Tuesday, August 29, 2017

Nemesis by Brendan Reichs

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

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

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

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

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

Final Verdict
This book was a thrilling and intense ride. The mystery, the action, the suspense all come together in a tale about the end of the world and just how far the human race will go in the pursuit of extending life. While it has its ups and downs, I'd say that this book is totally worth your money at your local bookstore.

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

Next Time: A world in which drinking wine saves your life? Huh.

Friday, August 25, 2017

The Hundredth Queen by Emily R. King

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, August 19, 2017

Nine Princes in Amber by Roger Zelazny

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Time: 99 wives to fight in a game, 99 wives to fight.....

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Dividing Eden by Joelle Charbonneau

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, August 11, 2017

The Enchanted Swans by Christy Nicholas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

The Son of Soron by Robyn Wideman

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Next Time: Swan Lake, this is not....

Friday, August 4, 2017

Top Ten Best Books of the Year!

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

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

The Best of the Shelf (Top 10 Best)

10 The School for Good and Evil

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

9 Stalking Jack the Ripper

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

8 Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell

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

7 The Queen's Poisoner

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

6 Master Wu's Bride

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

5 Alice Takes Back Wonderland

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

4 Six of Crows

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

3 The Palace Job

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

2 The Looking Glass Wars

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

1 Scythe

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

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

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

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

Top Ten Worst Books of the Year!

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

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

The Worst of the Waste Bin (Top 10 Worst)

10 Artemis

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

9 Confessions of a Murder Suspect

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

8 The Neverland Wars

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

7 Incursion: Catalyst Moon

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

6 A Quest of Heroes

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

5 Splintered 

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

4 The Shadow Prince

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

3 Tiger's Curse

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

2 The Gatekeeper's Sons

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

1 Need

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

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

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