Monday, September 30, 2013

Books of Note: September Reads

Well, I didn't get a lot of a chance to read this month as I was working on finishing up the first novel in my Michael Crandon series (which is now a complete first draft!!) and also doing research into a new WIP I have going as well as gathering the things I need for writing my Nanowrimo story. And most of the books I read this month were re-reads, so I didn't write a lot of reviews, BUT two awesome new releases came out this month that I have been waiting for and were definitely the best new books I read this month, so I'll share my reviews with you here:

The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after...


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Partly, this book was what I expected: not quite as good as the first--more of a between volume, but as far as story line goes, as is usual with Maggie's books, I was totally just ready to go along for the ride, not knowing what to expect or what I would get.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes, I really like the covers for these books, I think it's very neat.

Characters: I continued to love all the Raven Boys and Blue, I honestly don't think Noah could have been more adorable, and I am SO glad he got to be in this book. I just wanted to hug him. Gansey is pretty much the same as he was in the first one, but I think he's learning to be more...something else, for lack of a better word. Blue continues to be awesome and not stupid. I was in pain for Adam through this whole book, he is bloody killing me, and that's all I can say about that. Though Ronan wasn't every my absolute favorite character, I really enjoyed getting to know him better in this book, and see what makes him tick, and more about why he is the way he is and how he's getting better. I was excited to see some new characters too. I loved meeting Ronan's younger brother, Matthew and really wished he had been in the book more, he was so sweet. The Gray Man was the awesomest though. He was just such a cool character. Your typical man for hire, dangerous, yet so quirky, I just, wow, can I say brilliantly crafted. Then there's Kavinsky. All right, I see how he was important to the plot but I honestly could NOT stand him. I just couldn't. If I met him in real life, it would only be ten seconds tops before my hands were around his throat. He was SUCH a slimball (to put it nicely) (view spoiler)

The Romance: There is some romantic tension on the Adam/Blue/Gansey angle but it hardly permeates the plot so it never annoyed me.

Writing Style: As always, Maggie has pulled of a visual wonder with words. This whole book played like a beautiful movie in my head, I could see everything with clarity and it was just brilliant. I was a little bit disappointed that there wasn't more about the search for Glendower in this one, but finding out more about Ronan's ability was also very interesting. This is what made the plot a little slower than the first, but there is still plenty of action, especially toward the end.

Accuracy/ Believability: Not applicable. At all.

Problems/What bothered me: Well, first of all there was just WAY too much language in this book. So much more than the first one. I lost count, so I got really tired of the cussing and that was my only major problem. The other problem is the same problem I usually have with all of Maggie's books which is more of a love/hate thing anyway, and that's that she seeds them so much that I sometimes can't figure out what I should remember, what things mean something and what things don't, and whether I'm overthinking certain things, and underthinking others. It's maddening sometimes, and this is one of those series I honestly wished I had waited to read until all the books were out, but do I ever know what's good for me? No.

Conclusion: 4.5 stars. Not quite as good as the first, but fans will not be disappointed. This book is a really good set up book for the next one, and I honestly have NO IDEA what Maggie will pull out for that one, so once, again, I look forward to it with great anticipation.

Recommended Audience: Definitely older teens due to content and language. But if you've read the first one, you probably know the kind of thing you'll be reading anyway.

(To read this review with spoilers, go to Goodreads

Click here to read my friend, Mara's, review

The thrilling sequel to Sharon Cameron's blockbuster gothic steampunk romance, THE DARK UNWINDING, will captivate readers anew with mystery and intrigue aplenty.

When Katharine Tulman wakes in the middle of the night and accidentally foils a kidnapping attempt on her uncle, she realizes Stranwyne Keep is no longer safe for Uncle Tully and his genius inventions. She flees to Paris, where she hopes to remain undetected and also find the mysterious and handsome Lane, who is suspected to be dead.

But the search for Lane is not easy, and Katharine soon finds herself embroiled in a labyrinth of political intrigue. And with unexpected enemies and allies at every turn, Katharine will have to figure out whom she can trust--if anyone--to protect her uncle from danger once and for all.

Filled with deadly twists, whispering romance, and heart-stopping suspense, this sequel to THE DARK UNWINDING whisks readers off on another thrilling adventure


Thoughts on the Overall Book: Like the first book, this was an intriguing, fast paced story set in the early Victorian period and now that I knew what to expect from the author, I was a little worried this one wouldn't be as good as the first, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that it really was, if not different.

Cover--Yea or Nay: Yes I do like it. I don't even really mind that you can see her face. I love the color of the picture just like I did the first one, and it looks more like a thriller (which it is) than the first one which was more of a mystery.

