Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Goblet of Fire~J K Rowling | Review

Title: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Harry Potter #4)
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 734 Pages (Paperback)
Release: July 2000

The Goblet of Fire has never been my favorite of the Harry Potter series, but it was enjoyable to revisit the world nonetheless. There are many things that I had forgotten and having them all refreshed was a lot of fun. 

Each installment of the Harry Potter series gives a darker vibe, hinting at a final battle between good and evil. And this installment is no exception. It had darker themes than the previous three installments, with more death and destruction. But it is nicely layered with the regular day to day life of a fourteen-year-old wizard. 

The length of this novel is the main thing that I really have an issue with. At over 700 pages (in paperback, at least), the main plot point--the Triwizard Tournament--barely makes up 100 pages. Each task is only around a chapter, and even then things seem kind of rushed. There are many side plots that happen between the three tasks, and finding out about other wizarding communities is interesting, I just expected more from the tasks themselves. 

Throughout the novel I also became very frustrated with Ron and Harry. I understand them both, in theory. I just wish it felt like they learned something from the experiences they have. Instead they continue as they have before, hoping that nothing challenges them in that way again. Or ignoring whatever it is that does bother them. There are a few chapters where they are both extreme jerks, and I was not ok with that. 

Obviously Fred and George were my favorite portions of the story, though they are not featured much. The entire Weasley family is pretty great and it's nice to see them interacting. They don't all get along, they are all different, but they have a connection that no one else can truly understand or appreciate. 

Also, this is probably a very unpopular opinion, but I really don't understand why Dumbledore is needed in most of the books. I understand that he plays a role overall, but I find him mostly useless. Instead of actually doing anything he lets other people (usually young teenagers) solve his problems. And things that he should notice just slide right past him. All of this is extremely frustrating, particularly when all of the characters are singing his praises. 

It was nice revisiting this installment and I look forward to a reread of The Order of the Pheonix very soon. 

Monday, March 20, 2017

Valkyrie Rising~Ingrid Paulson | Review

Title: Valkyrie Rising (Valkyrie #1)
Author: Ingrid Paulson
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Length: 352 Pages
Release: October 2012

I'll be honest. The main reason I read Valkyrie Rising is for the alphabet challenge I am trying to complete this year. (A book title for every letter of the alphabet.) When a friend recommended it (because I had no V), I decided to give it a try. It sounded like it might be fun. 

While urban fantasy in general is not a genre that I really love, I did find this story fun. Ellie travels to Norway for the summer, expecting the same quiet trip she's had before. But ancient myths are coming alive and Ellie is right in the middle of them. 

All of the characters in this were fairly enjoyable. Ellie's progression throughout was a little unbelievable, but she was an alright character. The relationship she had with her brother was really nice. I would have liked to see more of their evolving relationship, where Ellie was taking more control of her own life, but this was written as the start of a series, so maybe book two (if it ever comes to be) will delve more deeply into that side of their sibling dynamic. 

Tuck was by far my favorite part of the story. He was fun, sassy, a little cliche, but really likable. He has a twisted family life (though we don't get many details) and puts on an "I don't care" act. Watching him and Ellie with each other was pretty fun, though the overall romance in this was very predictable. It still had it's sweet moments. 

The setting in Norway was great. There were never any great details about the country, but knowing that it was set there was a plus. The towns that were described sounded interesting. Having never visited, I don't know if these descriptions were accurate or not, but I enjoyed them nonetheless. 

The overall story with Ellie finding out about her heritage and the existence of gods and Valkyrie, while not my normal reading taste, kept me interested. It probably would have helped my enjoyment if I were more versed in Norse mythology, but I found all of the old traditions and superstitions interesting. 

Overall this was enjoyable and I would consider reading the sequel if it ever comes to be. The ending was closed enough that the series doesn't have to continue, but open enough for many possibilities. 

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

A Memory of Light~Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson | Review

Title: A Memory of Light (Wheel of Time #14)
Author: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 909 Pages (Hardback)
Release: January 2012

My journey with the Wheel of Time series is drawing to an end. The prequel is the only thing between me and this completed series. What an odd feeling. I started this in January 2016, reading one book a month. How did an entire year pass already?

