Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Verdict
I've missed finding books that have me this pumped for the next installment. It's to-the-point, yet rich in plot. It's heartbreaking yet intriguing. Throw in some Bible references for flavor and we have a welcome addition to the Shelf of Recommendation!

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: You won't find any brotherly love among these guys....

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Enchanted Swans by Christy Nicholas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Final Verdict
This book was a bit of a slog to get through. Long periods of dragging, lots of melancholy, and a pretty unsatisfactory ending. Still, if you know the original tale and still want to give the book a shot, you might have a better time with it than I did and want to give it a shot...just check it out at your local library.

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: Two heirs, one throne, and lots of symbolism to go around...

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Son of Soron by Robyn Wideman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you'd like me to read or would like to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at

Next Time: Swan Lake, this is not....

Friday, August 4, 2017

Top Ten Best Books of the Year!

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

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

The Best of the Shelf (Top 10 Best)

10 The School for Good and Evil

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

9 Stalking Jack the Ripper

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

8 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

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

7 The Queen's Poisoner

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

6 Master Wu's Bride

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

5 Alice Takes Back Wonderland

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

4 Six of Crows

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

3 The Palace Job

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

2 The Looking Glass Wars

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

1 Scythe

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Worst Books of the Year!

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

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

The Worst of the Waste Bin (Top 10 Worst)

10 Artemis

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

9 Confessions of a Murder Suspect

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

8 The Neverland Wars

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

7 Incursion: Catalyst Moon

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

6 A Quest of Heroes

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

5 Splintered 

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

4 The Shadow Prince

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

3 Tiger's Curse

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

2 The Gatekeeper's Sons

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

1 Need

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

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

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