Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Among the Flames~Shelby K Morrison | ARC Review & Giveaway!

Title: Among the Flames (Legend of the Liberator #2)
Author: Shelby K Morrison
Genre: YA Fantasy
Length: 300 Pages
Release: April 2017

I received an ARC of this novel. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Review
This is the sequel to From the Ashes which was released in 2015. I have been eagerly awaiting this follow-up since reading that at it's release, so I was excited to hear this book was finally coming out!

Among the Flames picks up right where From the Ashes left off. I won't go into too much detail because I don't want to give away crucial information for the first book, but Aia is faced with many new challenges very early on here. There is a new cast of characters introduced, new lands explored, and more magic expanded. 

Overall I enjoyed this novel, although not quite as much as I had hoped. It's been two years since I read book one, so maybe that had something to do with my lukewarm attitude toward this installment. However, I feel that this suffers from second book syndrome. There is too much repetition and uncertainty to ever make it really stand out as its own story. 

I like the fact that the story is told from multiple perspectives, but I don't think that they were always distinct enough. Aia and Cole often sound the same, having very similar thoughts as we're in their respective heads. 

The worldbuilding, although interesting, could use some more exploration. Bending is still hard for me to visualize and doesn't seem to have that many limitations. Again, some of that is just what I have forgotten from book one, but I think it could be fleshed out a bit more. It was also difficult to imagine the scenery. There was description, but again, I didn't find it that varied. 

All in all this was an enjoyable read with likable characters. Although I didn't enjoy it as much as I had hoped, I do look forward to the next book in the series.

Giveaway!
Enter below for a chance to win a copy of Among the Flames! If you sign-up for Shelby K Morrison's newsletter you will automatically receive a copy of From the Ashes! Great deal right? 


Among the Flames & From the Ashes Giveaway

Friday, April 21, 2017

New Spring~Robert Jordan | Review

Title: New Spring (The Wheel of Time #0)
Author: Robert Jordan
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 334 Pages
Release: January 2004

Review
This prequel novel to the Wheel of Time series was, unfortunately, rather disappointing. The beginning started out very promising with young Moiraine and Siuan in the White Tower, hearing the prophecy that would lead them on a quest for the next twenty years. Then we got a lot of their life in the White Tower, which I still found enjoyable, if not all that exciting. They were more likable than Egwene and Elayne, who are really the only comparison we have from the main series. 

And then Moiraine left the Tower and things fell apart from there. She had a temper to rival Nynaeve with all of the high brow snottyness of Elayne. And she liked making people suffer. For being a seeker of justice, she liked to hand out her share of misery. She meets Lan on her travels and is outright abusive to the man, wanting him to apologize for something that was not his fault. You tell me how many men are going to be ok with a woman sneaking up and trying to steal the sword sheathed at their side. That's right, not many. So let's just say I was not thrilled with Moiraine in the least. 

And then there was Lan's story. We didn't get enough of this, honestly. His journey to the Blight was one of my favorite things in the final installments of the series, so knowing some of the background for that was nice, but it wasn't enough. And some of the things we did learn were just...NO. They had some twisted views that no one seemed to question in any way. He also did some stupid things. But he was not a nasty person, so he was still likable. 

I've heard that this was originally a short story that was later adapted into a novel. He should have stuck with the short story. While I thought parts were interesting, I don't think this is necessary for enjoyment of the rest of the series. If you do read it, I would recommend saving it until last. 



Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Saint Anything~Sarah Dessen | Review

Title: Saint Anything
Author: Sarah Dessen
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Length: 417 Pages
Release: May 2015

Review
Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen's twelfth published novel and her eleventh novel that I have read. In many ways, this was her best work yet. 

Dessen's novels are the perfect contemporary. Her characters are real, average teenagers for the most part. Her books aren't full of glamorous lives or people who don't have to work, but regular girls just trying to find their place in the world. And that's what I love about them. 

This story follows Sydney as she changes schools to run from the shadow of her perfect (but not so perfect) brother. She makes new friends, finally opening up about the things that have haunted her since her brother got in trouble. She finds a group of other kids who get her in ways she didn't think anyone would be able to. 

Dessen really showed her growth in the overall balance of this story. There is the complicated family dynamic that pops up in all of her stories. New and old friendships. A touch of romance. And general self growth. All of this was blended together so well that it just worked. It never felt like one aspect of the story outweighed the others, even when certain things were frustrating. 

Sydney's group of friends were wonderful. Layla was a fantastic character with her own flaws. Her insecurities were manifested through her various romantic mishaps as she repeatedly chose the guys that treated her terribly. And while this was painful to see, it was relatable. And you got to see her grow through it. She was the best friend for Sydney to make in this new life. Along with her brother, Mac, and the rest of their family, Layla helped Sydney see a new side of life. 

I was very frustrated with Sydney's parents throughout. It was understandable that her mother wanted to help her son, but the way she went about it was quite disappointing. It would have been nice to see a little more acknowledgement from her that what happened was wrong and that her son was the culprit, not the victim. And the father...well, he was a tad disappointing. He cared about the family, but didn't seem to try that hard. Also, why would they leave their seventeen-year-old daughter in their house with some random guy their son met while in rehab? That does not seem like a smart move. 

