Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Wrap Up

Another month gone already! I don't know about you guys, but it seemed like February went super fast until the last week, then it dragged. But I've got a head cold too, so that might be why. Oh well. Well, I only read seven books this month, and not all the ones on my list, because I got so tired after my first three that I ended up adding a couple short westerns in between for fun. But four of these books was over 400 pages, a couple quite a bit, so I'm not beating myself up. It was a short month too. Next month, I have a big TBR that I hope I can get through.

I didn't get all my reviews written for this month, so I will be posting them throughout March instead. And no, it actually wasn't me being lazy, I was actually working on my formatting business and trying to do preliminary planning for my trip to NYC in May (BookCon people!) On that note, I got my train ticket! woot! So without further ado, the books I read this month:

1. Scorpion Mountain (Brotherband Chronicles #5) by John Flanagan (3/5 stars)
2. Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3) by Marissa Meyer (4/5 stars)
3. Ruin and Rising (Grisha Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo (4.5/5 stars)
4. Kiowa Trail by Louis L'Amour (3/5)
5. The Man From Skibbereen by Louis L'Amour (3/5)
6. A Cure for Dreaming by Cat Winters (4/5 stars)
7. Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell (my Classics for Classic Ladies book club read of the month) (5/5 stars)

Favorite Reads of the Month

Cress
Ruin and Rising
Wives and Daughters


And now onto the books I bought this month. Really not many, only three. I didn't go to a book store, because I'm still abstaining in preparation for BookCon so I'm really only buying new releases I really want at the moment.

1. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab
2. Mark of the Thief by Jennifer A. Neilson
3. The Shadow Cabinet (Shades of London #3) By Maureen Johnson

Let me know what your favorite reads on the month were. March is going to be so bloody busy, lots of new books to read, stories to finish writing finally, lots of editing to do, hopefully more work, family coming for a week, and hopefully getting my hedgehog! I hope everyone has a great March. I will be seeing you at least my St. Patrick's Day if not before and I'm planning a spring Giveaway so keep an eye out for that during the second part of the month!

Slainte, Hazel

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Review: "The Pennyroyal Academy" by M. A. Larson

Title/Author: The Pennyroyal Academy by M. A. Larson
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Pennyroyal Academy: Seeking bold, courageous youths to become tomorrow's princesses and knights….Come one, come all!

A girl from the forest arrives in a bustling kingdom with no name and no idea why she is there, only to find herself at the center of a world at war.  She enlists at Pennyroyal Academy, where princesses and knights are trained to battle the two great menaces of the day: witches and dragons. There, given the name “Evie,” she must endure a harsh training regimen under the steel glare of her Fairy Drillsergeant, while also navigating an entirely new world of friends and enemies. As Evie learns what it truly means to be a princess, she realizes surprising things about herself and her family, about human compassion and inhuman cruelty. And with the witch forces moving nearer, she discovers that the war between princesses and witches is much more personal than she could ever have imagined.

Set in Grimm’s fairytale world, M.A. Larson’s Pennyroyal Academymasterfully combines adventure, humor, and magical mischief.


Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I had expected to like this book before I read it, but it's also one of those you end up liking more and more as you get into it. Overall, i thought it was a very nice story, and I liked it a lot!

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, and it's not even so pink that I feel embarrassed to carry it around haha. It has a very fairytale feel to it, and, hey, I love dragons.

Characters: Evie is a wonderful character. She's just the kind of girl I like to read about in these sorts of stories. She was attitude free, she conquered her fears and did what she had to do, she stood up for her friends, and overcame obstacles that came into her life. I also really liked Remington, he was a sweet guy, funny, and an enjoyable character. Evie's friends were nice too, I liked Maggie and Demetra, and felt particularly sorry for poor Basil. The only complaint I had was that I would have liked to see more of their interactions, it always seemed that Evie was apart from them, and partly that was her character, but I would have liked to see more of them doing things together. Malora was pretty horrible to Evie to, although I did end up feeling sorry for her once you find out what is really going on. The witches were actually more frightening than I expected, and I was not disappointed in that. Overall, a great cast, and characters I liked well enough to return to.

The Romance: There is a little romance between Evie and Remington, which at first I wasn't sure about because I originally thought the characters were younger than they seem to be in actuality. I wasn't against it, and I do like them together, there were just a couple parts where Remington was jealous and acting like a little girl that I didn't particularly care for, but otherwise, I didn't have any complaints.

