Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Books of Note-- October Reads

Some of the best books I read this month! And there were so many, it's hard to choose which were my favorites! Oh yes, and I've also added a section where I say what I think about the book cover in my reviewing format.

“There are only two reasons a non-seer would see a spirit on St. Mark’s Eve,” Neeve said. “Either you’re his true love . . . or you killed him.”

It is freezing in the churchyard, even before the dead arrive.

Every year, Blue Sargent stands next to her clairvoyant mother as the soon-to-be dead walk past. Blue herself never sees them—not until this year, when a boy emerges from the dark and speaks directly to her.

His name is Gansey, and Blue soon discovers that he is a rich student at Aglionby, the local private school. Blue has a policy of staying away from Aglionby boys. Known as Raven Boys, they can only mean trouble.

But Blue is drawn to Gansey, in a way she can’t entirely explain. He has it all—family money, good looks, devoted friends—but he’s looking for much more than that. He is on a quest that has encompassed three other Raven Boys: Adam, the scholarship student who resents all the privilege around him; Ronan, the fierce soul who ranges from anger to despair; and Noah, the taciturn watcher of the four, who notices many things but says very little.

For as long as she can remember, Blue has been warned that she will cause her true love to die. She never thought this would be a problem. But now, as her life becomes caught up in the strange and sinister world of the Raven Boys, she’s not so sure anymore.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I'll admit that originally, I was a bit wary of how this book was going to be. I LOVED "Scorpio Races" and I was afraid from the description of this book that Maggie Stiefvater would revert back to some of her older stories like Lament and Ballad which I was not a fan of. But I really really ended up enjoying this book more and more as it went along. There were just so many plot twists and unexpected things that I couldn't stop reading because I just had to know how it ended. There are very few books that can leave me guessing throughout and with this one, I really had no clue where each page would lead me. I think it was another really amazing unique, never-before-seen kind of book like "Scorpio Races" was.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I honestly thought the cover was a bit odd, and if I hadn't been anticipating this book, it's not the kind of thing I would normally pick up, but once you read the book, you understand the picture. I do like the oil paint look to how the raven is done, and the cover is pearly which is kind of cool. I'm really not a fan of white though. I don't know why, I like off white, but bright white just looks too sterile to me or something. So while I didn't dislike it, it's not my favorite either. I Liked the cover for "Scorpio Races" better.

Characters: I'll talk about Blue first because I don't have as much to say about her. While I wasn't a huge fan of her name (I'm with Gansey, let's call her Jane) her character was really great. It's funny because I thought she was going to be the main character, but she turned out to almost be more of a supporting character while Gansey took lead role. Perhaps this was why she didn't have The Attitude like some girls (and girls from some of Maggie's other books) have had. She was smart, she was likable, and I liked how she was friends with the guys while not being all "I'm better than you all because I'm a girl" or "I'm just going to play all these guys 'cause they're hot". In fact, there wasn't that much romance at all which I was very happy about but I'll get to that more later.

As for the guys, I am a huge fan of quirky groups, and these four are definitely quirky. Gansey was a great hero type guy. I loved how he was an eccentric scholar type person (I can relate) I also really LOVED how he took care of his friends. The brotherly relationship between the four here was epic for a modern YA book. You don't usually see that, and there were some parts that I won't mention because of spoilers that just made me happy. I also like how, though he's so confident, he's still kind of awkward socially like a typical scholar. Adam was probably my favorite character in the book though. He was just sweet and troubled and I love those kinds of characters. And I also liked how he was too proud to accept charity, because that's always a hard thing to do. Ronan isn't normally who I would class as a likable character, but I do see where he came from, and you can't blame him either because of his past. Grief can ruin a person and I do like to see tortured characters in books because I think a lot of times characters get washed out and too 'un-real' almost. And Ronan had his moments where I had to cheer for him too. Noah, I liked for reasons I can't say because of spoilers, but I thought he was a pretty cool character ;-)

Writing Style: I have always liked Maggie's writing style, even for some of her books I didn't like as much. This book was really awesome, and I think the only one of hers that has not been in first person. But it's one that I don't think could be in first person either because you hop characters too much. I really loved how she added Welsh folk lore into it. This book was weird, but it was a good weird. I love stories about ghosts and faeries and ghost hunting (or whatever you would really term this) and I love it even more if it's mixed with history and folk lore. And of course it has to be British history, because it wouldn't be right otherwise. I also loved, as I mentioned before, the fact that there was no unnecessary romance involved. There was a little bit of crushing as a side plot, but since Blue is actually a sensible heroine, she didn't let that get in the way. This book could have turned into another Twilight but it didn't, thankfully. This book almost felt like an Indiana Jones adventure looking for the sleeping Welsh king, Owain Glendower, and it was more adventure than anything else even though it was definitely a character driven story.