The ending was a bit abrupt. It would have been nice to know the outcome of a few things, particularly concerning an event that took place near the end of the book. But overall I think it ended on a high note. Sydney was being seen, and heard, for the first time in a while. 

Monday, April 17, 2017

Desmond Winters in the Realms of the Caged Sun~Lea Ryan | Review

Title: Desmond Winters in the Realms of the Caged Sun
Author: Lea Ryan
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 313 Pages
Release: February 2017

I received a copy of this novel from the author upon request.
Review
This middle grade fantasy follows Desmond Winters, a young boy with often absent parents who longs for adventure but doesn't know how to have one. When he and his friends stumble across a bookshop that is not what it seems, it's up to them to save their realm from those who would leave them behind. 

This is a portal fantasy reminiscent of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C. S. Lewis. Four children enter a world where everything is different and the various kingdoms are ruled by a variety of people. Desmond also learns about his family and their history among these people, as they travel through the various realms. 

This was quite enjoyable. It could use some polish as some of it--the dialogue in particular--felt rather stilted at times. Children would not speak as Desmond and his friends often spoke. 

The world that Ryan created was imaginative and well thought out. I hope that she has luck with future installments because I think that Desmond and his friends would be great additions to the shelves of many middle grade readers. 

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The Crimson Campaign~Brian McClellan | Review

Title: The Crimson Campaign (Powder Mage #2)
Author: Brian McClellan
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 596 Pages
Release: May 2014

Review
When I read Promise of Blood  I liked it, a lot. But I wasn't blown away by it. This, however, may have converted me. 

This book was amazing. The world building has gotten better, and since it was introduced in the first novel there is less that needs to be done here. Still, the history of the various nations is explored as we learn more about the gods and their plots among men. 

The magic system in this series is fascinating. You can eat or snort gunpowder and it gives you powers? Pretty strange, yet oddly cool. And so many things can be done with these powers. Powder Mages (as the gunpowder eating/snorting guys are called) are not the only magical beings, however. There are also the Knacked, who have one special skill they can use. Some of them don't need sleep, some have perfect memory, that sort of thing. And then there are the Privileged, who can tap into the Else (the mystical other side that all magical beings pull their power from) and make crazy things happen. It's all rather fascinating and expanded really well in this second installment in the trilogy. 

I really enjoyed all of the characters in the first novel, but I fell in love with most of them here. Taniel and Ka-poel continue to be my favorites, but Tamas and Adamat were excellent too. Nila I still don't enjoy all that much and even Bo isn't a favorite. And Vlora...well, I don't really know what to say about Vlora. 

The focus of this trilogy is all on war. Everyone is at war, whether it be personal or for their nation (usually a little of both). And it's so well done. I was there in the fighting alongside our main characters, trying to save their nation with them. 

Taniel and Ka-poel probably had the most interesting story of the lot, but everyone else was enjoyable. Taniel was having to learn to live in the military without his father around for the first time, challenging the command structure. His magic is changing, he's growing up, and Ka-poel is there every step of the way. I find her amazing, honestly. For not ever saying a word (since she's mute), she has some excellent character development. I'm impressed. 

The book ends with some crazy cliffhangers that make me want to read the next book immediately. And trust me, it will be picked up soon. If you haven't given the Powder Mage trilogy a try yet, what are you waiting for? Just do it. 

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Shot Down~Steve Snyder | Review

Title: Shot Down: The true story of pilot Howard Snyder and the crew of the B-17 Susan Ruth
Author: Steve Snyder
Genre: Non-fiction, History
Pages: 376
Release: August 2014

An audio copy of this book was provided by the narrator upon request through Audiobook Boom. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Review
Overall I really enjoyed listening to this tale of the crew of the Susan Ruth. The narrator did an excellent job; he has the perfect voice for these types of history books. 

This book was written by the son of the pilot of the Susan Ruth, using letters, journals, and other sources from crew members. It had a lot of interesting information about the planes used during the war and the overall demographic of those manning them. 

I did not enjoy the story as much as I had hoped to, and I think most of that was due to my expectations. The synopsis of the book makes it sound like this is going to be focused around the crew and their crash in Belgium, where those who survived had to live, hiding out, for months before the end of the war. That was what I expected going into this, but the focus was more on the overall operation and training than it was on focused on this incident. 

It was nice hearing about the various crew members, but I never really felt that connected to them. It was a very detached story, overall, and I think it would have been more emotionally charged if it had gotten more personal. We don't really know that much about the guys the book talks about. 

A nice overview of the fighter pilots and their crews during WWII. It's obvious a lot of work went into this book and that the author tried to be as accurate as possible. I learned a lot through listening and hope to learn more on further study. 

Saturday, April 8, 2017

The Sweetest Kiss~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: The Sweetest Kiss (Kissed by the Bay #4)
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Romance
Length: 150 Pages
Release: August 2016

I received a copy of this novel through Netgalley upon request. All opinions expressed in this review are my own.

