Thursday, May 30, 2013

Books of Note: May Reads

Looking back on this month in the books I read, it seems like forever that May has lasted! Again, this month had some ups and downs, but I did find several really good books I enjoyed and these are some of my favorites.

"It is the height of Spain's celebrated golden century - but beyond the walls of the Royal Palace there is little on the streets of Madrid that glitters. The Invincible Armada has been defeated. The shadow of the Inquisition looms large. And the Thirty Years' War rages on in Flanders. When a courageous soldier of this war, Captain Diego Alatriste, is forced to retire after being wounded in battle, he returns home to live the comparatively tame - though hardly quiet - life of a swordsman-for-hire. In this dangerous city where a thrust of steel settles all matters, there is no stronger blade than Alatriste's." The captain is approached with an offer of work that involves giving a scare to some strangers soon to arrive in Madrid. But on the night of the attack, it becomes clear that these aren't ordinary travelers - and that someone is out for their blood. What happens next is the first in a series of riveting twists, with implications that will reverberate throughout the courts of Europe


Thoughts on the Overall Book: After starting the fourth book in the series thinking it was the first one, and then realizing I was missing a lot of things, I finally got to read the first one! And I really enjoyed it. This are a truly classy swashbuckling series that goes back to Dumas and Sabatini. The first book kind of acts as an introduction to the series, so it's a little slower than what I except the rest of the books to be, but that didn't make it in any way less enjoyable.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes, I really like how "Alatriste" is portrayed in the shadows. I love shadowing characters and swords on book covers. I also love the font. The font is actually what attracted me to the books in the first place at the library.

Characters: The characters seem to be straight out of a Dumas, and I'm saying that as a nod to the author, and not in a mocking way because Dumas, in my opinion, is one of the best characters crafters there was. I love the idea of a young boy narrating this series and I really love Inigo and his narration. Alatriste is also a really good character. He's somewhat of a reluctant hero, he works as a sword for hire, but he also has a deep sense of honor. And I loved the quiet father/son relationship these two share. It was very sweet. In actuality, it's like if you had a younger, less hot-headed D'Artagnan and Athos. I'm not going to lie when I say that Alatriste was pretty much Athos, and I really don't think the author was trying to hide that either. There was also Agelica, who, really felt like a 12-year-old version of Milady, I can see where she's going in later books. I also really liked the nemesis. I look forward to seeing him duel with Alatriste and Inigo through the series.

The Romance: None to report

Writing Style: As I said before, it's very much like Dumas'. So much so, that I really almost with Arturo Perez-Reverte would write Three Musketeers off-shoot stories because he might just be one of the only people who could pull it off. It was just all very classic, and I know this was translated, but I think I should give a shout out to the translator, because I think she did a very good job. I loved the picture he painted of Spain at this time period, it was lovely and through Inigo's narration, half cynical, and half longing. There was enough backstory of the history of the time period too (that anyone who has read Three Musketeers would know quite a bit about thanks to Dumas) but not so much that the readers gets bogged down in it. There were also several little tidbits for Three Musketeer fans he threw in there as well. I also loved his inclusion of Charles I and Buckingham when they went to Spain in secret so Charles could marry the infanta, disguised as "John and Thomas Smith". I knew who they were when they first appeared because I know the history, but I still thought it was awesome, another little thing that was reminiscent of Dumas.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing I could mark was that there was a little bit of strong language, not as much as I have read in other books, but I did want to make mention of it.

Conclusion: 4 stars. This is going to be a series I'd like to follow to the end, I was very happy to find it.

Recommended Audience: Dumas fans definitely! You really would love this. Besides that, readers looking for a quick historical read would like this too. I read it in two days, but it could probably also be considered an afternoon read if you have nothing better to do.

Meg Pickel’s older brother, Orion, has disappeared. One night, she steals out to look for him, and makes two surprising discoveries: She stumbles upon a séance that she suspects involves Orion, and she meets the author Charles Dickens, also unable to sleep, and roaming the London streets. He is a customer of Meg’s father, who owns a print shop, and a family friend. Mr. Dickens fears that the children of London aren’t safe, and is trying to solve the mystery of so many disappearances. If he can, then perhaps he’ll be able to write once again.
With stunning black-and-white illustrations by Greg Ruth, here is a literary mystery that celebrates the power of books, and brings to life one of the world’s best-loved authors.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: This was one of those books that when I started it, I wasn't sure if I was going to like it or not. It's starts out slow, and I was worried that the mystery of Meg's brother's disappearance would turn out not to be all that interesting. However, about a third of the way in, the book takes a really interesting turn, that immediately made me sit up and speed through the rest. It was one that I really didn't know what the book was going to be about when I started it, but ended up being really good.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I really like the cover. I was excited to see the book was illustrated by Greg Ruth (I loved his work in the "Secret Journey's of Jack London" series) and he's probably one of my favorite illustrators at the moment. There's just something about his style I really like.

