Saturday, July 22, 2017

The Dreamer by E. J. Mellow



Say, readers, do you have trouble falling asleep at night? Have you tried reading books to ease your troubled mind and carry you off sleep? Do you sometimes find the books so enthralling that sleep is impossible because you just have to know what happens next? Well, this book...is nothing like those books. You start reading this thing, you'll fall asleep in no time, really.

The story is of Molly, a young woman who has a steady job that pays for an apartment in New York City without having to rely on roommates, a loving family that cares for her, a BFF who works with her and is always there for her, and a really charming and thoughtful boyfriend who looks out for her. So, naturally, she is completely and utterly unsatisfied with her life and longs for more. But excitement comes in the form of literary getting struck by lightning and she starts having dreams in which she travels to another world. But the dreamworld she visits every night is very real, as is the massive super hunk that she meets there and she finds out that possesses unspeakable power in the world of her dreams. When she finds that she has the power to save both worlds from a terrible menace, Molly must chose between the waking world or the dreamworld.

First and foremost thoughts about this one are pretty straightforward: This book is pretty boring. Yeah, I didn't like this one very much. The idea of a world in which one dreams and being awake is an interesting one but, quite honestly, it does little to make me care about either one. As I hinted in my summary up there, Molly's life is pretty nice. She's self reliant in one of the most expensive places to live in the entire country, she's in a good relationship with a nice guy, and yet she's whining about how dull and boring her life is and how she wants more out of life. Um, does this broad even know how friggin' lucky she's got it? How many people would kill for a life like that? Yet, here she is pining away like, "Oh, how sad and humdrum my life is. Poor me." Really, girl? Ugh, she really annoyed me.

Now, about this dreamworld or Terra or...whatever. For a world built on the dreams of humans all around the world it really isn't very inventive. It's just a city where everybody wears black and travels by zip line and they all fight snot monsters that cause nightmares and...start wars or something. Come on, this is a world built literally around dreams! Do something cool. Have people able to fly or at least make it visually interesting or...something! True, they do say that Dreamers have powers that the natives to this land don't have while they're there but "Dreamers" are apparently really rare, super-special-special-people that our protagonist happens to be. Yeah, why they had to piece together some "Chosen One" crap straight out of nowhere is just random and comes off as childish (and this book is supposed to be for college age and up).

While we're talking about childishness, let's chat about this stupid romance subplot. Molly meets this dreamworld dweller named Dev and is instantly smitten with him despite having a boyfriend, and he's pretty much a colossal jerk. He'd rather put her in danger than explain things to her, keeps secrets that are really pointless just to be frustrating, and then he pulls the whole "I have to push you away and hurt you for your own protection" garbage that I hate. And, of course, Molly just "can't resist" this beautiful piece of dream man...even though there's that friggin' boyfriend I mentioned earlier. Oh, but heaven forbid she break up with him or stop pining over dream boy. She's just going to keep stringing them both along because hey, it's a dream so it doesn't count right? Well, in this situation, it really, really, does.

Lastly, the writing in this is just a mess at times. When you get passed the contrived romance, the overused plot lines, and the boring descriptions, you have to endure phrases like "finger-licking good", "get silly tonight", and hearing "my body is weightless" about seven or eight times. Although the one that really made me cringe was, "letting the tears course out of my body." Um, body? Where, other than your friggin' eyes, would tears come from, I wonder?

Final Verdict
Yeah, I didn't like this one. It was boring, slow, not very well written, and at times contrived. I was disappointed because a lot of people really liked this one and I just couldn't get into it. Maybe it's just me and some people might get into it so, if you still wanna give it a try, save your cash and check it out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: Shotet sovereign's Scourge scavenges systems....urgh, try saying that five times fast.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg



When someone can make origami creations come to life, tell actual futures from fortuity boxes, and bring forth actual images from within books just by reading them be impressed, dang it! That's the one thing that really stuck with me about this book. In this world, a version of 18th century England, people can study the magics of manmade materials and manipulate them into doing miraculous things. This has potential for a lot of creative ideas. Let's see just how this unfolds (see what I did there?)

Ceony Twill is most displeased. After graduating from the magic academy, she's forced into becoming a folder, a magician bound to paper, and only paper, for the rest of her life. This means giving up on her dream of being a smelter (a metal magician) but to refuse means that she'll forego any magic for good. Things don't seem as bad after she meets Emery Thane, her mentor with whom she's sent to live. He teaches her that there's a lot to paper magic than she could have ever dreamed. But when an evil magician from Thane's past comes along and inflicts a terrible injury upon him, Ceony takes it upon herself to save him before it's too late.