Review
While romance is not a genre that I reach for all that often, Susan Hatler's books have become a go to for me. When I need something that reads quickly, has fun characters, and is sweet while being clean, this is my author. 

This story, however was slightly disappointing. I found Megan's internal dialogue more juvenile than Hatler's normal characters, and not in a good way. She seemed too caught up on issues common to a fifteen-year-old, not a twenty-seven-year-old. And I get that these problems and struggles still follow us through our lives (I'm around Megan's age in the story and can relate), but I found it rather off-putting when she didn't seem to learn from the issues she was having. 

The romance in this was also a bit odd for me. I didn't feel any spark between Megan and Brian. And usually the romance aspect is really sweet, so I was upset to find it lacking here. It was nice that they had known each other for so long and were already friends, but I found it difficult to believe that he would have treated her like a sister for so long and then suddenly expressed his feelings. It just didn't fit. 

The art aspect of the story was interesting. It was nice to hear about Megan's paintings and in some ways I wish this had been more of an involved part of the novel. The only thing I didn't like about this part of the story was the obvious "mean girl" Chelsea. Her character was very one-dimensional. 

Overall this was enjoyable but not up to Hatler's normal standard of feel good romance. It had sweet and cute moments, and I still recommend the series, this one just wasn't my favorite. I am looking forward to reading more (and hoping that two certain characters get their own story soon).  

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

When We Collided~Emery Lord | Review

Title: When We Collided
Author: Emery Lord
Genre: YA Contemporary
Length: 352 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: April 2016

Review
It's hard for me to put my feelings on this book into words. While there were a lot of things that I really enjoyed, there were also a lot of things that annoyed me. Let's start with the good stuff. 

Jonah's family was fantastic. It was great to see the struggle that an average family was experiencing after great loss because so many people (myself included) have experienced similar loss. Also, the big family aspect was done splendidly. The only thing that I don't think was done well here was the arguing. I don't find it realistic that Jonah had never made his siblings cry before, or that he would find that strange. People argue, people say hurtful things, and they move on. Particularly families, no matter how happy. But Jonah's interactions with his younger siblings were beautiful. I wish this had been more of a focus than it was. 

Now let's look at some lukewarm feelings. Jonah and Vivi's relationship had it's cute moments. It was very rushed, but I guess that went along the summer romance theme that was presented. I was never fully invested in them as a couple, but I do think they learned from each other. Maybe not the lessons they really needed, but it was cute and sweet nonetheless. 

Now to the main dislike. Vivi. It's not that I hated her character, I just found her extremely hard to have consistent feelings about. She was very selfish and this got really old. I don't feel like there was enough development from beginning to end with her. It felt more like she was back to what she had been at the beginning of the book, like she had gone in a circle through the summer. 

I've suffered with anxiety and depression for my entire life. I know they present differently in everyone. No two people have the same symptoms or fixes. I was not entirely satisfied with how the mental health aspect of this was handled, however. Vivi seemed more into letting her mental health problems control her than actually learning to live with them and work with them. There is no way to just fix things, but you have to acknowledge them before you can learn to change. And I don't think there was enough acknowledgement happening in this book. 

This was a well written story and it addressed some important topics, I just wish it had really delved into them a little more. Overall enjoyable, but not a favorite. 



Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Worlds with Ruby | Cover Reveal

As many of you may know, I am a writer. My first story, the novelette Worlds with Ruby, will be published on kindle around April 1st. In preparation I decided to do a cover reveal on social media. My writing blog (C P Cabaniss) will have a post going up, and so will both of my instagram accounts.

This story was a lot of fun to write and I am excited to continue exploring this world. Check out the cover and blurb below and add the book on goodreads, if you're interested. I would love to hear what you think! The cover art was done by my writing friend Grace Crandall (author of Ashes).

You can now preorder Ruby on Amazon here.

Worlds with Ruby (Ferris Wheel Stories, #1)
When you’re already dead, why should you be afraid?

When Ruby finds herself on the edge of a
cliff in a land between life and death, with an ominous
creaking coming from the nearby woods, she is left with no
choice but to follow it to its source. Nothing is what
it seems and Ruby soon finds herself being whisked away to
worlds beyond her imagination. Worlds in need of saving. Along the way, she
discovers that in saving these worlds, she is saving
herself.

And now for the cover...

Monday, March 27, 2017

Jackaby~William Ritter | Review

Title: Jackaby (Jackaby #1)
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Historical Paranormal Mystery
Length: 299 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: September 2014

Review
You know when you read a story and it's just downright fun? That was me with Jackaby. The story itself was not amazing (though it was entertaining), but it was so much fun. 

Jackaby is basically Sherlock Holmes who can see and interact with the supernatural. Our first person narrator, Abigail, becomes his assistant at the beginning of the novel and the fun begins. 

The writing in this book was perfect. It kind of has a classic feel, which was great and really fits the story. It's set in New England in the late 1800's, which was an a added bonus. And the characters are phenomenal. I absolutely adored them. 

