Genre: Alternate History

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016

Good morning!  I’ve a lot to cover in this post vacation/hospitalisation reading roundup, so let’s get on with it, shall we?

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Cold Fire by Kate Elliott
Series: The Spiritwalker Trilogy #2
Format: eBook
Narrator: Luke Daniels, Tavia Gilbert, William DeMeritt
Pages: 672 pages
Genres: Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: three-stars

The first book I read was Kate Elliott’s Cold Fire, the second in her Spiritwalker trilogy, a young adult fantasy series.  I admit I really struggled with this book.  It is the middle book in the trilogy and I really felt that.  I liked the characters and the world and the dilemmas our protagonist had to navigate were interesting.  The whole answer a question with a question scenario was wonderfully done.  However, with no resolutions I still really had to force myself to complete this book, and I think it will be a while before I attempt book three.  I gave Cold Fire three stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan
Format: eBook
Pages: 176 pages
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Hotel Valhalla Guide to the Norse Worlds by Rick Riordan pretty much does what it says on the tin.  It is a slim companion volume to Riordan’s Magnus Chase series based on Norse mythology and provides a succinct and witty guide to the Norse pantheon.  If you’re familiar with Riordan’s style, this is more of the same.  Personally I’m not as familiar with Norse mythology as say Greco-Roman so this was a very useful, very quick read.  Hotel Valhalla would be a great addition to your Riordon collection.  I gave it four stars out of five.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #2
Also in this series: 1000 Pieces of You
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 10 hours and 51 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Ten Thousand Skies Above You by Claudia Gray is probably the favourite of my holiday reads. It’s the second in Gray’s Firebird young adult fantasy series involving alternate dimensions.  Book two involves our protagonist, Marguerite, on a hunt across the dimensions to rescue fragments of her boyfriend’s soul, all while avoiding the traps of the evil Triad corporation. I’ve read quite a few books by Ms Gray now, and this one really confirms for me Gray as a very strong, solid storyteller.  The concept, worldbuilding, characters and pacing were all first class.  I listened to Ten Thousand Skies Above You in audiobook format, which was perfectly narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  I am very much looking forward to the conclusion of this series in November, especially given the cliffhanger.  I gave Ten Thousand Skies Above You five stars out of five. 

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Hunted by Kevin Hearne
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Luke Daniels
Length: 9 hours and 52 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
Currently, I’m listening to Hunted, the sixth book in Kevin Hearn’s Iron Druid series, following druid Atticus O’Sullivan and his hound Oberon as they navigate the modern age and the mixed pantheons of our world.  These books are a heck of a lot of fun, and I always choose to listen to them in audiobook format thanks to Luke Daniels’ excellent narration.  You know a book is good when the author describes a meal – or in this case Oberon’s unfiltered enthusiasm for ribs – and you just have to go out and order some.  I’ve not yet finished the book, so not yet rated it but I am anticipating a high rating.

Reading roundup – September 2nd 2016Underground Airlines by Ben Winters
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: William DeMeritt
Length: 9 hours and 28 minutes
Genres: Alternate History
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunesAudible
The final book I read on vacation – I’ve not quite finished it yet – is Ben Winters’ Underground Airlines, an alternative history novel in which slavery still exists In some states in the modern US.  It follows a black bounty hunter searching for an escaped slave.  So far I’m really enjoying this.  I grew up a white woman in small town Scotland, so racial tensions are not something that were really familiar to me.  I’m listening to the book in audiobook format, narrated by William DeMeritt and the audio format works really well for the story.  I look forward to continuing it.  

Upcoming releases in September

As usual, September is a pretty hectic month in terms of book releases.  Here are the ones about which I’m most excited.

Empire of Storms by Sarah J Maas.  This is the fifth novel in the Throne of Glass series and it my most anticipated release of September.  Throne of Glass is a young adult fantasy series and it is so, so good.  It’s interesting; I’ve really not seen a great deal of publicity/spoilers/reviews for this so far.  I guess at this point the series stands up on its own.  I’m certainly looking forward to getting my hands on it.  Empire of Storms is released on September 6th.

Next up, we have The Swan Riders by Erin Bow.  This is the sequel to The Scorpion Rules, which I very much enjoyed.  The ending to book one was a real game changer, so I am excited to see how things develop in book two.  The Swan Riders is available for purchase from September 20th.

Scott Lynch’s continuation in his Gentlemen Bastards series, the Thorn of Emberlain, was scheduled for release on September 21st, but I read that it has been postponed to a 2017 release date.  I’ll admit I’m not too surprised. There had been no marketing or any other news in the last few weeks and the date has been postponed several times already.  I am disappointed – these are very very good stories – but I’m OK to wait if that’s what Mr Lynch needs to prepare the release properly.  I look forward to reading it next year.

On September 27th we have the release of Like a River Glorious, the second book in Rae Carson’s Gold Seer trilogy.  This is a young adult historical novel (with a dash of fantasy) set in the gold rush era.  The first book was excellent and I am very excited to read book two.  

Also on September 27th we can pick up Leigh Bardugo’s The Crooked Kingdom, her sequel to Six of Crows.  I really love the world Bardugo has created and the characters who inhabit it, so I’m highly anticipating this release.  I got a small sampler at BEA this year, but I’m waiting until I can read the whole thing.

