Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Review: The Thirteenth Tower

The Thirteenth TowerThe Thirteenth Tower by Sara C. Snider
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

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

The Thirteenth Tower was actually a pleasant surprise. I've read some really awful books that I got from NetGalley lately, and was expecting more of the same, which is probably why I ended up enjoying it as much as I did. Emelyn starts out as a servant girl, but ends up as so much more.

There is a lot good about this book. I mostly enjoyed the writing style, found it easy to read, and the dialogue wasn't as strained as I expected. There were moments where I found it wandering off into flowery territory, but for the most part it was appropriate and well-done. Emelyn isn't the greatest heroine, she's not someone I could see myself being friends with, but she isn't insufferable and her story ends up being quite thought-out.

The concept itself was interesting, and I appreciated the execution of the twists and turns of story. One thing I didn't like: it was absolutely completely predictable. It really was obvious what was going to happen; I think I figured it out about halfway through. And while that's a pretty nice chunk of book in which I was in the dark, it still leaves half the book for me to go "OK, when is [this] going to happen?" or "When is she going to figure out she's [that]?"

I didn't like the ending, there was too much going on in the final major scene and yet not enough. I felt like I was trudging through mud while reading the "battle" scene, and I still can't figure out exactly what happened. Also, I don't see anywhere on GR that this is a planned series, so the strange and abrupt ending has left me a bit confused. And while I appreciate Cobbe as a character, I still can't quite figure out her purpose aside from keeping them fed, and providing a little comic relief.

The one thing that has bothered me throughout the entire book is one of the opening scenes: when Emelyn gets swept away to the festival and finds instead the strange creatures, we see the following:

(view spoiler)

This is the *only* such passage in the entire book. Throughout the rest of it there isn't even the barest mention of sex, the closest thing to describing a body part being Emelyn's attempts to figure out whether the small-folk are men or women. It stuck out in a bad way, because otherwise this book was pretty exclusively PG. I'm not saying it was inappropriate, but it didn't fit at all with the rest of the book or with the narrative style. I would consider removing it in future editions, only because I felt it interrupted the story for no reason whatsoever, distracting me from what was going on.

So there's room for improvement, and if it IS going to be a series that explains the ending. It's not fantastic high fantasy, but it was a pretty good read and I rather enjoyed it.

ETA 10/29/14 - I've been skimming other reviews just to see what others have said about this book.  A lot of people have mentioned the lack of character development.  Upon further reflection, I think I was a bit too generous in mentioning I felt that Emelyn was well-developed.  Presented with passages and examples of her stupidity, I realize I had been thinking this all along.  I think what changed my mind was at the end when she decides to embrace her powers and stop being so stupid.  Maybe that blinded me to her faults (and there were many).  It's probably why I said I didn't really care for her as a person, or wouldn't be friends with her.  Anyway, I agree with other reviewers that most of the characters could have been more well-developed, with their motives a bit more clear, or noted at all.

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Review: Sorcerer's Feud

Sorcerer's FeudSorcerer's Feud by Katharine Kerr
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I read this book twice in beta and was sent a copy by the author when it was finished. My opinions are my own.]

***There are no spoilers in this post, unless you have not read book 1, in which case what are you doing?? Go read it now!!***

In the second installment of the "Runemaster" series, Maya and Tor are dealing with the aftermath of the accidental murder of Tor's uncle Nils. The book picks up almost immediately after the last book ended, with Maya worrying that the police are going to figure out she killed Nils, and come after her. Not to mention her brother is still in the hospital and not progressing with his recovery, she has a final project for her degree to work on, she's finally engaged to Tor, and they make the discovery that Nils had kids, one of whom makes contact with Tor regarding the will.

On top of all of that, there's a frost giant who keeps showing up in the driveway demanding the gold plaque that Tor won't give back, Tor is still a were-bear, and Maya is finally confronting the memories that can unlock her heritage and her powers. And Nazis! *dun dun dun*

Let's get one thing straight: This series is fan-freaking-tastic! I loved reading it all three times, and even in my final read I discovered new things and saw some minor changes that really illuminated the plot. I always have fun reading about Maya and Tor, they are a great couple of characters. And the addition of Joel, Tor's cousin, was a great way to show how Maya is becoming entrenched in the magical world. His disbelief was once hers, but now she's so involved that it's like she was never a "normal" person. Her heritage is even more engrossing, because we finally learn where she's from and how she got her "disease."

