Friday, August 31, 2012

Books of Note: August Reads

Here's three book reviews of good books I read this month. Only one of these is rated Five Stars, but the other two were very good as well and I wanted to share them with you since they are not necessarily very popular books but definitely hidden gems!

Montmorency, the man who leads a double life as both a criminal and a gentleman, is back for his most thrilling adventure yet in the final installment of the Montmorency trilogy.

As the nineteenth century draws to a close, war is in the air, and influenza is sweeping the globe. After twenty years as a gentleman, Montmorency is glad to be free of Scarper, his wretched alter-ego. However, when Montmorency's young friend Frank finds himself caught in the middle of a murderous political plot, Montmorency may have no choice but to call upon none other than Scarper for help.

Follow Montmorency, Fox-Selwyn, Dr. Farcett, and a whole new generation of characters on their travels from London to Scotland, Italy and America.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Wow, as I said in my review of "Montmorency on the Rocks" these books just keep getting better and better and this one definitely did not disappoint. It kept me guessing right to the end, and it took a completely different turn from where I thought it was going to when I first started it. I loved the story line of this one too. Not that the others weren't good, but the intrigue and the plots involving the Italian activists was really interesting because I have never really studied any of that history before. I also liked how the author portrayed them as radicals but yet, the reader could also be sympathetic to their cause even though they tended to go about things in the wrong way.

Characters: As always I loved the regulars: Montmorency, Lord George and Dr. Farcett. I still found Vi annoying, but she's not so annoying I can't stand her either. I really loved the addition of Tom and Frank in here (Vi's son and George's nephew). Frank ended up being one of my favorite characters in this book, and I liked the way he matured through the story and I look forward to seeing more of him in the last book.

Writing Style: I really like the way the author creates stories that are not necessarily action-packed, or at least not what would be considered action-packed in today's society, but yet the story is so very engaging and makes you want to read more. I believe the key is making characters the reader loves so much that we cannot stop reading about these people. The style is also rather classic so that the stories read rather like a Holmes story which only makes them all the better.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing bothered me, this was a great book, however the ending nearly killed me because I was not expecting that. I'm not going to spoil it though.

Conclusion: 5 stars on this one. It was just so good from start to finish. These are truly amazing books and I hate that it took me so long to get to finally read them!

Recommended Audience: Same as the others, older teens and most likely a good number of adults would enjoy these. And of course any fans of Sherlock Holmes. 

Charlie West has forgotten an entire year in which he was convicted of murder and working with terrorists. He's got to find the answers to deep questions: Who am I? What do I stand for? And how am I going to stay alive?


Thoughts on the Overall Book: First of all, this isn't my normal kind of read, at least not the kind of stuff I have been reading recently, I used to be into the spy thrillers and all that, but this is probably the first contemporary book I have picked up in a long time that hasn't been a time travel novel or some kind of paranormal book. It was just one of those random books one picks from the library to "give it a go" and I'm glad I did because it was a really good book!

Writing Style: The author's style is good, fast paced, engaging and in first person, which is the only way I think this book could have worked properly. The reader could not know anything outside of Charlie's head because otherwise the whole story line would be ruined and I really liked how we were just as much in the dark as Charlie about what was going on in the story. Really good choice for a book like this.

Characters: Charlie is a very good protagonist, and a good narrator. He has a sense of humor, though you don't get a lot of that because of the dark situations that fill most of the book. I loved to see his interaction with his friends in the flashback parts and though you don't get to see his friends a lot, you know what they are like through Charlie and that is another thing the author did really well. I also liked that, while Charlie is a good, just person, he is not overly 'goody-two-shoes'. He just comes across as a strong character who will do what he needs to do if he's forced to, but he's not either looking for trouble, or getting out of it because he is afraid of hurting someone. He's a very good protagonist for a YA novel because he is one who the reader will grow with.

Problems/What bothered me: There was nothing that really bothered me. This is a Christian based book (and no, I don't have a problem with that at all) so they're wasn't anything bad content wise. I also appreciated that nothing was shoved down the reader's throat as can sometimes happen with Christian fiction. There were a couple parts I felt the author might have been putting in his own thoughts and concepts, but they weren't necessarily out of content for Charlie either, so I let it slide. The main theme in this book pretty much is patriotism and staying true to yourself.

Conclusion: Four Stars. It was really good, and I look forward to the next one since it has a major cliff hanger and I am very intrigued to find out what happened to Charlie. One thing I really loved about this book is that the author revealed very little in the first volume so that the reader will want to read more to find out what happened and why Charlie cannot remember a whole year of his life. I also liked how this book kept surprising me. In fact, there were very few moments where I could see where it was going and I love that. I like cliché stories, but I love a book that can keep even me guessing! 

Recommended Audience: This is definitely a guy read and I think any guy from 14 and up would really enjoy it. Girls who like guy reads would enjoy it too, but I found it refreshing that I could actually class this with no contest a guy read seeing as they are very hard to find in YA.

A young man only at peace when he is at war
Young Halfdan is a slave. He is crafty with a bow and arrow and wise in the ways of the animals, but he can only dream of a warrior's life. That is, until the dark day a Saxon's blows lay his father on his deathbed, and his mother makes a tragic bargain for Halfdan's freedom.
A boy's destiny can come at the most terrible price. Halfdan must suffer a grave loss in order to grasp what he most desires: to train by, to live by, and, if the fates decree it, to die by the force of his sword and the swiftness of his arrow. He is to be a warrior -- a great warrior.
Bloody, furiously paced, heart-wrenching, and unflinching, this is a story of a land where the destinies of boys and men are forged in the heat of battle. Young Halfdan shall come to know the glories of true brotherhood and the unspeakable horrors of true evil. In this first book in a saga teeming with thrilling details of the Viking world, young Halfdan emerges as a new hero . . . a new myth . . . a new legend

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I love stories about Vikings, and I loved how this one was very accurate. Mr. Roberts did his research on this quite wonderfully. It was not one of the cliché Viking stories where they are portrayed pretty much as ancient pirates, and the extensive historical note in the back, clearly shows all the research that went into this novel to make it accurate, so my hat off to Judson Roberts!

Characters: I really loved the characters in this. Halfdan was a great main character/narrator. I liked how he was conflicted with his feelings about life in general and the Viking way. It is quite a step to go from thrall to chieftain's son in the course of an evening and his feelings were very real and understandable. I also loved Harald and Sigrid and I loved the brother/sister/brother relationship between the two of them and Halfdan. It was extra lovely because they didn't have to be nice to him at all and yet they took to him as if their social classes hadn't been different all their lives. I also think Toke made a wonderful villain. He's just an evil, hateful person, and surprisingly conniving. In short, a wonderful cast of characters.

Writing Style: The writing has that old feel to it that I love reading when it comes to historical novels, especially ones set during this time period. It wasn't quite up with Rosemary Sutcliff, but it was still good. Halfdan as the narrator in first person really works well for this story, so the reader will, I think, sympathize with him even more since it feels like we are enduring everything with him.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing really bothered me in this story. It started a but slow with all the stories and stuff that everyone was telling, but it's not so slow that you won't want to read on, and when you do, the story picks up and becomes very hard to put down. Besides, this is the kind of book you really have to know the backstory on before you can fully appreciate the plot.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I really enjoyed this book, and am eager to read the rest of the series. It was a good brother story, a good revenge story and it had lots of raw emotions which I usually enjoy in a book because it's a mark of a very good author to be able to pull them off well.

Recommended Audience: Older teens I would say for some content reasons (there's several places where rape is mentioned because that was just what happened) And I think fans of Rosemary Sutcliff or any Historical Fiction lovers would really like these.

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