Friday, June 29, 2012

Book Review: Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Guardian of the Dead

Karen Healey

Publication Date: April 1st 2010

Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers

Pages: 333

Genre:  Thriller, Mythological, Young Adult

"You're Ellie Spencer."

I opened my mouth, just as he added, "And your eyes are opening."
Seventeen-year-old Ellie Spencer is just like any other teenager at her boarding school. She hangs out with her best friend Kevin, she obsesses over Mark, a cute and mysterious bad boy, and her biggest worry is her paper deadline. But then everything changes. The news headlines are all abuzz about a local string of serial killings that all share the same morbid trademark: the victims were discovered with their eyes missing. Then a beautiful yet eerie woman enters Ellie's circle of friends and develops an unhealthy fascination with Kevin, and a crazed old man grabs Ellie in a public square and shoves a tattered Bible into her hands, exclaiming, "You need it. It will save your soul." Soon, Ellie finds herself plunged into a haunting world of vengeful fairies, Maori mythology, romance, betrayal, and an epic battle for immortality.

From the title and synopsis, I thought that Guardian of the Dead was going to be a horror/thriller novel, however, that was far from what it ended up being. I was instead led on an incredible journey through Maori legends of New Zealand. The style and way the mythology was dealt with in the book reminded me strongly of O.R. Melling's The Book of Dreams (my all time favourite faerie book).

Healey has created a world filled with mythology of all the world, but focusing on Maori legends due to the fact that it takes place in New Zealand. It includes faeries, but of the Maori sort, which are similar to the popular take on faeries nowadays (amazingly beautiful, tempting but dangerous). There is also a promise underneath it, however, that in the feature if this world is explored more Greek and Roman myth may play a much bigger role.

As for the characters, I really liked Healey's take on many of them. They were varied and pretty complex, even many of the side characters. One thing that I was very impressed with is the inclusion of an asexual character which is not a well known sexual preference and I loved how it was dealt with but not made out to be a big deal by the characters. I also loved that it actually pertained to the plot since the Maori faerie was trying to seduce him and that kind of doesn't work that way.

There was no instalove in the book as well so points for that. Ellie of course had had a crush for forever on Mark, but he hadn't really even noticed her before they bumped into each other and his feelings developed rather than happened instantly. They also started with like before jumping straight to love.

I recommend this book to people who love Young Adult Paranormal books that use mythology from various cultures instead of clear cut popular tales. I also recommend it if you like O.R. Melling, as Healey's style reminded me of hers.


Thursday, June 28, 2012

Book Review: Deadly Little Lies by Laurie Faria Stolarz

Deadly Little Lies (Touch #2)

Laurie Faria Stolarz

Review of Deadly Little Secret (Touch #1)

Publication Date:
November 9th 2009

Publisher: Hyperion

Pages: 288

Genre:  Young Adult, Thriller

Since Ben abruptly left town, Camelia has been studying everything she can about psychometry, and wonders if Ben's abilities have somehow rubbed off on her.

Deadly Little Lies feels like the beginning of a series a lot more than Deadly Little Secret did. While the first book feels more standalone with some teases of things that might happen in the future, this book is full blown SOMETHING IS GOING ON, and we, as the readers, want to keep reading to figure out what is going on.

Camelia returns and this time she is starting to notice that when she just lets impulse sculpt for her she keeps sculpting things that are real or that come true and it's freaking her out. As she deals with that and Ben's game of hot and cold (I don't know any other character that plays it better than him…) we get glimpses of her aunt as a teenager through diary entries scattered throughout the book. I'm really glad that Stolarz found a way to continue the structure of having these separate special parts as it adds a layer of interest to the storytelling I adore.

I also enjoyed how things are stirred up in our brains, but not everything is revealed. We have enough to guess, but not enough to know 100% and the characters haven't had it revealed to them yet.

I also liked how they extended the first books plot into this one via an old character.