Now, as I said earlier, the concept of this leads to a great many good ideas. Seeing just some of the things that Thane and Ceony are able to do with just paper is really impressive. Animated dogs and birds and even a skeleton butler and just some of the creations that they use in this. It's all very interesting and makes you appreciate paper of all things. This also opens up a lot of possibilities for what other magicians can do. Just what is a glass magician capable of? A plastic magician? A rubber magician? If a book can makes me want to know more about the magical capabilities of rubber, it's done something right.

And then...there's the other stuff. First off, I wasn't entirely sure I was going to like Ceony all that much. For a girl who dislikes smugness and arrogance, she's pretty smug and arrogant. The first couple chapters with her have to be the hardest. Bemoaning her terrible luck at being forced to practice a material she dislikes is pretty much all she does for a long time and I got real tired of the "Well, if I had been a smelter...", "If only I could have been a smelter...", "A smelter wouldn't have this problem...". It got old, is what I'm saying. Still, when we got to the meat of the story (there's a pun you'd have to have read the book to get), she does fight and get the job done. Her whining does subside, but she was just kind of hot and cold for me. While the master magician, Thane, had some interesting aspects to him, such as the patience of a saint and some cool bits of paper magic, I found him a bit bland. Just another generic nice guy and yeah, we learn a lot about him, but nothing really stood out that made an impact on me.

About this plot...well, I hope you like flashbacks. The book takes a turn from an apprenticeship story about teacher and student learning to get along to Ceony traipsing through her master's memories. This is all pretty much an attempt at making a rushed romance make more sense. A rushed romance between nineteen year old and a man over a decade older than she is. Then again, it's the 18th century, so there is that. My biggest pet peeve is she's witnessing all these memories and flashbacks and personal experiences...by going through his heart. I get it. It's symbolic and stuff but....hearts don't retain memories! Hearts are organs that pump blood. That's it! If you wanted to take a dive into his psyche, you'd look through his brain! Yeah, it's less romantic and all but...this really bothered me.

With those things out of the way, the climax of the book was actually pretty satisfactory, which I admit I hadn't been anticipating. This book also got kind of gory at times and I actually kind of admired that, surprisingly. It took a gross situation and kept it gross. Things came together in a serious mix of blood and magic and the conclusion kept things interesting, even if I wasn't crazy about the main character or the budding romance.

Final Verdict
Much like paper itself, this story had potential but was dry and unremarkable. I didn't hate it or anything, I just found it didn't have much of an impact. Still, it had some good moments and creativity so, if you were interested, I'd say check it out but wait for it on paperback (I did it again! Man, I'm really punny today).

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to review or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next time: Inception, this is not....

Thursday, July 13, 2017

The Holtur Enigma by Cameron Wayne Smith



This is the kind of book that makes one ask just how much can one person go through and survive...in a good way! In a delicate balance between fantasy, adventure and horror this book is a fast-paced journey through what is easily the most hostile and dangerous environment I've read about in a long time.

Vivian Patressi is on a mission to recruit slayers to protect his home of Silverton from an invasion of terrifying serpents. Holtur, a land renowned for its amazing warriors and the Bristrunstium, where monsters are dissected and studied is his best bet. Unfortunately, none of Holtur's slayers are willing to leave as they are constantly under attack from terrible monsters day in and day out. Vivian is no warrior himself but a timid merchant who finds himself woefully unprepared to face the horrors of this strange land. Yet, he's caught up in the whirlwind that is Holtur and must find a way to save his home and family...and survive long enough to get back to them.

Firstly, let me just tell you that there is a great ensemble of characters in this book. Vivian goes through some serious crap in this book and yet his attitude is incredible. He takes everything in stride. When he's told to run, he runs. When he's told to fight, he...tries. That's the beauty about Vivian, he's not perfect. He's out of his element and when there's something he can't do, he really can't do it. He's not just miraculously good at everything on the first try. His struggles are very real and you feel his pain and frustrations, which makes it mean so much more when he gets back up again and just keeps fighting. His development as a character is just wonderful. Also, the slayers are a really fun group. Sonja, the tough female leader, get's no flack for being a woman. She's treated just like another one of the guys and she's actually a really good leader, fearless but also compassionate. Kallum, however, has to be one of my special favorites in this book. Weak-bodied and young looking, he possesses this almost maniac desire to study monsters. He's inventive and cunning and I just loved him!