Obviously it's not true urban fantasy, and the author says as much in the note at the beginning. It doesn't really fit into any one genre, at least not completely. I consider it simply fantasy set in the modern world (which I normally don't like to read as much, but I find this set wholly entertaining). The writing style is pretty easy to read, because you can end up reading a huge chunk of the book and not realize how much until you check your page count! And it never gets boring. I highly recommend this series (definitely start with book 1, Sorcerer's Luck) to anyone who enjoys a fun but intense story about magic, runes, old gods, and some spicy romance.

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Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: Broken Realms

Broken Realms (The Chronicles of Mara Lantern #1)Broken Realms by D.W. Moneypenny
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from the publisher through NetGalley.]

2.5/5 stars

There are minor spoilers throughout this review.

The blurb about this book sounded much more interesting than the book itself turned out to be. My main problem with it was there was a giant gaping plot hole throughout the entire thing: If Mara could control reality with her brain, why didn't she just, I don't know, CONTROL IT?! You can't give a character that kind of power and not explain away the way it works. There was a lot of speculation on the part of the characters (it's nice to have non-omniscient characters, but this wasn't exactly the right way to go about it) on how exactly the powers worked, and what happened when Mara "flickered" after using them too much. There needs to be at least some level of understanding why Mara can use her powers a certain way one time but not every time. The reasoning behind that was never worked out and never even touched on. I mean, she's able to pixellate pretty much anything and blow it away. But a dragon comes at her and she can't even get it to stop moving for more than a few seconds? It doesn't make any sense.

The narration was also pretty overwrought, there was a lot of purple prose, over-description, unnecessary passages that did nothing to advance the plot or set up any bit of the story, and the descriptors were overused. Concrete rippled, bridges rippled, roads rippled, the air rippled...you get the point.

The ending itself was too open-ended. I realize this is a planned series, but if you can't wrap up anything at the end of one book, what's going to make the reader want to read the next one? I would have at least liked to know if they were going to regroup at someone's house and start trying to help the people from other dimensions get home, or even if Detective Bohannon was still involved in any way. The way he was cut out from the last 20% of the book made me wonder if he was even necessary to begin with, other than as a "normal" bystander observing the strange phenomena.

I'm giving it 2.5 out of 5 stars because of the concept. The premise was really interesting and that's why I requested to read it. It wasn't executed particularly well, but it wasn't as bad as some of the other galleys I've read lately. It needs a more thorough editing to remove a lot of the over-descriptors and repeated verbs, along with wrong words and spelling errors and plot holes. If it hadn't already been released I would have suggested more of a polishing to make it seem less like an amateur novel, but we're past that point now.

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Giveaway: The Awakening of Miss Prim

via Goodreads
Here it is, folks!  If you want to win your very own copy of The Awakening of Miss Prim, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  The winner must be willing to provide me with a mailing address, which will only be used to send the book.

This giveaway will run from September 2, 2014 12:00am EST through September 9, 2014 12:00am EST.  If you win, you will have 48 hours from my first contact to respond, and then I'll be moving on to the next person!

****Sorry sorry!  Also, for the "Comment on the blog" entry, you cannot use a Facebook timeline post to enter, as that violates Facebook's TOS.  Any entries with that as the link will be disqualified.****

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE 9/9/2014: AND THE WINNER IS RACHEL!  Thanks for entering everyone!  I hope I can do this again soon!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: The Awakening of Miss Prim

The Awakening of Miss Prim: A NovelThe Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.]

3.5/5 stars (Oh how I wish Goodreads did half stars!)

"I'm cold. Would you mind taking me home now?"
"Mind? I'm always happy to take you home, Prudencia."

Prudencia Prim shows up in an isolated town, to apply for the position of librarian. It turns out to be in a man's home, which also functions as a school of sorts, and this man (never named, other than as "The Man in the Wing Chair") is the perfect person to infuriate, frustrate, and turn Miss Prim into an emotional pretzel. She prides herself on her civility, her delicacy, her own good manners and intelligence, and frequently turns her nose up (quite literally, to a somewhat comedic effect) at other people's faults. But she learns that her way is not the only way, that there are other people who live different lives, more peaceful and happy lives, and maybe her prudish and stuck-up ways aren't exactly making her the best person she can be.

I'm afraid I may have missed the point of this book. Rather than laughing at Prudencia as I think the author might have intended, I found her insufferable and a bit stupid. I'm amazed, with all of her haughtiness, that she managed to make an entire village full of friends. She overreacts easily to just about everything, and only towards the end does she allow herself to feel anything short of indignation that someone would speak to her plainly and without "delicacy." Although the last couple of chapters sort of redeem her, I'm not sure I followed where the author was going with the "idea" of Miss Prim.