The cover is one thing that initially drew me to this book. And it really fits the story. It's kind of otherworldly, but normal all at once. I'm usually not one for faces on covers, but here it works well. I love the muted colors, the splashes of red in the darker shades of blue and black, the cobbled streets, everything. 

This is a great mystery that follows a fun detective and his adventurous assistant as they try to solve a string of murders in New Fiddleham. I don't feel like I can go into detail without giving too much away, so if any of what I've written sounds intriguing, just read it. I think you'll enjoy it. 

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

Review
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

Review
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

Review
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.

Review
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

Review
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

Review
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.

Review
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. 

Friday, February 17, 2017

Treasured Dreams~Susan Hatler | Review

Title: Treasured Dreams, A Short Story Collection
Author: Susan Hatler
Genre: Contemporary/Romance
Length: 112 Pages
Release: May 2016

Review
Ocasionally I decide that I want to read something that's sappy and cute. Susan Hatler's stories are usually perfect for that. They have some deeper elements that keep them interesting, but always have a focus on romance. And the best part about them is that they are clean. Just the kind of romance I enjoy, when I read the genre. 

Treasured Dreams is a collection of short stories that focus around one central character, Holly, and her life in the mountain town she fell in love with as a child. The first story is about Holly meeting Dave and going on a date. The story continues from there, highlighting various points in Holly and Dave's relationship. 

There really isn't a lot to say about this collection other than it's cute and sweet. If you enjoy clean romances with likable characters, this is a collection for you. It's short, quick to read, and a good book when you need something to cheer you up. Which is generally what I think of all Susan Hatler's work. 

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

City of Thieves~David Benioff | Review

Title: City of Thieves
Author: David Benioff
Genre: Historical Fiction
Length: 258 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: May 2008

Review
This is a hard book for me to talk about. Did I love it or hate it? It's a little of both. I am glad that I read it, but at the same time I kind of wish I hadn't. I don't know that I have ever read a book that had me conflicted in quite the same way. 

At first I found the narrative style a little off putting, but once I got a few chapters in that started to bother me less. It worked for this story. 

One thing that I really enjoyed about the book was how honest it was. Lev and Kolya were young guys trying to live in a war torn country. Something as mundane as finding a dozen eggs suddenly becomes a life or death mission. It sounds silly, but it worked. This, more than anything, showed the time and happenings better than anything. I also really enjoyed the progression of Lev and Kolya's friendship. You could tell that they genuinely came to care for each other in ways that they hadn't for others, at least not in a long time. Kolya thought of Lev as a younger brother, someone who needed taking care of and that worked really well. 

There are some dark themes explored in this book, as there are in war stories, and it doesn't tread lightly. You see the horror that the everyday citizens face, that the soldiers face. And while I appreciated that, I still wasn't ever really able to connect. The entire time I was reading I felt very detached. I'm not sure if it was the writing style, the overabundane sexual references (which served a purpose, but were used too much for my liking), or something else entirely. 

I can see how people would love this story and I wish that I had been able to connect with it more. 

Monday, February 13, 2017

Promise of Blood~Brian McClellan | Review

Title: Promise of Blood (The Powder Mage #1)
Author: Brian McClellan
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 545 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: April 2013

Review
Brian McClellan has created an intriguing world full of intersting and varied characters in his Powder Mage world. It has an interesting and complex, but not overly complicated, magic system and some great action scenes. I very much enjoyed this first book in the trilogy, but did not love it. 

The characters, while interesting and varied, were also somewhat lacking. Their are three main viewpoints in the novel: Tamas, the Powder Mage who overthrows the kingdom, Taniel, Tamas's son and a skilled Powder Mage, and Adamat, a police officer-turned-private-investigator. We get a few other perspectives thrown in here and there, but the bulk of the story and main action happen through the eyes of these three. Taniel was definitely my favorite to follow. His portions often had the most humor, were fairly action packed, and had Ka-Poel, one of my favorite secondary characters. Tamas and Adamat were both likable, and I found their portions enjoyable, but as characters they weren't as well rounded as Taniel in many ways. Perhaps because they were older and we don't see or hear about as many of their mistakes. 

So while I really like the characters, I do think they could all use something more that would help me to connect with them. They were introduced well, tapered off somewhat in the middle, and by the end I was more invested again. I am hoping that means that each of them will continue to improve going into the next book. 

My main issue with the book was not the characters, however. The world building was where I found this most lacking. The magic system, while interesting as previously mentioned, took a while to really be explained. It consists of three main types of magic users: the Knacked, the Marked, and the Priviledged, with the Priviledged weilding the most power. This was all introduced in a jumble and took a while for me to sort out in my head. Once I did, I really enjoyed it. The rest of the world could also use some work. Stories involving politics are generally intersting to me, but the relationships between various kingdoms was vague. The same applies to the gods that are mentioned and introduced in here. Incorporating more of the history of Adro and the gods would have made some of this clearer. 

While I did have some issues with this story, I very much enjoyed it. This is the type of fantasy that I typically enjoy most and McClellan's style seemed to improve as the book progressed. I am hopeful that the rest of the trilogy will continue to improve. The ending to this was very exciting and left plenty of open questions that I am eager to have answered in the next installment. 

