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....

Friday, June 23, 2017

Flight of the Vessel by Robert Clifton Storey Jr.



With a last name like "Storey" what better profession could this guy have possibly gotten than being a writer? Well, that said, let's get right to it. I've had this one hanging around for awhile now since it became available for free on Kindle Unlimited and I've finally gotten a chance to look into it. Was this fantasy epic worth the wait? Let's find out.

Princess Angelterra (as she's so unfortunately named) is forced to flee her kingdom once it is taken over by an enemy kingdom, governed over by an evil sorcerer with a mysterious agenda. Now acting as Princess Regent, she must gather together all the allies she can. This includes a sea-faring prince, a Lady Knight, an old sorcerer, a loyal general and his wife, and many others as she attempts to gather enough forces to retake her kingdom. Little does she know that hers is an even higher purpose, as it seems she's been chosen to be the Vessel of the Infinite Spirit of the Father, and to do his will to bring peace to the world and put an end to this ancient evil.

Okay, I know a lot of people really like this story, so I'm going to be gentle. Right off the bat, I didn't hate this book. At all. I just...might have had a few problems with it. So, good stuff first. The characters in this story are really good. I liked Angelterra. Yeah, she has kind of a silly name but as a character, she's actually really good. She's a great leader, kind, smart and benevolent and you can see why people flock to her and respect her. Jeela, the lady knight, is also a pretty good character. Tough without being too tough, honorable and very loyal and she does a good job conveying the difficulties of being a woman in a male-dominated profession. For all the unusual names, I did manage to remember who was who and what was what, even when the list of characters started piling pretty high.

So, what was my problem with it. Well...first off, it's a pretty long winded book. There are page long paragraphs that can go on and on and on about the backstory, the history, everything that the author could think to mention crammed into every available space. As a result, the pace is disrupted and slows to a crawl. It takes forever to get anywhere in this book. But even when we're in the present and not stuck in an exposition dump, there's a lot of talking and the action is few and far in between. When it picks up, it's interesting enough. There were times when I really wanted to get sucked in and wished I could get into it more but it just never held my attention very long. It took so long to get anywhere that, in all honesty, I had a really hard time finishing this thing. While the characters were good and the ideas were there, there's just so much telling and so little showing that the story never really grabbed me.

Basically, this is another book with a lot of promise but suffered from telling and too much world building, in my opinion. I felt bad that I didn't like it more because the ideas are really there and they really are good. This world has some good ideas in it. I really liked the representation of different ethnicities and they way they were handled with great respect. The laws and set up of the kingdoms was really good and different practices and traditions were interesting, but they didn't need a four page history lesson on each and every one of them, is what I'm saying.

Final Verdict
Once again, I'm faced with a book that I honestly wish that I had liked more. Still good, but probably not for me. Still, if it sounds up your alley, check it out 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 that you'd like me to review or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me at goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: An anime character like this was just too good to waste....

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Yellow Brick War by Danielle Paige


Seeing as the latest installment in this series just recently came out, I thought I'd better get this out so I can tackle the final installment when I get a chance. This series never fails to entertain and I'm always so glad to see how easy it is to pick right back up after being away from it for so long. Let's dive right in.

It's been a long road for Amy Gumm, the other girl from Kansas who stumbled into Oz and caused all kinds of havoc. Now, however, she finds herself right back where she started: Kansas. Thrown out of Oz and thrust back into her life, many things seem to have changed since Amy left. But the wonder that was left behind hasn't truly gone. A new threat looms just around the corner and now Amy has more to protect than ever. Will she be able to save her home, her friends, her family, and Oz from the powers that threaten to overcome them all? It's all in her hands.

I was hesitant when I first got into this book and found that we were back in Kansas for a good half of the story. However, it seems that the progressive growth that Amy has been going through has also been going on in Oz. Amy's mother had to live with the guilt of being responsible for the loss of her daughter and started down the hard road to becoming a better person. Amy's bully, Madison Pendleton, had an amazing transformation as well. She went from being this stereotypical mean girl and spoiled brat to an actually really nice person who was legitimately glad to see Amy alive and well. I really liked this and was just as dumbfounded as Amy to find that one of the more disgusting attributes of her life in Kansas actually turned into a thoughtful, helpful and likable character. I was deeply impressed.

I also really like that these changes are, as usual a reflection of the events in Oz. In the original story, though a bit more prevalent in the movie, Kansas and Oz are parallels and this story really reflects that. As Oz gets better, so does Kansas. As Amy grows and changes, the people back home change too. It's played up big time in this book where most others stories don't really get into this very often. By intertwining the two worlds and Amy's influence in both speaks volumes of what one person's influence does to the world, even if the world is only as big as a rinky-dink town in Kansas.

But the book isn't called Yellow Brick War for nothing. There's still a fight to be hand and once the action gets started, it's a bloodbath. The stakes have never been higher for Amy and the Witches of Oz. Sacrifices are made, friends are lost, new enemies are made, and it's all the action and glory that we've come to expect from this series. It does, sadly, have to take a little time away to deal with the boring romantic subplot where they want to be together but now they can't and they don't have a choice and moping ensues, etc. But the latter half of the book does keep the action going and the first half installs an element of intrigue and mystery as Amy explores Dorothy's past life in Kansas and what drove her to go back. It all comes together in one of the most jaw-dropping, are-you-serious, cliffhanger endings that'll make any reader run straight to the nearest library/bookstore to get their hands on that last book.