I am super picky with continuing books, but I think I will continue at least one more book in this series, if only for Aunt Alexia, I want to read Camelia figuring it out. The book is good, but I don't find it amazing, I also don't find it terrible either. I think it's well written. I do recommend this series for contemporary fans who like a bit of a thrill.


Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: WWW: Wonder by Robert J. Sawyer

WWW: Wonder (WWW #3)

Robert J. Sawyer

Review of WWW: Watch (WWW #2)

Publication Date:
April 5th 2011

Publisher: Ace Hardcover

Pages: 338

Genre:  Scifi, Young Adult

Webmind-the vast consciousness that spontaneously emerged from the infrastructure of the World Wide Web-has proven its worth to humanity by aiding in everything from curing cancer to easing international tensions. But the brass at the Pentagon see Webmind as a threat that needs to be eliminated.
Caitlin Decter-the once-blind sixteen-year-old math genius who discovered, and bonded with, Webmind-wants desperately to protect her friend. And if she doesn't act, everything-Webmind included-may come crashing down.

Out of all the 'W' words that Sawyer could use to describe this final book, Wonder is by far the best, it sums up how I felt about this book as I finished it up. Just thinking about the tiny little beginning of a consciousness that turns into something so big and great warms my heart. It's almost like watching a child grow into an adult that you are proud of.

Honestly, however, the best part about this book is the fact that it is a positive take on Artificial Intelligence. As the series addresses over and over again, humans and media are obsessed with the thought that if AI comes into being it will try and destroy humanity, if anything that isn't human becomes as smart as human they will hate us. It brings up so much philosophical thought while reading the books. Even if you disagree that such a positive instance could happen, you are still thinking about it.

I also really enjoyed how every single thread cast out in the very beginning of the series are tied nicely together in the end. From China and Japan to Canada and the US, from Hobo the Bonobo/Chimp to a teenaged girl to an emergent AI, everything is tied together. I come from this series feeling a tad smarter than when I started and a thinking a bit more about the future, about how things are changing, emergent AI aside. The scene where the kids ban together to stop the bullying by showing that they see, and because Caitlin's eye sends information through the internet, so could everyone else made me really think and wonder. Everything is becoming more out there, the internet is becoming less anonymous than it was even just five years ago, and people tend to behave better when everyone can see them and judge them. Will we as a human race become less anonymous, will our sense of moral truly improve? Will we improve as a race?

There are so many more things I can talk about, but honestly I'd rather everyone read the series. It makes you think, it entertains, it teaches, it makes you fight for the underdog, become attached to a normal girl who is just growing up in a world that everyone in my generation is growing up in.

Give this series a chance.


Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: Wrap-up

Due to the miracle of a part-time job, I unable to post up the completed wrap-up post quite yet (I will edit this post later with it and then tweet it out so you all know). BUT I couldn't keep the winners to myself any longer.


Winner #1 is Erleen with a winning entry of following Cosy Dragon~ She got her e-mail last night and has already picked out Goose Girl/Enna Burning.

Winner #2 is Alex @ Raiding Bookshelves with the winning entry of a tweet, in fact her FINAL tweet, so it goes to show all that tweeting helps. She ended up picking out Ice.

And finally,

Winner #3 is Sam Sain thanks to following me on twitter. Her choice ended up being Toads and Diamonds

As for everyone else, THANK YOU SO MUCH for participating and I'm sorry everyone couldn't win. I hope you enjoyed learning about different fairytale books and stay tuned to this post to get the official wrap-up with links to EVERYTHING.

UPDATE:So here's our Midsummer Night's Giveaway Wrap-Up!

