Saturday, September 16, 2017

The Breaking Light by Heather Hansen



Ugh. Let's get this over with. This one was really, really a chore this time people! I'm not kidding. It took force to get myself through this one. Not only is it painfully boring, not only is it contrived, but it doesn't even try to hide the fact that it's just a retelling of one of the oldest and most well known stories of all time...IN SPAAAACE! Let's begin.

Arden is a drug dealing gangster living in Undercity, the part of a colonized city on the surface of...I don't know, some planet that's not Earth, where the sun never shines and everyone is suffering. Dade is a privileged son of the Higher Levels, where he lives in the lap of luxury but has his fate controlled by his family. Both Arden's gang and Dade's family are caught in a desperate conflict for control of the city, destroying each other over the coveted sun drug VitD and both sides have vowed to destroy each other...which makes it most inconvenient when Arden and Dade fall madly in love with each other.

Yeah, you'll notice a lot of little things start to pop up in this story that seem oddly familiar. Two feuding families, a boy and a girl from each falling in love, a friendly holy man who tries to help them, them meeting up at a masquerade party....figure it out yet? Yup. This is Romeo and Juliet in space. The book does whatever it can to try and hide that too. This time it's Romeo who is running from an arranged marriage and Juliet who ends up killing people. Now, I wouldn't mind if this was just a retelling of Romeo and Juliet. I wouldn't mind it at all...if it weren't for the fact that the book would just admit that it was a retelling! I've looked at several different descriptions about this thing and nowhere does it just admit that this is Romeo and Juliet in space! Nowhere! Also, if you're going to make a retelling of a story this famous at least try and be subtle about it. I could never accept this as its own thing because it was so painfully, blatantly obvious that I just got distracted by the obvious rip-off scenes happening all over the place. Except for that piece of crap ending, but I'll get to that later....

Despite it being a rip off of Shakespeare of all things, this book has a ton of other problems. The instalove in this book is just laughable. Page one, page fricking one, she has a knife to his throat and all they can think about is how hot the other person is! Every second they are not in each others company, they are pining for each other. They constantly worry about each other and dwell on each other and think of how they can save each other...and they've only had one conversation in which they shared nothing about each other. Yeah, they know absolutely nothing about each other, they don't really have anything in common, and yet they are unbelievably and inexplicably in love with each other and go on and on about it ridiculously written, gag-inducing prose. Even as a Romeo and Juliet retelling this...does...not...work! It's silly and so unbelievably stupid that we can't take the main characters seriously. Nobody falls in love like this. In a play, you only have so much time to start a romance but in a novel you can take your time and develop them! This kind of crap just makes your characters look like idiots and we can't get behind their relationship.

Also, the plot tries to clash the play's story with that of a tired, deeply cliche dystopian story that we've heard a thousand times the same way. Plus, you knew exactly which roles certain characters play in the book. You have the sassy gay friend (or cousin or whatever), you have the muscle who helps the boy, you have the conniving mean girl, it's all so tired and I just couldn't give a crap about any of them. Heck, I don't think that the muscle guy even has more than five lines in this thing and we're still supposed to care about him. If you know the play, which everyone does, and you are familiar with YA cliches, which a lot of people do, it comes together to form a story that nothing but formulaic and boring! I was unbelievably bored looking into this book. Nothing came as a surprise. No plot twist or character death was felt in this thing. I didn't care about anyone or anything and that was the biggest problem with the book.

Now...let's get to the ending. I don't feel like this deserves it but, I'll put a spoiler warning up just in case anyway...

*SPOILER ALERT* So, death plays a big part in the story of Romeo and Juliet. Heck, everyone knows the iconic ending of the play. In the context of that play, the deaths of Romeo and Juliet is a bitter lesson for the two families and they see just how destructive their feud is and how the tragedy is a warning of the mixture of pride and adolescence. Here, however....all that significance is thrown straight out the window for the heroic and super dumb YA ending where the deaths were just fake outs and the two main characters brace themselves for an obvious sequel. That's right, this Romeo and Juliet retelling...has a sequel. That's stupid. It's all stupid! This book is so unbelievably STUPID! Romeo and Juliet is a TRAGEDY! It's right there in the frigging TITLE! It's not about ultimate love, it's about how pride and youth are a dangerous combination and, if not handled properly, can have horrible consequences! But this piece of tripe, it's bland love that saves the day...except not really because their families are still fighting and how they have nowhere to go. These two lovers still know absolutely nothing about each other except how frigging in love they are and I just...just...arrgh! This ending just pissed me off like you wouldn't believe! *END OF SPOILERS*

Final Verdict
I absolutely hated this book. I don't even like Romeo and Juliet all that much and this made it even worse! Seriously folks, it's a waste of time. If you have any interest at all in this thing, just pick up Shakespeare and throw this thing where it belongs in the Waste Bin of Despair!

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: I have got to get me...one of each of these weapons because these are legit!

Monday, September 11, 2017

Ruined by Amy Tintera



While I'm glad that Game of Thrones and other such stories have breathed new life into fantasy epics in this modern time, it can be both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is we get new and innovative ideas and brand new adventures involving politics and intrigue and danger, while the curse is getting boring tripe like this dished out to us. Let's just dive in.

Emelina Flores has lost her kingdom and her family to the neighboring kingdom of Lera. Hoping for a chance to save her only family left, her sister Olivia, she infiltrates the Lera kingdom disguised as the princess their prince is meant to marry. As the prince's betrothed Em can save what's left of her people, the powerful Ruined race, rescue her sister, and bring justice to the kingdom that caused her so much grief. It is unfortunate, therefore, that her new husband is kind and thoughtful and just a wonderful person and she starts to develop real feelings for him while also planning the destruction of his whole family.

Now, the concept has promise, it really does. That's why I picked this book up to begin with. There was hope for this book. Sadly, that hope just goes straight out the window because the entire execution of this concept is so horribly BLAND! I'm sorry but...I was very bored throughout this whole thing. Nothing came as a surprise. Everything was predictable. Everything just...fell short! Em as a main character was crazy forgettable. The book tries to make her this big deal by making her tough and have her kill people and constantly think up plans on how she'd kill everyone in the room...but her personality is as vapid as they come. Oh, and she's a terrible spy! She can't help herself from saying things that the person she's imitating would never say. She goes out of her way to defend the Ruined and practically announces to everyone that she's a Ruined supporter...in a castle full of people who want the Ruined exterminated. Real smooth, lady.  Cas, the prince, is as generic as they come. He's raised in this family that openly hates the Ruined and yet he sympathizes with them and totally agrees with everything Em says. How can he be such a person when raised in an environment that teaches nothing but hate towards the Ruined? Because the plot said so, that's why.

