Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Review: Seraphina by Rachel Hartman

Overall Impression:

Source: Publisher, through Netgalley

Publication Date: July 10th, 2012

Short Synopsis (Goodreads)our decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.

Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.

In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.

My Review: I love Dragons, I'm not gonna lie. When I first saw Seraphina and that it was a different twist on dragons, I knew I had to at least try it. Guys, I was hooked on the FIRST PARAGRAPH! That rarely, if ever, has happened to me. Usually I like the writing style, but it takes me a page or two to commit fully (sometimes longer, sometimes not at all) but this was in the first paragraph! Just so you know the line that made me laugh out loud and utterly indeared me to Seraphina as a narrator, it was "a rich symphony of indigestion".

Ultimately, that is what I liked most about this book: Serphania as a narrator. Seraphina herself is not perfect, but how Ms. Hartman portrayed her through her words I was totally and utterly committed. I felt like a half-dragon, having to hide my secret, thinking outside the box in order to try and save lives, etc. etc. It was an awesome roller-coaster to be on. And really, there were so many little thoughts or expressions that Seraphina had that made me laugh out loud!

Plus, this was such a clever take on Dragons! The world building was unique but very easy to fall into. I think I'm going to start going around cursing 'Blue St. Prue' now. I really liked how fleshed out it all was. I'm hoping for more expansive adventures in things to come to see what else is out there!

And the 400 odd pages? Didn't feel a thing! I breezed through this. The cover actually really helped me place this all in my head. It has that medieval feel to it, but there was actually technology in it as well (not to the point of steampunk, however). 

Oooh, and there are theses parts where poor Seraphina has to go inside her head and manage a 'Garden of Grotesques' full of these people (or not, as the case may apply) and that was so creepy! There wasn't an over abundance of information, which I thought was just perfect, but just the right amount to get my imagination going and boy, I don't think I'd be able to do that! I would absolutely loath having to manage something like that in my head, of all places. Seraphina sure was full of grit!

My only...not really complaint, but let's say comment....was the ending. Great build up with a......too easy resolution. I am NOT saying that I wanted things to turn our horrible (and they aren't even over, another book is on it's way!!! YAY!) that would have made me very, very sad. However, the fact that things resolved so...swiftly...made all of the build up not as solid as it could have been. And believe me, I was right in there, fearing for Seraphina's discovery and understanding how hopeless she was about being loved. When....stuff....happened, like I said, I was glad, but I felt just the *teensiest* that it should have been a bit harder. Now, things could become a whole lot harder in the next book (and any others that are coming down the line...any hints as to how many, Ms. Harman?) and I think that that would make up for this a bit, so it's still too early to tell. This is just a 'freshly read' feeling I had at the end.

And seriously, this is a debut novel? FANTASTICALLY done Ms. Hartman. Honestly guys, I'm in this for the long haul. ANYTHING Ms. Hartman writes is on my TBR pile, no ifs and or buts about it. I'm so excited to see where this goes next!

Five stars that were justly, justly, earned!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Novella Review: The Assasin and the Pirate Lord (Throne of Glass 0.1) by Sarah J. Maas

Overall Impression:

Source: Kindle Purchase (for $.99 on Amazon)

Publication Date: Jan. 2012

Short Synopsis (Goodreads)A Throne of Glass novella.

On a remote island in a tropical sea, Celaena Sardothien, feared assassin, has come for retribution. She’s been sent by the Assassin’s Guild to collect on a debt they are owed by the Lord of the Pirates. But when Celaena learns that the agreed payment is not in money, but in slaves, her mission suddenly changes—and she will risk everything to right the wrong she’s been sent to bring about.

Author/ Books tidbits: Pinterest page for Throne of Glass, stunning images that really help make the story come to life even more in my head...and more excited for what is to come!

My Review: I had first heard about the actual novel on NetGalley. The cover was alright, but when I actually read the synopsis (assassins? Game of thrones? Yes please!) I knew I wanted to read it. When I found out that there were several novellas leading up to the actual novel, I was a bit hesitant. Come to find out that these are like novels themselves!

Let me explain, sometimes the extras for a book are just that, extras that got cut, for good reason, but they want to have something to draw people in but there is no depth to it, etc. Not so with these novellas! They read just like a regular book and are all longer than 50 pages! It's a fantastic introduction to the world that Ms. Maas has created and I'm excited to see what else is in store.

Thought I must admit that while this isn't perfect, it is very engaging. Celaena is a bit annoying and full of herself and while she does have skills I'm still not seeing how she has the reputation that she does. HOWEVER, I think this sets things up nicely for her character to progress and mature and I think that she will become quite a good protagonist as things move on. 