A Journey Through Pages: 

A Journey Through Pages: 

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: The Basic Fantasy Retelling

The Cosy Dragon:
Book Review: Mercedes Lackey - One Good Knight
Raiding Bookshelves:
A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: The Twelve Dancing Princesses


A Journey Through Pages: 

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: Something Different

The Cosy Dragon:
Book Review: Mercedes Lackey - Fortune's Fool
Raiding Bookshelves:
A Midsummers Night's Giveaway: Beauty and the Beast

A Journey Through Pages: 

Book Review: Mercedes Lackey - The Snow Queen
Raiding Bookshelves:
A Midsummers Night's Giveaway: Rumplestiltskin

A Journey Through Pages: 
A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: Cultural and Historical
The Cosy Dragon:
Book Review: Mercedes Lackey - The Sleeping Beauty

A Journey Through Pages: 

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: High Fantasy

The Cosy Dragon:
Book Review: J. K. Rowling - The Tales of Beedle the Bard

A Journey Through Pages: 

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: My Final Thoughts

Saturday, June 23, 2012

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: My Final Thoughts

Between books, movies and television shows, fairytale adaptations seem to be getting more and more popular. Disney has returned to doing them, shows like "Grimm" and "Once Upon A Time" have been very popular. Two movie adaptions of "Snow White and the Seven Dwarves" came out this year and at the very least in books we got Wrecked and Cinder.

Now before I post up the wrap-up and winners post, I wanted to talk about my favourite fairytales, since I realized I haven't mentioned them at all (and since I asked all of you it's only fair). There are two, and I have actually finished a visual novel based one one of them and before I went off to study abroad in Japan this fall was almost done with the demo for the other (which is much, much bigger and more gamelike).

"Snow White and Rose Red" is a story about two sisters, a bear and a greedy dwarf. Like "Goose Girl" it is one of the Brothers Grimms' longer stories. It is also notoriously disconnected and all over the place, yet I have found myself consistantly drawn to it.

Obviously I am not the only one since there are actually quite a few adaptions of this fairytale into books, one of which by Patricia C. Wrede.

I think there is something about the idea of two very close, but very different sisters that tends to spark interest.

I started writing/drawing/programming/designing this visual novel game a couple of years ago, and my love of the story keeps me coming back to it.

The other tale that I've always been drawn to is another Brothers Grimm, "Rapunzel". Last year I adapted it into a small, short game/novel. What I always loved about this tale is the dynamic between the witch and Rapunzel. It is a story of overprotective love, abadonment, love and rebellious teenagers to the ultimate extent. Sometimes while reading the tale I don't know who I want to feel sorry for, which makes it a really fun fairytale to adapt. The characters all seem to be so much more than what they appear  on the outside.

Yet despite that, because Rapunzel is stuck in the tower and many people can find that boring there seem to be fewer adaptations of this tale despite its obvious popularity. There is Disney's "Tangled" which did work hard to explore the witch/Rapunzel aspect, but felt the need to take Rapunzel out of the tower or have the movie suffer.

Oh and just in case you were curious, the game is available to download HERE

Thank you everyone for participating in the giveaway, following me and my fellow bloggers and reading any of my posts. Despite my crazy week I've had a lot of fun and I'd love to do it again for another genre in the future (possibly Dystopias).

Stacking The Shelves [4]

Stacking The Shelves is a hosted by Tynga Reviews

Books I've Taken Out From Library

The Grimm Legacy by Polly Shulman [goodreads | amazon]
The Wide-Awake Princess by E.D. Baker [goodreads | amazon]
Once Upon A Toad by Heather Frederick [goodreads | amazon]
Before I Fall by Lauren Oliver [goodreads | amazon]
Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick [goodreads | amazon]
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi [goodreads | amazon]
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood [goodreads | amazon]


Reviews That are Most Likely to be Posted This Week

Deadly Little Lies by Laurie Faria Stolarz [goodreads | amazon]
Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey [goodreads | amazon]
The Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke [goodreads | amazon]
White is for Magic by Laurie Faria Stolarz  [goodreads | amazon]
Leviathan by Scott Westerfield [goodreads | amazon]
Thirteenth Child by Patricia C. Wrede [goodreads | amazon]
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce [goodreads | amazon]