If bland is the first word I'd use to describe this book, the second would be vague. This book can be incredibly vague about everything from geography to what exactly the Ruined can do. What are the Ruined powers, what exactly can they do or can't do....I have no bloody clue. Is it like telekinesis? Kind of. Some can control elements...I think? Yeah, we're given no inkling about different types of Ruined there are, what stages of power they possess, what's possible or impossible for them...nothing. And Em doesn't have any powers and is labeled as useless...why? Why is she useless? We don't know. We're never told. Also, there's a lot of talk about these different countries and how they are set up but...there's no map with this book. This book needs a map. Because I have no idea where they're going or which direction there is or how the land is set up. They start talking about Lera being set up in a jungle and...they never even mentioned it was in a jungle before. How far south is it compared to Vallos, it's supposed neighbor that's a two day carriage ride away, when Vallos is apparently a forest and has snow? Like I said. MAP!

Lastly, there's just not anything new in this book. It tries to be edgy and dark by killing characters and describing violence...but the violence happens offscreen (or off page or whatever) and the characters that are killed are ones we don't care about. This book clearly wanted to be mature...but not too mature. I held itself back and fit itself into YA standards that said we can't make it too grown up and scare away the teenage girls who could be made into potential Em/Cas shippers.

Final Verdict
Far too tame to be taken seriously, too predictable to be interesting, too little and way too late. I don't know, some people might like it but it's just not for me. If you really wanna check it out...then 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: For never has there been a tale of more woe than that of a drug dealer and her Shmomeo.

Thursday, September 7, 2017

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern


Circus's aren't quite what they used to be, what with the Ringling Brothers Circus closing down a few months ago and such acts becoming scarcer and scarcer as years go by. However, if they were more like this place, I think they might just make a comeback. Morgenstern builds a world in which magic not only exists, but it's available to be viewed by the masses.

Le Cirque des Rêves is a fantastical world in which eager patrons can come and witness true magic without ever really knowing what they're seeing. The breathing carousel, the Ice Garden that never melts, the human statues, the lingering smell of caramel and popcorn all creates an amazing experience which some people can't seem to get enough of. But there is more going on at the Circus than they might think. The Cirque is a battleground in which two young illusionists, Celia and Marco, are pitted against one another by their mentors in a test of endurance to see which of the two of them will be victorious. But the binding of these two magicians creates a bond far beyond that of competitors and the Cirque and everyone involved in it are put in potential danger as the game becomes more and more dangerous.

The prose in this book is just astounding. The author's voice perfectly depicts the amazing feelings of being in the circus and the feats you see within it. The black-and-white Burtonesque feel that the circus has is portrayed very well in several second-person chapters in which you take a personal journey through the circus and guiding you through the experience. The descriptions of magic and what it does and can do in this world are also very interesting. You can bottle the sensation of being in a certain place, you can have your future read in the stars and your past read off your face, materials can reshape themselves into animals and you can see just how much magic can influence the circus.

As for the plot, the concept of it is certainly interesting. Celia is brought up by her arrogant father and Marco by the mysterious Mr. A.H. (unfortunate initials, I know) and yet find themselves coming together despite being pitted against one another. You quickly get a knack for these characters and what they can do and how they become an intricate part of the circus. Celia is kind but stubborn (especially in regards to her father) and doesn't take crap from people. Marco is clever and charming and can manipulate the circus without actually being there. There is a large cast of performers and managers that add a lot of color to the black-and-white circus, including an enigmatic contortionist, a pair of twin kitten tamers, and the eccentric owner Chandresh Christophe Lefèvre. I also really liked the idea of the rêveurs, a kind of cirque fan club that makes it their goal to follow the circus as often as possible.

The one complaint I've seen about this book is that the pacing was a bit too slow and, while I see where people are coming from in saying that, I didn't really have a problem with that. It is very Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell-esque in that it takes its time and develops a lot of characters and not just our two leads. The story at large takes place over roughly thirty years in the lives of Celia and Marco, before the Cirque even exists, and expands through to the end of the competition. While some might have hoped that magicians fighting would be a bombastic event full of magical explosions and such, I'm going to warn you right now that you won't be getting that (though there is at least one explosion). The magic in this book, while impressive, is also very subtle. It's meant to be the kind of thing that amazes muggle eyes yet is quiet enough that they can believe that it is just another deception. The tension as Celia and Marco grow closer to one another is palpable and requires time and energy, which this book gives. While Marco is very impressed with Celia the moment they meet, their romance takes years to develop, which is something that I value having read as many YA instal-love stories as I have.

Note: I certainly hope that this review does not warrant knife-throwing.

Final Verdict
This book promises magic and it gives it to us. Descriptions and prose that are positively palpable, an eccentric cast, a subtle and complex plot make this book definitely one for 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: Sometimes, love can just Ruin everything....

Sunday, September 3, 2017

Winemaker of the North by J.T. Williams



Don't let the title fool you: this isn't about fantasy characters getting tipsy and having fun. This is thrilling, enchanting, nail-biting, and surprisingly heartfelt fantasy adventure about a man learning to let go of what he's taught and daring to believe in what is right.

Sviska is an assassin, raised by the Order, to carry out their wishes and execute whomever they send him to. When one such assignment is botched, he is then sent on a "succeed-or-die" mission to the mysterious city of Elianthrond. In this city, magic, something he'd been raised to believe is blasphemy, runs rampant and he meets dwarves, elves, dragon tamers and many more. Sviska learns that he's to pose as their new winemaker, who is really more of a potion-brewer, to create a special wine to save the inhabitants from a curse threatening to destroy them all. Sviska quickly finds himself torn, unsure if he is to serve the Order he's been bound to all his life, or save the one place in all the world that has ever felt like home.

With the main character being an assassin, I was glad to see that there is more to Sviska as a character than just a heartless killing machine. He's very human, something most characters in this profession don't tend to be. He's curious, he's jumpy, he's polite, and he allows himself to feel lost and no longer in control when put in a situation he doesn't understand. He's a very realistic character that way, he's capable of realistic emotion and you feel as he does. I really enjoyed Sviska's character and was happy to be going through this journey with him.

