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Saturday, May 23, 2020

Take a Thief by Mercedes Lackey

Title: Take a Thief

Author: Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- )
Originally published: 2001
Page count: 435

Dates read: 4/27/2020-5/10/2020
2020 book goal progress: 15 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf - Valdemar Universe

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
For as long as Skif could remember he had worked as a drudge in his Uncle Londer's dreary inn in the slums of Haven. It was an easy decision for him to abandon his former life and throw his lot in with Bazie's crew. Bazie was more than just the head of a band of young thieves - Bazie cared about the boys. Uncle Londer barely cared whether Skif was alive or dead. By the time Skif was twelve, he was an accomplished cat burglar and one of the leaders of Bazie's gang. But it wasn't until he decided to steal a white horse, that this young thief discovered that the tables could be turned on him.

First sentence:
"Skif's dreams shattered, leaving him with vague fragments of being somewhere warm and cozy, and sweet-scented."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 8.7 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 9
Atmosphere   - 10
Writing Style - 9
Plot                - 9
Intrigue          - 8
Logic             - 7
Enjoyment     - 9
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This gives the background of Herald Trainee Skif, who is - you guessed it - a thief. It isn't until over halfway through the book that Skif is actually chosen by a Companion. I liked having more of a background of the 'slums' in Haven since most of the books are all by the palace - where the Heralds are trained. I enjoyed the world-building in this story, but everyone spoke English poorly. That made it hard to read and sometimes hard to understand.

This was an emotion-charged story and I felt for Skif the whole way through. Despite being written before Exile's Honor and Exile's Valor (Alberich's background) BUT being chronologically after those books, Take a Theif fits in well and all three made sense together. This one did seem a little simplistic sometimes, but, unlike when Alberich was chosen (as an adult), Skif was chosen as a child - and so, I think the book leaned more towards a children's story then Alberich's books did. Overall, I really liked it and I hope others read books from the Valdemar universe.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Mercedes Lackey have the last words:

"They's old thieves, an' they's bold thieves, but they ain't no old, bold thieves."

"He had a chance that wasn't given to most people - to help make things better. Not right; the job of making everything right was too big for one person, for a group of people like the Heralds, even - but better."

Thursday, May 14, 2020

Tamora Pierce: Circle + Tortall Universes

I have read a handful of Tamora Pierce's quartets from both the Circle universe and the Tortall universe as a child. I've never (I don't think) read all the books in either series and have wanted to for a while.

I'm reading through the Circle series first simply because it has fewer books - 11 books to be exact. It consists of 3 quartets and, for the most part, the publication order is the same as chronological order. The last quartet (so far) only has 3 published books but she's supposedly working on the fourth book. The most recent book published is the third book (Battle Magic) of the third quartet (Circle Reforged). It is the only book not in chronological order - it is actually the first book in The Circle Reforged Quartet (instead of the third). I plan on reading this series in publication order instead of chronological order.

After I finish reading through the Circle universe, I will then read the Tortall universe. This series has 20 books in it and at least 1 book that is, again supposedly, being worked on. The publication order and chronological order of this series are also close to the same. I am planning on reading this series (mostly) in publication order starting with the Song of the Lioness Quartet through Tricksters. Then I'll read Bekah Cooper, the 2 short story collections, and finally The Numair Chronicles - all of which actually happen before the Song of the Lioness Quartet.

Note: Tamora Pierce (American, 1954- ) has published several other works, but these two series are her main works. For now, I'm planning on just reading through the Circle and Tortall universes, but I might read her other publications when I finish with these.

