Review: The Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron

The Illusionist's ApprenticeThe Illusionist’s Apprentice by Kristy Cambron
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I immensely enjoyed Krisy Cambron’s book The Ringmaster’s Wife, so it was with great pleasure that I received a copy of The Illusionist’s Apprentice from Netgalley to review. (My first ever Netgalley!)

This book is a story of trust, healing, and renewal. We meet Wren Lockhart, former apprentice to the great Harry Houdini and illusionist extraordinaire in her own right–her best trick, however, happens to be the concealment of her feelings. We meet Agent Elliot Matthews, a jaded FBI man with a talent for finding out the truth–but can he find love? When their paths cross, get ready for sparks to ignite–and not all of them friendly.

Again, Cambron blew me away with the characters she created. Wren, Elliot, & Co. were all developed with extraordinary complexity. There was so much to each character, and so much depth in each of their interactions, that I couldn’t help but love this book. I also enjoyed seeing more of how Cambron developed the male characters in this book, as I didn’t get a good feel for that in the last.

The plot was much stronger in this one as well. The mystery was so intriguing, I couldn’t wait to see what happened next! It was a dangerous tightrope that these characters walked. Suspense around every corner, and secrets lying in wait in the shadows. When the dirty past of the characters is unearthed–along with a dead/not-dead/dead-again man, prepare for your heart to stop. These poor people have been through a lot, and it’s not over yet!

The story was set in 1920s America, full of Prohibition-era crimes, hired guns, and death-defying acts from the world of vaudeville. It was the perfect setting for all that happened. I loved reading about the culture at that time, and especially the historical figures nestled in the book like easter eggs. (Bonus points for the references to Sherlock Holmes and his author!)

Also, the flow of this book was much smoother than the last. I didn’t notice any of the awkward POV switches or misplaced dialogue tags that had bugged me in The Ringmaster’s Wife, but perhaps that is because I have become acclimated to Cambron’s writing style.

My one quibble is a spoiler, so read at your own risk. (view spoiler)

Wrap-up: I loved The Illusionist’s Apprentice. While I had hoped to see more of Harry Houdini and his shows, I quickly fell in love with Wren and Elliot and the mystery they chased. This book is chock-full of great characters, and will entice fans of suspense with its shrouded mystery.

Rating: 5 stars

Recommended: Yes. 14 and up. (Some scary situations, and references to abuse)

Content guide:
Language: 0/10
Sexual Content: 1/10 (light kisses)
Violence: 7/10 (characters are attacked, abused–eventually leading to death, and they get into scrapes–semi-detailed)
Other notes: one character has a drinking problem, and abuses his family,

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Review: The Dressmaker’s Secret by Kellyn Roth

The Dressmaker's Secret (The Chronicles of Alice and Ivy, #1)The Dressmaker’s Secret by Kellyn Roth

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“London, England, 1870

It comes to the attention of curious eight-year-old Alice Chattoway that her father is seemingly nonexistent. After realizing that his absence is making her mother unhappy, Alice becomes determined to find him and pull her family together. But Miss Chattoway’s answers to her daughter’s questions are vague at best and Alice begins to wonder if she will ever discover her mother’s secret.”–Goodreads summary

This book reminded me quite a bit of the Lamplighter books. It had the same feel and time period as a lot of them, but unfortunately was sub-par in writing quality. I did make it through the entire book, and some of it was enjoyable, so I gave it two stars for that. However, I had multiple issues with it, which I will get to in a minute.

The Good:
-The characterization was strong, and I felt like I came to know the characters well.
-The Dressmaker’s Secret had a classic feel to it, and held to the strong moral integrity of bygone ages, while still feeling like a new story.
-I liked the premise of the story and the intriguing mystery that was wound through it.

