Format: ARC

Reading Roundup – 13 September 2013

Reading Roundup – 13 September 2013A Cat Named Dog by Jem Vanston
Format: ARC
Pages: 153
Genres: General Literature
Buy from Amazon
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

This week I read A Cat Called Dog by Jem Vanston which I received free to review from Netgalley.  It is a sweet tale of a young cat who was raised by dogs and therefore thinks and acts in a more doglike fashion.  He is taken under the wing of a more mature cat named George, and together with George and his friends he must save George’ s mistress from disaster.  

The book is exactly what it claims to be; a light, fluffy tale which passed a couple of pleasant hours.  Cat and dog lovers will certainly recognise some of the behavioural traits mentioned in the book.  It is funny and engaging, but classic literature it is not.

I gave A Cat Called Dog three and a half stars out of five.

The Assassin and the Pirate LordThe Assassin and the Pirate Lord by Sarah J. Maas
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Format: eBook
Pages: 416
AmazonKoboiTunes
four-stars

 I was not familiar with Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series, and this novella seemed an excellent way to get started as it was less than a dollar on Amazon.  I really enjoyed what I read, and I will certainly be reading more of her work.  The characters were engaging, the narrative brisk paced and the description of the world was excellent.  

I gave The Assassin and the Pirate Lord four stars out of five.

Added to my library this week

As I enjoyed The Assassin and the Pirate Lord so much, I added Throne of Glass and A Crown of Midnight to my library.  I’m not sure when I’ll get round to reading them…

There’s considerable buzz on the internet right now about the Starz TV series of Outlander, based on Diana Gabaldon’s excellent series particularly with the announcing of the actress playing Claire.  I’m eagerly awaiting this production which will be on our screens next year.  I have already read Outlander and Dragonfly in Amber, but got rather stuck on Voyager.  I picked up the Outlander audiobook narrated by Davina Porter to get back into the series. 

Speaking of audiobooks, Amazon and Audible are really pushing the Whispersync for Voice discount – I picked up Dead Ever After, the last in the Sookie Stackhouse series, for only $0.99 because I have the Kindle book.  That was a one day only promotion unfortunately so it’s gone now.

What books did you read this week?  Let me know in the comments!

three-half-stars

Dream of Time by Nancy J. Price – Review

Dream of Time by Nancy J. Price – ReviewDream of Time by Nancy J. Price
Format: ARC
Pages: 425
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

I received a free copy of Dream of Time by Nancy J. Price from Netgalley to review.  It tells the story of modern day wife and mother Robin from San Francisco who, when she sleeps, inhabits the body and life of turn of the century Jennie diMedici.  It relates her attempts to prevent tragedies and crimes using knowledge gleaned from her present day life.

What I liked

The basic concept.  I loved the main idea and felt it was very well thought out and executed.  Price wove Robin’s two lives together very well and I enjoyed her attempts to correct the past.  I liked the way limitations were built into the time travel scenario so that Robin couldn’t just fix everything straight away.  The fact that there were consequences in Robin’s present for the actions she took in the past also helped to up the stakes.

The relationship with Travis.  “Jennie’s” relationship with Travis was beautifully written and very touching.  It felt very real, and I enjoyed watching them build up trust and love.  The techniques they used for communicating across the years was particularly inventive.

The Victorian setting.  The Victorian setting for Robin’s alternate life was wonderfully described.  It is clear Price had done a lot of research into the subject.  There were some beautifully descriptive passages about the architecture and lifestyle of early twentieth century San Francisco.  The particular ebook I have included links to the book’s website where more detail is provided.  It was fun reading about Robin’s trying to adjust to life in turn of the century San Francisco.   I actually would have welcomed reading more of this, but Robin’s culture shock was put to the side fairly quickly in favour of the time travelling crime solving plot.

The ending.  I loved the way everything was brought together and the impact Robin’s time in Jennie’s life had on those around her.

