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Canadian eReader - Page 8 of 74 - E-reader and book reviews

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – Review

passenger
Passenger by Alexandra Bracken – ReviewPassenger by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 496 pages
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken is a young adult fantasy novel, the first in a duology, marketed as a treasure hunt through time.  It focusses on the characters of Etta, a young 21st century woman and Nicholas, a black man from the 1700s, both of whom have the genetic ability to travel through passages in time and space.  They embark on a journey through time to locate the astrolabe, the series McGuffin, in order to prevent its falling into the hands of the Ironwoods giving them power to change history.

What I liked

The time travel system.  I really enjoyed this aspect of the book.  It was very well thought out and the rules and limitations were well explained.  Often in fantasy it’s the limitations on magical powers that make them most interesting and generate the most interesting stories.  At the risk of spoiling the novel I won’t say too much more, but this aspect was very well done.

The character development.  Writing believable and consistent characters is one of Bracken’s strengths.  I could easily believe the characters actions and reactions based on what they’d already experienced.  

The social commentary. Having two characters whose race or gender has historically deprived them of power and placing them in situations where that is emphasised was inspired.  It leads to some scenes that are both funny and poignant.  

The writing and the pacing.  This was excellent – the story kept moving along at a brisk pace with the tension managed expertly.  It’s amazing what a deadline can do for plot pacing!  Of course, I hadn’t expected anything less from the writer of The Darkest Minds series.

What I didn’t like

The romance.  Don’t get me wrong; I enjoyed the relationship between Etta and Nicholas.  What irritated me though was the fact that they allowed it to overshadow everything else.  They were on a very tight deadline and yet they still took a lot of time out to enjoy each other’s company.  Focus, people!

Bland characters.  I will say I enjoyed the situations in which the characters found themselves more than the characters themselves.  Yes, they did have a few moments of awesome, and yes, their character development was realistic, but I wasn’t particularly engaged by them.  

All in all I really enjoyed this book and gave it four out of five stars.  I look forward to Wayfarer, the conclusion of the story.

As an aside, if you enjoyed Passenger, I would strongly recommend you check out Kerstin Geir’s Ruby Red trilogy. This explores a very similar premise of time travel, but the heroine is much more fun and sassy than Etta.

four-stars

My top three fictional relationships

Today I thought I’d tell you about my top three fictional relationships.  While I do not consider myself a hard core shipper, there are a few pairings in which I am super invested, and here they are.

The Doctor and River Song (BBC, Doctor Who)

Perhaps I should provide some background here for those readers unfamiliar with the BBC series.  The Doctor is a space and time travelling alien from the planet Gallifrey who has a special fondness for Earth and who is frequently called upon to use his smarts and trusty sonic screwdriver to save the world.  As a Time Lord, he has the unique trait that, when he is severely injured, his body regenerates, giving a whole new look and personality to the character.  River Song is a slightly-more-than-human time traveller whose timeline collides on a regular basis with that of The Doctor.

Showrunner Russell T Davies, who introduced River to the show, has said that his inspiration for the character was Audrey Niffinegger’s novel The Time Traveler’s Wife in which a time traveller’s relationship with his wife is complicated by his meeting her at different points in her life.  The first time we – and The Doctor – meet River is shortly before her death when it’s clear she has already enjoyed a long and event filled relationship with The Doctor, one of which The Doctor is unaware.  Her devastation that her Doctor doesn’t know her is beautifully and poignantly played by Alex Kingston.

Throughout the following series, we learn more about River and her relationship with our favourite Gallifreyan.  Not only is their relationship complicated by jumping in and out of each other’s timelines – their first action upon meeting is to compare diaries to pinpoint where they are in their timelines – but also The Doctor’s changing personality due to his regenerations.  

