Friday, February 27, 2015

Review: The Dream Lover

The Dream Lover: A Novel of George SandThe Dream Lover: A Novel of George Sand by Elizabeth Berg
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

I'm afraid I don't have anything good to say about this book. I was bored through almost the entire story. The frequent back-and-forth in time was disruptive, where it could have been a bit more natural. When the two timelines met around 80%, the book started skipping forward vast amounts of time. Some authors make this work (one of my favorite series is told by skipping around in time). With this book, it did not work. It would have been much better in linear format.

I was bored by the story, and by the persona of George Sand herself. I felt it was bordering on the ridiculous, even if it were completely historically accurate, that she fell in love with essentially every man she ever met, and slept with him too. Now I'm not criticizing her for that, a woman is welcome to do whomever she pleases in my book; rather, I disliked the character that was given to her - petulant, irksome, unlikable, and yet every man she met threw himself at her. It made absolutely no sense to me. She was also incredibly inconsistent. I really tried to put this down as an historical rendering of someone who was truly like this, but in the afterword the author mentions that there are so many conflicting accounts of who she really was and what she was really like, that I have to take the character as someone almost entirely fictionalized, picked and chosen from the various accounts and with whom the author did what she would. In that respect, she was not believable at all to me as a character.

Others have said similar things, and I find myself in agreement with many of the one- and two-star reviewers on Goodreads. One person said it felt like more of a daily journal, and in that respect it certainly was. "That day I went there, and had an argument with this person, and then we made love, and then we went out to eat. The next day he left me and I decided to move back to Nohant. And then I was bored at Nohant and decided I didn't like anyone anymore and moved back to Paris to beg him to come back." It was, again, ridiculous.

I have heard only good things about Elizabeth Berg in the past, and was very excited to read this. Some reviewers have said that her other works are much better, however after reading this I am very hesitant to give one of her others a shot. I do not recommend this book.

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Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Review: Emissary

Emissary (Legends of the Realm Book #1)Emissary by Thomas Locke
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

While I'm only giving this book three stars, I am going to say that this was one of the better new fantasies I've read in a long time. This book was more rooted in traditional fantasy than a lot of other books I've read lately, that purported to be fantasy but were in actuality just a teen romance. It probably helped that Hyam is 21, not 17, and the romance aspect was very underplayed until right around the end.

First, what I did like. I enjoyed the fact that this was more about defeating an enemy than a character finding himself. At one point, Hyam is told that he had better get over himself and stop being so selfish. His quest to find who he is can wait, but right now there's a threat and he needs to do something. I also appreciated that Hyam isn't "the chosen one," but rather an orphan who goes in search of his history, only to find that he has power to help save the country and decides to do something about it.

BUT, and here are the reasons why I couldn't give this four stars (these are very personal reasons and maybe people think I'm being petty, but aren't reviews personal?):

I hate the word crimson. It's like nails on a chalkboard. And I swear it showed up on like every other page. "The crimson mage" this and "the crimson mage" that. Every time the bad mage showed up, it was the only descriptor used. He was "the crimson mage," and that was it. He's referred to so often I wanted to start striking through the word. While this is a rant about the word crimson, it's also a rant about word choice. If you only have one descriptor for a character, there's a problem.

I really didn't understand why doors were referred to as portals. They are *doors*. They don't transport you anywhere. It just sounded like the author was trying to make the world sound more foreign, but it didn't work, because calling doors "portals" was the only real thing that was so altered.

Hyam's personality seemed to change a lot over the course of the book, and I couldn't keep up with what was going on in his head. I had a very hard time connecting with him as a character. I didn't really understand who he was trying to be. While I am grateful that we didn't really get the chosen one trope in this book, I still needed a bit more of a solid character to identify with. Overall, while he does grow and change and evolve throughout the story, and while this is usually a good thing, for me he sort of fell flat.

I did enjoy the plot, and most of the way the story was told. For me it was more of the descriptors, and some of the character development, that really took away from the book. I still recommend this to fantasy lovers, and I'm very glad I was approved to read it. It's certainly an interesting premise and story.