What I didn’t like

The writing style.  The book is written from Robin’s perspective and uses a very informal, colloquial style.  While I understand that this was almost certainly a conscious choice to fit with the protagonist, I personally would have preferred a slight more formal way of writing.  At times I cringed inwardly at a particularly informal turn of phrase which jolted me out of the story somewhat.  That is just my own personal opinion, however, and others may have no issue with the style.

Two dimensional characters.  I felt there were some wasted opportunities for some character development in the book.  The two main protagonists are pleasant enough, but the villains of the piece were almost cardboard cutouts.  You could almost see them twirling their moustaches and chortling evilly.  There were a few half hints that they did have more depth, but they were not explored fully.  A similar issue occurs with Jennie’s neighbours.  Just as Jennie – and the reader – was beginning to get the impression that they are unique individuals with their own goals and desires they disappear from the scene.  I would have welcomed hearing more about them.

All in all, while I loved the main plotline and setting, the narrative style and uninteresting secondary characters lessened my enjoyment of the book, so I gave Dream of Time three and a half stars out of five.

 buy from Amazon or Kobo

 

three-half-stars

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – Review

republic of thieves
The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch – ReviewRepublic of Thieves by Scott Lynch
Format: ARC
Pages: 608
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Buy from AmazoniTunes
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I received a free copy of The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch for review.  This is the third book in Lynch’s Gentlemen Bastards series and I was very much looking forward to reading it.  In the way that Red Seas Under Red Skies explored Locke’s relationship with Jean through flashbacks and a present day narrative, Republic of Thieves explores our hero’s relationship with the mysterious Sabetha in a similar manner.  This book also deepens our knowledge of the Bondsmagi and gives some possible hints about what to expect next for Locke.

What I liked

Lynch’s writing style.  I really enjoyed the witty. light banter of the previous two books, and this one continues the trend.  Many times I found myself giggling out loud at a particularly funny turn of phrase.

Character relationships.  Lynch clearly has a knack for writing relationships.  In Red Seas Under Red Skies the Locke/Jean relationship reminded me of a Hope/Crosby Road to… movie while Republic of Thieves is more like a well-written rom-com.  Their fears, hopes and misunderstandings seem very real.

The Bondsmagi.  In this book we get to learn a lot more about them and how they work.  The storyline takes us deep into the heart of their territory and we learn about their inner workings.  It appears we will be seeing more of them in future books.

The battle of intellects between Locke and Sabetha.  Sabetha is clearly Locke’s match in very many ways and I particularly enjoyed their battle over the election.  This is what I imagine the match between Matt and Demandred in A Memory of Light was supposed to be, but this was done far more effectively.

Hints at Locke’s past and future. In this book more than the other two we get hints of where Locke came from and where he might be going in the future.  I understand the Gentleman Bastards sequence is intended to be seven books and the major arcs of the whole series are really now beginning to emerge.  It is interesting that previously I never once asked myself who exactly was Locke Lamora before he was an orphan at Shades Hill?  This is a question with apparently growing importance.

What I didn’t like

Some repetition.  Although the Locke/Sabetha relationship is following a typical rom-com scenario, about the third or fourth time they were interrupted as they were about to become intimate I began to feel a little annoyed with the repetition.

All in all, I adored Republic of Thieves and gave it five stars out of five.

 preorder it on Amazon  and iTunes

 

five-stars

The Companions by R.A. Salvatore – Review

The Companions by R.A. Salvatore – ReviewThe Companions by R.A. Salvatore
Series: The Sundering #1
Also in this series: The Godborn
Format: ARC
Pages: 384
Genres: Epic Fantasy
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received a free copy of The Companions to review from Netgalley. The premise of the story is that several of the characters from the Forgotten Realms series, Bruenor Battlehammer, Wulfgar and Regis the halfling, choose to be reborn and meet again in twenty years in order to protect Drizzt Do’Urden from an unspecified threat.  It is a tale of love and friendship rather than good vs evil.