Writing Style: The style of writing is actually very good, though it did take me a few chapters to get into it for whatever reason. Once I got used to it, I really enjoyed it. It had a very fairy tale quality, especially in the first few chapters, and was quite fast paced, and descriptive and made for easy reading. The world building was really cool, and I loved that there are all kinds of mentions of the old stories, and a lot of the places' names come from Grimm stories and it was really cool, but gave a different take on things. It did sort of have a Harry Potter feel to it with the boarding school and all, but I think that can be forgiven.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't have any real complaints at all. I enjoyed the story a lot.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I just liked this book more and more as I continued to read it, and I really look forward to continuing the series and seeing very Evie's story goes.

Recommended Audience: Girl read ages 12 and up. I actually kept thinking of Princess Academy by Shannon Hale when I was reading this, and I think if you liked that one, you would enjoy this as well.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: "Gathering Darkness" by Morgan Rhodes

Title/Author: Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms #3) by Morgan Rhodes
Genre: YA High Fantasy
Rating: 3/5 stars
Synopsis: In GATHERING DARKNESS, book three of the New York Times bestselling Falling Kingdoms series, the stakes have never been higher as three teams push forward on a race to find the Kindred, the four elemental crystals possessing ancient all-powerful magic, first:

Prince Magnus has just witnessed torture, death, and miracles during the bloody confrontation that decimated the rebel forces. Now he must choose between family and justice as his father, the cruel King Gaius, sets out to conquer all of Mytica. All Gaius needs now are the Kindred - the four elemental crystals that give godlike powers to their owner. But the King of Blood is not the only one hunting for this ancient, storied magic...

• THE KRAESHIANS join the hunt. Ashur and Amara, the royal siblings from the wealthy kingdom across the Silver Sea, charm and manipulate their way to the Kindred, proving to be more ruthless than perhaps even the King of Blood himself.

• THE REBELS forge ahead. Princess Cleo and vengeful Jonas lead them, slaying with sweetness, skill, and a secret that can control Lucia's overpowering magic - all so they can use the Kindred to win back their fallen kingdoms.

• THE WATCHERS follow Melenia out of the Sanctuary. They ally in the flesh with King Gaius, who vows to use Lucia's powers to unveil the Kindred.

The only certainty in the dark times is that whoever finds the magic first will control the fate of Mytica... but fate can be fickle when magic is involved.


Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: While I did enjoy reading this book, it's probably my least favorite of the series so far for various reasons. But I do still like to read these, and the next one (the finale?) promises to be really awesome.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I always love the covers for these, I think they're gorgeous. Something about the colors and they work well for the fantasy theme.

Characters: This was partly why I didn't like this book as much as the previous two. I do still like Cleo, she has stayed pretty much the same, still does what she has to do, and doesn't do too badly with it either. I also continue to like Magnus, I really liked his character arc in this book and can't wait to see where it leads in the next. I do still like Jonas as well, and still am kind of annoyed with Lysandra, but whatever, there wasn't a huge amount of them in the book. I really want to say I still feel bad for Lucia, but I'm gonna be honest, while I understand her going "dark side" isn't really her fault, she doesn't seem to really care, even if it does scare her on occasion (though not as much as it probably should). I just seemed like a whole teenage rebellion thing. I just don't really care for her character anymore. King Gaius is still evil, but even then, I wish there was more of him being evil. He's slowly losing his evil king status. And I didn't care for either Ashur or Amara. I honestly didn't really see the whole point of their involvement in the plot. It seemed a little unnecessary, and don't even get me started on Asher and Nic...yeah.

The Romance: This was the main problem I had with this book. There was just too much sleeping around and for what, to make people jealous? I hate that, and it makes it hard for me to respect characters who do that. And the whole thing with Lucia and Alexius sealed the deal with me on how I felt about her character. But I won't say anymore just to be polite.

Writing Style: The writing style is still good. In fact, I have always loved the engaging style the author uses, and the POV jumping. It keeps the story flowing and exciting when fantasies can tend to drag on occasion. I did like how this one went into more about the search for the Kindred which I had been waiting for, and there was a lot of good stuff, more settling on the intrigue than the actual action like the first two. It was still a moderately quick read, only really dragging a bit for me at the last quarter.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: Apart from the problems already mentioned, the book just simply suffered from the 'middle book curse'. I wasn't anticipating this one to be as exciting as the first two considering it's the third and one right before the climax, so I wasn't entirely disappointed either, I just wish there had been a little less romantic angst. It really wore on me after a while.

