PaperBackSwap Blog


Fantasy Review – The Sevenwaters Trilogy

May 27th, 2015

The Sevenwaters Trilogy by Juliet Marillier

Review by Mirah W. (mwelday)

I recently finished The Sevenwaters Trilogy (Daughter of the Forest, Son of the Shadows, and Child of the Prophecy) by Juliet Marillier and really enjoyed them all. The books were recommended to me by my friends Sara and Tasha so I shouldn’t have had any doubt I would like the books; they always give me great recommendations!  I decided for this post I would pick my top seven highlights from the trilogy in a blatant attempt to encourage you to read it.  So, without delay, here are my Seven Highlights of Sevenwaters (in no particular order):

1)       The stories within the bigger story.  Throughout the three novels there are characters who tell tales of the land and ancestors.  These tales are told through music, around campfires, during banquets, within caves, or in quiet moments shared by characters.  The tales are carefully written and inserted into the novels at the perfect point to shed more light on the overarching story yet each tale is an engrossing story all on its own.

2)       The faith of family.  In book 1, Daughter of the Forest, Sorcha is the youngest of seven children and the only daughter.  Her brothers are transformed into swans by an evil sorceress and only Sorcha’s efforts can save them.  The brothers have faith in Sorcha’s strength and this faith in family continues through the trilogy.  Sometimes there are doubts and disagreements but the deep-seeded faith in family remains.

3)       A band of tattooed warriors.  At first introduction the mysterious band of tattooed warriors in book 2, Son of the Shadows, appear to be menacing, hard, and ruthless. Seeing their true colors and learning their histories make them some of my favorite characters of the entire trilogy.

4)       Magic and fantasy without being cheesy.  Sometimes I am skeptical of fantasy novels because they can get too cheesy for me.  While the trilogy is obviously from the fantasy genre it becomes more about the characters than the fantasy.

 5)       The epic-ness of it all.  I like long books (when I care about the characters).   These books are lengthy and offer tons in terms of  character development and backstory.  I also like that the books continue with future generations of the family introduced in book  one while still including original characters.  I get very attached to characters so it’s nice to still have them around, even as  secondary characters.

6)       Sacrifice is rewarded.  I don’t know many people who like to consistently give of themselves and get nothing in return, even if  all they get is peace of mind.  So, sure, I like authors who let those who sacrifice gain something in the end. And I also like that some  characters I don’t initially like are redeemed through their actions.

7)       True love wins at the end of the day.  There are ups and downs, family trauma and drama, misunderstandings, and sacrifices  but true love eventually wins out, this is especially true in Child of the Prophecy.  Love doesn’t win in the exact way I would like but  it’s a check in the win column anyway.

Have you read The Sevenwaters Trilogy?  I’d love to know your picks for highlights, your favorite characters, or bookmarked moments.  If you haven’t read them, I hope you’ll give them a try…and if you like them, there are three more books!  Yep, Marillier  wrote three more books and created a longer series.  I haven’t read books 5-7 (Heir of Sevenwaters, Seer of Sevenwaters, and Flame of Sevenwaters) yet but I’ve already got them on my ‘to be read’ shelf  so I’m hoping I enjoy them as much as books 1-3.  And thanks,  again, to my great friends for giving me an awesome  recommendation!

 

 

Mystery Monday – Come to Dust

May 25th, 2015

Come to Dust by Emma Lathen

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

The title of the seventh mystery starring banker John Putnam Thatcher is a quotation from Shakespeare’s play Cymbeline: “Golden lads and girls all must, as chimney sweepers, come to dust.”

Despite this somber tagline, Lathen’s comic procedure continues in the usual manner. That methodology involves the send-up of an industry or institution. In this case, the ducks in the barrel are the hapless upper-level college administrators, party animal alumni, knuckle-dragging students, and blockhead parents, all connected to the Ivy League halls of august if fictitious Brunswick College.