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Thursday, February 12, 2015

Review: The Witch of Napoli

The Witch of NapoliThe Witch of Napoli by Michael Schmicker
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

There was a lot that bothered me about this book. I didn't enjoy the POV the author chose. Tomaso came across callous, unfeeling, and more like a pulp fiction private eye character than a newspaper photographer/reporter recalling events from 1899. The book is told from his POV, 20 years after the events he recounts, so he's speaking from somewhere around 1919. He was 16 at the start of 1899, so he's only ~36 by the end of the book. He sounds like a mid-40s American private eye lounging in his office waiting for a pretty dame to come to him with her problems. It was grating.

Throughout the book, Tomaso offers up articles from various papers that tell part of the story of what was happening. But in the first few chapters, he introduces them by saying "Here, I'll read it to you." He also periodically addresses the reader throughout the book, which I found irritating. I understand that the perspective of the novel was intended to be a sort of conversation between Tomaso and the reader, but it was not effective.

There was also quite a bit of juxtaposition of crass words like "piss" and "shit," appearing in the same sentence as polite terms such as "water closet." I think one of the sentences went something like, "I needed to take a piss, so I went in search of the water closet." I'm paraphrasing, obviously, but that's how a lot of this book went. I felt it was awkward.

There was also frequent reference in the first half of the book to how Tomaso used to be poor but now he's rich and edits a newspaper. A reference or two would not have been amiss, but seeing it throughout a large portion of the book felt repetitive and overdone.

Some of the pacing was also awkward. For example, Nigel Huxley is mentioned in the last sentence of Chapter 19. Chapter 20 begins with a two-paragraph vague explanation, and then we don't see his name until the end of Chapter 20, nearly 3% later (that was a lot of pages, if you're wondering). Why bring him up at the end of Chapter 19 if you weren't going to actually talk about him for another ~30 (Kindle) pages? I spent the entire chapter confused, wondering what the big deal was. At first I thought he was actually on the train with them, which confused me even more.

Lastly, my frustration with Tomaso as a character was partly founded on the fact that he declared several times he was in love with Alessandra, but then didn't act like it at all. He spent a lot of time berating her, a little time comforting her, but most of his time acting like a selfish brat who only went along on the tour so that he could see the sights. His devotion to her was not nearly as deep as I would have expected considering how adamant he was that he loved and supported her.

For all the reasons above and some I did not feel like discussing, I did not particularly enjoy reading this book, and would not recommend it to my friends, although it appears I am in the minority. I spent a lot of time being bored with the writing and the content, and not enough being engaged. I didn't care for any of the characters, not even Alessandra. I pitied her, mostly. But that was about it.

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Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Review: The Witch of Painted Sorrows

The Witch of Painted SorrowsThe Witch of Painted Sorrows by M.J. Rose
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

I don't even know where to start. This book was far from perfect, but I enjoyed it a lot. I tend to give bad reviews to books that have some holes in them, but this one made up for it in the story. I was completely surprised by the ending, which probably makes me a dunce because looking back it seems like it would be obvious.

There was a lot going on in this book, and I didn't quite understand all of it. The whole side story with Dujols and his occult friends seems almost meaningless by the time the end came around. I still don't know who was willing to help Sandrine, and who only wanted to use her.

The sex scenes were completely unbelievable, but boy were they great even so. They weren't typical romance-novel frequent, but there were enough of them to get the point across. I'm glad this was more of a fantasy-occult-mystery than a romance, even though love was at the center of the story.

I do think there were parts where the story was trying too hard to be something it wasn't, but I can forgive it for the fact that it was simply very entertaining.


I realized reading another review I meant to mention the "sleep rape" scene towards the mid-end of the book. That reviewer is not the only one who noticed it, and the fact that people would defend it as not rape is pretty bad. If the author intended it to be a positive thing, I must seriously question her idea of rape. If Sandrine had actually woken Julien up, and he consented, then cool. But he wasn't awake, not completely, and arousal does not equal consent. End of rant.

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Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Review: Seeker

Seeker (Seeker, #1)Seeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free e-copy of this book from NetGalley.]

**To clarify my own thoughts because I was left feeling so muddled after finishing, I have been skimming other reviews. I had the same opinions as many others so I'm reiterating them here.**

Seeker is a difficult book to review. Overall it was well-written grammatically, pretty well-edited, and not altogether boring. But I didn't find myself engaged with any of the characters, or even the story. I hated the structure of it, where we get a different character's perspective in each chapter (at least the author didn't attempt to write from four different POV's but still). This technique dragged out scenes that should have lasted maybe 10-15 pages to what felt like more than 50. That huge battle at the estate in the first I think 25% of the story bounced between perspectives I don't know how many times, and it took me a good half hour to get through it all. And the way the back story was structured drove me nuts. We'd be getting along with the present story, and BAM we're in the past again. Also, I still have no clear idea of what a Seeker is. And isn't that the entire point of this book? That we're supposed to figure that out? Apparently they're just people who travel through "anomalies" and kill people. But WHY?