Conclusion: 3 stars. Not my favorite in the series, but I have very high hopes for the next one, and look forward to it!

Recommended Audience: If you enjoyed the first two, than this one is worth reading. Any fans of high fantasy would enjoy these. Older teens due to content 18 and up.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Review "Anna Dressed In Blood" by Kendare Blake

Title/Author: Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna #1) By Kendare Blake
Genre: YA, Supernatural, Horror
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Cas Lowood has inherited an unusual vocation: He kills the dead.

So did his father before him, until he was gruesomely murdered by a ghost he sought to kill. Now, armed with his father's mysterious and deadly athame, Cas travels the country with his kitchen-witch mother and their spirit-sniffing cat. They follow legends and local lore, destroy the murderous dead, and keep pesky things like the future and friends at bay.

Searching for a ghost the locals call Anna Dressed in Blood, Cas expects the usual: track, hunt, kill. What he finds instead is a girl entangled in curses and rage, a ghost like he's never faced before. She still wears the dress she wore on the day of her brutal murder in 1958: once white, now stained red and dripping with blood. Since her death, Anna has killed any and every person who has dared to step into the deserted Victorian she used to call home.

Yet she spares Cas's life.

Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I love ghost stories, I love awesome male protagonists, so this was kind of a fun read for me, and definitely creepy, which is always a plus in my opinion.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, it's very gothic and creepy looking. I have a thing for black and white covers with red as the only color.

Characters: I loved Cas, he was awesome. It's always nice to find YA books with first person male protagonists, so I liked him all the more for it. He was kind of sarcastic, he was smart, and he did what he had to do, but not without thinking it over first. He wasn't stupid and always rushing off to get into trouble. I also did really like Anna, and felt horrible for her. Thomas was a kind of quirky, but easily likable character, and I was surprised how much I liked Caramel, she was a nice girl even if she was a popular one. Will and Chase were kind of jerks, and jocks, and I can't say I really cared for them, but they served their purpose. The baddie was majorly creepy. I had shivers down my spine reading about him, really good job there.

The Romance: Not as prevalent as I thought it would be. I think because Cas didn't really realize how he actually felt about Anna for a while, and it was never the foremost thought in his mind until the end of the book. I liked that, it made the storyline bearable and never got in the way of the plot. Of course, it's also sad because you pretty much know it's a doomed relationship. You also have a sideplot of Thomas/Caramel which I actually thought was kind of cute, and it doesn't take up a lot anyway.

Writing Style: I liked Cas' narration, he was an easy character to read, I liked how he kind of balanced out the freaky with some humor and easy narrating (Kind of like Cal in the Cal Leandros series by Rob Thurman). This is a book that really did creep me out, which doesn't happen very often, though I try to find books that will scare me (because I'm weird like that, lol) But I read this book over a course of rainy days and it was scary, especially toward the end where you get to meet the baddie.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable. And I was slightly disappointed we didn't get to see more common lore in this book. I do like the take with the story, but I love ghost stories and folklore based books because I love traditional folklore, but apart from that, it was entertaining. I do not know anything much about voodoo, so maybe it was actually kind of accurate to the lore after all.

Problems/What bothered me: Not too much bothered me. A bit of stronger language than I like, and a bit more of the demonic stuff than I care to read toward the end, but it wasn't as bad as I thought. I think a few things could have been explained better, like about the voodoo, and the baddie, but overall, I didn't have any problems that kept me from enjoying the book. The only real complaint I have is that they made the text red, which I hate. It's very hard to read colored text. That's kind of a reading pet peeve of mine.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I'm going to be honest, I don't think this book needs a sequel, I liked the way it ended, (view spoiler) so I probably won't read it, unless I decide to later, but I really did enjoy this one, and I wouldn't mind reading more of Cas.

Recommended Audience: Girl or guy read, if the guy doesn't mind a little romance. 17 and up. I would definitely recommend it to Supernatural fans, and don't worry, it's actually not too similar, which is what I expected when I started it, but you will appreciate it.

Saturday, January 31, 2015

January 2015 Wrap Up

Following my new blogging regimen this year, I will be posting a wrap up of all the books I read every month and all the books I bought and list my favorite reads instead of just posting the reviews of my favs (since I am now posting all the reviews I write.)

