The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu by Michelle Franklin

Title: The Commander and the Den Asaan Rautu
Author: Michelle Franklin
Series: Haanta #1
Publisher: N/A
Release Date: 6/14/2011
Length: 185 pages
Format: PDF
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Challenges: N/A
Source: Author (thank you!)
Purchase: E-book
Rating: NO RATING

The Kingdom of Frewyn is being invaded by the Galleisian infantry and at the forefront of the battle is Boudicca MacDaede, a First Captain in the Frewyn armed forces. Her regiment is charged with defending the borders between the two nations, but when Frewyn’s last line of defense falls, Captain MacDaede enlists the assistance of a Haanta, one of giants from the islands to the far north. Promising to free him from his imprisonment in exchange for his help, she gains his trust long enough for them to win the battle and save the Frewyn border from being breached. The giant’s freedom is granted, but Rautu cannot return home unless he redeems himself in the eyes of his people for his past transgressions. He is offered a place by the captain’s side, and together, they defeat the Galleisian forces and become the saviors of Frewyn.

One year later, King Alasdair Brennin takes the Frewyn throne, Boudicca is made commander, Gallei and Frewyn reach an accord, and Rautu is granted an invitation home. He is eager to return and see his brothers but finds it difficult to leave Frewyn without Boudicca at his side. He has become accustomed to her company and the idea of being made to live without her begins to distress him. Rautu invites the commander to the islands in hopes of finding a way for them to remain together, but when they arrive at the white shores of Sanhedhran, not everything goes as planned: one of the dangerous Haanta magi is freed, Rautu’s three brothers are strangely missing, and the neighboring nation of Thellis leads an attack on the islands.

Together, the commander and the Den Asaan Rautu must find a way to unite their two nations and defend against the Thellisian fleets, but can they do so successfully when outside forces are attempting to keep them apart?

Let me start out by saying that I didn’t finish this book. I know, I know. It’s really short and I couldn’t manage to finish it? I probably could have, but I just wasn’t as into it as I wanted to be and one of my resolutions for this year is not to waste my time reading books I’m not enjoying. Now, that was just a little heads up before I talk about the book and why I wasn’t enjoying it.

This book is like a weird mix between fantasy and romance. It’s set in this fantasy world and Rautu is this crazy huge warrior giant. All the names of everything in his country looks like the English spellings of sanskrit or something. The story begins by giving some background on the commander (who is barely ever called by name). One day during battle she stumbles upon an imprisioned giant. He was supposed to be executed, but was forgotten about when war broke loose. She strikes a deal with him: she’ll give him freedom if he’ll aid her in the war. He agrees, the war is won, and when he is called home he asks her to come with him. I’d say I made it close to halfway through before I started skimming rather than reading. I was pretty disinterested in the politics of his country.

I also felt like their personalities weren’t fleshed out enough. I mean, I got the gist. She was a strong female lead, but not too serious. She always brought the humor out in everything, and she made a big trend of mocking Rautu’s caveman-like tendencies and the culture he was raised in. While, she did this in a joking manner, it still came off pretty condescending. Rautu was pretty much a caveman. So much so, that it was annoying. I’m okay with big, tough guys, but this was ridiculous. All he ever called her was woman, and heaven forbid he admit his feelings for her. That would be a disgrace to manliness. I think I understood the characters, but I definitely couldn’t connect with them, and that’s probably the root of my issues with the book. I just couldn’t sink into it and get comfortable.

I really don’t mean to tear this apart, but I wasn’t a fan of the writing either. It’s not that Michelle Franklin is a bad writer, it’s that she writes in this sort of summary form. She just tells you that Rautu fought with the commander and they defeated their enemies and he always stayed close to her. While I’m getting the facts of the story, I’m getting absolutely no character connection, and for a book that’s so short, I think details would have been a good thing. I think it would have been much more effective if I had been given time to warm to the characters and get a sense for who they really are.

I don’t want anyone to read this and just think they would hate this book or something. There are a whole bunch of people who loved it. I’ve seen numerous 4 star and 5 star reviews on Goodreads. I spent a few days trying to get into this book, and just couldn’t, but you might feel differently.

If you do decide to give it a try, I suggest it for more mature readers due to some sexual content. Also, if you’re not into fantasy, this wouldn’t be a good choice.

The Field Guide by Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi

Title: The Field Guide
Author: Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi
Series: The Spiderwick Chronicles #1
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children’s
Release Date: 5/1/2003
Length: 128 pages
Format: Hardcover
Genres: Fiction, Childrens, Fantasy
Challenges: 2012 Support Your Local Library Challenge
Source: Library
Purchase: Hardcover
Rating: ★★★☆☆

When the three Grace children — Mallory, Jared, and Simon — and their mom move into Aunt Lucinda’s old house, readers know there’s magic afoot. The kids uncover a nest of assembled junk, and on a visit to the secret library via the dumbwaiter, Jared finds a note describing “my secret to all mankind.” After a few mysterious pranks that get blamed on Jared, the boy finally digs up the real prize: Arthur Spiderwick’s Field Guide to the Fantastical World Around You. Fortunately enough, the kids meet one of the critters listed in the guide — a brownie named Thimbletack — who makes it all “real” and helps provide the book’s suspenseful conclusion: “‘Throw the book away, toss it in a fire. If you do not heed, you will draw their ire.'”

