Sailing in a Sea of Words

Literature Fanatic. Writer. I tend to lean toward mystery and fiction, but I like to change patterns with the occasional YA or non-fiction book. I hope you enjoy my reviews and they inspire you to read the book yourself!

Book Review: Mozart's Last Aria

Mozart's Last Aria - Matt Rees

Book: Mozart's Last Aria

 

Author: Matt Rees

 

Genre: Historical Fiction/Mystery

 

Summary: The news arrives in a letter to his sister, Nannerl, in December 1791. But the message carries more than word of Nannerl's brother's demise. Two months earlier, Mozart confided to his wife that his life was rapidly drawing to a close . . . and that he knew he had been poisoned. In Vienna to pay her final respects, Nannerl soon finds herself ensnared in a web of suspicion and intrigue - as the actions of jealous lovers, sinister creditors, rival composers, and Mozart's Masonic brothers suggest that dark secrets hastened the genius to his grave. As Nannerl digs deeper into the mystery surrounding her brother's passing, Mozart's black fate threatens to overtake her as well. Transporting readers to the salons and concert halls of eighteenth-century Austria, Mozart's Last Aria is a magnificent historical mystery that pulls back the curtain on a world of soaring music, burning passion, and powerful secrets. -Harper Perennial, 2011.

 

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Book Review: The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

The Secret Daughter of the Tsar - Jennifer Laam

Book: The Secret Daughter of the Tsar

 

Author: Jennifer Laam

 

Genre: Historical Fiction/Russian History

 

Summary: In her riveting debut, Jennifer Laam seamlessly braids together the stories of three women: Veronica, Lena, and Charlotte. Veronica, an aspiring historian living in present-day Los Angeles, meets a mysterious man who may be heir to the Russian throne. As she sets about investigating the legitimacy of his claim through a winding path of romance and deception, the ghosts of her own past begin to haunt her. Lena, a servant in the imperial court of 1902, is approached by the desperate Empress Alexandria. After conceiving four daughters, the empress is determined to sire a son and believes Lena can help her. Once elevated to the Romanovs' treacherous inner circle, Lena finds herself under the watchful eye of the meddling Dowager Empress Marie. Charlotte, a former ballerina living in World War II-era occupied Paris, receives a surprise visit from a German officer. Determined to protect her son from the Nazis, Charlotte escapes the city, but not before learning that the officer's interest in her stems from his long-standing obsession with the fate of the Russian monarchy. As Veronica's passion intensifies, and her search for the true heir to the throne takes a dangerous turn, readers learn just how these three vastly different women are connected. The Secret Daughter of the Tsar is thrilling from its first intense moments until its final, unexpected conclusion. -St. Martin's Griffin, 2013

 

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Book Review: Entwined

Entwined - Heather Dixon

Book: Entwined

 

Author: Heather Dixon 

 

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy/Fairy-tale Retelling/Family

 

Summary: Just when Azalea should feel that everything is before her - beautiful gowns, dashing suitors, balls filled with dancing - it's taken away. All of it. And Azalea is trapped. The Keeper understands. He's trapped, too, held for centuries within the walls of the palace. So he extends an invitation. Every night, Azalea and her eleven sisters may step through the enchanted passage in their room to dance in his silver forest, but there is a cost. The Keeper likes to keep things. Azalea may not realize how tangled she is in his web until it is too late.- Greenwillow Books, 2011.

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Book Review: The Invention of Murder

The Invention of Murder: How the Victorians Revelled in Death and Detection and Created Modern Crime - Judith Flanders

Book: The Invention of Murder

 

Author: Judith Flanders

 

Genre: Nonfiction/Mystery/History of Murder/Victorian England

 