But the real stars of this show are the monsters. My gosh these things are great! Each chapter is dedicated to fighting some new terror that bursts into this town causes all kinds of death and mayhem. Each one of them is very inventive. The poisonous Grabions, the fog-like Shroud (which brought back some serious Don't Be Afraid of the Dark flashbacks), the ice god, Glacious which takes human sacrifices, the list goes on and on. Each monster, even those who have clear roots in basic monster mythology, are just wonderfully creative and absolutely terrifying. When these things kill, it's not pretty. Lots of victims meet untimely deaths in this book, sadly just as we were getting to know them too. The threat of each one is very real. Each threat is unique and no less horrible.

As with anything that ties into the horror genre, this book is rough at times but in all the appropriate ways. While it never reached the point where I wanted to stop reading, some bits were a little hard to read about and imagine. It gets dark! Every swearword in this thing feels just given what Vivian has to go through and what these slayers go through on a daily basis. That being said, the bold moves of the writing pay off and you go through it with such likable characters you cling onto every word hoping that everyone will be okay. The ending is left open (and ominous) leaving readers longing for that next bit of the story to come.

Final Verdict
One wild, dark, crazy ride filled with a fun cast, great character development and wonderfully inventive monsters! I had a lot of fun with this book and can happily say that it is worth your money at your local bookstore!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next time: Origami at its most epic....

Monday, July 10, 2017

Poison's Kiss by Breena Shields



Young Adult literature is very big on its kissing, isn't it? I can't go much farther than that so for those two lovebirds to finally share that oh so wonderful first kiss just makes any romance, doesn't it? That's why this concept is so brilliant. You kiss this girl and you die. Let's see how it plays out.

Marinda is poisonous. Since infancy, she's been raised and used as a weapon for the Raja, assassinating anyone in his way with nothing but a kiss. Marinda hates the job and wishes only to protect her little brother and keep him safe, but those she works for constantly threaten him so she is forced to obey. When one of her targets is a boy she starts developing feelings for, Marinda risks everything to make sure he doesn't die. But the cost of betrayal is steep and there's no telling just how far her handlers will go to keep their control on Marinda.

One thing about this book that was actually pretty good was the setting and mythology within the story. It's set in the India-esque world of Sundari and feels very much alive in that regard. From busy markets and spiced dishes, you can feel that this world has a distinct culture. The legend surrounding the story is actually pretty well developed, with the tiger, crocodile, bird, and snake (I know, it's a little familiar but I'm willing to let it slide) and how they're basically deities and those who worship them, it's all really clever way to establish the mythology of the world. While I like it more of an idea instead of "there really is a literal giant snake that lives underground and accepts human sacrifices", it's interesting regardless.

The main character is pretty good too, but she has her flaws as well. She fights to remain a good person even though she has a kill count. This can work in a character, it really can. You can make a character who kills people still really likable, but the book kind of softens the blow and I wish it hadn't. Luckily, we got to like her long before that happens. She's backed into a corner, has been abused and controlled her entire life, but refuses to become like those who created her. That gives her a sense of inner strength that would have kept us liking her even if they didn't try and take away her edge. Also, she's special enough with being someone who can kill with a kiss. Did we have to throw "princess" in there as well? Overall, though, she turned out okay.

Most of the other characters are hit and miss. The main villain is despicable enough but there's also this woman Marinda has history with who has so little impact I honestly forgot about her. Marinda's accomplice, Iyla, is a very interesting person who gains the trust of the targets before Marinda kills them. Why Marinda couldn't do this part of the job herself is a mystery, but you do get to see the toxic "frenemy" relationship between these two girls and just how hard their lives are and why they do what they do. Our love interest, however, isn't quite as impressive. He's just kind of generically nice. Not much in the way of personality. He's just nice. That's it. That being said, the brother is a good example of a little child character who manages to be capture bait but still likable and his being there really does help with Marinda's development as a character. He was never annoying and I wanted him to be okay just like the story wanted me to. Guess that makes him a success.

