Monday, May 20, 2013

Mini Reviews: The Caged Graves and Hammer of Witches

As I said in my last discussion post, my TBR list is currently OF THE CHARTS long, and since BEA is right around the corner, it will only grow. So that means it's time for Mini Reviews, aka bite-sized nuggets of review-y goodness that go down quick and easy.

Review: The Caged Graves by Dianne Salerni
Release date: May 14th, 2013
Publisher: Clarion Books
Rating: A lush historical setting, gorgeous prose, and complicated romance. On the negative side, slowwwwwwww pacing and an obnoxious heroine.

 The Caged Graves

17-year-old Verity Boone expects a warm homecoming when she returns to Catawissa, Pennsylvania, in 1867, pledged to marry a man she has never met. Instead, she finds a father she barely knows and a future husband with whom she apparently has nothing in common. One truly horrifying surprise awaits her: the graves of her mother and aunt are enclosed in iron cages outside the local cemetery. Nobody in town will explain why, but Verity hears rumors of buried treasure and witchcraft. Perhaps the cages were built to keep grave robbers out . . . or to keep the women in. Determined to understand, Verity finds  herself in a life-and-death struggle with people she trusted.

Inspired by a pair of real caged graves in present-day Catawissa, this historical YA novel weaves mystery, romance, and action into a suspenseful drama with human greed and passion at its core.

Perhaps, because I've been in a reading funk lately, I had less patience with this book then it warranted. I love historical, and I loved the setting and the writing and a lot of the characters, but it was pretty slow going for me. The true historical fact, and the story behind the titular caged graves, is fascinating. The love triangle (yes, there is a love triangle) is actually very well-executed, in my mind. Verity's relationship with her father is actually extremely moving. Sometimes I liked Verity, but mostly I found her to be a bit of a brat. And I though the plot could have been drastically tightened. I like the mood Salerni was setting, but it turns out I'm the type of reader who needs a bit more action than this.

When I say action, I don't mean I  need a battle scene every ten pages (though the opening scene is pretty cool and action-packed). But the first hundred or so pages really lags. I felt like we could have gotten to the goods a lot more quickly, and then I probably would have liked Verity better as well. But there. Ultimately, I can recommend this book to historical lovers in need of a highly atmospheric mystery with a surprising conclusion, vivid characters, and very nice romance. Those (like me) with shorter attention spans may not be as thrilled. But that cover really is GORGEOUS.

Review: Hammer of Witches
Release date: April 1st, 2013
Publisher: Tu Books
Rating: Captivating, magical and informative. More middle grade than YA.

 Hammer of Witches

 Baltasar Infante can weasel out of any problem with a good story.

But when he encounters a monster straight out of stories one night, Baltasar faces trouble even he can’t talk his way out of. Captured by the Malleus Maleficarum, a mysterious witch-hunting arm of the Spanish Inquisition, Baltasar is put to the question. The Inquisitor demands he reveal the whereabouts of Amir al-Katib, a legendary Moorish sorcerer who can bring myths and the creatures within them to life.

Now Baltasar must escape, find al-Katib, and defeat a dreadful power that may destroy the world.

As Baltasar’s journey takes him into uncharted lands on Columbus’s voyage westward, he learns that stories are more powerful than he once believed them to be—and much more dangerous.

Shana Mlawski’s magical debut novel takes a fresh look at one of the pivotal moments in human history.

This book is more fantasy-historical, which is something that greatly appeals to me. I think it tends more towards middle grade than YA (especially with that very middle grade cover), but it's charming, fun, and chock full of monsters. The setting is dynamite and so is the concept. I wasn't bowled over by the book, but I had a lot of fun reading it and probably would have gone nuts for it as a younger kid. There's a wide cast of colorful characters, an inquisitive narrator, and even Christopher Columbus. Where the magic of stories isn't just figurative, but actually magic. As in, they can actually come to life. Balthazar is a pretty plucky hero.

This is definitely a book that won't appeal to everyone, but I enjoyed it, and learned a lot of historical things I didn't know before and in a very entertaining way. However, there is quite a lot of history. Which makes it feel all the more middle grade to me, but it's never not fun to read about unicorns and golems and Moorish sorcerers and the Inquisition and Columbus all in one book.

Now here's a sloth giving you a flower to brighten your day.

A flower for you, my lady


  1. The Caged Graves sounds right up my alley -- I fit right into your "who I would recommend this to" description!

  2. The Caged Graves sounds like a book that I would love. I don't always hate a good slow book either.

    1. You should give it a shot, then. There's some good stuff there.

  3. Same. I felt very meh about The Caged Graves. I think it's a perfect book for historical lovers though, but honestly, I was bored through a lot of it.

    1. I was totally bored. I'm hoping it's just because I've had an off-week, but I'm thinking it's just because the book isn't that gripping.


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