Zemfirka Blogs

Book lover, reviewer, blogger... <3


Visit me @ Zemfirka Blogs or Nocturnal Book Reviews

 

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I read a variety of genres but tend to favor romantic fiction, whether paranormal, steampunk, or historical. Some dystopian, UF, and even an occasional mystery might make their way onto my reading list. Otherwise, anything that sounds quirky and fun goes! :)

 

The Winter Witch

The Winter Witch - Paula Brackston Paperback copy won in Goodreads giveaway via St. Martin's Griffin. This review is my honest opinion.

Okay folks! This one is sadly a rare DNF for me. I just couldn’t keep going when I have a ton of better books waiting.

I was quite excited to read The Winter Witch, having won it in a Goodreads giveaway (for once!). I’ve had it on my list for a long time, since before it was first published, when they actively marketed it to fans of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy series. (And I’m starting to see a pattern here. Recently, publishers have market a lot of books about witches to fans of the aforementioned series (like myself), but I have yet to actually read one of these “comparable” books with any success. Maybe there is a lesson here? Don’t trust the publishers?).

In any way, all things considered The Winter Witch sounded like a perfect match but the writing just didn’t work for me. It was dry and dragged on; I barely made it through the first couple chapters, forcing myself to read on. But I’m giving up at this point and will see if I can donate my copy to the local library. Perhaps someone else might enjoy it better than me.

Pass

The Line (Witching Savannah, #1)

The Line (Witching Savannah, #1) - J.D. Horn Joint Review with Karina:

ARC courtesy of Kindle First in exchange for fair and honest review.

Karina:
Well, I'm eating my hat now. First of I didn't like this book, ladies and gents. It took awhile to get used to somewhat detached writing style. The emotional accents were not where I was expecting them. But... in the end the whole experience was awesome. J.D. created a story rich in flavor, intensely atmospheric and full of unexpected twists.

What do you think, V.? What were you initial impressions on the book?

Vika:
Okay, so first impression – I might have fallen asleep reading the first couple chapters, but perhaps it wasn’t the book’s fault. Admittedly, I was a tad tired and it was quite late at night. So after I recovered the book picked up quite a bit and the story definitely got my attention. It was a fast read.

Savannah served as a beautiful backdrop to the story, and the characters’ voices were unmistakably southern – I quite liked that actually. And perhaps because of its setting and a somewhat similar storyline of a witch coming into her own power and the conflict between good and bad it strongly reminded me of The Beautiful Creatures, which I haven’t read but I did see that movie... In any way, I wouldn’t say I loved it per se but there was definitely something there. I might have to contemplate it a bit longer.

Karina:
I know where you're coming from, V. There is plenty of potential, but at the same time the main heroine, Mercy, is going through major changes way too fast and plot twists are all over the place. There is also not enough emotional development and background story; however there is certain brilliance in secondary characters, for example, Oliver and Jilo.

If it was an urban fantasy, the pace would have been perfect, but with the publishers comparing it with Deborah Harkness's trilogy... no, just no. This is pretty misleading.

Mercy is a very nice character. Not having an ounce of magic of her own (with all the magic going to her twin) she leads a healthy life away from the Taylors’ intrigues, but when her aunt is murdered and the time comes to choose another anchor for The Line - a magical barrier between demonic worlds and Earth, the magic somehow keeps trying to choose her. Add to it an investigation into her aunt's death, a love spell gone wrong and unexpected jealousy and turbulent, violent feelings from Mercy's twin, and her normal life ends pretty quickly.

Vika:
I couldn’t agree more with you K. There was a lot going on. Potential was there but the execution was at fault here. It felt like the author had too many great ideas and tried to squeeze them all in this book; it lacked development, at least for my taste.

I also couldn’t bring myself to care for Mercy much. I just got a sense that she passed through life and accepted everything life handed her with the same air of nonchalance. Mother Jilo on the other hand – fascinating – I want to read her story! And then there were the rest of the Taylors, talk about dysfunctional family… Still, I was entertained!

