Sawcat's Book Blog

Shiver (Wolves of Mercy Falls Series #1)

Shiver  - Maggie Stiefvater, Jenna Lamia, David LeDoux I've been seeing this around the young adult blogs, so figured I tried it when I saw the library had it. I liked the premise she used with her wolves storyline. Its a bit of a twist to the tradition werewolf story, which gives them more of a natural existence, for a supernatural being. Instead of changing once a month, the werewolves change when the weather gets cold enough, returning to human form when its warmer weather, but eventually changing into a wolf permanently.Unfortunately for me, there was not enough focus on the wolf story line. The romance side of the story took over, and overpowered the supernatural side. It features one moony high school girl who falls in love with a werewolf teen guy. The story is told from both perspectives, so you get two voices internally wondering if the other likes them, how much they like them, and just plain thinking about the other all the damn time. It feels fake, and sugary and just not very enticing.Another strike against this audiobook was that I just didn't like either of the readers at all. There was not much emotion or any impression that acting was occurring. It seemed more like they were just reading, with very little changes in tone. Plus the woman reading Grace's chapters sounded very young, and the guy reading Sam's chapters sounded much older than the woman, so my psyche was coming up with an unpleasant mental image. My dislike of the readers may have influenced my impression of the novel, but by the end it was difficult to separate the two sides.If you want to try this one, I strongly recommend you skip the audiobook and just read it.
Hearts Restored - Prue Phillipson Set at the start of the Restoration of Charles II, Hearts Restored follows Daniel Wilson Horden, the only male of his generation of the Horden family. On the day Charles II returns to London, Daniel and his parents meet up with some relations, where he is thrust into the path of three female cousins of marriageable age. Less than eager to be trapped into a marriage so soon, Daniel puts off his dream of joining the navy by following his father's wishes to enter the university. As a secondary story line, we follow Daniel's cousin Eunice who is raised by her widowed, Puritan father. Having a glimpse at the extravagant lifestyle of some of her Horden cousins, it clashes with the austere teachings of her father. Within five years, the characters are caught up in the war with the Dutch, the Great Plague, and the Great Fire raging through London.I've always enjoyed stories set in the Napoleonic Wars and other military engagements around the time of the Regency, so the naval aspect of Hearts Restored. However, I was a little disappointed that There was not more of Daniel's live in the Navy. There was only a few chapters dedicated to it, and one major battle, but oh what a dramatic story in Daniel's life that battle creates.It was an interesting juxtaposition between Eunice's life in a Puritan household, to Daniel's more (monetarily) comfortable life, and that of the wealthy Horden cousins. Most of my experience learning about the Puritans in history deals with those who immigrated to the American colonies. The information about Puritan England I found informative, and I thought Phillipson did a good job instilling some of the fear and horror over the plague and the Great Fire into her novel.Hearts Restored has the romantic plottings one might expect in a novel set in the Romantic Era, but in this case the older women tend to focus more of their attentions on Daniel. They tease him, and try to force his opinions or attentions towards one of his cousins, and I found it unusual that these attentions were given so openly to a man. To be sure, they treat the young ladies in the same way, but for some they seem to have nothing better to do than tease Daniel about their schemings as well.The relationship between Eunice and Daniel is sweet, but rather predictable, although that did not detract from the story for me. If anyone is looking for a clean read, this will work well for you, with exception of the naval battle. Overall, I would have liked a little something more for this to be a solid four star read for me. Aside from Eunice's father, all of the characters are of a fairly easy going temperment, so a little more of a fiesty or quarrelsome behavior could have lent a little more contrast to the characters.3.5-4 stars. I recieved a copy from the publisher for review.
The Hermetica of Elysium (The Elysium Texts Series, #1) - Annmarie Banks I really enjoyed this novel. I got sucked right into Nadira's story and didn't want to put it down. It is set during the Spanish Inquisition and the reign of Pope Alexander VI (Rodrigo Borgia). Nadira is a slave who manages the accounts and correspondence for her master, the spice merchant when the agents of the Inquisition bring a scholar to the home so she can translate for them. They are looking for the Hermetica of Elysium and in their question of the scholar, they mortally wound him. Days after his death, the scholar's brother and protector arrives to learn the details of his brother's death. Vowing to take up his brother's cause, upon learning of Nadira's skill with languages, they head off in search of the Hermetica.Nadira is a very likable character. In a time when women frequently couldn't read or write their native tongues, Nadira can understand six languages and is extremely intelligent. She analyzes situations and is very perceptive. And she is not hesitant in being direct or honest with the men she encounters, if it does not harm her in any way. These are all excellent qualities for a heroine in contemporary novels, and really drew me to the character. These modern qualities are inserted in a way that it fits with the time the story is set in. Nadira frequently is asked why she knows so many languages, and she also has fears on how others, like the Black Friars could twist her knowledge to use against her.One thing that struck me near the end of the book (actually while reading the sample for the second book), was while there was a romantic angle that appears midway through the story, it is a very clean story. Set in a time when the Pope had mistresses and featuring a young women taken out of her home by a group of strange men, one might expect learing, or the threat of rape, and once the romance blossoms, some physical action on the mutual feelings. But that never happens, and it doesn't need to happen either. You don't miss it, and the story doesn't need those salacious events or descriptions. Though it does give Nadira's traveling companions a bit of a chivalric air, even though from the stories they tell that they aren't quite the ideal chivalrous knights of Arthurian legend.Banks does a good job in her variety of the characters she writes. Even in the backdrop of the Inquisition, there is variety in the clergymen. Some are strong supporters of the Inquisitions, some concerned with knowledge and learning, others for caring for their flock. The characters are not one dimensional, but have their good and their bad side, so learning which way they would go made it interesting. Banks also does a good job of blending the different ideology, for there are several discussions on philosophy between the characters.What disappointed me the most was reaching the end. I was not ready for Nadira's journey to end. But it didn't really. The second book in the series, The Necromancer's Grimoire is expected to be released in September of 2012.
