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

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

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. 

Friday, January 6, 2017

The Bear and the Nightingale~Katherine Arden | Review

Title: The Bear and the Nightingale
Author: Katherine Arden
Genre: Fantasy, Fairy Tale Retelling
Length: 336 Pages (Hardcover)
Release: January 2017

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

The beginning of this novel was difficult for me to get into. I found the fairy tale nature fascinating, and the writing was quite enjoyable, but I had a hard time connecting with the characters and overall story. The second half, however, was rather addictive. 

At nearly the halfway point the novel seemed to take a rather drastic turn. The beginning was a buildup for what was going to happen, and the last half was everything playing out. The focus became more about Vasya and her struggle to save her people than about her family. The fairy tale elements really came alive, making me very curious about the original tales. 

Overall the writing was really captivating. It didn't read quickly, but I don't think that was really the style of story the author was trying to share. It had the whimsical feel of a fairy tale, with elements of danger. This definitely isn't the happy version of a fairy tale that I so often see. This had the grittier, darker side of things. 

The characters were somewhat lacking in the beginning. There wasn't much development of them until later in the story. I found Vasya's wildness fun at first, but still didn't really feel connected to her. Later on I really did enjoy her and understood her motivations more. I also really enjoyed her relationship with her siblings, particularly Aloysha. The brother-sister dynamic was fun to see and I loved how protective he was of her. The relationship with her father was also nice, though Vasya herself was often confused about his feelings toward her.

The ending, where all of the fantasy elements finally came to a head, was quite intense and fascinating. It left me both excited and sad because I was saying goodbye to a world that I had truly come to appreciate and characters that I had grown to love.  

This novel will definitely appeal to a wide range of audiences and I am interested in reading more from this author when she releases more work. 

Wednesday, January 4, 2017

A Christmas Carol~Charles Dickens | Review

Title: A Christmas Carol
Author: Charles Dickens
Genre: Classic Literature/Christmas
Length: 224 Pages
Release: 1843

A Christmas Carol is a beloved classic that many people read every December. It's the story of Ebenezer Scrooge meeting the ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future and what changes he undergoes through these three encounters. 

I've read a few Dickens novels in the past (and want to read more in the future) and always really enjoy them. His writing is captivating and often beautiful. That is definitely true in this short Christmas tale. 

This was my first time reading this story and definitely will not be my last. It's divided into five staves (which was Dickens way of saying that it's a long carol, rather than a novel in the traditional sense). The first stave introduces Scrooge, the three middle staves are his encounters with the ghosts of Christmas, and the final stave shows you what Scrooge did with this information. 

Having finally read this I can completely understand why it's so loved. There is just something about the way the story is crafted that is captivating. And it makes you evaluate yourself. Everyone has struggles and we often find ourselves somewhere we don't really want to be, whether that be physically, emotionally, or mentally. This short book made me very reflective and I asked myself some difficult questions as a consequence. 

I highly recommend this beautiful little novel. It's one that I hope revisit in the years to come.  

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Bookish Resolutions | Tuesday Talks

Tuesday Talks is a goodreads group designed for booktubers and bloggers to discuss book related topics. You can visit the goodreads group here.

Bookish Resolutions
I've set myself various reading goals for 2017, so let me share some of those with you. These are in no particular order.

  • Read books from my TBR-2017 shelf on goodreads. You can find that shelf here if you want to see what books are on there. This is a list of ten books that I came up with to read throughout the year. 
  • Read Le Petit Prince, in the original language of French. The Little Prince is widely read, though I have never read any translation of it. I've been wanting to read a book in a language other than English and since I've started studying French again I thought this would be a good one to try.
  • Read at least one nonfiction book on politics. I have some ideas of what books I might read for this one, but nothing completely set yet. 
  • Finish the Wheel of Time series. I'm already in the process of reading Towers of Midnight, the 13th book in the series. After that I just have the final book and the prequel to read. 
  • Read 50 books. This is the same goal I set last year and doubled. I don't know that I will get to that many this year, and many of the books I plan to read are quite long, so I think 50 is the perfect number. 
  • And finally, I want to read more of the books that I already own. I have nearly 100 of these on my shelf and it's about time I get around to them.
What are your bookish resolutions for 2017? I would love to hear about them and discuss them with you!

Monday, January 2, 2017

The Gathering Storm~Robert Jordan & Brandon Sanderson | Review

Title: The Gathering Storm (Wheel of Time #12)
Author: Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 783 Pages
Release: October 2009

My Wheel of Time journey is drawing to a close. I now only have three novels in the series (including the prequel) before I finish. I've read the series a book a month since January 2016. This twelfth installment is the first of the novels completed by Brandon Sanderson after Jordan's death a few years ago. In all honesty, Sanderson is the reason I started the series. But I have appreciated Jordan's writing and the world he built. 

Since this was the first Sanderson installment, I think the main thing that needs to be addressed is how it fits with the rest of the series. And it fits pretty well. It has some of Sanderson's style and touches in the humor and characterization, but he kept it very true to Jordan's story. How someone could come in after eleven books and finish it off is beyond me, the world and cast of characters can be daunting as only a reader. 

The Gathering Storm ranks among my favorites of the series, but I don't necessarily think it was any better than my other favorite volumes. There are a few things that I think it improved (at least an improvement compared to the last few books, which were kind of dragging at times). Here there aren't any dull moments. The main plot and side stories that have been leading Rand and his Two Rivers friends toward the last battle move at a steady pace, with constant developments. 

Many of the characters really grew on me throughout this story. Egwene, who was my least favorite character in the beginning, really started to have a different impact on me here. She has grown a lot and no longer seems as much the know-it-all that she was before. Mat is another of the characters that I was really impressed with. He was probably my favorite perspective to read from this time around (along with the few chapters we got inside Nynaeve's head). 

Rand struggled a lot in this one. He is facing inner demons, the approach of the Last Battle, and it's often too much for him to take. He became somewhat more human in this one as he tried to harden himself completely. 

The downside to this is really Perrin, who I used to love. Over the series he has really digressed. He did have a few good moments here, but I found myself disappointed every time one of his chapters came up. I wanted to be following someone else. 

Siuan and Gareth Bryne are two of the highlights in The Gathering Storm. They really aren't in here much, but I adore their relationship and what they go through together. I found myself loving these moments.