Karina:
I admit I was also skeptical about Mercy’s relationship with her twin, Maisie. As twins they suppose to share a deep bond, so I can't see how Mercy stayed clueless about the changes happening to her sister. Jackson - Peter dynamics were too vague for my taste as well. *sigh*

Still, this was crazily atmospheric! I am giving this book 4.5/5 because from urban fantasy point of view The Line was wildly entertaining and I hope next book by J.D. Horn will be even better.

Vika:
Agreed. I'm not rating this one as high, I liked it but it was far from “loved it” type of read for me, so 3.5/5. Still, I'm curious to see what happens next. I just read description of The Source, second book in the series, which will be out this summer, and I’m quite intrigued!

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For this and other reviews please visit Nocturnal Book Reviews.
Love Hacked: A Reluctant Romance (Knitting in the City, #3) - Penny Reid Joint review with Karina:

ARC courtesy of the author in exchange for fair and honest review.

Vika:
Okay, all I can say: Can I have more please!? I'm seriously having a girl crush on Penny Reid because her books are amazingly addicting! I have yet to read Neanderthal Seeks Human, the first in the Knitting in the City series, but I went and purchased it as soon as I finished this one because I really wanted more. But because Penny is awesome you can totally read the books as standalones, although they are even more charming as a series.

In any way, there is no denying it, Penny Reid has a special way with words and her characters are so full of life – it’s hard not to love them. From Janie and Quinn, to Elizabeth and Nico, to Sandra and Alex, every story is unique and touching. I feel my heart melting along with those of our heroines because the men are just so unbelievable, yet quirky, imperfect and endearing in so many ways. I want to fall in love with them over and over again. And I’m seriously thinking I need to pick up knitting. Maybe then the ladies of Knitting in the City will adopt me into their circle, pretty please?

Karina:
Haha, V.! I can't believe you haven't read Neanderthal Seeks Human! It's just the best! By the way I do knit, but I'm nowhere near as proficient as the ladies of the series. I mean, sometimes they talk about rare yarns of wool with the same passion we talk about books.

I am totally with you on the series appeal - this is one of the best contemporary romance series I've had pleasure to read in years. These books are funny as hell, insightful and Penny keeps coming with such amazing new words that I can't help but borrow them from her. Manlicious, for example. A delicious, yummy man candy.

Vika:
Alright, alright. I'm officially ashamed! But back to Love Hacked; I just finished Friends Without Benefits and went straight into this novel. Having read the blurb I didn’t know quite what to expect, but I loved Sandra from before and I wanted to know her story. And I should probably know by now that Penny doesn’t disappoint. Love Hacked is another fantabulous installment in the series! This book was perfect: incredible, touching, extremely hot, intimate, a bit unbelievable and I loved every minute of it.

Dr. Sandra Fielding is a child psychotherapist and she is an absolute firecracker. From her inner monologues to her occasion t-shirts she is just a trip in the best kind of way. Level-headed and rational, she is an optimist and is ready to find her prince charming. Only it’s been about two years of unsuccessful searching, as her professional persona seems to be having a negative affect upon her love life. That is until Alex, the waiter, comes along. Needless to say sparks fly immediately and the two decide to give this affair a go…

Karina:
Let's not even go into her love of horoscopes! Sandra reads her horoscope faithfully every day, and she has these serious criteria for finding a life partner, but inevitably her kind, sensitive, good natured, successful, middle-aged men end up crying on her shoulder before the first course of the evening is served. Consequently her psychologist friend's practice is booming because she keeps referring her dates to him.

Because she brings her dates to the same Indian restaurant, Alex watches her make men cry for two years before he at last decides to approach this maneater... *grinning*

Vika:
And oh, Alex! He was so full of mystery and delicious in every possible way. The slow unraveling of his secrets and his love for Sandra – it was almost too much – I mean the man does dishes after the night of hot monkey sex!!! *Swoon!* So ladies, I’ll tell you right now you will love the hot and brooding Alex because the man just has all the right words and actions to sweep Sandra of her feet – it was master class in delicious seduction.

