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.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Whispering Room~Dean Koontz | Review

Title: The Whispering Room (Jane Hawk #2)
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Suspense/Thriller
Length: 512 Pages
Release: November 2017

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

This second book in the Jane Hawk series picks up right where book one left off and Jane is on the trail of those involved in a conspiracy to rid the world of the people the deem undesirable. It's really a ploy for domination, but it's very sophisticated and it seems to be working. 

One of the scariest things about this series is that you can see some of it being possible. Mind control through injectable nanomachines that essentially turn you into a robot. It's a terrifying prospect, but one that doesn't seem that farfetched. And it definitely made me shiver as I read about the things that these controlled people were made to do. 

There are several side characters introduced here that I really liked. Luther and his family were a great addition and I really liked getting to know their characters. There was definitely some heartbreak with them and I hope to see more of them in the future to find out what happens. 

The ending kind of surprised me. Not so much that what happened was that surprising, just that I don't have a clear idea of where the next book will take us. I guess we shall see next year! I'm hoping the release of this one is moved up as well. 

As always, Koontz is able to weave an interesting story with his beautiful writing. This wasn't my favorite of his novels, but I definitely enjoyed it. If you're a Koontz fan you should give it a read. And if you're not, then become one.

Wednesday, November 8, 2017

The Scorpio Races~Maggie Stiefvater | Review

Title: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Genre: YA Fantasy/Mythology
Length: 409 Pages
Release: October 2011

4.5 stars, I think. 

I started this years ago and only read the prologue. For some reason it just wasn't working for me. For a long time I thought that I might not give it another try. And then I found the audiobook on my library overdrive account and figured why not. I am so glad that I did. 
"It is the first day of November and so, today, someone will die."

One day I want to try reading this in a physical form, but I don't know that it can ever outdo this audiobook. The narrators were absolutely wonderful. They brought everything on the page to life and I felt like I was right there alongside Sean and Puck, riding Corr and Dove, the wind and spray of salt from the sea in my face. It was so wonderfully vivid. 

It always worries me to read books that are set around horses, no matter what kind, because so often horses are not done well. Authors usually do a better job than those attempting movies, but still, it worries me. Maggie managed to do it really, really well though. It's not like it was a manual on riding or horses, but still, the horsey stuff was well done and just as vivid as the setting. It made me long to get back on my horse. 

The relationship between Sean and Puck was beautiful. They were both fighting for their own lives, the things they couldn't live without. Puck's family is falling apart, her brother on the brink of leaving, and Sean is trying desperately to break away from the man who plays games with his life. They have a lot to offer each other because they understand each other so well. 

The story revolves around the Scorpio Races, where men race horses that come from the water. These aren't tame horses, but man eating beasts with magic that will lure you to your death. They are an integral part of the island of Thisby. Both Sean and Puck are caught up in the races for different but similar reasons. 

I've heard people say they are not satisfied with the ending, because it's too open. For me, it was perfect. I didn't need to know all of the details, there were enough hints along the way that I could see the path spread out ahead of Sean and Puck and it was a satisfying one. 

Maggie also wrote and performed music for this audiobook, which was really neat. 

Read this book. Please read it and love it.

Friday, November 3, 2017

Seize the Night~Dean Koontz | Review

Title: Seize the Night (Moonlight Bay #2)
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Suspense/Thriller/Horror
Length: 443 Pages
Release: December 1998

"Fortune favors the bold. Of course, so does Death."

This followup to Fear Nothing continues Chris Snow's story as he and his friends confront the horrors of a changing world. It wasn't quite as good as its predecessor for me, but I did really enjoy it, and of course the writing is beautiful. 

The best thing about this novel was that we got a lot more of Bobby and a lot more of Bobby and Chris. Bromances are my favorite and this one was great. There closeness comes through really well here, building on what we had already seen in Fear Nothing. And like any good Koontz novel, there is excellent humor. 

"Stuff like this is why I don't listen to the news these days."

"You've never listened to the news."

"I know. But I used to have different reasons."

While some people may not enjoy Koontz's philosophising, I always enjoy the wisdom offered through the introspection of his characters. Chris is no different. 

Time travel is always interesting, and we get a small bite of that here. It's odd and jumbled and just plain strange, but it's also really interesting. This is only the second in what is supposed to be a at least a three book series. Book three is about twenty years overdue. Hopefully it comes eventually, but I wasn't completely disatisfied with how this one ended. It needs closure, but it wasn't a complete cliffhanger. 