The Bad:
-While I liked most of the characters, there was an overabundance of them, and the author tried too hard to make each of them an integral part of the story. Also, I felt like telling the story through the eyes of an eight-year-old wasn’t a wise decision, and it led to several problems (such as the character making poor decisions, but no consequences resulting, and the story was limited to what the character could know/comprehend).
-Plot issues. For the first half or so, the plot was pretty good. Not strong, but good. Then after about the halfway mark, it plummeted. It skipped around in time to explain things which lead to confusion. The worst part however, is a spoiler. (view spoiler)

Overall, I would say pass on this one. The talent is there, it just needs time to develop and grow.

Rating: 2 stars

Recommended: No

Content guide:
Violence: 3/10 (injuries, death)
Language: 0/10 (that I can recall)
Sexual Content: 2/10 (rumors of children out of wedlock, man sleeping with another woman before his wife, etc)

*Many thanks to the author for providing a copy to review*

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Review: The Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

The Ringmaster's WifeThe Ringmaster’s Wife by Kristy Cambron

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“What is revealed when you draw back the curtain of the Greatest Show on Earth?

Rosamund Easling is no stranger to opulence. As the daughter of an earl, she’s grown up with every comfort money can buy. But when hard times befall the family’s Yorkshire estate in the aftermath of the Great War, Rosamund’s father sells her beloved horse, setting the stage for a series of events that would extend beyond even her wildest dreams.

Though expected to marry for a title instead of love, Rosamund feels called to a different life – one of adventure outside the confines of a ladies’ parlor. She abandons all she’s known and follows in pursuit as her horse is shipped to the new owner – an American entertainer by the name of John Ringling. Once introduced to the Ringling Brothers’ circus and knowing she has much to learn, Rosamund agrees to a bareback riding apprenticeship in the shadow of the Ringlings’ winter home—Ca’D’Zan. It is at that mansion, in what would become the last days of the enigmatic Mable Ringling’s life, that Rosamund finds a deeper sense of purpose in the life she’s been given, and the awakening of faith in her heart.

With a supporting cast of characters as mysterious and dazzling as the Ringlings’ big-top world, Rosamund’s journey takes her from the tradition of the English countryside to the last days of America’s Roaring ‘20s—a journey that forever changes what one life might have been.”–Goodreads

Imagine your grandmother giving you an old cigar box. Inside, you find a handful of old photographs. In the first is a girl, sitting in a rocking chair on the porch of an old farmhouse. Another of her standing in front of a fancy building. The next pictures are years later, featuring a different girl. The first shows her on the back of a black horse. Another shows her on a hay bale, with roses in her hair. And last of all, there is a picture of a sky-high, striped circus tent. “Let me tell you a story,” your grandmother says.
That’s how I picture this story. It is a series of snapshots, images from the lives of two different girls. The story follows bit and pieces from their lives, as they grow and change, and eventually intertwine. This is not a plot heavy book; the plot is carried on the shoulders of the characters. The book is all about them, and their interactions–while there is a small mystery involved, it is but a sideshow to the characters. Part bildungsroman, part historical romance, and entirely a story of courage and personal growth.

It is set in America, during both the late 1800s-early 1900s, and the 1920s. We see glimpses of the Chicago World’s Fair, the Florida Keys, and the Ringling Bros. Circus. The setting isn’t developed much in the story. Instead, the reader is given just enough glimpses and hints to set the stage for the characters.

The main characters are Mable Burton, a farm girl turned waitress in Chicago during the World’s Fair, and Lady Rosamund Easling, a daughter of high society escaping an arranged marriage. While they both have very similar personalities, they are also distinctly different. Mable is running to something, while Rosamund is running away from something. Mable is very sweet and empathetic, and is dedicated to bringing joy to all around her. Rosamund is more reserved, and cautious when it comes to relationships. However, they are both courageous young women. While I can’t agree with all of the choices they made, I can see how it grew them and made them better persons.

