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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

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.

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
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