Havemercy, by Jaida Jones & Danielle Bennett: A Review

Havemercy, by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett joined my 2018 Reading Challenge as #18 – a book by two authors.

I think this is a book I picked up at a random used book sale some time back. I know it’s been on my shelves for quite a while. When I first planned to pursue a new reading challenge this year, my first goal was to read more of what was already on my shelves. With my goal to read books by women authors, it turns out this was the only book on my shelves that met the prompt requirement. Given that I’ve declared this to be the Year of the Woman, it’s a bonus that both authors are women!

This book surprised me. It isn’t the story I was expecting at all. A metal dragon graces the cover, and the blurb reads as follows:

This stunning epic fantasy debut introduces two exciting new authors – and a world brimming with natural and man-made wonders, extraordinary events, and a crisis that will test the mettle of men, the boundaries of magic, and the heart and soul of a kingdom.

It sounds like an epic adventure, an exciting, wild ride. I’m sure that’s what prompted me to pick it up in the first place. I mean, who doesn’t love dragons?

Havemercy isn’t that story. Instead, it tells the story of four men. Most of the book explores the relationships between these men—Royston and Hal, Rook and Thom. The book is told from the first person perspective of each of these four men. The plot itself unfolds so slowly, if you pause while reading, you might get the idea there is nothing happening.

Don’t get me wrong, by the end of the book the action has definitely reached a fever pitch. Jones and Bennett pulled me in so completely with characters I couldn’t help but care about. The story is woven so subtly around these four characters, I was simply drawn along for the ride.

This was a beautiful book. Unexpected, to be sure. But I truly enjoyed it.


How To Train Your Dragon, by Cressida Cowell: A Review

Prompt #1 on the 2018 Reading Challenge is a book made into a movie you’ve already seen. Most of the time I prefer read the book before I see the movie, but once in awhile I run into a movie I had no idea was based on a book. One such book-to-movie is How to Train Your Dragon, the first book in a series of twelve.

I love the movie How to Train Your Dragon. I’ve seen it several times now with my children. When I learned it was based on a book, I knew that’s what I had to read for this challenge.

Aside from featuring a boy named Hiccup and a dragon named Toothless, the book has very little in common with the movie. The story takes place in the Viking village on the island of Berk. The boys of the village are entering initiation to gain official admission into the tribe. And so begins Hiccup’s journey to becoming a “Hero the Hard Way.”

It can be disappointing when a book isn’t the same as a movie you loved. However, this book is so much fun. The story is full of great, over-the-top action. The illustrations are simple pencil sketches that are absolutely perfect. I laughed out loud while reading this book. 

Sun Storm, by Åsa Larsson: A Review

In Sun Storm, Rebecka Martinsson is a tax attorney in Stockholm, Sweden. She’s made good her escape from small town Kiruna, in northern Sweden. That is, until the gruesome murder of a local celebrity pulls her back in.

I chose this book for my 2018 Reading Challenge as book #5, Nordic noir. At first, I was stumped by this category. I had no idea what Nordic noir was. So I went searching, and found it’s only a fancy way of saying dark, murder mysteries set in Scandinavia.

As a tax attorney, Rebecka seems an unlikely heroine for a crime novel. But it turned out, I kind of liked her. As the story develops, the author includes little flash back scenes, Rebecka’s memories from her past that begin to tie the pieces of the story together.

The story isn’t written entirely from Rebecka’s point of view, however. There are passages from the detective, the prosecutor, and even the bad guy. Larsson has woven these perspectives into the story is such a way to drive suspense and compel the reader forward.

The language and descriptions in the story are often stunningly beautiful. I read the English edition translated by Marlaine Delargy. While I can’t speak for the original Swedish version, Delargy’s translation is wonderful. Considering the novel won Sweden’s Best First Crime Novel award, I’m confident the original is just as good.

While it was a truly beautiful and compelling book, it did feel as though the villain was revealed too early in the story. The entire scope of the evil plot wasn’t revealed all at once, but it seems to me that the suspense would have only increased by not knowing the killer’s identity quite so soon.

I would definitely recommend this book.

The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss: A Review

For #18 on my 2018 Reading Challenge, a bestseller, I chose to read The Wise Man’s Fear, by Patrick Rothfuss. This book was already on my Year of the Series list, and I’ve been anxious to read it for some time, ever since I finished reading The Name of the Wind last year.

This series – The Kingkiller Chronicles – is about Kvothe as he relates his life story to The Chronicler over a span of three days. The first book takes Kvothe from his early childhood years through his first year at the University when he is only fifteen.

Book two picks up where the first left off, continuing Kvothe’s adventures for about another year. It had been some time since I’d read the first book, but within the first few pages of the second, I was sucked right back into the story. The world Rothfuss has created is richly detailed and full of fascinating characters.

Still, for all that I loved this book, I felt as though the story got a little stuck in the middle. There is a sequence in the middle of the book that sort of drags on in sort of repetitive, circular fashion. If that’s what Rothfuss intended, then he did it well. But I found myself bored. Things happened during this time that were (or will be, I’m certain) important to events later on in the story, but I can’t help wonder if this part could have been shorter.

Overall, this is still a great book, and I do hope Rothfuss will finish the series soon!

