Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Books of Note: January Reads

Well! My first reviews of the year, and this month has been an awesome reading month for me. These are only a few of the good books I read and I even managed to set a personal record in reading fourteen books this month! That was just what I wanted to do too =) So without further ado, some of my favorite reads of the year so far:

A storm. Rain-lashed city streets. A flash of lightning. A scruffy lad sees a girl leap desperately from a horse-drawn carriage in a vain attempt to escape her captors. Can the lad stand by and let her be caught again? Of course not, because he's . . . Dodger.

Seventeen-year-old Dodger may be a street urchin, but he gleans a living from London's sewers, and he knows a jewel when he sees one. He's not about to let anything happen to the unknown girl--not even if her fate impacts some of the most powerful people in England.

From Dodger's encounter with the mad barber Sweeney Todd to his meetings with the great writer Charles Dickens and the calculating politician Benjamin Disraeli, history and fantasy intertwine in a breathtaking account of adventure and mystery.

Beloved and bestselling author Sir Terry Pratchett combines high comedy with deep wisdom in this tale of an unexpected coming-of-age and one remarkable boy's rise in a complex and fascinating world


Thoughts on the Overall Book: This is actually the first of Terry Pratchett's books that I have read, but now I'm definitely interesting in reading more and I understand why he is such a popular author. "Dodger" was an awesome book, but truthfully, you can write any book about Victorian London that focuses on the streets and I'll read it. This one though definitely delivered, and the story, characters and everything else just came together in an awesome story.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Eh, it's okay, but truthfully doesn't have all that much to do with the story and the boy on it is way too young to be Dodger who was 17 in the story. You can tell it's a Victorian story though.

Characters: Okay, Dodger was awesome. I loved how he was your typical street urchin with loose morals mainly because of want of survival, but at the same time was a kind hearted boy and really cared for people and did his best to help those in need, even if he wouldn't admit it. He's just the kind of character I like to read about. I also liked Simplicity. She was very sweet, yet at the same time was not naive or silly and she did what she had to do when she had to do it and I liked her and Dodger's relationship. The whole cast was amazing truthfully and so well written that even the characters you saw only a few times you ended up liking. I liked Solomon, the old Jew who Dodger stayed with and was pretty much like an uncle to him, and I also really liked how several well known historical figures showed up and played a part in the story. Among them was Charles Dickens! I don't know a whole lot about Dickens in real life, but I loved the way the author portrayed him in this book and I can totally see him being like that too. Dodger also had a run in with the infamous Sweeney Todd which I thought was cool as well.

Writing Style: This is where this book really won me over. I was not into the first page before I fell in love with Terry Pratchett's writing style. He has a very classic style that is very identifiably English. It reminded me a little of Brian Jacques whose style I had always loved, except with more subtle, dry British humor which is always welcome in my book (pardon the pun). He is definitely a very accomplished and seasoned author, and the feel of the book was very Victorian London. Very authentic feel right down to the mannerisms, the accents and the street slang.

Problems/What bothered me: I really don't think I have anything to complain about with this one.

Conclusion: 5 stars definitely. I really enjoyed this book, and I think it could have a sequel. I don't know if one is planned or not, but the way the story left off, I can see there being more of Dodger's adventures.

Recommended Audience: Any fans of Dickens or those who like Victorian stories would enjoy this. Also people who liked Stefan Pertrucha's "Ripper" would probably like this as well. 15 and up, boy or girl read.

Jack is making his way back to civilization after barely surviving his adventure in the Yukon. That episode tested his body, his mind, and even his grip on his humanity--but it was nothing compared to what he is about to face. Illustrations.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: Like with the first one, this was a very interesting, different story. I actually think I liked this one better over all. It wasn't quite as odd as the first one but it was not in any way less well written. And hurray for 'real' werewolves! You don't know how happy I am to see a book with real werewolves in it that's not some blasted YA paranormal romance! Add a sea adventure with that, and you have a very unique and awesome story.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I love the cover and the illustrations in the book, the cover looks like an old fashioned adventure novel. The book is beautiful without it's dust jacket too, though unfortunately I read a library copy. Greg Ruth did an awesome job with the pictures.

