Sunday, August 31, 2014

Books of Note: August Reads/ Summer Wrap Up

Well, it's the end of August and the end of my summer reading. I didn't get nearly as many books read as I wanted to, I think about ten less than last year, but I did read some good ones and it's still a good number for how busy I was these months. All in all, I read 25

Here's the complete list of books I read this summer and their ratings:

#1-The Curse of the Thirteenth Fey--Jane Yolen (3/5 stars)
#2-Game (Jasper Dent #2)--Barry Lyga (4/5 stars)
#3-This Dark Endeavor--Kenneth Oppel (4/5 stars)
#4-Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1)--Marissa Meyer (3.5/5 stars)
#5-Sense and Sensibility --Jane Austin (4/5 stars)
#6-The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co. #1)--Jonathan Stroud (4/5 stars)
#7-Moonshine (Cal and Niko #2)-- Rob Thurman (4/5 stars)
#8-Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)-- Marissa Meyer (4/5 stars)
#9-Jackaby-- Willian Ritter (5/5 stars)
#10-Strands of Bronze and Gold-- Jane Nickerson (4/5 stars)
#11-The Mirk and Midnight Hour-- Jane Nickerson (5/5 stars)
#12-Half Bad--Sally Green (3/5 stars)
#13-The Strange Maid (United States of Asgard #2)-- Tessa Gratton (4/5 stars)
#14-Beowulf: Dragonslayer--Rosemary Sutcliff (4/5 stars)
#15-Crusher--Niall Leonard (2/5 stars)
#16-Madhosue (Cal and Niko #3)-- Rob Thurman (4/5 stars)
#17-Shadow and Bone (Grisha Trilogy #1)--Leigh Bardugo (5/5 stars)
#18-The Friday Society--Adrienne Kress (1/5 stars)
#19-The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5)--Rick Riordan (5/5 stars)
#20-King of Ithaka--Tracy Barrett (2/5 stars)
#21-Reckless (Mirrorworld #1)--Cornelia Funke (4/5 stars)
#22-The Iron Hand of Mars (M. Didius Falco #4)--Lindsey Davis (4/5 stars)
#23-North and South--Elizabeth Gaskell (5/5 stars)
#24-Knight of Shadows (Hunter of Sherwood #1)--Toby Venables (4/5 stars)
#25-The Hero's Guide of Being an Outlaw (League of Princes #3)--Christopher Healy (4/5 stars)


And here's the original list of books I posted for my original summer reading at the beginning of June so you can see how many of those I managed to read:


From the Library

Dragon Slayer: The Story of Beowuf-- Rosemary Sutcliff
Madhouse (Cal Leandros #3)-- Rob Thurman
Deathwish (Cal Leandros #4)-- Rob Thurman
Don't be Afraid of the Dark: Blackwood's Guide to Dangerous Fairies-- Guillermo Del Toro & Christopher Golden 
King of Ithaka-- Tracy Barrett
Game (Jasper Dent #2) Barry Lyga
The Screaming Staircase (Lockwood & Co.)-- Jonathan Stroud
The Pale Assassin-- Patricia Elliott
Nightmare City-- Andrew Klaven
Far Far Away-- Tom McNeal
This Dark Endeavor-- Kenneth Oppel 
Crusher-- Niall Leonard
Simon-- Rosemary Sutcliff (This is one I have never even heard of before!)
The Friday Society-- Adreinne Kress
The Iron Hand of Mars (Falco Mysteries #4)-- Lindsey Davis
Poseidon's Gold (Falco Mysteries #5)-- Lindsey Davis

From My Bookshelf

Moonshine (Cal Leandros #2)-- Rob Thurman
Knight of Shadows (Hunter of Sherwood)-- Toby Venables. 
Cinder (Lunar Chronicles #1)-- Marissa Meyer 
Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)-- Marissa Meyer
The Last Olympian (Percy Jackson #5)-- Rick Riordan 
Shadow and Bone-- Leigh Bardugo 
Reckless-- Cornelia Funke 
The Hero's Guide to Being an Outlaw (League of Princes #3)--Christopher Healy 



I planned to read 24 books and I read 25 so at least I got my original goal, even if I didn't read all the exact books I planned to. I did get to all the ones from my own shelf which made me happy because some of those I had had sitting there for a while.

Now onto the books I bought this month! Since it was my birthday this month, I bought some extras and won one in a giveaway for review, so here's a picture to show what I got, there's 17 in all and I have also pre-ordered a couple new releases for next month as well:



From Barns & Noble with by Birthday giftcard I got 

Grimm's Fairy Tales (The complete collection in the B&N classic which is LOVELY and illistrated and everything. I love it.)
Dracula--Bram Stoker (also in the B&N classic but the newer ones they have come out with, but it's really nice quality)
Siege and Storm (Grisha Trilogy #2)--Leigh Bardugo 
Game (Jasper Dent #2)-- Barry Lyga 
Blackout (Cal and Niko #6)--Rob Thurman
Doubletake (Cal and Niko #7)--Rob Thurman

