Friday, July 21, 2017

Storm Front~Jim Butcher | Review

Title: Storm Front (The Dresden Files #1)
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 352 Pages
Release: April 2000

Review
Fantasy is my favorite genre, urban fantasy, however, is difficult for me. This book has been recommended by a lot of friends, so I decided to give it a try. Overall I'm really glad that I did. 

The writing style in this was a little difficult for me. The sentence structure confused me at times as it felt like commas were in odd places. This caused me to reread several passages, reworking them in my head, which threw me out of the story at times. After a while I got used to this and it became less of a distraction, but for me there was just something off about the style. 

Harry, our main character, who happens to be a wizard investigator living in Chicago, was a really interesting and likable character. I liked how he was somewhat old fashioned and polite, treating women with respect. Some people might read this as being misogynistic, but honestly I found it refreshing. He respected the women that he worked with, found them talented and capable, but he recognized that they were different from men. If everyone was the same the world would be a boring place. 

The main thing regarding Harry that bothered me was the lack of background we have on him. There were points throughout that hinted at things that he had done in the past, the family that he lost, but we don't find out a lot of concrete details. Since this is the beginning of a long series, it makes sense that not everything would be explained now, but I would have liked a few more details. It was nice to see that he wasn't an overly confident jerk. He had limitations and he knew what they were. He was also tempted by the darker sides of magic, but he worked his hardest to steer clear of its taint, doing what he believed was right. 

All of the side characters were interesting and well developed. Murphy and Mac are two that I am curious about, so I hope that we get to see more of them later in the series. Mister was also a favorite. It was always so much fun to have him around and it made Harry more human. 

The worldbuilding was quite good and made it believable. It was nice that Harry wasn't trying to live in secret among the inhabitants of the city. Not everyone knew about him, but it was a nice change from stories where the magical side of the world is a hidden thing. Because that never makes much sense. 

The mystery and investigation side of things was a bit lacking for me. A lot of it was fairly predictable and left me slightly detached. I just never felt fully invested in the story. 

Overall I enjoyed this, I just didn't think it was amazing. I will be continuing the series at some point and hope that the it gets better as it goes.  

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Theft of Swords~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: Theft of Swords (Riyria Revelations #1)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 681 Pages
Release: November 2011

Review
This is a bindup of two novels that were released previously. So in total the series is really six books that fall between three hundred and four hundred pages. 

The Crown Conspiracy
I am reading Theft of Swords which is the bindup of both books one and two in this series, but decided to write separate reviews for them as well. 

This first book in the Riyria Revelations series was really good. Michael J Sullivan is quickly climbing the list of my favorite authors, so let me tell you why. 

A lot of the plot in this was quite predictable, really, but that didn't make it any less enjoyable. Any book with great characters can have a somewhat lacking plot and still be excellent for me, and this was one of those cases. Each character breathed life into this story, and that's what made it so fun. And most of the characters actually grew a lot, which was wonderful. 

One thing that I love in books (particularly fantasy books, for some reason), is a great bromance. And this has a great one. I love that for Royce and Hadrian it's always we. It doesn't seem like it ever crosses their mind to split up, no matter if it's a job they are taking on right now or some future plan they might hatch. And I loved that. They seemed like real brothers, despite their differences. 

Ok, let's talk about the characters a bit. 

Royce is probably my favorite of our main duo. He's quiet and unnerving and has a past shrouded in mystery. He makes people uncomfortable, gets angry at odd times, picks locks, and, well, he's just cool. I really want to know more about him, however. I feel like we get barely a glimpse into who he really is. Since this is only the first in a six part series (three binups of six novels), I'm sure there is more to be revealed. 

Hadrian is also really likable, he just wasn't as compelling as Royce for me. He definitely has his own mysteries I would like unfolded. How did he become such a skilled swordsman? There are hints here and there, but, as with Royce, not a lot of deep looks. Hopefully we get more. 

Myron was my favorite of our side characters. His innocence was endearing and his curiosity so believable. Plus, he loved horses a lot, so he gets bonus points. I really hope we get more of him in the future. 