Also Giveaway mentioned last week is still going on today

Friday, June 22, 2012

Book Review: The Thirteenth Chime by Emma Michaels

The Thirteenth Chime

Emma Michaels

Publication Date: August 13th 2010

Publisher: Bookheim Publishing

Pages: 238

Genre:  Horror, Thriller


Destiny has finally found the life that she has always wanted. She is about to finish college, has a fiance that loves her, and a great summer on the West Coast planned with her friend, Stephanie. But her world is turned upside down when an antique clock mysteriously chimes thirteen times and someone attacks them, sending Stephanie and her mother to the hospital.

Alone, and without any help from the police, Destiny has no choice but to turn to the one man she had left behind a year ago - her ex-boyfriend, David. Together, they must solve the riddle of the thirteenth chime before the clock strikes thirteen again. Yet as they face their own past and hearts, a trap over half a century old is waiting for them to become its prey.

For revenge, fifty years is never too long...
The Thirteenth Chime is the first of a series involving the idea of "imprinting" in the supernatural, haunted house, ghostly way. The focus of this story is very intriguing. The thought of a grandfather clock that might just be haunted, and in a very dangerous way, is scary and made me wonder. The back story and history of both the building and clock were very well done as well, and I liked how the information was released intermittedly.

On the other hand, though I enjoyed the idea, I can't hold back the fact that the prose had a habit of being subpar compared to other published books out there. It's very "he did something, she did something" with a lack of style to the writing. The character interactions felt forced or stilted as well, which is funny because when the characters were by themselves their private thoughts and actions flowed well. I'm trying to think of a specific way to help the author break out of the habit of prose, but it could also be because it is her first book, I definitely plan on reading the second book as I love the idea of this series and want to follow it more.

The story itself was quite good, though it could have benefited from a few more layers, in my opinion. My favourite character was David, hands down, I'm hoping that it's just him who reappears in the next book because I felt like he was the most developed and interesting out of them all. I think the fact that he is an EMT reflects the situations he gets put in perfectly. It gives him experience in emergency situation, some first aid ability and support for his need to help people.

All in all I couldn't help but be reminded of Karina Halle's Experiments in Terror series, and I'd recommend this book to anyone looking for anyone searching for a similar idea of a book. I will admit Halle is a much better writing (but I pretty much worship her feet so that's to be expected). This book is horror and will send chills down your spine.

P.S. Apparently the author started out as a book blogger, so go her for making the jump.


A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: High Fantasy

Today's post uses Wildwood Dancing by Juliet Marillier as a jumping point.
Read my review of this book: Wildwood Dancing Review

Marillier has a very distinct high fantasy style of writing. It is not surprising that many of her books teeter between being considered YA or Adult. On one hand the protagonist is often younger, and on the other there is a maturity and complexity to her style that many people nowadays are not used to in the YA genre.

So most other fairytale adaptations in the style of what I like to call "High Fantasy" are adult adaptations. Because I use books as an escape from hectic, stressful life I find myself usually drawn to simplistic styles of writing (MG and YA), so I am not well versed in adult adaptations of fairytales BUT Rose over at The Cosy Dragon even states in her intro post that she is the opposite, so to learn more about what kind of adult adaptations are this high fantasy style, she would def know more.

As for the fairytale, Alex at Raiding Bookshelves actually wrote a post dedicated to it, "The Twelve Dancing Princesses". This might honestly be the most popular fairytale for YA/MG authors to adapt. Other books include: Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George, Entwined by Heather Dixon, The Thirteenth Princess by Diane Zahler, and The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell. What exactly makes this so popular to adapt, I'm not entirely sure. It might be the whole mystery, danger and time running out aspect.

TOMORROW will be the final day for the giveaway which will end Sunday, June 22nd at Midnight USA Eastern Time. I plan on posting my "final words" on the adaptions tomorrow and then Sunday there will be a wrap up posts with the winners. I will include links to the reviews and posts related to the giveaway from all three participating blogs.