A recruiter for the college disappears, perhaps with a $50,000 bond representing a gift to the college. At the half-way point of the book, a pesky prospective student is stabbed to death. The mystery end of things is secondary to the attention on characters and their milieu. The college administrators focus first on fund-raising and second on recruiting new students instead educating current students. The alums focus on football, the annual excuse to party like they were 30 years younger. As for the students, one janitor says the young person he gave directions to could not have been a student because he was “too polite.” Chowderhead parents and muttonhead benefactors are alternately getting hysterical and threatening litigation. Readers who work at a university will snicker in recognition that things haven’t changed much since 1968.

The series hero remains Wall Street banker John Putnam Thatcher. He is in rather a supporting role in this outing. This is balanced by Lathen’s sly observations about being female in male-dominated big business. Lathen was the pen-name of Mary Latsis and Martha Henissart, two Boston business executives with doctoral degrees. Anybody who’s worked in an office will recognize the authentic feel of how people who’ve worked together a long time get along. Also interesting are their takes on Sixties phenomena such as friction between the generations and the urge among the middle-aged to do like Siddhartha, which Lathen considers an irresponsible shirking.

 

Memorial Day 2015

May 25th, 2015

American_Flags_8285648189_o blog

As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.

 - John F. Kennedy

Author Spotlight – Ken Follett

May 21st, 2015

Author Spotlight – Ken Follett

by Cheryl G. (Poncer)

One of the great things about being a member at PaperBackSwap is finding new authors to read and enjoy.  Just like not judging books by their cover, I relearn over and over again, not to judge authors by my limited experience with their books.

I thought Ken Follett only wrote books about WWII. Boy, was I wrong. A book that came highly recommended to me was The Pillars of the Earth. Matter of fact, a close friend who I have had the pleasure to get to know in real life gave me her own copy to read. Thanks, Lori!

The 983 pages seemed daunting at first, but after the first few pages I was hooked. Read it through in about a week’s time and am very glad I did. The research that went into this book is amazing, and the story winds its way through it seamlessly.

I have always marveled at the feat of church-building, even ones built in the modern age, but to follow along as a cathedral is being planned and built in the early 10th century is awe inspiring. And to follow the builder, the monks, the daily struggles of Ken Follett’s characters really put me in the medieval time. This book came highly recommended to me and now, I, too, highly recommend it.

The next Ken Follett book I read was The Man from St. Petersburg, set in England just before WWI. It follows the Walden family, Lord, Lady and daughter, through the lead-up to the war. And just like The Pillars of the Earth, I was hooked from the very beginning.

Ken Follett’s research in both books is impeccable, weaving his story lines through history, and though we know that what he writes did not necessarily happen, his novels are believable and very true-to-life. He achieves this by his careful construction of characters, surrounding them with accurate details of the eras in which he sets his stories. He says, ““I like to create imaginary characters and events around a real historical situation. I want readers to feel: OK, this probably didn’t happen, but it might have.”

Ken Follett is a prolific author. He has penned over 30 novels, and sold over 150 million copies of his books. 4 have made the NY Times best seller list. An author I avoided for far too long is one of my new favorites. Today I received A Place Called Freedom in the mail that I ordered from another member here at PaperBackSwap. Set in 1766, it too promises to be a compelling read.

There are currently over 700 copies of Ken Follett’s book available to order on PBS. And two more on their way to me, Night Over Water and Paper Money. I am hoping they will be just as absorbing as the first two books I have read.

  

What Ken Follett books have you read? Which would you recommend?

 

 

Mystery Monday – The French Key

May 18th, 2015

aaa

The French Key by Frank Gruber

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

Frank Gruber was a professional writer that wrote for the pulps, radio, and movies. In two novels of his I’ve read, the mood is noir without violence, starring believable characters, and having an air of verisimilitude that will please those of us into 1930s and 1940s Americana.

In The French Key (1939), Johnny Fletcher and Sam Cragg’s ostensible job is selling a book on physical fitness. Johnny, the brains of the outfit, acts as the spieler and Sam, the brawn, exemplifies the benefits of fitness by breaking a chain wrapped around his chest. They experience financial ups and downs so they are not as scrupulous as they should be about saving and making money. Having decided to stiff the hotel for the tariff, they must get their luggage out of their room.

