Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews

Posted 28 January, 2016 by Lianne in Books / 6 Comments

And here we are, first batch of mini book reviews for 2016! Sort of…granted, the reviews featured below were from titles I’ve read in 2015, but no matter, it was an interesting assortment of titles I read towards the end of last year 😛 Included in this batch of reviews are:

So without further ado…

The Last Witness
By: K.J. Parker
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

When you need a memory to be wiped, call me.

Transferring unwanted memories to my own mind is the only form of magic I’ve ever mastered. But now, I’m holding so many memories I’m not always sure which ones are actually mine, any more.

Some of them are sensitive; all of them are private. And there are those who are willing to kill to access the secrets I’m trying to bury…

I’ve been eyeing the Tor novellas for some time; the stories sound interesting and the artwork for them are fantastic. I decided to pick up this novella first as the premise sounds really interesting and holds a lot storytelling promise and direction. Suffice to say it didn’t disappoint; I found myself really gripped to my eReader, chest tight with anxiety as I read this unnamed narrator’s story as a man who could wipe your worst, most unwanted memories away. It’s eerie what he can do–and why he can be such a dangerous person and/or weapon–and his dubious morals makes him a rather fascinating character to follow. Despite of his faults, which he freely admits to, I found myself strangely rooting for him, hoping that his shady dealings doesn’t catch up with him, even as some of the things he had done were pretty =S

The novella was also interesting in that the narrator finds himself contemplating about memories, how they define us, how they are tied to truth, etc. I really appreciated how these themes weaved in and out of the story, not necessarily on the fore, but it’s there, especially as our narrator proves to be terribly unreliable. The story can be dark, the character flawed and dubious, the worldbuilding interesting enough with a lot of political changes happening in the backdrop, but overall it was a fantastic novella. Definitely worth checking out!

Rating: ★★★★☆


Tempting Mr. Weatherstone (Wallflower Weddings #0.5)
By: Vivienne Lorret
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Penelope Rutledge longs for passion, but only with the man of her dreams: the brilliant, dashing Ethan Weatherstone. If only her longtime neighbor would open his eyes and realize how much she loves him. If only they weren’t best friends with so much at stake. Penelope knows her future—and their friendship—is in her hands, but is she willing to take the biggest risk of all on the man she loves?

If it were up to Ethan, life and love would be as predictable as the figures in his ledgers—certainly nothing like the adventures Penelope longs for. Yet his childhood friend has grown into a beautiful, feisty woman blissfully unaware of the danger she causes when near. Ethan knows he must save Penelope and her reputation … but can he save himself from the temptation of her lips?

After reading Lorret’s novel The Devilish Mr. Danvers (review to be posted in March) I sort of backtracked and picked up the rest of that series as well as this novella and the first book in her Wallflower Weddings as Miss Danvers and Mr. Weatherstone do make appearances in The Devilish Mr. Danvers.

I really liked Tempting Mr. Weatherstone. I could totally understand and relate to Penelope’s chafing need for something different, to break routine, to have an adventure. Ethan is the opposite, comfortable with predictable, with the things he knows. His world is turned upside down when he realises that Penelope is serious in wanting to shake things up, move away, do something different. It’s only with this shift that both characters realise that there’s something more between them and that they do feel something more towards each other than simple friendship. Both characters were fully realised in this novella as they work their way towards udnerstand their feelings and acting on them.

If I had any issues with this story, it’s that it was too short, lol! The epilogue could’ve been a wee bit longer. But otherwise I really enjoyed reading this novella, I was glad that it was available as a standalone 🙂

Rating: ★★★★☆


The All Souls Real-time Reading Companion
By: Deborah Harkness
Format/Source: eBook; free download from Kobo Books

A richly illustrated real-time reading guide that brings to life the world created by Deborah Harkness in A Discovery of Witches and Shadow of Night, retracing the events of the bestselling novels with illuminating behind-the-scenes details.

