Thursday, April 27, 2017

The Black Prism~Brent Weeks | Review

Title: The Black Prism (Lightbringer #1)
Author: Brent Weeks
Genre: High Fantasy
Length: 629 Pages
Release: August 2010

I had this book on my shelf for two years before finally picking it up. And I have no idea why I waited so long. The timing was never right, I suppose. 

This is a fantasy novel with a magic system based on colors and being able to draft the colors that are visible to you. Not everyone can draft and those who can have varying skills and degrees of knowledge. The Prism is someone who can draft all seven colors. 

Brent Weeks has an easy to read writing style that really lends well to this type of story. I have a few issues with how he writes, because I find certain aspects of the style distracting, but I do think he writes well and has created an interesting world here. And it's a really fast read. Once you get started it just really flows. There are some first person intrusions from the various characters who have a perspective, which I found distracting since it would pop up in the middle of a third person paragraph. Weeks is also rather fond of using ?! in dialogue, which I find somewhat lazy. It should be obvious through context if a question is an exclamation. Those things aside, I did really enjoy the writing. 

The story itself is somewhat slow, taking a while for the plot to really move. But through all of that time the characters are being built, so although the plot was stagnant for long stretches (or nearly) I never found it dull.

Gavin Guile, the Prism, is definitely my favorite character. Sometimes I'm not sure if I should like him or hate him, which makes me love him even more. I just found him fascinating and utterly charming, which I think is the goal, so great job to Weeks for making that work. Gavin is very multifaceted and even now, after having finished this first installment in the series, I have more questions than answers about him. 

Second to Gavin in my list of favorites is Karris. When she was first introduced I found her a little bland and annoying, but she quickly grew on me. I looked forward to her chapters almost as much as Gavin's and enjoyed learning more about who she was and who she had been. 

The rest of the characters were ok at times and annoying at others. Kip could be hilarious and then flip to extremely annoying, so I hope that his character levels out somewhat. And Liv...I really have no positive thoughts toward her. I don't find her all that clever or that interesting. The side characters, such as Ironfist, outshone these two. 

The overall plot surrounding the Prism and prophecies and war was very interesting. There are lots of politics involved, which I tend to really enjoy in fantasy. By the end everything is a twisted mess and I have no idea how the rest of the series will unfold after this, but I look forward to making the journey through it. 

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.

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.

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

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

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.
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

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.

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.

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

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.