“Oh sigh and shitzterhozen.” Love Hacked (Kindle Location 3507).


Karina:
The best part of it is that Alex is much younger than Sandra which brings a nice twist to their relationship. He is also a famous computer hacker who is being watched by FBI and NSA which makes him extremely paranoid and which brings Sandra to their attention. Between his antisocial genius and her extreme eccentricity the reader can only laugh and sputter and hope for love to conquer all.

Vika:
All I can say – expect mayhem. And as always there are plenty of highlight(able) words and passages (I’ve probably highlighted a good portion of the book myself and savored those passages a number of times since and I’m not ashamed!). The writing is smart and witty, and laugh-out-loud funny and of course there are fab knitting sessions with the girls. So it's 5/5 for me but I will say no more because you should just read it for yourself and fall in love.

Karina:
Read it, peeps! Fabulous, sweet, sharp witted and full of yummy, manlicious goodness (what, between Quinn, Nico and Alex you wouldn't know where to lay your eyes!).

4/5 from me and Happy Valentine's, everyone!

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For this and other reviews please visit Nocturnal Book Reviews.

Coven of the Courtesan

Coven of the Courtesan - Yolanda Shoshana ARC courtesy of the author, in exchange for fair and honest review. Thank you!

Eh... what can I say? I really had high hopes for this, which didn’t get quite realized. I picked this novelette as part of the blog tour and having read the blurb, which stated that this series is like Charmed meets Sex and the City I practically screamed: “I volunteer!” because I’m a fan of both. Well, this novelette is neither charming nor sexy. It was a lot of branding, a bit vulgarity [I mean I know it’s meant to be erotica still there are better ways to convey such] and weird word spelling [not counting the fact that there were plenty of errors and typos. I’m not grammar-police and I received an ARC copy, so I didn’t expect it to be perfect, yet it was not a brand new pre-release novelette either. And at only forty pages someone really should have proofread it!] All in all, it was predictable, uninspired, and a bit bizarre with the whole magick thing.

Friends Without Benefits: An Unrequited Romance (Knitting in the City, #2)

Friends Without Benefits: An Unrequited Romance (Knitting in the City, #2) - Penny Reid For this review and more please visit Zemfirka Blogs.

You guys! This was such a sweet romance, full of antics and sincerity, insecurities, imperfections, smart and witty dialogue, and some very lovable characters. I have to admit I didn’t read the first in Penny Reid’s Knitting in the City series but fortunately Friends Without Benefits can be enjoyed as a standalone [I love it when authors do that!] nonetheless you can be sure I’ll be reading other books by the author very soon. 

Penny Reid delivers a sexy, laugh-out-loud funny romcom that will cheer you up and make you wish that you were part of this knitting group. Heck, even being absolutely incapable of the simplest mending job let alone knitting I still would want to be part of this group and friends with these fabulous ladies. They were smart, honest, supportive, pushy at all the right moments, and absolutely hilarious. I laughed, I almost cried, and I definitely awed, because humor and love are always a winning combination in my opinion and they are perfectly in balance here.

Nico and Elizabeth made for a perfect pair and their “two-steps-back, five-steps-forward” approach to their developing or rather reignited relationship was a delight to read about. Elizabeth’s hesitance and wary approach to her feelings and opinions of Nico and love in general were endearing. She struggled to make the right choices, stumbling into many mistakes along the way, but at the end her imperfections and insecurities, along with her compassion and sincerity made her character. Nico, on the hand, was undeniably alluring, charming, charismatic, and of course super sexy, but his vulnerability and persistence in chasing after the girl… I mean, c’mon! I wouldn’t be able to resist either! *swoon*

So, I don’t want to give any more details away or tell you the plot, but be assured that there are plenty of shenanigans, comical and bordering on unbelievable situations that make these 400 plus pages fly by. It is a delightful, light-hearted romance that I would happily recommend. 

Happy Reading!