The city and inhabitants of Elianthrond are also very well written. These creatures and the people who live in this place make for a great community. When you see just how devastating this curse is that afflicts them, you really come to feel for them and want them to get the help they need. Not to mention that certain aspects of this place are actually really cool. Priests are warriors, dragons are pets, mermaids and sirens are surprisingly helpful (unless you cross them), dwarves make great drinking buddies, ogres make awesome barbecue (not as suspicious as it sounds), it's just a really fun place. As Sviska falls in love with it and wants to help those who live there, you do as well. There's also a great mythological set up to this place. The history and mythos are well-established and you come to really feel for this place.

Now, those things being said, there were times when the tone suffered in this thing. There were long stretches of just relaxing or traveling and then lengthy battles that just kind of pop up. Still, I never felt lost as I can sometimes do when there is too much action or feel bored when things slow down. I was also a little worried in the beginning because this story could very easily gone through a "liar revealed" plot line where the person who isn't who they say they are is outed and all of a sudden they're a traitor and nobody listens to what they have to say, even if it'll save their lives (looking at you, A Bug's Life). Thankfully, while there is a tiny bit of that, it is resolved very quickly and mostly forgotten by the next chapter. You have no idea how grateful I was for this. The "liar revealed" is a story cliche that just drives me up the wall so to see it handled well just makes me happy.

The ending of the book did come off as a little rushed, trying to establish what is coming next in the series while wrapping up a pretty intense battle. They try to throw in a long, lost friend/rival that they never brought up before which could have used a bit more attention or foreshadowing or...anything really because it kind of came out of left field but, overall I felt it was a solid start to a series.

Final Verdict
Great world-building, a sympathetic yet strong lead, a lively ensemble, and an action packed plot made for quite the adventure in this book. If this is your thing, I'd say check it out because it's 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: If this circus ever comes to town, shut up and take my money!

Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs



Conspiracies, murder, catastrophic disasters...just another day in your average tiny tourist town, right? This book possesses intrigue the likes of which I've been missing for awhile now. I had no idea what was going on half the time and guessing these things just makes it all the more fun. Let's dive right in.

Min Wilder and Noah Livingston both have a serious problem. Every two years, on their even-year birthday, a man comes and kills them...only to have them awaken miles away, alive and completely unharmed. Both desperately crave answers, especially when things in their small town of Fire Lake get really out of control. Government agents invade and take over the town, adults start behaving mysteriously, natural disasters are slowly wiping out parts of the world, and a planet-killer asteroid called the Anvil could be on a collision course straight for earth.  Min and Noah are soon thrown into a chaotic world that they just don't understand and try and solve the mysteries of what his happening to the world or it could be then end of them all.

Sounds pretty intense, doesn't it? Well, it certainly is! The mystery and danger aspects of this book are its real selling point. It does a good job of keeping you in the dark without hoarding information and keeping things frustratingly cryptic. It knows just when to give and when to hold back. The dark tone of this book is also very well captured as you learn about the chaotic events taking place throughout the world. You feel the weight of all that is happening and you share the feeling of impending doom. Heck, the events in this book are supposed to take place later this year! I almost feel the need to stock up my disaster kit just in case these predictions turn out to be right (though, admittedly, the book didn't manage to correctly predict the gender of our current president).

The characters of Min and Noah work great as a pair of leading characters. Min lives in a trailer park and is generally a social outcast, but she's brave and possesses a strong sense of right and wrong and is able to stand up for herself. Noah is the richest kid in town and hangs with the school bullies, but he's timid and generally unable to stand up for himself or anyone else, even if he knows it is the right thing to do. As you learn about both of their experiences, how they both cope with being murdered year after year and how they've tried to escape it, you see how each of them became the person that they are. You see their experiences build them into who they ultimately are and you come to really know them and care about what happens to them.

Admittedly, I was enjoying the book a bit more in the first half of the book rather than the second half. It soon becomes more of a Lord of the Flies type story with the bullies reigning supreme and when the answers do start coming in...I'm not entirely sure they makes sense but it is still just the first book so, more answers are sure to come. It's still interesting seeing the lengths these people will go to in order to preserves life....wait a minute. Preserving life....oh my gosh! This could be a Scythe prequel! Reichs and Shusterman could be in cahoots with each other to make this a stealth prequel like Prometheus was for Aliens....and Split and Unbreakable are in the same universe...and Nilbog is Goblin spelled backwards....and the cake is a lie...and the Illuminati is real...and (takes a minute to compose)....maybe these conspiracies are starting to get to me.

Final Verdict
This book was a thrilling and intense ride. The mystery, the action, the suspense all come together in a tale about the end of the world and just how far the human race will go in the pursuit of extending life. While it has its ups and downs, I'd say that this book is totally 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: A world in which drinking wine saves your life? Huh.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King




You get a book for free with Amazon Prime, you think it looks interesting, you see it trending on Goodreads and so you decide, "Sure, why not? Should be good, right?" Well, nope. This was another tough one to get through, ladies and gentlemen. We are not out of the times of Wannabe books quite yet. Sure, we don't have as many WannabeTwilight books anymore but we are far, far away from escaping the WannabeHungerGames books any time soon. Let's just dive in.

Kalinda has lived all her life as an anonymous orphan in the Sisterhood temple, wanting only to live in peace with her best friend Jaya. But that doesn't look like it's going to happen because she's suddenly Claimed by the rajah of Tarachand to be his bride. But not just any bride, his one hundredth and final bride and queen who must compete for her place in the palace. But Kalinda's worries are only just beginning as she finds herself thrown into the midst politics and scheming and death matches and finding out just how super special awesome she is!

Yeah, I quickly lost patience with this thing. I'm not kidding about how they make it very, very clear that Mary-Sue...I mean, Kalinda is the most special-est of special people in the history of special. She's the rajah's champion, she's the reincarnation of a legendary queen, she's a Fire Bender (I know they're called bhutas in this world, but let's be honest, who do they think they're fooling?), she's the rarest kind of Bender it is possible to be, she's a long lost princess, etc. etc. Seriously, this book throws every cliche "secret history/origin" story at us to make sure we know that Kalinda is really, really important and stuff, okay? Oh, and let's not forget everybody thinks she's beautiful but she thinks she's plain and she's a weak fighter yet always manages to defeat people stronger than she is. Those are Rules To Creating Your Own Mary Sue one and two!