Why I love this relationship.  In spite of the time travel and fantasy elements, there is a lot of human in this relationship, particularly the fear that a loved one will no longer be able to remember you or share in the memories of events you’ve experienced together.  That is the aspect of the relationship that touched me the most.  I’ll be perfectly honest here and say that much of my investment in this relationship comes from Alex Kingston’s performance as River.  it has to be said, she has some very cheesy lines: “I live for the days when I see him, but I know that every time that I do he’ll be one step further away. The day is coming when I’ll look into that man’s eyes, my Doctor, and he won’t have the faintest idea who I am. And I think it’s going to kill me.”  Kingston delivers those lines with such truth you can’t help but feel for her character.

Fitz and The Fool (Robin Hobb, Realm of the Elderlings)

Again, perhaps some background might be necessary here.  Fitz is the protagonist of Hobb’s Farseer and Tawny Man trilogies.  These are typical epic fantasy novels in which  the Fool prophesies a dire end for the Six Duchies unless he and Fitz can work together to prevent it.  Their adventures together creates a very strong bond between them, and it is a joy to watch their friendship develop.  

What makes this relationship very different in epic fantasy is the Fool’s gender fluidity.  At some points in the narrative he (I’ll use the male pronoun just for convenience) presents as male, at other points, he is female.  Throughout the series the Fool is extremely careful and adept at avoiding situations which may reveal his physical gender – he avoids bathing in public and refuses medical attention.  There are moments where Fitz could ascertain the truth of the situation but out of respect for his friend he refuses.  At this point I wonder if the Fool’s physical gender will ever be revealed – and more to the point, what difference it would actually make.

His gender has absolutely no bearing on the Fool’s love for Fitz; as far as he is concerned, Fitz is the centre of his world, his other half.  Fitz, on the other hand, views things differently.  For him a physical relationship is an integral part of a pair bond, something he struggles to accept with the Fool, given that he views him as male.  The Fool’s comment on that is very astute;  “You are confusing plumbing and love again.” I believe though that Fitz is lying to himself about the depth of his love for the Fool.  This central conflict between the pair has yet to be resolved – there is one more book to come in the Fitz and the Fool series – and I am so impatient to see how Hobb has the pair overcome this hurdle.  

As far as I am concerned, Fitz and the Fool is endgame.  Hobb all but confirmed it when Jinna the hedge witch reads Fitz’s palm and says “By your left hand, I’d say you had a sweet and true love in your short life. A love that ended only in your death. Yet here in your right hand, I see a love that wends its way in and out of all your many years. That faithful heart has been absent for a time, but is soon to return to you again.”  The very next chapter it’s not his previous love, Molly, who returns to Fitz’s life but the Fool.

Why I love this relationship.  The depth of the connection between Fitz and the Fool is so movingly written.  Both would happily give up their lives and/or happiness to ensure the other’s wellbeing.  I am so invested in the relationship and am keen to see how it develops.

Tessa Gray, Jem Carstairs and Will Herondale (Cassandra Clare, The Infernal Devices)

Generally I am not fond of love triangles, especially in young adult fiction.  All too often, it’s very clear from the beginning which couple the author intends as endgame (did anyone seriously expect Bella to end up with Jacob?)  and the third party serves as little more than a temporary roadblock on the way to true happiness.  Bleugh.  I’ve read that scenario far too often now for it to be remotely interesting.

The love triangle between Tessa, Jem and Will in The Infernal Devices is different.  The triangle is perfectly balanced in that both Jem and Will are written as valid partners for Tessa.  Clare does not make it clear which couple is endgame.  Jem and Will also have a very strong pre-existing bond and they love and respect each other as brothers.  Both are willing to sacrifice their lives and happiness so that the other may be happy.  I was genuinely upset that one of them had to step aside, and I couldn’t decide which Tessa should choose.

Why I love this relationship(s).  That ending.  Wow.  The way Clare resolved this triangle was just so beautiful and heart wrenching at the same time. She clearly did her work well to evoke such a reaction in me.

So there you have it, my top three fictional relationships. What they all have in common is that the love between the pairs is selfless – they would all give up their lives in a heartbeat to ensure their partner’s happiness – and that they all have interesting obstacles to overcome.  Let me know about your favourite fictional relationships in the comments!

Most anticipated reads of 2016 and other news

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My last entry talked about my favourite books of 2015, so now it’s time to talk about my most anticipated books of 2016.