From my Powell's order I got

Montmorency on the Rocks (Montmorency #2)--Elanore Updale (I was supposed to get a hardback but instead I got a galley copy so I'm still looking for a hardback to finish my collection. It was on .95 cents though, so I can't really complain)
The Madness Underneath (Shades of London #2) --Maureen Johnson (I never found this one at the library and I loved the first one, so I am excited to read it finally)
The Near Witch--Victoria Schwab (Liked this one a lot)
Vicious--Victoria Schwab (I loved this one too, and I have finished my collection of Victoria's books)
Inkheart (Inkheart #1)--Cornelia Funke (I had this one previously, but I recently replaced the paperbacks I had of this trilogy with hardbacks so now they are all HBs)
Outlaws of Sherwood--Robin McKinley (This is another one I read a while ago, but really liked and decided to buy finally.)
Deathwish (Cal and Niko #4)--Rob Thurman
Madhouse (Cal and Niko #3)--Rob Thurman
Slashback (Cal and Niko #8)--Rob Thurman (trying to collect all of these, I only have two left now :)

I also bought Cup of Blood (Crispin Guest #7) by Jeri Westerson from Amazon because that's the only place I could get it. It's actually a prequle and I have been looking forward to this one for a while.

And I won a copy of Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee in a Goodreads Giveaway, so I'm excited to get to that one too.

And now on to my favorite reads of the month! I was really bad about writing reviews this month so I only have two for books I really enjoyed:



Ever since Jacob Reckless was a child, he has been escaping to a hidden world through a portal in his father's abandoned study. Over the years, he has made a name for himself as a finder of enchanted items and buried secrets. He's also made many enemies and allies--most important, Fox, a beautiful shape-shifting vixen whom Jacob cares for more than he lets on.

But life in this other world is about to change. Tragedy strikes when Jacob's younger brother, Will, follows him through the portal. Brutally attacked, Will is infected with a curse that is quickly transforming him into a Goyl--a ruthless killing machine, with skin made of stone.

Jacob is prepared to fight to save his brother, but in a land built on trickery and lies, Jacob will need all the wit, courage, and reckless spirit he can summon to reverse the dark spell--before it's too late


Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I always love Cornelia Funke's books, and this one was no exception. She's one of my favorite fantasy writers ever, and adding that to this being a brother story only made it better!

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes, I think it's wonderful and somewhat creepy and yet Fae looking. Definitely an eye-catcher for me.

Characters: Jacob Reckless is a flawed yet likable character. I found myself easily attached to him. He was very human, but in a good way. The reader can relate to him, and though he made some poor decisions at times, he did everything he had to to get his brother back to normal. I approve of him in that aspect and he's joining my list of Awesome Big Bros ;-) I really liked Will as well. He was quiet and sweet and his love and belief in Jacob even after his long absences was very touching. Clara was also a very likable character. I wasn't sure if she was going to be a problem later on in the story, but she's a sensible heroine, and did what she needed to. I liked her a lot, as well as Fox. I also did rather like the dwarf Valiant. Even if he's kind of one of those characters who does what's best for him, he came around in the end. The baddies weren't actually quite as bad as they could have been, but you still knew they meant business. Hentzau and Kami'en were bad but not all that scary. The Dark Fairy however, really was rather frightening and was much in the tradition of the Old World fairy queens.

The Romance: The romance isn't really a huge part of the story, even though Will and Clara's relationship and love for each other does play a part. (view spoiler) Either way, the little romance in this book was not annoying or anything.

Writing Style: As typical to Cornelia Funke's books, the writing was lovely and the world building so wonderful. I loved the illusions to all the old fairy tales, and the creatures that inhabited this world were both frightening, interesting, and sometimes cute. I loved the idea of the Goyl, I thought it was a really cool idea, and have not really read anything like it before. I really would love to say more about it, but I can't really say anything but that it's awesome and I love it! I think I will still always loveInkheart best of all Cornelia's books and her worlds, but the Mirrorworld is definitely a close second.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable.

Problems/What bothered me: No problems, though I might have liked a little more backstory to begin with. The only very minor complaint I could give is that the book starts rather abruptly and jumps a lot of years between chapters one and two. But it's not hard to follow along. I also--and this is just personal preference and I have been spoiled by other stories--but I would have liked to have had more brotherly moments between Jacob and Will. A lot of times it's almost as if we're told of how much they care for each other, and partly, yes, it is their characters, but I would have liked to see more bits between them (view spoiler)But that's only a minor thing and didn't keep me from enjoying the book any less.

Conclusion: 4 stars. Really enjoyed it, though I think I will always love Inkheart best. Can't wait to read the sequel!

Recommended Audience: Cornelia Funke fans who have not read this need to, and just anyone who loves fairy tales and well crafted worlds. Girl or guy read 13 and up.

(Read this review with Spoilers on Goodreads)



England, 1191. Richard Lionheart has left the realm bankrupt and leaderless in his quest for glory. Only Prince John seems willing to fight back the tide of chaos threatening England – embodied by the traitorous ‘Hood.’

But John has a secret weapon: Guy of Gisburne, outcast, mercenary, and now knight. His first mission: to intercept the jewel-encrusted skull of John the Baptist, sent by the Templars to Philip, King of France. Gisburne’s quest takes him from the Tower of London to the hectic crusader port of Marseilles – and into increasingly bloody encounters with ‘The White Devil’: the fanatical Templar de Mercheval.