While this final Wheel of Time book was not quite as good as its predecessor Towers of Midnight it was a very satisfactory conclusion. All of the major story arcs were tied up, the main characters given direction, and the death toll wasn't nearly as high as I expected.

Androl was definitely my favorite character in this final installment. His and Pevara's portions were always exciting and full of character exploration. Since he was a late addition to the series there was still plenty of background to be uncovered. And the fact that he was weak in the One Power but extremely skilled in certain areas made him a character that you could really root for.

Another of my favorite characters arcs is Logain. He was such an underplayed character, but he was given these moments to shine that really worked. His snippets of progression from the beginning of the series to this conclusion were amazing.

Perrin and Faile became somewhat less irritating in this final chapter, working more toward the overall outcome than their own selfish whims. Part of this is probably that they weren't together much in this one, which allowed Perrin to be more the Perrin that I liked in the beginning.

Mat and Tuon are one of my favorite pairings in this series. And there was plenty left open where that is concerned. I know that some people think Mat's character was completely destoryed when Sanderson took over the series, but I disagree. He was working his way into my good graces toward the end of Jordan's novels and with Sanderson's additions he continued to do so. He ended the series as one of my favorites.

Nynaeve and Lan were always two of my favorites and I really like how their story ended. It was much better than I expected and I liked that I was surprised by how well that was wrapped up.

Egwene was never my favorite character and unfortunately she never quite managed to make me like her. She had her moments, there for a while, but she digressed in this book. She had some heroic moments, but I still coulnd't really warm to her. And I really don't like Gawyn, so their pairing just compounded my issues. There were some sad moments with these two though and even I felt bad for them.

I was not at all happy with how things played out with Siuan and Bryne. This was the biggest disappointment for me and felt more like something that needed to be done for the emotional factor than that it actually made sense. So very upset with how their story played out. But they did have some nice moments here that I appreciated.

Galad is a character that I would have liked to see more. I wish there had been more of his character through the entire series. He had so much potential and never really reached it. And there could have been some great bromances with him and our main guys. We got glimpses of this with Perrin, I just wish we had more.

Rand and his three loves had an interesting story arc in this one. Min was mostly with Tuon and the Seanchan, Elayne was heading her armies in the main fight against the shadow, and Aviendha was in charge of the fortifications around Rand's position. If only Elayne could have been killed off...Ooops, did I say that out loud? I just found her character useless and annoying the entire series. Oh well. The main story of Rand's epic battle had an interesting, if somewhat confusing, conclusion and left plenty open where the three women are concerned.

I'm sure there are many little things I would like to mention, but those hit the main highlights. While I am not in love with this series, I very much enjoyed reading it and am glad I did so.  

Monday, March 13, 2017

The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again~Todd Starnes | Review

Title: The Deplorables' Guide to Making America Great Again
Author: Todd Starnes
Genre: Political Nonfiction
Length: 224 Pages
Release: February 2017

I received a copy of this novel trhough Netgalley. All views expressed in this review are my own.

This is my first book by Todd Starnes and I think it is safe to say that it will not be the last. What I appreciate most about this book is the fact that Starnes doesn't use it as a way to discuss the presidential campaigns of the various candidiates, or to convince anyone that his way of thinking is the right way of thinking. It stays true to the name and is a guide for those people who identify themselves as Deplorables. 

Overall I really enjoyed this book. Although I knew about many of the things that Starnes mentioned, he defnitely gave me some new things to think about. And it was presented in such a way that forced me to really evaluate my thoughts and beliefs on many of the issues discussed. 

At the end of every chapter Starnes gives what he referst to as marching orders. These orders are suggestions for how we, as readers, can become involved in the causes that we feel most passionate about. Change doesn't come from one man or woman in a position of power in the white house, but from us, the citizens of the country. If we want to see change, we have to work for that change. The orders that Starnes includes are great ways of becoming more involved in the community and are things that I definitely want to look more into. 

This book is not designed to be a discussion book for groups of people from all political spectrums; it's a guide for those who already share many opinions and what they can do to make their voices heard. Having said that, this is a great book for those who do identify with this group and would like to become educated on issues that are affecting them right now and how they can become involved. 

I'm glad that I have read this book and look forward to trying out other books by Todd Starnes as well as branching out my political readings so that I can have a more rounded view of current issues. Starnes has given me a push that will help me become more involved and I hope to start using some of his suggestions to help make this great country great again. 