Another solid read from Koontz. If you haven't read his novels yet, go ahead and do it.

Wednesday, November 1, 2017

Dangerous Illusions~Irene Hannon | Review

Title: Dangerous Illusions (Code of Honor #1)
Author: Irene Hannon
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 332 Pages
Release: October 2017

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

Irene Hannon rocks! This new series is awesome, having just finished Dangerous Illusions I can’t wait for the next book in this series.

What does murder, embezzlement, stealing identities, Mafia, have to do with a young woman who has already lost a lot? You soon realize that Trish comes from a rather well to do family, and they are big on giving back, but money can’t buy happiness, and she has lost her husband, her Dad, and her Mom was severely injured, in an accident. Trish spends her days teaching and taking care of her Mother, but evil has a way of winding its hand in and that happens in this great book, but things are not always as you perceive them to be.

This is a Christian meeting the evil of the world. Early in the book you meet Detective Colin Flynn. The interaction between Flynn and his longtime friends was great! I highly recommend this book to anyone who loves suspense with a little romance thrown in for good measure!

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Blind Spot~Dani Pettrey | Review

Title: Blind Spot (Chesapeake Valor #3)
Author: Dani Pettrey
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 336 Pages
Release: October 2017

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

Blind Spot is the third novel in Dani Pettrey's Chesapeake Valor series, and the first thing you need to know is that it absolutely does not stand alone. Sure, you could read and enjoy it, but you'd probably be pretty confused about who was who for a while, and one of the two main plot threads is directly continued from Still Life. So if you haven't read Cold Shot and Still Life yet, do yourself a favor and pick those up before you dive into Blind Spot!

I really liked Cold Shot, and I enjoyed Still Life, but Blind Spot is on another level. It continues the terrorist plot started in Still Life, so check out Still Life if you haven’t already read it. Then there's a side mystery involving a financial planner connected to the characters. With so many plot threads, the story could become confusing, but I had no trouble keeping track of everything.

The main romance between Declan and Tanner was set up in Still Life, and it was nice to see that paid off in this novel. Tanner ended up being a much more interesting character than I'd anticipated, and I'd love to learn even more of her story. As for the suspense, I felt like this was just as suspenseful as Still Life, though not as dark.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

Deadly Proof~Rachel Dylan | Review

Title: Deadly Proof (Atlanta Justice #1)
Author: Rachel Dylan
Genre: Romantic Mystery
Length: 320 Pages
Release: September 2017

Deadly Proof was my first time reading anything by Rachel Dylan and... wow!... was it good or what? When I first heard about it, I was very interested in reading it. It did not disappoint! I was hooked from the first chapter and never wanted to put it down. The action and suspense continually progressed. There were lots of twist, turns, and shocking surprises. It definitely kept me guessing.

Kate's a super strong and powerful attorney who's fighting for the underdog, the innocent victims. It's not about the money for her, she genuinely wants to help people. She's very relatable and easy to like. Landon's protective and extremely thorough with his job. He's got some demons, but is actively working to become a better person.

It was very interesting to get an inside look at corporate law and learn some of the ins and outs. Dylan did a great job at explaining all the legal terminology without it being clunky or sounding out of place. I really enjoyed getting to see both sides of the case. While it was mostly from Kate's side, there was also a peek at the opposing counsel.

I haven't read many legal thrillers, but after absolutely loving this one, I can't wait to check more out. And I'm definitely going to check out Dylan's other books. I can't recommend this book enough and I can't wait for the next one!

Monday, October 16, 2017

Fear Nothing~Dean Koontz | Review

Title: Fear Nothing (Moonlight Bay #1)
Author: Dean Koontz
Genre: Suspense/Horror
Length: 432 Pages (Paperback)
Release: December 1998

"Although I wasn't trained for this work, there was no one but me to do the job."

This quote really sums up almost every Dean Koontz protagonist, and Christopher Snow is no different. Although there is darkness and creepiness in this book, it is very inspiring. It gives hope, because no matter what is happening in the world, there is always something good out there. 

"A lot of the time, reality is what you make it."

I don't know why I haven't read this book before, because it's one of the best Koontz novels that I've read. The characters are vivid, the storyline is creepy, and it has a beautiful message. Although Chris has a less than ideal life, he lives. Life isn't about what you're given, it's what you make it. 

"When a society erases its past, for whatever reason, it cannot have a future."