Summary: Murder in the nineteenth century was rare. But murder as sensation and entertainment became ubiquitous, with cold-blooded killings transformed into novels, broadsides, ballads, opera, and melodrama - even into puppet shows and performing dog acts. Detective fiction and the new police force developed in parallel, each imitating the other - the founders of Scotland Yard gave rise to Dickens’s Inspector Bucket, the first fictional police detective, who in turn influenced Sherlock Holmes and, ultimately, even P.D. James and Patricia Cornwell. In this meticulously researched and engrossing book, Judith Flanders retells the gruesome stories of many different types of murder, both famous and obscure: from Greenacre, who transported his dismembered fiancee around town by omnibus, to Burke and Hare’s body-snatching business in Edinburgh; from the crimes (and myths) of Sweeney Todd and Jack the Ripper, to the tragedy of the murdered Marr family in London’s East End. Through these stories of murder - from the brutal to the pathetic - Flanders builds a rich and multifaceted portrait of Victorian society. With an irresistible cast of swindlers, forgers, and poisoners, the mad, the bad, and the utterly dangerous, The Invention of Murder is both a mesmerizing tale of crime and punishment, and history at its most readable. - St. Martin’s Press

 

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Book Review: Atonement

Atonement - Ian McEwan

Book: Atonement

 

Author: Ian McEwan

 

Genre: Fiction/Family/Love/World War II/Forgiveness

 

Summary: Ian McEwan’s symphonic novel of love and war, childhood and class, guilt and forgiveness combines all the satisfaction of a superb narrative with the provocation we have come to expect from this master of English prose. On a summer day in 1935, thirteen-year-old Briony Tallis witnesses the flirtation between her older sister, Cecilia, and Robbie Turner, the son of a servant. But Briony’s incomplete grasp of adult motives and her precocious imagination bring about a crime that will change all their lives, a crime whose repercussions Atonement follows through the chaos and carnage of World War II and into the close of the twentieth century. -Anchor Books, 2001.

 

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Book Review: Shadows on the Nile

Shadows on the Nile - Kate Furnivall

Book: Shadows on the Nile

 

Author: Kate Furnivall

 

Genre: Fiction/Mystery/20th Century Britain/Egypt/Family Stories

 

Summary: 1912, London, Jessie Kenton hears her young brother, Georgie, scream in the middle of the night and wakes up the next morning to find him gone. Her parents never speak of him again. 1932. Twenty years later, Jessie is haunted by the same nightmare. Her other brother, Timothy, has inexplicably vanished from her parents’ home. Wracked by guilt because of her failure to ever find Georgie, and convinced that the two events must be related, she sets out on a quest to find Timothy. She plunges into a mysterious world of seances and mystics, nebulous clues and Egyptian artifacts. With the help of a dashing and impoverished aristocrat, Sir Montague Chamford, Jessie follows the trail into the alien, swirling sands of the Egyptian desert. Amid the ancient intrigue and blistering heat, a powerful romance sparks between Jessie and Monty. But they must first confront the demons of Jessie’s past - and reveal the dark secrets that threaten not only Timothy’s life but theirs as well. -Penguin, 2013.

 

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Book Review: Blackmoore

Blackmoore - Julianne Donaldson

Book: Blackmoore

 

Author: Julianne Donaldson

 

Genre: Historical Romance

 

Summary: Kate Worthington knows she can never marry the man she loves, so she plans to travel to India instead - if only to find peace for her restless spirit and to escape the family she abhors. But Kate’s meddlesome mother has other plans. She makes a bargain with Kate: India, yes, but only after Kate has secured - and rejected - three proposals. Kate journeys to the stately manor of Blackmoore, determined to fulfill her end of the bargain. There she enlists the help of her dearest childhood friend, Henry Delafield. But when it comes to matters of love, bargains are meaningless and plans are changeable. In the wild, windswept countryside near the coast of northern England, Kate must face the truth that has kept her heart captive. Will the proposal she is determined to reject actually be the one thing that will set her heart free? Set in the 1820s, Blackmoore is a Regency romance that tells the captivating story of a young woman struggling to learn to follow her heart. - Shadow Mountain, 2013.