Friday, March 10, 2017

Snapshot~Brandon Sanderson | Review

Title: Snapshot
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Science Fiction/Mystery
Length: ~100 Pages
Release: February 2017

Brandon Sanderson is my favorite author and I was excited to learn about this novella. I read it on release day in February and enjoyed it a lot.

The idea for the world is quite fascinating. In this version of our near future Snapshot technology has been invented. It allows individuals--detectives, mostly--to visit a recreation of a certain day and solve crimes. There are a lot more details given throughout the story, and restrictions on the use of the technology, but that's the basic gist. And it's fascinating.

This is a short story, roughly 100 pages, but it packs a punch. I had a few ideas about what might be going on throughout the story, or questioned if certain things were possible and what they would mean, but Sanderson managed to give me several surprises.

While the characters in this were not brilliant, I did very much enjoy them. It was fun seeing how the characters interacted and learning more about them. I was constantly trying to figure out how Davis and his partner felt about each other, what their history was. And of course I was surprised by some of the exploration with their characters.

This story also brought up some deeper questions to consider, like what does it mean to be real? It was interesting to see how the various people in the Snapshots reacted to things and made me think a lot. I already need to reread this in order to grasp some of the little things the story had to offer as well as consider some of these questions.

I've heard that this was optioned for film and I hope that it makes it to the screen. If done well this could make a really fun movie.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Old Man's War~John Scalzi | Review

Title: Old Man's War (Old Man's War #1)
Author: John Scalzi
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 316 Pages
Release: January 2005

This book has been on my TBR for a couple of years now. I've heard so many great things about it from bloggers, youtubers, friends, and I knew I wanted to read it myself. Science Fiction is a genre that I've been wanting to read more widely, and this seemed like the perfect place to start. I was very excited to get started. 

At first this book was great. I found the concept fascinating. We're sending old people to war! They become young again (maybe), but still. It was vastly different from the novels that are recruiting the very young to be their soldiers. So the beginning was very promising, we meet John who is heading into space to join the military, and through him are introduced to a nice group of fellow "Old Farts." But that's when things started to fall apart for me. 

All of the characters had great introductions and I could see myself becoming very attached to them. Then nothing was done with them. There was little character development, really not that much of a plot, and the entire story kind of plodded along. I was expecting something more from this. 

The various characters, alien races, and technology were fascinating to think about, the story just never took things to the next level to make them relatable or great. It felt more like a detached observation of a man's life as he starts something new. Even the moments that should have been emotionally charged felt empty. 

Part of the issue could have been the age of the characters. While it was an interesting idea to have an army of 75-year-olds, Scalzi might have felt that he couldn't have them go through the trials that a younger person would have faced, since they, presumably, had already learned those lessons. But having a cast of characters that were too mature and too set in their ways made the story very dry and hard to relate with. 

This was one of my most anticiapted planned reads for the year, so I am disappointed to say that I did not enjoy it. I would like to give John Scalzi another chance, but I don't think I will be delving back into the Old Man's War series. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

The Book of Dragons~E Nesbit | Review

Title: The Book of Dragons
Author: E Nesbit
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Length: 112 Pages (5 Hours Audio)
Release: 1900
Narrator: Karen Krause

I was provided this audiobook at no charge by the author, publisher and/or narrator in exchange for an unbiased review via Audiobook Boom.

This book was really hard for me to connect with. It's a collection of short stories that all focus around dragons in some way, with many princes and princesses throughout. 

I was very intrigued by many of the ideas presented in the stories, but the stories themselves never really resonated with me. The worlds were not very well developed or described, at times it felt like the narrator was talking in cirlces in order to make the reader forget what answers they were looking for. This was particularly true where world building was concerned. 

The characters in the stories were not particularly likable. There was a lot of instalove between young princes and princesses, each princess was portrayed as silly and brainless, and the boys weren't much better. There was definitely a lot more tell than show throughout. And a lot of violence that would randomly just pop up, be resolved, and no one cared. 

This review is somewhat scattered, but it was difficult for me to find specific things to pinpoint as far as likes and dislikes. There were interesting ideas, some fun scenes, but overall it wasn't something I could connect with. 

While these stories were written for children, they don't seem like stories that would appeal to most of the children that I know.