII intelligence operations has been/is being declassified, it’s a great time to learn more about the actual history behind the fiction. My review of the book is here.

If you’re also a fan of books set in World War II, what do you think of this list? What books should I add? What is the most fascinating aspect of WWII for you?

Secret Santa Sign-Ups

I know Halloween just passed, and Thanksgiving is still a month away…but I can’t resist signing up for the 5th annual Secret Santa hosted by The Broke and the Bookish!

A full description of the event, including the rules, is at the sign-up page. But basically, here’s what you do: (1) Email TBTB before November 14 with some info about yourself, including your mailing address and some books you’d like to get from Santa. (2) TBTB will email you back with the info for your giftee. (3) Go shopping! Mail your gift no later than December 15. (4) Email TBTB again when you receive a package from your Secret Santa. I’ve participated in this event for the last several years and have always enjoyed it. I think my favorite part has been picking out presents for my own Secret Santa! 🙂

Another Pemberley Digital web series!

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you may remember my gushing about Pemberley Digital’s previous web series, “The Lizzie Bennet Diaries” and “Emma Approved” (which is still running, but I think it will be wrapping up soon). Now they’ve come out with another project, and this time it’s based on a book by a different 19th-century female author. The web series is called “Frankenstein, MD,” based on — you guessed it — the 1818 novel by Mary Shelley. The first three episodes are already available to watch:

The most obvious deviation from the original book is Frankenstein’s gender: in this adaptation, the main character is Victoria Frankenstein, a bright young almost-doctor who is determined to achieve the impossible through science. Even from the first three episodes, it’s obvious that her singleminded pursuit of her goals will cause tension in her friendships, as well as with her university’s ethics committee!

So far, I’m liking the show a lot more than I thought I would (Frankenstein is fine, but it’s no Jane Austen!), for several reasons. First, I think they nailed the character of Victoria. Right off the bat I’m horrified by her, but I also somehow like her! The series as a whole seems more confident, with a better pace than Pemberley’s previous work. I assume part of that is due to their greater experience, while the rest is probably because of their partnership with PBS (which gives them more money to achieve their vision).

Finally, I’m curious to see what elements of the book they’ll change for the adaptation. Surely Victoria won’t actually assemble a monstrous creature from the body parts of dead people and bring it to life…will she? (Frankly, I wouldn’t put it past her!) And will the outcome be the same as the book’s, or will Pemberley Digital actually be able to pull off a happy ending that doesn’t totally disrespect the source material? Part of me is very skeptical…but on the other hand, they actually changed P&P quite a bit too by redeeming Lydia.

So the short version of all this is that I’ll be watching “Frankenstein, MD” with great interest, and if you like the book (or the idea of a web series focused on a female scientist), you should be too!

BEA Day 4: The Wrath of (Book)Con

Finally, it’s my last post about BEA 2014! (But you can still check out parts one, two, and three.) The biggest lesson I learned from BookCon is that I will (most likely) NOT be doing it again! It was absolutely INSANE. The prior days of BEA were limited to people with some type of connection to the publishing industry, but BookCon was open to the public; anyone who bought the (relatively inexpensive) ticket could come. As a result, the Javits was almost unbearably crowded, and the lines were ridiculous.

I had just two goals for the day: (1) get Cary Elwes’ autograph and (2) see the interview with Amy Poehler and Martin Short. First, Cary Elwes was set to arrive at 11:30, so I (feeling very wise and superior) decided to get in line at 10:00. And the line was already HUGE, snaking up and down corridors multiple times! Also, the poor girls in charge of wrangling the line didn’t really seem to know what they were doing. They kept directing us to move to different places and to shift positions…as a result, I’m pretty sure I ended up ahead of some people who got there before me. And meanwhile, some people came up to the line and jumped right in the middle of it, presumably unaware that there was a whole other segment of the line that they’d missed! In short, it was utter chaos. Fortunately, I did eventually get to the front of the line! This is what happened:

CARY ELWES: Hi, what’s your name?

ME: Christina.

CARY ELWES: Hi, Christina, I’m Cary. *extends hand to shake*

ME: *shakes hand* *swoons*

Cary Elwes 1

Cary Elwes 2

So that was pretty awesome. And I did talk to some really nice people in the line, so it wasn’t a total drag to be waiting there!

Then I immediately got in line for the Amy Poehler event, which was supposed to start at 12:30. I got in line at 11:30, and once again, the line was incredibly long already! I did eventually get a seat in the events hall, but I was in the very back, and I could barely see anything. (It didn’t help that some woman in front of me thought it would be appropriate to stand up so she could film the whole talk on her phone.) At least I could still hear them, though, and it was a thrill to listen to Amy Poehler (whom I love from “Parks & Rec”) talk about her career and her upcoming memoir, Yes Please!

BEA Books + Swag Day 4
(Books and swag from BookCon. Note the awesome button in the bottom right corner!)

When that was over, I thought about going to a couple more panel discussions…but honestly, I was wiped out! I went back to my hotel to chill out and read. In the evening I went to a local pub for the “Meet and Drink” activity sponsored by Katelyn from Tales of Books and Bands (host of the Tune in Tuesday meme!), Andrea from The Overstuffed Bookcase, Alexa from Alexa Loves Books, and Jen from YA Romantics. It was really fun to meet some great bloggers in a less hectic setting — and I definitely needed a drink by the end of BookCon! 🙂 I’ve begun following a bunch of new-to-me blogs, and I hope to increase my participation in the blogging community in the future!

BEA Suitcase
This is what my suitcase looked like on the way home from BEA. My dirty clothes were flung haphazardly into a backpack. I’ve got my priorities straight!