Thursday, February 9, 2017

Weapons of Math Destruction~Cathy O'Neil | Review

Title: Weapons of Math Destruction
Author: Cathy O'Neil
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 272 Pages
Release: September 2016

I received a copy of this book through Netgalley. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review
This book was not exactly what I was expecting, and I think that had a negative impact on how much I took away from it. The beginning was really promising, but it never really delivered on what it promised. 

With Cathy O'Neil's background in math, I expected to get more information on the algorithms in the various models she was exploring and actual statistics. Obviously she doesn't have all of the numbers and can't access information from big companies and organizations, but I still expected more on the math side of things. An exploration of how the big data is really being used. In some ways that was presented, but it never delved very deeply below the surface. 

For someone unfamiliar with the topics being discussed, who agrees with O'Neil's political stance on many of the issues outlined, this might be more informative. It made me think and gave me some new things to consider, but didn't really shed that much light on topics with which I am unfamiliar. The style of writing was also rather slow and the information somewhat scattered. O'Neil never clearly stated a viable solution to the problems the world is facing with big data. 

This was an interesting read in a lot of ways, but not what I expected.   

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Code Red~Janie Chodosh | Review

Title: Code Red (Faith Flores Science Mysteries #2)
Author: Janie Chodosh
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Length: 250 Pages
Release: February 2017

I receivevd a copy of this novel from the author. All thoughts and opinions are my own.

Review
In this second installment in the Faith Flores series, Faith continues to use science to solve the mysteries that others have written off. She's observant, eager to learn, and ready to face a challenge. 

In Code Red Faith is away from home for an internship when a girl she meets at a party dies of a drug overdose. When Faith gets dragged into the middle of the events, she can't let it go. A newly found relative was also drugged and things have gotten personal, so Faith uses the skills she's learning through her internship to run her own investigation. 

This follow-up to Death Spiral is not nearly as dark as that first book, which make parts of it easier to read and more enjoyable. But it also loses some of the intimacy of the first book, since the investigation is not as closely tied to Faith as her mother's death was. Still, the lighter tone helps this one be more accessible to a wider audience of readers. 

The family dynamic in this novel, while not quite what I was hoping for, was very interesting. I wanted more Aunt T--the aunt who took Faith in when her mother died--but instead we find out more about Faith's father and the side of the family she knew nothing about. While I thought that some more explanation about Faith's parents would have been nice, it was good to see Faith opening up to a new set of people and learning how to be part of something bigger than just a duo. 

Janie Chodosh has done an excellent job of making this series both science centered and understandable. Everything seems plausible and it only requires very basic knowledge of science to follow this aspect of the story. It doesn't get overly technical but it also doesn't completely gloss over everything concerning GMOs and genetically altering plants and what people can do with this. I particularly liked that it gave two views on genetically modified organisms and had Faith feeling conflicted--both sides contained logic and both sides believed their arguments. 

There are a few things I was not particularly happy about with this. One of them is Faith herself. A majority of the time she didn't feel like the same character from Death Spiral. I know several months have passed, giving her time to change, but it felt too drastic. She was too open with people, too friendly. It didn't feel like the Faith I came to know in book one. 

I was also very disappointed with the romance aspect of the novel. And unfortunately this often overshadowed the parts that I really enjoyed with the mystery and the family aspect. The relationship that Faith develops with Clem didn't feel natural, nor did it feel like something the Faith first introduced would have done. It made complete sense for her to question her relationship with Jesse. But having a second love interest was not a good way to handle these questions. After what happened in book one Faith's seeming lack of connection with Jesse was a big disappointment. And Clem himself didn't ever feel real to me like Jesse always did. He felt like a character on a page; Jesse felt like a person. 

I am hoping that more stories with Faith are on the way because I would like to see what direction she takes next. It would be great to see more exploration of relationships introduced in these first two books, particularly those involving Anj, Jesse, Aunt T, and her newly found Flores family. 

This is a fun, well researched, nicely paced series and I look forward to more adventures with Faith in the future. 

You can find all of the buy links for Death Spiral and Code Red on Janie's website: Janie Chodosh

Monday, February 6, 2017

Interview with Janie Chodosh, author of the Faith Flores Science Mysteries

Janie Chodosh is author of the Faith Flores Science Mysteries series which follow titular character Faith as she uses her love of science to solve mysteries that others have written off as closed.

You can find out more about Janie and the Faith Flores series by visiting her website: Janie Chodosh

Today I bring you an interview with Janie where she opens up about her stories, her life, and the writing process. Come back tomorrow for my review of Code Red, the second book in the Faith Flores series.








Interview
      Describe Faith Flores in 5 to 10 sentences. 

In the start of the series Faith has major trust issues. Her mother died of a supposed heroine overdose and she never met her father, so she feels quite alone and abandoned. Faith is vulnerable. She wants to be close to people, but she is terrified. Faith is also smart and curious, and like many teens I have met, she has a great sense of humor with a strong dose of sarcasm.