CIRCLE UNIVERSE (publication order)
The Circle of Magic Quartet:
     -The Magic in the Weaving (1997) - Sandry
     -The Power in the Storm (1998) - Tris
     -The Fire in the Forging (1998) - Daja
     -The Healing in the Vine (1999) - Briar

The Circle Opens Quartet:
     -Magic Steps (2000) - Sandry
     -Street Magic (2001) - Briar
     -Cold Fire (2002) - Daja
     -Shatterglass (2003) - Tris

The Circle Reforged Quartet:
     -The Will of the Empress (2005) - Sandry
     -Melting Stones (2008) - Daja
     -Battle Magic (2013) - Briar - Prequel to The Will of the Empress
     -Untitled Tris Book (TBD) - not yet published

TORTALL UNIVERSE (chronological order)
The Bekah Cooper Trilogy:
     -Terrier (2006)
     -Bloodhound (2009)
     -Mastiff (2011)

Extra Stand-Alones:
     -Tortall and Other Lands (2010) - Short Story collection
     -A Spy's Guide to Tortall: From the Desk of George Cooper (2017)

The Numair Chronicles:
     -Tempests and Slaughter (2018)
     -The Exile's Gift (TBD) - not yet published


Song of the Lioness Quartet:
     -Alanna: The First Adventure (1983)
     -In the Hand of the Goddess (1984)
     -The Woman Who Rides Like a Man (1986)
     -Lioness Rampant (1988)

The Immortals Quartet:
     -Wild Magic (1992)
     -Wolf-Speaker (1994)
     -Emperor Mage (1995)
     -The Realms of the Gods (1996)

Protector of the Small Quartet:
     -First Test (1999)
     -Page (2000)
     -Squire (2001)
     -Lady Knight (2002)
(Bone's Day Out (2014) - Short Story in Protector of the Small omnibus)

     -Trickster's Choice (2003)
     -Trickster's Queen (2004)

Have you read any books from the Circle and/or Tortall universes?
What do you think of them?
Do you have a favorite?

Wednesday, May 13, 2020

Valdemar Series - Mercedes Lackey

I remember sitting in class in 7th or 8th grade reading through the Arrows trilogy. I have read it many times since then and have wanted to read more of the Valdemar universe for quite a while. I don't know if I was overwhelmed by the number of books in the series or what, but I've finally decided to work my way through the 36 book series.

The image above is a reproduction of a timeline I found in my copy of Exile's Valor. There have been 10 new books since the timeline was created and I will edit it as I read through the series. The list below is the chronological order of the books in the series - which is different than the publication order. I broke the series into two sections: History of Valdemar (20 books) and Selenay's Tale (16 books).

If I read the books in actual chronological order, I would read and review 23 books before I got to the original, first published, Heralds of Valdemar trilogy - the Arrows Trilogy. That's a long time before I would get to review the trilogy that made me fall in love with the Valdemar universe to begin with... which is why I spit the series in two. Instead of starting with the first section (History of Valdemar), I have started with the second section (Selenay's Tale). When I've read through all of that section, I will then read through the History of Valdemar. I will link my reviews to the books listed below as I complete them.

Note: Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- ) has written a multitude of novels outside of the Valdemar universe but for now that's where I'm focusing. One day, when I finish this long saga, I'll probably look more into some of the other series she has.

The Mage Wars Trilogy:
     -The Black Gryphon (1994)
     -The White Gryphon (1995)
     -The Silver Gryphon (1996)

The Last Herald Mage Trilogy:
     -Magic's Pawn (1989)
     -Magic's Promise (1990)
     -Magic's Price (1991)

Collegium Chronicles:
     -Foundation (2008)
     -Intrigues (2010)
     -Changes (2011)
     -Redoubt (2012)
     -Bastion (2013)

Herald Spy Trilogy:
     -Closer to Home (2014)
     -Closer to the Heart (2015)
     -Closer to the Chest (2016)

Family Spies:
     -The Hills Have Spies (2018)
     -Eye Spy (2019)

Lavan's Tale:
     -Brightly Burning (2000) - Stand Alone

Vows and Honor Trilogy:
     -The Oathbound (1988)
     -Oathbreakers (1989)
     -Oathblood (1998) - short stories

Alberich's Tale:
     -Exile's Honor (2002)
     -Exile's Valor (2003)