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger is the latest book by Alexandra Bracken.  it is the start of a new YA series and is billed as a YA treasure hunt through time.  I really loved Bracken’s Darkest Minds series, so this sounds like a real winner to me.  The publisher has released a sampler, which I encourage you to check out.  Passenger is officially released in just a few days on January 5th 2016.

Lady Midnight by Cassandra ClareThis is the first book in a new series by Mortal Instruments writer Cassandra Clare.  It is set in the same world of the Shadowhunters but the action takes place in Los Angeles.  At first, I’d been a little sceptical of the setting; the older cities of London and New York seemed a more natural fit for vampires and demons than sunny Los Angeles.  However, the last book in the Mortal Instruments series, City of Heavenly Fire, functioned as much as a setup for this new series, introducing characters, locations and possible plotlines in the new series, and I am 100% convinced now.  I will certainly be devouring Lady Midnight when it is released on March 8th 2016.

Yellow Brick War by Danielle PaigeYellow Brick War is the third and final book in the Dorothy Must Die series by Danielle Paige.  This series is set in the world of L Frank Baum’s Oz in which Dorothy has turned wicked.  While I loved the world and protagonist – Amy Gumm – is wonderfully kick ass, yet real and flawed – but I was unhappy with the pacing of the first book.  The second book, The Wicked Will Rise, fixed these issues and had such a fantastic cliffhanger ending that I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Yellow Brick War is released on March 15th 2016.

Paper and Fire by Rachel CainePaper and Fire is the second in Rachel Caine’s Great Library series. I was originally drawn to Ink and Bone because of the world – a world in which the Great Library of Alexandria survives and exercises complete control over all published work.  Our protagonist discovers a way to break the Library’s control and ends up in danger.  With this book I came for the concept and stayed for the characters.  They are both engaging and intriguing and I can’t wait to see what happens next.  Paper and Fire is released on July 5th.

The next book in Scott Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series, The Thorn of Emberlain is scheduled to be released on July 21st 2016.  At least that’s what Amazon tells me.  I’m not certain how official that date is – it has been put back several times.  In any case, this is one book I am very much looking forward to.  I love the characters, the world and the writing is so sharp and witty.  I look forward to what the future holds for Locke.

The final book I’d like to mention is Heartless by Marissa Meyer.  This is a new series set in the world of Alice in Wonderland in the same way that the Lunar Chronicles were a retelling of traditional fairytales.  Other than the brief synopsis, not much has been revealed about this book.  I look forward to picking it up on November 8th 2016.

One book that I am not holding my breath anticipating in 2016 is George R.R. Martin’s continuation of The Song of Ice and Fire, The Winds of Winter.  In a recent blog post, Martin confirmed what most of us had expected: Winds of Winter will not be published before the upcoming sixth season of HBO’s Game of Thrones.  While disappointing, this is not surprising.  However, the tone of Martin’s post suggests that he still has a lot of work to do, and that he cannot say when it will be completed.  I’ll be interested to see how that affects viewing of the series.  Personally, I’m going to watch it and treat it like any other book adaptation – I’ll enjoy watching David and Dan’s interpretation and then read the original whenever Martin publishes it.  I do have more faith in Martin’s handling of the characters though.

Reading through my preorders and my most anticipated list, I see that the vast majority of them are YA fantasy type books.  One of my goals for 2016 should be to expand my reading genres.  That may be tricky – there are just so many good YA books coming out and so little time to read.  I do have some historical fiction, some Outlander and some biographies to read.  I also see that all of them are by authors with whom I’m already familiar.  That is probably also something to work on in 2016.  Because not yet published books don’t have Kindle previews, I’m a little more reluctant to commit my money to an unknown.  

This year I have set my GoodReads reading challenge to 80 books.  I feel that should be doable, even if I do listen to more audiobooks.

One very exciting thing I’m really looking forward to this year is attending BEA in Chicago!  This will be my first visit to the book expo and I’m so excited at the opportunity to spend time with people who are as passionate about books as I am.  I look forward to seeing some of you there.