Archetype

Archetype - M.D. Waters Digital copy provided by Penguin’s First to Read Program. This review is my honest opinion.

ar•che•type noun ˈär-ki-ˌtīp
: a perfect example of something


Sometimes the hardest books to review are the ones that you’ve enjoyed the most and this stunning debut novel by M.D. Waters is just that kind of a book. Archetype tells the story of Emma, when she wakes up in a hospital with no memories to guide her on and an uncanny voice inside her head warning not to trust her current reality.

On a quest to recover her memories, know her identity, and claim her life Emma struggles to figure out whom to believe or trust. Between her disquieting doctor and seemingly devoted husband – Declan, she slowly falls into the role of a perfect wife. But even as she begins to fall in love with Declan her senses are telling her to run. And her unease over the accident that stripped her of her memories grows stronger by the day. Through short glimpses and dreams she begins to piece together the puzzle that is her past, but only more questions continue to arise. What truth are they hiding from her? And what is she to make of her disconcerting dreams and the man who fills them.

Similar to The Handmaid’s Tale, in Emma’s world women are scarce and still less fertile, they are treated as precious commodities, spending their youth in camps learning to become future wives of those fortunate enough to afford them. Yet, the world of Archetype is not simply black and white. Suspenseful and emotional, Emma’s struggle to gain independence as well as he memories only begins the slow unraveling of this dystopia. And as the puzzle pieces begin to fall together Emma has to tread carefully without revealing too much of her true feelings.

Archetype is a perfect example of a well crafted novel: part sci-fi, part dystopia, with a dash of romance, and just enough mystery to propel the story. Without the burden of heavy world building which becomes slowly unveiled through Emma’s perspective, a great deal of time is spent on development of these multifaceted characters. By the end, there is no question that we should root for Emma, but separating the hero from the villain might be another question…

Recommended

Clean Sweep

Clean Sweep - Ilona Andrews For this and other reviews please visit Zemfirka Blogs.

Light hearted and refreshing Clean Sweep is a delightful and highly entertaining read. And I’ll be sure to add other books by the writing duo known as Ilona Andrews to my growing to-read list.

All in all, Clean Sweep is a trip! Unexpected, humorous, sarcastic and fast paced; this urban fantasy, gory details aside, had me giggling late at night. I couldn’t help but love the heroine – Dina the Innkeeper. She was feisty, determined, and self-sufficient [just the way I like my heroines to be]. Add to that a couple of impetuous alpha males, one werewolf, the other vampire; and you know there’s bound to be plenty of fun exchanges between these three [and if your thoughts immediately jump to Twilight, rest assured that these novels have very little in common]. Truly, even the ever annoying love triangle works charmingly well here, creating the needed tension between the heroine and her two would-be suitors and comrades-in-arms, as well as offering plenty of comic relief. The dialog alone was one of the bigger highlights for me; still there are plenty of other enjoyable aspects as well.

“Mhm,” Arland said. “I have spent my spare time studying literature popular with young women of this planet. One should always study the battlefield.”
Sean glanced at him. “And?”
“I suggest you give up now. According to my research, in a vampire-werewolf love triangle, the vampire always gets the girl.”
Clean Sweep (p. 224).


Sarcasm and flirting aside, Clean Sweep is less of a romance novel and much more a sci-fi fantasy adventure with a bit of mystery and plenty of laughs, think a cross between Men in Black and popular paranormal fiction. The world building is unique and the characters are original, from a magical inn which can be a character in its own right, to alien races and their often uneasy politics, a very adorable “devil” dog, and plenty of bloodthirsty and vengeful villains. If you are an urban fantasy fan then Clean Sweep should be on your to-read list – no excuses; and even if you are not, you still should check it out and be thoroughly entertained by this quick, quirky, and satisfying read.

Recommended

A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair, #3)

A Study in Ashes (The Baskerville Affair, #3) - Emma Jane Holloway Wow... this was pretty epic! Review to come. There must be plans for other books, cause lots of interesting possibilities are on the horizon. :)

***For this and other reviews please visit Zemfirka Blogs***

REVIEW:

Egalley courtesy of Random House Publishing Group - Del Rey Spectra via NetGalley in exchange for fair and honest review.