Final Verdict
Another fine installment to an already great series, this book is thrilling, fun, sad, and heartfelt. It does a great job getting us pumped up for the final chapter and I'd say that this, like the others is totally worth your money at your local bookstore.

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

Next Time: Flee into a land of really weird names....

Monday, June 12, 2017

The Dark Days Club by Alison Goodman



The Regency era is a very difficult place to be a monster hunter, as it is proved in this story. But, that's all part of the charm, isn't it? Here we have the first part in the Lady Helen series that balances history and the supernatural into a thrilling tale of suspense and circumstance.

Lady Helen Wrexhall has a lot on her plate. She's being introduced to society, meeting the Queen, and attending parties and balls in the hopes of impressing potential suitors, as any eighteen year old girl in 1812 would do. But things suddenly get complicated when she meets the mysterious Lord Carlston and he introduces her into the strange realm of Reclaimers and Deceivers and the Dark Days Club. Helen must soon come face to face with evils she never knew existed, accompanied by her loyal maid Darby, and must walk along the fine line between high society and her far more dangerous destiny.

I confess to being a bit worried when I first got into this book and found several red flags in regards to Helen being a Mary-Sue type character. Being not only a Reclaimer but an extra special Reclaimer with even more special powers, raised by a piece of crap uncle who wants to ship her off as soon as possible, all the hot guys seem really into her, etc. Thankfully, though, her personality contradicts the stereotype. She's modest and humble, a bit timid but that can be expected in this situation. She's nice and proper and very likable. She's well fleshed out and is more than just a pretty face who can do anything, which was a great relief. When she hesitates about accepting her role as a Reclaimer, you genuinely understand why. It isn't like in Crown of Midnight, where the protagonist has been in the business of being an assassin for years and then cries about wanting a normal life. Helen is on the cusp of making a life-altering choice from which there's no return. It's scary and it's dangerous and you want to see her come out of it okay.

It's clear that a lot of time and energy went into capturing the style and feel of the Regency era in this story. The outfits, the lifestyles, the etiquette, the traditions are all in accordance to the times and builds a really delicate world for our protagonist to be involved in. Women had a lot of expectations back then and the slightest infraction could mean a world of hurt for Helen. Thankfully, Helen's the type of character who is clever enough to find ways to maneuver through these obstacles. There's also a great amount of tension and atmosphere in this story. Whenever she leaves home to meet with the Dark Days Club, it's suddenly walking on eggshells. You know what a risk she's taking in going all these excursions and you want her to make it through. The idea of Deceivers, creatures that feed off a person's unique sins and grow stronger, is very interesting and the methods of how Reclaimers fight them, and deal with the consequences, is nerve-wracking and exciting all at once. It's all very well done.

The other characters in the story also have a lot of depth and you could get behind each one. Her uncle is a misogynistic jerk who wants to rule over her life with an iron fist therefore making him a wonderfully hate-able. Darby is eager and loyal and remarkably unafraid to take this plunge into darkness alongside her mistress. Lord Carlston is naturally a mystery wrapped in an enigma wrapped in tall-dark-and-handsome, but with enough charm and wit to keep him interesting. Everyone does a pretty good job playing their roles in the story with maybe the exception of Mr. Benchley. I kinda get why they included him, to show the dangers of what being a reclaimer could mean, but I really felt that Carlston did that just fine and he kinda felt like an extra antagonist that we didn't really need, what with the Deceivers and all.

Besides Benchley, my only other nitpick would be that, at times, the pace can be a bit slow. In focusing so much time and energy on the high society/propriety aspects of the world building, the downtime between the action can stretch on for a little too long. When the action does start, however, it is good and things get rolling again. I just wish it didn't have quite as many peaks and valleys as it did.

Final Verdict
Clever, classy, creepy and captivating! This book had personality and wit, charm and suspense and everything it promises. Overall, I'm going to say that this book is definitely 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 want 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: Ding, dong, she's still not dead....

Wednesday, June 7, 2017

A Quest of Heroes by Morgan Rice



Allow me to begin exactly where this story also beings: with a little farm boy staring off into the two suns and wishing for more than his simple farming life. Doesn't that sound even a little familiar to anyone? Well, get used to familiarity in this thing because, I'm telling you, this one is a doozy. Let's just start.

Young Thorgin longs for more out of life and so runs away to join the Legion of Royal Knights to become a squire and one day, hopefully, a knight himself and achieve fame and fortune and glory and stuff. But Thor is more than he seems and has powers that astound and amaze everyone in the King's Court, winning him favor with some and discord among others. But there's a plot in motion and conspiracies all around in the castle and it's up to Thor to save the day for he is a destined hero meant to lead the world into prosperity...or something.

You know when people say, "every cliche in the book"? I think this is the book they're talking about. This book has everything that's completely cliche! Every tired idea, every exhausted phrase, every overused plot line and story arc that you've seen a million times is all here. It's like Mad Libs taken seriously. Instead of filling the blanks with funny words making the story sound ridiculous, you add in every fantasy-related trope and word you can think of and this is what you come up with! Oh, and it steals from every preexisting fantasy story out there, from Star Wars to King Arthur to Harry Potter (it even has the "you have your mother's eyes" line in here! Who are you trying to fool!?)

