Thursday, February 28, 2013

Book of Note: February Reads

February was also a really good month for me reading wise, and these are some of my favorite reads from this month:


Hoping to escape the troubles in her kingdom, Princess Poppy reluctantly agrees to take part in a royal exchange program, whereby young princes and princesses travel to each other's countries in the name of better political alliances--and potential marriages. It's got the makings of a fairy tale--until a hapless servant named Eleanor is tricked by a vengeful fairy godmother into competing with Poppy for the eligible prince. Ballgowns, cinders, and enchanted glass slippers fly in this romantic and action-packed happily-ever-after quest from an author with a flair for embroidering tales in her own delightful way.



Review


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I'm really glad the author decided to continue her series with the same characters, and this is probably one of the more interesting Cinderella retellings I have read. I don't think it was quite as good as "Princess at the Midnight Ball" but still very, very enjoyable and a perfect weekend read. And I will admit that I kind of have a thing for books with balls or dances. It's one of the things on my more girly side I guess. This whole book actually made me think of a Jane Austin or Louissa May Alcott novel but with magic involved, and since they're two of my favorite girl read authors, I liked that.

Cover--Yea or Nay: On the copy I read, the library put their stupid barcode right over Poppy's face. But from this pic, it's okay, but as with the first one, I don't think the girl looks exactly how I pictured Poppy, but it does look like a fairy tale book.

Characters: Okay, so Galen was only in this for like a couple pages which made me sad, but Christian wasn't a bad hero either. He was more a victim than a hero, but in this story, it didn't bother me because Poppy is the kind of girl that can get things done. I also don't mind romantic conflict if it is brought on because of spells in fairy tales, but besides that, there truthfully (and thankfully) wasn't that much romantic conflict at all. The characters all more cared for each other as friends than, 'oh my gosh, he's my man get off!" And I also liked how Christian knew something was wrong with him, and tried so hard not to let it get him. I'm actually debating whether I like Poppy better than Rose. I had nothing against Rose, but I just adore Poppy's character because she has spunk and wit yet without an attitude. I also liked Marianne and Roger. I thought it was kind of neat that Poppy and Roger worked together to help their respected love interests. And I did end up feeling sorry for Eleanora and though her choice was stupid you can understand why she did it. I also liked Lord Richard, he was a fun character and I thought he would make a great uncle. I didn't think the Corley was as good a baddie as the King Under Stone, but she was kind of creepy and was an interesting twist on the fairy godmother.

Writing Style: As with the first book, it's lovely, simple yet visual with a nice bit of wit about it too.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing really bothered me. I did think it ended a little abruptly though.

Conclusion: 4 stars. Not quite as good as the first one, but still a really good and enjoyable read, and I think this is definitely a series I will want to collect for myself.

Recommended Audience: Girl read, any age. This one wasn't quite as creepy as the first one either (though that might be relative because I thought the Corley was pretty creepy).


As World War I draws to a close in 1918, German citizens are starving and suffering under a repressive regime. Sixteen-year-old Moritz is torn. His father died in the war and his older brother still risks his life in the trenches, but his mother does not support the patriotic cause and attends subversive socialist meetings. While his mother participates in the revolution to sweep away the monarchy, Moritz falls in love with a Jewish girl who also is a socialist. When Moritz’s brother returns home a bitter, maimed war veteran, ready to blame Germany’s defeat on everything but the old order, Moritz must choose between his allegiance to his dangerously radicalized brother and those who usher in the new democracy.


Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: Give me anything about the Germans in the First World War and I'm usually happy. It all goes back to the fact that Manfred von Richthofen is one of my favorite historical people of all time, but still, I love the Germans and since I have German roots, I'm always interested in the history. This was actually I side of the war I haven't really visited before: the home front. (Usually I like the front lines) but I enjoyed reading about what life was like back in Germany and this was a very interesting story.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, you can tell it's a WWI era novel and I have a thing for old pictures. I don't know why there is the target on there though seeing as that was a French thing.