Alric and Arista were both likable enough and I felt that both of them grew as the novel progressed. Particularly Alric, who really wasn't that likable in the beginning, actually. These are probably two of the characters we found the most out about. I'm not sure how that will play into the rest of the series, but it will be interesting to see. 

The other side characters were all interesting, whether good or evil. There are some that I expect to see in the future, causing more trouble for our duo. And it might not go very well. And as far as good people go, I really hope we get more of Gwen. I want to know more about her.

I'm really glad that I read Age of Myth before I read this, if only because it makes me even more curious what is going to happen as that series continues. How did they go from that to this? Now I am even more eager to get my hands on book three!

Avempartha
"It's elvish for two."

Here's the thing, I really liked The Crown Conspiracy. But I loved Avempartha! The first book made me like Royce and Hadrian, but this one made me love them. Particularly Royce. 

Some time has passed since the previous book, but that doesn't mean that Royce and Hadrian have forgotten about the events of The Crown Conspiracy. In fact, they seem to be playing a big role in the lives of our duo. Which means that we get to see some of the characters from the previous book, which I really enjoyed. 

Since I read Age of Myth before starting this series, I am really enjoying all of the connections and trying to figure out how everything ties together. It makes me even more excited to continue that series as well as this one. 

I felt more connected to the characters this time around. Both Royce and Hadrian felt more real to me than they had before. Their stories were explored a little more, giving us some background. Particularly Royce. We find out quite a bit--and early on, too--about him. And then there are little snippets of information dropped here and there, giving the characters and their stories more depth the further we go. Which is fantastic and works really well with this type of story. 

Royce and Hadrian spend most of the novel in a small town called Dahlgren, which is near the elvish tower Avempartha. All of the characters in this little town were amazing. Honestly, there are a few of them I would love to see again. And the descriptions of Avempartha were wonderful. I wanted to be there with Royce and Hadrian, finding out its secrets. 

There were characters from the first book that popped back up here and I really loved seeing all of them. The Pickering brothers are probably some of my favorites. Their interactions with Royce and Hadrian really made me smile. 

Alright, let's talk about our two main guys a little more. I really fell in love with Royce here. He was my favorite in the first book as well, but I liked him even more here. There's still a lot of his story that I want to find out, but I really like what we did get. And I'm sure we'll get more as the series continues. While I don't enjoy Hadrian quite as much as Royce, I do really like him. We still don't know a whole lot about his background, but we got a few nuggets of information to help us out. 

Royce and Hadrian together are wonderful. Their banter had me smiling as I read and the ways they make it out of impossible situations always has me in awe. They don't always get along, but it's obvious they are very loyal to each other and care about each other. 

Michael J Sullivan is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. He can craft some great fantasy tales and his characters are lifelike and vivid. I will definitely be reading the rest of his books in the coming weeks. 

Let's end with a quote I really liked: 

"It was beautiful yet disturbing, like swimming out too far, delving into unknown, unseen, and untamed places."

Monday, July 17, 2017

The First Puddlegineer~P D Kalnay | Review

Title: The First Puddlegineer
Author: P D Kalnay
Genre: Children's Fiction
Length: 152 Pages
Release: January 2017

I received a copy of this novel from the author in exchange for an honest review.

Review
This was a really fun children's book about a little boy who likes to play in the mud. Jeremy, our main character, is around five during the story, which takes place over a few days during the summer. He's fairly well written for a five-year-old and seems believable. His thoughts about his baby sitter are particularly funny.

While playing one day Jeremy falls to sleep beside a puddle and wakes up with the Puddlekin--a group of people who live in the puddles. This part of the novel, while rather short, was one of the best portions. The world that Kalnay created, in just a few short passages, was clever and fun. I almost wish that more of the novel had been set among these little people. And the best part was that it didn't give any answers as to whether this really happened or if it was in Jeremy's imagination. For a children's book, I think that is an important point to make. Let the child decide what happened.