I've made it no surprise that I loath the Mary-Sue trope you find in YA novels, but here we have her slightly-harder-to-find brother, Gary-Stu. Thor is a Gary-Stu to the letter! He has little to no personality of his own, he does little and achieves great praise, he's "different from all the others", he has little to no flaws, people praise him as "brave" and "honorable" and but he's completely unaware of this and talks himself down all the time, he's raised by an abusive foster parent yet he's not mentally scarred at all, I could SERIOUSLY go on but I need to stop. I couldn't connect with Thor because I couldn't get over what a cookie-cutter character he was and how overly praised he was and how EASILY things happen to him. There's even a scene where he just goes off to pee and he finds a mystical magical creature who automatically becomes his new best friend and companion and the others see this as an amazing omen. Are you kidding me!? This kid can't even PEE without the story pointing out how super-special-awesome he his! It's just ridiculous.

As bad as Thor is, there really isn't any other character in this book who isn't just as generic as he is. You have your princess who falls in love in three seconds and wants "more out of life" (insert our own Disney song here). You have your paranoid, racist, closet gay prince who was snubbed for the throne and plots his revenge and his who-do-you-think-you're-fooling boyfriend. Your wise, old, frustratingly cryptic wizard who knows all the answers but doesn't tell you because he's kind of a douche like that. Your wise, good king who cares about his people and his family and who you just know is going to be assassinated at any second, the list goes on and on. Oh and don't get me started on the prophetic dreams, the Sword of Destiny that only the Chosen One can lift (yes, seriously), the bully that turns ally (*cough* DUDLEY*cough*) and the bully trying to take away the princess (*cough*DRACO*cough*). It's the same kind of story that we've seen a million times the same way.

As bad as all this is, I didn't really get mad at this story. Mostly, I just found it hilarious for all the wrong reasons. Then, sadly, came the ending. Now, off all these tropes, all the cliches that this book has, it just HAD to end on the worst of the worst. The cliche that I hate most. The one thing that always makes for the worst part of any story, book, movie, anything. The Misunderstanding! That stupid little thing that is taken way out of proportion and causes everyone to turn their back on the protagonist so they have to go away and mope and....urgh! I hate the Misunderstanding so much and it's always the most painful part to get through. So for this book to END on a Misunderstanding just ruined everything and left the worst taste in my mouth once it was over.

Final Verdict
For reasons of sheer hilarity alone, I was actually thinking of putting this book slightly higher than it deserved. But going over all the problems and, again, that piece of crap ending, I'm sad to say that this book really does belong in the Waste Bin of Despair!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book that you want 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: Saving people. Hunting things. Making it back in time for tea. Just another day, emmiright?

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Going Green by Heather S. Ransom


There's going eco-friendly and then there's what these people do. A fascinating concept in which begs the question, if you could become more than human, would you? The consequences that lead to such a decision as well as the consequences of what happens afterward. In this future world, people have the option of going Green, that is to be injected with chloroplasts that alter the cells in a person's body so that they can photosynthesize and no longer have to eat, leading to perfect figures and permanently green skin. But only the elite can afford such a treatment, leading to friction between those non-Greens who must struggle to survive in a world that favors those rich and privileged enough to go Green.

Calyssa Brentwood is one of those of age and of social status to go Green. Daughter of the man who developed the Green way of life and head of the global power AGHA, Calyssa has a pretty good life ahead of her. But when she decides to spend her spring break with a non-Green friend and her family, she learns that there's much more to life. She learns about love and family and discovers that there's more to the rebel cause that constantly battles against the citizens of her city. Calyssa takes what she learns and decides to make a stand for the rights of all people in this world and get to the bottom of possible corruption within her own home.

One thing I appreciated about this book was that the main character, Calyssa, is one of those characters who can be both spoiled and still a good person. With many privileged, spoiled people in stories, they're often shoved off in the "jerk" category and never really go beyond that. This character, however, is still a good person despite her upbringing. Yeah in the beginning of the story she does some things that one might see as being kind of jerky, but you don't hold it against her because you know there's no malice in her actions. She just doesn't know any better and that naivety gives her some leeway. As the story progresses, she does learn and she does experience things and makes good progression. Despite never having to work a day in her life, she takes to farm life with enthusiasm that's quite refreshing to see. She's excited to learn new things, eager to learn, and able to grow. She did her part very well.

At times, however, I felt the book could have used a bit of editing. The first part of the book does drag a bit in places and, while it does pick up, it just took awhile to get there. There are also times when several paragraphs in the book really should have been just one paragraph. For example, toward the end of the book there's a scene where nine (!) paragraphs, all in a row, start with the words, "I thought". That probably could have been condensed and you'd miss practically nothing. The other problem is that nobody in this book can tell a story like a normal person telling a story. All of a sudden, when they're telling a story, they're master authors with explicit details and knowing things they weren't there for and had no way of knowing. Now, for the writing parts, it's fine, but for the dialogue, it's a little silly. Oh, and there's way too much jumping to conclusions in this book. Everybody jumps to conclusions. It got old.

It also goes into a great observation about the middle ground in any kind of conflict. Both the Greens and the rebels have people who are extremists and people who are just trying to survive. Fanatics cause the most damage and everyone else is caught in the middle. It does a good job of introducing mystery and intrigue this way. When things happen, you never quite know who's behind it. Is it the opposition or could one side be attacking their own? On the other hand, I did wish that there was a bit more of that in the book. It often gets backgrounded for "How Calyssa Spent Her Spring Break" segments, which is where the development is, but not so much the excitement. A bit more balance of each is just what this book needed.