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Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: Cultural and Historical

Today's post uses Toads and Diamonds by Heather Tomlinson as a jumping point.
Read my review of this book: Toads and Diamonds Review

One of the great thing about fairytales is how, although in the US at least they are mostly thought of as taking place in Western Europe, their stories are often just the skeleton, lacking cultural, historical and setting details that mark it as being able to only take place in a Western  Culture. On top of that, many fairytales contain motifs and tropes that are easily put together in other cultures. For example, "Cinderella"s elements are seen in fairytale/legends from all over the world (Cruel Mother, Made to Work, Lost Item).

So a really cool thing that an author can do in a fairytale adaptation, is take one that we may think of as Western and stick it in a completely different culture, or at least one that many readers do not know as much.

In the case of Toads and Diamonds we are thrust in to the cultures of India, Hindu and Muslim. We not only get the enjoyment of the tale, but we learn about these cultures. In the custom of YA, I don't know many others that do this with non-Western culures (Although Wrede's Snow White and Rose Red historically portrays Elizabethan England and Wildwood Dancing the culture of Transylvania), but I really wish there were more because it brings so many things together.

Also! Another post up from Raiding Bookshelves:

A Midsummers Night's Giveaway: Rumplestiltskin

And don't forget to check up on both Raiding Bookshelves and The Cosy Dragon for fairytale themed book reviews that they've been posting.

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Book Review: Magic Under Stone by Jaclyn Dolamore

Magic Under Stone

Jaclyn Dolamore

Review of Prequel, Magic Under Glass

Publication Date:
February 28th 2012

Publisher: Bloomsbury

Pages: 297

Genre:  Fantasy, Young Adult

For star-crossed lovers Nimira and Erris, there can be no happily ever after until Erris is freed from the clockwork form in which his soul is trapped. And so they go in search of the sorcerer Ordorio Valdana, hoping he will know how to grant Erris real life again. When they learn that Valdana has mysteriously vanished, it's not long before Nimira decides to take matters into her own hands—and begins to study the sorcerer's spell books in secret. Yet even as she begins to understand the power and limitations of sorcery, it becomes clear that freeing Erris will bring danger—if not out-and-out war—as factions within the faerie world are prepared to stop at nothing to prevent him from regaining the throne. 

Dolamore's writing in Magic Under Stone is starting to resemble a cross between the styles of Diana Wynn Jones or Patricia C. Wrede and Maria V. Snyder. There is a lightness to the writing, yet at the same the same times the characters are deep and the world-building complicated.

Magic Under Stone is the sequel to Magic Under Glass and succeeds in being both a follow up to what happens next to Nim and Erris, and being a book of growth and expansion for Nimira. It also expands the world more, adding a Jinn character that we follow from time to time. Usually I don't like switching perspective if I have gotten in the habit of following just one character, but I think this book would have suffered without the Jinn's point of view as the way he is under his curse or slavery causes him to not act as he wants all the time.

My favourite part of the story is hands down Nimira's growth, however. Although she is a great character in Magic Under Glass, she doesn't grow too much, her naivety from running from home to become famous in another country still showing. In this book, however, Nimira realizes that she is not the fake trouser girl that she portrayed for years, but she also isn't the "Lady" that Hollin had shaped her into being. She finds herself in this book and I really like that. She also finds her own talents and abilities.

The one thing that annoyed me (but that's just because of personal tastes, other people love this kind of stuff) is the constant drama between her and Erris. Of course it's realistic given their situation and helps to dash any "instalove" issues, but he is just so angsty.

I recommend this book to people who loved Magic Under Glass and I recommend both books to those who love fantasy with a touch of fairytale and now mythological influences. I am quite sad that this is the last book in this world, because I feel like it could hold more stories (with different characters possibly).


Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Midsummer's Night Giveaway: The YA Paranormal Versions

Today's post uses Wrecked by Anna Davies as a jumping point.
Read my review of this book: Wrecked Review

Wrecked is written in a style that is very, very well known to anyone who reads a lot of Young Adult books nowadays. That style would be the very popular style of YA Paranormal. I have to admit, YA Paranormal is not  my personal style so I tend to be a bit hard on it. I'm not much for the drama and angst that these books are full of.

Although when it comes to fairytales, The Little Mermaid is a perfect for the drama/angst formula.

This style is becoming somewhat popular. The most popular fairytale adaptation in this style is hands down Beastly by Alex Finn. Although there was that "Red Riding Hood" movie that they actually wrote a book from that fits the bill as well. I really do think with fairytales becoming more popular, we'll see more and more of this style coming about.

As for The Little Mermaid, there are a few other adaptations out there, as the fairytale itself is very popular, but I feel like Disney took the cake here and a lot of writers have a hard time competing with such a heavy weight. Wrecked sets itself apart, for sure, by switching the male/female roles of the original tale.

Also, check out the "Beauty and the Beast" Themed post over at Raiding Bookshelves:

A Midsummers Night's Giveaway: Beauty and the Beast

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Program

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly event hosted by 
Breaking the Spine and spotlights upcoming novels we can't wait to read. This week’s choice is:

The Program
Suzanne Young

Expected Publication Date:  April 30th 2013 (FIXED)

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. 

With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in.

And The Program is coming for them

For some reason I really like the idea of dystopian societies thinking emotion is bad. That's part of the reason I enjoyed Delirium. But in this case I also think that with the rise of people addressing suicide and depression considered being rampant nowadays, I don't see something like this being so farfetched as a futuristic problem (you could say that in Japan this is already a national crisis that they keep trying to help with). I also really like Young's stylistic way of writing and I wonder how it will go with a plot like this.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Book Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen


A.C. Gaughen

Publication Date: February 14th 2012

Publisher: Walker Childrens

Pages: 388

Genre:  Historical, Adventure, Young Adult

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance. 

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.

First of all, look at this gorgeous cover! I absolutely adore the art, I've stared a the detail under the eyes and the freckles forever. What's funny, is that although I love this cover, it had absolutely no impact on why I wanted to read this book. I read this book because I love adaptations of history with strong female characters. When I was young Disney's Robin Hood was one of my favourite Disney Movies, and I wanted to be a Merry Men so badly, but of course I was a girl so instead I was just sad.

So when I read that this book is Robin Hood with Will Scarlet cast as a female under the guise of being male I jumped on it right away. It was everything I was hoping and more.

Scarlet is such a great character, her voice is unique and very in with the time, her way of carrying herself truly male, as is the way she deals with Robin and Little John. I had more trouble reading Scarlet as female than as male and that fact tickles me as she's been living as a male for so long that should be how it is. Robin, Little John and Much were excellently done as well. You can really tell that Gaughen is a huge fan of Robin the Hood, as the book has a researched feel, though she does do her own take on it. I love how Robin is charming, but at the same time quiet to his real feelings, while Little John is always up in your face.

I liked how the love triangle plays out in the book as well because it's not in your face. She likes Robin, but doesn't really know if it's just a silly crush or real feelings, while he's so shut in we as the readers aren't even sure if he likes her. Little John on the other hand feels like a male friend just realizing his female friend is indeed a female. He is overprotective of her, but it's also pretty obvious that she doesn't really have strong feelings for him in that way.

But of course I was hoping that she'd go for Robin, because I like them as a couple.

The greatest thing about this book, beside Scarlet's voice, however, is the prose. I absolutely adored the prose's style and I thought it was really well done. I would read another book by this author in a heartbeat.

I recommend this to any Robin Hood fan, any Historical Fiction fan, and any fan of good writing. I plan on buying a hard copy of this book, because I enjoyed it so much. It's my favourite read among a lot of good books that I've been reading lately.