What a great end to a wonderful series! I must admit, at over 600 pages long this book took me awhile to finish but it was well worth it. There is magic, gadgetry, intrigues and treachery, love, bravery, and much more. This beautiful dark magical world, so vividly drawn throughout the series serves as a perfect backdrop to the multiple storylines explored here, each having their own unique arc and purpose. And the fabulous cast of characters does not stop to impress. At the end, A Study in Ashes serves as a perfect conclusion with a hopeful glimpse into future possibility of more stories to come.

I was quite impressed with the first two novels of The Baskerville Affair series, but the third and final chapter of this saga is even more impressive and complex than the previous two. Still full of darkness, machines, and dilemmas that many characters must face it is deliciously rich, complex, and action-packed. There is certainly a lot to take in but each story is worth its own exploration.  

The beginning of the novel finds Evelina finally attending college, but the experience is far from what she imagined it to be, being that she’s a prisoner of the Gold King and her world is practically in shambles. She is cut off from all whom she loves and is in mourning as Captain Niccolo is presumed to be dead. After events of A Study in Darkness where Niccolo’s airship, Red Jack is destroyed in battle, he and his crew haven’t been heard from in a year. At the same time, Imogen had fallen into a near lifeless state and with Evelina shackled and far away only young and charming Poppy is there to help bring her sister back. And Poppy really shines here, with her sense of humor, bravery, and strong spirit she is the bright beacon, often offering a necessary reprieve from all the darkness.

“Besides Alice the fallen angel, I have a sleeping princess for a sister, a knave for a brother, an evil queen for a mother, and Papa thinks he’s Signori Machiavelli. How did I end up in this house? Poppy knew everyone complained about one’s family, but hers had to be eligible for some sort of prize. Or a scientific study. She wondered if Mr. Darwin was still writing books.” A Study in Ashes (Kindle Location 1030).


While Evelina is the heroine of the novel, a lot of the novel’s focus is also on Tobias Roth, who’s had a very interesting character journey throughout these novels, walking a thin line between villain and hero. Tobias is torn by his duties and responsibilities to his family, Alice, and his menacing father-in-law and employer, Jasper Keating, the Gold King. And at the end, it is the choices he makes that will finally define him.

With all the drama there is a bigger conflict that is ready to burst. The Steam Council is practically at each other’s throat and the rebels are readying their own plans of attack, the impending war has finally arrived and it’s going to be explosive. There are a lot of twists and turns along this pass. Some will come from the dead, while others will turn up dead; after all, it is war. Without giving much more away, if you’ve read the previous two novels in The Baskerville Affair series [which you absolutely should have] I’m certain that you will enjoy A Study in Ashes. There are many answers to be found here but some loose ends are left unexplored and perhaps it is so on purpose, as Mr. Sherlock Holmes puts it:  

“Loose threads are the very essence of life.” A Study in Ashes (Kindle Location 10003).


With this explosive conclusion Ms. Holloway delivers a dark steampunk fantasy tale that is sure to satisfy.

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic

The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic - Emily Croy Barker For this and other reviews please visit Zemfirka Blogs.

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When it was first published last summer The Thinking Woman’s Guide to Real Magic was heavily marketed to fans of Deborah Harkness’s All Souls Trilogy and even praised by Ms. Harkness herself as “fun, seductive, and utterly engrossing.” Naturally, I had to read this book or rather listen to it since I purchased an audio version, narrated by Alyssa Bresnahan [which might have contributed to my overall experience]. Regrettably, I had many issues with this novel which outweighed its positive elements and at the end I found it far from charming and captivating but rather dull and unnecessarily long.

Narration: First of all, I felt let down by the narrator. Don’t get me wrong, I do believe that Ms. Bresnahan has talent and ability as a narrator. [And from my personal research a lot of people thoroughly enjoyed her narration style as can be evidenced by many praising reviews.] However, her narration simply didn’t work for me. I found it somewhat condescending and not only when it was appropriately so, but also in other instances that at the end detracted from the overall feel of the novel.