Final Verdict
Interesting but sometimes slow. A great concept but in need of a bit of editing. Overall, a pretty good book that I'm glad I got to read. If you wanna check it out, go right ahead but wait for it on paperback.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. If you 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: The journey to Hogwarts to restore the One Rings and save the Enterprise at District 12

Saturday, May 27, 2017

The Neverland Wars by Audrey Greathouse



When it comes to classic novels in which to make adaptations or reimagining of Peter Pan is a popular candidate. While not exactly my favorite story (I always kind of thought Peter Pan was kind of a jerk) I did know there was a wealth of potential for a great new story with classic characters and set ups. The title also pulled me in, seeing as how much I liked The Looking Glass Wars, and just the idea of Neverland being at war with anything is interesting enough. Let's see how it did.

Gwen Hoffman feels cheated. Being a teenager is not agreeing with her (despite being relatively popular, getting good grades, getting attention from boys, etc.) and she finds herself wishing for her childhood back. But when her little sister, Rosemary, gets whisked away one night, Gwen discovers a terrible truth. Magic is very real and adults are stealing it from the young to solve their real world problems. It's then that Gwen meets Peter Pan himself and journeys to Neverland for the experience of a lifetime and bring her sister home.

I'm just going to get it out of the way: this book is silly... and not in a good way. While I didn't necessarily hate the protagonist she has major issues. As I hinted at before, she has it pretty easy but still mourns her lost time being a kid and cannot relate to her teenage peers. While I can get behind anyone who thinks the song "Teenage Dream" is horrible, she has the potential to deeply annoy a lot of people. Also, nobody really stands out or has anything resembling a personality in this thing. Pan is generic at best and bland at worst. The Lost Children blend together and I cannot tell them apart for the life of me. The only other characters that we're supposed to care about are the fairies and they make a point of telling you that they have no personality whatsoever besides a specific vice. Apparently we are supposed to care about this.

The writing itself has problems as well. The point-of-view constantly shifts, the action is slim to none, and the foreshadowing is incredibly heavy-handed. For a book with the word "war" in the title, there's not a lot of warring that goes on in it. One reality bombing (you heard me), and a barely worthwhile casualty and that's it. The rest of the book is just basking in Neverland whimsy and Gwen making up BS excuses about how she needs to go back. And what's waiting for her back home? A house party complete with booze, drugs, swearing, and sex. Yeah, great tone there. An entire book on whimsy and wonderment and you throw in a den of teenage sin to contrast. Real nice.

Also, addressing the natives of Neverland, the author uses a term that is not...generally favored by the public. While the logic behind using the term does make sense, it's still squicky. Also, it sets up a heavily implied love triangle between Gwen and Peter, who have no chemistry whatsoever, and Gwen's crush Jay Hoek (seriously, who do you think you're fooling with that name?) who is just as uninteresting as everyone else.

Final Verdict
This book was just kind of a mess. The title is a lie, the characters are bland, the pace is slow and nothing is really gained or lost throughout the entire thing. I didn't care for it. At all really. The further I go into this, the more I realize that I don't have a lot of good things to say about it so, yeah, this is another one for the Waste Bin of Despair.

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

Next Time: I see a red door and must have it painted....green?

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

I Bring the Fire: Wolves by C. Gockel



With the endless amount of Greek Mythology stories that are out there, it's nice to see someone delving into the often under appreciated realm of Norse Mythology. While I'm not nearly as well versed in Norse myths as I am Greek ones, I still find them interesting and full of great characters and stories. So, how'd this one turn out? Let's dive right in.

Amy is a college student returning home to stay with her grandma when she stumbles upon Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, who saves her from a terrible predicament. It turns out that Loki has come to Midgard (earth) in an attempt to flee from Odin, the All-Father, who tried to execute Loki's sons for treason. Loki must regain his power and what few allies he can count on, including Amy and her grandmother, Beatrice, to save his sons and protect them from Odin's wrath.

First thing I really appreciated was Loki's characterization. He's not a bad guy, but I'd say he's a bit more anti-hero than straight up knight in shining armor (although he does wear shining armor). He drinks, he makes dirty jokes, he sleeps around, all the kinds of things you'd expect from a trickster god, and yet his backstory and overall personality are so good the reader doesn't mind these things. How else would you expect the Norse God Loki to behave? It's nice to see such a flawed character handled so well. Not enough flaws and he might have come off as too perfect, but too many flaws would have made him unlikeable and sleazy. Instead, there's a nice balance and I liked that about this book.

Sadly, things kind of go downhill from there. As well written as Loki is, I cannot say the same for Amy. The biggest (and only) flaw with her is that she is unbearably annoying! She's an animal-lover and training to be a veterinarian, but this she just goes way too far with the animal loving thing! When they're being chased by men on horseback and Loki manages to stop them she's freaking out that he's hurting the poor horses and he shouldn't do that. Woman, you're being chased! Forget about the friggin' horses! During that same running-for-their-lives situation, she hits something with her car and insists they stop and make sure whatever they hit was okay. You're running for your life, woman! Let. It. Go! But the thing that just killed me is her inability to grasp the concepts of magic and that she's dealing with a legendary Norse God. I get that it's a big deal and a hard thing to come to terms with but she goes almost out of her way to ignore things that are happening right in front of her face to the point where it just makes her look stupid. Speaking of stupid, she's hopelessly blind to all of Loki's obvious innuendoes that even a third grader would understand and she's not even a virgin! She's a college student and has had sex and you're honestly telling me you can't get these? You're slow, woman, very slow. Also, she uses the word "crazy" so often I want to smack her in the face with a thesaurus.