There isn't a lot that I can say about this book without giving away lots of the plot. If you like Koontz you will probably enjoy this. You spend most of your time in Chris Snow's head, following a trail that leads to creepier and creepier revelations. The writing is stunningly beautiful. Orson, Chris's dog companion, is fantastic. Sasha and Bobby are wonderful friends. 

Just read the book. Right now. 

"I believe in the possibility of miracles."

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Chasing Secrets~Lynette Eason | Review

Title: Chasing Secrets (Elite Guardians #4)
Author: Lynette Eason
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Length: 333 Pages
Release: August 2017

Haley Callaghan's early life in Ireland wasn't easy but she has no idea just what she lost years ago and the truth is about to come out. And someone is determined to keep her from learning the truth that has been hidden for over 25 years.

Living in South Carolina, Haley has no idea that her past is about to find her and place her and those around her in the crosshairs of danger. And her job with Elite Guardians places her in enough danger as it is and Haley has just taken on a case that has made her an enemy that has a way of escaping justice. With more than one target on her back, Haley has caught the attention of Detective Steven Rothwell who is determined to help her stay safe.

Now Haley just has to survive long enough to discover who wants her dead and rescue those who've been put in danger because she cares. With Steven determined to not lose another person under his protection and the rest of the Elite Guardians backing her up, Haley has a fighting chance to see tomorrow. And Haley has a whole reason to see tomorrow - one she never expected to have.

This is the concluding book in the Elite Guardians series and fans of the series should not be disappointed though it would have been interesting to learn the back story on some of the later additions to the group. Haley's story is interesting and the various potential suspects and the overlapping of personal and professional just adds another layer to the suspense.

For readers who haven't previously read any or all of the books in this series don't worry, you won't get lost, as each book focuses on a different character or characters. Each story builds on the previous one much like one's own life - time passes and new acquaintances enter while others leave. The old and new in your life don't have to meet to enjoy (or not) spending time with you. So take the time to get to know Haley as she uncovers secrets from her past.

Monday, October 9, 2017

Legend~David Gemmell | Review

Title: Legend (The Drenai Saga #1)
Author: David Gemmell
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 362 Pages
Release: April 1984

Fantasy is my favorite genre and I've been trying to read more titles from the vast collection that exists. This author and series came up in discussion in a group here on goodreads, so I decided to give it a try. And while it was not my favorite novel, I am glad that I read it. 

The things I like most about this novel are the pacing and the magic. Now, the pacing wasn't perfect for reasons that I will mention in a minute, but I did appreciate the fact that it was fast paced and didn't have a lot of pointless slow time in the middle. And the magic, while not explained in detail, was really fascinating. It was mostly used by the Thirty, a group of men who separate themselves from the world and come close to the Source. There were several moments within the novel where these guys did some fascinating things that had me really intrigued. It would be fun to have a novel just focused around them, actually. 

There is little character development within this novel, which is my main drawback. And I think some of that has to do with pacing. Since everything is so fast paced there isn't a lot of time to really build the characters and give them layers. I never felt like I knew any of them very well because every time I was starting to connect with one the story would hop into the head of another. This seems fairly common for fantasy written around this time (1980's and 1990's). 

And the romance in this was insane. It wasn't the main focus of the book, which was good, but it still managed to annoy me. The characters meet, don't like each other, suddenly impress each other, and are in love. And this all happens within around fifty pages. Had there been a little more character development for one or both of the characters involved in the romance before they met I might have been more ok with how it progressed. As it was, I was more annoyed than anything. 

Overall this was a good but not great read for me. It had a lot of interesting ideas and I think the world has a lot of potential, but the lack of character development kept me from ever being able to fully connect. There are more stories within this series but I don't know that I will be continuing. If I do, it likely won't be any time soon. A good book, but nothing that kept me invested.

Monday, October 2, 2017

The Death of Dulgath~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: The Death of Dulgath (Riyria Chronicles #3)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 448 Pages
Release: December 2015

Ever since I read Age of Myth in June I can't seem to get enough of Michael J Sullivan's books. Now that I've finished the first two Legends of the First Empire, the Riyria Revelations, and the first three Riyria Chronicles, I just have his science fiction novel Hollow World left to read. And then I'm waiting for December, when the fourth Chronicles book will come out. I might even start rereading before then. Who knows. 

But anyway, let's get to talking about this novel, since that should be the focus of this review. I just wanted to give you a little outline of my journey with Michael J Sullivan thus far. 

