Book Review: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

shiver-front-coverShiver is the first book in The Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy by Maggie Stiefvater.

Summary:

When Grace was small, she was dragged off the swing in her back garden by wolves and pulled into the woods behind her house.  Somehow she survived the attack.  Deep down she knows it has something to do with the wolf with yellow eyes – her wolf.

As the years pass, she marks the changing seasons by the presence or lack there of, of the wolves in Boundary Woods.  When they’re not there, she misses them terribly.  When they are, she knows the yellow-eyed wolf is close by, watching.  And there is something almost human about him…

Sam is a young man caught between worlds.  In winter he is destined to live his life with the pack in the woods, the only true family he has ever loved.  In summer, when the temperature allows, he shifts back to being human.

Then, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy, and she just knows he is her wolf.  But things are never that simple.  Sam’s time is running out.  When it does, he will lose Grace, forever.

Favourite Quote:

She made a soft noise that, roughly translated, meant piss off in sleep language.

Review:

First, I loved this book, even though it made me cry.  Yes, I can be terribly soft and sentimental…

As a YA book, it was a quick and easy read, and it didn’t take long for me to get swept up with the story.  One thing in particular stood out to me as I read it: it is full of gorgeous descriptions of the setting, convincingly transporting me to Mercy Falls.

Shiver reminded me a little of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight books.  Star-crossed lovers, impossible odds of being together, paranormal boyfriend – human girlfriend…and yet I felt they were so different, probably due to the style of the author’s writing.

I enjoyed the mythology surrounding the wolves.  Having the temperature play such an important role in the story really added drama and tension to it.  I also liked how we got to see what was happening from both Grace’s and Sam’s point of view.

I liked Grace; she is a strong young woman, and will do what it takes to fight for who she loves.  And Sam, caught between the life he knows and a life with the woman he loves…it’s not hard to feel for him.

I am looking forward to reading the second book in the trilogy, Linger, to see where the story leads next…

Rating:

four-stars

Short Story Review: The Red-Headed League by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

Sherlock Holmes and Dr Watson receive a visitor, Jabez Wilson, a man with a shock of red hair.  He explains that his assistant encouraged him to respond to advert in the paper offering very well-paid work to red-headed male applicants.  He wasn’t sure, thinking it was too good to be true, but acquiesced.  The following morning, he followed the directions from the advert and joined a long line of red-heads applying for the job.  However, it is only a very specific shade of red hair they are looking for, and Wilson is the only one offered the position.

When Wilson learns of the very simple work he must undertake in order to earn his high wage, he is eager to begin.  But after only four weeks the office mysteriously closes, and no-one has heard of the Red-Headed League, nor the man Wilson was interviewed / managed by.  So, he gets Sherlock Holmes on the case…

Favourite quote:

“It is quite a three pipe problem, and I beg that you won’t speak to me for fifty minutes.”

Review:

The second short story in The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle that I have been reading on Wattpad, is The Red-Headed League.  This is a very clever short story, but I enjoyed it less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

The misdirection is clever, the plot extremely well thought out and it is always great to see how Sherlock Holmes thinks and interprets the clues he has been given.  The idea of The Red-Headed League makes this an unusual story and for that reason, memorable, for it is so strange.  I think that it is that strangeness though, which is the reason why I liked this less than A Scandal in Bohemia.

Next up in the series is A Case of Identity, the review for which I hope to post within the next couple of weeks…

Rating:

three-stars

Book Review: Switched by Amanda Hocking

switched-front-coverSwitched is the first book in the Trylle trilogy by Amanda Hocking.

Summary:

Wendy Everly knew she wasn’t like everyone else when her mother tried to kill her when she was six years old, convinced that she was a monster.  A decade later, Wendy is living with her brother and her aunt.  They move around a lot because Wendy, who can’t settle, keeps getting thrown out of school.  But she has a secret…a secret power that means she can influence peoples thoughts and decisions to her own advantage.