As for the overall structure of the story, I wasn't too crazy about that either. Sure, some things were nice. For instance, I liked the descriptions of Alfheim, and I appreciated that the police involved in the story were actually smart enough not to try and mess with a Norse God. But the flashbacks into Loki's past kind of come out of left field and don't always have to do with what is going on currently in the main story. Then there's the deal with the ending. Again, no spoilers, but this really kind of ticked me off. I get that it says "Part I" right there on the front cover, but this book has it's climax three quarters into the book and the rest is just sequel fodder. Any installment of any series should be able to hold its own as a standalone book and not rely heavily on the fact that it's a part of a whole. Just hyping up what's to come in the next book when you're current story has loose ends out the whazoo isn't exactly the best strategy for making people want to keep reading.

Final Verdict
I'm not sure there's enough good things in this book to make up for the bad ones. Loki was good but the Amy was unbearable, the plot had potential but the pace was slow. In the end I'd say that, if you wanted to give this book a shot, go ahead but 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 want to see reviews here or would like to make a recommendation? Find me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next Time: You're gonna need a lot more than faith, trust and pixie dust to win this battle....

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Scythe by Neal Shusterman



I hold books with prize stickers on their covers in particularly high regard and it's ever so nice when they actually feel like they deserve them. This book has a lot that deserves merit and I'm super glad to have been able to find it and get to it at last. I just can't wait to talk about this thing so let me get started.

Mankind has entered the Age of Immortality, where everyone is born with healing nanites, universal information is openly available to everyone via the Thunderhead (the "cloud" fully realized), governments and religions are things of the past and nobody, ever, dies. That last bit is where the Scythes come in. Men and women trained in the art of killing are the only ones who can deal out death to whomever they chose, and when they kill you, you're dead for good. When Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch are chosen by a Scythe to become his apprentices and become Scythes themselves, neither of them wants the job. But they are soon swept up in the politics and delicate balance within the Scythedom and pitted against each other in a dangerous game that could spell doom for one or both of them.

Okay, there's one thing about this book that I just adore. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is a freaking genius! Everybody is just so gosh darn smart and I just love it. While still playing by absurd rules and abiding by strict laws, everyone is able to manipulate situations to suite them perfectly. You don't see this kind of intelligence in young adult books and I just love it! Everyone is competent, everyone is sharp, heck even the villain of the book was a friggin' mastermind. There was a point in the book where I had to look at the guy and say, "Oh, man, that's absolutely awesome! It's terrible and stuff, sure, but you can't deny that is just an amazing move!" The sheer brilliance displayed by the characters in this book alone is worth the read.

Speaking of the characters, let's talk about them for a minute. I was a bit worried when I was reading about Citra to start off with. She's quickly described as having a hot temper and prone to snapping back when there's something she doesn't like. I feared that this would make her one of those hot-headed, stomp-your-foot-when-you-don't-get-your-way, protagonists that you tend to see in young adult books. Thankfully, however, I was incorrect. While Citra never really loses her spirit and does have a well-place snappy retort for most situations, her journey through the book helps her find her center. She learns to find inner peace and calm and a respect for life. Rowan's journey is something of the yin to Citra's yang. Starting off as an obedient, mild-mannered kid with a serious case of middle child syndrome, Rowan is put through the wringer throughout this book. It's about him finding his passion and purpose in his life. He finds his fire and she finds her cool and the two stories just compliment each other so well, it's really great.

The plot of the story certainly keeps things interesting. Throughout the coarse of the book, a ton of stuff goes on, yet it never feels like too much. While it follows several plot lines, it never feels wasted or out of place. Everything is at a good pace and the events are gripping and get you sucked in. It's, again, a sign of just how smart the characters are and how smartly the book is written. Everything just fits together in this vast puzzle of "that was so cool!" Going back the the villain of the book, I was so very happy to see him in this book and his part. Finally a villain with a complex ideology, and while we don't know his backstory, we don't really need to. He's fascinating without needing a sympathetic backstory! I don't feel sorry for this guy, but I loved him nevertheless. Villains don't need a sob story, contrary to what so many people believe these days, nor to they need to be one-dimensional to be enjoyable. He's an example of good intentions gone array and a very possible outcome in a world so complicated as this. His motivations make sense, even if they're terrible, and you can understand where he's coming from. It's all just handled with such care and it all comes together in, not one, but three tense climaxes that made me wish I had a microphone to give this book the mic drop it deserves.

Final Verdict
What else can I say? I loved this book. The characters? Awesome. The writing? Awesome.  The plot? Awesome! It was a great and insightful read, full of suspense and excitement, heartbreak and nail-biting tension. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I'm putting this book straight onto the Shelf of Recommendation!

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

Next time: This guy's no Tom Hiddleston....

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Spellcaster by George Bachman




I seem to be on a turn-of-the-century steampunk England trend right now. I can't help if it's such an awesome style and am attracted to books of this nature. As the latest in this type of book, I can only wonder how this one fares in regards to the rest of the so far pretty good ones that I've been checking out recently.

Christine de Pisan Daniel is plagued by terrible visions of people she's never met and thinks may cause her harm. She seeks answers to whatever it is that's bothering her, but magic is deeply looked down upon in her world of propriety and standards. The only one she can find to help her is a woman who agrees to help Christine but only on the condition that she convinces her sister into a loveless marriage. Christine's fate depends on figuring out and unravelling the mysteries surrounding her previous life, that of Sir Tomas of Medieval Provence, and finishing the task he'd been given long ago.