Characters: Like the story, I wasn't exactly sure what I felt about Meg at first. I liked how she was worried about her brother disappearing, and that she was willing to do whatever she had to do to get him back, even if the rest of her family had given up hope, but she almost came across as a little bit naive, and almost borderline bratty on occasion. However, as the story progressed, she just became a strong and very smart heroine, and I have to take it into account that she's only about 12 or so too, so she is still young. I really liked Orion right off though, even though most of what the reader knows about him is just from Meg's memories and flashbacks. I also loved the inclusion of Charles Dickens. I always love it when famous authors are incorporated into novels, and I have read several novels featuring Dickens. Sadly, I have yet to actually read his books, but Charles as himself has already endeared me to him.

The Romance: None!

Writing Style: I liked the writing style, it was classic and fit the time period, and I do believe was a bit reminiscent of Dickens's. The only thing that bothered me about it was that there was an "unknown narrator" who spoke in various places and those were in present tense whereas the rest of the story was in past. It wasn't totally jarring, but it stopped me for a few seconds when I came to one of those places. I really liked how the author portrayed the darker side of London at this time period too, and how children were treated, which was horrible at the best of times. Since this is a kids' book, there was nothing mentioned in any detail, but you still got an insight of the horror of the workhouses and how cruel they treated the poor orphans there and how they press-ganged any children they could find. You get the idea of the horror and to me, it's almost worse than having it put all in front of you.

Problems/What bothered me: The only thing that really bothered me was the fact that I really saw no reason for the inclusion of the ghost boy "Dick Wittington". You see him once in the first few chapters, but he never re-appears, nor did I see any ah-ha correlation to him in any other aspect of the story. I kind of got how he represented "eternal childhood" but I still didn't really see how that all tied in. I think the story would have been just as good without his inclusion.

Conclusion: 4 stars. I ended up really enjoying this book, and it ended on a good note with a happy ending, but also had a tad of bittersweetness as well. I liked seeing Meg grow up in the story from how we originally see her--a dreamer who thinks of the world like a novel--to who she becomes by the end of the story--a bit more world weary, and finally able to realize that not everything can be fixed, at least not right away, and that there really is no conclusion to life like in a novel.

Recommended Audience: Fans of Charles Dickens would enjoy this as a quick read. It's also a kind of easy read for Victorian mystery lovers. Girl or boy read, ages 12 and up.

The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.

Thoughts on the Overall Book: I love ghost stories. Add Ripperology to that and it can only get better. I was really excited about this book, and, thankfully as I have been several times of late, I was not disappointed. In fact "The Name of the Star" actually held several surprises for me that made me like it all the better.

Cover--Yea or Nay: I do like the cover, it's pretty, but I don't really "get" it. Even when I had finished the story I wasn't sure what the cover was about.

Characters: Despite the fact that I have always thought of Rory as a boy's name, I adored her. She was just the kind of female protagonists I like to read about in contemporary stories. She was genuinely funny, didn't have the attitude, and never once did she come across as annoying. She's the kind of girl I cold easily picture as being a good friend of mine. I liked Jazza a lot too (even though she really didn't seem like a "Jazza" to me). She was sweet and supportive and also not annoying. Despite early feelings, I did grow to like Boo, but she probably will never be my favorite character. I loved Jerome and Stephen and Callum though. They were all totally awesome. Jerome is another person I could picture being good friends with and I loved Stephen (who I instantly pictured as Matthew Baynton, by the way) was the quiet serious type, while Callum was the sarcastic, talkative one without seeming like the funny sidekick, which I appreciated. The villain was totally creepy too. I also loved the ghost characters. Alastair and Jo were totally awesome as well.

The Romance: Rory has a crush on Jerome and there's several make out sessions, but in all honesty, it didn't bother me at all. I think it's because it was so--I don't want to say blatant--but it was just there and there was no problem with it with cause anyone grief. They're just easy people, and I don't mind them together either.

Writing Style: First person and thankfully past tense (amazing!). I loved Rory's narration. I don't always care for first person from a female perspective because if you get a lousy leading lady, it can really make or break a book for me, but Rory is just so awesome and she's funny that I loved the writing style. It made for easy reading, but also held enough suspense to keep reading chapter after chapter. I loved the whole premise of this story too, and Maureen Johnson's take on ghosts was really cool and unique.

Problems/What bothered me: I really didn't have any problems with the story. I could maybe mark that the final showdown was a little drawn out, but then, I've written just as drawn out of ones so I don't really have anything to say on that ;-) It didn't drag at all, it's just that it kind of seemed a little long

Conclusion: 4 stars. I really enjoyed it, and I look forward to reading the rest of the series. I love the idea of London having it's own Ghost police and I think the idea is really original.

Recommended Audience: Ripperologists, fans of ghost stories and suspenseful mysteries also involving ghosts. Ages 16 and up, probably could actually be classed as a girl or a guy read, though I'd be more likely to suggest it to girls.
(To view spoilers, go to this link to read it on Goodreads: )


  1. Looks like we both had a pretty good month for books! :) Definitely better than last month.

  2. Definitely =) The only bad one this month was Charlotte Sycamore. Which was, unfortunately, really bad, but it was the only one so, I can't complain too much ;)