Problems/What bothered me: For story I didn't really have any problems. The ending surprised me, a lot actually since it was way far away from what I was expecting, but I didn't have any problems with it. The only thing I could mark was that there was more strong language than I think should be in a YA book, but then some YA books are just like that and if I like a story and characters enough I can bleep out the language in my head. (Oh, and on a technical side- I found several typos of a type I know all too well: where you start to write one thing but then change it to another and you forget to delete the first part?)

Conclusion: 5 stars. I throughly enjoyed it. I don't usually rates books with this much language over four stars, but I had to factor in the total uniqueness of this as well, so I made an exception in this case. Perhaps still not quite as good as "Scorpio Races" but a huge surprise to me. I really can't wait to see what she does with the sequel. As long as Maggie keeps doing whatever she has been doing for the last couple books, I think we're good.

Recommended Audience: Older teens because of language mostly but there are other themes that might bother people like abuse, a little darkness and maybe a little creepiness if you creep out easily. I'm probably not a good judge of that because I don't. I'm a "that was weird" kind of person. I can't really compare this book to any others, but if you like modern/historical fantasy (see I can't even class it) or are a Maggie Stiefvater fan, I don't think you'll be disappointed. 

(Also read my friend Mara's review here: http://667bakerstreet.blogspot.com/2012/10/the-raven-boys-review-maggie-stiefvater.html )

Seventeen-year-old Althea is the sole support of her entire family, and she must marry well. But there are few wealthy suitors--or suitors of any kind--in their small Yorkshire town of Lesser Hoo. Then, the young and attractive (and very rich) Lord Boring arrives, and Althea sets her plans in motion. There's only one problem; his friend and business manager Mr. Fredericks keeps getting in the way. And, as it turns out, Fredericks has his own set of plans . . . This witty take on the classic Regency--Patrice Kindl's first novel in a decade--is like literary champagne!


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Okay, I really just simply enjoyed this book! When I read a "girly" book this is the kind I like. A quirky heroine, lots of good humor, and a lovely supporting cast, both with people you love and those who can be quite tiresome but are fun to read about anyway.

Cover-- Yae or Nay: Yes, I like the cover, it looks kind of whimsical and I love the font of the title as well. Though if I had seen this without knowing what the story was about, I might have thought it was a medieval story, just because I don't normally expect castles to feature in Empire novels, but once you read the description, you're obviously told differently.

Characters: Althea, is a wonderful protagonist, and well casted for the first person. I love her slightly sarcastic English humor and her descriptions of things and the other characters. Her step sisters are quite droll ladies, one with the infatuation for quotes about death and the other always flirting and trying to steal every man before he can even get to know Althea. I also love how Althea is always saying what she means even if she doesn't mean it. (Well, of course we know she does, even though she shouldn't have spoken in the first place). Lord Boring wasn't too bad. He's just kind of mediocre, and I actually felt rather sorry for him being stuck under the thumb of his mother all the time. My favorite character though, was Mr. Fredericks. I adore characters like him and he was hilarious with his sardonic attitude.

Writing Style: Very Austinian in style and a light and easy read. Definitely the kind of thing one can enjoy after a long day.

Problems/What bothered me: I had no problems with this book, it was just a simple story and very enjoyable.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I loved this story, and I really hope the author writes some more about this time period because she has a good knack for it.

Recommended Audience: Any age would enjoy this book. There's nothing content wise and appropriate for any age, though it's definitely a girl read.

(You can also read Mara's review here: http://667bakerstreet.blogspot.com/2012/09/keeping-castle-review-patrice-kindl.html )

When Peter's parents are killed, he is sent to an orphanage in Warsaw, Poland. But Peter is Volksdeutscher-of German blood. With his blond hair and blue eyes, he looks just like the boy on the Hitler Youth poster. The Nazis decide he is racially valuable. Indeed, a prominent German family is pleased to adopt such a fine Aryan specimen into their household. But despite his new "family," Peter feels like a foreigner-an ausländer-and he is forming his own ideas about what he sees and what he's told. He doesn't want to be a Nazi. So he takes a risk-the most dangerous one he could possibly choose in 1942 Berlin...


