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