Characters: I liked Katherine even more in this book than I did in the first one. She has grown in a very capable and smart young woman. There was never a moment I became exasperated with her, because she never did anything stupid, and when she did overstep the mark a little, I honestly couldn't blame her. I was thrilled with the fact that she never really trusted anyone, she never actually told anyone anything and that made me like her all the more. Female characters can sometime be way too trusting and it makes them look weak and silly, but Katherine kept the sensibility that I liked in her from the first one, with a bit of added steel. She's a real no-nonsense kind of girl. I liked the addition in this book of Mrs. Hardcastle and the other busy body ladies and the parts they play in the story, which I will not mention for fear of spoiling. And Mrs DuPont, her Paris housekeeper was one of those snobby servants that are so annoying, but you can't help but like them too. I'm still not really sure how I felt about Henri Marchand. I usually am rather fond of the flirty characters like him as long as I know they mean no harm, but he is definitely not my favorite of those kinds of characters. There was just something missing to make him lovable, and while I didn't dislike him, he wasn't a favorite character. I think I rather shared Katharine's feelings for him. Since she came to Paris looking for Lane, he's obviously not in the book much, which made me a little sad since he was one of my favorite characters from the first book, but I continue to really like him. (view spoiler)

The Romance: There is a potential for there to be a love triangle between Katherine Lane and Henri, but thankfully (apart from a few teasing) this never happens, so don't worry. In fact, Katherine doesn't, in my opinion, have any feelings for Henri at all. She is far too busy to be chasing after all the young men, after all.

Writing Style: As with the first one, the writing style is very well done to the period, and is descriptive and flows well. There were a couple parts I had a little trouble picturing things, but I did eventually figure everything out that I needed to. I like Katherine's narration, which is good, because I hate being trapped in the head of an annoying female character, but as I said before Katherine is very sensible and I enjoy her narration.

Accuracy/ Believability: The author did a lot of research for this book, and it shows. I enjoy reading about books with awesome inventions that are actually accurate, and I learned some things reading this that I hadn't known before. I know only a little about the Crimean War, so leaning a little more of the backstory and what could have been going on behind the scenes during it was very intriguing and made for a really awesome espionage thriller. (which I always love). I didn't have any complaints on accuracy, and the Author's Note goes into the details of the historical aspect. I think she did a very good job portraying Napoleon III as well, I know how hard it can be to pull of major historical figures in fiction, especially if they only have token appearances, but I think she did very well with him.

Problems/What bothered me: No problems.

Conclusion: 5 stars. Just as good as the first book, maybe even a little more fast paced. The ending was very satisfying, and I am glad for the fact that I don't think the author will be continuing this particular story. I am excited to see what she comes up with for her next book, however.

Recommended Audience: girl read 15 and up. Readers of the first one definitely, and girls who enjoy a girl read with a smart heroine and more thriller aspects and espionage than romance. 

(To read this review with spoilers, go to Goodreads

Click here to read my friend Mara's review

I hope to have some more normal posts next month, I have a few more ideas, but as I've said, I've been busy with other things so I hope you'll bear with me and my horrible blogging habits. I'll hopefully be sharing some more about Michael Crandon's debut novel A Company of Rogues and if you want to know more about that, visit my previous post. I'll also be getting up some more excerpts of that soon too. At the end of October I am also going to finally reveal the title and theme of my NaNoWriMo novel, and I am VERY excited about that and can't wait to start writing it =) If anyone else is doing Nano this year, let me know, and hopefully we can look each other up in November!

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

7 Favorite First Lines

Here's a fun post that I hope will entice people to share with me their favorite first lines as well. I was inspired to do this after my friend Mara did her favorite book beginnings and endings on her blog (see her post here) and thought it would be fun to show everyone what my favorite first lines are. As writers and readers both, we know that first lines are so important because that is what will keep a reader reading. Some of these might not even be from my favorite books, but they are all from books I enjoy very much.  Okay, I'll also admit that most of these are actually the first paragraphs and not just the first lines, but oh well.

7. Airborn by Kenneth Oppel

"Sailing toward dawn, and I was perched atop the crow's nest, being the ship's eyes."

I think I like the simple beauty of this first line, and the whole first chapter of this book is probably my favorite part out of the whole thing.

6. The Last Knight by Hilari Bell

"To say it was a dark and stormy night would be a gross understatement. It was colder than a witch's kiss, wetter than a spring swamp, and blacker than a tax collector's heart. A sane man would have been curled up in front of a fire with a cup of mulled wine and a good boo--, ah, I willing wench. But not me. I was out in it. I'm squire to a hero."

Because I love Fisk, and I think this first line totally captures his character perfectly =)

5. Fair Blows the Wind by Louis L'Amour

"My name is Tatton Chantry and unless the gods are kind to rogues, I shall die within minutes."

This is one of those first lines that grabs my attention instantly and makes me want to read more.

4. The Sea Wolves (Secret Journeys of Jack London) by Christopher Golden and Tim Lebbon

"If it hadn't been for the pelican, Jack London would have been murdered by the wolves."

Again, one of those first lines that makes me want to read. I also love this one because, unless you know the book, it's rather strange and makes you wonder whether to take it literally or not.

3. The Rogues by Jane Yolen and Rober J. Harris

"I have seen ghosts in a burned-out cottage and the devil on horseback. This is no lie. The first I saw on the day my brother, Lachlan, and I picked out way through the shell of Glendoun. And the devil--well, he followed soon after."

One of my favorite books ever, and I really liked the introduction to the story in this first line. It has a nice ambiance.

2. The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

I love this first line. It makes you want to read more, and is also eerily nonchalant in the delivery, giving a good introduction in just this line into Sean's character (and Sean is one of my favorite characters ever). I always like lines in books with first POV that let you know the character as soon as you start the book, and this is one that does that.

1. Scaramouche by Rafael Sabatini

"He was born with a gift of laughter and a sense that the world was mad."

After consideration, I kind of had to decide that this is probably my most favorite first line ever. I don't know why, I just really love it =)

So, a bonus discussion question: what is it that you like best in first lines?