Reading roundup of 2015

Now that 2015 is almost done, it’s time to review my reading year.  Thanks to GoodReads, I have a very good idea of how I did.

I had set my reading goal at 75 books, and I completed 87 with a total of 29,110 pages.  This is a little lower than the last few years, but I did enjoy many of these books in audiobook format, which does take longer.

The shortest book I read was Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne which had a total of 39 pages, and the longest was Voyager by Diana Gabaldon which weighed in at a hefty 870 pages.

I read some pretty amazing books this year.  So without further ado, in no particular order, here are the books I enjoyed most.

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb is pretty much defaulted to my top books list because I am so, so invested in the characters of Fitz and the Fool and their unconventional friendship.  Of course I was going to soak up every nuance of their continuing tale.  Hobb would have had to really mess it up for me not to like it. Fortunately, she produced a wonderful continuation to their story and I loved it.

You can see my full (spoilery) review here.

The Martian by Andy Weir The Martian by Andy Weir is perhaps the most unexpected entry in my top books so far.  This is because it is very much out of my usual genre(s).  For those of you who have not  heard of this, it’s a science fiction adventure about an astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars and how he has to use all his skills to “science the &^$% out of things” to survive.  Although there is a strong emphasis on the science side of things, it is beautifully blended with the personal and you can’t help but root for our hero’s survival.  At one point I was seriously tempted to text my friend to ask if he did survive, but I managed to restrain myself. Watney’s story is told primarily in a first-person journal style and the writing is very accessible.  I listened to this in audiobook format, which was a wonderful way to get into the story.

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was one of the books which really got under my skin this year.  It is an alternative history set in a world in which the Nazis won World War II. We follow our protagonist, Yael, who is a death camp survivor, and her mission to kill Hitler.  This mission hangs on the fact that Yael’s experiences in the death camp gave her the ability to change her appearance to look like any other woman.  I cannot explain why it got under my skin so much – perhaps it was because the protagonist was so beautifully written – a real blend of kick ass heroine and vulnerable young girl.  My full review can be read here.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful. For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed. I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On. Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum. As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz. The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance, adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents. We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say; PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format. Pick up the hard copy instead. Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text. This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example. More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story. I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time. The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read. So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format. The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend it. However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.

Reading roundup of 2015

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Now that 2015 is almost done, it’s time to review my reading year.  Thanks to GoodReads, I have a very good idea of how I did.

I had set my reading goal at 75 books, and I completed 87 with a total of 29,110 pages.  This is a little lower than the last few years, but I did enjoy many of these books in audiobook format, which does take longer.

The shortest book I read was Two Tales of the Iron Druid Chronicles by Kevin Hearne which had a total of 39 pages, and the longest was Voyager by Diana Gabaldon which weighed in at a hefty 870 pages.

I read some pretty amazing books this year.  So without further ado, in no particular order, here are the books I enjoyed most.

Fool's Quest by Robin Hobb Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb is pretty much defaulted to my top books list because I am so, so invested in the characters of Fitz and the Fool and their unconventional friendship.  Of course I was going to soak up every nuance of their continuing tale.  Hobb would have had to really mess it up for me not to like it. Fortunately, she produced a wonderful continuation to their story and I loved it.

You can see my full (spoilery) review here.

The Martian by Andy Weir The Martian by Andy Weir is perhaps the most unexpected entry in my top books so far.  This is because it is very much out of my usual genre(s).  For those of you who have not  heard of this, it’s a science fiction adventure about an astronaut who is accidentally left behind on Mars and how he has to use all his skills to “science the &^$% out of things” to survive.  Although there is a strong emphasis on the science side of things, it is beautifully blended with the personal and you can’t help but root for our hero’s survival.  At one point I was seriously tempted to text my friend to ask if he did survive, but I managed to restrain myself. Watney’s story is told primarily in a first-person journal style and the writing is very accessible.  I listened to this in audiobook format, which was a wonderful way to get into the story.  /p>

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan GraudinWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin was one of the books which really got under my skin this year.  It is an alternative history set in a world in which the Nazis won World War II. We follow our protagonist, Yael, who is a death camp survivor, and her mission to kill Hitler.  This mission hangs on the fact that Yael’s experiences in the death camp gave her the ability to change her appearance to look like any other woman.  I cannot explain why it got under my skin so much – perhaps it was because the protagonist was so beautifully written – a real blend of kick ass heroine and vulnerable young girl.  My full review can be read here.