In fact, they throw every cliche at us that they can possibly think of. Kalinda falls in love with the very first man she sees ever (and I mean it, the very first man she meets), who is so generic and bland he loves her back instantly and has both the most unoriginal job (Captain of the Guard) and scent (sandalwood, why is it always sandalwood?). And of course she has to participate in a tournament where people praise her for doing absolutely nothing and we don't even meet the other 99 wives except the ones that we can lump into generic stereotypes like the gossiping, vain airhead stereotypes, the jealous "I want to kill you really bad" first wife stereotype and the "pregnant so she must be a nice person because all pregnant women are nice people"stereotype. I have just seen so many people just like this so many times the same way that it's hard to see them as anything new or original. They even have rebels with an untrustworthy leader that our noble hero clashes with because we can't just get this story frigging over with.

Because it follows such and obvious pattern, it's hard to find anything truly challenging or even new. I  could see just about every twist in this story coming. Nothing comes as a surprise. Character dies, called it. One person betrays another, called it. Oh this person is really dead, they're totally dead, you really have to believe me guys this person didn't make it, they are gone forever, dead as a doornail, cadaverific, oh wait no they're not, I friggin' called it! Plus it throws in these dark and grisly deaths and rapey moments (though not actual rape because that would be going too far) with the rajah and a recycled rebellion plot line that tries it's hardest to make the book seem more edgy and complex than it really is. Well, you're selling it, but I'm just not buying it book!

Final Verdict 
This book was a bit of a mess. It tried too hard to be other books and brought in almost nothing new or original. Our Mary-Sue main character is too perfect to be relatable, the love interest is bland, the plot is borrowed, I didn't fall for any of these plot twists (if you can call them that) and I'm putting this one right in the Waste Bin of Despair. 

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: Stanger Things are happening in Fire Lake....

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny



It's amazing what you can find in a Recommendations category when you're bored and decided, "Huh, that looks interesting." I'd never heard of this book before an Audible browsing binge awhile ago but found it was a very fortunate find. Let's dive right in.

Before all of creation, there was Amber, the only true world. All other worlds are but Shadows, including ours. When Corwin wakes up on the Shadow world that is Earth with no idea as to who he is or what has happened to him, all he knows is that Amber calls to him. Corwin is one of fifteen original princes, now only nine remain, and all are vying for a chance to become the next king. As Corwin ventures deeper into Shadow and learns the truth of his destiny, the one thing he knows for sure is that it is his destiny to be the next ruler in Amber and he'd do whatever it takes to secure the throne for himself.

One thing that really stood out to me was that the writing of this story is very matter-of-fact. It really does feel like Corwin telling the story, as any first person narrative should. It actually starts almost Bourne Identity style with an amnesiac protagonist slowly figuring out that he's got impressive and deadly skills and wondering who the heck he is to know such things. However, it quickly delves into fantasy without preamble. It was almost a little shocking, the transition from one to another, but that was the desired affect and it was pulled off splendidly. However, the matter-of-fact style tended to lead to a lack of deep detail, especially once the fighting starts. There's a lot of "I did this" and "I stabbed one guy", etc. While some might complain that this takes away from affect and doesn't do much to help the readers be invested, I actually kind of liked it because it always felt like Corwin telling the story. It never broke character to wax poetic and I appreciated that. First person narratives aren't all told from the perspectives of master storytellers and I got that from this book. It stayed very much in character.

Speaking of character, Corwin is a very interesting protagonist. He's a delicate balance of positives and negatives. He fights brilliantly but he's also a bit of a liar (he fools those around him about his amnesia for an impressively long time). He's cocky and arrogant but also cares about the lives of those who support him. He doesn't give up, even when he's likely to lose. He's a glutton. He can feel pity and despair but has no problem leaving people behind. Just a very complex character who people can appreciate as being both flawed and powerful. That's what makes the clipped dialogue work so well. He puts the emphasis where he, as a character, feels it. He thinks very little of cutting down enemies in combat and so the combat scenes aren't dwelt on. When he's trying to spare the lives of his men, you want him to win and you sympathize with his plight. There's even a point in the book that was actually really hard to get through because Corwin is suffering and you feel the suffering with him. It was just incredibly done.

The rest of the cast is pretty interesting too. This royal family is full of manipulators and backstabbers and everyone has their own agenda. It's also pretty easy, despite there being nine brothers, to recognize them after awhile. Conniving Eric, timid Random, valiant Bleys, nobel Julian, everyone stood out. It's also clear that, when bonded together, these brothers make for a deadly force but they are so busy fighting amongst themselves that it's impossible to do so. Each one is greedy and wants to be king or else see the brother they know will give them comfort as king. The set up is full of political intrigue that people just eat up and, I admit, I did too.

But one of the best details of the book was the Shadow worlds. The descriptions of the multitudes of worlds and how they came to be and the creativity behind them is just amazing. It brings a great deal of scope to this universe, giving it that great fantasy vibe. From the underwater reflection of Amber called the Kingdom of Rebma (geddit?) to multicolored realms full of everything from dinosaurs to hairy people with the intelligence of high school freshmen (I laughed out loud at that one).

Final Verdict
This book was a very lucky find. A great main character, to-the-point dialogue that matched the personality of the narrator, a rich plot with great environment. Hard to believe I find two books in a row that are worthy of 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: 99 wives to fight in a game, 99 wives to fight.....

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau



It's been awhile since I found something this hard to put down! Royal coups and inner turmoil abound in this novel, without unnecessary fluff and padding just to make it longer and, therefore, seem more epic. In just over 300 pages, this book manages to dish out all the politics and scheming it promises. Let's get right into it.

Carys and Andreus, twin brother and sister of the King of Eden, were never supposed to inherit the throne. But when their father and brother show up dead and their mother is driven mad, an empty throne needs to be filled. While a plot begins to eliminate them both from the line of succession altogether, the seeress of Eden discovers another method: a series of trials set up by the Council and the winner of these trials takes the throne. Carys and Andreus, both of whom possess deadly secrets, undertake a series of obstacles (some of which have nothing to do with the trials) and their love for each other is pushed to the breaking point by those who would see them both eliminated.