At first, I felt at a distinct disadvantage not being familiar with R.A. Salvatore’s work.  The most noticeable example of that was near the beginning when the character Ruqiah suddenly declared her name was “Catti-brie.”  From the context it was clear that this was supposed to be a shocking revelation, but my reaction was more along the lines of “oh, OK.  Who the heck is Catti-brie, and why should I care about her?”  Fortunately, Salvatore made a point of answering those questions clearly and effectively.  It took me a little longer to get my head around the various races who live in this world, and their relations to each other, but that didn’t impact on my enjoyment of the book.

What I liked

Salvatore’s writing style.  His writing style is noticeably more “epic” than that of many writers I’ve read recently and I particularly enjoyed it.  It made me regret not having read more of his work sooner.  There were some amusing moments of levity too.  I’m thinking of when newly reborn Bruenor is distracted by the physical needs of his newborn body!

Character relationships. As I mentioned, I was not familiar with the characters or their previous histories, but I soon found myself liking them and rooting for them. I also appreciated the fact that the characters were subject to self doubt and at various points became unsure of and regretted the decision they made to go back to protect Drizzt.

Despite not being familiar with the characters, Salvatore did a fantastic job of showing the depths of the relationships that bind the main characters.  Although Drizzt Do’Urden has a fairly minor role in the book, I found myself wanting to read more about him given that he was able to inspire such love and devotion from our main characters.  Indeed, I purchased Homeland in order to learn more about him.

Some interesting themes.  Some of the questions raised in the book were, I thought, very interesting.  For example, the question of if you would sacrifice your own personal idea of heaven/the afterlife in order to protect a friend, and how to remain focussed on a goal which seems irrelevant to your current life.

What I didn’t like

Personally, I found the ending rather rushed.  After all the Companions have struggled for and sacrificed to save Drizzt, the actual saving seemed rather low key.

All in all though, I thoroughly enjoyed The Companions and gave it four stars out of five.

Buy it on AmazonKobo or Audible.  Listen to a sample

four-stars

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March – Review

Finding Colin Firth by Mia March – ReviewFinding Colin Firth by Mia March
Format: ARC
Pages: 337
Genres: Women's Lit
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received a free copy of Finding Colin Firth by Mia March to review from Netgalley. It is set in the same town as her previous work The Meryl Streep Movie Club, on which I cannot comment as I have not yet had the chance to read it.

Finding Colin Firth is  a sweet story of three women drawn together in a Maine town connected by a theme of unplanned pregnancy and its impact on their lives.  The theme of giving up a child is also explored through other characters in the novel.  There are frequent references to characters being adopted, looking to adopt or working with young pregnant teens.

It is most fully explored, however, through the three main characters.  Bea and Veronica are connected through the fact that Veronica gave birth to Bea as a young woman and gave her up for adoption.  The novel explores their tentatively establishing a connection with each other.  Gemma, on the other hand, is struggling to deal with the realisation that she is expecting a child, and is uncertain how to deal with it despite being happily married.The subject is dealt with compassionately, and the characters are very likeable.

What I liked

Colin Firth.  Like most of the characters – and I imagine many red blooded heterosexual females – I have a soft spot for the Oscar winning English actor (don’t tell my husband!)  This provided an immediate connection to the story.

The title. I couldn’t pass up on a book entitled Finding Colin Firth.  Mr Firth is a dominant presence in this novel, both literally and figuratively.  He is a literal presence in that the actor is supposedly coming to the town to shoot some scenes for his latest film, but is proving elusive to the crowd of fans.  The more figurative aspect is that he is held up to represent the ideal partner; strong, sexy, passionate, kind and warm hearted.  So when the women set out to find Colin Firth, they are also looking for a romantic partner who will sweep them off their feet the way that Firth as Darcy swept Elizabeth Bennet off of hers.

Engaging characters. All three of the main characters are immediately likeable and relatable. They are from different generations, so clearly the author is trying to have a character to appeal to everyone in her audience

The slow, gentle pacing.  Bea and Veronica develop their relationship slowly and carefully.

What I didn’t like

Skimming the surface.  Adoption is a very emotional topic and this is not an in depth analysis of the topic.