When Finn, the new boy at school, starts staring at her intensely whenever they are in the same space, Wendy begins to worry.  Does he know her secret?  Or does he know more about her secret than she does?  One thing’s for sure…Wendy’s life will never be the same again…

Favourite Quote:

I look at you because I can’t look away.

Review:

I have only read one other Amanda Hocking novel before this one, Hollowland, which I thoroughly enjoyed, so when I came across Switched at the bookshop I knew I had to read it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  It took me a few pages to connect with the character of Wendy, but after reading further, if felt like that was intentional and the reason behind it unfolds as the story does.

Switched was a very easy book to read, thanks to the author’s writing style.  Also, the mythology around the Trylle is very different from what we know of trolls from myths and legends and that made the story fresh and exciting.  The other characters are likeable, and the story moves along at a good pace.  There is action, romance, loss, secrets and revelations all nicely woven into the plot.  The bonus short story at the back of the book was a great read too!

I have added Torn, the second book in the trilogy, to my “To Be Bought” list.

Rating:

four-stars

 

Short Story Review: A Scandal in Bohemia by Arthur Conan Doyle

Summary:

While Dr Watson is visiting his friend, Sherlock Holmes, the latter receives a visitor, one who gives a false name.  True to form, Holmes quickly determines his true identity: the heir to the Kingdom of Bohemia, who is soon to be married to a princess from a strict family.  Only a past lover is in possession of a some letters and a photograph of them together, which could be used for blackmail and ultimately ruin his chances of marrying the princess.

The woman in question is Irene Adler…

Favourite quote:

To Sherlock Holmes, she is always the woman.  I have seldom heard him mention her under any other name.  In his eyes, she eclipses and predominates the whole of her sex.

Review:

I have been working my way through The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle on Wattpad, the first instalment of which is A Scandal in Bohemia.  It’s been too long since I have read a Sherlock Holmes story, and this, the first of 56 short stories written by Arthur Conan Doyle staring the “consulting detective”, was a great way to reconnect with them.

Of course, I loved it.  What I did find interesting was that Arthur Conan Doyle decided to begin the run of short stories by depicting that it is possible to outsmart Sherlock Holmes.  And Irene Adler is such an iconic character, possibly rivalling Sherlock in popularity.  All-in-all, a short, entertaining read and an enjoyable way to pass an evening.

Next up in the series is The Red-Headed League, the review for which I will probably post next week…

Rating:

four-stars

Sammi Loves Books – Year in Review 2016

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2016 has been a great year for books.  The over-riding theme for the year was “read, review and recycle,” (by recycle, I mean donating to charity or giving away to friends and family).  The reason for this: I have finally realised I have an addiction to books; when you have bookshelves in front of bookshelves and piles of books on each step of the stairs, you know you have a problem…That’s not to say that every book I read and review was removed from the house, only the books I couldn’t imagine reading again.  It’s a start at least, and something I will carry with me into 2017.

I’m once again surprised that I only read and reviewed 56 stories / books this year, exactly the same as last year, which I am more than a little disappointed with.  Next year I am determined to have written at least 57 reviews.  However, my Goodreads reading challenge only reckons I’ve read 8, but then my goal was 72.  One of my New Year’s resolutions is to get to grips with updating Goodreads on a regularly basis, something I have failed to do since I signed up there years ago…

A Few Highlights

  • Getting a signed paperback copy of Vastian Lore by S.C. Gregory from the author via a giveaway on her blog.
  • Receiving a paperback copy of The Devil’s Chalice by D.K. Wilson from the publisher.

Top Ten Favourite Reads of 2016

This is how my top ten list stands at the end of the year:

  1. The Ambassadors’ Mission (Trudi Canavan)
  2. One Corpse Too Many (Ellis Peters)
  3. The Devil’s Chalice (D.K. Wilson)
  4. Venus in Copper (Lindsey Davis)
  5. The Raven’s Head (Karen Maitland)
  6. A Clash of Kings (George R. R. Martin)
  7. Just Breathe (Sarah Doughty)
  8. Glass Houses (Rachel Caine)
  9. The Woman in Black (Susan Hill)
  10. Death of a Cad (M.C. Beaton)

Reading Challenges

Indie Only Month 2016:

My favourites were “Just Breathe” and “Vastian Lore” – I adored them both.