The fact that John was so consumed by the promise he made to his mother completely ruined him as a character. He showed zero progression as a character, no true remorse for anything he did. The constant, "Oh I hope no one hurts Quin, I don't want to hurt Quin, but she better help me or I'm going to hurt her!" only reinforced that he's a terrible person.

I think Shinobu is the only character who really evolved in this book. And I didn't even really like him that much.

I couldn't figure out the "when" and "place" of it all either. Some years were mentioned, but they were several hundred years in the past, and whenever the present was discussed it was stated like, "It's been some four hundred or more years since then," or some other such nonsense. I'm thinking the book takes place in some alternate reality, not based on the present but in an alternate steam-punk-wannabe parallel present. But I'm not entirely sure, because while we got some descriptions of the Scottish estate, and Hong Kong, and a few vague ideas about Traveler, there was no real sense of place or world-building to the story. I didn't feel at all that the estate was in Scotland, because the only person who spoke with an accent (and that wasn't even consistent) was Alastair. Hong Kong didn't feel like a real place either, because all I could figure out was that they lived near a bridge at Victoria Harbor. Traveler was barely described, and I didn't even realize it was an airship until the very end of the book.

The book was okay, but I don't think the author could decide whether to make it a young adult fantasy or a new adult romance. (Not that I think new adult romance is a real genre, but bookstores seem to think so.) And the romance was terrible. Quin is stuck choosing between someone she thinks of as a cousin (and who is constantly referred to as her cousin, even though he's barely blood-related to her, which makes this a completely weak plot line), and a full-tilt psychopath who has no qualms about hurting her to get what he wants, all the while protesting that he doesn't want to hurt her. And when he's done hurting her, they can be together!

Lastly, I was super annoyed by the fact that the pronunciation of "athame" was included RIGHT IN THE TEXT. If you need a pronunciation guide, put it at the beginning or end!

All told, I didn't like it all that much. I am willing to admit it was well-written grammatically for the most part, and readable, but I would not recommend this to anyone I know.

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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2014 Look-Back: Raves

In the last post, I talked about the worst books I read this year.  This post is dedicated to all of my favorites!  These books all received either a four- or five-star rating from me.  Here is why.

Sorcerer's Feud
via Goodreads
Sorcerer's Feud by Katharine Kerr was one of my favorite books of the year.  I got to read it in beta a couple of times, which was exciting enough.  When I finally read the finished product, it was awesome to see how the book had progressed to the completed point.

Granted, this is book two in the series, so I highly recommend reading the first book, Sorcerer's Luck, before you start this one.  The series itself is interesting because it deals with Norse mythology in modern-day San Francisco, and a relationship that begins incredibly quickly but is grounded in past lives.  I loved the exploration of the main characters' past lives, how they connect with what happens to them in their current life, and how they affect the relationships they form with others.

Hollow City
via Goodreads
Hollow City by Ransom Riggs continues the Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children series wonderfully.  My only problem, and it was completely my own, was that it had been so long since I read the first book I was a little lost in the beginning.  But once I got further into the story and the adventure, I felt like I was in their world running along with them.  The danger was constant, the worry and fear always there in the back of my mind.  I was afraid for all of the children, but also had a lot of faith in their ability to overcome everything thrown at them.  They truly are peculiar children, but they are also remarkable.

This book was nominated for a Goodreads Choice award this year, and I was surprised it didn't win.  At least it came in second!

Three Souls
via Goodreads
Three Souls by Janie Chang was by far the best book I ever received in the Goodreads First Reads program.  It was beautifully written, a wonderful story and one of the best I read this year.  Since I like my own review so much (har har) I'm just going to quote one of the reasons I loved it so much:

I adored the main character, through all her faults and inability to understand she was dealing with things that were much too adult for her. Her character in death was beautifully contemplative and I loved how she was able to see, along with the reader, the impulse of youth contrasted with the reflection of consequences. We all forget, as teenagers, that our actions have repercussions. Even in our adult life it's hard to picture what will happen if we make this decision or that one. In death we are able to see exactly how everything Leiyin did in her youth contributed to the events around her, even without her knowledge or comprehension.