Catching the Eagle - Karen Charlton Catching the Eagle is a nice light, quick read. Set during the Regency period, this story follows the lives of those in the middle and lower classes. Set in northern England, the story has us meeting the Charlton family, of whom one of the eldest sons is accused of stealing from the local estate. To me, this was a unique point of view, for a novel set in this time. The Charltons, and most of the people we encounter in the book are all working people. The Charltons are farmers or perform odd jobs around the region. Most of the novels I've ready that are set in this time are ones that mostly deal with the people in the big houses, or those in their social circles. What makes it more interesting, is that these are real people. Jamie Charlton is an ancestor of the author's husband, who was tried for the robbery that is the basis of the novel.While it was a fun and light mystery novel feel, and it had a good ending that tied things up, it was not the most satisfying ending to a story. Although, I suspect that is largely related to the nature of the crime and what was known when the events took place. However, this is the first novel of a series based on the border reivers (robbers or raiders along the Scottish border, according to the author), so I hope we get to see more of the Charltons in the next one.
Harald Hardrada: The Last Viking - Michael Burr I found the historical aspect of this book quite fascinating, as I know little of the Viking period. I'd heard of their reputations of ruthlessness and skilled warriors, and this certainly did not lack any of those episodes. The story is told through the eyes of The Scraeling. His voice is the first we hear, and his declaration in the prologue that really hooked me into the story. The reader is quickly inserted into the account of how The Scraeling came to be serving Harald Hardrada, in the account of the viking's violent pillaging of the convent where he lived. The episode is described in detail, and for any who find it hard reading violent episodes, including rape, will likely have difficulties getting past the story of how The Scraeling came to be a trusted secretary. However, this was one of the most, if not the most violent episode depicted in the novel, so if you can get through it, you are in for an interesting read. Harald traveled greatly, working as a mercenary for his kin in Kiev and for Empress Zoe of Constantinople. The reader also gets treated to excerpts of the Heimskringla, the famous Norse saga, during the section breaks.My biggest criticism was the use of some modern sounding slang terms. These are terms in use today, and having them in a story in the time before William the Bastard claimed the English throne to become William the Conqueror made what seemed like a jarring contrast to the more period sounding voice of the rest of the novel. More authentic sounding terms would have maintained the mood better throughout the book. However, I found most of slang seemed to centered around the attack on the convent at the start, and later in Harald's relations with Empress Zoe. Once I realized that most of that sort of language was past, I was left to enjoy Scraeling's schemeings. The story gets told between the first person, where Scraeling is validating or commenting on the events well after they happened, then in the third person depicting the events as it happened. I found this to be effective, and gave the feeling of reading the memoirs of Scraeling.I found it to be an interesting read, and if not for the language issue, I would have given it a full four stars. I received a copy from the publisher for honest review.
Of Faith and Fidelity: Geoffrey Hotspur and the War for St Peter's Throne - Evan Ostryzniuk This novel is set in the spring and summer of 1394, during a time referred to as the Western Schism of the Catholic Church. During the time of the novel, Clement VII and Boniface IX were claiming to be the true Pope. This is not a period I am much familiar with, but I enjoyed this small dip into Papal and Italian history. As the author mentions in his notes on the novel, this a period of political strife in the Church, and not a period of conflict over theological interpretations.In some ways, this story of squire Geoffrey Hotspur, reminds me of the starts of the Horatio Hornblower and Richard Sharpe tales, although those take place some 400 years later during the Regency period. We start with Hotspur, who is early in his military career, serving as a squire in the Gaunt household. He is young, impetuous, and just about the lowest man on the career path of significance (knighthood). He is flawed, gambling away the little money he has in rash bets and letting his emotions get the better of him, But during the course of the novel, we start to see Hotspur start to grow and mature, as a man and a soldier.I enjoyed the relationship between Jean and Geoffrey. They meet by "happenstance", and then find themselves on the same ship to Florence. They develop an interesting friendship, where Geoffrey treats Jean more as his squire or valet, than what you would typically think of as friendship. After bouts of betrayal, by the end of the novel, they are still together, and the curious friendship is much the same as it was. It is almost an odd couple type of relationship, and I see much potential for them if they stay together into the next novel.Since the novel focuses on the military campaigns during this period of the Western Schism, it is heavy with descriptions of military movements, arms shielding, and battle maneuvers. The military details made this a slower read for me, but understanding some of the weapons of the time and their usage is important to the novel, not just in depicting the historic battles, but showing their effects on Geoffrey and Jean. If you read military history or historical fiction, you will be familiar with much of it already.I enjoyed this read, and will be looking forward to seeing what Lady Fortuna has in store for Geoffrey Hotspur in the next novel. I recieved a copy from the publisher for an honest review.

