Guest Post: Amour et Florand

Grab your dark chocolate and join me at Chachic's Book Nook today! I've donned my smarty pants glasses for the occasion and will be dishing on all things romance and Paris (le sigh) as part of her fantastic Amour et Florand series. à bientôt!

Fortune's Pawn by Rachel Bach

Devi Morris is one ambitious mercenary. Having reached the highest rank possible in the elite fighting squadron the Blackbirds (unless she wants a cushy desk job that is, which she doesn't), Devi has set her sights on becoming one of the toughest armored fighters in all of Paradox: one of the famed Devastators. Which is why despite warnings of certain doom she decides to follow a lead and signs on with the trader ship the Glorious Fool. A ship that has a reputation for turning out Devastators after just one year of service -- at least the ones that make it out alive. But for Devi, this fast-track to her ultimate goal could prove deadly if she isn't careful. Lucky for her she's never been one to shy away from a long shot.

Ever since I became hooked on space operas (I'm looking at you Linnea Sinclair and Ann Aguirre), I have been utterly disappointed by the serious lack of quality books in this particular genre. Many, many thanks to one of my favorite authors Ilona Andrews for bringing Fortune's Pawn to my attention. If I didn't already love them for Kate Daniels, I would for this book alone. I cannot even begin to gush how incredible Fortune's Pawn is. It's stellar. Out of this world. Annnnd I'm gonna stop now. Just know, it's fantastic. Devi is the best of kind of brash, in-your-face fighter who would never apologize for being anything other than who and what she is. Although she is a bit fanatical about her guns and specialized armor, Devi has this profound sense of loyalty and honor that belies her first impression as a brainless fighter. She's quick and clever and never afraid of taking charge. And I love her to pieces.

Once aboard the Fool, Devi comes face to face with a perfectly eccentric and unique group of otherworldly crew mates: there's a giant bird-like creature who serves as navigator, a ship's doctor whose species who tends to look upon humans more as snacks than as patients, and a handsome cook who is decidedly good with more than just a saucepan to name a few. It's this supporting cast who add layers of humor and intrigue to an already brilliant story which makes Devi's journey so much more enjoyable.

The action is non-stop and I was constantly on the edge of my seat at whatever new catastrophe Devi had flung herself headlong into. Throw in some space travel and nightmare inducing aliens and I was hooked good. Happily, Devi has just barely begun unraveling all the mysteries surrounding her new captain and crew mates. Just please, someone get me Honor's Knight pronto! I have to know how Devi gets herself out of her latest fix like, now.

Series reading order:
~ Fortune's Pawn
~ Honor's Knight
~ Heaven's Queen

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
The Book Smugglers review
Cuddlebuggery review
Fantasy Book Critic review
Impressions... review

The Firebird by Susanna Kearsley

Susanna Kearsley is a recent discovery for me and I have been slowly going through all of her backlist and simply adoring each new story. So it was with extreme joy that I began Kearsley's latest, The Firebird. Adding to my excitement was the fact that it was to be a continuation of the characters from not just one book - but two (The Winter Sea & The Shadowy Horses)! I just love it when authors overlap stories that are not originally connected.

Here's the synopsis (via Goodreads):
Nicola Marter was born with a gift. When she touches an object, she sometimes glimpses those who have owned it before. When a woman arrives with a small wooden carving at the gallery Nicola works at, she can see the object’s history and knows that it was named after the Firebird—the mythical creature from an old Russian fable.

Compelled to know more, Nicola follows a young girl named Anna into the past who leads her on a quest through the glittering backdrops of the Jacobites and Russian courts, unearthing a tale of love, courage, and redemption.
The Firebird had all the potential for a book that I would absolutely love:

2. an art historian heroine
3. one handsome Scotts hero

Not to mention one of the *best* opening chapters I have EVER read. Seriously, it was perfect. Read it here and see if you can resist the rest.

I am sorry to report that somehow all that fabulous potential just didn't connect for me in the end. Although I did LOVE Anna and her travels from Scotland to France to Russia; the historical background on St. Petersburg, usually distilled with such care and detail by Kearsley, seemed more like an info dump in this book. And while the relationship between Nicola and Rob was sweet, it just didn't have the same snap and sizzle that I've enjoyed in Kearsley's previous books. Thankfully, we are given a lovely conclusion to Anna's story but I really wanted more time with Rob and Nicola -- if only to clear things up between Nicola and her grumpy grandfather. If Ms. Kearsley wants to go back and do his story, I'd read that in a flash. In short, I just wanted more from Nicola. It was like this fascinating character was dangled before me but only part of my questions were answered in the end.

series reading order:
~ The Shadowy Horses(loosely connected)

because everyone likes a second opinion:
Between the Covers review

The Beekeeper's Apprentice by Laurie R. King

I am not, by any stretch of imagination, a reader of mystery novels. But sometimes I stumble across an author who just happens to combine the right amount of atmosphere with unique characters and I'm utterly helpless to resist. Like with Deanna Raybourn's Lady Julia Grey series. Or practically anything by Mary Stewart. Once again the stars have perfectly aligned and have brought me another winner: Laurie R. King's The Beekeeper's Apprentice. It's the first novel in a series featuring a young orphaned girl called Mary Russell who happens to stumble across Sherlock Holmes in his retirement. Holmes immediately recognizes a fellow savant -- albeit one many years his junior -- and Miss Russell's continued visits to the detective spark an unusual partnership full of unorthodox lessons and later, intrigue.

Now I am not a devoted fan of Sherlock Homes (other than a slight addiction to the Benedict Cumberbach and Martin Freeman version, that is). So if The Beekeeper's Apprentice had been written as a 'Sherlock' book with Mary Russell as a supporting character a la Dr. Watson, I would never have become as engrossed in the story as I did. Happily it was not. Shifting the POV to Mary's perspective gives the reader such a open look at England during WWI and the changing roles a woman faced during that time. Not to mention all the early forensics work Sherlock teaches Mary. Fingerprinting, soil identification...fascinating stuff. Also! There are plots and schemes to be unraveled which of course kept this reader continually in awe of watching the true brilliance of Mary's agile mind unfold under the tutelage of Holmes.

Perhaps most notable is that Mary comes into her own by the close of the story, not simply functioning as a protege but a true, valued partner to Holmes, for which I am ever so grateful. Furthermore, Laurie R. King does a superb job introducing suspense and letting her characters stop to feel the tension, rather than just plow through the action. Such subtle yet realistic treatment of emotions are the basis for the lasting connection forged between Mary and Sherlock that I am happy to discover continues on for many books more. I believe I've found a new favorite friends.

series reading order:
~ The Beekeeper's Apprentice
~ A Monstrous Regiment of Women
~ A Letter of Mary
~ The Moor
~ O Jerusalem
~ Justice Hall
~ The Game
~ Locked Rooms
~ The Language of Bees
~ The God of the Hive
~ Beekeeping for Beginners
~ Pirate King
~ Garment of Shadows

Because Everyone Likes a Second Opinion:
A Striped Armchair's review
BookLoons review