Now, this book was a bit of a challenge for me. First off, the writing is very good. It's very clear that a lot of time and effort went into it and it is intricate and well-thought out and deeply detailed. But this strength lead to a serious weakness. There's too much detail. Way too much. There are descriptions in this thing that just go on and on and on and it doesn't do much to help keep the reader invested. Now, I've seen this kind of thing before, especially with writers like Tolkien. The kinds of things that you can capture with one sweeping camera shot of New Zealand can take up to two and a half pages of description in a Tolkien book. Well written descriptions, yes, but there's only so long a reader can put up with reading about grass when there's magic and mystery out there. It's the same problem with this book. Everything is explained in step by step detail, how spells work, how a debut into society goes down, everything that goes down in a knighthood ceremony, word for word what goes on in a marriage ceremony, how to do a sudoku puzzle, etc. The book needed some serious fat-trimming in that regard.

Once you get past all the descriptions, there's the story itself. Basically, this book has two stories, Christine's and Sir Tomas's. Now, this can also work. At their heart, both stories are very interesting. Christine's story is dark and creepy yet full of that Victorian England posh that people love to see, including parties and marriages and scandal. Sir Tomas's story is a bit more traditional medieval knights quest with good characters and thrilling chases and escapes. Both stories are good but, once again, we have a bit of a problem. Instead of the stories blending together nicely, one just stops and the other one takes over completely. This is especially vexing because the story that gets left behind has more loose threads than a craft store! I finished the book and felt "wait, that's it! What about all that other stuff! Are we just...never going to fix any of that?" It was really kind of upsetting. There's a character in particular who the book just kind of throws under a bus and we're just supposed to accept it and move on. It distracts from the rest of the story because I'm so caught up with wondering if they're ever going to go back and finish what was started in the first two thirds of the book and leaves you a bit put out when you realize that they're not. I don't know, maybe there will be a sequel in which this is all wrapped up, because leaving it as it is will more likely leave readers aggravated than amused.

Final Verdict
This book has a lot of potential, but could probably use a bit more editing. All in all, there was just too much telling and not enough showing. The world building got out of control and left little room for the story. Still, what story there was did manage to get me invested and it had good action but abandoned plot threads can leave readers frustrated. And so, if you want to check it out, it's worth the read but 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 want me to read or want to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next time: Thou shalt kill

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

Stalking Jack The Ripper by Kerri Maniscalco



Well, it's good to know that James Patterson's publishing company can put out a good book anyway. Even so, isn't that just the greatest title ever!? How can you not get sucked in immediately after hearing that?! It's just a fantastic title and the kind you wanna kick yourself for not thinking of first. But the title is one thing, can the rest of the book live up to such an amazing title? Let's dive right in.

Audrey Rose Wadsworth is a most unusual girl. While most ladies her age are busy stitching handkerchiefs, Audrey is stitching up corpses in her uncle's forensic laboratory. In an age where forensics were still very much in their prime and considered by many to be nothing short of blasphemy, Audrey and her Uncle practice this delicate science of the deceased human body against the wishes of society as well as Audrey's OCD father. Their help is especially needed as a horrifying killer arrives in Whitechapel, brutally murdering prostitutes and seemingly stealing their organs. Audrey become obsessed with the case, taking serious risks and teaming up with her uncle's smug assistant to track down and stop the Ripper once and for all.

I like to think that everybody has a "thing" that they like in spite of themselves. One certain, macabre, dark "thing" that they can't help but find fascinating and want to look into and read up on, even if it is unpleasant and might make other people raise their eyebrows and ask "why would you want to know about that?" when they too have a "thing" and they just won't admit it. For me, that thing is Jack the Ripper (among other "things"). I just love hearing about the guy, one of the reasons I was so eager to get a hold of this book in the first place. And that is the first and best thing about this book. Audrey Rose is fascinated by the dark and mysterious and can relate to all of us weirdos who have "things" (who will admit it). She's not ashamed of her fascination with the dead and her desire to cut up bodies and explore the mysteries they can hide. Even if society forces her to keep it a secret, she's not willing to give it up or bury it away. She's very proud of what she can do and is just as capable as any man who can do the same thing. However, there's more to her than a girl who likes to cut up dead people. She likes to be girly too. She wears makeup and attends tea and enjoys those things (well, maybe not so much the teas). It's like what Throne of Glass was trying to do with its protagonist, trying to balance both masculinity and femininity within one character. Where that character got a bit out of hand, Audrey Rose is much more toned down and therefore a bit more believable. She was never too nice or too rough, didn't turn away help when it was offered but felt herself capable of doing whatever she set her mind to. She's just a wonderful character and I liked her a lot.

Now the story, like most retellings of historical events, tends to bend history and twist the dates a bit in order to fit what the author has in mind. The dates are a bit off, things took place that actually didn't and most Ripper enthusiasts might be bothered by those that but not so much that it takes away from the story altogether. While it's clear some liberties were taken, and the author does admit to them, it's clear that this lady did her homework on the Ripper. The forensics that they do in the book are equal to what they would have been back then, the victims and their conditions match up, heck even victims beyond the Canonical Five are mentioned, something that I was really happy to see, as are Jack the Ripper's letters to the press. Yeah, the dates are off but the details are there where they matter and I feel it really did do the case justice.