Characters: Moritz was a good protagonist. I liked how he was kind of mutual, torn between being proud of his brother for fighting in the war and having his mother and older sister fight against it back home in Germany. I also liked how he never really came to a conclusion on his feelings but rather simply wanted justice done for everyone. Being of that mind made him a very good journalist. I liked Herr Goldmann even though he wasn't in the story a lot, but I felt kind of torn in my feelings for Moritz's brother, Hans. I felt bad for him and understand that soldiers were very rarely whole when they came back from the war, and what they had seen was awfully traumatizing, even more so when they had no idea what it was they were fighting for. But at the same time, you could obviously tell that he would be sympathetic to the Nazi cause in later years. Rebecca was a sweet girl, and I really liked her too even though she wasn't in the story a whole lot.

The Romance: There's only a bit of hinted romance between Moritz and Rebecca and I had no problems with it, and probably wouldn't have even if there had been more. I liked the two of them together.

Writing Style: It's in present tense unfortunately, but thankfully it wasn't the vague kind of present tense that some YA books are like and after a while you can kind of ignore it. The author did a really good job at capturing the feel of the time period and what it must have been like to live in Germany during war time. She also managed to give a feel for the desperate situation without over-telling, or being really graphic. And since Moritz was a pretty neutral character, there was no time when it felt like the author was trying to hammer any one idea into the reader's head, and I really liked that, because, like Moritz, I only wanted to see what was fare for both parties and I hate it when (a.) people shun those who don't join a cause because they think they are being unpatriotic and (b.) people who hate soldiers for joining a cause when they were, for the most part, just trying to do their duty and hoping to keep their families safe back home.

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't really have any problems with the book. I do think it could have been a little longer, and I might have liked to see a bit more of a conclusion in the end, but I also kind of like how it ended with a bit of foreboding, as this was certainly not the end of troubles in Germany.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I enjoyed the book quite a bit. I also think that, while the book could be a standalone, the author could actually take it into later history if she wished.

Recommended Audience: WWI buffs or people who want a quick historical or family story to read. Guy or girl read 13 and up.


In a land where magic has been forgotten but peace has reigned for centuries, a deadly unrest is simmering. Three kingdoms grapple for power—brutally transforming their subjects' lives in the process. Amidst betrayals, bargains, and battles, four young people find their fates forever intertwined:

Cleo: A princess raised in luxury must embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of a magic long thought extinct.

Jonas: Enraged at injustice, a rebel lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country impoverished—and finds himself the leader of a people's revolution centuries in the making.

Lucia: A girl adopted at birth into a royal family discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield.

Magnus: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, a firstborn son begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword. . . .

The only outcome that's certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?


Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was a hard book to rate, because the story itself was very engaging and one that needs to be read straight through to see how it ends and I'm still trying to decide actually whether the rating reflects my overall opinion of the story itself or something else. It's one of those books that was very hard to decide for me.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I think the cover is beautiful and is actually what caught my attention to begin with. It's definitely a fantasy novel. The only thing I was wondering about was who the person is on the front? It doesn't really feel like the book to me.

Characters: There's a lot of characters in this book, and one thing I really liked about it was that they were all very human and relatable characters (well, within reason of course), and they were all the kind of characters who grow with the story which was another thing I really liked.

I'll start off with Cleo. I wasn't sure what I thought of her at first because she seemed she might have the potential to be a bit of a spoiled brat, but as the story progressed, she really turned into a strong, sympathetic heroine and I ended up really liking her. She didn't have an attitude, and when she was stupid, she was stupid for good reasons like wanting to help her sister. It was never for her own gain she acted against anyone's will but to save those she loved. I really felt her disgust at being betrothed to nasty Aron as well. (Boy was he a fun character to hate!) And I ended up feeling terribly sorry for the losses she sustained through the story.

I liked Jonas from the first moment I saw him. For me, he was the most straight forward, black and white character in the book. I saw why he hated the Auranians, and I understood that, and also his hatred for Cleo for letting his brother be killed by Aron.(view spoiler) I was sad though, that there was not more of him. He was a strong character in the beginning and the end of the book, but more of a shadow in the middle. I really wish I had gotten to know him better and that there had been more about his relationship with his best friend, Brion. They had a great brotherly relationship but there wasn't enough of them in the book.