However, they discover the body of a man on the bed, clutching a gold coin in his cold hand. Fletcher, seizing the opportunity, grabs the coin and later is informed by a coin dealer that it is the most valuable US coin ever minted. Johnny, over Sam’s protests, decides to play private detective in order to clear them of suspicion of murder. Doing so, they are caught up in a gold hoarding scheme.

Like many pulp writers, Gruber held many jobs before he turned to writing: farm boy, soldier, bell-hop, ticket-taker at a theater, and writing hack. His descriptions of fifth-rate hotel rooms and sleazy rooming houses are totally convincing. The background touches give us a confident feeling that the author is writing about people, places, and things that he knows all too well. The antique slang and turns of phrase (“When are we going to put on the nose bag?” grouses a hungry Sam), the hustler’s grave chivalry toward the ladies, and careful naming of streets in New York City feel authentic. The characters are very old-school American – plain, warm, outgoing, confident, resourceful — to me.

Two anachronisms startled me. One character had a “Beatle haircut” – in February of 1964, TIME magazine referred to the hair of the Fab Four as “mushroom haircuts.” Two characters fought it out like “Sonny Liston and Cassius Clay” – February, 1964. Coincidence? I think not. But I have no explanation since the Capital pocket PB edition I read is from October, 1972 – the cover picture indeed looks very Seventies. Maybe Gruber himself updated it – he passed away in 1969, acknowledged as one of the “Kings of Pulp Fiction.”

 

 

 

Fiction Review – The Girl on the Train

May 13th, 2015

The Girl on the Train: A Novel by Paula Hawkins

 

Review by Mirah Welday (mwelday)

 

It seems everyone lately has been talking about The Girl on the Train.  I have Facebook friends who have been reading and posting about it.  I have friends who have been sending me messages telling me they think I need to read it. Then it was last month’s pick for my book club.  So I finally took the hint and read The Girl on the Train.  Pardon the pun but what a ride!

In some ways The Girl on the Train reminds me of the recent British hit TV show Broadchurch, so if you watch that show this book might peak your interest.  I don’t know whom to believe or what is really going on!  There are so many perspectives but each one seems to have a slightly different opinion of what is happening or slightly different recounting of past events but, at the same time, each account seems like it could be plausible.

The characters in The Girl on the Train are frustrating but hypnotic. Their tragic histories (and present lives) converge in a way that seems destined. I felt invested in figuring out the characters ulterior motives and what really happened on the night in question.  Hawkins has created a mystery that discloses its secrets in the perfect order while maintaining the reader’s interest in the bigger story.  And the creepy ‘guess who’s watching you when you think you’re just living your own life’ factor is definitely in the background the entire time.

Want a book that will keep you reading until late in the night because you need to know what happens next?  Pick up The Girl on the Train.

 

 

Historical Spy Novel Review – The Polish Officer

May 12th, 2015

The Polish Officer by Alan Furst

Review by Matt B. (BuffaloSavage)

 

This 1995 story was Furst’s third venture into the WWII historical novel with elements of spy and adventure tales. Furst emphasizes that his stories are fictional. But a reader can tell he’s done his research, reading deeply in the period’s newspapers, memoirs, and other novelists such as Gregor von Rezzori and Victor Serge (whose phrase “midnight in the century” is allusively used herein).

Furst contrasts effectively the beauty of the natural world with terrible things people do to each other. He is also brilliant at conveying the feeling of being trapped, by nosy neighbors, by hostile acquaintances and by aggressive militaries and secret police. In a sense, for all the attention to period detail and feelings, I don’t think there is much point to caviling about actual historical facts. Despite some slow spots that may drive a reader to contemplate bailing out, it’s easy enough to read and filled with enough changes of scene and incident to be worth persevering to the end. Furst, like Ross Macdonald, is a master at quickly sketching out characters.