Carry On by Rainbow Rowell From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful. For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell. Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed. I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On. Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum. As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz. The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance, adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay KristoffIlluminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents. We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say; PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format. Pick up the hard copy instead. Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text. This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example. More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story. I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time. The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read. So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format. The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful. I highly recommend it. However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.

My month with Star Wars

Now, pretty much anyone who has an interest in popular culture is aware that the first Star Wars movie since 2005, The Force Awakens, was released on December 18th 2015.  Full disclosure: while I consider myself a fan of Star Wars, I have only dabbled in the Extended Universe/Legends supplementary material.  Like many, though, I was anxious to see what J.J. Abrams would make of Lucas’ legacy and booked my ticket to a showing on release day.  In anticipation of the event, I did a fair amount of preparation.  This blog post details my immersion in the world of Star Wars during the month of December.  Out of respect for the three of you out there who have not yet seen The Force Awakens, I will place my thoughts on the movie/audiobook itself below the cut.  

The Rewatch

Naturally, the main part of my pre Force Awakens preparation was a rewatch of the Star Wars movies released prior to Episode 7.  I chose to do this following machete order.  I urge you to check out the full link on why this order works, but in summary, you watch Star Wars, The Empire Strikes Back and then switch to the prequels Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith before finishing up with Return of the Jedi.  In essence, you treat the prequels as an extended flashback after Vader’s big reveal a the end of Empire explaining how that came about before concluding his character arc in Jedi.  Note that Phantom Menace disappears from the viewing entirely.  The creator of the machete order believed, rightly in my opinion, that losing Jar Jar Binks and midichlorians is only to the good, and anything explained in Menace is recapped in later films.

Machete order is especially good for those who have never seen any of the movies.  When my niece and nephew are old enough for their aunt to introduce them to Star Wars (three years old is still too young, isn’t it?) I will certainly be following this viewing suggestion.  It preserves the drama of the Vader reveal (which is lost if you watch the prequels first – their whole point is to set it up) while adding tension to Luke’s character arc.  You see Luke at the end of Empire, broken and in shock at the Vader reveal.  You then watch Anakin’s descent to the Dark Side.  When you next see Luke in Jedi, he has turned badass, Force choking guards and turning his beloved droids over to the evil Hutts.  Having seen Anakin’s fall really underscores the risk that Luke will turn to the Dark Side and makes his reappearance in Jedi a bit more of an “oh…crap” moment.

The other thing I got from the rewatch is just how much fun the original trilogy was compared to the prequels.  Seeing that Empire Strikes Back screenwriter Lawrence Kasdan was back on duty for The Force Awakens gave me a great deal of confidence in the movie. The banter between our heroes and the sparks between Fisher’s Leia and Ford’s Han were a joy to watch. I finished my rewatch the afternoon before heading to The Force Awakens in the evening, which meant certain events in the movie hit so much harder.

The Alternative Prequels

While preparing my Star Wars watch I came across Belated Media’s YouTube channel which has videos entitled What if Star Wars Episode 1 was good? – one for each of the prequels.  In these videos he discusses changes he would make to the prequels to make them stronger.  While I don’t necessarily agree with all of his suggestions, many of them do make very good sense from a storytelling and character development point of view.  I particularly liked his suggestions of making the Obi Wan/Anakin relationship the core of the prequels rather than the Anakin/Padme one.  This would add so much more emotional resonance to their final confrontation at the end of Revenge of the Sith.

Go check these out – they are well worth watching.