I liked Lucia when I first met her too. She came across as a sweet girl and obviously very forgiving if she can still love and care for Magnus (more on that later). She seemed more a victim of curcunstance to me, and I felt sorry for her too for having to deal with her adopted family. (view spoiler)

Now Magnus, I hated. I didn't even like him to begin with. He and his father make a great pair of bloodthirsty tyrants, and he's pretty much a sadistic psychopath in training. His infatuation with Lucia is disgusting, and I think that's what drove every little bit of sympathy I might have had for him out to begin with. However, I do think he will make a very good villain in later books, and I can kind of see where he might be going, but I'm interested to see how his story develops. Especially his 'relationship' with his father.

The Romance: There wasn't a whole lot of romance in here, apart from Magnus' infatuation with Lucia, which, needless to say, I hated. Besides that there was really just Cleo's romance with Theon which, while a little cleche, and expected, I didn't have a problem with either because it did nothing to slow the plot down. I was glad her and Nic's relationship stayed brother-sister, because I liked Nic a lot and I didn't want to see any contention with that in there. He's the kind of guy who, even if he might like a girl, he's okay with her not wanting their relationship to turn romantic.

Writing Style: While not necessarily the most beautiful writing I've ever read, the author writes very well, and the book was incredibly engaging. I occasionally lose patience with fantasies because of unnecessary description. "Falling Kingdoms", although the plot obviously is important, is a more character driven story than anything, and it was fast paced because of it. You get the idea of what's going on or the scenery, but it's never bogged down like fantasy novels are sometimes and I liked that. I love character driven stories for that reason. The plot, like the characters, was realistic with all the political turmoil and such. There was nothing in this book that made me go "okay when would this ever happen in real life?" (besides the magic of course). I thought it was going to be a long read for me, but it actually went very quick. The battle scenes are not bogged down with unnecessary description either. Not a lot is shown, but a few things and events show how brutal it is. A few parts kind of reminded me of BBC's Merlin, (but the opposite) and some of the story was predictable, but there was also a nice amount of surprise there as well.

Problems/What bothered me: The only real problem I had was Magnus' infatuation with Lucia, but that didn't bother me as much as it would have if I was supposed to like Magnus, which the reader isn't really supposed to, thankfully. Besides that, this is one of those books that I can't really say anything against until I read the whole series. There was nothing that totally threw me in this one though, I think I was far too engaged in finding out how it would end.

Conclusion: 3 stars, I liked it, and it promises to be a very intriguing series. The ending was definitely a cliff-hanger so I'm eagerly awaiting the next book to see what will happen next. I think the author has created a wonderful world and cast of characters here who you feel something for (In Magnus' case, disgust, and in Cleo and Jonas', sympathy) And I always like books that make me care for the characters.

Recommended Audience: Fantasy lovers who don't mind a drama would enjoy this and those who like fantasy's which are character driven. Older teens, due to some content. It can be a guy or girl read.


Also read Mara's review here


Mickey Bolitar's year can't get much worse. After witnessing his father's death and sending his mom to rehab, he's forced to live with his estranged uncle Myron and switch high schools.

A new school comes with new friends and new enemies, and lucky for Mickey, it also comes with a great new girlfriend, Ashley. For a while, it seems like Mickey's train-wreck of a life is finally improving - until Ashley vanishes without a trace. Unwilling to let another person walk out of his life, Mickey follows Ashley's trail into a seedy underworld that reveals that this seemingly sweet, shy girl isn't who she claimed to be. And neither was Mickey's father. Soon, Mickey learns about a conspiracy so shocking that it makes high school drama seem like a luxury - and leaves him questioning everything about the life he thought he knew.

First introduced to readers in Harlan Coben's latest adult novel, Live Wire, Mickey Bolitar is as quick-witted and clever as his uncle Myron, and eager to go to any length to save the people he cares about. With this new series, Coben introduces an entirely new generation of fans to the masterful plotting and wry humor that have made him an award-winning, internationally bestselling, and beloved author.

Review

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I love a good suspense novel, and "Shelter" did not disappoint, in fact, it was probably one of the better contemporary books I've read in a long time, because it had good pacing and action, but also was not without a good sense of humor. Add to that an awesome cast, and the book is a win from me.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I like the cover as itself, but I don't really see how it fits into the story exactly. Also it looks almost more like a scary story than a suspense novel.