And yet, for all of my inability to feel comfortable with my own understanding of the work, I thought it was well-written and funny, an interesting story, and I'm happy to have read it. I'm giving it the full four stars rather than knocking it down to three because of that, and because I quite enjoyed hating the main character. Not to mention the bluntness of the children, who are relatively minor characters but give the book much of its charm. Also, I really want to move to San Ireneo de Arnois.

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Do you want to read this book?  If so, keep an eye on this blog in the next week or so because you'll have a chance to win it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Fractured Dream

Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga)Fractured Dream by K.M. Randall
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.]


I really wanted to like this one, but what sounded like an interesting fairy tale-inspired fantasy turned out to be a melodramatic, overwrought teen romance drama.

Story Sparks (yes, that is her name, and it drove me nuts) is abducted, along with her two best friends, by a water goddess (Sandeen) who tells her that she used to be a goddess herself and needs to dispatch an evil overlord who is trying to destroy her world and the fairy tale world. Seriously, this actually sounded interesting. Not so much. Her uncle was abducted by the same water goddess before Story was born, and her mother has been a bit batshit about the lake ever since. So when Story goes missing, of course her mom (Edie) completely falls apart. After that we don't hear from Edie for pretty much the rest of the book.

So Story ends up going off on her magical quest to save the world, but doesn't have all the information she needs because Sandeen and pretty much everyone else in her life feels the need to keep secrets and not tell her anything, but still expect her to save them all. Okay, right.

There is a lot of sexual tension between Story and her best (straight) friend Adam (I say straight because her other best friend, Elliott, is gay, so no sexual tension there except between him and every single male fairy tale character he meets, because apparently he's a giant ho). The sexual tension between Story and Adam is weird, because apparently they aren't actually interested in each other, even though they each get jealous whenever the other shows any interest in anyone else. But eventually Story falls in love with someone, and Adam is all "Woe is me" until he meets someone else, and then it's like there was never anything between them from the start. What?

The secrets and lies and convoluted story line were way too much for me to handle. And the "origin story" that Story gets several times throughout the book changes so drastically, because everyone has a different version. Whose is right? Apparently only the last one you get in the last few pages of the book.

The writing was juvenile and sweeping. There was definite obvious use of a thesaurus. Every single character was beautiful no matter who they were. An old crone? Oh she was beautiful even with all the wrinkles on her face. The most normal guy on the planet? He's gorgeous and Elliott is drooling all over himself. No room for ugly people here! And the overbearing romantic style of the writing was too much. I felt like I was reading a book that was being put on as a play with some really bad actors who would get down on one knee and soliloquize to an inanimate object. Story's heart broke every time Nicholas looked away from her or frowned at her. It was trying way too hard to be a great book, and didn't try to be a good book.

I really don't understand how this book has almost completely five star reviews on Goodreads. It was not good. Story was a giant pain in the ass, and none of the other characters were even close to like-able. And the writing was just plain teen.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More like 3.5/5 Stars, but I did really enjoy it despite its shortcomings, so that's why I gave it the full 4.

I have skimmed a few other reviews, and one thing I noticed is that people didn't appreciate the attempt at Russian culture. I know pretty much next to nothing about Russia, I wasn't born there, didn't grow up there, barely studied it in school, and while some of my friends were learning Russian in high school I was busy with Spanish. I couldn't even begin to comment on the Russian elements in this book because I would inevitably be wrong. So all I will say is that I hated (and I mean HATED) having random "Russian" words thrown in in italics for effect. If you're going to throw around terminology like that, at least give us more than a sentence to absorb what it actually means, because I pretty much skipped every single one of them after I learned what a kefta was.

Secondly, a lot of people have said that the first person teen girl narrative (so incredibly overdone today) is distracting, and she reads more as a damsel in distress than a strong female character. This is pretty much accurate and I agree. I thought Alina was pretty ridiculous at times, especially when she randomly *squees* with Genya over clothes and hair and girly things. From the first couple of chapters, Alina didn't seem girly at all. AT ALL. And I don't care if she's girly or not, but at least let her character be consistent. Too often I was taken out of the story by Alina's change in personality, and it became very distracting.

Thirdly, what is it with books where people in authority grab the main character by the wrist and lead her (almost always a "her") somewhere she doesn't want to go?

But despite the book's shortcomings, and that ending that was completely out of character for Alina, I had a good time reading it. And that's mostly what matters to me when reading. I have problems when the flaws outweigh the good, but in this, even though I minded, and even though I didn't like Alina as a character, the read was enjoyable. It was pretty fast-paced and exciting, even though nothing is really explained (like HOW exactly Alina "trains" her talent, and why she trusts one specific person over anyone else ever ever ever), and even with its flaws. A shaky but interesting fantasy. I look forward to seeing what else this author can do.