This is probably the strangest of the entire collection of Riyria novels. There is a lot of interesting information and some connections with the Legends series, but it felt so odd at times. That's now to say that I didn't like it, because I did, I really did. It just felt a little different than the other novels and there was this otherness about it that I hadn't really expected. But those connections to Legends were pretty insane and make me even more curious about that series. 

We also get to meet some new characters that don't play into the events in Revelations, which was interesting. It was nice to see another job that Royce and Hadrian were hired for and not have all of the connections to Revelations, since it meant that a lot of the information would be entirely new and fresh. 

So let's talk some about what makes these books great: the characters.
"Now that you've met Hadrian, let me introduce myself. I'm the one you don't want to know."

Anyone who has followed along with my reading and any of my reviews for the Riyria novels probably already knows how much I love Royce, but I will highlight that again. His character fascinates me. And it feels like he gains depth with every single novel. I also really like that Sullivan was able to show his progression from meeting Hadrian to the Royce that we know in Revelations, because they are quite different. 

Royce learns a lot about himself in this installment. It answered a few questions I had from Revelations about how he knew the things he knew about himself, so it was nice to have that side of the story tied in. And once again I have to praise Sullivan's storytelling technique with that. It was well executed and just worked

"What good is a world--what is the point of living--if generosity and kindness are myths?"

And then of course we have Royce's near opposite, Hadrian. Just like with Royce, it's nice seeing where Hadrian started and what he progresses toward. I can't really connect with Hadrian quite as much, or don't find him quite as compelling as Royce, but I do really enjoy his character. Still, he does and thinks some things that annoy me. But I think that Sullivan has also done an excellent job of showing what a younger Hadrian was like. In some ways there is more of a difference in Hadrian from when they met to when Revelations start than there is with Royce. Mostly because he has grown up more. 

"Royce wasn't so much a closed book as one that was chained shut, locked in a box, and thrown into the sea."

The friendship between Royce and Hadrian is really the best thing about these books. I love getting into each of their heads and seeing what they think of each other. It's a really beautiful bond they have and I think I could keep reading about it forever. I could probably write about it forever as well. Instead I'll give you a few quotes that I liked involving these two. 

"If he suffers so much as a stubbed toe, I'm coming after you first."

"You have no idea how stupid I think you are, and honestly, we don't have time for that conversation."

"Royce didn't buy the story of Hadrian's death. But if it was true, dagger or no dagger, hands or no hands, (spoiler) would never leave this room alive."

Those are just a few I had marked, but really any scene with these two is great. Or any time they think about each other. They are so different, but they make the best of friends. I just love it. 

The side characters in this were quite likable. Sherwood was probably my favorite. He's an artist who sees more than anyone else and I found him really interesting. Scarlette, Fawkes, Lady Dulgath, and the other characters in the town are all quite interesting, but I don't want to get too spoilery about anything so I will stop there. 

We also get a little bit of Gwen, which I always appreciate. 

Overall this was another great installment in Royce and Hadrian's story and I am looking forward to the next phase of their adventures.

Monday, September 25, 2017

His Majesty's Dragon~Naomi Novik | Review

Title: His Majesty's Dragon (Temeraire #1)
Author: Naomi Novik
Genre: Historical Fantasy
Length: 353 Pages
Release: March 2006

This is going to be a hard book for me to review. The premise is really interesting, despite the fact that books with dragons generally don't appeal to me, and I was really excited to read this. And while I enjoyed it, there was still something lacking for me. 

The writing style took a little getting used to, as it very much reads like a classic British novel. That in itself is really neat, but I wasn't expecting it, so it was kind of jarring at first. Once I was used to the style, I did quite enjoy the style. There were other things that I did not enjoy as much, however. 

Characters--as I'm sure anyone who has ever read a review from me knows--make or break a story for me, in general. While the characters here were interesting and overall likable, I never really felt like I was connected to them. I know some people are off put by Laurence's manners, finding him stiff, but I really liked that aspect of his character. But even still, I never felt like I knew him. 

Temeraire was also likable and I did like how the dragons were written and that his development was so fast. It was an interesting process to follow. But, again, he didn't feel that real to me. The relationship between Laurence and Temeraire was pretty great though. It was nice that they became so attached to each other, particularly once you see the way some of the other dragons and riders interact. 