While this book was cute, it didn’t blow me away or anything. I think it will take a little more investment for me to get to loving this series. That said, I did enjoy this first small taste. And I do mean small. This book is so tiny!

Though I’ve gotten past the early stages of reading both YA and picture books, I really haven’t dabbled much with children’s fiction. My experience is pretty much just Liesl & Po (which I read because I love Lauren Oliver). This is the first time I’ve gone into a children’s book without knowing for sure that I’d love it. I do love Holly Black’s curse worker series though, so I was excited. I knew it would be very different, and I have to say I really appreciate the change. She definitely knows how to write for her target age group. I guess I shouldn’t undermine Toni DiTerlizzi’s part in this book. I don’t really know what that part is, but I appreciate it. I’ll also add that I read this at the insistance of my nephew who has become obsessed and proceeded to tell me most of the plot of the second book. Luckily, he talks fast, so I don’t really remember what he said.

The Grace children are your normal quirky children. One like to collect random pets, one likes to fence, and the other is a trouble maker. That’s what I’ve learned about them so far. Though, I have my suspicion that Jared isn’t that much of a trouble maker. This first volume introduces the children as they’re moving into an old, rickety house after their father left them. It gives the book a pretty melancholy feel. One of the twins soon discovers a secret room, and in that secret room he finds The Field Guide, a book about different kinds of fairy creatures. The children have their first encounter with one of these creatures. Madness ensues. It’s all the perfect formula for a childrens fantasy book.

I thought the prose and humor were appropriate for the intended reader. All in all, a pretty good book. It just wasn’t quite enough for me to give it a higher rating yet. Good thing there are more!

The Outcasts by John Flanagan

Title: The Outcasts
Author: John Flanagan
Narrator: John Keating
Series: Brotherband Chronicles #1
Publisher: Penguin Audio
Release Date: 11/1/2011
Length: 12 hours, 18 minutes
Format: Unabridged Digital Audiobook
Genres: Fiction, Fantasy, Middle Grade
Challenges: N/A
Source: Publisher (thank you!)
Purchase: Digital Audiobook
Rating: NO RATING

They are outcasts. Hal, Stig, and the others – they are the boys the others want no part of. Skandians, as any reader of Ranger’s Apprentice could tell you, are known for their size and strength. Not these boys. Yet that doesn’t mean they don’t have skills. And courage – which they will need every ounce of to do battle at sea against the other bands, the Wolves and the Sharks, in the ultimate race. The icy waters make for a treacherous playing field – especially when not everyone thinks of it as playing.John Flanagan, author of the international phenomenon Ranger’s Apprentice, creates a new cast of characters to populate his world of Skandians and Araluens, a world millions of young readers and listeners around the world have come to know and admire. Full of seafaring adventures and epic battles, Book 1 of The Brotherband Chronicles is sure to thrill fans of Ranger’s Apprentice while enticing a whole new generation just now discovering the books.

I feel the need to post something since I requested to review this from Penguin. Let me begin by saying that I don’t think this is a bad book. In fact, once I got into a little I thought it was pretty good. There were just a few things I didn’t like.

I wasn’t crazy about the narrator from the beginning. He does good voices and everything, but it’s painfully obvious that he’s reading and I hate that. I want to be able to imagine that I’m there hearing the conversations. Good narrators make it all sound so effortless. I wasn’t getting that with this one and that’s usually when I stop and decide to pick up the print version later. But! Since I had this review copy I kept listening.

I never read Ranger’s Apprentice, though I’ve heard they’re good. I know this is sort of a companion series. I think because I never read those, I had a hard time getting my head into this world. Actually, I never really got there. That’s another reason I ultimately gave up on this one. The final reason was that it felt too much like a little kid book. There’s a lot of redundancy, which I think is just a style meant to help kids understand what’s going on, but having obvious things pointed out to me is some I find incredibly annoying. I just got to the point where I felt like I was wasting my time.

On the bright side, the characters are pretty good. I really loved Hal and I would definitely recommend this to my nephews. In fact, I might let my nephew listen to it and get his opinion. Maybe I could talk him into writing a little mini review or something. He’s eleven and I think this would be right up his alley. He likes Artemis Fowl a lot, and this has that same sort of adventure feel.

In short, it’s not bad, but it’s not really my thing either. I think this would be good for seven to pre-teen aged kids.

Two Moons of Sera

Two Moons of Sera
(Two Moons of Sera #1)
by Pavarti K. Tyler
Published 2011 by Fighting Monkey Press
41 pages. PDF ARC.
Rating: 4/5

In a world where water and earth teem with life, Serafay is an anomaly. The result of genetic experiments on her mother’s water-borne line Serafay will have to face the very people responsible to discover who she really is. But is she the only one?

This book delivers, then leaves you wanting more. It was so easy to immerse myself into the world. Sure, it’s a little weird during the first chapter or so. I kept thinking, “wow, this is so strange.” I relaxed into it though. The whole world and the unique creatures in it are very cool. It feels like it’s never been done before and that’s always a plus.