I managed to read nine books this month which was more than I planned to, so that was a good start to the year in my opinion, and I'm still on track with my Goodreads reading challenge for the year! So without further ado here is my January wrap up:

#1. Midnight Thief by Livia Blackburne (4/5 stars)
#2. The Jedi Doth Return (William Shakespeare's Star Wars #3) by Ian Doescher (5/5 stars)
#3. Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo (4/5 satrs)
#4. The Wild (Secret Journeys of Jack London #1) by William Golden & Tim Lebbon (5/5 stars--This was my month's reread)
#5. Anna Dressed in Blood by Kendare Blake (4/5 stars)
#6. Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (5/5 stars-- my Classics for Classic Ladies book club read of the month)
#7. Gathering Darkness (Falling Kingdoms #3) by Morgan Rhodes (3/5 stars)
#8. Slashback (Cal Leandros #8) by Rob Thurman (4/5 stars)
#9. The Pennyroyal Academy by M. A. Larson (4/5 stars)

Favorite Reads of the Month:

Midnight Thief
Slashback
The Pennyroyal Academy


Now for the books I bought this month. I wasn't planning on buying many at all, but my friend and I decided to go visit my favorite used bookstore, so...that happened. I ended up coming back with 13 books plus the two I got earlier this month, so it could have been worse, I suppose. But I got a good haul, several books I have been wanting to read for a while, a couple to bring to BookCon to get signed, and yeah, some westerns, I have been in the mood for them lately.

#1. Hounded (Iron Druid Chronicles #1) by Kevin Hearne
#2. Ruin and Rising (Grisha Trilogy #3) by Leigh Bardugo
#3. Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1) by Jim Butcher
#4. The Thundering Herd by Zane Grey
#5. The Drift Fence by Zane Grey
#6. Raiders of Spanish Peaks by Zane Grey
#7. Desert Gold by Zane Grey
#8. Silverfin (Young Bond #1) by Charlie Higson
#9. Prowlers by Christopher Golden
#10. When the Eagle Hunts (Macro and Cato #3) by Simon Scarrow
#11. Captain Alatriste (Alatriste #1) by Arturo Perez-Reverte
#12. Purity of Blood (Alatriste #2) by Aruto Perez-Reverte
#13. The Sun Over Breda (Alatriste #3) by Aruto Perez-Reverte
#14. Pirates of the Levant (Alatriste #6) by Aruto Perez-Reverte
#15. The Sea Wolf by Jack London


What did you all get to read this month? Let me know if you had a good start to your reading in 2015 and if you have any must reads for me this year!

Until next time,
Slainte, Hazel

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

Review: "The Wild" by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

This is a re-read for me (I usually do a re-read every month) but I wanted to post the review because it's one of my favorite series, and no one seems to know about it, so I hope you will check these books out after reading this review. Please give the authors your support!

Title: The Wild (Secret Journeys of Jack London #1) by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon (Illustrated by Greg Ruth)
Genre: YA, Historical, Supernatural
Rating: 5/5 stars
Synopsis: The world knows Jack London as a writer who lived his own thrilling, real-life adventures. But there are parts of his life that have remained hidden for many years, things so horrifying even he couldn’t set them down in writing. These are the Secret Journeys of Jack London.

We meet Jack at age seventeen, following thousands of men and women into the Yukon Territory in search of gold. For Jack, the journey holds the promise of another kind of fortune: challenge and adventure. But what he finds in the wild north is something far more sinister than he could ever have imagined: kidnapping and slavery, the murderous nature of desperate men, and, amidst it all, supernatural beasts of the wilderness that prey upon the weakness in men’s hearts.

Acclaimed writers Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon, along with illustrator Greg Ruth, have crafted a masterful tale both classic and contemporary, a gripping original story of the paranormal in the tradition of the great Jack London.
 

Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books for me that has such a unique premise that I had to read it.. This series is about a young Jack London, before he really became famous, and his supposed 'secret journeys' that are written down, as we see in the preface, by a companion of his who he meets in the book. It was truly nothing like I thought it was going to be when I picked it up, in fact, about a third of the way through, I really had no idea which direction it was going and I liked that. There are so many predictable books out there, but this one really caught me by surprise in every chapter and I could never guess what I would find on the next page. It was very strange, but in a good way, and the kind of way I like. But I'll talk more about that later.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I LOVE the covers for these books and the illustrations inside. I love the weathered look of the picture and how Jack and the wolf are both on it and you can only see a back profile of Jack. Still some of my favorite covers.