The world created here was well done and intricate. Dragons fighting in the Napoleonic wars is such a fun concept. And don't worry, you don't have to know all the details of this period in time to appreciate the story. The types of dragons were also well explained and explored. 

Overall this was just kind of forgettable to me. It is enjoyable enough while reading, but I don't find anything that compelling in the story. I don't know that I will continue the series. I can see why it appeals to so many, but I couldn't bring myself to feel more than a general like for the story and characters.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

To Look a Nazi in the Eye~Kathy Kacer and Jordana Lebowitz | Review

Title: To Look a Nazi in the Eye 
Author: Kathy Kacer and Jordana Lebowitz
Genre: Nonfiction WWII
Length: 256 Pages
Release: September 2017

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


"He didn't look evil. He didn't look like the murdering Nazi that he was accused of being. With a complete exhale of breath, Jordana thought, he looks like my grandfather."

This book tells the real story of Jordana Lebowitz traveling to Germany to witness the trial of Oskar Groening that took place in 2015. The ninety-two year old Groening was on trial for crimes committed while he was part of the Nazi war machine in Auschwitz during the second World War. While Groening never personally killed anyone, he was complicit in the murder of roughly 300,000 Jewish people. 

The book reads more like a story than an account of a trial, which I think will make it more relatable to many readers. It tells of Jordana's struggles to get to Germany for a trial that she felt passionately about. It outlines her relationships with the survivors that she bonds with while she's there, her mixed emotions about Groening, her expanding views of Germany and its people. And while it obviously touches on very dark subject matter, it never gets too dark. It would be suitable for many middle-grade readers and could be a good introduction to the history of the Holocaust. 

"I was on the ramp when the selections took place...I was there."

Groening's testimony was inserted between various pieces of Jordana's story, which worked really well. It was easy to see his viewpoint on many things, though it was hard to see where he was coming from on others. I can understand that many were indoctrinated with hateful beliefs, but how could you ever view the destruction of a group of people as right? If you were there, witnessing what was being done to men, women, children, no matter your personal role, how could you live with yourself? 

One thing that I cannot understand is how anyone can deny the Holocaust and what happened. This isn't something that happened hundreds of years ago and records have been lost. It was less than one hundred years ago. There are survivors today, telling their stories. And these are people on both sides of the situation. Groening speaks against Holocaust deniers, telling them that he was there, he saw what happened. And there are those who were inside, being tortured for experimentation or forced into hard labor, with the tattoos still marking their skin, the memories still haunting them. How can you deny the reality of what happened when there is so much evidence that supports it? It is something I will never understand. 

This is not complex or deep overview of what happened during the Holocaust or of the events of this trial, but it is the honest view of a teen's experience of this historic event. History is important, no matter how ugly it may be. It needs to be taught and learned from. If we don't make a conscious effort to prevent history repeating itself, then it will. 

I definitely recommend this to those interested in the history of this dark period in history. Jordana is a modern girl trying to spread awareness and spread goodness. You can see some of her own opinions changing within the story as she grows. Her own opinions and beliefs were skewed by what her parents and grandparents taught her, but she began to see that not everything could be so easily categorized. Nothing is simple.

Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Fool Moon~Jim Butcher | Review

Title: Fool Moon (Dresden Files #2)
Author: Jim Butcher
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Length: 401 Pages (Paperback)
Release: January 2001

I am really not entirely sure what to say about this book. I enjoyed Storm Front enough to want to continue. Harry was a likable and overall fun character, the mystery wasn't anything great but it was fun, and the fantasy elements were well explained. This one, however, did not improve on that for me. In fact, it tore down some of the things that I had enjoyed about the first installment. 

In Storm Front I really enjoyed Harry and found him to be a lot of fun. He was odd and made some poor decisions at times, but overall I liked him. Here, not so much. From the beginning he seemed to be making stupid decisions, some of them even acknowledged in his first person narrative, that had me wondering how he has survived into adulthood or just really irritated me. He didn't work well for me as a character here, because he didn't seem to be growing. 

This reads like a mystery novel, but doesn't have any elements that kept me engaged. It was fun enough while reading it, but I never found myself excited to continue or eager to get back to the story. It was kind of forgettable to me. There was nothing about it that really stood out to me in any way. The mystery was very predictable as well. Maybe not all of the how and why, but the outcome. 

Mister, Harry's cat, and Murphy, Harry's police officer friend, are my favorite of the characters. Mister is an interesting addition to the story and makes me like Harry at times when I'm not sure that I want to like him. And I just really like Murphy, though I can't place my finger on exactly why. 