Story & Worldbuilding: The premise was interesting; unfortunately the execution fell short for me. The better half of the novel was spent aimlessly wondering around and struggling to establish the world. The numerous information dumps, very slow development and little to no action – it felt repetitive and uninspired, and could’ve used a thorough edit. Over 500 pages dragged on and on… Still there were interesting moments to be found that gave me hope and propelled me to go forward and finish the novel.

Characters: However, my biggest gripe with this novel was its humdrum characters that lacked any likeable qualities. From an exasperating heroine, who cannot be called a “thinking” woman if her actions should define her; to a powerful magician – Aruendiel, whose only interesting characteristic is his ability to wield great magic.

Nora Fischer is an English PhD student. Unlucky in love and struggling to finish her dissertation, Nora’s life is far from enviable until one day she accidentally stumbles into another world where she quickly falls under the patronage of beautiful and powerful Ilissa.

Ilissa’s world and lifestyle is enticingly rich and decadent, with its lavish parties and grand excursions, hunting trips through the nearby forest, and evening strolls through New York and Paris. Her vanity demands it and unknowingly, Nora becomes enchanted by this delusion of a fairy tale, but a magician, Aruendiel, will soon help her uncover the truth behind the façade and save her before she is forever lost.

Aruendiel is a powerful magician. He leads a reclusive life and his acerbic nature and bitterness are results of the long ago past. He is feared and regarded by many and he is not easily swayed by Ilissa’s charms or her deceitful nature. But his dislike of Ilissa is bordering on obsession; even so, he genuinely extends an offer to help Nora, only would she heed his advice?

Needles to say, there is a promise of a developing romance between Aruendiel and Nora which I found a bit odd given that there is no chemistry between the two. And Jane Austen references aside, to compare the developing relation of Nora and Aruendiel to that of Elizabeth Bennet and Mr. Darcy would be crude and unfair in my opinion. So don't expect to find a touching romance here.

Conculusion: Overall, the novel had promise and great ideas but poor execution. It was neither good or bad but just somewhere in between [and I almost wish it was one or another because this review has been kicking my butt]. It is also clear that The Thinking Woman's Guide to Real Magic paves the way for a sequel. So here's hoping that it will improve on its execution.

Submit (Songs of Submission, #3)

Submit (Songs of Submission, #3) - C.D. Reiss ***
Find my review of Songs of Submission #1-3 (Sequence One) on Goodreads or Zemfirka Blogs.

Songs of Submission: Sequence One (Songs of Submission, #1-3)

Songs of Submission: Sequence One (Songs of Submission, #1-3) - C.D. Reiss For this and other reviews please visit Zemfirka Blogs.

Hot, quick, with a touch of BDSM, these books are surprisingly addicting. Trust me; you can’t stop at just one…

I picked up Beg as a quickie, in-between book. Having seen a number of my friends rave about these novellas I had to check out what everyone has been talking about. And then… three novellas later I started to get the idea.

Yes, there is nothing new in a story of a brilliant, beautiful, struggling musician catching an eye and falling for a rich, dark, and handsome hotelier, with a mysterious past and a dash of kink added in. In fact, there are a whole slew of similar novels flooding the bookshelves out there and I purposely tend to avoid them most of the time. So, why read these novellas you ask? Because the writing is actually good, the characters are interesting and well developed, the sex is definitely steamy, and each of these novellas serves as a perfect appetizer into the next.

The first sequence of novellas [consisting of the first three] is a tease in itself, it begins to explore the limits of these characters as they slowly learn of each other and explore the possibility of this new relationship. These stories caught me quite off guard as I breathed through them in mere hours, never thinking that I would enjoy this serialized format of storytelling as much as I did [perhaps it’s simply the fact that I didn’t need to wait for the publication of the next novella to continue]. Nonetheless, Ms. Reiss certainly captured my attention. Beg, Tease, and Submit were just my first foray and I’m looking forward to reading more in the future.

Happy reading!