The only criticism I have for this book is the author’s style of writing. It was very confusing trying to figure out whose POV is was (it changed often and without warning). Also, a lot of the dialogue tags seemed misplaced, and made it a struggle to figure out who was saying what. Once you settle into the style however, the story sweeps you away.

I highly recommend this read to those readers who are all about the characters. It drew me in, and kept me wanting to read more about Mable and Rosamund’s lives. This is a hot cup of tea beside a warm fire kind of book. Cozy, sweet, and completely satisfactory. However, for readers who prefer more excitement and plot, they be disappointed in The Ringmaster’s Wife.

Rating: 5 stars

Recommended: Yes. 14 and up. (Younger readers may have trouble following the story, and might lose interest)

Content guide:
Language: 0/10
Sexual Content: 1/10 (light kisses)
Violence: 4/10 (one character is attacked–semi-detailed)
Other notes: some characters have drinking problems, but it isn’t seen on page. One character has a criminal past.

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Review: The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

The Rithmatist (The Rithmatist, #1)The Rithmatist by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

“More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles.

As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing—kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery—one that will change Rithmatics—and their world—forever.”–Goodreads

Wow. Oh, wow. This book was sooo good. I loved every part of it–except for the “to-be-continued” ending. Can we get a release date for The Aztlanian please?

I devoured this book. It has been a long while since I’ve read a book that fast, and it felt good. I loved the entire plot, the amazing world-building, the fantastic characters….I could go on and on. This book is definitely worthy of its five star rating.

The plot was thrilling. As an artist, the idea of chalk drawings coming to life was very intriguing, and it was exciting to see how Sanderson spun out the mystery. He did an excellent job of weaving in unexpected twists and turns to keep the mystery going until the very end. My only complaint would be that the mystery was wrapped up very quickly in the end, leaving me wondering if that really was the solution, or if there was something more in store. And it ended with “To be continued,” and some unresolved loose ends. Not cool–how am I supposed to survive until the sequel comes out?

The world-building was phenomenal. It was completely unlike any other setting I’ve ever read. It was based on the premise of “what if America was actually an archipelago of islands?” It also had some other twists in history, but I’ll let you discover them for yourself. Part alternate history, part fantasy, it had a familiar feel to it while still being original. It even had touches of steampunk–er, springpunk? And the magic of the Rithmatists? It was awesome. I loved how it was based on logical principles and geometric properties. I can’t wait to read more about it in the next book. One note: the Monarchical Church in the book seems Christian in nature at first, and is classified with other Christian denominations. However, from the little tidbits that were in the book, it seems more of a religion glorifying science, along with some ritualistic aspects that could become dark very quickly. I would be wary letting younger children read this book on their own–if they do, at least discuss with them the religious views the characters hold to, and how that differs from Christianity to avoid confusion and misunderstanding.

The characters were great. Quite well-developed and life-like. My personal favorite was Melody–I loved her spunky, melodramatic personality, and all the hilarious comments she added. When I first started the book, it was a little hard to figure out whose POV it was from, but it became clearer within the first few pages. By the way, I kept wanting to call Joel “Joe” instead. Not sure why–I just thought it fit him better.

Wrap-up: This was a really fun, exciting read. It’s a blend of magical realism, alternate reality, and steampunk. I highly recommend it. Just a warning though: the explanation behind the origin of Rithmatist powers was hinted at, and it points to a rather dark theory. Some of the religious aspects, a fight scene toward the end, and the actual villain were very creepy and disturbing. Not for the weak of stomach.

Rating: 5 stars

Recommended: 14 and up.

Content guide (may contain minor spoilers):
Language: 1/10 (“dusts,”and “dusting,” were common ejaculations.)
Sexual Content: 1/10 (mentions of dress showing quite a bit of leg, a girl being pretty, etc)
Violence: 7/10 (most of the attacks are off page, though the end fight scene is very creepy. the wild chalklings eat off the skin and eyes of victims. one “historical” account of a chalkling attack is pretty disturbing.)

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