Artemis Rising

Artemis Rising - Cheri Lasota As I was thinking about what I wanted to write for this review, my brain keeps calling up that oft quoted line from Romeo and Juliet, "What's in a name? That which we call a rose By any other name would smell as sweet." But what if the name really did matter? In Artemis Rising, those who adopt these new names also adopt the fates of their namesakes. When Eva fully accepts her mother's belief system, and adopts the name Arethusa, she very quickly finds her life paralleling that of her namesake nymph. I love a good myth, but this was the first time I've come across that of Alpheus and Arethusa. Upon looking up the myth after finishing the book, I was impressed on how well the myth was translated to fit the life of a teen in the turn of the century Azores yet keep the parallels. The Tristan and Isolde legend I was more familiar with, and I found that inclusion was a bit more subtly done. The result is a love triangle and triangle of ideology. I always enjoy a lead female character who can take care of herself, even if she needs help from the guys sometimes. Eva/Arethusa certainly fills this role. All the characters are strong characters and well written. This is a great addition to the increasingly popular mythology adaptation genre. This is Lasota's first novel, and I look forward to more from her.I received a copy of this from the author for review.
Of Moths and Butterflies - V.R. Christensen,  B. Lloyd This novel has an interesting perspective, of following a fallen woman who belongs to the middle-upper classes. It has a good pace, and an easy reading style that I easily got into. The main character had a hesitance based on her past experiences that was believable, but it seemed to go on a bit too long, making the novel feel longer than it really needed to be. I will look forward to reading more from this author. I would also recommend checking out the novel for the fantastic artwork between chapters.
The Night Circus - Erin Morgenstern This book has a great descriptions which lets the reader really picture the setting of this rather surreal circus. However the story dragged in places, and the author's depiction of time can be rather confusing at time. The style is readable, but the story does not have a satisfying ending.

Doc

Doc - Mary Doria Russell Did not finish this one. Research was good but stylistically it is all over the map. Parts sound more like biography, and parts read like the historical fiction it is, and this is within one section of one chapter. There is no sense of time. The writing style suggests that it is told fairly straight through without large gaps in time, except one event a few chapters prior you find out was actually three years before! Also the title is very deceptive, as the majority of the 200 pages I made it through are not related to Doc Holliday in the least. It is more about everyone envolved in the OK Corral shooting.
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children - Ransom Riggs I loved this novel. I think the photographs added so much to the story, and it rather reminds me of going through my grandparents' pictures and them breaking off into some story or other. I had heard other people who thought the book was creepy, but I never had that feeling (though I suspect it takes a lot to weird me out. most "scary" movies tend to be more boring or stupid in my book). The subject matter (period before The Blitz, persecution) could get to be a little intense for some readers, given that it is marketed as a young adult novel, but I thought it balanced out with the lighter moments of the book. Now I got this as a library e-book, and the pictures were about the size of the photographs of the time on my Nook Color, but I heard some people express that they had difficulty seeing them on their readers, so if you don't have a tablet or larger size reader, you might consider checking out a physical copy if you are borrowing it from the library.

