Wednesday, January 17, 2018

The Seeing Stone~Holly Black & Tony DiTerlizzi | Review

Title: The Seeing Stone (Spiderwick Chronicles #2)
Author: Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Length: 108 Pages
Release: 2000

This second installment in the Spiderwick Chronicles held up well with the first one. The characters were once again a great group to tag along with. Mallory, Jared, and Simon seem like real siblings that I am joining on these adventures. 

The plot continues to build on information we received in The Field Guide as Jared and his siblings delve deeper into the faerie world. And things are not always nice. This time we deal with goblins, trolls, kidnapping, and a few other unpleasant things. 

These are very magical and quite superbly written, so I don't want to delve too deeply into the story and plot. They might be for children, but anyone can enjoy them and I highly recommend that you give the series a read. I can already tell that I will revisit them many times in the future.

Monday, January 15, 2018

False Witness~Andrew Grant | Review

Title: False Witness (Detective Cooper Deveraux #3)
Author: Andrew Grant
Genre: Suspense
Release: January 2018

A copy of this novel was received through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Set in Birmingham, Alabama in the present day, the story involves the murder of two young women (and, later, a third) on their twenty-first birthdays. The only thing they seemed to have had in common was that they had both had babies that were given up for adoption at birth, and that they died on their twenty-first birthdays. Cooper Devereaux is the lead detective on the case. Devereaux is dealing with his own demons as he works his way through the evidence and the witness interviews to solve his case. His father had been a known criminal who had been killed by the police when Cooper was a child himself. The trauma resulting from his traumatic learning of his father’s death, and of his criminal record, led to a troubled childhood for young Devereaux. Thankfully, he was helped by the cop who had handled his father’s case, even to the extent of sponsoring Cooper’s entry into the Birmingham Police Academy. Unfortunately, Alexandra, his girlfriend and mother of his daughter Nicole, has learned of his troubled past and left him for the second time after an eight-year separation to think things through. 

The story is well-told. The action is consistently fast-paced. Because of the beginning of the novel readers will be pretty certain they know who the murderer is, but this is a police procedural story, and the police have not figured it out yet. At least, readers might think they know the identity of the killer. But they can’t really be sure. The author keeps us guessing right up to the end of the story, which has a few plot twists. The plot is easily able to hold your interest as Devereaux and his partner, working with an FBI agent and more-senior police officers grind through the complex, and sometimes contradictory, evidence. Unfortunately, more innocents must die before the murders are solved, but Devereaux does everything in his power to prevent that.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

A Quiet Kind of Thunder~Sara Barnard | Review

Title: A Quiet Kind of Thunder
Author: Sara Barnard
Genre: YA Contemporary Romance
Length: 320 Pages
Release: January 2017

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I was really excited to read this novel. A few years ago I became very interested in learning American Sign Language (ASL) in order to be able to communicate with the deaf community, so novels that include deaf characters are always intriguing to me. Note: This story takes place in the UK, so they use BSL instead of ASL. The main character is also selective mute, which I have been curious about for the past few months, so the overall concept of these two characters' lives connecting was an interesting one for me. 

Parts of this really worked for me and others did not. I will outline some of my likes and dislikes below. Although there are certain aspects of this that I don't like, I know that a lot of readers would enjoy this novel. 

What I liked

Steffi, our main character's, anxiety was presented really well and overall made her easy to relate to. I found myself able to relate to a lot of her thought processes and fears and appreciated that she had highs and lows as the story progressed. 

Rita, Steffi's dog. It was nice to have this grounding for Steffi and to see her at ease with Rita and the other animals she worked with at the shelter. 

I also really liked how being deaf, and the deaf community in general, was presented here. Rhys was a believable teenager and his struggles with finding his place in the world were completely understandable. 

Some of our side characters were fairly likable as well, particularly Steffi's dad (and her other parents), who, for the most part seemed like real individuals. 

What I didn't like

At times characters were introduced purely as plot devices, which I didn't like. This was mostly true of Rhys' friend Meg. 

While Steffi and Rhys had a mostly cute relationship, I didn't like how it seemed to quickly devolve to almost an entirely physical attraction. In the beginning they were getting to know each other and it was cute, but that didn't seem to last long. 

The overly clean ending was one of the more frustrating aspects of the novel. The conclusion was rather sudden and didn't have a lot of conflict. Steffi had just done things that she thought would bother her parents, she and Rhys had a somewhat negative experience together, and Tem, her best friend, was angry with her for various reasons. All of that was thrown at you there in the last 10-15% of the novel and the resolution happened within pages. It didn't make you think that everything was going to be perfect, but it also didn't give satisfactory resolution to the conflict. 

So overall this wasn't terrible, but I found myself being frustrated and annoyed rather than actually enjoying the story. The writing was also a little choppy for me. This started out well, but as I read it lost some of that initial spark and toward the end I just wanted to be finished. 

There were things that I liked, but overall this was not a favorite for me. 

Monday, January 8, 2018

The Field Guide by Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi | Review

Title: The Field Guide (The Spiderwick Chronicles #1)
Author: Holly Black and Tony DiTerlizzi
Genre: Children's Fantasy
Length: 112 Pages
Release: May 2003

About a year and a half ago I found this entire five book series at a thrift store and decided to buy them. I didn't know much about the series, other than that there was a movie made, but for five bucks I decided to take a chance. And now, over a year later, I have finally started reading them. And I'm really glad I have. 

This first book is about the Grace children: Mallory, Jared, and Simon. Their lives have changed quite drastically in a short amount of time and they find themselves in a new home. Things get interesting when they hear things in the walls and Jared discovers a field guide to faeries. 