 Who or what first inspired you to write?

I have always loved to write. I don’t think anyone or anything inspired me as much as writing is just a part of who I am. In first grade I remember writing my teacher a song and then singing it to her! (I am a terrible singer.) In sixth grade I wrote a play and got together a cast of elementary school actors and performed it for my school. I have always kept journals and when people still wrote letters, I would write long expressive letters to anyone who would read them! Recently a former high school friend told me she still had a five-page note I wrote to her!

Was there a fictional character that you identified with most as a child or teen?

I loved Dorothy from the Oz series. I loved her adventures in fictional lands and all the characters she met. I loved the fantasy world created by Frank Baum—not just in the “Wizard of Oz,” but throughout the whole series. I loved books that transport me and I still do. Dorothy is an intrepid explorer and she is unafraid of taking risks and standing up for her friends. I’m not sure if anyone still reads those books, but in my opinion, they should.

What is one thing you hope readers learn/remember from reading your books?

Great question. I hope they remember my characters. I love writing character, and Faith is close to my heart. She is real and damaged and in many ways the odds are stacked against her, but she does not give up. She does not take no for an answer. She does not let a dead end stop her. I also hope readers will connect with her love of science and the fascinating world of genetics and the idea of pursuing your passion.

Are any characters based on real people?

No characters are based on any one person, though I guess I could say that in some ways, since they come from my mind and my understanding of the world, they are all based on me! But that would be really boring to have a book of  “Janie’s” so I love taking what I know and think about and fictionalizing and imagining the world for the character. I love creating and dreaming and imaging who these people are, giving them voice and making them real.

What inspired the locations for your stories?

I wanted “Death Spiral” to be an urban story and I needed an urban center close to big pharmaceutical companies. I also wanted there to be a university. I came up with Philadelphia for these reasons, but also because half of my family is from the Philadelphia area and I had spent time there as a child. It was a place I was familiar with, and met all the requirements for the setting. However, authenticity is important to me, so since I am not there, I did tons of research. I decided to set book two, “Code Red” in Santa Fe, where I have lived for the past seventeen years, and which I know intimately. I wanted to capture subtleties of place I could not capture in book one. Plus, Santa Fe is a pretty unique place, and I thought Faith, coming from a big east coast city, would have a strong reaction to the high western desert. It was fun seeing Santa Fe through her eyes and imagining her experience of it.

Do you listen to music while writing?

I am so easily distracted that music would just be too much of a distraction. I really do prefer it to be quiet while I write. Listening to music works for some people, but for me, I have enough going on in my head. I need to stay one hundred percent focused on that.

Do you enjoy book to movie adaptations?

I do enjoy movie adaptations, especially when they are done well. However, I do love it when I have read the book of a movie first, because I like to understand the author’s vision and understand all the nuances that don’t necessarily make it onto screen. Seeing a character come to life and seeing a filmmaker’s interpretation of a book is very exciting. I would love to see Faith Flores brought to film. Many people have told me the books should be made into films or an Amazon series. I have no idea how to do this, and there is so much competition out there, so I am not sure this will ever happen. However, I think Faith is a character so many people can relate to and the plots of both books are pretty fun, so I do think they would make great films.

 Favorite books?

I have so many favorite books, and I tend to say whatever I am reading at the time is my favorite book. However, “To Kill A Mockingbird” has always stayed with me as a favorite and I have never stopped loving Scout. I love “The House of Spirits” by Isabel Allende, which I am currently trying to read in Spanish. That will take me about ten years. My Spanish is not that great!

If you could visit anyplace in the world where would it be?

I love to travel, and I have been fortunate to so far travel quite a bit. I love adventure. I love culture. I love learning. And I love nature, so a lot of my travel has been nature based. I was recently in Chile and I really want to go back there, especially to the southern part of the country. But gosh, one place? I have a big list of places I would like to see. I also love staying at home and getting to deeply know the place where I live. I spend a lot of time taking walks and learning about the local natural history of my home, and while I love traveling and seeing the world, I love being grounded in a place.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Towers of Midnight~Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson | Review

Title: Towers of Midnight (Wheel of Time #13)
Author: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 843 Pages
Release: November 2010

Review
This has been my favorite book in the series to this point. There was not a dull moment, everything building beautifully together. A few things annoyed me, but overall it was an excellent book. I will give some highlights, but won't go into much detail on the plot since this is a latter installment in the series. Everything is still building toward the same end. 

The Characters were wonderful in this. Aside from Elayne and Gawyn (who I personally think should have been written out of the entire series), a few scenes with Morgase, and portions of our time with Egwene, I was very pleased with all of our characters and what they are up to. 

Rand: Not much time was spent here, but we did get to see some of what he's up to. Honestly, I love how he's changed through the series. I find him quite fascinating at this point. We also got to see a little of him with Nynaeve and the friendship that has developed there. And some of his interactions with Min, which were nice. 