Now we come to my thoughts on The Force Awakens.  If you’ve already seen it, join me after the cut

(more…)

four-stars

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – Review

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin – ReviewWolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #1
Also in this series: Iron to Iron, Blood for Blood
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Christa Lewis
Length: 10 hrs and 31 mins
Genres: Alternate History, Young Adult
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Wolf by Wolf by Ryan Graudin is a young adult alternative history novel set in a world in which the Nazis won the Second World War.  We follow our protagonist, Yael, who is a death camp survivor, and her mission to kill Hitler.  This mission hangs on the fact that Yael’s experiences in the death camp gave her the ability to change her appearance to look like any other woman.  She must impersonate famous motor cyclist Adele Wolfe, the only person in recent times who has been able to get close to the Führer.  To achieve this goal she must first compete in a trans continental bike race from Germania (Berlin) to Tokyo while not revealing her secret to Adele’s brother and former flame Luka Löwe.

I have to say this book really got under my skin.  I was completely invested in Yael’s story and rooting for her. I lay awake at night thinking of her story

What I liked

The protagonist.  I loved that Yael is a blend of kick ass heroine and vulnerability.  Graudin did an excellent job of making the mission personal to Yael through the use of flashbacks and the imagery of the wolf tattoos.  Her relationships with both Felix and Luka were well written and added great extra tension to the story.  Yael’s childhood hardships and her struggles to come to terms with her past made her a wonderfully engaging heroine.

The audio narration.  After hearing the Audible sample, I immediately chose to experience this in audiobook format.  Ms Lewis had me when she pronounced “Adele” correctly in the German way (Ah-day-luh.)  The correct pronunciation of the German words really added to the story for me.  Ms Lewis was also able to bring across the different voices and personalities excellently.  She broke my heart as well when portraying young Yael in the death camp calling for her mama.  This is definitely one to listen to.

The writing style.  Ms Graudin has a writing style which is both poetic and immediate.  I particularly enjoyed the animal imagery throughout the book with Yael’s being likened to a she wolf and Luka Löwe’s being compared to a lion. The way in which the wolf tattoos were symbolic of Yael’s past – and motivation for her mission – and her struggle to turn her past into a strength was very well written.

The pacing. In general, the pacing was excellent.  The tension of the cross continental race kept the plot moving along and the flashbacks were integrated at appropriate times.  However for me personally, the interruption of the race-flashback-race flow at a certain point in Russia didn’t work so well – I kept wanting them to just get back on with the race.

What I didn’t like

Other than the minor pacing issue, there was nothing I didn’t like about the book.  I will definitely be checking out the sequel when it become available.

I gave Wolf by Wolf a well deserved five stars out of five.


 

five-stars

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015

The final part of my reading catchup series in which I discuss Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo, Winter by Marissa Meyer and Soundless by Richelle Mead.

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Various
Length: 15 hrs and 25 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo is a new series set in the same world as her Grisha Trilogy, which I loved.  One of Bardugo’s strengths as a writer is her worldbuilding – and that continues in this new outing.  Instead of a Russianesque setting, the action moves to a place reminiscent of Amsterdam in its Golden Age.  The characters were interesting, but in an ensemble book like this, they aren’t always given the time to be as fully developed as a single protagonist novel.  I look forward to seeing where the series goes and will certainly keep up with it.

I gave Six of Crows four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015Winter by Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #4
Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet, Cress, Fairest - Levana's Story
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Rebecca Soler
Length: 23 hrs and 30 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Winter by Marissa Meyer is the fourth and final book in the Lunar Chronicles series and was one of my most anticipated reads of the year.  This final book was loosely based on the Snow White fairytale and tells the story of Princess Winter of Luna as well as continuing the stories of Cinder, Scarlet and Cress and their attempt to overthrow the evil Queen Levana.  I must admit I was ever so slightly disappointed in Winter – perhaps my expectations were a little too high.  Meyer had done her setup so well in the previous books, so at times it felt as if I was just watching things play out as expected.  On the other hand, this being the last book in the series did mean that all bets were off and I was concerned for our protagonists’ survival at various points.  Once again though I did love the fairytale mashup – the way in which Meyer has adapted the various fairytale tropes – like Snow White’s glass coffin into a sci-fi setting is brilliant.  Our heroines continue to be kick-ass and I did enjoy how it all came together.