Just the set up of this story is very good. While trials themselves almost take a backseat in the story, the real good stuff comes from the political intrigue that runs deep through this story. It's set up like a game of chess, where the pieces think for themselves and everyone has their own motive. The wide array of characters pulls you into this world of discord and lets you see just how far the corruption in this kingdom runs, and it's all handled beautifully. There's also very little mercy in this book. Things can get pretty dark as the plots come together and how it affects our protagonists. The perspective jumps between the two siblings and you see how this affects each of them differently. It's like a perfect mash-up between Game of Thrones and The Hunger Games. The Hunger Game of Thrones, if you will.

What I liked best in this story is that both main characters are likable and relatable, while at the same time being deeply flawed. Carys is an addict and can come off a bit snappish, but she's also fiercely protective of her brother and willing to help people, even if it costs her. Andreus is active, friendly, and shows deep kindness and caring towards his ward, Max. However, he's also a playboy, easily corrupted and more than a bit jealous. Such a brilliant balance of character allows you to see, in detail, how this corrupt world starts to weigh on them. When they are pitted against each other, you can understand how both of them feels and why they react the way they do. Andreus, in particular, goes down a very dark path in this book, but you can understand why and still hope that he can see the err of his ways, rather than wishing anything bad would happen to him. You aren't rooting for one or the other, you want them both to come out of this okay, and that's the beauty of this book.

As I said before, the trials aren't really the focus of the story, even thought they were a pretty big selling point of the book to begin with. They are also supposed to correlate with these virtues that the kingdom values but...I don't really get what shooting a bow and arrow has to do with any of these virtues. They also go by really quickly but, then again, that's also a bit of an advantage. If we took three days for each of these trials to get over with, this book would be needlessly drawn out. It gets to the point, and while I didn't always see what they had to do with virtue, it didn't waste our time with needless padding and I appreciated that. It knew where the real meat of the story was and stuck to it.

Finally, you can't have a story where the kingdom is called "Eden" without it being pretty heavy on the symbolism. They live in Garden City, Carys drinks from a red bottle (symbolizing an apple, perhaps?), antagonistic characters described as looking like "a serpent" and "the devil", a woman leading the man astray, etc are all little details I noticed throughout the book. There's probably more and noticing little details like that adds to the rich yet subtle storytelling that this book gives us and I really enjoyed it.

Final Verdict
I've missed finding books that have me this pumped for the next installment. It's to-the-point, yet rich in plot. It's heartbreaking yet intriguing. Throw in some Bible references for flavor and we have a welcome addition to 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: You won't find any brotherly love among these guys....

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Enchanted Swans by Christy Nicholas



It's been a while since I read a fairy tale based novel and so I decided to go with one that wasn't just another Grimm retelling and branch out a bit. I've always been fascinated by Celtic lore and this one caught my interest awhile ago and I decided it was time to give it a shot. Let's see how it did.

Fionnuala, daughter of a faerie king, is struggling to keep things together. Her mother died in childbirth, her father's going crazy, she has two baby brothers to look after, and the High King wants her father and her secret boyfriend to marry his daughters. As she struggles with losing her boyfriend and dealing with her new stepmother, her troubles only seem to get worse. Soon, Nuala and her brothers are all transformed by a terrible curse that traps them in the bodies of swans for a grueling 900 years.

One thing I'd like to acknowledge right away is that it's clear that this author knows her stuff when it comes to Celtic lore. The set up of the fae world and its descriptions and way of life and very detailed and fleshed out. In fact, detailed is a good word for this book. There's a lot of emphasis on atmosphere and beauty of areas and landscapes. It quickly became clear to me that this subject matter is a big deal to the author and they did a good job of conveying that through the writing.

That being said, the detail can also become something of a problem in this book. Now, for the first half of the book, which takes place before the curse, it works fine. The latter half of the book, however, is where it suffers. Once the curse hits and our characters are turned into swans, this book drags. The pace grinds to a halt and it just crawls on for page after page of nothing happening. Now, this may not entirely be the author's fault. As I said before, this book is based on a fairy tale and so sticking to the original formula could be where the problem is. How do you make being stuck in the same location as a bird for 900 years interesting? I know I'd have a hard time with it! It was an uphill battle to begin with and, while the author tries to throw battles with the antagonist and a few curse-breaking attempts and more beautiful descriptions to liven things up, it ultimately doesn't captivate the audience because we know how it ends (if you know the fairy tale it's based off of anyway).

Another problem I had with the book was that of the main character, Nuala. Oh boy, was this girl a drama queen! Now, in some cases, she had good reason to be upset. She's got a lot to deal with and I understood that. What I didn't understand is why she always needed to burst into tears and run off and throw herself down on her bed and weep Disney Princess style. Every little thing has her running off and feeling sorry for herself, but then she boasts about how she can't afford to cry because she's the oldest and has to be strong for her brothers. The problem is she isn't very strong and while she does manage to put on a brave front occasionally, the audience is stuck in her melodramatic head the whole time. I just wasn't crazy about her.

Now, for the biggest problem I had with the book, I'm going to have to put the Spoiler Warning up again so, if you don't want it ruined, just skip down to the Final Verdict.

*SPOILER ALERT* The thing about enduring the grueling latter half of this book, as you're waiting for their curse to break and you're being dragged along with all their melodrama and watching everyone around them die, it's safe to guess that their curse will break and everything will be okay, right? Well, no. No, that is not the case. Once they regain human form, they age rapidly and die within a fortnight. How friggin' sucky is that!? I admit, I don't know the original fairy tale but, if I did and it ends like this, I might not have picked this book up at all. I wouldn't expect a novel based on a fairy tale I know to be sad like The Little Match Girl or something to end happily and contradict the lesson the original is trying to teach. Because I didn't know, all I got out of the ending was "Life sucks and then you die." But...at least they all grow up so they don't have to die virgins? Yeah, that's the compensation that the book tries to give us to make up for such a crappy ending. Real nice. *END OF SPOILERS*

Final Verdict
This book was a bit of a slog to get through. Long periods of dragging, lots of melancholy, and a pretty unsatisfactory ending. Still, if you know the original tale and still want to give the book a shot, you might have a better time with it than I did and want to give it a shot...just 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: Two heirs, one throne, and lots of symbolism to go around...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Son of Soron by Robyn Wideman



One of the most common tools in writing a fantasy story is the structure of "The Hero's Journey". All types of fantasy stories from The Hobbit to Star Wars have used this formula. It works fairly well in most cases and, as long as there is something new and inventive added to keep the story interesting and avoid predictability, can make for a good story. However, if you do not add anything new or inventive then you get stories like this.