A world of witches, vampires, and daemons.
A manuscript that holds the secrets of their past and the key to their future.
Diana and Matthew—the forbidden love at the heart of the adventure.

The All Souls Trilogy began with A Discovery of Witches. It continued with Shadow of Night.

Now, as The Book of Life has brought Deborah Harkness’s #1 New York Times bestselling trilogy to its conclusion, re-immerse yourself in the enchanting fantasy world she has created and enrich your experience of the heart-stopping finale.

I had no idea there was a book like this until the day before it was released (back in November 2015). Suffice to say, I agree with the blurb and everyone who’s read it that it’s definitely something to check out if you love the trilogy. It’s on the short side, and covers only the first two novels, but I enjoyed reading the author’s notes on her inspiration for certain locations, certain scenes, music she listened to as she wrote certain interactions and moments in the story. It definitely left me wanting to re-read the trilogy again (despite having already re-read it last year in the lead up to The Book of Life (review)!

Rating: ★★★★★


By: Voltaire
Format/Source: eBook; from Feedbooks

Candide, ou l’Optimisme (1759) is a French satire by the Enlightenment philosopher Voltaire, English translations of which have been titled Candide: Or, All for the Best (1759); Candide: Or, The Optimist (1762); and Candide: Or, Optimism (1947). The novella begins with a young man, Candide, who is living a sheltered life in an Edenic paradise and being indoctrinated with Leibnizian optimism (or simply optimism) by his tutor, Pangloss. The work describes the abrupt cessation of this existence, followed by Candide’s slow, painful disillusionment as he witnesses and experiences great hardships in the world. Voltaire concludes with Candide, if not outright rejecting optimism, advocating an enigmatic precept, “we must cultivate our garden”, in lieu of the Leibnizian mantra of Pangloss, “all is for the best in the best of all possible worlds”.

Gosh, I’m not sure how to go about commenting on Candide. I felt bad for the guy, he just wanted to be with Miss Cunegond and ends up going through so much crap for it. Reading the novella, it reminded me very much of The Book of Job, with the main character going through many trials and tribulations but while Job was miserable and despairing, Candide is less so. He’s a little out of touch with what’s going on around him and the nefarious schemes that many of the people around him are after, but he forges on despite of setback after setback. It’s also quite a romp through Europe and South America and back again; it’s funny how one incident snowballs into a crazy number of other situations and Candide is just swept along. It’s also a pretty ridiculous read in that characters you hear or thought to have already died come back in one instance or another is this where Steven Moffat gets his ideas from?

I admit, I think a lot of the philosophy and ideas that Voltaire puts forth through the characters Candide meets went over my head or were too subtle for me to notice; it’s been a long time since I’ve read straight-up philosophy outside of Kierkegaard’s works, but I can see how they fit in and how this book firmly sets itself within the Enlightenment period. Having said all of this, there were lull moments for me, especially towards the latter third of the novel and Candide’s misfortunes just didn’t seem to end. Nonetheless I’m glad to have finally read this French classic!

Rating: ★★★☆☆


Winter’s Tale
By: Mark Helprin
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

A bestseller that takes readers on a journey to New York of the Belle Epoque, where Peter Lake attempts to rob a Manhattan mansion only to find the daughter of the house at home. Thus begins the love between the middle-aged Irishman and Beverly Penn, a young girl who is dying.

So this book has been on my TBR for quite a number of years now and given that it was winter and I was trying to make an effort to get through some of the books sitting longer on my TBR queue, I decided to start reading this. Unfortunately after a few chapters I had to put it down; the narration was absolutely bogged down with a lot of unnecessary detail that didn’t quite add to my understanding of the principal characters involved in the story. I was already getting a bit antsy for the story to properly start and instead I found the narrative sort of meandering and introducing what appears to be a rather heavy hand into the themes that the author wanted to express through the story. With a novel as large as this and with other books sitting and waiting on my TBR queue, I decided to stop reading it. I may revisit it at a later date but it just didn’t grab my attention. Maybe I’ll just watch the movie instead.