Mat: A lot of people don't like how Sanderson has handled Mat's character, but I think this was one of his best touches. Mat was working his way into my good graces in the last couple of Jordan installments and continues to do so. He has an exciting story, but be very annoying, and always manages to irritate people. And yet he still makes me smile. Also, I can't wait for him and Tuon to meet up again. That should be interesting. And here he was able to help Thom on a quest that brought back an old character I've been waiting to see. 

Perrin and Galad: The previous book told us these two would meet up and we finally got to see it. Galad has been neglected through the series and I'm glad to finally get more time with him. I really liked seeing his reunion with Morgase. And how he had to rethink his initial thoughts/impressions of Perrin. 

Egwene: There was a lot going on in the White Tower and most of it was interesting. Egwene had become somewhat likable, but here she was back to being rather infuriating. And the way she treated Gawyn was absurd (even if I don't like the guy). 

Lan: We don't get much of Lan, but what we do get is amazing. His march to his fallen land of Malkier, which starts out very reluctantly (not the march itself, but the gathering of followers), was absolutely brilliant. He is definitely another character I would have liked more time with. There was so much potential that I don't think we will ever truly be able to appreciate. 

There were some snippets of time with Forsaken, people within the Black Tower, and various Aes Sedai. Many of these were very enjoyable and left me with a lot of questions. 

The conclusion to this made me want to pick up the next book right away. It was full of action and left so many open questions. I very much look forward to the final novel. 

Wednesday, January 25, 2017

Rescue Me~Susan May Warren | Review

Title: Rescue Me (Montana Rescue #2)
Author: Susan May Warren
Genre: Christian Romance/Adventure
Length: 336 Pages
Release: January 2017

A copy of this novel was received through Netgalley.

Review
Susan May Warren does an excellent job of weaving faith, forgiveness, and love into her stories. Rescue Me is about forgiving yourself as well as others and is a great reminder that everyone needs help in life. It can just be hard to see it at times.

Warren is able to pull you into the story, causing you to feel like you're there trying to survive along with Sam, Willow, and the youth group. I love that it really showcases the fact that sometimes you just need someone to believe in you and help you through the rough patches of life. 

Sam and Willow's story was an inspiration to read and I really enjoyed it. I look forward to continuing this series in the future. 

Monday, January 23, 2017

Still Life~Dani Pettrey | Review

Title: Still Life (Chesapeak Valor #2)
Author: Dani Pettrey
Genre: Christian Contemporary/Suspense
Length: 352 Pages
Release: January 2017

A copy of this novel was received through Netgalley.

Review
Let me first say that I enjoy the Dani Pettrey's writing. I am a huge fan of the Alaskan Courage series. Each book had its own well researched plot with great characters, a vibrant setting, and just the right blend of suspense and romance. So far, this series follows in the same vein. 

I was very excited when I found out about the Chesapeak valor series and loved Cold Shot, the first book in the series. Still Life was just as good. It has a great plot with a lot of twists, excellent characters who are learning to forgive themselves and move forward after the loss they have experienced in the past. Parker and Avery's story was wonderful and I can not wait for book three to be released.  

Monday, January 16, 2017

Death Spiral~Janie Chodosh | Review

Title: Death Spiral (A Faith Flores Science Mystery #1)
Author: Janie Chodosh
Genre: Young Adult Mystery
Length: 304 Pages
Release: March 2014

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

Review
In later November I was contacted about reviewing Death Spiral and the sequel Code Red as part of the release for Code Red in February. After finishing this first installment, I am glad that I decided to give this author and series a try. 

This novel deals with some pretty heavy issues, focusing around the death of Faith's mother who is presumed to have died from a heroin overdose. So be aware going in that there will be some discussion of drug use, though it never gets very involved nor does it ever make it out to be a good lifestyle choice. 

This novel is quite well written and well researched. Everything seems plausable, even though some of it is obviously fictionalized. It is also filled with realistic characters who have struggles throughout. Faith, our first person narrator, is dealing with the death of her mother and her own inner struggles as she asks herself if drug addiction is in her genes. 

There is some exploration of the "nature versus nurture" question and I found it particularly intersting in this context, since Faith was exposed to drugs and addiction from both sides of that question. So is there any hope for her? This is a question she kind of struggles with and it's done in a very realistic manner. 

I almost always like characters named Jesse (I have no idea why) and that was the case here. Jesse is a new friend of Faith's and while he did some things that annoyed me, I could understand where he was coming from. He has his own ideas about life and when those clash with what his father expects, the results are less than desirable. 

Faith and Aunt T, her mother's sister who is now her guardian, had an intersting relationship that I would have liked to see explored more. There is an interesting family dynamic and it was unfortunate that this fell somewhat into the regular YA trope of unobservant or absent adult figures. 

The mystery aspect of this was quite exciting and full of danger. I am not sure that I would ever have the courage to do most of the things Faith was able to do. Throughout her exploration of what really happened to her mother, Faith grew a lot as a person and it was a nice development to see. 

This is a story that would be enjoyed by a wide range of people and I hope that more people will pick it up and allow this writer to continue telling Faith's story. I am excited to pick up Code Red in the coming weeks. 