Skif's Tale:
     -Take a Thief (2001) - Stand Alone

Arrows Trilogy - The Original Novels of the Heralds of Valdemar:
     -Arrows of the Queen (1987)
     -Arrow's Flight (1987)
     -Arrow's Fall (1988)

Kerowyn's Tale:
     -By the Sword (1991) - Stand Alone

The Mage Winds Trilogy:
     -Winds of Fate (1991)
     -Winds of Change (1992)
     -Winds of Fury (1993)

The Mage Storms Trilogy:
     -Storm Warning (1994)
     -Storm Rising (1995)
     -Storm Breaking (1996)

Darian's Tale - A Trilogy:
     -Owlflight (1997)
     -Owlsight (1998)
     -Owlknight (1999)

Still can't get enough? There's also a comprehensive reader's guide titled The Valdemar Companion (2001). There's ALSO (currently) 13 anthologies published between 1997-2019. The anthologies are collections of short stories set in Valdemar written by Mercedes Lackey and various other authors.

Have you read any books from Valdemar?
What did you think of them?
Do you have a favorite?

Tuesday, May 12, 2020

Mio, My Son by Astrid Lindgren

Title: Mio, My Son
(Originally written in Swedish)

Author: Astrid Lindgren (Swedish, 1907-2002)
Originally published: 1956
Page count: 170

Dates read: 5/11/2020-5/12/2020
2020 book goal progress: 14 out of 20

Month category: 
May - Spring (New Beginnings / Children)
Back to the Classics category: 
Classic in Translation

Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Nine-year-old Karl Anders Nilsson is the unwelcome foster child of an uncaring couple. Lonely and neglected, he yearns for simple things, and, most important, his real father. Then on October 15th, Karl Anderson Nilsson simply disappears. Karl is instead in Farawayland, where he has found his father, who is none other than the king of that land. Now Karl faces a truly dangerous mission - to do battle with Sir Kato, the cruel abductor of the children of Farwayland. Only a child of royal blood can stop him.

First sentence:
"Did you listen to the radio on October 15th last year?"

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 6.3 - ⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 5
Atmosphere   - 6
Writing Style - 7
Plot                - 7
Intrigue          - 7
Logic             - 6
Enjoyment     - 6
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This was a cute fairy tale written by the same author as Pippi Longstocking. It is definitely a children's story and is very simple and straight forward. It tells the story of a prophecy that has been around for thousands and thousands of years. There are golden apples, flute playing shepherds, magic horses, invisible cloaks, wonderful food, and more. It actually is quite dark with people of literal hearts of stone, children witched into blackbirds, and the like - but it has a happy ending. It was OK to read as an adult, I'm sure I would have enjoyed it much more if I had read it when I was a child.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Astrid Lindgren have the last words:

"I haven't been in many forests in my day, but there can't be another one like this. The Forest of Moonbeams had a secret. I felt there was a great and important secret there, but the moon had thrown a mist over the forest, so that I wouldn't know where it was. Not yet. The mist swirled through the trees, whispering the secret, but I couldn't understand it. The trees stood still and shimmered in the moonlight and they knew the secret, but I didn't."

Monday, May 11, 2020

Exile's Valor by Mercedes Lackey

Title: Exile's Valor

Author: Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- )
Originally published: 2003
Page count: 438

Dates read: 4/27/2020-5/10/2020
2020 book goal progress: 13 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf - Valdemar Universe

Read my other Valdemar book reviews.
Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Valdemar had suffered terrible casualties during the Tedrel War. Worst of all, they had lost their king, a tragedy that forced his daughter Selenay, weakened by sorrow and still in mourning, to ascend the throne prematurely. But the Valdemaran Council saw Selanay's ascension as an opportunity to wrest power from the crown by marrying the young queen to a man of their choosing. Herald Alberich, now the Collegium's Weaponmaster, was well aware of the devious plans of the Council, but could he protect the queen from the conspiracies to steal her throne?