Poison Study
via Goodreads
Poison Study by Maria Snyder only got four stars from me, but that's not to say I didn't adore it.  I took issue with the relationship between the main characters, and the ending.  Both of these issues are expanded on in my review, but I don't want to post spoilers here.  I loved the writing and the story, something I had never read before.  Maybe someone else has written something similar in the past, but to me it was wholly original.

I recommend this book to all fantasy lovers who also like YA fiction.  There is some brutality involved, but I felt it was well-done and inherently relevant to the story.  The continuation in book two was also a great read, and I'm looking forward to finishing the series this year.

I read some pretty awesome books this year, not all included in this retrospective.  I hope that you will enjoy them as much as I did!  And don't forget to set your goals for 2015.  I look forward to seeing how everyone completes their journeys in reading next year!

2014 Look-Back: Duds

In my last post, you saw an overall picture of how my year in reading went.  In this one, I'm going to take a look at all three of the one-star books, and why they received their ratings.

Goddess Interrupted
via Goodreads
Goddess Interrupted by Aimée Carter was book two in her Goddess Test series.  Book one received two stars from me, but this one only merited one star.  I was so angry by the end of this book that I threw it across the room.  What a horrid example of relationships!  The main character spends the entire book complaining that her husband doesn't pay attention to her, and he doesn't love her, but she wants him to love her so badly, why doesn't he love her, why can't he show her affection, why why why whine whine whine.  It was awful.

On top of all of the insecure whining that goes on, there was the ridiculous mythology that was carried over from book one, that fits absolutely nothing from the original mythology.  While adaptation is not a bad thing, this one completely discards history in favor of a ridiculous romance.  Complete and utter fail.

Fractured Dream
via Goodreads
Fractured Dream by KM Randall was another failure for me.  It sounded like a somewhat interesting premise, although considering that we now have shows like Once Upon a Time exploring fairy tales from new angles, maybe it's not as original as I had thought it.  I had a hard time getting through this mostly because of the unprofessional writing, the constant use of the main character's name (Story, ugh), and melodramatic teen angst.  It turned out to be yet another one of those teen-girl-comes-of-age-and-finds-out-she's-a-savior things, but not done very well.

The odd sexual tension didn't help either.  Story and Adam, Story and Nicholas (I actually had to skim a few reviews because I couldn't remember his name), Elliot and literally every single male in the book...

Children Into Swans
via Goodreads
I received a copy of Children Into Swans by Jan Beveridge from NetGalley for the purpose of reviewing it.  However this is one I could not finish to save my life.  It read like an undergraduate academic paper, not professionally written or edited, with very strange personal interjections throughout.  It didn't help that I couldn't figure out where the related stories ended and the exposition began again.

Part of my problem was that I had gone in expecting more fairy tales to be told, but instead I was given a few snippets of fairy tales and then some regurgitated research that had already been done.  There wasn't even an original revelation on any of the stories in any of the pages I read.  I could have just read the original research, and the original stories.  This was a dud.

Stay tuned for the next post dealing with the "studs," my favorite books of the year!

2014 Look-Back: Overall Reading List

This year has been an interesting reading year for me.  I had a lot of fun discovering new authors and series I enjoyed, but also wasted a lot of time on books that I really didn't like.  It's been an up-and-down rollercoaster, but wow what a ride!  Below you can see a map of all of the books I read this year, courtesy of Goodreads.

In total I read 85 books, beating my goal of 60!  This was a huge accomplishment for me, not only because that's a lot of books, but also because it's my highest number yet since I started tracking in 2011.  Maybe I could be considered cheating since I counted short stories on here, but when they're counted on Goodreads as a book, I think it's only fair, right?

A few stats for my reading this year:

  • In total, I read 27,359 pages, almost double my page count for last year (16,717).  The longest book I read was The Abominable by Dan Simmons, weighing in at a hefty 663 pages!
  • I rated the majority of the books I read as 3 stars (33), followed by 4 stars (30), 2 stars (11), and 5 stars (8).  I only gave three books 1 star.
  • The oldest book I read was The Healer's War by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough, published in 1988.  This is the first year in which I did not leave the last century.  From my Goodreads map, it looks like the majority of books I read were actually published in the last two or three years, and a few are actually being published in 2015.

