The Sultan’s Favorite by Anne Burnside – Review

The Sultan’s Favorite by Anne Burnside is the single best Phantom of the Opera “sequel” I have read. Much the way Susan Kay’s Phantom retold the original story in fabulous detail; Anne Burnside has opened a window into what happened to Erik after the curtain dropped in the original as well as fleshing out the character’s background and giving us an insight into his thoughts.

The story opens with Erik as the architect in charge of building a fantastic palace for the sultan of the Ottoman Empire. The sultan soon acquires a third wife who quickly becomes his favorite. Erik is drawn to Alexandria for her beauty as well as her intelligence and in the process of working with her on her portion of the palace, he finds himself losing his heart again. Is history destined to repeat itself or is this a woman who can finally see the true man behind the mask? Even then, how can they ever be free to be together?

The writing was riveting and I was sucked into the story from the very beginning. It had everything you could want in a book including romance, action, intrigue, mystery and suspense.  The re-emergence of characters from the original Phantom of the Opera merged seamlessly with the new characters. The only fault I could find with this book is that it eventually had to end. Rarely do I read a book that once finished, makes me want to immediately reread it but The Sultan’s Favorite is such a one.

There is even a glimmer at the end (at least to my mind) that a sequel to this book could be possible.  If that were true, I would snatch it up in an instant (and perhaps even do a little happy dance). Regardless, this is Anne Burnside’s debut novel and I look forward to reading anything else she comes out with.

A Curse Dark as Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce – Review

cursedarkasgold

I usually jump at the chance to read any kind of fairytale retelling as soon as it comes out.  For some reason, I waited a bit to read A Curse Dark as Gold and now after reading it, I can’t believe it took me that long!

This is the best retelling of the Grimm’s Rumpelstiltskin that I have read. This time, the  miller is a woman and the setting is England poised on the edge of the Industrial Revolution. Charlotte’s father has recently passed away leaving  Charlotte the care of the town mill and her younger sister. The Miller family and the mill itself have long been plagued with strange happenings and horrible events. Is it a curse or just superstition?

The mysterious spinner is sufficently sinister and the ending of the book is compelling and ties up all loose ends nicely.

This story is  a fairy tale, romance, intrigue and adventure all rolled into one.  The writing is beautiful reminding me very much of Shannon Hale’s fabulous tale of The Goose Girl. I would suggest this book to anyone who loves Libba Bray or Shannon Hale or just interested in fairy tale retellings in general.

“Not being the sort to throw a book, she pounded her fist on her cushion.” Ellen Kushner from The Privilege of the Sword

icy-treesNot usually one to mock another’s pain, I witnessed something today that I feel the need to share with others. I will get to that in a moment but I first have to describe the events leading up to ” the incident” as I will call it.

I have recently discovered Bookmooch.com. It is  a great idea. Here is how it works. You list books on the site that you own that you don’t want anymore. You get points for doing so. People ask for your books. You get points for sending them. You then use your points to ask for books from other people. Yes, you have to pay for shipping but media mail for a  hardback is less than $3. When is the last time you bought a book for less than $3? (and no the annual library sale does not count!!)

So, anyway….I have requested about 30 books and they have been flowing in like the most wonderful literary honey via my mailbox. This is where I come to “the incident”.

Today, it was rather slippery and cold outside. It was the first icy day we have had in quite a while so it is understandable that some people might have a harder time getting their bearings. My friendly neighborhood mailman walk up onto my porch, deposited my mail in the box and then walked away. I could see him through the blinds in the front room and was disappointed to see that he wasn’t carrying any books with him.

A few minutes later, after going and getting his little mail van, he came back and parked in front of my house. He then got out with a big pile of books and proceeded to walk briskly up my front walkway. He lost his footing on the slippery sidewalk and fell down with a loud thud. I stood up to see if he was ok. I was wondering if I should go outside and check on him when he stood up, picked up my pile of books and flung them at my front door where they landed with a loud THUNK!   I then decided it would probably be wiser to stay inside than to go out and try to talk to him.

I feel like I should make the poor guy some cookies or something. After all, he is the last and most interagal part of the very long chain that helps to support my voracious book habit.

I wasn’t going to blog about it, but then Kenci gave me the perfect quote for the title so…I had to.

For those of you that are worried….the books were fine.😉

The Luxe and Rumors by Anna Godbersen – Review

The Luxe books

The Luxe books

Think Gossip Girl meets turn of the century. All of the fabulous balls, gorgeous gowns, gossip, scandal and secrets that you  love in early 1900s New York City.

