Tarnished City by Vic James
*May contain spoilers–see my review of book one, Gilded Cage.*
First line: Jenner reined his horse to a halt, and it stamped and snorted in the long blue-black shadow of the trees.
Summary: In a modern day Great Britain the powerful are called Equals. They have magical powers called Skill. And the common people live their lives just as we do except for each person is required to serve 10 slave years during their lifetime. Many are sent to the slave towns to work in factories but the Hadley family are assigned to work at a home of an Equal. However, when Luke kills the Prime Minister he is condemned and sent to the dreaded prison island for a lifelong punishment. His sister Abigail is determined to rescue her brother. She escapes and tries to find the other rebels who are intent on bringing down the Equal regime and end the slave days. Revolution has begun in Great Britain and it will be a battle to the death.
Highlights: This series reminds me of the Hunger Games. There is lots of action and drama. The characters are really well established. I hate Whittam Jardine almost as much as President Snow. I was deeply saddened by several deaths in the story. I was completely shocked when they happened that I gasped and had to take a minute to recover from them. If a book can make you do that, you know that you are invested in it. I keep having complicated feelings about Silyean. He is an interesting character that I cannot decide if I want to trust or not. When I was nearing the end the whole story sped up and it was like a marathon. I had to finish it and was exhausted at the end. It was great! I cannot wait till the author releases the final book to find out how the story ends, if I can trust Silyean and see if the Hadley’s survive the revolution.
Lowlights: The magical powers of the Equal is called Skill. I felt like the word was over used at times. On several pages, the word is mentioned multiple times. As a reader of the series, we understand what they are doing. It does not have to be pointed out repeatedly.
FYI: Lots of violence.
The Good People by Hannah Kent
First Line: Nora’s first thought when they brought her the body was that it could not be her husband’s.
Summary: In a small village in Ireland in the early 1800s lived three women. Nora a recent widow, her maid, Mary and the local healer, Nance. When bad luck starts to befall the village, the people look for someone to blame. Is the healer responsible for the cows not giving milk? Did the mysterious child living with the widow cause the death of his grandfather? Or is it the fairies? During a cold winter, suspicion and fear cause the people to turn on these women.
Highlights: Beautifully written! I felt like I was living in the world. I could feel the dirt, hear the screams, and smell the pipe smoke. It is fascinating to read stories based on true events. This one is filled with the folklore of the poor in rural Ireland. The fact that people believed that a child who was sick or disabled was actually a changeling (a fairy) is astounding. This book has to be read considering the context. To modern day standards it seems ridiculous but to the people of the time it made complete sense. Science was not as far advanced. People were not taught to read. Many never left their villages. The whole time I was hoping for a happy ending even though knowing it will never happen.
Lowlights: The story started out slow as it was building to the main theme. I kept wondering when the plot described in the summary was going to begin but when it did, I was pulled into this world. I was very sad about the ending but also pleased with the outcome.
FYI: Read with an idea that these were not modern times. This is a great lesson in how not that long ago we were burning witches and believing in fairies rather than science and facts.
The Hamilton Affair by Elizabeth Cobbs
First line: The boy frowned, pressed a folded handkerchief to his nose, and scanned the crowd for the third time.
Summary: Alexander Hamilton, a Revolutionary War hero and the first Secretary of the Treasury, was born in the Caribbean and moved to the American Colonies to attend college. He was not wealthy but he was brave and smart. Eliza Schuyler, a debutante and daughter of a famous general, is helping the war effort by assisting with the wounded at Valley Forge. When these two young people meet a love story begins. But the story still has its ups and downs even after the war is over.
Highlights: I knew basically nothing about Alexander Hamilton other than what I learned in my history classes, which wasn’t much. I had recently read a book about him but it stopped shortly after his marriage to Eliza. When I found out about the affair he had with Maria Reynolds I was completely shocked. I loved the author’s writing style and the flow of the story. I was completely engrossed in this story and I learned a lot. The pacing is really well done. I would recommend this to anyone who wants to read more about the man who has become a pop culture phenomenon.
Lowlights: The political intrigue and problems with fellow founding fathers was a little confusing to me. It may all fall on my lack of detailed knowledge of the founding of the United States and all the problems that went along with it. I never realized that there was so much opposition to the changes and that they believed that Hamilton was interested in being King even though he fought so hard to end the rule of England over the colonies. Some of the pieces with the animosity with the fellow politicians was a little too much but it was building up to what led to the duel with Aaron Burr.
FYI: Great history lesson. Get the information that you missed in high school history.
The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova
First Line: Sofia, the year 2008.
Summary: When Alexandra takes a summer job in Sofia, Bulgaria she thinks that it will be the perfect way to heal the loss of her brother who disappeared on a hiking trip. But things do not turn out the way she had planned. She meets a group of three people outside a hotel but when they go their separate ways she notices that she has kept one of their bags. Inside are human ashes. With the help of the friendly taxi driver, Bobby, she is determined to find the group and return the remains. Everything is not as easy as she expected when threats and warnings start to appear as they dig deeper into whose ashes are in the urn.
Highlights: I love the pieces near the end when you get to look into the life of Stoyan Lazarov. He details his time after the war and living in Communist controlled Bulgaria. The strength that he possesses is astounding. I have read a lot about prisoners during the Holocaust and it always scares me plus amazes me the will power and strength these people have.
Lowlights: The middle is slow moving as they are traveling around Bulgaria looking for the relatives of Stoyan. It was a lot of detail gathering and talking that leads up till the ending but it got long.
FYI: Read her other book, The Historian! Amazing read. But make sure you keep the lights on.