I also wasn't a fan of the more prevalent swearing in this one. That's a personal thing that I just don't like and in the first one I really enjoyed that Harry edited out a lot of the profanities and such. Here more of that was there, so it kind of detracted from the overall enjoyment factor for me just a little bit. And that one random sex scene...I won't go into details because I want to avoid spoilers, and it's not that it was overly graphic, I just found it out of place and distracting. 

There are also a lot of hints at larger worldbuilding and more character development that we never get to see here. I know this is a long series and that more of that is likely to come in later installments, but I would like a little more from the beginning. Or even a few theories from Harry about what he's thinking would be nice. But no, there is very little in that department. 

So overall this wasn't great for me. I was hoping it would improve the series, but it did not. I plan to try one more novel in the series and then decide where I want to go after that. If I feel the same way about book three then this series will move to my DNF list.

Tuesday, August 22, 2017

The Dire King~William Ritter | Review

Title: The Dire King (Jackaby #4)
Author: William Ritter
Genre: Paranormal Mystery
Length: 352 Pages
Release: August 2017

I received a review copy of this novel through Netgalley. 

"Jackaby took a deep breath, his face leaden. And then he made a deal with the devil."

This final installment in the Jackaby series probably sits somewhere in the 2.5 star range for me. There were things I liked and things I didn't like. 

The best part about this novel, as well as the previous three, is Jackaby himself. He has such a snarky attitude that makes him hilarious. He and Abigail have some great banter during portions of the novel. I just wish there had been more of that. More of the main characters from all of the preceding novels in general would have been nice. 

I was rather disappointed by the overall tone of this novel. The others were so much fun as Abigail and Jackaby, along with their friends, solved paranormal mysteries. All of those came together for the overarching plot, which was the focus of the novel. And I found it rather lacking. The fun of the others was not as present here. There would be bursts of the same humor and tone, but they never seemed to last long. There was also an influx of new characters that I never felt I got to know or understand. They seemed to pop up to further the plot, without having any other purpose. 

The final conclusion was satisfactory enough but I still didn't feel fully satisfied. There were little questions I had through the series that were never answered or seemed outright ignored. I had fun while reading it, but never really felt invested. 

"We do not survive because we're strong--we become stronger the more we survive."

Throughout the whole series I have been impressed with Ritter's writing, and that held up here. He really has a way with words. And it feels like an older novel, more fitting of the setting. I do look forward to trying future works of Ritter's. 

Overall this was just an ok conclusion to the series. I would definitely still recommend them, particularly the first one, but I think that Ritter could have tweaked a few things to make this a stronger ending. Still, it ended with great promise for our loved characters. All of the biggest questions were answered and a good idea was given for future events. 

Friday, August 18, 2017

The Rose and the Thorn~Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: The Rose and the Thorn (Riyria Chronicles #2)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 347 Pages
Release: September 2013

Is it even possible for this man to write a book that I don't like? I really hope not, because I am loving that I love these books. If you are wanting to start the adventures of Royce and Hadrian, I would personally recommend that you begin with the Riyria Revelations (Theft of Swords being the beginning), and then come back for the Chronicles. These give a lot of insight into little things from that series, so I think you can appreciate them more. 

But let's stop talking about that and get into talking about this book. Because it was great, it really was. There may be slight spoilers for The Crown Tower in this. I am going to avoid them as much as possible. 
"I don't have many friends. I can actually count them all on one hand and not use all my fingers. Like anything rare, they are precious. And yes, I get mad when one is hurt."

The plot of this one is darker than that of The Crown Tower in a lot of ways. Gwen, one of our main characters from that first novel, is badly beaten by a high ranking noble for not adequately answering his questions. When Royce and Hadrian return to Medford, they are not happy, to say the least. 

Royce is by far my favorite character of all the Riyria books and I think I love him a little more after every one. He can be downright terrifying, but he's also extremely loyal if you give him a real reason to be. He's used to people being selfish, to everyone taking and no one giving, to surviving in a kill or be killed world. It can be hard to change from that mindset. 

We get to see some of the darker side of Royce here, maybe the darkest we've seen him, as he sets out to protect those he cares about. After having seen this side of Royce, it just makes you wonder what he was like before. Crossing Royce now is a gamble you wouldn't want to take, but crossing him before... Well, that would not have been a good idea. 