Tease (Songs of Submission, #2)

Tease (Songs of Submission, #2) - C.D. Reiss And now the drama begins... it is to be expected that this type of relationships always tend to get complicated. Still, quite an enjoyable and quick read.

***
Find my review of Songs of Submission #1-3 (Sequence One) on Goodreads or Zemfirka Blogs.

Beg (Songs of Submission, # 1)

Beg (Songs of Submission, # 1) - C.D. Reiss Fun, sexy and quick.

***
Find my review of Songs of Submission #1-3 (Sequence One) on Goodreads or Zemfirka Blogs.

City of Lost Dreams (City of Dark Magic, #2)

City of Lost Dreams (City of Dark Magic, #2) - Magnus Flyte For this review and more please visit my blog - Zemfirka Blogs.

“I'm sorry to bother you but it's an emergency," she told Alessandro. "I need a drug test.” City of Lost Dreams (p. 86).


What a trip this novel is! I’m pleasantly surprised and happy I gave Magnus Flyte another chance as City of Lost Dreams is a much improved, fast-paced and exciting novel. The returning cast of characters gain needed dimension as they continue on in their quest to find the Golden Fleece and in increasingly desperate attempt try save life of the young, blind, music prodigy – Pollina, whose health has deteriorated drastically since last time we saw her. What lies ahead is a web of elements that somehow balance together to create this unconventional, drug-infused, time-traveling journey through time and history, with a sprinkle of magic, questions of immortality, drive, passion and more. So buckle up and prepare for an outside the box tour of Prague and Vienna with Sarah Weston and friends.

“This was always the way things were in Prague: mysterious, watery, elusive. It was like the minute you got off the plane here, all firm ground dissolved. And you did crazy things. Like falling in love.” City of Lost Dreams (p. 19).


This time around Sarah returns to Prague to help find cure for Pollina’s illness, but as fate would have it, Prague is surrounded by mysterious forces and nothing goes as planned. At dinner with Nico and Max a strange event takes place and Sarah somehow ends up in the middle of it all. But no time to investigate as Sarah is off to Vienna to track down the brilliant yet recalcitrant biochemist – Bettina Müller who might be able to help Pollina, while Nico and Max continue their own search. Yet, as they pursue further only more mysteries seem to amount and time is quickly running out…

“We’ve got to try everything, no matter how crazy it sounds. I wasn’t ready before, but I am now. I’m ready for the fucking witchcraft, you know. Bring on the witchcraft.” City of Lost Dreams (p. 191).


City of Lost Dreams is a crazy yet exhilarating journey. It’s not perfect. There are way too many elements, events and characters throughout the novel that it is cumbersome to keep them all straight, but at the same time they add richness and dimension. I wished we got to see them explored further but alas there wasn’t time – things were moving so fast. I also missed seeing Sarah and Max together as they spent most of the novel apart from each other – an unfortunate circumstance in my opinion. While Nico and Pollina were the stars with plenty of wisdom and advice to offer our heroine.  However, what really made this novel shine was its maniacally devious villain, whose reveal was quite predictable and in turn less satisfying, yet I couldn’t help but be fascinated with him/her. Not to give anything further away, I’ll just say that aside all of its stumbles I really enjoyed this novel and hope to see more of Sarah, Max, Nico, and Pollina as they continue their adventures.

Recommended

Chasing the Star Garden (The Airship Racing Chronicles, #1)

Chasing the Star Garden (The Airship Racing Chronicles, #1) - Melanie Karsak Originally posted on Zemfirka Blogs.

I must apologize it took me so long to write my review because Chasing the Star Garden is an absolutely wonderful, steampunk adventure novel that I can’t wait to share with you! Part romance, part mystery, with a fabulous cast of characters and beautiful world-building, a sprinkle of history and mythology – it is a charming and a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Lily Stargazer is a fabulous heroine of the novel. She is determined, fearless, and adventurous but there is much to be uncovered behind that boisterous exterior of hers. Lily is the captain of an airship and a racer, in profession and sport dominated by men she is a true star. She keeps many lovers and hides her past in drink and drug but an unexpected quest will have her question her life choices and have her thinking about the future.