Friday, January 13, 2017

Knight's Haven~P D Kalnay | Review

Title: Knight's Haven (Legend of the White Sword #4)
Author: P D Kalnay
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Length: 204 Pages
Release: December 2016

Review
There are some books that are a joy to read and this series is full of them. The Legend of the White Sword is a series of young adult fantasy novels that deals with parallel worlds and fae. Each book is fairly short with Knight's Haven coming in at the longest of those already published. And they keep getting better and better.

Not being a fan of fae stories had me a bit wary when I first started this series, but I was already a fan of other novels by this author, so I was hoping to be impressed. And I definitely was. The series isn't designed to be an epic or for extreme depth. The focus is more on the characters and the specific struggles they are facing to reach an end goal, which works really well. This is the type of fantasy novel you sit down to read when you want something fun that doesn't take you weeks to read. 

Knight's Haven continues Jack's story as he adapts to life in a new world with Ivy. He learns more about his past self and not all of it is good. You see him struggle somewhat as he tries to come to terms with who he was versus who he is and who he wants to be. 

The addition of One, Two, and Three was great. They were introduced in book three and I felt like you really get to know them in this installment. They each having something to add to the story and are full of information that could mean big developments in the last few novels. 

There is some relationship drama in this book. (Could it really be YA if there weren't?) But the romantic aspect of the story isn't really the focus. There are lots of other things going on and even though the interactions between Jack and Ivy are important and take up a lot of the book, they never felt too angsty for me. 

The ending to this left a lot of open questions and was much darker than the previous books, which makes me really excited to see where they story heads next. Book five cannot be released soon enough. 

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

The Prisoner of Azkaban~J K Rowling | Review

Title: The Prisoner of Azkaban (Harry Potter #3)
Author: J K Rowling
Genre: Middle Grade Fantasy
Length: 434 Pages (Paperback)
Release: July 1999

Review
Growing up, The Prisoner of Azkaban  was always my favorite of the Harry Potter novels. So far, that is still the case. I did notice more things this time around that are less satisfying to my adult mind than they were to my eleven-year-old self. For one, I find Dumbledore very useless at this point. Maybe as I continue my mind will be changed, but he really hasn't impressed me in these first three books. He seems content to allow a group of young teenagers solve all of his problems. 

Another slight issue that I have is with Harry himself. He had an extremely difficult childhood, I know, but in this one he becomes rather selfish. He always wants what he wants, no matter what it means for his friends or those who are trying to help him. It became extremely frustrating. 

The pacing of this in comparison to The Chamber of Secrets is phenomenal. There isn't really any lag time, the ending has plenty of time to unfold, and the plot is quite exciting. This one also hints at darker things to come than either of the previous installments did. Whether or not it was Rowling's intent to have the books grow in complexity and depth as the series progressed, she certainly achieved it. 

One thing that continues to be cemented in my mind upon rereading this series is my love for Fred and George Weasley. For being only minor characters, they both have a lot of depth. They may be known for their troublemaking ways, but both of them are extremely caring and supportive. They consistently try to cheer up or defend those they care about. I just adore these two. I always have, but my appreciation has only grown upon revisiting the series. 

Monday, January 9, 2017

A List of Cages~Robin Roe | Review

Title: A List of Cages
Author: Robin Roe
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary/Realistic Fiction
Length: 320 Pages
Release: January 2017

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

Review
A List of Cages was even more emotionally draining than I expected, and I was prepared for it to be quite intense. At times the writing and things that Julian (one of our main characters) would do really reminded me of Neal Shusterman's Challenger Deep (which I adore). Later on it had kind of a The Perks of Being a Wallflower feel. It wasn't particularly similar to either of these novels, but they both came to mind while I was reading, for mostly good reasons. 

Our two leads in this novel, Julian and Adam, were very realistic teenagers. Julian is suffering under a lot of pressure, dealing with bullies and his outcast status, just trying to make it through life as a freshman. Adam is finishing his senior year and is the guy that everyone likes, he's one of those people that everyone wants to be friends with. The best thing about the relationship between these two is that Adam isn't a character that needs to be changed. He's genuinely nice and caring, easily makes friends, and connects people that would not be connected otherwise. 

The side characters are enjoyable for the most part. Charlie, one of Adam's best friends, is probably my favorite of the minor characters. You get more hints about what drives him than you do about the others. You see him changing throughout (to an extent). Emerald was likable, but I never felt overly connected to her character. Adam's mom was another nice but not overly memorable character. 

This novel deals with some really difficult subjects, but I don't want to get too much into that because it could be somewhat spoilery. Overall I think it handled these subjects very realistically and was informative. There were some things with pacing that I didn't particularly enjoy, a few details that were skimmed over, and the ending was a little cleaner (and also a little messier) than I would have liked. Some of the larger plot points were given very definite conclusions, which I think was a little extreme, and some of the smaller pieces were left a little mroe open than I would have liked. 

This is a well written novel about the relationship between two teenage boys who enter each others lives again and again, just when they both need it most. This is an addictive read with some great messages that a lot of readers could benefit from.