First sentence:
"Muted light, richly colored, poured gold and sapphire into the sparsely furnished sitting room in Herald Alberich's private quarters behind the training salle."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 7.9 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 8
Atmosphere   - 7
Writing Style - 8
Plot                - 9
Intrigue          - 8
Logic             - 7
Enjoyment     - 8
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

This was a pretty good book. I still love the universe she created, but we didn't get to see as much culture in this one as in Exile's Honor - which was disappointing. A lot happens in this story, but some parts seemed a bit slow and drawn out. It's strange reading these books because there are certain things I know happen due to reading the original Arrows Trilogy, which is set after this book takes place. That means I know some of the end results, but I don't know the details of how those end results are achieved. It's just a strange way to read to me since most books I read I don't know much about before I read them and it's pretty much all a surprise - which isn't the case with these books. I look forward to reading the next book!

(There's so much more I want to say, but I don't want to give anything away if some of you decide to read these books for yourselves.)

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Mercedes Lackey  have the last words:

"The only difference between a cliche and a truism was the skill and intricacy with which the latter was presented."

Friday, May 8, 2020

Bronte Sisters

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte has been one of my favorite books for as long as I can remember. I have been doing the Back to the Classics Challenge for a couple of years now and have read many reviews on novels by the Bronte sisters from others participating in the challenge. It has made me want to read all 8 of their novels. I started the goal unstated last year and decided it was time to have a blog post to chronicle all of them together. As I read the books and post the reviews, I will link them to this post.
Here is a brief family history: Patrick Bronte (1777-1861) was an ordained minister who married Maria Branwell (1776-1842) in 1812. Maria (the mother) died from uterine cancer at age 38, when their youngest, Anne, was 1 year old. Maria’s sister, Elizabeth Branwell, moved in soon after and it was she who raised and educated the Bronte children. Patrick (the father) survived his entire family, and 6 years after Charlotte passed, he died at age 84. Patrick and Maria had 6 children: Maria (1812-1825) and Elizabeth (1815-1825), the two eldest, both died of tuberculosis 2 months apart at ages 11 and 10 respectively. Charlotte (1816-1855) published 3 novels in her lifetime and had another 2 published posthumously. Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls in 1854 and became pregnant soon after. She died in 1855, with her unborn child, just before she turned 39 – probably of tuberculosis. Patrick Branwell (1817-1848) was a painter, writer, and casual writer who never married. He became addicted to alcohol and opium and died from tuberculosis at age 31. Emily Jane (1818-1848) published 1 novel and never married. She died of tuberculosis at age 30. Anne (1820-1849) published 2 novels and never married. She died of tuberculosis at age 29. (source)

CHARLOTTE BRONTE (English, 1816-1855)
Mini-review: This is a great novel of romance, wanting to do the "right" thing, and even supernatural elements (that are explained later on). CAWPILE rating:
9.6/10 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
-Shirley (1849)
-Villette (1853)
-The Professor (1857 - posthumous; written before Jane Eyre)
-Emma (unfinished;1860 - posthumous) -Emma, by "Charlotte Brontë and Another Lady" (completed; 1980)
-The "Another Lady" is author Constance Savery.

ANNE BRONTE (English, 1820-1849)
Mini-review: This is a cute story that's not particularly memorable. I hadn't started doing the CAWPILE ratings until after I reviewed this book. My estimate rating:
5/10 - ⭐⭐⭐
Mini-review: This is a wonderful novel about how a mother escapes with her child from an abusive and cheating husband. Despite its having some of the same themes as Wuthering Heights, it is BY FAR a superior story due to its plot and redemptive ending. CAWPILE rating:
9/10 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

EMILY BRONTE (English, 1818-1848)
Mini-review: This is a HORRIBLE story solely about petty jealousy, hate, and revenge. CAWPILE rating:
3.9/10 - ⭐⭐

Let me know which Bronte book is your favorite and why!

