Saturday, July 28, 2012

Books of Note: July

Hello dear readers, I realize I have not done any Books of Note posts for a while, and I have decided to do them at the end of every month and highlight some of the favorite books I have read during that time. These are the ones that ranked five stars for me on Goodreads and the reviews I wrote for them:

The Hero's Guide to Saving Your Kingdom by Christopher Healy

Prince Liam. Prince Frederic. Prince Duncan. Prince Gustav. You've never heard of them, have you? These are the princes who saved Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella, Snow White, and Rapunzel, respectively, and yet, thanks to those lousy bards who wrote the tales, you likely know them only as Prince Charming. But all of this is about to change. Rejected by their princesses and cast out of their castles, Liam, Frederic, Duncan, and Gustav stumble upon an evil plot that could endanger each of their kingdoms. Now it's up to them to triumph over their various shortcomings, take on trolls, bandits, dragons, witches, and other assorted terrors, and become the heroes no one ever thought they could be.

Debut author Christopher Healy takes us on a journey with four imperfect princes and their four improbable princesses, all of whom are trying to become perfect heroes--a fast-paced, funny, and fresh introduction to a world where everything, even our classic fairy tales, is not at all what it seems.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I Totally loved this book from start to finish. It was just what I was expecting; a quirky, hilarious, light read. I love stories that spoof the old fairy tales and Disney movies and this one, being from the point of view of the famous "Princes Charming" was a fresh idea and just what I love to see. 

Characters: Okay, so I had a really hard time picking a favorite in this: You have Frederick, the not very brave but good-hearted prince of Cinderella. Gustav, the bad-tempered one who really does have a soft spot somewhere in there and is the prince of Rapunzel. Liam, Sleeping Beauty's prince who is the typical dashing can-do-anything hero, and yet he was not cocky at all. And then there was Duncan, who I think as a final decision was my favorite. He was Snow White's prince, and he was just so quirky and awkward and hilarious that you just can't help but love him. The princesses too, were fun to read about. Sleeping Beauty though was just plain evil and a huge brat. Cinderella was fun because she wanted to go adventuring though Frederick had no wish to leave his castle. I also liked Liam's little sister, because she was another fun character. And then you had the evil witch as the villainous and also a very young Bandit King to add to the mix. In short though this cast was large, everyone got the right amount of story time so that you knew and loved them all.

Problems/What bothered Me: Nothing. I absolutely loved every page of this book. My only problem is having to wait for the sequel that promises to be just as good if the author keeps on in the same way.

Conclusion: Five stars well-deserved! This is the best kid's book I have read in a long time and I'm going to have to buy it, so that's a good sign ;)

Recommended Audience: Anyone who loves and knows the old stories well will enjoy it. it's geared toward 10-12 but teens and adults would enjoy it too, as I did. People who enjoyed "The Enchanted Forest Chronicles" would love this as it reminded me of those books. It's a book that can be read by guys and girls and enjoyed equally by both. 

Frontier Wolf by Rosemary Sutcliff 

Britian, A.D. 343. The end of Roman Rule. The Antonine Wall has fallen and order slowley collapses on the northernmost edge of the empire. What little protection Rome has from the Dalriad and Caledone tribes comes from a small post of half-wild legionnaires: the Frontier Wolves.
A young commander is sent to preside over this undisciplined lot at their borderland outpost. But Alexios Flavius Aquila knows his assignment to Castellum was not a promotion. After abandoning a fort in the German province during a barbarian attack, the centurion lost half his men. Were his uncle no the governor of northern Britain, Alexios would not be calling himself a legionnaire at all. Failure and privilege do not recommend the young man to his hardened troops, so survival depends upon understanding these untamed men and earning their respect. With discipline and courage, Alexios too may win the title of Frontier Wolf.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: First of all, I dearly love all of Rosemary Sutcliff's books, that said, I am going to have to admit that this one is probably now my absolute favorite of all. Something about the mix of the characters, the story line, the setting and everything else just came together in that beautiful music that certain books have that cause you to die a little when they are over. Rosemary said in her author's note that she wrote this story from the idea she got while watching a western, and I can definitely see that influence in "Frontier Wolf". It read just like a Louis L'Amour novel, or even seemed to me to read like a Horatio Hornblower adventure. Military adventure are my favorite types of books, with true camaraderie portrayed, especially in the way that only Rosemary can do.
Characters: Oh where to begin!! I loved Alexios, he carries on the Aquila family line brilliantly. I have often said that "Eagle of the Ninth" was one of my favorite books because Marcus and Esca are some of my favorite characters ever, but Alexios and his companions are definitely a tie. My favorite supporting character was Hilarion, he was the easy going comrade and the end of this book between him and Alexios (not to give away anything) was just amazing, and true to Rosemary's reoccurring themes of brotherly love. I also really liked Cunorix he too was a wonderful character... Okay they all were ;)

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing ever bothers me about Rosemary's books except that I always wish they were longer! Especially this one!!

Conclusion: Just simply good all the way through. If I was in the Roman army, I would have been a Frontier Wolf ;) Perhaps my favorite part of this book was actually Rosemary's author's note, for she described so many things that were close to me as an author myself and I could definitely feel the fact that she enjoyed writing this book so much from the ease and flow with which it read. It was just like sitting down with the best dessert you can imagine and I only read it so slowly with the wish to savour it.

Recommended Audience: Ten stars if I could give them. Anyone who loves historical fiction (or Westerns) or good adventure novels. And if you are a fan of Rosemary's and have not read this yet, DO SO!! Because it really is one of her best works. It's a bit harder to find a copy of, but do search for one because it's definitely worth having on your shelf.

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