I appreciate this introduction to Celaena and other characters in the TOG world. I'm eager to start the actual series, and wonder how others will know as much if they don't read this novellas. 

Don't be one of those people! Read these novellas!

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: The Mummy Case (Amelia Peabody #3) by Elizabeth Peters

Overall Impression:

Source: Bought

Publication Date: June 1995

Short Synopsis (Goodreads)Radcliffe Emerson, the irascible husband of fellow archaeologist Amelia Peabody, has earned the nickname "Father of Curses"—and in Mazghunah he demonstrates why. Denied permission to dig at the pyramids of Dahshoor, he and Amelia are resigned to excavating mounds of rubble in the middle of nowhere. But before long Amelia, Emerson, and their precocious son, Ramses, find themselves entangled in The Mummy Case
In Cairo, before setting out to the site, Amelia visits an antiquities dealer to inquire about some papyri for her brother-in-law, Walter. At the dealer's shop she interrupts a mysterious-sounding conversation. And then, even more alarmingly, the dealer attempts to refuse to sell her a scrap of papyrus Ramses discovers in the back room. When the dealer is found dead in his shop just a day later, Amelia becomes convinced that foul play is at hand, a suspicion that is further confirmed when she catches sight of the sinister stranger from the crime scene at her own excavation site.

My Review: I honestly didn't think it was possible to love this series any more, but I do. Amelia and Emerson together are a fantastic mix, but add to that their son Ramses on the adventure and it just keeps getting better! This type of family would be an exhausting pleasure to know.

While the mysteries themselves are only so-so, it is the characters and the setting that keep me coming back for more and thinking about this book while I am not reading it. Really and truly, this is the type of characterization that is such a treasure to find these days since it is in short supply. Ms. Peters really knows her stuff and I can easily imagine myself in the crowded streets of Cairo, in the open deserts of Dashoor or trying to find my way out of a pyramid.

There is still quite a bit of romantic tension between Amelia and Emerson, but they have settled into the married life quite nicely. This time they bring their son Ramses along and he gets into, causes, and helps solve many of his own little scraps. I don't think I could honestly handle this type of a kid with as much aplomb as Amelia does, but whatever happens it is truly hilarious. I constantly find myself chuckling at how Amelia sees the world and at times she is quite insightful. 

I've begun collecting this series (and boy, it there quite a bit of it!) because I know that I will be coming back to it again and again. Truly masterful!

Review: The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

Overall Impression:

Source: Bought (kindle plus hardcover)

Publication Date: Sept. 2011

Short Synopsis (Goodreads)Twelve princesses suffer from a puzzling—and downright silly—curse. Ridiculous though the curse may be, whoever breaks it will win a handsome reward.

Sharp-witted Reveka, an herbalist’s apprentice, has little use for princesses, with their snooty attitudes and impractical clothing. She does, however, have use for the reward money that could buy her a position as a master herbalist. 

But curses don’t like to be broken, and Reveka’s efforts lead her to deeper mysteries. As she struggles to understand the curse, she meets a shadowy stranger (as charming as he is unsettling) and discovers a blighted land in desperate need of healing. Soon the irreverent apprentice is faced with a daunting choice—will she break the curse at the peril of her own soul?

My Review: I read this book a while ago and thoroughly enjoyed it. Though it is MG, Reveka was an amazing protagonist and I laughed out loud several times at her inner dialogue.

This book did a fabulous job of breathing new life into the Twelve Dancing princesses tale, and really, that isn't if center stage, which I liked a lot. It blends with another familiar-esque story that I won't go into because it will give away part of the mystery, but it was immediately recognizable....make that two additional ones. And though it is an MG there was a romantic interest the I really wanted to go more into depth (once a series starts MG must it continue that way? Could it evolve into YA?) and they were honestly great together, learning each others strengths and weaknesses but not giving up when the going got tough.

And Reveka USED HER BRAIN! Grr, it frustrates me so much when the protagonist can't seem to do a single thing for themselves and must be taken care of every step of the way (not naming names but there are quite a few out there) but Reveka was truly a breath of fresh air, spunky, kind, determined, had a plan, was willing to take risks...honestly, I could go on and on. 

This really was a fantastic book......*please Ms. Haskell, can it be a series?* I even ended up buying two copies of the book. I wanted it so bad I got it for my kindle app and when I finished reading it I literally gasped because I hand't known the end was coming up! (you know how you can tell with a physical book that the end is coming? Not so easy on the kindle app!) And then I wanted it for my own library and to be able to share it with the other readers in my family so bought the hard copy and they enjoyed it as well.

I can't recommend this book highly enough. It has just the right blend of fantasy, humor, a lovable and spunky heroine and even a dash of romance. Really, really fantastic!


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