Lord Byron is a famed poet; he is Lily’s old friend, supporter, and lover. Their relationship is a bit toxic, as it feeds each of their addictions, yet there is more to it than that. Lord Byron is one of the few friends whom Lily trusts given the understanding and similarity of spirit that the two share and there is more to his mysterious persona that is yet to be uncovered.

While Lord Byron remains mostly behind the scenes in this novel, Salvatore Colonna is another of Lily’s friends and is also her lover. A passionate clockwork maker, he is always immersed in his work. Sal is older and a true romantic at heart, especially when Lily is around; but she is always a little out of his reach emotionally not being ready to surrender herself to love. However, as their relation continues to grow, Lily will have to make the ultimate choice… 

Airships, alcohol, drugs, a long lost treasure and a quest that will have our heroine facing some inner demons, but will love help conquer all or will the race be lost? Only time will tell. Jump aboard this airship for a whirlwind adventure through the skies of Europe and on to the Mediterranean islands where ancient treasure and magic still lie.

Happy reading!

A Discovery of Witches: A Novel (All Souls Trilogy)

A Discovery of Witches - Deborah Harkness For this review and more please visit Zemfirka Blogs.

Absolutely spellbinding! Deborah Harkness crafts a magical tale about a reluctant witch, a fifteen hundred year old vampire with a taste for wine, and a long lost alchemical manuscript that is about to turn their world upside down. Alchemy, history, and magic collide in this complex and beautifully executed paranormal romance. And oh the romance! A whirlwind courtship, a forbidden alliance, and Matthew Clairmont – you’ll want to discover it all for yourself. A Discovery of Witches is a true delight.

I must say this is where my love affair with a book began – I fell head over heels with A Discover of Witches, and each time I read, re-read, or listen to it [speaking of which, Jennifer Ikeda does a superb narration of the novel] I can’t help but fall in love over and over again. It is truly magical.

I first read the novel last summer, having picked it up on a whim. I still remember how captivated I was by it, I couldn’t put the book down, racing through the pages and finishing it in the wee morning hours [work be damned]. My need to share my love and learn more of this magical book brought me to the All Souls Trilogy Discussion group on Facebook which is a wonderful resource, a wealth of information for those readers wanting to see beyond the text of the book, and an amazing group of people, but I digress.

There are a lot of different reviews out there, both good and bad and I get a strong sense that those are divided primarily between lovers and haters. So perhaps this is not the book for everyone, its impressive size and a fairly slow start might turn some readers off, but those who stick around will most certainly be rewarded. Once the story picks up the speed there is plenty of action, romance, suspense, and of course magic to keep the reader captivated.

Diana Bishop, the heroine of the novel, is a witch from a long line of witches. But traumatized at an early age by the death of her parents Diana decides to forsake her gift choosing academia instead. Now in her early thirties, she has become an alchemical history professor at Yale, and in preparation for a conference where she is to present, Diana travels to Oxford to research at the Bodleian Library when she accidently calls up an enchanted manuscript known as Ashmole 782.

Matthew Clairmont is a vampire who has led many different lives throughout the years. Secretive and reclusive, he has extensive credentials to his name but his current focus lies in the field of genetics. When Matthew hears talk of a long lost manuscript being uncovered by a witch he has to check for himself. Soon his meeting with Diana grows into something more than his wish to posses the manuscript. Slowly Diana and Matthew grow to trust each other, forming a forbidden alliance – witch and vampire, as an ominous threat of war is brewing on the horizon.

A delightful cast of characters – well fleshed out and each with their own distinctive voice, fill the novel. [The Bishop house alone is a character in its own right.] Deliciously descriptive locations that are explored throughout the novel will have you packing your bags for a world-wide tour of Europe. And the layers of history add depth and will send the most curious of readers into an excited search for more information [Easter egg galore awaits you]. So if you are waiting to find that one fabulous book, look no further and prepare to fall under the magical spell of A Discovery of Witches!

Must read!

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