"He wanted to wash the blood off, but he could never rid himself of the stain."

Every coin has a two sides and the other side of Royce's is Hadrian. Where Royce is dark, Hadrian is light. He's not an innocent kid, he's made mistakes, shed blood, but he's known friendship and love, he dreams of a life where blood doesn't have to be spilled to make a living, where people are honorable and good. 

Hadrian struggles a lot in this book. He's haunted by his past and unsure of his future. Despite their differences, Royce is really the one constant he seems to have now. And reading about these two together is the best. Throughout the story, I really just wanted to reassure this guy. He puts up a good front for the world, but he can't be entirely happy, it seems. I can relate to that. 

"Never having known such admiration, or even the support of a real friend, it was as if he'd only realized he was hungry after smelling food."

I don't know why, but I was surprised to have so many of the characters from Revelations show up in here. And I was particularly surprised to have Reuben Hilfred show up as a main character. But it was a pleasant surprise. It really made his character deeper than he had been before, knowing his background and what he had been through. It also made me really sad. Hilfred did not lead a happy life. 

While I did enjoy all of Hilfred's story and getting to see the young Arista and Alric, as well as getting a better view of King Amrath, the real highlight of this side of the story was the Pickerings. I completely adore this entire family. Can I please have them? You have no idea the grin that split my face when Mauvin showed up for the first time. Sure, he was being a little bit of a punk, but he was only twelve. And he made up for it later. 

This book was a great installment in the Riyria world. It delves more deeply into my favorite characters, and also gives some nice insight into what was happening in Medford before the events of The Crown Conspiracy. There were a few times that I just wanted to tell the characters who is who and who needs to be killed now. But then, we wouldn't have the Riyria Revelations if we did that, so I guess I'll have to be content. 

There were a lot of dark and sad moments in here. There was death, betrayal, injury, humiliation, you name it. But there was also hope, love, and loyalty. The ending was satisfying and left Royce and Hadrian in a good place, on there way toward another adventure. I can't wait to read the next installment in this series, and hope that there are many more to come.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Wonder~R J Palacio | Review

Title: Wonder
Author: R J Palacio
Genre: Middlegrade Contemporary
Length: 316 Pages
Release: Feb 2012

It's unpopular opinion time.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. And honestly, I expected to love this book. Maybe that was the problem, maybe I let this get too hyped in my head and expected more than it was. Maybe it's just that I'm in a weird reading mood. Maybe the audio made me like it less than I would have otherwise, I don't know. All I know is that I didn't love this book like so many others do. 

This book follows a boy named August who, due to genetics that cannot be controlled, doesn't look like other kids. He's had many surgeries to improve the function of certain portions of his face and head, but he still doesn't look like everyone else. And that makes him odd. To some it even makes him scary. So we follow, through the eyes of six different characters, August's first year in a school with other kids. It's fifth grade (which I guess is middle school in New York) and not everyone is kind. 

I liked the premise, but I was not a fan of how the story was laid out. It's told in first person from six different perspectives, as I mentioned. Of the six, we probably get the most page time in August's head. Then we have his sister Via, his friends Summer and Jack, and Via's friends Justin and Miranda. And honestly, August was my least favorite perspective of the six. It makes sense to show his insecurities, because everyone is insecure at some point, and looking different and being noticed would obviously be hard for a ten-year-old, but August felt too sorry for himself. And that never seemed to change as the story progressed. There was too much self pity for me to connect with him. From the eyes of the others this wasn't that noticeable and I actually did enjoy his character. Jack was my favorite perspective, I had a lot of fun in his head. 

Everything in the story is focused on August. And I know that's the point of the book, to show his adjustment to school, the way that people react to him, and to highlight the good and the bad sides of humanity, but it felt too focused on him. This is a personal thing, but for me the story would have been more powerful had it not focused so much on August and instead told a story around him. Obviously the way it's written works for most people, which is great, but for me it lessened the message when it made it seem like everyone was always talking about, thinking about, and worrying about August. 

And maybe the environment that I grew up in was just very different, but I had a hard time believing that everyone would react the way that people reacted to August. Yes, bullying exists, and yes, I have seen it in action, but it was still hard to picture all of these people, adults and children alike, having to do a double take, unable to hold eye contact with him, refusing to talk to him, and calling him names. Yes, all of those things happen, but the scale seemed very heavily weighted toward that mindset in this story.