A Kingdom's Cost: Book I of The Douglas Trilogy: 1

A Kingdom's Cost - J.R. Tomlin Earlier in the year I had review Tomlin's Freedom's Sword, which was set a few years earlier than the events in this book. My biggest comment on that was that it was so battle focused, and that it would have been nice to have more of Moray's personal life explored to balance out the military life. I do not have the same feelings on A Kingdom's Cost. Between James's relationship with Isabella, and later with Alycie Dickson, there is a nice balance between the military and personal aspects of James's life. This had the same quick pace as the other novel. This also has the good battle descriptions, which are descriptive enough to be able to picture the battles, but not in so great a detail that might turn off some readers. I really enjoyed this novel and will be looking forward to the second installment. I received this book from the author for review.
Reign of the Nightmare Prince - Mike  Phillips I received this through the Early Reviewers program at Library Thing. This book was difficult to read, but not because it was a heavy subject. It was difficult because it was very confusing. There were four or five different points of view in the first six chapters of the book, and the reader is thrust into each, without getting any of the background on some of the major themes that run through out the book. While I normally feel like I generally pick up easily the major points and settings of the books I read, in this one I felt I didn't get the basic background of one of the main groups until I was about three-quarters of the way through the book. While the main storyline would have been interesting enough if flushed out more, it was disjointed by what seemed unnecessary point of view changes, or information that didn't seem to pan out in the end of the book. I still am not certain how or who the title pertains to.Additionally, the e-book was formated poorly. There were no chapters in the contents section, so if you wanted to go back to something, you had to go all the way back to the table of contents page and use the links on it. But it also refused to show the bookmarks I had placed, so you had to keep track of that if you backtracked for something. Chapters seemed to start whenever on a page, and not on a new one. And there were a few pages that had from 1-5 lines on it only, but it wasn't an end of the chapter. The formating just added to the overall frustration withe the book.
Heat Wave (Nikki Heat) - Richard Castle This is a tie in novel for the tv series Castle. The tv show, if you have not seen it, is about a popular mystery writer who shadows a NYPD detective to research a new book he is writing. When the second season starts, his book Heat Wave is released, and this is the same book. The book follows a journalist, Jameson Rook who is shadowing NYPD detective Nikki Heat for background on a story he is writing. Fans of the show will see many similarities between Rook and Heat, and Castle and Beckett. If you watch the show, you will recognize different bits of the novel's case as pulled from some of the tv show's cases, as you might expect. It also reads a bit like a self insertion piece, where Castle basically writes himself in as Rook, and lets him live out his (Castle's) fantasies a bit. Not that I'll fault him for it, since fans of the series who ship Beckett and Castle pretty much thought similar ideas. Its not a long book, and is an easy read. It has all the banter and some of the tension found in the tv series. It makes a nice way to fill the summer gap while waiting for the series to return. If you like the tv show, you should like this.

Graceling

Graceling - Kristin Cashore A very refreshing young adult novel with an atypical female lead. Katsa is a Graceling, a person born with a special enhanced ability (not a super power persay, as they are more mundane abilities; referred to as a Grace), and evident by having eyes of two different colors. Katsa's Grace is for fighting and her uncle the King uses her as his enforcer. Katsa is a smart woman, can easily beat or kill anyone who comes against her and desires none of the trappings or roles for the women of her country. She can take care of herself, and frequently is the one doing the rescuing. This a good book for young girls, and a good alternative for a genre which can be filled with princesses needing rescuing or focused on marriage.
The Red Garden - Alice Hoffman This was an interesting novel. Its the story of a town, a family, all centered around a garden. It begins with the founding of the town of Blackwell, originally Bearsville. It tells the 200+ year history of the descendants of Hallie Brady, who founded the two, and whose garden with blood red soil turned everything it grew red. Each chapter focuses on a different generation of Brady descendants, so it reads like a collection of short stories. Or an oral genealogical history of the family and town. It reminded me greatly of some of the little family stories that have passed down, except you get to see how some of the town legends originated in this. I found it well written and a quick read.

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