Finding Colin Firth is a sweet, engaging read, although it’s not going to set your mind thinking.  It’s a perfect read to take along to the beach or on holiday.

I gave Finding Colin Firth four stars out of five

buy from Amazon, Kobo, iBookstore

buy from Amazon, Kobo, iBookstore, Audible (listen to a sample)

four-stars

Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson – Solid followup to Thieftaker

Thieves’ Quarry by D.B. Jackson – Solid followup to ThieftakerThieves' Quarry by D.B. Jackson
Series: Thieftaker Chronicles #2
Also in this series: Thieftaker
Format: ARC
Pages: 318
Genres: Genre Bender
Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

Thieves’ Quarry is the worthy follow up to Thieftaker (The Thieftaker Chronicles)  by D.B. Jackson of which I received a free review copy courtesy of Tor.  It is a blend of historical novel, murder mystery and fantasy which continues the story of Ethan Kaille, a thief taker in 18th century Boston.

I don’t believe it’s necessary to have read  Thieftaker prior to reading Thieves’ Quarry, although it does help to appreciate the solid character development and deepening understanding of the magic system.

What I liked

Unique blend of murder mystery, fantasy and historical drama.  This mixture appealed to me in Thieftaker and it continues to work well in the continuation.  This time the stakes are higher with the murder – it could have ramifications on the stability of the city of Boston.

The setting.  Speaking of the city, the author has evoked the setting beautifully.  It was easy for me to imagine Ethan walking down the narrow cobbled streets of Boston. It’s incredible to realise this wasn’t the original setting for the series.

Character development.  Although it’s not necessary to have read Thieftaker before Thieves’ Quarry, by not doing so, you miss out on the subtle but excellent character development.  You can see how Ethan’s thoughts and attitude have developed as a result of what he’s seen and done.

Relationship development.  The above also applies to Ethan’s friendships in the series.  I particularly enjoyed the professional relationship he has with fellow thieftaker Sephira Pryce.  I look forward to seeing how that develops in future books. I also enjoyed meeting Ethan’s sister and nephew.  His nephew’s ignorance of his magical heritage promises some excellent development in future books.

Development in the magic system.  In this book, Ethan learns some new tricks about using his magic.  It’s always good when the fantasy element isn’t static.

What I didn’t like

In all honesty, there was nothing I didn’t like about Thieves’ Quarry.  I found it a solid followup to Thieftaker, with an interesting setting, engaging characters and an intriguing plot.

Some people however, may feel that the blend doesn’t work so well for them if they were expecting a traditional historical drama or murder mystery.

 buy on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Audible

 buy on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Audible (listen to a sample)

four-half-stars

Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCulloch

Oathbreaker’s Shadow by Amy McCullochOathbreaker's Shadow by Amy McCulloch
Series: The Knots Sequence #1
Also in this series: The Shadow's Curse
Format: ARC
Pages: 416
Genres: Young Adult
Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

I received a free review copy of Oathbreaker’s Shadow via Netgalley.  Oathbreaker’s Shadow is a young adult fantasy novel by Canadian writer Amy McCulloch.  It tells the story of Raim and how he falls foul of his society’s taboo against pathbreaking.  A key part of the novel is Raim’s friendship with the young heir to the realm.

(more…)

three-half-stars

The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian – Review

The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian – ReviewCobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian
Format: ARC
Pages: 318
Genres: Genre Bender
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

I received a free review copy of The Cobweb Bride via Netgalley.

The Cobweb Bride by Vera Nazarian is a fantasy novel which tells the story of Death’s demand for his Cobweb Bride.  The premise of the book is that Death has refused to take any more dying people or animals until his Cobweb Bride presents herself to him at his hidden fortress.  It follows the journeys of several potential Cobweb Brides as well as those interested in aiding as well as thwarting them.

(more…)

five-stars

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau – Review

The  Testing by Joelle Charbonneau – ReviewThe Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
Format: ARC
Pages: 355
Genres: Young Adult
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

I received a free review copy of The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau through Netgalley, and here are my thoughts.