 

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Book Review: The House of Velvet and Glass

The House of Velvet and Glass - Katherine Howe

Book: The House of Velvet and Glass

 

Author: Katherine Howe

 

Genre: Historical Fiction/Spiritualism

 

Summary: Boston 1915. Still reeling from the deaths of her mother and sister on the Titanic, Sibyl Allston is living a life of quiet desperation with her taciturn father and scandal-plagued brother in a town house in Boston’s Back Bay. Trapped in a world over which she has no control, Sibyl seeks answers in the depths of a medium’s crystal ball. When her brother is suddenly kicked out of Harvard under mysterious circumstances and falls under the sway of a strange woman, Sibyl seeks out psychology professor Benton Derby, despite an unspoken tension from their shared past. As they work together to solve a harrowing mystery, they realize that there may be something more magical between them than a medium’s scrying glass. From the opium dens of Boston’s Chinatown to the salons of high society, from the back alleys of colonial Shanghai to the decks of the Titanic, The House of Velvet and Glass weaves together meticulous period detail, intoxicating romance, and a final shocking twist that will leave the reader breathless. -Hyperion, 2012

 

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Book Review: The Last Romanov

The Last Romanov - Dora Levy Mossanen

Book: The Last Romanov

 

Author: Dora Levy Mossanen

 

Genre: Fiction/Historical Fiction/Supernatural

 

Summary: She was an orphan, ushered into the royal palace on the prayers of her majesty. Yet, decades later, her time is spent in the embrace of the Romanovs haunts her still. Is she responsible for those murderous events that changed everything? If only she can find the heir, maybe she can put together the broken pieces of her own past - maybe she can hold on to the love she found. Bursting to life with the rich and glorious marvels of Imperial Russia, The Last Romanov is a magical tale of second chances and royal blood. - Sourcebooks, 2012.

 

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SPOILER ALERT!

Book Review: Emerald Green

Emerald Green - Kerstin Gier, Anthea Bell

Book: Emerald Green

 

Author: Kerstin Gier

 

Genre: Teen/Sci-Fi/Time traveling/Romance

 

Summary: Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is. She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-Germain, is up to something nefarious, but nobody believes her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along. This stunning conclusion picks up where Sapphire Blue left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate! - Henry Holt and Company, 2010.

 

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Book Review: Sapphire Blue

Sapphire Blue (The Ruby Red, #2) - Kerstin Gier, Anthea Bell

Book: Sapphire Blue

 

Author: Kerstin Gier

 

Genre: Teen/Sci Fi/Time Travel/Romance

 

Summary: Gwen’s life has been a roller coaster since she discovered she was the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve. When not searching through history for the other time travelers and asking for a bit of their blood (gross!), she’s been trying to figure out what all the mysteries and prophecies surrounding the Circle really mean. It’s not easy when a secret society, a dangerous Count, and her own time-traveling partner, Gideon, are determined to keep her from the truth. Especially since Gwen can’t decide whether Gideon really believes she’s a traitor to the Circle or might actually be on her side - and creeping into her heart. -Square Fish, 2010.

 

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Book Review: Ruby Red

Ruby Red - Kerstin Gier

Book: Ruby Red

 

Author: Kerstin Gier

 

Genre: Teen/Sci Fi/Romance/Time Travel

 

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended - and rather eccentric - family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley. It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past. She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century…. -Square Fish, 2009.

 

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Book Review: The Rise

The Rise: Creativity, the Gift of Failure, and the Search for Mastery - Sarah   Lewis

Book: The Rise

 

Author: Sarah Lewis

 

Genre: Non-Fiction - Creativity/Failure/Innovation

 