Nathan Stoneblood is a young boy living a simple life in a simple village with his blacksmith father and potion-maker mother. But when tragedy strikes Nathan's home village, he soon discovers the truth of who he is: that he is the descendent of not one, but two royal bloodlines. This not only means that he has claim to two of the greatest kingdoms in the world but he's also a perfect blend of strength and magic found in his parents' home countries. Nathan must step out into the world and protect those he holds dear from those who would do them further harm.

Sounds pretty generic as far as fantasy stories go, doesn't it? Well...yeah. Yeah, it really is. This story is so formulaic that I pretty quickly got impatient with it. Especially when, for a story that sticks to such a well-known formula, it goes so slow! It takes forever to get anywhere in this book, mostly because we keep stopping to focus on just how friggin' amazing and perfect Nathan is at everything! Yup, Nathan is yet another Gary Stu. Everything that this kid takes on, he learns it in almost no time at all. He's fourteen and in the span of this book, he becomes a master blacksmith, potion-maker, bowman, horseback rider, fighter, magic-user AND strategist. I'm sorry but...that's just way too much! Nothing, nothing, is a struggle for this character. He takes everything on with perfection so when he gets the point in the book where "he might not make it out alive" we're not worried about him because he's handled everything else so perfectly there's no way he can lose!

The side characters aren't much better, I have to say. Ava, our love interest, is so annoying and rude and picky that I honestly felt Nathan should leave her whining butt behind and move on to greener pastures. Nathan's parents are there for almost half the book being the most perfect parents this world has ever known before you know what eventually happens (because what else happens to perfect parents in fantasy stories?!) His uncle comes in and just kind of serves as a bland mentor figure. The villain...I honestly forgot all about him for a long time and is just generically evil wanting money and power and yada yada. You care absolutely nothing for anyone in this book. They're just stand ins for every fantasy character you've ever read in your life.

The story crawls at a snail's pace as loose ends that we don't even care about are taken care of in great and boring detail. We spend days with Nathan reestablishing trade routes and showing off how awesome he is and making friends with freaking everyone! Imagine that a good twenty minutes of Star Wars was devoted to Luke selling his uncle's moisture farm and instructing the new owners everything there is to know about moisture farming. Be pretty boring wouldn't it? That's what this story does. It just goes on and on about mundane things or going over plot points already discussed so that the reader just gets bored waiting for something to actually happen. But even when things do happen, Nathan handles it all so perfectly that there's no reason to be worried. There's no suspense, there's no tension, there's barely any conflict outside of two battles against Evil McEvilface (like I'm going to remember such a boring villain's name) and some bandits. Other than that, it's long stretches of exposition that does nothing to enthrall the audience.

Lastly, I think the editor needed to go over this one a couple more times. I found so many grammatical errors that I was honestly kind of shocked. I've never seen this kind of problem of this scale in a published book before. Sometimes you find some, like an uncapitalized word or a missing punctuation mark. But here? I found wrong words, missing periods, missing commas, uncapitalized words and tons more! The most excitement I get out of a book really shouldn't be counting all the errors I find throughout the thing.

Final Verdict
Boring, uninventive, not very well written, this one is just a mess. Lots of buildup for very little reward. Unlike A Quest of Heroes where it was so cliche is was kind of hilarious, this one wasn't even "so bad it's good" material. In the end, I'm sorry to say our first book of a new year is the first to go into the Waste Bin of Despair.

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: Swan Lake, this is not....

Friday, August 4, 2017

Top Ten Best Books of the Year!

I honestly can't believe that it's been a year since I started writing this thing! Along the way, I've done more reading than I think I've done in years and have found some amazing books from the most unexpected places. I've even gotten to speak to some wonderful people and have never been more grateful for the world of literature. So, in celebration of my one year anniversary, I've comprised too lists of my top ten favorite and least favorite books I've reviewed over the past year. So, without further ado: The Best of the Shelf and the Worst of the Waste Bin!

It's been an amazing ride and I've managed to discover some great gems! So, I give you:

The Best of the Shelf (Top 10 Best)


10 The School for Good and Evil



While intended for a generally younger audience than most of the books I've come across this year, this one is definitely one of the most fun. Sophie and Agatha made me laugh and cry and feel and I just loved them for that. Creative, insightful, clever...it's just a fun ride with great humor.

9 Stalking Jack the Ripper


While the twist is not so great...I can't help it I really liked this one! The historical inaccuracies may turn some people off but the additions of great suspense, an awesome protagonist, thrilling detail that is unafraid to explore the world of the macabre. There's a lot of heart in this story that makes up for any problems (and even if you guess the ending it's still a great climax).

8 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell


Such a rich and wonderful story! A battle against rivals that's full of detail and delightful cheek. It's nice to find a book of this caliber that doesn't go out of its way to try and push the envelope with graphic violence or sex or anything of the sort. This book stayed classy right to the end. Add great characters, and amazing villain, mystery and allure and this thing is well worth the very long read.

7 The Queen's Poisoner


Despite the lead being only an eight year old, this book is deeply complex. You really feel the main character's struggle as he tries to survive in a world he barely understands. We feel for him, we want to see him come through. The characterization is amazing, the king is a great take on a classic baddy, and I could kick myself for years wishing I had the brains to come up with a concept so intricate and cool as the Fountain. Just loved it.

6 Master Wu's Bride


Here's a story I really appreciated for its simplicity. There was no need for magic powers and daring escapes or anything like that. Just a wonderfully written story of a unique woman in a unique situation and how she managed to make a life for herself despite living in a world where everything is against her. The values of determination and patience and perseverance where just inspiring and loved this book for it. Fantastic.

5 Alice Takes Back Wonderland


Oh my gosh, this book was FUN! So much color and energy and wit and charm and...gosh, I really liked this book! Definitely one of the best Alices I've read about with a great attitude who took on responsibilities willingly and readily. The takes on other classic characters are also ones that hold their own and just have fun and make for memorable additions to the story that I still remember after reading it almost a year ago. Well paced, great concept, amazing characters, a sawed-off shotgun...and Cthulhu. Just read it!

4 Six of Crows


I had a hard time deciding between this one and the one in the number three spot over which is better. While the other one won out just a little bit, that doesn't mean that this book isn't also fantastic. A great ensemble of vastly interesting characters, a thrilling heist with lots of detail, and a really dark and complex world. Though the book is split between several characters and their points of view, it stays on track and never makes one feel lost. The intricacies of the plot and the vastly interesting backstories of the characters make this one a must read for just about anyone!