Final Verdict 
This book was a nice, easy read. Fun but a bit flawed. Some of the flaws bothered me more than others but for every con there was also a pro so it never got to the point where it became a burden to read. It kept me invested and wondering when the sequel would be out so in that sense, go ahead and read it but maybe wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: Come with me...and you'll be...in a world where everything's trying to kill you!

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke



Now THIS is what I'm talking about! This is the kind of book that changes literature in a direction that I'd love to see. Even though it only came out a few years ago in 2006, it feels like something straight out of traditional literature. Let's just dive in so we can talk about it.

England during the Regency era is devoid of the magic that once filled the country. Now only salty old "theoretical" magicians exist anymore, drinking brandy and arguing about this or that in their very important conferences. That is until Mr. Norrell, the first practical magician in four hundred years comes to England with the intention of bringing back English magic. Along with Norrell comes Jonathan Strange, a young man whom Norrell takes on as a pupil and the two begin on an apprenticeship turned rivalry that will redefine the war, the country, and the world.

One beautiful aspect of this book is that there's professional level world building in it. This is a vast and rich and detailed world that feels so very real to everyone who reads it. If magic did exist in the world, it would be just like this. It wouldn't just be swish-and-flick-now-everything's-dandy that you find in other places. There are rules, there are conditions, there are risks and everything else that's inconvenient, certainly, but real. I believe that this world could actually exist and that this could actually have happened should early 1800s England got its hands on some magic.

The characters are all just brilliantly done. The cast in this book is very wide and there are a lot of names and faces to remember but, the thing is, I remember them all! I have no problem remembering who is who in this story. Even with names like Segundus, Vinculus, Childermass, and the like I always knew who I was dealing with and how they fit into the story. I also really liked that our two titular characters were not perfect by any means. They're not honorable heroes who always do what's right and are upstanding, golden examples of perfection. Norrell is antisocial, selfish, and stubborn and convinced that his way of doing things is the right way, but also humble and meek. Strange is brash, inattentive, and sometimes can come off a bit heartless (especially in regards to his wife) but also excitable and friendly. Everyone is relatable, everyone is real and not just shoved into stereotypical archetypes.

The biggest complaint that people seem to have with this book is that it's too long and the footnotes distract too much from the story and...yeah, I don't agree. The footnotes and the stories and bits of history that they contain just add to the fact that this lady has easily created a whole world. She's left nothing up to the imagination. She's thought about everything that could possibly happen in this world and left it for the reader to discover on their own. It builds the world up wonderfully and just helped with the realism of it all. Yes, a book about dueling magicians is realistic. Not over the top or cliche. Much like the masses within the book who are divided on which side of the rivalry they believe to be the right one, the reader can also discover for themselves who is in the right. Personally, I found myself to be more of a Norrellite. I guess I just sympathize with curmudgeons who stay at home all day and read books (I can't imagine why).

Final Verdict
Just wonderful. I thought this was great. Long winded and over detailed? Meh, complaints for the weak, I say! Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell is intriguing, captivating, full of depth and character and well earns its place on the Shelf of Recommendation!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: This chick could definitely give Poison Ivy a run for her money....

Sunday, July 2, 2017

Hunted by Meagan Spooner


Since that movie came out, there's been a Beauty and the Beast craze around YA literature nowadays. Understandable, seeing as it's already a pretty popular tale for adaptations and reimaginings. Like any fairy tale adaptation, I've seen the best and the worst and so decided to give this one a shot. Let's see how it worked out.

Yeva and her family have hit a spot of trouble. A reckless business venture caused her father to lose all their money and so he and his three daughters are forced to move out to their hunting cabin in the woods. Yeva, however, is secretly thrilled as this means she can go out hunting in the woods like she used to. When her father goes missing, Yeva sets out to find him and comes across a terrible Beast that takes her out of time and space to train her to hunt for him. Yeva trains and becomes stronger under the Beasts guidance, but not seeking to kill his mysterious prey, but the Beast himself.

While other adaptations like to go straight for the throat and play out the "arranged marriage" message that this fairy tale plays out, this one is a little different. This one is a bit more formulaic, playing out the plot of the story but with a set up all its own. I was a bit worried they were going for a "liar revealed" sort of thing, but it that idea is quickly scrapped and the story progresses a bit more smoothly after that. It does manage to build chemistry between two characters who are essentially walking on eggshells around each other all the time. Yeva, as a main character, manages to avoid being a tough hick and a demure lady who just happens to know how to use a bow. She's flawed, irrational, unsatisfied but also caring and sympathetic and intelligent in a way that's neither snobbish or matter-of-fact. She trusts her gut, whether it's right or not, and I liked that about her.