One of my goodreads friends, I can't recall who at the moment, mentioned in their review that this was too sweet, and I have to say that I agree. It's a good message to teach--not everyone is the same and we shouldn't hate because of those differences. At the same time though, this was a little over-the-top for me. Sometimes things don't go well, sometimes people don't like you, sometimes people are jerks and there is nothing you can do to change that, but you have to learn take it all, the good and the bad. 

This isn't a horrible book or a bad book, it just didn't work for me. It has a powerful message and I think that it's important to remember to be kind, no matter what. There are some things about us that we can't control, but we can decide how to act. 

I know this was made into a movie and is being released later this year, and I'm actually interested to see how they adapt it. It seems like some of my personal issues with the style of story telling might be negated in translation to film, so I'm interested to see how the two compare for me.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

The Crown Tower by Michael J Sullivan | Review

Title: The Crown Tower (Riyria Chronicles #1)
Author: Michael J Sullivan
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 358 Pages
Release: January 2013

"Listen to him. Trust him. That's what he won't expect. It won't be easy. You'll have to be very patient. But if you are, you'll make a friend for life--the kind that will walk unarmed into the jaws of a dragon if you asked him to."

This is the beginning of the prequel series to the Riyria Revelations, which takes us to the very beginning of Royce and Hadrian's partnership, twelve years before the beginning of The Crown Conspiracy. I haven't read very many prequels in the past. The ones that I come across never seem like they are going to add a lot to the story, so I've never felt the need to delve into them. Particularly if it's a series that I like, because I don't want it ruined. Here though, I think a prequel series makes sense. It gives the characters even more depth than the main series did and gives us firsthand knowledge of what those first encounters were like. 

I have to say it once again: Michael J Sullivan knows how to write compelling characters. If you've read the Riyria Revelations already, then the characters won't be new to you. They aren't the same, however. It amazes me how Sullivan is able to show, with just a few words and scenes, how these two have changed over time. 

"I think everyone is after me until proven otherwise."

Royce doesn't have perspective chapters until over halfway into the book, just appearing as a shadowed stranger around Hadrian. This was an extremely clever way to introduce him, as you find out a lot about his background through Hadrian, which makes him more relatable than being thrown into his head from the beginning probably would have. He's dark, abrasive, violent, and unfriendly. But he's also very misunderstood. If you've followed my reading of the Riyria Revelations then you likely already know my love for this character, and that only grew here. There is just something about him that draws me in. I don't have his background (which I am very grateful for), but I find it easy to relate to paranoia and fear. I also love to see how much he grows. Because if Royce can grow, anyone can. 

"Everyone was a stack of accumulated experiences, and seeing how that pile wobbled when it moved could reveal secrets."

It was interested seeing this younger Hadrian. With Royce it was always easy for me to imagine what he would have been like when they first met, but Hadrian was harder to picture. This colored in all of the missing pieces. He was young here, only about twenty, and already suffering from the mistakes he made. He's constantly underestimated because of his youth, which I found endearing. He's a trained killer and could probably singlehandedly take on a dozen other men, but his young face and kind demeanor give him an appearance of innocence that most cannot easily overlook. 

"You're a hero and you can see the future."

I was really excited to see Gwen get perspective portions in this novel. She was always somewhat of a mystery in the Revelations and I always wondered about her. Here we finally find out more about her story; where she came from, what she can do, how she ended up where she did and why. Her story is really sad in a lot of ways. But it's also really great. She's strong and although she is forced to make decisions she would probably rather never have to make, she doesn't let that beat her. I'm really excited to see more of her through the other books. 

"Ever notice how the word friend is only one letter away from fiend? Maybe it's a coincidence, maybe not."

This is the beginning of the Royce and Hadrian bromance that has made the Riyria books so popular. Two very different men, from completely different backgrounds, who become best friends and partners. What's not to love? 

It was great to see the first meeting between these two, to feel the dislike they had for each other. And their back and forth is fantastic, even from the beginning. It's harsher, less teasing, than later in their relationship, but just as entertaining. This is definitely a slow build friendship, which really makes it even more powerful. Isn't it nice to know that not all first impressions have to be last impressions? 

There are two main stories in this, set to converge. We follow Royce and Hadrian as they are forced to partner by an old professor, seemingly for no reason. And then there's Gwen, taking her own life in hand and waiting for the mysterious him

I've heard different opinions on whether you should start with the Chronicles or the Revelations, but I don't think you can go wrong either way. Just read them all.