Sera is completely relatable, despite having webbed toes and skin that absorbs oxygen from water. I had no problem following her story or sympathizing with her loneliness. When Tor shows up, things just took off. Any a possible romantic interest shows up, I lock on. I guess I just really love that element of stories. So far, Tor and Sera are just friends. Still, they’ll be spending a lot of time together now so I can’t wait for more.

The cliffhanger was so frustrating! I need to know what happens next! I’ll definitely be looking for the next one. I also recommend this one to anyone who hasn’t read it yet. It’s interesting and very short. The PDF file I read was only 41 pages. It’s sort of like a manga volume or back in the day when people used to publish stories in magazines.

Bottom line: check this one out!

Source: author
Author’s website: http://pavarti.blogspot.com/
Purchase this book: Smashwords | Amazon

The Iron Knight

The Iron Knight
(Iron Fey #4)
by Julie Kagawa
Published 2011 by Harlequin
386 pages. Paperback.
Rating: 4/5

My name- my True Name- is Ashallyn’darkmyr Tallyn. I am the last remaining song of Mab, Queen of the Unseelie Court.

And I am dead to her.

My fall began, as many stories do, with a girl…

To cold faery prince Ash, love was a weakness for mortals and fools. His own love had died a horrible death, killing gentler feelings the Winter Prince might have had. Or so he thought.

Then Meghan Chase- a half-human, half-fey slip of a girl- smashed through his barricades, binding him to her irrevocably with his oath to be her knight. And when all of Faery nearly fell to the Iron fey, she severed their bond to save his life. Meghan is now the Iron Queen, ruler of a realm where no Winter or Summer faery can survive,

With the unwelcome company of his archrival, Summer Court prankster Puck, and the infuriating cait sith Grimalkin, Ash begins a journey he is bound to see through its end- a quest to find a way to honor his vow to stand by Meghan’s side.

To survive the Iron Realm, Ash must have a soul and a mortal body. But the tests he must face to earn these things are impossible. And along the way, Ash learns something that changes everything. A truth that challenges his darkest beliefs and shows him that, sometimes, it takes more than courage to make the ultimate sacrifice.

Okay, it’s more like 4.5 out of 5. I had a tiny bit of trouble with my rating. By the end, I really wanted to give it five stars because I was still on a book high, but I’ve let it stew for a little while before I wrote the review. I had to remind myself how I felt in the first two hundred or so pages. A little bored. Not completely! There was some nice dialogue and few surprises that were interesting, but I did keep thinking “okay, kill the monster/evil creature(s) and get on with it.” When they got to temple at The End of the World things really picked up, which is around page 200. I can’t really explain why I wasn’t totally enjoying it until then. I think Meghan (the entire reason he was doing this) seemed so distant.

Putting aside that minor set back, I LOVED this book. It was the perfect end to a really wonderful series. Some of my favorite characters were back and they brought along their witty conversation. I just love Grim. There’s nothing like a smart ass cat to pull everything together. Seriously, cats make the best characters sometimes. And Puck, dear Puck. He needs his own book or something. We’ve seen a little of his serious side before, but he really opened up a few times in this book. He’s not always tricks and games. He’s just as complex as Ash.

Oh, Ashallyn’darkmyr Tallyn! I feel like I never knew you. Not really. I read the previous books thinking “Yay! Forbidden romance!” I thought it was just adorable how Meghan Chase warmed your icy heart and made you see what kind of man you could be. But I didn’t understand. No, no! I never knew your past or what you could become: the cold-hearted version of yourself, as far from human as a fey can get. It would be so easy. But, no! You are true to your word and your heart! You will go to the End of the World (quite literally) and face trials that will break you just for love. This is my ode to you, Ash. You are truly the romantic hero.

Okay, seriously, Ash is awesome. In the last half of the book I turned from bored into excited/scared/in love/excited again/scared again and so on. It was an emotional ride, and I had to keep myself from tearing a a couple of times. No crying at work, no crying at work, no crying at work. It was mostly due to the final trials Ash faces. I had my mind made up ahead of time about them, and I was SO wrong. The trials were way more appropriate than I was expecting. It wasn’t a bunch of feats of strength or power. They were lessons. They helped Ash understand what it means to be human. Which is way harder than it looks apparently. It made me feel proud of myself… you know, for being human and stuff.

Well, that’s more like a bunch of babbling than a book review. The point is that the book was amazing, even though I had some trouble getting into it. It was worth it. I recommend this series!

Source: NetGalley
Author’s website: http://www.juliekagawa.com/
Purchase this book: Harlequin | Book Depository | IndieBound

Reviews of previous books in this series:
The Iron King | The Iron Daughter | The Iron Queen

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    Some of the books reviewed on this blog were sent to me by the author or publisher for review. I did not receive any payment in exchange for the review nor was I obligated to write a positive one. All opinions expressed here are entirely my own and may not necessarily agree with those of the author, the book's publisher and publicist or the readers of these reviews. This disclosure is in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255, Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.
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