I was a little frustrated with Jeremy's parents during the story. I could understand their frustration with some of the things he did, but it honestly felt like they were stifling his creativity. The child is five, let him have his fun! But I know, from experience with parents, that, too often, this is the way of the world. Imagination isn't encouraged nearly as much as it should be.

This was a really fun book. If you have children, read it with them. Or read it on your own. It's a nice way to spend an afternoon. 

Friday, July 14, 2017

Dreamless~Jorgen Brekke | Review

Title: Dreamless (Odd Singsaker #2)
Author: Jorgen Brekke
Genre: Mystery
Length: 311 Pages
Release: January 2012

Review
I received a copy of this book in a giveaway on goodreads a couple of years ago and had every intention of reading it right away. Obviously, that didn't happen. It's been sitting on my shelf, begging me to read it, ever since. And so I finally have.

This is the second in the Odd Singsaker series, following the titular character, a detective, as he works through various cases. I didn't read the first novel in the series and felt that I could follow the story and characters well enough without it, so they seem to be fairly self contained novels. I'm sure that there are some things that come out more with the characters through the series though.

The novel jumps between two different time periods in the same city. Odd's story and investigation into the murder of a woman and a possibly related kidnapping are set in the present. There is a parallel investigation, with ties to the present-day story, that is happening in the late 1700's.

Both stories had interesting details that kept me reading. And I always forget how much I enjoy mystery novels until I'm in the middle of one, so I had a lot of fun with this. That said, I wasn't in love with the story or characters. The mystery was interesting enough to keep me reading, but didn't make me think as much as I would have liked. Some things were too obvious while others were too hidden. Sometimes this worked well, other times not so much.

The conclusion to both mysteries was satisfying and also, in some ways, rather heartbreaking. Committing crime is never a good thing, and some of the characters learned a valuable--and devastating lesson--after what they did. The ending is open for a sequel (which I believe has been written, though I'm not sure that it's been translated to English). The mystery of this novel was tied up, but Odd may have a mystery of his own to solve as he searches for the woman he loves.    


Monday, July 10, 2017

Agnes Grey~Anne Bronte | Review

Title: Agnes Grey
Author: Anne Bronte
Genre: British Classic
Length: 148 Pages
Release: 1847

Review
I read Agnes Grey as a teenager around ten years ago and really enjoyed it, but I think I liked it even more this time around.

Anne is the least known of the Bronte sisters, but probably my favorite of the three. While this novel lacks the excitement and twisted nature of the works of her sister, it has its own charms. It's beautifully written and very real.

Agnes Grey is very biographical and I think that is one of its charms: it's real. Agnes is a young woman who, when her family falls on hard times, decides to become a governess. But life as a teacher to children is not what Agnes had expected and she is face with many trials. The families she works for are often harsh, treating her as more of a servant than anything else. This seems strange to me, since she's teaching their children, so shouldn't she be thought of in nearly the same class as they? But alas, that is not the way of the world. Her pupils are often cruel and obstinate, making it easy to sympathize with her.

Agnes is a likable character and I really appreciate her struggles and the realism of her life. This really seems like a look at life in the 1800's and what it would have been like for a governess. I also really liked Mr Weston. It was nice to see that he couldn't be easily caught by the tricks of those who just wanted to play with him.

This is a very well written and easy to read novel. It's not a great adventure story, or a great romance. It's just a real look at life as a governess. And for that I really appreciate it. 

Friday, July 7, 2017

Age of Myth~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: Age of Myth (Legends of the First Empire #1)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 414 Pages
Release: June 2016