Characters: Mickey Bolitar is a great protagonists, and just the kind of male contemporary heroes I like. He's not a jerk, yet he's also not out of water either (meaning, that he doesn't seem like a made up hero, but like a real person, someone who I would consider a friend if I knew him in real life). I liked how he loved his parents too. I know that sounds strange, but so often in YA contemporary novels, there's always contention between the main characters and their parents, but we know that Mickey loved his dad, and I think it's sweet how much he cares for his mom even though he could easily have come to hate her for her bad decisions. His kind of touch and go relationship with his uncle is okay though, under the circumstances.

I also really liked Ema and Spoon and Rachel too, though I wasn't sure what to think of her at first. Ema is goth but she's not GOTH if you know what I mean, so I really liked her character a lot, and Spoon is just random and funny and kind of a typical sidekick. Rachel is a lot smarter than a lot of people give her credit for since she's like the 'popular girl'.

Buddy Ray was also a very convincing modern baddie. I wouldn't want to meet him.

The Romance: Mickey's girlfriend, Ashley, is kidnapped before the book even starts, so there really isn't any romance involved in this book, and thankfully the author was awesome enough to keep his relationships with the other female characters just friends which I totally love.

Writing Style: First person and thankfully past tense (it seems only female authors are doing present tense) It was fast paced, yet paced well enough so that it didn't have that action movie feel where you get more action than story line. There was actually a good plot in this book, and I really didn't know what each chapter would bring. This was one of those rare books that I can't guess what's going to happen next so it was a really quick read for me and kept me on my toes throughout. And needless to say, I LOVED how the author brought in WWII and the Nazis into the plot. Every suspense plot is better with Nazis. Harlan Coben did it right!

Problems/What bothered me: I didn't really have any problems with this book.

Conclusion: 4 stars, I really liked it! I'm excited to see where the series goes.

Recommended Audience: Suspense lovers of course. Good guy read, but also can be a girl read since the girl characters were really awesome. 14 and up

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Seven/Seven Blog Challenge

I don't usually do chain blog posts, but this one sounded like a lot of fun, and I'm interested to get people to participate in it!

I was nominated by C. P. Lesley, a friend and fellow author from Goodreads whose blog and challenge post, you can see here

These are the rules:

Take seven lines from page 7 (or 77) of your current work in progress.

Get seven other writers to post the same and link back to you.

And last, mention and link back to the person who nominated you (C. P. Lesley)
~~~

Here are seven lines from my steampunk mystery WIP Anthony Maxwell: A Case of Poisons Anthony, my private detective/consultant is called in early to Scotland Yard to view a body just found that met a particularly nasty end.





Inspector Garrett met us in the lobby, pacing and looking impatient as usual—I had rarely seen him any other way—and he looked relieved to see us enter. I pulled off my goggles and un-buttoned my coat as I smiled pleasantly at him.
         “Well, Inspector, you said you have a body for me?” I asked cheerily as I stuffed my gloves into my coat pocket.
         “I do indeed, Maxwell,” Garrett said. “I daresay you won’t believe it when you see it.”
~~~

Okay, so I didn't find seven other writers since most of those I know were chosen with me, but here are four writers-in-arms that I challenge!

Mara 
B.B. Shepherd  
Megan Hoover
Lynnann Richards


Wednesday, February 13, 2013

ABNA Update

Okay, so I got kicked off again first round this year. I'm really to the point of hating ABNA because every time I think I'm giving them what they want, they apparently don't want that. So forget them because the group read on Goodreads for "On a Foreign Field" has gotten me some very very awesome reviews that you can look at here: http://www.goodreads.com/book/show/15755521-on-a-foreign-field

Also do check out Mara's (totally un-obligated) review on her blog: http://667bakerstreet.blogspot.com/2013/02/on-foreign-field-review-hazel-west.html

So, sorry that ABNA has kicked me off so that my book will no longer be $2.99 as promised. It's going back to it's original price, but you can still buy it, and I hope that after you read the reviews, it might make you want to read it all the more! There's also still time to join in the group read until the end of February: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1179269-read-in---readers-sign-up-here

So apparently the book is good, which makes me happy, and too bad that ABNA wasted their opportunity. Again.

Slainte, Hazel

Friday, February 1, 2013

Giveaway Announcement/ General Self Promoting and an Anthony Maxwell teaser!