Characters: I liked how Jack was portrayed. I don't know too much about the real Jack London, but I really liked how this teenage version of him was portrayed. And from what the authors said in their authors' note, his character is pretty accurate. I liked his two friends, Jim and Merrit and the boy Hal who he rescues from getting taken by slavers up in the Yukon. The slavers were appropriately nasty, and they really were vile. Lesya was appropriately mysterious and exotic, but I won't say more about that for fear of spoilers.

Writing Style: The writing style is partly why I gave the book five stars. This was a very well written book, and the style fit the story perfectly and felt reminiscent of Jack London's writing. It was vivid, and visual and I could totally see all the scenes playing out in front of me which was great because some of the strange scenes could have been very vague. I am a fan of books that portray fantasy and supernatural happenings realistically, if that makes any sense, and this book really did. I liked the setting of the Yukon because it's such a deserted place, that you could actually believe the happenings of this book could happen. I liked how they brought in the story of the Wendigo which came from that area, and the Wendigo was portrayed to be very frightening. There's also some Russain lore in the book too, dealing with the forest spirit, Leshii. That part of the book for me was almost creepier than the Wendigo. This is more of a narrative book, and there's long chunks without dialogue, but it's hardly noticeable if you're not a fan of narrative writing. I go either way depending on who writes it, but this one you will not notice the difference at all.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't have anything to complain about, truthfully, this book was just so odd that I just kind of went along for the ride and didn't really think about it too much. It kept my attention though, and I cared for the characters, so I must have enjoyed it! Upon re-reading, I actually liked it better than the first time, since I knew what to expect and just sat back and enjoyed the story.

Conclusion: 5 stars. Very unique read, awesome series, one of my favs.

Recommended Audience: Older teens, a guy book. There's a bit of language and lots of gore. This is definitely a realistic book so if you're squeamish of blood, don't read it. Also, it really is kind of creepy. If you want something kind of a cross between Louis L'Amour and Supernatural then this is as close as you are going to get!

Thursday, January 15, 2015

Review: "Siege and Storm" by Leigh Bardugo

Title/Author: Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy #2) by Leigh Bardugo
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars
Synopsis: Darkness never dies.

Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land. She finds starting new is not easy while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. She can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long.

The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her--or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.

Review:


Thoughts on the Overall Book: While I didn't think this was quite as good as the first one, I still am really enjoying this series, and it was definitely action-packed and a great adventure.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the covers for these books. Simple and pretty.

Characters: I do like Alina, she's a strong heroine, but doesn't have an attitude either. There were a couple parts that she started to annoy me in this one (get to that later) but for the most part, she continued to be an enjoyable character to read about. Not a favorite, but I like her. Mal is also a likable character (though again, annoyed me a little in this one) I do really like him, but he's not the kind of character I fall in love with. Nikolai on the other hand, is definitely my new fav. He's just awesome, and sarcastic, and I'm trying to think of who he reminds me of. In any case, definitely loved him. The Darkling continues to be majorly creepy, I love him as a baddie, and I hope he continues to be as evil and cool in the last book.

The Romance: This was the only problem I had with this book. I don't mind Alina and Mal's relationship...but the issues that came about because of it, were annoying. It turned Alina whiny and made me want to slap her, and it made Mal all huffy and acting kind of like a scorned girl. There's threats of love triangles, but I don't know if it will go anywhere, and I know it's not going to ruin my opinion of Nikolai.

Writing Style: The writing style is beautiful, and partly why I love these books so much. It reads kind of like a fantasy and kind of like a fairy tale, and it fits with the world and the story. The world is beautiful, and very unique and creative. There aren't many fantasies based around Russian folklore and culture and I think it fits really well, and is so awesome to read about.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: Besides the romance, not much. I think the book could have been a little shorter, as it did drag on occasion as middle trilogy books are wont to do, but it was still overall an enjoyable read.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I am really looking forward to reading the final book. This one left off with a cliff-hanger so I'm eager to finish the story!

Recommended Audience: Girl read, ages 16 and up. Fans of action/adventure fantasy and Russian folklore would enjoy.