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was a very well-written historical fiction story, well researched and exciting. While it might have had some slow parts, I liked the fact that it seemed like a real story, more than actual fiction. The author did a wonderful job portraying what life was like back in the Nazi occupation and this book even went to extremes that I hadn't really heard about before, but, as explained in the author's note, were completely accurate. For me this book was actually very eye-opening as to how truly fanatic Nazi supporters were.

Cover--Yae or Nay: I do like the cover for this book, that and the title is what made me pull it off the shelf. Though it makes it look more like an action thriller which it really wasn't. Only the last part of the book really had that kind of feeling to it whereas the rest of it, while not boring, didn't really have a lot of action in it. But it definitely looks like a WWII novel.

Characters: Peter's a good protagonist, as well as Anna. At some points you wanted to smack them over the head for their stupidity, but that was another thing that led to this book being like a real story. They were real, flawed characters. I loved the idea of a character (Peter) who was a privileged Aryan even though he was Polish instead of fully German, being idolized by the Nazis because of his 'perfect' complexion. I also liked how, at first, Peter seems flattered though a little overwhelmed by his position, but then when he sees what the Nazis are really capable of, he decides he doesn't want to be part of that anymore. I also really loved how the plot went into the underground as well, helping the Jews to escape occupied Germany.

Writing Style: I haven't read any of Paul Dowswell's books yet besides this one, but I know I'll like them now because his writing style truly is very very good. You can definitely tell all the research that went into this story down to every little detail. In fact it's so detailed that the reader automatically knows he is not making anything up. He is a truly amazing Historical writer.

Problems/What bothered me: Nothing truly bothered me. I think "Auslander" is a good look into life in Nazi Germany. I can't complain about the book because it was presented in a historical way.

Conclusion: 4 stars. This was a really good book, and I'm only rating it four because it's not one of my favorite books I have read, though I'm not marking it down for anything but personal preference. If I was going on historical accuracy alone, I would give it five stars.

Recommended Audience: Probably older teens and adults. It's not as brutal as it could have been, but, as can be expected, there are themes that young readers might find disturbing (it goes into torture/execution methods, medical experimentation and the horrors of the camps--though that's only mentioned somewhat in passing. It also talks about what they would do to the mentally ill people, which is rather hard to swallow.) Any fans of good historical fiction would enjoy this book though.


On another note, I apologize that I have not been updating my blog very much lately, I'm neck deep in writing "By Blood or By Bond" and I have also entered Anthony Maxwell's book (Now entitled "A Case of Poisons" ) Into NaNoWriMo this year! I'm totally excited because this is my first year of doing it, and I am deturmined to write the full 50,000 words of Anthony's story during the month. Anthony will be very pleased too. If you want to follow the updates, keep checking his Facebook account. Or if you too, are entering NaNo you can look me up as "theartfulscribbler" 

And in case you didn't know (because I can't remember if I put this up yet or not) I also started a Twitter account where you can check all my quick updates or shared links on a daily basis @artfulscribber

Last announcement: I have posted my excerpt for "By Blood or By Bond" on Createspace too now! And I would really appriciate some feedback if you would like to read it and answer the questions there. I would be much obliged. https://www.createspace.com/Preview/1112073

I'd also like to let you know (I lied about the last announcement) that I am still planning on getting both "Freedom Come All Ye" and "Ballad of the Highwayman" formatted for e-books before Christmas this year. I will keep you updated on all that as well.

I'll hopefully be posting another article of some kind soon.

Slainte, Hazel


  1. You would like Paul Dowswell's "Adventures of a Young Sailor" trilogy - "Powder Monkey," "Prison Ship," and "Battle Fleet."

  2. I have those on my to-read list, I've been looking for them for a while. I think I might be able to order them from the library.

  3. If not, they are worth buying and Powell's had some copies in last time I checked. "Powder Monkey" was one faith-buy I did a long time ago that actually paid off.

  4. I actually looked at them on Powell's but I don't think they had any used and they were kind of expensive if I wanted to stay within the boundaries of my 20$ credit. Which I probably won't anyway, because I really want to get the Second Knight and Rogue novel since I'm re-reading the first one again.