Characters: I continue to really like Jack as a protagonist. (I really want to read some of the real Jack London's books!) He's a good action hero and really does remind me of the kind of heroes you see in old fashioned adventure novels. I also liked Sabine; she's the kind of female character I like to read about, quiet, yet capable, and frankly, I couldn't even picture her with the possibility of having an attitude. There werewolves were appropriately frightening, and volatile. Ghost was a very good villain. He was brutal, and you knew he would hurt you if you did something wrong, but at the same time, he wasn't a mindless killer and he was conniving. I'm not a fan of villains who are just out for blood and have no minds. I found him a very interesting character. I also came to really like Louis, even if I wasn't quite always sure about him.

Writing Style: As with the first book this was a major selling point for me. If not written right, this kind of book just wouldn't be very good, but the style these authors use is amazing, and vivid and really lovely. The action is written well, but not in the movieish way action-adventure novels usually are. This book didn't have as much inner thinking from Jack as the first one since he had more people to talk to, but it still had all the same description and visionary that I loved from the first one.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing I can really complain about with this one was using Death as a name. I don't know why, but it just always seems kind of comical to me, so that's personal preference. Ghost was fine, but his brother using Death as he pirate name? Presumptuous much.

Conclusion: 4 stars, I really liked it, and I hope that the authors continue this series. I really can't begin to think what will come next as these books always leave me guessing, but I'm willing to go along for the ride.

Recommended Audience: Older teens due to violent content. There's no lack of blood and gore, and I like it that way, it makes for a more realistic and frightening story, especially with werewolves. A guy read--this is definitely not a werewolf book for Twilight fans.

A tale of twelve princesses doomed to dance until dawn…

Galen is a young soldier returning from war; Rose is one of twelve princesses condemned to dance each night for the King Under Stone. Together Galen and Rose will search for a way to break the curse that forces the princesses to dance at the midnight balls. All they need is one invisibility cloak, a black wool chain knit with enchanted silver needles, and that most critical ingredient of all—true love—to conquer their foes in the dark halls below. But malevolent forces are working against them above ground as well, and as cruel as the King Under Stone has seemed, his wrath is mere irritation compared to the evil that awaits Galen and Rose in the brighter world above.

Captivating from start to finish, Jessica Day George’s take on the Grimms’ tale The Twelve Dancing Princesses demonstrates yet again her mastery at spinning something entirely fresh out of a story you thought you knew


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I have always been a fan of fairy tale re-tellings, and some I have read have been good and others not so much, but this one was fantastic! I'm not quite as familiar with the Twelve Dancing Princesses as some of the others, but I dearly loved this version of the story, mainly for the characters, and that was the huge deal maker with me and this book, but besides that, the story and writing were very good as well.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I'm a little divided. I almost think it looks more like a 1700s historical fiction book than a fairy tale but I don't mind it either, though I don't think the girls looks exactly how I pictured Rose.

Characters: As I said earlier, it was the characters that made me fall in love with this book. Galen, hands down, was my favorite, and I simply ADORED him. He represented my idea of a perfect hero for this genre of book. He was a gentleman, he was sweet, but he also got the job done, and he was neither too good at what he did to seem god-like nor was he too incompetent. He also knits which I think even made him more endearing. I personally believe that a man who knits is one you can trust. He was just perfect. Rose was the kind of heroine I like to read about too. Strong but without an attitude, capable of taking care of herself and her sister yet not unwilling to let Galen help her. Actually, she needed someone to help her, and it was a testament to her character that that didn't bother her. Her sisters, likewise were lovely characters, I especially liked Poppy and little Pansy and Petunia who were adorable. I liked how Rose cared for them, and then later Galen pretty much adopted them all as his sisters as well. I also found I liked King Gregor. He wasn't a major character, but he was one you could sympathize with. And Walter was a cool kind of 'threshold guardian" for Galen. I liked how he was kind of a mysterious character.

Now for the baddies: The King Under Stone was pretty chilling, and though not horribly frightening, he was frightening enough to feel the need for the girls to be rid of his spell and also to know that he was capable of all he threatened. Angier was also a good villain. He actually reminded me of Cardinal Richelieu. Your typical corrupt Catholic power of the time period. He was a fun character to hate.