Another thing I've been doing this year is participating in the What we've read in 2014 Listopia list.  I love seeing where my books fit in, what I've read compared to others, and how popular the books I've read this year were.  I'm not surprised by the books that ended up at the top, but I admit I'm surprised by some of the books that I read that ended up at the bottom!

In my next post, I'll explore some of the books I really enjoyed and highly recommend, and a few that I felt were complete duds.  In the meantime, take a look at my 2014 book map!

Megan's bookshelf: read

Citadel of Fire
Red Doc>
Since You've Been Gone
Autobiography of Red
3 a.m.
Mortal Heart
Goddess Interrupted
The Goddess Test
The Bards of Bone Plain
True Calling
Juliet's Nurse
Dark Triumph
Grave Mercy
The Thirteenth Tower
The Healer's War

Megan's favorite books »

Monday, December 8, 2014

Review: Goddess Test

The Goddess Test (Goddess Test, #1)The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Ugh. Cassandra Clare said this was a great book. Much like her book being reviewed by Stephanie Meyer, mother of dreck, I should have known better. There are spoilers for the entire book in this review.

I'm running out of things to say about all the YA I've been reading lately, because it's all starting to sound the same. Why? Because all the books I've been reading are all reading the same way. One thing I've noticed is that every YA author seems to have picked up a liking for the word "deft(ly)" at the same time, and love sprinkling it everywhere. Also, whenever you kiss someone, your lips get swollen so badly you need to mention it. The other thing I'm noticing is that, plot-wise, nothing matters nearly as much as the romance. And that's just no fun.

I don't mind a romance, but I'm starting to think that teen girls are being encouraged to fall in love with the first or second guy they meet, at age 16-17-18, and let that consume their entire being. Their lives suddenly become all about making the guy happy. What about their own happiness? What about their own identities? By the end of this book, Kate is married (she's 18), she's become immortal, and she's 100% certain beyond a shadow of a doubt that she'll never stop loving Henry ever ever ever! She did this entire thing so that she could (a) spend more time with her mom before she dies, and (b) keep Henry from fading away. But what about her life? What about her hopes and dreams? She has zero identity outside of being Henry's new wife and queen of the Underworld. And that strange love triangle with James was forced and awkward. I never would have gone for that angle.

I remember, back when I was a teenager reading YA fantasy, there was actual fantasy amid the romance. The romance did not take center stage, it was often only a background element that blossomed into something more much later in a series. Take, for example, Tamora Pierce's Tortall books. Magic, intrigue, adventure, lots and lots of danger and excitement, and oh, a little romance here and there. Diana Wynne Jones' Howl's Moving Castle is also a great example of fantasy taking center stage, with the romance as something on the side. Why is that so hard to find in this generation of YA fantasy? Why is it that all teen girls (and adults who read YA) apparently want to read about is how a hot girl gets with a hot guy (or a not-so-hot girl gets with a super-hot guy), and oh maybe there's some magic here and there?

Lastly, the writing on this was so glaringly obvious that I had no trouble figuring out James was on the council, and that Kate's mom was actually the goddess Diana. Sorry if that ruined anything for you. I promise that you would have seen it coming a mile away yourself, unless you're super dense.

And I won't even get into the whole mythology thing. That has been very thoroughly covered in other reviews. (These are just two. Go see the multitude for yourself.)

The only reason I'm going to read book 2 is because I swapped for it at the same time as this one, and it's been sitting in my house, and I feel like I should read it before I send it away.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Review: The Bards of Bone Plain

The Bards of Bone PlainThe Bards of Bone Plain by Patricia A. McKillip
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I don't think my brain was in the right place when I started this book. I had such a hard time getting into it, I was bored and it was putting me to sleep (literally, I'd fall asleep after only a few pages).

But picking it up again a few days ago, determined to finish, I realized it was actually a very good book. Once I got to the halfway point I was much more interested and felt more connected to it. It was still a bit abstract, I don't really understand what happened to Nairn in the tower, but I liked the writing and the characters (for the most part).

Recommended for fantasy readers if you are looking for some good high fantasy with some abstract ideas of magic.

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