Like most Jack the Ripper stories, the story takes a whodunnit route and it's all about discovering the killer's identity. The beauty of this angle is that, since the Ripper was never caught in real life, he could be anyone. As a mystery, the book does a good job of surrounding the reader with tons of possibilities and suspects, from whom we can draw our own conclusions. The story is kept central to the main character and so doesn't include lots of the popular Free Mason conspiracy stuff you find in a lot of other Ripper stories. It's Audrey Rose's story and it's very much connected to her life and how the Ripper plays into it. But there is risk and good tension and false leads just like any good mystery. There are a couple of plot threads that I didn't really think lead to anything, but for the most part the story, as a whole, does come together and works out. The suspects are each really good and have their own means and motivations for being the Ripper and the reveal does lead to a pretty intense climax. No spoilers but I'm sure any lover of the dark and gothic will be pleased with the end result.

Final Verdict
Dark, macabre, intriguing, this story has it all. Great atmosphere, gory violence, posh Victorian England staples, and an unsolved mystery almost one hundred and thirty years in the making. Over all, Stalking Jack the Ripper is a just a treat and has earned a place on the Shelf of Recommendation!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Also Follow and Share, it helps a lot. Have a book you want to see here? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next time: How do you live your life when a past one refuses to leave you be?

Thursday, May 4, 2017

Fate of Perfection by K. F. Breene



Never really knew what to expect with this book going into it, but I tend to find that's part of the charm with books. I generally don't like science fiction or dystopians all too much, as they've been done to death, but if anything's going to get me invested in those genres, this might just do it. The earth has been taken over by three enormous conglomerates; Moxidone, Gregon, and Toton (though in my mind I'd affectionately renamed them Disney, Google, and Target) and we see just how the power of human nature cannot be stopped.

Millicent Foster is a genetically perfected human and weapons designer for Moxidone when she's selected to take part in the breeding program. Together with the DNA of perfect human weapon (and super attractive) Mr. Ryker Gunner, they produce Marie, a girl who shows unbelievable power and can manipulate technology at only eighteen months old. But when it comes time to separate Millicent from her daughter, both mother and father strike back and seek to escape the conglomerates, and the planet, in hopes for a better life.

While I'd originally believed this would take more of a spy/thriller route, this story quickly turns into an action-packed roller coaster with chases, escapes, and close calls. It really would take a pair of perfect human beings to pull some of this stuff off as most people wouldn't be able to survive this kind of thing. Lots of explosions and damaged crafts (vehicles) take place, especially in the last hundred pages or so. While a lot of how they survive involves vast amounts of tech, which I admit kind of went over my head, it never gets out of hand or goes on too long. The action does take time to sit down and let the readers breathe before charging right back in, keeping the story well-paced as well as giving opportunities to explore the dystopian world.

As far as characters go, I was a bit worried about Millicent being too perfect, as this can lead to bland protagonists that get things done much too easily. However, as the story progresses, so does she. Yeah, she's able to hack her way out of situations most of the time, but she does struggle and develops as a character. She becomes more human as she steadily learns what it is to be human. Still, she's not much in the personality department, but she never got on my nerves or anything. Overall, she was fine. I was less impressed with Ryker, though. Now, he did seem too perfect and in more ways than one. He survives nearly everything and treats it like it's nothing and he's incredibly handsome and wonderful and protective and...I guess he's trying to be funny. Mostly he just goes on and on and on about how he wants to have sex with Millicent and it got a bit old pretty quick for me. He's also scary overprotective and constantly threatens to kill anyone who so much as looks at Millicent or Marie. I wasn't his biggest fan. But, for the problems I had with them, it's all made up for with the inclusion of Trent McAllister. Oh my gosh, I love this guy. He's the real source of comedy in this thing. He's a lab worker who was charged with Marie's care and he quickly gets swept up in the plot and he's just hilarious and awkward and just adorable! While it's clear he's in way over his head, Trent still manages to go along with things, bonds with the others and never flinches or hesitates to take care of Marie. I could read about him all day!

As far as drawbacks go, the writing can be a little hokey at times. Overall, it's fine but there are just a few things that stand out as being kinda silly. Like the bosses seeing the dangers of having Millicent enter the breeding program and turning their noses up like "oh, please, that would never happen." Cursed last words, I've always said this. Also, using phrases like "save the day" can come off as a bit corny and, as I said earlier, I got really sick of Ryker's innuendos. Still, it never goes too far where it feels gimmicky or that you can't take the story seriously.

Final Verdict
An action-packed ride worthy of any summer blockbuster. Clever, funny, heartfelt, and Trent McAllister. What more can I say? In the end, I'd say this sucker is definitely 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 want me to review or have a recommendation you'd like to see here? Contact me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer

Next time: One of the world's most infamous serial killer's just met his match....

Monday, May 1, 2017

Retrospective: Percy Jackson and the Olympians by Rick Riordan


Having read several books based in Greek mythology that have failed dismally (and my own recent experience with an abhorrent film called Immortals) I decided it was time to sit down and appreciate the one book series that, in my opinion, has not only done it right, but done it best.