The plot is simple because this is focused toward children, but well detailed and clever. The writing is also really excellent and engaging. Although targeted at a younger audience, this can easily be enjoyed by adults. My sister and I read this first book together and plan to continue reading the series in the coming days/weeks. I hope that the remainder of the series holds the same charm as this first installment. 

We're excited to share these books with our six and seven year old niece and nephew, who we think will really enjoy the story and humor. 

The illustrations are also really great and should work well when trying to engage younger children in the story. I highly recommend this first book.

Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: The Disappearance of Winter's Daughter (Riyria Chronicles #4)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 480 Pages
Release: December 2017

"I have a friend and I think about killing him all the time."

"Oh, so you admit it now. We're friends?"

"I never said anything about you. Don't be so presumptuous."

Really, what is there to say that I haven't already highlighted in my reviews of the previous nine Riyria books I've reviewed on goodreads? Not a lot, aside from the fact that these stories never get old. You would think they might lose momentum, but they don't. 

This is the fourth installment in the Riyria Chronicles, which is a prequel series to the Riyria Revelations and tells various adventures of Royce and Hadrian before we meet up with them in that series. It also has some great connections with the main series, so there is always something to pick up on aside from the greatness of these two. 

Sullivan is excellent at creating great characters. Royce is, and will likely always be, my favorite of his characters, but there isn't a single one that I don't enjoy in some way. This novel introduces several that will likely never show up in any of the other stories, but they were all well rounded and really worked. 

If you have read the original Revelations series then you know that this story involves Genny, the Duchess of Rochelle, who was introduced in those stories. And I absolutely loved getting to know her better. She was interesting to me before, but this added a lot of depth to her character that I never would have guessed was there. 

And that brings me to another point: Sullivan has the bestfemale characters in fantasy. Seriously, I don't know how he creates them, because I have a hard enough time writing believable women and I'm a woman, but he does an excellent job. And Genny is just another great female added on top of a long list. 

If you've enjoyed the other stories with Royce and Hadrian you will likely enjoy this one as well. If you haven't read any of them yet--what are you doing? Go read them now. Right now. Christmas is in a week, ask for the entire set. Just do it now. And fall in love with Royce as much as I have. Hadrian is cool too.

Saturday, December 30, 2017

Chronicles of Narnia by C S Lewis | Series Review

A few years ago I tried to read the Chronicles of Narnia series but only ended up reading one book. I hadn't read them as a child, so I didn't have the connection to them that my older siblings did, and I thought the movies were better. It's been a while since I've watched one of the movies, so I can't say what my opinion on those is now, but I did really enjoy them when I first watched them. 

Fast forward to October 2017. My commute was longer and more regular with the new job that I started, so I was listening to more audiobooks, which had never been my prefered method of reading. While browsing Overdrive for audiobooks to try, I came across the Narnia series once again and decided to give them a try. This time I did them in chronological order, which I personally think worked out the best. 

I will link all of my goodreads reviews for the series below, in the order that I read them, so that you can read them if you like. And then I will share some overall thoughts on the series, which I ended up really enjoying. 

One thing that I enjoyed about the series were the religious tones that colored the story. Maybe this wouldn't be appealing to everyone, but to me it really worked. And if this isn't something that you want in your story, I think that you could still enjoy them for fun, good versus evil tales. 

Now, as I said, I have never loved audiobooks. I have a hard time listening to people talk for long periods of time. It gives me a really bad headache. Music I can handle more, but still have a limit. My commute is the perfect length for me and I have really learned to appreciate audiobooks because of it. And the audio format works really well for this series. They are written more as stories to be told, rather than read, so the way the narration works is perfect for an audio version. 

Reading the series in Chronological, rather than publication order, makes the most sense to me because you get to see the story unfold more clearly. You also begin with one of the stronger books, as far as writing is concerned, first, which strengthens the rest of the series. 

One thing that I both like and dislike about the Narnia books is that they give me this odd, bittersweet feeling. This is something I have never experienced with other portal fantasy, but that I think a lot of authors want to convey. There is a sense of loss when you travel back from the fantasy land you have discovered, and not knowing if you ever get to go back can be painful. But you also have great memories from your time there, so it wasn't all bad. There is something about this mix that leaves me feeling both empty and full that I find oddly appealing. 

It's safe to say that this series has ended up being a favorite. It probably won't ever rank among my most loved series, but it certainly had an impact on me and I look forward to reading the series again in the future. 

If you enjoy fantasy, I would definitely recommend this. It is some of what really propelled the genre forward for many readers and writers. It's a staple in the reading world that it's kind of odd if you haven't tried it. And I would suggest that you try audio, if you are at all inclined, because it works really, really well. 

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Writer's of the Future | Review

Title: Writer's of the Future Volume 32
Author: Various
Genre: Fantasy and Science Fiction
Length: 496 Pages
Release: May 2016

I received a copy of this short story collection through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

I am honestly not sure what to say about this collection. Fantasy is my favorite genre, and I've wanted to start reading more science fiction, and I like writing short stories, so I thought this would be a good fit. In some ways, I was right. 

None of these stories really stand out to me over the others. There were a few that I found interesting and would probably read more from, but none of them really caught my attention either for story or writing. There seemed to be more of a focus on science fiction here, which may have been part of what I didn't enjoy. The fantasy stories that made appearances I believe were my favorite. The only story that I can distinctly remember is The Ace of Souls, which, while not amazing to me, was really interesting. 

I've wanted to start reading more short stories and short fiction in general because I really enjoy writing short fiction, so this was a good jump into that. It helped me shape my opinions more on what I believe makes a good short story and what doesn't seem to work. It also made me want to enter the Writers of the Future contest, so I might be working toward that for this first quarter of the current competition. 

Overall this was enjoyable but nothing particularly special to me. If you enjoy science fiction then this would be a good collection to try.