The Secret of the India Orchid by Nancy Campbell Allen

india-orchid

Synopsis from GoodreadsAnthony Blake is in love with his best friend’s sister, Sophia Elliot. But his plans to court her are put on hold when he is forced to resume his role as an undercover spy for the Crown. A secret document listing the names of the entire network of British spies-including his own-has been stolen. To protect Sophia, Anthony cuts off all ties to her and exchanges his life as an honorable earl for the façade of a flirtatious playboy.

Heartbroken and confused, Sophia travels to India, hoping to find healing in one of the most exotic regions of the British Empire. But the exotic land isn’t as restful as she had hoped. Instead, she finds herself embroiled in a mystery of a missing sea captain, a possible murder, and a plot that could involve the prince of India. And when Anthony appears at the British Residency, asking questions and keeping his distance from her, she is stunned.

She still loves him, and, in her heart, she knows he loves her too. But how can she rebuild her relationship with him if he won’t confide in her? Does she dare offer her heart to him a second time, or will their love be lost under the India sun?

Feelings:  One thing I really appreciated about this book were the cultural spotlights. She gave us a base – the British expectations and values – something most of us have a loose understanding of. Then as the story developed, she layered in the traditions and cultural norms of India. She compared the two worlds and showed how they impacted each other.

The author somehow managed to teach me about a culture I didn’t know much about, draw me in with a murder mystery, and keep me hoping for our two protagonists. There was a lot going on, to be sure, but I don’t think it was too much. I believe it was well balanced.

With murder mysteries, my main concern is usually that I’ll have it all figured out long before the final pages. With this story, I had some guesses, but I never could have predicted exactly how it would play out.

Issues: The ending felt a little too rushed for me. We spent so much time building up to who the murderer was and their motivations, then the truth comes out pretty quickly and it’s over. The epilogue helped the story to feel like it had a satisfying ending. Without it, I really wouldn’t have been thrilled.

While there’s a lot going on in this story, there were a few times where I felt like…nothing…was going on. About a third of the way through, I started to lose interest. Then I just resolved to finish reading it and finished the other two thirds in one sitting. I couldn’t put it down! I think it was because we’d met our protagonists, a change in scenery had occurred, and then someone was murdered. I hadn’t really dug my heels into it yet; it didn’t feel like there was anything solid to hold onto. But then the story picks up and it sucked me in! So stay with it.

Characters: I thought the two main characters, Anthony and Sophia, were really sweet. I was worried that the tension would drag on too long, but it ended up being just right. They complimented each other well and I loved the way they understood one another. Because of the way the author paced the story, we got to know our main characters in doses. There wasn’t a major introductory information dump. In fact, for a while I had some questions, but the author had answered them all by the end. I like that because it forces me to pay better attention and look for specific things.

The minor characters added some value to the plot and gave us some more cultural insights. They included a wide range of individuals from different backgrounds and levels of society, which added some depth to the overall story.

Final thoughts: The setting was beautiful and totally jumped off the pages, the romance was clean and sweet, and the mystery wasn’t too predictable. I really enjoyed the author’s writing style and felt like I was reading some classic Austen, from time to time. This book was a great change of pace from what I’ve been reading lately and I’d recommend it to my historical fiction and mystery loving friends!

Pick this up if you liked:

My Fair Gentleman by Nancy Campbell Allen

Goodreads rating: 4.67/5

My rating: 4/5

*This book will be out August 1 of this year. I received a copy of this book from the publisher for review. All opinions are my own.

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

“…if comics have taught us anything, it’s that death is rarely a permanent condition.”

princess-x

Synopsis from GoodreadsOnce upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure. Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her. Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window. Princess X? When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon – her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Feelings: I’m always open to reading different book formats – comic books, graphic novels, ebooks, audiobooks, and any combination. This book was a new venture for me in that it’s both a graphic novel and a chapter book. I wasn’t sure how that would play out, but I really enjoyed it! It broke the story flow up a little bit, in a positive way, and made it so that the visuals added a totally different kind of depth to the plot.

Probably my favorite thing about this book was the author’s writing style. The little quips and quirks were so enjoyable and unexpected. This was the author’s first foray into the realm of YA lit and I think she did a great job of being grown-up funny and interesting, while not being too far away from the core of YA. We still got our healthy dose of friendship, loyalty, identity, and all our favorite YA nuances.

This story was twisty! Is Libby alive? Is she publishing Princess X? If so, how’s she managing to pull that off? How did the bad guy make everyone believe that she was dead? After about 50 pages, I was hooked. There were so many different avenues that the story could go down and at that point, I really couldn’t pinpoint where it would go. I like stories that keep me on my toes and keep me guessing!

Issues: I feel like the author was trying to hard sometimes. I don’t know how many references to Seattle I need before I understand that it’s Seattle. I get it. There’s coffee everywhere and the weather and the building and OK ALREADY.

There was so much intensity and mystery…up until literally the last 15 pages. It all just felt rushed and something happens that makes zero sense. As May is telling us where she’s looking (no spoilers) I kept thinking…I get that you’re not a hacker, but you should know that it ISN’T hidden in a drawer or on a bookshelf. She was looking for other clues, yes, but they literally had like 4 minutes to look for what they needed and it just felt like wasted time.

Final thoughts: Don’t judge a book by its cover, friends. Ha! It looks all princessy and cutesy, but dang…it was super creepy at times. It didn’t help that I read this book right around midnight, but still. In the end, I enjoyed this book and thought it was a quick, easy read. It’s different from anything I’ve read before, so it was a nice palette cleanser since I tend to binge read in a genre for a while. As a teacher, I think this is a great book for those students who only choose comics or graphic novels. It would help to bridge the gap towards higher level reading and building those comprehension skills, while still keeping them entertained and close to their comfort zone.

*On the Amazon.com page for this book, it says, “for fans of both Cory Doctorow and Sarah Dessen.” I don’t know Cory, but I know Sarah. I make zero connections between this book and Dessen’s dozen books. That’s my two cents on that.

 

Goodreads rating: 3.99/5

Amazon.com rating: 4.2/5

My rating: 4/5

Happy reading! – Caitlyn

September 2016 Wrap Up

This month has been a dud for reading. I’ve been so busy with work and moving…I’ve had very little time to read. In the end, I managed to read a total of THREE books.

Ghosts by Raina Telgemeier

  • Unexpected. Day of the Dead. Graphic Novel.
  • My rating: 4 stars

Empire of Storms by Sarah J. Maas

  • Lysandra. Manon. Elide. (Obviously what I love about this book is people. Female people.)
  • My rating: 4.5 stars

I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

  • Unexpected. Creepy. Quick and easy.
  • My rating: 4 stars

What all did you read this month? Let me know in the comments below!

Happy reading! – Caitlyn