My friend went to ALA Midwinter and all I got…

…were three delightful ARCs and a Mickey bag! Does Julie know me well or what? While I was busy drooling over the lists of ARCs and activities people were enjoying in sunny San Diego, Julie mailed me a small care package with three books she hoped I’d enjoy. Did I ever! I am borrowing liberally from my Goodreads reviews of these books but I wanted to to share here as well. Stick with me here, this could be awhile. PS, Julie is starting up her own blog soon! Here is the link so go check it out!

From Goodreads

Dark Mirror is one of those delightfully frustrated books that refuses to be categorized. Is it fantasy? Historical fiction? Romance? Adventure? All of the above? In this case, all of the above is the easiest way to go. Lady Victoria Mansfield is exiled from her family when it is discovered she is a mage (AKA she can do magic. In this case, she can “float” which resembles flying. How cool is that?!). At Lackland, the school nobles send their mageling children for the “cure,” Tory learns that her magic just might not be a curse but a tool given to her to help save Britain for invading forces, both in her time and beyond. Tory is spunky and likable; she both loathes the fact that she has magic, since it makes her an outcast in society, and is curious about the powers she is discovering. She is definitely a character you root for through out the book. The book also has strong supporting characters that allow a reader to learn more about Tory and add to her adventures. The required love story is sweet but predictable. I was more interested in the ideas of magic the book was building on throughout the story.Putney has obviously put a lot of thought into how magic would work especially in a group setting.

One jarring note for me is the time travel element. When it first happens, I was bewildered by the author’s decision to include it. It had seemed to me she had a strong story and conflicts already, there was no need to add time traveling into the mix but it turned out that was where her story was always going. In that case, I would have wanted her to get to it faster. The first time travel moment seemed rushed and odd to me; it was just an awkward transition I feel. Still, have to love a novel which manages to take place both in the Regency and during World War II.

From Goodreads

My next read was Haunting Violet. Setting aside the highly inappropriate cover (what is that girl wearing? Whatever it is, it is not period correct I feel), I think this was my favorite of the three. Violet Willoughby doesn’t believe in ghosts. She’s sat through one two many of her mothers fake séances to believe in the spirits. But, on a trip to great country house where her mother is trying to pull off her greatest con, ghosts all of the sudden start appearing to Violet. One ghost in particular is quite insistent that Violet help her catch her murderer before he has a chance to kill her sister. Violet reluctantly starts to investigate the death along with her eager friend and childhood partner in crime but the closer she gets to the killer, the more Violet’s life is in danger as well.

I adored Violet! Smart, independent, realistic with just a touch of whimsy and romance thanks to her love of novels. She wants out of her mother’s business but in the late 1800s, the only way to escape is marriage, something Violet is unsure about. I also loved that Violet is so honest in an inherently dishonest situation which makes for great conflict between her and her mother. The story is well-paced and fascinating. I have never been much for the Spiritualist craze of the late 1800s but its atmosphere made for a great setting in this book. In particular, the juxtaposition of the fake readings with the real ghosts was very well done.

Also, bonus besides an awesome heroine and great story? A handsome and charming Irish pickpocket. Enough said.

From Goodreads

Lastly, a biography of the one and only Jane, Jane Austen: A Life Revealed. Though I am about 10 years or so older than the real audience for this bio, I still enjoyed it for its simplicity. Jane is a sticky figure to get a handle on (seriously Cassandra, you had to burn her letters…sigh) but I felt Reef did an excellent job of giving the reader the information we have and using the novels Jane wrote to show how she grew and learned throughout her lifetime. I particularly enjoyed the use of pictures and illustrations in this book. It gave Jane’s life the past and present context she needs for a reader to understand how her influence has only seemed to grow over the years instead of wane. 

I recommend all three reads obviously. Thanks to Julie for thinking of me while she was on the West Coast!

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