I gave Winter five stars out of five, mainly for my love of the series as a whole.

Reading catchup part 3 – December 5th 2015Soundless by Richelle Mead
Format: eBook
Pages: 272 pages
Genres: Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

I admit I’d been initially reluctant to pick up Soundless by Richelle Mead, despite my love of her Vampire Academy and Bloodlines series.  This is because some of the reviews I’d read were mixed at best. I had originally been intrigued by the concept of a deaf girl living in a soundless world begins to hear again and embarks on an adventure to save her community.  

As an exploration into discovering a sense of which your community has no concept, the book is wonderful.  I just loved the way in which Fei comes to terms with her new hearing.  The way in which she struggled to conceptualise the new experience was beautifully written.  I’d have liked to have read more of this.

However the whole community rescue plotline is not developed to nearly the same extent.  The book is very short – well under three hundred pages – and this is the aspect which suffered the most.  The book could have done to have been twice as long.

I gave Soundless three and a half stars out of five.

In other news, I am particularly excited this week as my husband and I have booked our tickets for Chicago in May 2016 to attend BEA, the Book Expo of America.  Yay!  This will be my first time attending and I’m so looking forward to it – I’ve heard BEA described as Disneyland for book nerds. If any of you have been before and have tips, please let me know in the comments.

four-stars

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015

And here we go for the second part of my reading catchup in which I discuss Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson, Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff and Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Shadows of Self by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn #5
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Michael Kramer
Length: 12 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: three-stars

Shadows of Self is the second in Sanderson’s Wax and Wayne series (or the fifth Mistborn, however you like to look at it) and is set in the same world as the Mistborn trilogy only several hundred years later at a point in which the society is on the cusp of becoming industrialised.   It has a deliberate steampunk feel to it.  Sanderson is known as a master of worldbuilding, plot, pacing and magic systems and that is certainly borne out in Shadows of Self.  The plot is imaginative, the pacing excellent and the magic system/worldbuilding outstanding as always.  However, the more (recent) books of his I read, the more I realise I’m not very fond of his writing style.  For me, personally, the informal style does not match the setting.  It could be this is a deliberate choice by the writer – I know from his work on The Wheel of Time and The Stormlight Archive that he can use a more formal style when necessary – in which case I have to disagree with his choice for these recent books.

Alternatively, it could be that he’s under pressure to crank out too many books – he’s a massively prolific writer – and perhaps each book is not receiving the full care and attention to detail it needs.

Because of this, I gave Shadows of Self three stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Illuminae by Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff
Series: The Illuminae Files #1
Format: eBook
Pages: 608 pages
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff is a young adult adventure story imaginatively told through a collection of documents.  We follow Kady and Ezra as they are forced to flee their planet after it is invaded.

Now, I’m going to say something I don’t often say;  PLEASE don’t buy this book in ebook format.  Pick up the hard copy instead.  Because formatting is an intrinsic part of the story, the ebook is often scanned images rather than text.  This means that you lose all the advantages of using an ereader – font size adjustment, searching for example.  More worryingly, when I tried to read it on my iPad, a significant number of these images were missing, meaning I lost a whole chunk of the story.  I only noticed this because I was following along with the audiobook at the same time.  The images were present in the Kindle, but I found the text very small and sometimes difficult to read.  So do your eyes a favour and skip the ebook in favour of the hardback.

In an ideal world, you would experience this book in both hard copy and audiobook format.  The audiobook is narrated by a full voice cast and is absolutely wonderful.  I highly recommend it.  However, by listening to the audiobook alone you miss out on the formatting of the book which also adds an extra dimension.

Although the unusual format is one of the key attractions of this book, the story itself more than holds its own – I was enthralled by Kady and Ezra’s dilemma, and the ending is fantastic. It really made me anxious to read the next book.   