That’s about all I have for this week.  Let me know in the comments which of these releases you’re most excited for.

three-stars

Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin

Blood for Blood by Ryan GraudinBlood for Blood by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #2
Also in this series: Iron to Iron
Format: ARC
Pages: 496 pages
Genres: Alternate History
Buy from AmazonKobo
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

Hachette was kind enough to send me an Advance Reader Copy of Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin, the sequel to Wolf by Wolf.  Thank you so much, guys!  I was super excited to receive it as it was one of my most anticipated reads of 2016 and it did not disappoint in the least.  Blood for Blood is the second book in an alternate history young adult series set in a world in which the Hitler and the Nazis won World War II.  Our protagonist is a young Jewish death camp survivor with the ability to shape shift.  The series consists of the two main novels, Wolf by Wolf and Blood for Blood as well as the prequel novella Iron to Iron.

The story starts immediately after the cliffhanger ending of Wolf by Wolf and expands the points of view to three.  It continues the quest Yael was assigned in Wolf by Wolf and deals with the fallout of the events and discoveries of the book.  

What I liked

The world.  Once again I was completely drawn into the alternate history that Graudin has created.  The world felt so real and fleshed out I could easily imagine our characters trying to navigate it.  Once again, I found myself hearing the story in the voice of Christa Lewis, the narrator of Wolf by Wolf.  I certainly intend to purchase the audiobook as soon as it is available in November.  What was also nicely done was the way in which the world was impacted by the actions of our protagonists.  The world has changed by what they achieved.  I really hope we get to see more of it through short stories.

Character journeys.  I really loved the journeys that all of our main characters go on.  Each of our main three characters has a different journey and they were all beautifully developed.  Instead of the single flashbacks to Yael’s life as in Wolf by Wolf, we are shown specific moments in the past experienced in unique ways by each of our three point of view characters.  This serves to show where each of them is coming from, as well as to contrast their attitudes.  While I did prefer the Yael flashbacks from Wolf by Wolf, tied thematically as they were with the wolf tattoos, the flashbacks in Blood for Blood did serve their purpose to give some understanding of the characters’ motivations.  I very much disliked a certain character, but his actions were both logical and understandable.

Themes.  I studied German at university and one of the books we studied was Erzählte Zeit, a collection of short stories written by Germans immediately after World War II as they attempted to come to terms with the horror of the Holocaust.  These explored some fascinating themes of guilt and loss and I really enjoyed seeing similar themes explored in Blood for Blood.  

Identity.  Identity was another strong theme explored in the novel.  The characters are constantly asking themselves what it means to be a death camp survivor, or Jewish, or a Third Reich poster boy, or a loyal citizen of the Reich or son or brother.  They are constantly re-evaluating this as they progress through the narrative – beautifully done.  I’m assuming this is where the title comes from.

What I didn’t like

The only minor quibble I had was that I didn’t quite buy the logic of what they were trying to do.  I would have liked a bit more background into why they expected achieving their goal to have the effect it did.  Sorry, I can’t say too much more without being too spoilery.

Blood for Blood is a fantastic end to a great duology.  My only regret is that the series is now finished.  Can we have some more short stories please?!?   I gave Blood for Blood five stars out of five.

five-stars

Reading roundup – June 24th 2016

Good morning and welcome to another reading roundup.  And happy St Jean to my fellow Quebecers!

Reading roundup – June 24th 2016Iron to Iron by Ryan Graudin
Series: Wolf by Wolf #0.5
Also in this series: Blood for Blood
Format: eBook
Pages: 104 pages
Genres: Alternate History
Buy from AmazonKoboiTunes
Evelynne's rating: five-stars

This week I read the wonderful Iron to Iron, the prequel novella to Ryan Graudin’s Wolf by Wolf.  Like Wolf by Wolf, it is set in an alternate universe in which the Axis won World War II.  It tells the story of Luka Löwe and Adele Wolfe’s burgeoning romance during the 1955 Axis Tour, a relationship which causes much of the tension in Wolf by Wolf.  Within a couple of pages I was immediately back in the world created by Graudin and back following the Axis Tour.  I listened to Wolf by Wolf in audiobook and although this novella is an ebook only, I still heard it in my mind with Christa Lewis’ voice.  It’s not often that I have such a strong link with narration.  

For those of you who have not yet read Wolf by Wolf (and why not may I ask?) the Axis Tour is a motorcycle race between Berlin and Tokyo, with the winner receiving an Iron Cross and many accolades.  Iron to Iron is told from Luka’s perspective, and we learn more about him.  Both he and Adele are strongly motivated to win the Axis Tour, he to prove his worth to his father by winning a second Iron Cross, she to prove that women are equally as competent as men.  Of course, having read Wolf by Wolf we know the outcome of this race; Graudin does a wonderful job of keeping the tension high despite that knowledge and without the addition of the whole shapeshifter trying to kill Hitler plot of Wolf.

My only gripe about Iron to Iron – and it is very minor – is that fräulein is written with a lower case f.  In German all nouns are capitalised, so this really irritated me.  I gave Iron to Iron a well deserved five stars out of five.  Now when is Blood for Blood out?!?

This week I also started reading His Majesty’s Dragon by Naomi Novik.  So far I’m really enjoying it.

Game of Thrones thoughts after the cut

 

(more…)

five-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
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox

Join other followers