The story starts out with Elizabeth Holland’s funeral. She was the “it” girl and all of the who’s who has come out in fabulous style to see and be seen. (and to grieve of course) There is Penelope Hayes. Penelope is the exotic, nouveau riche best friend of Elizabeth.  We are also introduced to the very rich playboy Henry Schoonmaker whom Elizabeth was to wed on the very day of her funeral. Lastly we are introduced to Elizabeth’s younger, unconventional sister Diana who hurries down the aisle, unable to conceal the smile on her face.

The story then goes back several months so that we learn the events that unfold up to the funeral. I was hooked from the very beginning. Friends who aren’t really your friends. Backstabbing, lies, betrayals. The Luxe has it all. I have also read Rumors which tells the story of the aftermath of Elizabeth’s funeral and specifically about her sister Diana but I don’t want to give too much away because that would ruin book one for you. Let’s just say it keeps getting better and better.

Actually, now that I think about it, to compare these books to Gossip Girl is unfair. These books are much much better. I look forward to reading the 3rd book in the series.

“Books May Well Be The Only True Magic” – Alice Hoffman

2008 Year End Review
Number of Books Read: 100
First Book Read:
Confessor by Terry Goodkind
Last Book Read: The Magicians and Mrs. Quent by Galen Beckett

Top 10 Books Read
• The Book of Lost Things – John Connolly
• The Sugar Queen – Sarah Addison Allen
• The Secret History of the Pink Carnation – Lauren Willig
• I, Coriander – Sally Gardner
• The Monsters of Templeton – Lauren Groff
• The Confession of Max Tivoli – Andrew Sean Greer
• The Magicians and Mrs.Quent – Galen Beckett
• The Sweet Far Thing – Libba Bray
• Breaking Dawn – Stephanie Meyer
• Swallowing Darkness – Laurell K. Hamilton

Top 10 Worst Books Read
• Cruel Summer – Allison Noel
• Queen of Dragons – Shana Abe
• Star-Crossed – Linda Collison
• Looking Glass Wars – Frank Beddor
• Orphans of Chaos – John C. Wright
• In the Forest of the Night – Amelia Atwater Rhodes
• Any Given Doomsday – Lori Handeland
• Rumor of Gems – Ellen Steiber
• Saving Juliet – Suzanne Selfors
• Accordion Crimes – E. Annie Proulx

I read 1 less book this year than last year. That is pretty good considering I promised myself in 2008 that if I did not like a book by page 100, I would stop reading it and not include it on my list of books read. So there are quite a few of those in additon to the 100 I actually completed. I definitely found some new favorite authors this year like Lauren Willig, Sarah Gardner, Lauren Groff and Andrew Sean Greer. I also read quite a few stinkers which is why I added the Top 10 Worst Books Read list.

Must Reads of 2009

I keep adding more and more books but here are the 20 books that I absolutely will be reading this year. I also plan to read more books that I actually own and stop borrowing from Kenci and the library so much. Even though I got my beautiful new bookcases, they are all full so I have to thin the herd especially since the library book sale is coming up at the end of February.

• The Girl Who Chased the Moon – Sarah Addison Allen
• The Swan Thieves – Elizabeth Kostova
• New Amsterdam – Elizabeth Bear
• The Temptation of the Night Jasmine – Lauren Willig (Pink Carnation Book 5)
• The Court of the Air – Stephen Hunt
• Ladies of Grace Adieu – Susanna Clarke
• The Story Sisters – Alice Hoffman
• Delicate Edible Birds – Lauren Groff
• Nocturnes – John Connolly
• Revelations – Melissa de la Cruz (Blue Bloods Book 3)
• The Name of the Wind – Patrick Rothfuss (Kingkiller Chronicles Book 1)
The Last Wish – Andrzej Sapkowski
• The Bloody Chamber – Angela Carter
• Porcelain Dove – Delia Sherman
• The House at Riverton – Kate Morton
• The Meaning of Night – Michael Cox
The Glass of Time – Michael Cox
• Midnight Never Come – Marie Brennan
• The Big Fish – Daniel Wallace
• The Little Giant of Aberdeen County – Tiffany Baker



*  a small caveat to this list is that I also endeavor to read and critique anything that Dani places before me via email, blog, text or tiny USB drive in a TIMELY manner this year. Of course, it doesn’t hurt that her stuff is very, very good.

Well, I guess that about sums it all up. I pretty much pilfered Kenci’s format for this blog but they say that imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Actually, I’m just a lazy bookwhore.😉

Now I am off to read!