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Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth Is MissingElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a review.]

I can't say too much about the actual story of this one without giving pretty much everything about the book away. But stylistically it was beautifully written. It grabbed my attention from the start, and as I read page after page of Maud's descent into either Dementia or Alzheimer's (it's never mentioned which one it is in the book, and I'm not sure if it was meant to be known) it broke my heart piece by piece. Maud's one focus, the repeated statement "Elizabeth is missing," leads to the story of a completely different missing person. Her first-person narrative jumbles between the past and the present. I wanted to know throughout the entire book: Where is Elizabeth? And what happened to Maud's sister? The end took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to even enjoy the book, but I definitely loved it.

I received a Kindle Edition from NetGalley, and I believe it was before the release date. There were some typos, fairly non-impeding to my read. Mostly spacing issues and some words got stuck together. Otherwise it was done well.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Extraction

Extraction (Extraction, #1)Extraction by Stephanie Diaz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.]

Note: There are some relatively minor spoilers in this post, but as I discuss later in the review, they are completely predictable, so they aren't really spoilers.

I've been reading a lot of YA fiction and sci-fi lately. I think that may have been the reason I didn't LOVE this and only liked it. The market is saturated with Hunger-Games-esque books where kids are disposable, constantly in danger, and often forced to kill other kids. There is always a protagonist who is "better" than the rest in some way, special, able to withstand torture that would have broken another person in her (more often than not female) position. I caught a lot of reference to The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Eve in here, which all of course hearken back to much earlier science fiction such as The Handmaid's Tale and Rollerball Murder and the like. It makes sense that readers like what they like, and want to read more of it. But I'm at the point where they all read the same to me.

Style-wise, this was no different than any other dystopian SF I've read lately. It's in first person present tense, with a female narrator, who doesn't know where she comes from but finds out she's special in some way and decides she doesn't want to conform (because conformity is *always* a bad thing, no matter what). So she becomes hell-bent on proving herself and eventually ends up a rebel. That's the entirety of this book, in a nutshell. It's well-written, intriguing, and I enjoyed the read, but there's nothing truly different about it other than the fact it's on a planet with a toxic moon.

It was also completely, absolutely predictable. Of course Clementine would be picked as an Extraction at the last second. Of course there's a truly horrible character who attempts to rape her twice (because that's the "in" thing in YA dystopians, isn't it? And how gross is that sentence for being true?). Of course she becomes a rebel, because that's what these protagonists do. And that's not a bad thing, because questioning authority and thinking for yourself is always a good idea. But the fact is, it's predictable. And that doesn't necessarily make for a good read.

And of course there are my usual gripes about word choice, there were an awful lot of people who slipped hands around Clementine's wrists. Apparently that is the best and only way to describe the act of taking someone by the wrist and leading them in another direction. There were also numerous typos, especially towards the end of the book when one sentence made absolutely no sense. This I will chalk up to the fact that I read an advanced copy, and I hope that these errors have not made it into final publication.

The love story was rather meh. The introduction of a potential second love interest was clumsy, since I can't see Clementine as someone who is so easily swayed in her feelings, but she seems to take a liking to Beechy before she finds out he's married, at which point that entire angle is dropped (as it should be, but shouldn't really have been introduced to begin with). Her body language and his are all quite awkward, and their friendship is fast, forced, and very strange.

If you haven't immersed yourself into the world of YA dystopian SF lately, go ahead and read this book. It wasn't "unrecommendable," to use a made-up word. I liked it enough to finish it, and to actually put a good amount of effort and thought into what I wanted to say. It was fun, entertaining, and well-written for the most part. Most of the people I follow would probably enjoy it as well. But it's not really ground-breaking or unforgettable (as the blurb on the giveaway brands it), certainly not something I would call "great literature." For what it was, it's worth the three stars.

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As an aside, if you are interested in reading this book, there is a giveaway on the Goodreads page (just click the title link at the top of this page) for one copy, ending July 22, 2014.  You must be a member to enter.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Prototype

Prototype (Archetype #2)Prototype by M.D. Waters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.]

This book was like a hell of a lot better than the first one. It still had its problems, but overall the story was better, and the action a lot better too. It wrapped up very neatly (and I mean, pretty much every loose end is tied up), which is almost always a plus for me (I hate loose ends, especially at the end of a series), although maybe a little too neatly? Not sure yet.

Since I don't want to spoil this book for anyone who hasn't read Archetype yet, I won't post the rest of the review here.  If you want to read it, you can click here!

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