One thing I really did like about this book was the descriptions of the woods and the world building. I read this book in the heat of summer, but this book had no problem making me feel the cold of winter. Also, I like that the castle in which the Beast lived was no day spa with servants waiting to pamper and spoil our protagonist. It's just as cold and mysterious as the woods surrounding it and I liked that about it. Nothing comes easy for Yeva in this story and I appreciated that. The Beast actually is a "no Prince Charming" but he's also not a raging abuser either. There's sense in what he does and the brief insights into what he thinks lets us see that his end is developing just as much as hers is. It all comes together very well.

Now, there is a problem I have with the book and it's kind of a big one. I don't get the ending to this thing at all. While I can understand, kinda, from a story perspective, this book is trying to teach us something and...I just don't get it. It has to deal with them both being unsatisfied even though they have everything they could want and...you're supposed to just settle? You can't always get what you want but if you try sometime you find you get what you need? Was that it? Also, there's a "twist" about the Beast's identity and...yeah I called it. It wasn't too hard to figure out. It wasn't a bad ending, per se, I just didn't get it. Well, my loss I guess.

Final Verdict
I appreciated a lot of this book, such as the great world building and the steady balances in the characters and the pacing of the romance. But the confusing ending left me a bit lost and that's never the kind of impression you want to leave your readers with. Still, overall, it's a pretty good book and worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: Beware the Raven King.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Death Note: L: Change the World by M



While this is a tie-in, alternate universe story to a manga series...it's still written like a traditional book so I'm counting it. I remember reading a bit of the original manga way back when it first came out and got into it again only recently. So when I found this book, I got it at once and decided to give it a shot. Let's see how it did.

L, the world's greatest detective, only has twenty three days to live. After defeating his nemesis, Kira,  L has a lot of loose ends to tie up before his inevitable end. So when a terrorist organization comes across a deadly virus that could wipe out not only the entire country of Japan, but most of the entire world, L takes up the challenge as his final case. There's a lot on the line and with one of the world's deadliest weapons, the Death Note, at his disposal L has his work cut out for him before time runs out on, not only him, but the whole world.

While the original Death Note series had more of a suspense/thriller feel to it, this story feels more like an action movie (which is appropriate because this was also a movie) with chases and escapes and fights. Now, while some people would look down on the action genre as just dumb entertainment, but I find that it can always be saved if the characters are interesting, and seeing as it's L, it does not disappoint. It's good to see that L, while taking a far more active role than we'd usually see him in, is still very much in character. His unassuming appearance and strange mannerisms hide his inner awesomeness and brilliance and make him just the kind of person to liven up what would otherwise be a pretty typical action story.

There's a lot in here that fans of Death Note are going to be happy to see other than L's return. The appearances from characters like Matsuda, Chief Yagami, Ryuk, and Near are a welcome call back to the original series. New additions like FBI agent Sugita also help to book to stand on it's own, and he does make a pretty good foil and is likable enough that you want to see him make it through. Though, as I mentioned before, this story works as a kind of alternate ending to the series, so if you don't know that going into it, you might get thrown off. I also like how it doesn't exactly spell out how Kira was defeated in this version and that you have to figure out exactly how it happened, a detail that puts a lot of faith in the readers.

If I had to nitpick, I would say that the only thing that really bothered me was the character of Maki. While she and L did have some really cute scenes and her involvement did open the door for a lot of L's character development, she was pretty annoying. There was this self-righteousness to her and an arrogance and ignorance to her that I just couldn't stand. I get that they were going for a childlike innocence kind of thing but it honestly got on my nerves more than it did open my eyes to anything. Was she more trouble than she was worth? Maybe. There was even a point in the story where I almost said, "Y'know what? Don't save her. Little idiot got herself in this mess." But, of course, that doesn't happen and, as I said, she does help the story overall so...there's that.

Final Verdict
An interesting story that any fan of Death Note or anyone interesting in starting the series would find to be a lot of fun, and certainly, a very welcomed return of an amazing character. Overall, for both a die hard fan or a curious onlooker, I'd say that this one is worth your money at your local bookstore.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next time: Belle wielding a bow and arrow...this better be good....