Saturday, July 9, 2011

Review: Shiver

Title: Shiver
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: Romance, Fantasy
Format: audiobook
Published: 2009
Narrated by: Jenna Lamia and David Ledoux
Rating: 4/5

the cold.
Grace has spent years watching the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—watches back. He feels deeply familiar to her, but she doesn't know why.

the heat.
Sam has lived two lives. As a wolf, he keeps the silent company of the girl he loves. And then, for a short time each year, he is human, never daring to talk to Grace...until now.

the shiver.
For Grace and Sam, love has always been kept at a distance. But once it's spoken, it cannot be denied. Sam must fight to stay human—and Grace must fight to keep him—even if it means taking on the scars of the past, the fragility of the present, and the impossibility of the future.

Shiver is the first book of a trilogy about the Wolves of Mercy Falls. The story, narrated by the two main characters through each of their own points of view, is about a girl and boy who fall in love despite the boy becoming a wolf for part of every year as the weather gets colder. They work together to find a way for him to stay human this year.

Setting: This book is set in the fictional town of Mercy Falls. Most scenes involve the characters in Boundary Woods (behind Grace's house yet stretches a long way), outside Grace's high school, Grace's house, Beck's house, the town hospital, or somewhere in between. The storyline spans several years.

Characters: The two main characters are Grace and Sam. Also included at times are Beck, Paul, Shelby and the rest of the wolf pack, Grace's best-friends Olivia and Rachel, and very rarely Grace's parents. At the beginning of each chapter the temperature (in Fahrenheit, which means nothing to me) is mentioned to draw you attention as the days and nights get colder or warmer. This is important as to whether the wolf pack are wolves or humans externally.

Age Recommendation: This book is intended for young adults ages 14 and up. It contains some sexual content and violence but it is minimal.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and appreciated hearing it through an audiobook. Books about werewolves and other paranormal/shapeshifting topics aren't usually what I go for and I have a feeling I may not have read this book had I not been able to find it in audio. I do however think that the narrators did really well to infuse their characters with emotion and passion which was nice to listen to and brought a tear to my eye at some points. I also was glad for the lack of an urge to flip ahead for example to see if a certain character would be reappearing later on, thus spoiling the suspense for myself.

The Author's notes/explanation at the end was also nice as it gave an insight into who the author is and what makes her tick. As someone who has never read any of her other works I appreciated this feature at the end of the audiobook.

I did notice however today when seeing a hard copy of this book in a store that the text for Shiver is all in navy blue and the following book "Linger" is written all in green. I think this is a neat concept that isn't often used and so I may revert to reading the hardcopy of the next book just for the colours. :) Or not as I hear this next book features even more talented narrators.

Have you read or listened to this book? What did you think?

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Review: Shadow Music

Title: Shadow Music
Author: Julie Garwood
Genre: Historical Romance
Format: paperback
Published: 2007
Rating: 4/5

For Princess Gabrielle of St. Biel, Scotland is a land of stunning vistas, wild chieftains, treacherous glens, and steep shadows-skullduggery, betrayal, and now murder. Prized for her exquisite beauty, the daughter of one of England's most influential barons, Gabrielle is also a perfect bargaining chip for a king who needs peace in the Highlands: King John has arranged Gabrielle's marriage to a good and gentle laird. But this marriage will never take place. For Gabrielle, everything changes in one last burst of freedom-when she and her guards come upon a scene of unimaginable cruelty. With one shot from her bow and arrow, Gabrielle takes a life, saves a life, and begins a war. Within days, the Highlands are aflame with passions as a battle royal flares between enemies old and new. Having come to Scotland to be married, Gabrielle is instead entangled in Highland intrigue. For two sadistic noblemen, underestimating Gabrielle's bravery and prowess may prove fatal. But thanks to a secret Gabrielle possesses, Colm MacHugh, the most feared man in Scotland, finds a new cause for courage. Under his penetrating gaze, neither Gabrielle's body nor heart is safe.

This book begins with Gabrielle as a small child and then gradually introduces her into adulthood where she is to marry a Scottish Laird in order to break the barrier between England and Scotland. It doesn't take long for something to go wrong. Since I had just previously finished a historical fiction I seemed to get a bit caught up trying to figure out the timeline of what was happening as well as where this land of St. Biel was, soon to discover it is fictional. 

Setting: This book is set briefly in Wellingshire, England and then in the Scottish Highlands in medieval times during the reign of King John of England (1199-1216) and King William of Scotland (1165-1214).

Characters: Lady/Princess Gabrielle is the daughter of a well-to-do English Baron and Princess Genevieve of St. Biel (a fictional country that is now under English control). She is surrounded by her 4 guards sent to her by the people of St. Biel. My favourite character was tied between Lady Gabrielle and Colm McHugh, a Scottish Laird introduced about a quarter of the way through the story. Gabrielle is in some ways very naive and innocent yet would never want to put anyone out on her behalf, to the frustration of others, which is endearing. Colm on the other hand speaks his mind yet rarely shows his emotions or feels the need to explain himself. When they are together more often then not Colm leaves something unsaid which Gabrielle takes the wrong way and disappears before he can clarify anything. I found Colm seemed very cold and stern at first but as Gabrielle got to know him more so did the reader, seeing a different side of him. Other characters include a handful of other Scottish Lairds, lots of Scottish Clansmen, Clergy from a Scottish Abbey, Gabrielle's parents, the King of England (John), and two English barons who both want Gabrielle for themselves.

Age Recommendation: Due to some explicit content and violence I would recommend this book first and foremost to adults but could also be read by some mature young adults.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book and it didn't take me more than a couple days once I actually got to reading it steadily. I liked how each chapter was fairly short so the phrase "Oh I'll just read one more chapter..." came into my mind on several occasions (Usually resulting in me reading a handful more before I ever would put it down). I do however wonder why Julie Garwood decided to name the book "Shadow Music" and was surprised when the explanation of the title was revealed so early on in the book and seemed to not embody the main storyline at all.

I wonder if part of the reason I liked this book was for its own merit. I have never read any other Julie Garwood book so I didn't have any preconceived notion of what her writing was like, no other books of hers to compare it to, and definitely didn't have any particular expectations before reading it.

Have you read this book? What did you think of it?