Rating: DNF


All’s Fair in Love and Scandal (Scandalous #2.5)
By: Caroline Linden
Format/Source: eBook; my purchase

Nothing wagered…

Douglas Bennet can’t resist a good wager, especially not one that involves a beautiful woman. When a friend proposes an audacious plan to expose the most notorious woman in England, Douglas agrees at once. After all, it would be quite a coup to discover the true identity of Lady Constance, author of the infamous erotic serial scandalizing the ton, 50 Ways to Sin.

Nothing won…

Madeline Wilde is used to being pursued. For years she’s cultivated a reputation for being unattainable and mysterious, and for good reason: her livelihood depends on discretion. When Douglas turns his legendary charm on her, she dismisses him as just another rake. But he surprises her—instead of merely trying to seduce her, he becomes her friend…her confidant…and her lover. But can it really lead to happily-ever-after…or are they about to become the biggest scandal London has ever seen?

Oops, this novella comes after the first two novels and while I do have the first two books in the series, I was in the mood for a shorter read so I decided to read this book anyway. Suffice to say, I’ve been rather impressed by the novellas I’ve read in the Regency/historical romance genre so far; they’re shorter than your average novel, but the characterisations and the overall pacing of the story are pretty structured, fleshed out, and well-paced. I reckon there’s a bit more to Douglas presented in Love and Other Scandals but here you really get a sense of his character, as well as Madeline. And their chemistry together–wow. The teasing, the tension…I love how they gradually became friends first after the initial dance/wariness around each other before they revealed their feelings for each other.

The secondary storyline about discovering the true identity of Lady Constance reminded me of Julia Quinn’s Romancing Mr. Bridgerton (review) and adds some further complication to the story and while it’s probably the weakest of everything in this novella, it’s okay as it serves its purpose in the story and doesn’t detract attention away from what is at stake. But all in all, a great novella!

Rating: ★★★★☆


And those are the mini book reviews! Have you read any of these titles? Would you read any of them at some point in the future?

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6 Responses to “Books: A Batch of Mini-Reviews”

  1. A couple of these sound like pretty good reads 🙂 I feel so guilty about not having read A Discovery of Witches yet lol it’s been on my TBR for an age, I must get to it this year!

    • Oooh, I hope you enjoy A Discover of Witches, it’s such a fully-realised world Deborah Harkness created <3

      I hear you about books being on your TBR for ages, there's a few I've been eyeing and hoping that I'll get around to reading this year *fingers crossed, I'm looking at you Patrick Rothfuss's The Wise Man’s Fear*

  2. I actually read Candide in Uni but I don’t remember a whole lot about it – we studied it during a particularly hectic semester which is all a blur LOL. Reading your thoughts reminded me that yes, even though I was taking a few Philosophy classes at the time, a lot of it went over my head too – I enjoy studying Philosophy but sometimes I need a Philosopher handy to fill in the gaps haha! And every time you talk about The All Souls Series I kick myself for not having cracked open my copy of A Discovery of Witches yet. I WILL get to it this year XD Great reviews^^

    • Ooh I totally hear you about reading something during a hectic semester; I was enjoying Cervantes’ Don Quixote but ended up having to blitz it at the end because we had to get around to a number of other books that semester -_-; (incidentally that was my first and last time taking a literature course in uni) Haha, they should do that for these books, have it accompany a pocket philosopher or something xD

      Ahhh, I hope you enjoy the All Souls trilogy! 😀 Deborah Harkness created such a fully-realised and rich world for her story *happy sigh*

      Also, I was going to poke you on GR or Twitter but I hope you get around to Brandon Sanderson’s Shadows of Self and The Bands of Mourning at some point in the near future as ahhhh!!! Flailing!!! xD

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