The Testing tells the story of Cia Vale from a small village struggling to survive in a post apocalyptic future. The government invites Cia to undergo testing for admittance to the University, an opportunity which could change her life and that of her community. It soon becomes apparent that this is not an invitation Cia can refuse, and that she will become involved in a struggle for her very survival.

It is very difficult to read this book without comparing it to Suzanne Collins’s The Hunger Games. Many of the same themes are there: dystopian society struggling after a cataclysmic war; young teens forced by an all-powerful government to compete to the death in a competition for a marvelous prize; heroine torn between two loves; shadowy rebel forces attempting to overthrow the government.

What I didn’t like

I felt at times this borrowed too heavily from The Hunger Games. The premise is very similar, and many of the same themes are explored.

Again, comparing The Testing to The Hunger Games, I felt the setup was lacking somewhat. In The Hunger Games, the government’s motivation for the Games is crystal clear; it’s a method of control. I struggle to see where Charbonneau is going in her setup. It is made clear that the post apocalyptic society is struggling to maintain population levels, so it seems very strange that the government would choose to cull a significant number of young people who could otherwise have made a positive contribution to the society. However, as this is just the first novel in the series I’m prepared to give the author a pass on this, on the understanding that this will be explained more fully in future books.

On the other hand, I felt the slow breadcrumbs trail hinting at the danger of the Testing was very well done.

What I liked

I found the heroine Cia to be very well written and engaging. Although she is a teenager, she has a good head on her shoulders and acts sensibly and thoughtfully in the situations in which she finds herself. She does have a tendency to trust where she should perhaps be more wary, but her thought processes are well described, so you can see her trusting as a risk she did consider. This makes her a much more engaging heroine than say Twilight’s Bella.

The love triangle was also very subtly and well written. Clearly, in this novel, the heroine’s first priority is survival, but enough groundwork was laid that this will become an interesting theme for future books. The whole question of who should she trust will be fun to explore.

The setup for book two is very intriguing. Cia will be in a very different situation, and I look forward to seeing how she handles it. It will also move it well away from Hunger Games territory, which can only be to the good.

In summary

If you enjoyed The Hunger Games or Divergent it would certainly be worth your while picking up The Testing.

I gave The Testing four stars out of five.

 buy on Kindle, Kobo, iBooks and Audible (listen to a sampleWhispersync

four-stars

As Sweet as Honey – Review

As Sweet as Honey – ReviewAs Sweet as Honey by Indira Ganesan
Format: ARC
Pages: 289
Genres: Women's Lit
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

This is not the usual kind of book I read, but Random House was kind enough to give me a free review copy.

I found it to be a very well written, gentle read and did enjoy it. I personally wasn’t very familiar with the culture of South Asia, but I felt the author did an excellent job of making it comprehensible to an outsider without over explaining. It was easy to become drawn into Meterling’s world on Pi and understand the expectations that were on her as well as to understand the consequences her decisions might have. As I am not from that culture, the importance placed on, for example, compatible horoscopes in marriage partners is foreign to me, but due to the excellent writing, I could easily understand its impact within Meterling’s family.

This is also a book of well-drawn contrasts and conflicts. I found it interesting to compare and contrast the viewpoint of the children to Meterling’s situation to Meterling’s own thoughts. A nice contrast is also set up between the colour, warmth and friendliness of Pi and the cold, greyness of London. This ties in well to Meterling’s emotional state at the time as she attempts to deal with the aftermath of the decisions she’s made.

The theme of adhering to traditions and society’s expectations vs following your heart is nicely explored through several of the characters and was, for me, one of the strongest aspects of the novel. It is turned around at the end as well in a neat twist.

Personally, I didn’t enjoy the Archer ghost storyline and this was for me the weakest part of the book. However, I could understand its significance and impact on Meterling.

All in all, I found this a gentle, easy read and enjoyed it. I gave As Sweet as Honey four stars out of five.

four-stars
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