Relentlessly pursued back to England, and aided by the beautiful and secretive M̩lisande, Gisburne battles his way with sword, lance and bow to a bitter confrontation at the Castel de Mercheval. But beyond it Рif he survives Рlies an even more unpredictable adversary.

Review:

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This is the Robin Hood retelling I have been waiting for. As soon as I heard about it I wanted to read it. It's fresh, it's fun, and it keeps the traditional adventure of Robin Hood stories but without Robin as a protagonist, who I really get tired of.

Cover--Yea or Nay: It's cool, I don't have a problem with it, but it's not the one I would pick either. For the kind of book it is, it works.

Characters: Okay, so since I watched BBC's Robin Hood series, I have had a real soft spot for Guy of Gisburne and since Robin really ended up annoying me in that series, I have kind of gotten tired of him as a character in general. The last really good Robin Hood story I have read was Robin McKinley's Outlaws of Sherwood But this one has Guy as the main character, and he's the good guy. And he was genuinely, a good fellow. He wasn't an anti-hero, he was a black knight with a white heart. I really liked him a lot. Robin Hood on the other hand was a creep and portrayed very well as a villain and a sociopathic con man (the bad, dangerous kind). He's not even portrayed like that just because you're getting Guy's POV, there's hard evidence to that fact. I'm going to warn you now, that if you have a problem with Robin being portrayed as a bad guy, you're not going to like this book. I personally liked this fresh take on his character. I thought it was very well done. Galfrid was one of my favorite characters though. He was a kind of sardonic and cynical person and made a good companion to Guy. I didn't have anything against Melisande, though I was afraid I would at first. She ended up being the good kind of strong female character. She did the job she had to, but didn't try to do Guy's as well. Tancred was actually a scary villain when you got to know him. I wasn't quite sure he wouldn't disappoint at first but I think he did pretty well. I also liked how both Richard and John were portrayed. I personally agree in full on how Richard was portrayed. And John was actually not portrayed as an idiotic milksop either, which I think it more accurate.

The Romance: Not a whole lot of romance. Guy and Melisande do share feelings for one another, which can probably be guessed, but it takes up hardly any of the story at all, and only really comes about at the end.

Writing Style: While not the most spectacular, it was engaging, and fast paced, and good for the kind of novel it was. I actually really liked how this was geared as an adventure novel so it wasn't just a slog through historical details that so many medieval books set in this era are. It wasn't the actual swashbuckling thing you would normally expect from a Robin Hood book either, thankfully (because I'm kind of tired of that, it's overdone and wouldn't have worked here) but more almost like James Bond for want of a better description. Guy was working as a retrieval expert and under cover in this one, and there was the added almost steampunk flair with the cool inventions and things he carried. All in all, I thought it was fun and a definitely different take on the Robin Hood story.

Accuracy/ Believability: Strangely, this book is classed as fantasy actually, but there wasn't really any fantasy elements apart from the cool contraptions Guy carries. It's not alternate history, there's nothing weird, but it's the kind of historical novel "true" students of history would probably would not like but I don't find they like much of any novels. Nothing jumped out at me as being inaccurate. But this is more meant to be a fun read and if it's not quite perfect, that's not the point.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing really bothered me. There was a bit of language though scattered, and a couple moments of "adult content" but never graphic. Certainly, there was less of both than I have found in a lot of YA novels. I'll mention that there is gore for those of you who don't care for that. Typical medieval level but again, not too graphic, but I'm probably a poor judge of that. Still PG 13

Conclusion: 4 stars. I enjoyed this book a lot. it is now one of my favorite Robin Hood (or rather not Robin Hood) novels. I am excited to see where this series goes. I look forward to seeing more of Guy and Robin dueling it out.

Recommended Audience: Good guy read, but girls who like adventure and this kind of thing would also like it. If you are a fan of BBC's Robin Hood series, mainly because of Guy and are as tired of Robin as I am, this is definitely for you. Ages 18 and up.

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Before I end the post I thought I would show you something else I got for my birthday. Yes, I have finally gotten a bust; his name is Octavius:


Friday, August 22, 2014

"On a Foreign Field" Free for Wallace Day

I've realized how bad I've been recently with my promotions and trying to sell my books more than usual, so I finally decided to try out the Kindle freebie promotion on one of my books, and since today, August 23rd is William Wallace Day, I thought using it on my book On a Foreign Field would appropriate.

So, I want you all to enjoy a Kindle copy of On a Foreign Field for free! I would also appreciate it if you would leave a review on Amazon or Goodreads or even your blogs when you are finished reading it. It always helps. If you really want to, you can tweet me your review so I can be sure to see it :-)

The promotion will last from today until Tuesday the 26th, so you have several days to download it. Don't forget to do so! And I hope you enjoy the book! You can find the direct link below:

http://www.amazon.com/On-Foreign-Field-Hazel-West/dp/1477493441/ref=sr_1_20?ie=UTF8&qid=1408767208&sr=8-20&keywords=on+a+foreign+field