The only other comment I would make is that some of the attempts to create tension fail because of the structure.  We know from the “briefing notes” that the collection of documents that make up the book were put together after the fact.  This makes things like the countdown til various events rather pointless.

I gave Illuminae four stars out of five.  

Reading catchup part 2 – November 19 2015Carry On by Rainbow Rowell
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 13 hrs and 42 mins
Genres: Cutesy romance, Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

From time to time a book will come along in which plot, character, pacing, worldbuilding and writing come together to create something wonderful.  For me that book was Carry On by Rainbow Rowell.  Carry On is a follow up to Rowell’s Fangirl – Carry On is the final book in the series about which our fangirl protagonist is obsessed.  I should point out that it’s not necessary to have read Fangirl before reading Carry On.

I will admit that initially I wasn’t too interested in reading Carry On.  Fangirl was one of the few Rainbow Rowell books I did not finish. However some glowing reviews encouraged me to reconsider and I’m very glad I did.

Carry On follows the final school year of Simon Snow, a Harry Potteresque Chosen One, destined to save the magical world from the Insidious Humdrum.  As well as the impending confrontation with the Humdrum, Simon must also deal with his growing feelings for his vampire roommate Baz.  The book is a perfect blend of humour, romance adventure and wonderful character moments and I highly recommend it.

I gave Carry On a resounding five stars out of five.

More mini reviews later!

three-stars

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015

First of all, my apologies for not having posted much in the last few weeks – I’ve been too busy reading to write about reading.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, in the months of October and November there were a shedload of new releases about which I was very excited.  I’ve only just now caught up with all of the new books in my life.  Some of the reviews will be quite brief as it’s been quite a while and several books ago that I read them It will take a couple of posts to go through them all so let’s get started.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Scorpion Rules by Erin Bow
Series: Prisoners of Peace #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Madeleine Maby
Length: 10 hrs and 21 mins
Genres: Sci-Fi, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

The Scorpion Rules is the first in Erin Bow’s Children of Peace YA series.  In Bow’s world, peace is maintained by an AI named Talis who forces each country’s leaders to provide a child or grandchild as a Child of Peace – if the country enters a war, the hostage is killed.  The book centres around a young princess named Greta, whose orderly world as a hostage is shaken by the arrival of a new Child of Peace, Elian.  Elian is new to the hostage system and struggles to adapt.  Things escalate when Greta’s and Elian’s countries declare war.

I really loved the concept and worldbuilding in this book.  I found the idea of the Children of Peace to be intriguing and well written.  Unfortunately, I didn’t feel the same way about the human characters, especially Greta whom I found to be very bland and irritating.  It is kind of a problem when the artificial intelligence is more interesting than the humans.  Think Siri with the world’s nuclear codes.  It’s fair to say though that the events of the book have changed Greta and she promises to be more interesting in future books.

I gave The Scorpion Rules four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Christopher Guetig
Length: 15 hrs and 20 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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I really love Rick Riordan’s Percy Jackson series and I was very excited for this  new one with Norse mythology.  His writing is always filled with such humour, and Sword of Summer was no exception.  I did realise, though, how unfamiliar I am with Norse mythology compared to Greek/Roman although Riordan did a great job of filling in the blanks.

Sword of Summer is pretty much what you would expect from a Rick Riordan book and I gave it four stars out of five.

Reading catchup part 1 – November 18th 2015The Aeronaut's Windlass by Jim Butcher
Series: The Cinder Spires #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Euan Morton
Length: 21 hrs and 46 mins
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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My attention had been drawn to this book because of two things; Jim Butcher and talking cats.  I enjoy Butcher’s Dresden Files series, and I am a real cat person so picking up this book was a no brainer.

The Aeronaut’s Windless is Butcher’s first foray into a kind of steampunk genre and as such it feels very different from the stories of Chicago consulting wizard Harry Dresden.  Butcher has created a vast new world with politics, magic and aerial battles.  I liked the characters as well, especially Rawl the cat and Folly.  It made me wish for a whole book from the cats’ perspectives.

I gave the Aeronaut’s Windlass four stars out of five.

More mini reviews soon!

four-stars
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