Historical Fiction Month 2016:

My favourites were “The Devil’s Chalice” and “Venus in Copper”, closely followed by “The Raven’s Head” and “Dissolution”.

Festive Reads Fortnight 2016:

So that is my year in books summarised.  I hope you all had a great 2016, and wishing you a 2017 filled with good books!

Book Review: The Ambassadors’ Mission by Trudi Canavan

the-ambassadors-mission-front-coverThe Ambassadors’ Mission is the first book in The Traitor Spy trilogy by Trudi Canavan.

The Traitor Spy Trilogy is the sequel to The Black Magician Trilogy (my reviews for which you can find here: The Magicians’ Guild, The Novice, The High Lord)

Set twenty years after The High Lord and the Ichani invasion, Sonea is now one of two Black Magicians in the Magicians’ Guild.  The Guild is still fearful of black magicians, so by having two, they can each ensure that the other is not getting up to anything they shouldn’t.  And that’s not the only change – Kyralia and the Guild have come quite far since our last visit.

Sonea and Akkarin’s son, Lorkin, has now completed his own studies at the Guild, but struggles a little, living in the shadow of such famous parents, and is feeling restless.  When he hears that Lord Dannyl, his mother’s friend and the former ambassador to Elyne, wants to go to Sachaka and become the new Guild Ambassador to the strange land to the north, Lorkin is determined to become his assistant.  But being Akkarin’s son has consequences, as he comes to discover.

Whilst this is going on, Sonea has problems of her own to deal with back in Imardin.  A “thief hunter” is on the loose in the city, killing off Thieves.  When an old friend is targeted, she is drawn into the hunt for the one responsible, especially because there is a suspicion that they might be a rogue magician…something she knows more than a little about…

As some of you may know if you’ve been around this blog long enough, Trudi Canavan is one of my favourite fantasy authors, which came about upon reading The Black Magician Trilogy. (Which, in my opinion, is one of the best trilogies ever written.)  And, the first book in the sequel trilogy certainly lives up to them.

It was great to catch up with some of the old characters: Sonea, Rothen, Cery and Dannyl, as well as get to know to some new ones: Lorkin, Tyvara and Anyi.  The way the plot has advanced over the twenty years between the series is consistent and believable, and the story flows with ease between the different story threads and points-of-view.

Sachaka is an interesting if harsh country, with customs quite different to those found in Kyralia.  There are no servants employed there, only slaves, something that makes Kyralians understandably uncomfortable.  And magic is quite different there too.

All-in-all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading The Ambassadors’ Mission, and look forward to reading book 2 in The Traitor Spy TrilogyThe Rogue.  I would gladly recommend this book to those who enjoy fantasy fiction, but would suggest that they might want to read The Black Magician Trilogy before embarking on this one.

Short Story Review: Who Stole the Fish? By Peter Tremayne

murder-through-the-ages-front-coverWho Stole the Fish? is a Sister Fidelma Mystery by Peter Tremayne.

It is 664 AD, Ireland.  The Abbey of Durrow has an important visitor, an emissary from Rome.  Naturally, at the evening meal, an extravagant dish is to be served to their guest: a great salmon.  Only during the early part of the meal, Sister Fidelma’s presence is required in the kitchen by Abbot Laisran.  The fish has gone missing, along with the man who has been cooking it.  And the abbot wants the mystery cleared up before the emissary hears anything about it.

But where is the fist?  And where is the cook?

Although I have a number of the Sister Fidelma Mysteries sitting on my bookshelves, I have yet to get around to reading one.  So this short story is my first introduction to the sleuthing nun, and I must say, I liked her.  She is sensible, logical and observant – nothing escapes her notice.  I am now determined to read a full-length novel staring Sister Fidelma in the new year.

A great read!

I found this short story in, Murder Through the Ages: A Bumper Anthology of Historical Mysteries, edited by Maxim Jakubowski.