Review
"No man can escape death. But it's how we run that defines us."
I have been meaning to read a Michael J Sullivan book for a few years now. I finally have and I loved it. And now I have the rest of his novels to explore while I wait (not very patiently) for the rest of this series to release. 
First of all, let's talk about the two things that make this book so amazing: the characters and the writing. Every single character in this was so well done. The ones I loved, the ones I hated, the ones I still don't know what to feel about. They all made me feel something, and when I read, that's what I want. I need characters I can connect with in some way, and that definitely happened here. And the writing is superb. It flows easily, is descriptive without dragging, and brings the world to life.
Let's talk a little more about some of the characters. 
Raithe was an early favorite. The story shifts from him, but he remains a central character throughout. He's the classic fantasy hero, I guess you could say. He's a good person with hard past that likes to haunt him. And he can't seem to say no to helping people, even when he might want to. Plus, this line came from his head, so I knew I had to love him. "Hands could be such expressive things." You can tell a lot about someone from their hands. Glad to see I'm not the only one who thinks so! I really want some of those dreams Raithe is harboring to come true for him; he deserves it.
Malcolm had me grinning every time he was mentioned. Ever since that first encounter I knew there was something I liked about him. And now I just want him to find his freedom and his happiness. The bromance between him and Raithe is also pretty perfect. Their scenes together are some of my favorites.
I wasn't sure how to feel about Persephone in the first couple of chapters where she was introduced, but I soon came to love her. She's strong and confident but seeks council and help from those around her. There are plenty of times that she could break and it would be completely understandable, but she understands that her people need her, so she holds herself together. She is honestly one of my favorite women in fantasy at the moment.
Suri might possibly be my favorite of them all, but it's really hard to say. She's quirky in the perfect way and has these little bouts of wisdom that I love. She fits so well with the rest of the main cast, despite her eccentricities. And of course Minna, her wolf companion, is wonderful. Who doesn't want a wolf for their sidekick? As for those bouts of wisdom, this was one of my favorites: "Fools believe silence is a void needing to be filled; the wise understand there's no such thing as silence."
Our other central character, Arion, is probably the one I have warmed to the least. She isn't as involved with the other characters throughout the main story, so that might be where some of my reservations come from with her. I am definitely interested in seeing where her story goes in the future installments, I am just not quite as attached to her as some of the others. 
The side characters are also excellent. They each added something to the story. No one was there just to be there. And I can see that some of them might grow more in later installments. 
The world in this is excellent and has a fascinating magic system that I look forward to exploring more. Everything is so well explained, and so naturally that you don't feel overwhelmed entering an alien setting when you start. This book comes very close to perfect in my opinion. If there was anything that bothered me, it hasn't stuck around in my thoughts. It's full of action, politics, magic, and just the day to day challenges of life. 
If you haven't read this book yet and are at all inclined to read epic or high fantasy stories, I highly suggest you start now. I will be diving right into the second one (which releases at the end of July) and from there exploring the rest that Sullivan has to offer.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

The Blinding Knife~Brent Weeks | Review

Title: The Blinding Knife (Lightbringer #2)
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 671 Pages
Release: September 2012

Review
Unfortunately, I was not very impressed with this second installment in the Lightbringer series. It had a promising beginning, as Gavin was working to fix the things that had gone wrong at the end of book one, but things did not remain so bright for me. 

Kip became somewhat more likable as he was thrust into a new world and no longer had the influence of Liv (who I can't stand) to drag him down. Some of his adventures were interesting and even enjoyable. It was fun finding out more about the Blackguards and their training. 

The story never went beyond some fun moments and a few likable characters, sadly. It all turned into a book about sex. While there wasn't that much sex that happened in the novel, there were a few scenes that were somewhat detailed. And when there wasn't actual sex happening, there was constant talk about having/needing to have/wanting to have sex. And it served no purpose. 

I was also really disappointed with how slavery was approached in this world. Slavery is something that has existed in the real world since the beginning of time, so the inclusion of slavery in itself does not bother me, but the way that the characters view it as a normal way of life, despite the fact that they are supposed to be good (well, mostly) people was very disappointing. Maybe this is looked at more in later installments, I don't know, but here it was a major setback. 

Very few, if any, of the questions I had at the end of book one were answered. Instead of giving answers and building up to new ones, we were just given even more questions. And they left me very frustrated. 

There are many people who enjoy this novel, but I don't think I will be continuing the series from this point. The first book was good, but this one spiraled downward from there. Based on the reviews of my friends, it seems that the series continues in the same vein, so I don't think it's for me.