Summary: It is one of the most enduring enigmas of the human experience: many of our most iconic, creative endeavors - from Nobel Prize-winning discoveries to entrepreneurial inventions and works in the arts - are not achievements but conversions, corrections after failed attempts. The gift of failure is a riddle. Like the number zero, it will always be both a void and the start of infinite possibility. The Rise - a soulful celebration of the determination and courage of the human spirit - makes the case that many of our greatest triumphs come from understanding the importance of this mystery. This exquisite biography of an idea is about the improbable foundations of creative human endeavor. The Rise begins with narratives about figures past and present who range from writers to entrepreneurs; Frederick Douglass, Samuel F.B. Morse, and J.K. Rowling, for example, feature alongside choreographer Paul Taylor, Nobel Prize-winning physicists Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov, Arctic explorer Ben Saunders, and psychology professor Angela Duckworth. The Rise explores the inestimable value of often ignored ideas - the power of surrender for fortitude, the criticality of play for innovation, the propulsion of the near win on the road to mastery, and the importance of grit and creative practice. From an uncommonly insightful writer, The Rise is a true masterwork. - Simon & Schuster, 2014.

 

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Book Review: So Far Away

So Far Away - Meg Mitchell Moore

Book: So Far Away

 

Author: Meg Mitchell Moore

 

Genre: Fiction/Family/Teen/Drama

 

Summary: Thirteen-year-old Natalie Gallagher wants to escape: from her parents’ ugly divorce and from the vicious cyberbullying of her former best friend. Adrift, confused, she is a girl trying to find her way in a world that seems to either neglect her or despise her. Her salvation arrives in an unlikely form: Bridget O’Connell, an Irish maid working for a wealthy Massachusetts family. The catch? Bridget only lives in the pages of a dusty old diary Natalie unearthed in her mother’s basement. But the life she describes is as troubling- and mysterious - as the one Natalie is trying to navigate herself, almost a century later. I am writing this down because this is my story. There were only ever two other people who knew my secret, and both are gone before me. Who was Bridget, and what became of her? Natalie loses herself in the diary, eager to unlock its secrets, and reluctantly accepts the help of library archivist Kathleen Lynch, a widow with her own painful secret: she’s estranged from her only daughter. Kathleen sees in Natalie traces of the daughter she has lost, and in Bridget, another spirited young woman at risk. What could an Irish immigrant, a domestic servant from the 1920s, teach them both? As the troubles of a very modern world close in around them, and Natalie’s torments at school escalate, Bridget’s faded journal unites the lonely girl and the unhappy widow - and might even change their lives forever. - Hachette, 2012.

 

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Book Review: Paris, An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart

Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City's Creative Heart - Janelle McCulloch

Book: Paris: An Inspiring Tour of the City’s Creative Heart

 

Author: Janelle McCulloch

 

Genre: Non-Fiction/Travel/Paris

 

Summary: Paris is an inspiring tour through the city’s most charming streets, revealing best-kept secrets and hidden gems at every turn: ateliers overflowing with fabric and notions, lush courtyards, charming cafes, vibrant markets and elegant boutiques. Packed with lavish color photographs that capture the true spirit of the city, this book is a treasure trove for those who love style, design, fashion, food and - of course - Paris! - Chronicle Books, 2011

 

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Book Review: The Cuckoo's Calling

The Cuckoo's Calling - Robert Galbraith

Book: The Cuckoo’s Calling

 

Author: Robert Galbraith/J.K. Rowling

 

Genre: Fiction/Mystery

 

Summary: After losing his leg to a land mine in Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike is barely scraping by as a private investigator. Strike is down to just one client, and creditors are calling. He has also just broken up with his longtime girlfriend and is living in his office. Then John Bristow walks through his door with an amazing story: His sister, the legendary supermodel Lula Landry, known to her friends as the Cuckoo, famously fell to her death a few months earlier. The police ruled it a suicide, but John refuses to believe that. The case plunges Strike into the world of multimillionaire beauties, rock-star boyfriends, and desperate designers, and it introduces him to every variety of pleasure, enticement, seduction, and delusion known to man. You may think you know detectives, but you’ve never met one quite like Strike. You may think you know about the wealthy and famous, but you’ve never seen them under an investigation like this. Introducing Cormoran Strike, this is the acclaimed first crime novel by J.K. Rowling, writing under the pseudonym Robert Galbraith. - Little, Brown and Company, 2013.

 

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Currently reading

The Tea Rose by Jennifer Donnelly