Hello everyone! Okay, first things first, the giveaway I started for my blog tour is up and I have drawn the winner of my backstories collection from my hat:




The winner is: Kathy Garlock ! Congratulations!!

Also, I am totally excited to announce that "On a Foreign Field" was picked for a group read for February on the Goodreads group "Books, Blogs, Authors, and More" and if you are interested in getting the chance to read it for free, you can go and join the group and sign in here and I will provide an e-book copy for you! There's also an open discussion thread where you can ask me any questions you have about the book or discuss it with other readers.

You can also view an interview I did for the read here: http://www.goodreads.com/topic/show/1189042-february-2013---on-a-foreign-field---author-interview-and-questions

Apart from that, I have been working very hard on writing the first book in my Anthony Maxwell mystery series. If you look on the sidebar to the right, you can find Anthony on Facebook and follow him to see all his updates. You can also view his board on Pintrest here (Oh, yes, did I mention I am on Pintrest now? Well, yes I am! So you can follow me there too, if you so desire!)

For those interested, this is the case so far:



Will you make anything of it? Hopefully not! You'll just have to wait until spring to read the book, but for now, here's a little teaser:


The place didn’t look like it had been touched since the Reformation, and looking at some of the grave marker dates, that assumption turned out to be quite correct, but I could tell at once that some of the lots were hardly as old looking as the mossy stones and crosses that were scattered in the haphazard way of old graveyards. In fact, it was my firmest belief that several of the graves looked quite new.
         Tobs saw this as well. “Tony, if it wasn’t for the dates on the headstones, I would think that that grave had been dug no later than yesterday.”
         “My thoughts exactly, my dear chap,” I replied as I crouched down by the nearest plot. The turf was lumpy over top of it, as if it had been carefully removed and just as carefully replaced once the ground had been dug underneath of it. I would have said grave robbers, expect for the fact that, one, this graveyard was of Puritan origin, and it was a well known fact that the Puritans had little to nothing of inherent value, and two, a freshly dead body had been found in the vicinity just that morning. I turned to Scamp.
         “My dear, would you go and fetch my collapsing shovel from the boot of Tobs’ contraption? I do believe it should still be there from the Waxford case unless our friend has removed it.”
         “No, it should still be there,” Tobias replied and as Scamp trotted back to the road to fetch it, I turned back to start peeling up the sod from the freshly dug grave. I noticed out of the corner of my eye, Mr Bradswell rocking impatiently from one foot to the other. I finally turned around as he cleared his throat.
         “I’m sorry, but, do you need me anymore? If not, then I really must get back to work,” he said.
         “That is fine,” I told him with a wave of dismissal. “We know where to find you should we need you again.” Not likely, I added in my mind. The only people I counted more incompetent in an investigation than the inspectors who could not ask the right questions, were the witnesses or victims who could not provide the right answers to questions not even asked. Sometimes I wonder how a race that, for the most part, was born almost annoyingly curious, cannot be so when it really matters.
         Scamp came back with the folding shovel and I stood, handing my cloak and jacket to Tobs as I stomped on the back of the shovel and watched it pop open with a twang. I then set to work, digging at a steady pace, and glad of the light rain that misted my face as I worked. It was not very long before I uncovered something among the dirt. It was cloth of some sort, and not nearly as old as it should have been had it belonged to the grave’s original occupant. I carefully shovelled more dirt aside now, hating the thought of accidently stabbing the spade into a dead body, and then bent to brush more dirt aside. Tobias and Scamp crouched over me as I did so, eager to see what terror incognito I might unearth.
         I brushed aside more soil from the fabric and then found at the end of it, a human hand. I recoiled at the touch of it at first, for I had not expected to find it there—foolish of me, I know, seeing as it was my own idea to go digging in graves—but once the initial shock was passed, all three of us bent to unearth the body that was hidden in the grave. As we did so, I had no doubt as to what we had found. I sat back on my heels, rubbing my hands vigorously in the dewy grass to wipe the dirt from them and turned to my two companions.
         “I think it is time we speak to Inspector Garrett again,” I said grimly.

I hope everyone has a great weekend and I will be back with more posts soon.
Slainte, Hazel