The Percy Jackson series centers around it's title character, a young boy living in New York. He soon discovers that he is a demigod, the son of one of the ancient Olympians of the Greek pantheon. He is taken to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp in which demigods are trained to hone their skills, play capture the flag, compete in chariot races, and hopefully get called onto quests to battle monsters and prove themselves. Y'know, very typical camp stuff. But as the son of one of the Big Three, Percy gets wrapped up in a dangerous plot to awaken the ancient Titans, longstanding enemies of the gods, and a prophecy that marks him as the one to stop the apocalypse or bring it about.

The first thing about this series is that the main character is very unique in how flawed he is. In this world, demigods are commonly plagued with ADHD and dyslexia, of which our protagonist has both. Allegedly, Riordan's own child has these learning disabilities and Riordan set out to create a character who also has them and make that character capable of anything. In this, he succeeds. Percy Jackson is an extremely likable character, funny, determined, and loyal. He doesn't let his disabilities get in his way at all but works with and around them in order to get the job done. He's also very sarcastic and witty, adding to the overall humor of the story in general and it gets pretty friggin' hilarious.

One of the best things about the books, however, has to be the representation of the Greek pantheon. Tons of people have tried to write what the Olympians would be like in the modern times, but this one feels the closest and most realistic representation. Hermes as the inventor of the internet, Poseidon in Hawaiian shirts, Artemis running a boy-free Hunt of immortal girls, everyone feels both well represented and yet modernized at the same time. While they also have their share of funny moments, there's still a commanding presents that demands respect to them all. It's like, "I'm being nice here kid, but you do know that I can vaporize you if I wanted to." Nobody else has ever really done this and has either had them as toga wearing relics or dirty, earth-bound shells of who they once were. There's balance in these representations that you don't really see anywhere else and it's just fantastically done.

Probably one of the biggest flaws that people have with this series is that it's a little too similar to the Harry Potter books and...yeah, they're kinda right. The fact that the two title characters have very similar descriptions and that you can pretty much find a Harry Potter parallel character for every Percy Jackson character (I've done it). However, I find it comparing an apple and an orange, both fruit but different kinds of the same thing. Where Harry Potter is more subtle and intricate, Percy Jackson is fun and more colorful. It's simpler and fans of one can definitely get into the other. It never really bothered me.

It also created the spin off/sequel series, Heroes of Olympus, which is definitely a topic of conversation for another day. (Hint: they're awesome).

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

Next time: Hell hath no fury like a genetically advanced super parent....

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Incarceron by Catherine Fisher



You never know what you're going to find in a used book section at a Goodwill, but sometimes you find gold. I haven't read a book like this in a long time, one that just focuses on an adventure and creative world building that deals with both fantasy and dystopia elements at the same time. Let's dive right in.

Finn is a prisoner of Incarceron, a vast world of a prison full of brutality and cruelty that sees your every move and from which there is no Escape. But Finn is a Starseer, who sees visions of the world beyond Incarceron and is convinced that he doesn't belong and will find the way out. When he comes across a mysterious crystal Key, he soon comes in contact with Claudia, daughter of the Warden of Incarceron. Claudia seeks out the Prison, thinking that within it is the only person who can save her from her impending arranged marriage. As Finn and his band of (not so) trustworthy companions race through the vast world of Incarceron, Claudia does everything she can from the Outside to help set them free.

Starting off, the characters in this thing are just awesome. Everyone is memorable and, as you might sometimes get with a wide array of characters, nobody gets left out or underused. Everyone has a purpose and place in this story and you remember each one of them. Finn's group in particular is an interesting bunch. Finn's oathbrother, Keiro, for instance, is the kind of character who could either be loved or hated by fans, but manages to be complex and interesting. He's the kind of person you want to trust, but aren't sure you can. While Incarceron is the place supposedly full of criminals, the Outside world is almost just as suspicious and deadly. You get the feel that everyone is putting on a play in the Outside and that nobody is really showing their true emotions and it's all described really well.

As I said earlier, the world-building in this is just great. The different areas within the prison are wonderfully imaginative, vast cities to forests made entirely out of metal and mountains made of diamond. You almost forget that this is supposed to be a prison when it could very well be its own world, but then you remember that there's no real sky, glowing red Eyes are everywhere, and dawn and dusk are replaced with Lightson and Lightsoff. That's actually really clever. The real sense of dystopia comes from the Outside however, which is designed to resemble a rather Victorian Era-esque time period, yet also possesses technologies far beyond what that time period should allow. The book takes its time before it tells you just how the Outside world came to be what it is and how it came to be. As a result, I did feel a little lost in the beginning of the book, but the answers to just what happened to the world became clear as the story moved on.

If I had to nitpick, I would say that both Finn and Claudia's stories don't always mesh together very well. This is mostly because they're very different, as Finn's side of the story is a daring escape through a dangerous world while Claudia's is more of a suspenseful political intrigue story. Both stories are good, don't get me wrong, but they could almost be two different books fixed into one. It's easy to get caught up in one side of the story and then remember, "Oh, yeah! Those other guys were doing this other thing over here." However, it does come together in the end. It wraps up in a pretty intense climax with twists that, I admit, I couldn't have predicted. It smoothed itself out nicely in the end.

Final Verdict
I've been needing a book like this for awhile now. Fast-paced, intriguing, well thought out, and full of great character and imagination, I'm glad to say that this book is definitely 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 want me to review or just want to recommend a book you'd like to see featured here? Then find me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer as well as on Twitter @Michelle_Beer88.

Next Time: I've been sitting on this one for while and now I've just gotta do it. It's Retrospective time again people and we're going over a series that actually does justice to Greek mythology...excluding those movies, of course.