3 The Palace Job


While also a heist story, this one won out over the last entry just barely for several reasons. Firstly, it has a lighter tone which made it a bit more enjoyable. Also it had an even bigger cast than Six of Crows yet still managed to make everyone memorable and have everyone feel needed and balanced within the story. There's a lot of wit and charm in this story that I just connected with a bit more. The characters are all wonderful, the schemes are a ton of fun, everything fit well together. It was smart, it was clever, I just loved it.

2 The Looking Glass Wars


The book, without which, this blog would not exist. It brought back a fire that I had thought I lost for a long time and just had to share it with the world. The amazing characters, the wonderfully imaginative settings, the weapons (oh the beautiful weapons!). It manages to capture everything it promises: Wonderland and a war. A character's loss is felt, a person's struggles weight you down just as much as if you're experiencing it for yourself. Alyss is just a great character with charm and strength, Her Imperial Viciousness is just a delight as a villain, the creativity is astounding, there's just too much to love in this book. It's absolutely amazing and needs to be more of a thing! 

1 Scythe


So smart, so wonderful, so inventive...I could go on all day about this one. It's such a delicate balance between the lives of two great characters, who balance each other out to the very end. The set up for this world is so clever and fun, the characters are so full of life and personality, and yet it's a book about becoming a dealer of death and doesn't shy way from those dark undertones. It questions what you would do in the scenario in which these people are placed. It makes you think what it would be like to live in this complex world. The villain...oh the villain! Understandable without being sympathetic, evil yet relatable, our world needs more villains like him. The main characters and the struggles they go through really hit home and you feel for them and relate with them and care about this. I cannot praise this book enough. It is, without a doubt, the best book I've read this year!

Honorable Mentions
The Thrawn Trilogy (Star Wars at its finest)
The Holtur Enigma (Thank you, Mr. Smith, for allowing me to read this awesome book!)
Esper Files (fun, exciting, and Baron Overkill)
Caraval (Thrilling and magical and just a cool idea)
Wucaii (Thank you, Ms. Sinclair, for letting me read this!)
Awoken (One of the worst books I've ever read...but seeing as that's the intention...could it also be one of the best books I've ever read?)

It's been an amazing year! Here's hoping the next year's worth of books is just as good!

Next Time: Boy, I really hope you like build up....

Top Ten Worst Books of the Year!

I honestly can't believe that it's been a year since I started writing this thing! Along the way, I've done more reading than I think I've done in years and have found some amazing books from the most unexpected places. I've even gotten to speak to some wonderful people and have never been more grateful for the world of literature. So, in celebration of my one year anniversary, I've comprised too lists of my top ten favorite and least favorite books I've reviewed over the past year. So, without further ado: The Best of the Shelf and the Worst of the Waste Bin!

Let's just get the negatives out first so we can appreciate the good a bit more, 'kay? So, I present to you:

The Worst of the Waste Bin (Top 10 Worst)

10 Artemis


Honestly, this is the only book I felt bad about putting in the Waste Bin of Despair. I just knew that if I was going to take on this challenge of being a critic, I had to really look at the book and acknowledge its flaws. And this book does have flaws. A lot of them. Too many uninteresting backstories, not enough scares, a comic book plot line that doesn't deliver what it promises, etc. That being said, there was heart in this book. I could tell that this is something the author really wanted to write but just didn't pull off. So, yeah, it made the list.

9 Confessions of a Murder Suspect


A lot of my putting this book here is the result of disappointment and forgetfulness. For a book largely credited to one of the most famous and bestselling authors in the country to be so forgettable just feels wrong. When I guess the ending within the first five pages of a mystery, we have a serious problem. A barrel full or red herrings and a bland protagonist didn't help the matter.

8 The Neverland Wars

For heaven's sake... it's Neverland! I. Should. Not. Be. Bored! A war that's barely a war, whimsy that barely deserves to call itself whimsy, and weird and uncomfortable situations have almost no appeal whatsoever. Top it off with an obnoxious protagonist and we have solid material for the Waste Bin.

7 Incursion: Catalyst Moon


Another book that I've completely forgotten before I started making up this list. Way too many people and not nearly enough reasons to care about them. Plot lines that go absolutely nowhere. A seriously lackluster ending and, ugh, those names! I'm still baffled as to how exactly this won the Inkitt publishing contest but I'm not a computer so what do I know. 

6 A Quest of Heroes


If I had to sum it up in one word, this book would be hilariawful. So many things to laugh at when you're really not supposed to. A plot and characters and world so cliche that I honestly wondered if it was to be taken seriously. This quest of stereotypes and every exhausted fantasy writing trend known to man just didn't cut it and so it landed itself here.

5 Splintered 


Hands down the worst Alice in Wonderland inspired book that I came across this year. Occasional bits of creativity and positive madness just can't make up for the fact that this book is a crap ton of style with absolutely no substance. Alyssa is bland as unbuttered toast, Jeb is the devil, way too much focus on the wardrobe, and I draw the frigging line at skateboarding down a sand dune. Just nope.

4 The Shadow Prince


Wanna read Twilight from Edward's perspective? You can but read this instead because it's faster and you'd get the same horrible writing, awful characters, and painful plot you'd find there. Also..."bringing all the boys to the yard." Enough said.

3 Tiger's Curse


Or Tigerlight, as I've decided to call it. A book about one girl's extremely pampered trip to India in which she's the center of the friggin' world and all the hot guys are after her. And she eats a lot. But she's not fat, seriously we promise! Also, Hindu goddess picks caucasian Oregonian as her chosen hero. Nope. Just...just nope.

2 The Gatekeeper's Sons


The world's most perfectly perfect girl enchants all the Greek Gods with her wonderfulness and they give her stuff. Ugh! Looking back at this thing just gets me riled up about how much I hated it. This snail-paced fluff piece in which the God of Death cries about a horse and Mary Sue gets everything and when she doesn't get what she wants...meh. Oh well. At least I have my annoying immortal dog.

1 Need


DIE DIE DIE DIE DIE....yeah, I'm still not over how bad this one was. Mean, selfish, unrealistic, uncaring main character, cliches out the whazoo, self indulgent plot bending to the whims of the horrible protagonist, I could go on and on. To this day I still get sick to my stomach thinking about this book. There's a reason I created a whole new level of awful just to put this thing in. Also...say that you hate Maine one more time! I dare you to say it!