Writing Style: Jessica Day George has a lovely simple, yet visual writing style. She puts you there with the characters so that you feel what they are feeling, and she describes things very well which is always important in fantasy books. I could clearly picture Under Stone's realm. I also liked how this book was set in a world that mirrored ours, which gave it a fantasy flair, but yet kept it a bit real as well. Westfalin is Germany obviously, as you will be able to tell from names and other things, and I love that. It's also set in a time period that I would guess to be around the turn of the 19th century.

Problems/What bothered me: I can truthfully say that I had no problems with this book.

Conclusion: 5 stars. I loved it, it was a very nice story and I think just what I needed and felt like reading at the time. Definitely a new favorite.

Recommended Audience: Girl read, any age--some parts might be a little frightening, but they are no worse than a lot of Disney movies. 

Crispin Guest, returning home after a late night, sees a body hurtling from the uppermost reaches of the London Bridge.  Guest's attempted rescue fails, however, and the man—an armourer with a shop on the bridge—is dead.  While whispers in the street claim that it was a suicide, Guest—known in certain London circles as The Tracker for his skill in solving puzzles—is unconvinced.  What Guest uncovers is that the armourer had promised Sir Thomas Saunfayl, a friend from Guest's former life, that he would provide him something that would make him unbeatable in battle, something for which he'd paid a small fortune. Sir Thomas believes that the item was in fact the Spear of Longinus - the spear that pierced the side of Christ on the cross—which is believed to make those who possess it invincible.   Complicating matters is another old friend, Geoffrey Chaucer, who suddenly comes to London and is anxious to help Guest find the missing spear, about which he seems to know a bit too much.  With various forces anxious to find the spear, the life of Sir Thomas in danger and perhaps the very safety of England hangs in the balance, Guest and his apprentice Jack Tucker must navigate some very perilous waters if they are to survive.


Thoughts on the Overall Book: I think this is one of those series that gets better as it goes along, or at least in my opinion. Now I'm trying to decide whether I like this one or "Troubled Bones" better. They were both very good. I did really like the mix up mystery in this one where everyone was doing something else and all had another agenda and I was really kept guessing right to the end when you find out what really happened isn't what it looked like at all. That's the kind of mystery stories I like best, not the ones you can guess half way thorough.

Cover--Yea or Nay: As usual, I like the cover, but this one I particularly like the warm colors to it and London Bridge in the background.

Characters: You got to see a couple new characters in this one, and I again was happy to see Geoffrey Chaucer for a second time. I also felt really sorry for Sir Thomas and thought it was interesting to address what PTSD might have been like back in the medieval days (which I did too in one of my books!) and I thought it perfectly plausible for them to imagine they had been cursed or something because there was nothing to explain how a man could be gallant and charging in front one day and a complete wreck the next. My favorite new additions though were the two new sheriffs, Staundon and More. They were the two most useless human beings ever, I think and were sooo annoying, but at the same time hilarious, though I had to feel sorry for Crispin for having to deal with them. All I can say is he is a far more patient person than I. Those two were just like young school boys out for a lark all the time, I;d love to see what they did if Crispin didn't help them.

Writing Style: Same as usual, quick, snappy, and with the typical well-done research on the period.

Problems/What bothered me: Besides the few moments I wanted to smack Crispin for not listening to Jack like he never does and always gets in trouble for, I didn't have any major complaints.

Conclusion: 4 stars really enjoyed it. The whole last part totally surprised me, but I would love to congratulate Jeri Westerson on her fight scene because it was very well done!

Recommended Audience: Mystery/historical mystery fans would enjoy. Older readers due to a little bit of content but nothing unreadable. 


  1. Overall, January was a good month for me, too. It's just the latter end of this month that I had the string of bad books. ;)

  2. Yeah, well, hopefully you'll start afresh in February =) I actually took the time to read and review books I had problems with this month as well, of which I am proud of myself, because lately I have just been blowing them off :P I guess it's because I had the time and wasn't really doing anything else ;)

  3. Considering I'm starting the new month off with THE BEGGAR QUEEN and the new Mickey Bolitar novel, I'd say that February should be a good month. ;) I've actually been really good about keeping up on my reviews, too. Having to put up a "best reads" at the end of every month ensures it.

  4. That's good =) Sometimes you have to go back to authors you know after reading several lousy books :P