Sunday, April 26, 2020

Exile's Honor by Mercedes Lackey

Title: Exile's Honor

Author: Mercedes Lackey (American, 1950- )
Originally published: 2002
Page count: 423

Dates read: 4/17/2020-4/25/2020
2020 book goal progress: 12 out of 20
Reading category: TBR Shelf - Valdemar Universe

Read my other Valdemar book reviews.
Read my other book reviews for my 2020 goal HERE.

Description on back of book:
Saved from burning as a witch when his odd white stallion braved the flames and carried him over the border from Karsite into Valdemar, Alberich was healed by the same enemies he had been taught to hate his entire life. Though he knew he could never again return to his home, Alberich also knew he could never truly become a Valdemaran. How could he remain true to his people and still retain his honor while helping to train the direst enemy of Karse?

First sentence:
"Silver stamped restively as another horse on the picket line shifted and blundered into his hindquarters."

Favorite quotes:
"Being naturally good at something only took one to a certain point. It was dedication and practice that took one beyond that point."

"Honor was never taking the easy way when it also was the wrong one. Never telling a falsehood unless the truth was painful and unnecessary, or a lie was necessary to save others. Never manipulating the truth to serve only yourself. Protecting the weak and helpless; standing fast even when fear made you weak. Keeping your word."

"You can study justice all you like in books, but you never really understand it until you see it done and do it yourself. Justice isn't just laws, it's people."

CAWPILE Rating: Overall - 9.6 - ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Characters      - 10
Atmosphere   - 10
Writing Style - 10
Plot                - 9
Intrigue          - 9
Logic             - 9
Enjoyment     - 10
What is a CAWPILE Rating?

I love the Arrows of the Queen trilogy by Mercedes Lackey and have wanted to read all her novels in that universe for a while. I am starting that goal, which currently consists of 36 books (not including the companion book and 13+ anthologies), with Exile's Honor. I put off reading it because I was concerned that my enjoyment of the other books would overshadow this one - but it didn't. This was a great book!

This was a wonderful background story for a character from the trilogy I've read multiple times. It had incredible depth of character, culture, politics, and religion. You didn't get to learn much about magic, or what training to be a Herald is like - but you get that in other books. It would be interesting to hear what someone thought about this book as their first introduction to the Valdemar Universe. Even if this book didn't go in-depth about magic, companions (special horses that can mind-speak with humans), and general knowledge of Heralds - I knew a lot because of the other books I read and I wonder if I would have felt a little lost without that additional knowledge. I love the fantasy feel of this Universe and that females play an equal role with the men.

If you like reading fantasy, I highly suggest checking Mercedes Lackey out. I also highly suggest reading the Arrows of the Queen trilogy first - they're the first Valdemar books published. In my goal, I'm not reading in publication order, I'm reading (sort of) in chronological order. If I read in true chronological order, it would take a really long time to get to read the original trilogy that I love. What I did was split the chronological order in half with " Heralds of Valdemar" being the first read, but second chronologically. This section starts with 3 prequels before getting to the first trilogy and consists of 16 books published from 1987-2003. The half I'll read second is the "History of Valdemar," which all chronologically happens before the first book of "Heralds of Valdemar." This section consists of 10 books published between 1988-2000 and 10 books published between 2008-2019.

Now I'm off to read another book... but since a review should be more about the author of the book than about the writer of the blog, I will let Mercedes Lackey have the last words:

(King's speech before leading a charge into battle.)
"The enemy thinks that the land is the nation. We know better. We know that Valdemar is not the land - and it is not just the people. Valdemar is a spirit, a community of spirit that binds a hundred disparate peoples with a hundred different religions and ways of life into a company and a greater whole. It is not unity, for that would be denying our diversity, and in our diversity and our tolerance is our strength. That spirit is what you fight for, and what you will live for, Heralds of Valdemar, for you are at the heart of that spirit  -  a spirit of tolerance, compassion, understanding, and care - all things that our enemy cannot and will never understand."