Honorable Mentions
Cruel Beauty (everyone is awful but love wins the day...'kay.)
Stealing Snow (nasty protagonist takes away from an otherwise colorful winter world)
Schooled In Magic (tell us again how much better you are compared to Harry Potter why don't you)
Witch & Wizard (way too cartoony and random to be taken as seriously as it wants you to)
Awoken (to be fair this is also on my Honorable Mentions for Best Books of the Year)

It's been a rough go at times, but the valleys make the peaks worth it all the more! Thanks for a great year and I hope to see you at the top ten best!

Monday, July 31, 2017

Retrospective: The Harry Potter Series by J. K. Rowling



Today, we celebrate the birthday of one of the most influential characters, and authors, in our modern time. These are the books that redefined literature, made reading fun again, and brought tons of people around the world together.

The Harry Potter series is the tale of a young boy who discovers that an amazing truth: that he is a wizard and is destined to travel to magic school where all kinds of magic and mayhem await him. As each year goes by, Harry is faced with new enemies and allies, new challenges and struggles, loses and triumphs as he goes head to head against the darkest wizard of all time. Along the way, he discovers who he is, what he can do, and how far he's willing to go to save the world, and the people, that he loves.

What can I possibly say about these books that hasn't been said? This series has become a staple in pop culture to the point where even people who haven't read the books can recognize it for what it is. Words like "muggle" and "Slytherin" and "Quidditch" are known by everyone. People shudder when they hear the name "Voldemort". Victories are announced with "ten points to Gryffindor". Everybody knows these books, whether they like them or not. They've become a phenomenon of literature that has almost never been seen before and we'd be lucky if we ever got again.

As part of the Harry Potter generation, what speaks to me most about these books is that they grew up right along with their readers. They don't shy away from mature, real world problems. The problems are a bit exaggerated, naturally, due to Harry's fame within his world, but this exaggeration is what makes it easier for younger readers to understand. They can see Harry's struggles and understand them, even if they aren't anything they'd come across in the real world. We care about him and we want him to succeed. Each loss is felt just as strongly as each victory. Enemies don't come in forms of simple "good vs. evil." Indeed, one of the most hated characters in the entire series isn't even one of Voldemort's followers (not a direct one anyway). As these books took their time to come out, the target audience grew up enough to receive each one, so we were all ready for what was to come.

To this day, Ms. Rowling is and always shall be my writing hero. Her words just breathe life into everything. From memorable characters that fans almost know like family to locations we'd give our wand hands for a chance to visit. She's also a master of foreshadowing, leaving tiny hints and clues scattered throughout the series and leaving no stone unturned. Every little moment has purpose and each detail adds just that needed bit of humor, intrigue, and life to sweep you away into a glorious experience that one can only describe as "magic". Top that off with just being a great person in general and you have an author worthy of being anyone's hero.

Overall, we have Harry Potter to thank for a great many things. These books have inspired us to read more, write our own stories, share our hearts with the world, and spread the magic to everyone. After all these years and all the books that I've read, these remain my favorites and will always have a special place in my heart. I've read them countless times (seriously, I've lost count how many times I've read them) and can't wait to read them countless times more.

Hogwarts will always be there to welcome you home. Always.

Have you read the books? 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: IT'S THE MIDNIGHT READINGS ONE YEAR ANNIVERSARY!!!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth



Seeing as I missed out on the Divergent train, I decided to give Ms. Roth's next series starter a shot. Now, having only experienced her other works through movies, I didn't really know what to expect but kept my expectations in check. After all, why do these YA authors always seem to jump into the sci fi genre once they make a name for themselves? Well, let's see how it all turned out.

Akos is taken from his home at a young age and forced to become a servant to his people's hated enemies, the Shotet. Their leader, a spineless tyrant, assigns him to his sister, Cyra, whom he uses to torture those who displease him. But Cyra and Akos join forces against her brother and take part in a rebellion that will free Akos's brainwashed brother and pit them against the very destinies they were born to fulfill.

This book was...a bit of a hurdle for me. It's greatest flaw is pretty noticeable throughout the story. The...pacing...is...slow! It seemed to take forever to get anywhere in this story. So many detours and backstories and exposition and explanation and you don't care about any of it! There are times when I would be reading for twenty minutes straight before I realized that I'd only read five pages. It's just not gripping, there's nothing to keep your attention and I just found it hard to focus on.

The story takes place in its own galaxy with different planets and cultures and ways of life. Now, this can be interesting and has a lot of potential for creativity and world building. Unfortunately, it lacks the sci fi feel of being big. This world felt very small to me which is probably because we spend all the time on an ice planet, a high security castle, a cramped spaceship, and underwater. Why would you have such claustrophobic settings when you have an entire galaxy to explore? Another reviewer once said that if your book starts with a map, then your audience expects and adventure. The map is imbedded on the frigging cover and you barely explore it at all. And the story barely is an adventure. It's just another "girl starts rebellion" story that this author has already famously done.

Another struggle I came upon was that this story was really hard to follow. As I hinted in my teaser at the end of the last review, there are a lot of "s" words that are used a lot and they just run together and, I admit, I got a bit lost. Also, there's the deal with the current. I don't understand the current at all. It's an all powerful force that some people used and others don't, it gives you your own super special X-man powers, you can wield it and see it...but we never get a real understanding of what the current is or how it does these things. It seemed like it was trying to be like the Force, a mystical power that surrounds everyone and grants those who wield it powers, but the execution was much poorer. If felt less like a mysterious power that surrounds every living thing and more like "it's magic, I don't have to explain it."

While the characters, Akos and Cyra, do have potential to be interesting, they are given such a dry and tired story that they don't have much room to grow outside of being one dimensional. I also kept getting distracted by the constant perspective shift in this book. When we're going through the Cyra parts, the book is written in first person perspective. When we're with Akos, it's in third person. Why? Why is this the case? Is Cyra telling the entire story, including Akos's? If she is, how the frig does she know what he's thinking and how does she know about the parts she wasn't there for? It was such a weird idea and it got really distracting.

Final Verdict
Slow and steady puts readers to bed with this one. The plot moves at a snail's pace, the characters and ideas are weak and I just didn't have a good time with this one. Maybe it there are people out there who will like it but, for me, I say 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: It's retrospective time again and I take time to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the book series brought me, and many others, to a world of wizarding wonder....

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.