Thoughts on The Federalist Papers, by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay & James Madison

The Federalist is a collection of essays written by Alexander Hamilton, John Jay and James Madison under the pseudonym of Publius. The essays were written over the course of several months from October 1787 through August 1788, as an argument in support of the newly proposed Constitution of the United States. It’s an interesting piece of American history that joined my 2017 Reading Challenge as #3, a nonfiction book.

I think this is an important document that more Americans should read and study. It speaks of a time when the fate of this country was not at all assured. So many things could have gone differently that would have dramatically changed the course of American history, probably even world history.

From a political science perspective, it’s fascinating. These men were building a government. They were preparing to subject themselves and the American people for generations to come, to a system of law and oversight that was new and untried. Their goals were simple, if their task was not – to preserve for the American people the freedoms that had brought them here in the first place.

Thirteen years after the Declaration of Independence and the war with Great Britain, the fledgling nation of the United States was on the edge of a precipice. The thirteen separate colonies that had come together to fight for independence now struggled to work together. The government established under the Articles of Confederation wasn’t strong enough to hold the semi-sovereign states together.

Reading these papers now from a perspective of more than two hundred years removed from the events surrounding the proposed Constitution, it’s difficult to imagine what it must have been like creating a brand new system of government. Not only that, but to witness the failings of the original system and be faced with the necessity of starting over.

As I read through The Federalist Papers, I was struck by one thing in particular that I hadn’t considered before when studying the early history of my nation. The Articles of Confederation had only been in place for eight years when a convention was assembled to revamp the national government of the United States. The discussion that ensued in the earliest papers – mostly by Hamilton, though also by Jay – demonstrated just how precarious the situation had become. If something significant wasn’t done, and done quickly, the United States was about to crumble into smaller confederacies, possibly as many as thirteen separate sovereign entities.

What this dissolution would have meant for America is difficult to say so many years after the fact. I’m convinced, however, that the shape of North America would be far different today if things had continued as they were and the Constitution had not been adopted.

This wasn’t an easy read, and it certainly warrants further study. It isn’t something to pick up and breeze through just for fun. I read this book to learn something. And I think that I did. Now, I want to go back and read some of the arguments in opposition to the Constitution.

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas: A Review

Throne of Glass, by Sarah J. Maas joined my 2017 Reading Challenge list as a book by an author I’ve never read before. This prompt is about as wide open as it could get. There are any number of great authors I have never read. But this series of books, with their beautiful covers, recently came to my attention, and I decided I must read them.

This book tells the story of Celaena Sardothien, an eighteen year old assassin who has been offered a choice, compete to become the King’s Champion and a chance to earn her freedom, or remain a prisoner in a cruel work camp. So she goes to the palace as the champion sponsored by the Crown Prince Dorian.

The king, bent on conquering all of Erilea, has banned magic. He’s brought together disreputable men, and one woman, to compete against each other for the position of King’s Champion. Contestants are to be eliminated through a series of Tests, until only the final four remain. But along the way, they begin dying. The various champions are being brutally murdered one by one.

It becomes clear that strange and dark forces are at work, and there is more to Celaena than was first revealed. Will she survive long enough to compete in the final duel? Will she attempt to escape first? Or does she have more to keep her here than she ever thought possible?

While the young adult love triangle trope may be a little bit worn out, Maas does it very well. She combines just the right amount of friendship, innocence, distrust, longing and jealousy to make it work beautifully. This book brought together elements from some of my favorites genres – fantasy, murder mystery and romance.

Celaena engages in more simpering and primping than I would have thought for a notorious assassin, and at first, this really annoyed me. And despite the almost ridiculously young age at which the characters had achieved such accomplishments as they have in this book, they are interesting and compelling enough that I could let that go.

Overall, this was a very fun read. If you love YA books, I highly recommend it. I look forward to reading more by Sarah J. Maas.

Mistborn: The Final Empire, by Brandon Sanderson – A Review

Brandon Sanderson has officially moved to my favorite authors list. He first came to my attention when I finally took the time to read through the entire Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. The final three were completed by Sanderson following Jordan’s death. I was a little unsure about how that would go, a different author finishing a series I enjoyed so much. But Sanderson did a masterful job with what turned out to be the last three books of the Wheel of Time. After finishing those books, I immediately picked up some of Sanderson’s own books, among them, Mistborn: The Final Empire.

It wasn’t until this year, however, when this book joined my 2017 Reading Challenge list as #12 – a book with a one-word title – that I finally had the chance to read it.

The Final Empire is a world of mist and darkness. Ash falls constantly, and hope is in short supply. The immortal Lord Ruler reigns over everything with rigid control. The nobility treat the peasant (skaa) workers cruelly. And nothing has changed for a thousand years.

Until one man rises up to change all that. Kelsier, a survivor where no one has ever survived before, pulls together a thieving crew to plan the ultimate caper. A plan to scam the Lord Ruler himself. Along the way, he recruits Vin, a girl who grew up as a street urchin. The story that follows is brilliant, deeply moving, and just plain fun.

Brandon Sanderson is a master storyteller. His characters are magnificently well-rounded, interesting and flawed people. People I couldn’t help falling in love with. And if that weren’t enough to make a book worth reading, he sets these people into a fascinating world filled with adventure, intrigue and his own brand of magic I’ve never seen before.

If you’re even remotely a fan of fantasy, I highly recommend this book.