Monday, September 28, 2015

Who says you can't play with what you read?

Fantasy books are so mesmerizing. They take you into another world and erase all your problems for a few days. They are also incredibly lofty and take some serious reading prowess to get through. If the whole series hasn't been published, you could be waiting years for the next one to come out.

I needed a break from all the heavy reading. When that happens, I head to the tried and true section for young readers. The books are fun and take a day of magnificent binging to finish up. Perfect reading break!

Chasing Vermeer and The Wright 3 by Blue Balliett

I went to the local library for a set of easy books that didn't end up being on the shelf but sitting on the shelf above was a spine I recognized. I read Chasing Vermeer for my freshmen English young adult class. I remember the book being a lot of fun to read. Next to that book was several more by the same author. I had found my quick reading diversion. My book pallet cleanse.

I reread Chasing Vermeer to reorient myself with the series. The story line is not overly complicated, but the writing is breezy and exciting. I stayed invested in the story the entire time. The young gumshoes even manage to have a mystery that takes longer than the first three chapters to figure out. Brett Helquist also does some amazing illustrations that have there own little interactive game. These were truly a great, fun reading break.

I highly recommend these books for young readers. They will get boys and girls interested in picking up the book after they have put it down and keep reading.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

An end to the conquest of Ethar

This has been an incredibly interesting month. The last three days I have been laid up sick. I know it is bad when I am not even motivated to read. I apologize for this review being behind schedule. Hope this little bug decides to move on quickly.

Darken the Stars by Amy Bartol

This week, we now have the conclusion to the Kricket trilogy. After this series, I have come to a new appreciation for the Sci-Fi genre I had previously neglected. While I wouldn't really classify the characters as aliens (which is largely why I didn't turn away from the story) with their earthly appearance and similar technologies, they do exist on another planet and have genetically modified extras. The brilliance of these aliens is the connectivity that can be felt by the reader. By the end of the trilogy, I feel invested in the lives of the major characters.

One of the most interesting parts from the third novel comes from the development of Kyon and Kricket. That would be the most interesting book club conversation. The author did an excellent job of showing some real emotional and relationship growth for Kricket over these three novels. Plus, I will admit that Kyon is an incredibly fascinating character that you don't get in many novels.

I found the ending of the novel a little plain after all the adventure and personal roller coasters. It wasn't an abrupt ending with no conclusion. All the storylines were nicely tied up, but they somehow didn't have the punch as the rest of the novel. I was also disappointed that I didn't get more Phlix before the end. So this is a bittersweet review. I am sad to say goodbye to Kricket, but I enjoyed the adventure and romance.

Stop by your local indie store or Amazon and take a look at the series.

Monday, September 14, 2015

What an overhaul!

I cannot believe how much growth happened in just one book. I also cannot believe that it has only been two months since I had the opportunity to introduce the first book in the Dragonsworn trilogy. Where I was barely able to give Soul of Smoke 3 stars, I am happy to be able to rate Shadow of Flame with 4 stars. Caitlyn you have come a long way since 12th grade English, happy release day (again)!

Shadow of Flame by Caitlyn McFarland

The angsty transition into adulthood tones down to a much more toreable level this time around without losing pacing and interest. We have the development of Rhys and Kai along with the pressures of life in a monarchy. There is intrigue as the gang tries to hunt down a spy. There is heart pumping action with skirmishes, treasure hunts, curses, and suppressed love. I can even say that a couple points of the plot managed to swing out of nowhere. McFarland makes statements towards the obvious suspects in order to throw the reader off the track which surprisingly worked. Truly impressed with the story development after the somewhat lackluster approach of the first novel.

As I hoped with the first novel, dragons were a more obvious part of the story. With the war ramping up, the characters are spending more time in their dragon forms. And who doesn't love dragons? I am still certainly spoiled by Naomi Novik's in depth breed depiction, but I feel like we got to be a little more involved with each of McFarland's creations this time around. The mythology is developing into a fully fledged authorverse.

Which brings me to my only came complaint with this novel. The intermixed Welsh is a neat touch (and part of that whole world building thing) but not really worth it to me as the language could sometimes interrupt the flow as I tried to sound it out in my head (spending more time with phoentics than enjoying the story--but I could just be weird like that). The rest of the plot and dialogue moved with a more resolved structure, though. I am very amazed at the amount of growth in the writing ability. The price is incredibly right on this release day too. I recommend you check it out. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

The Diseray is in disarray

September is now here. Everyone is joyously gabbing about pumpkin lattes and pulling out the scarves. Which suits me just fine because I absolutely adore scarves and hats and probably own way to many for a single individual to ever wear in a season. The exciting part of fall to me is curling up next to the fire place wrapped in blankets (which I also happen to have way too many of), drinking something warm, and reading a good book. I could say that I load up on galleys at this time of the year, but let's be honest--I load up on good books all year and use the season as an excuse.

Hunter by Mercedes Lackey

One of the great things about Netgalley has been developing new authors for my bookshelf. I have really come across some authors that have the potential to turn into the next legendary fantasy authors. Other times, I get the great opportunity to read a story from one of those legends. Disney Book Group allowed me that opportunity with an advance copy from fantasy legend herself, Mercedes Lackey.

Mercedes Lackey is dipping her toes into the YA dystopia genre today. Her book, Hunter, releases in the United States. While she is not unfamiliar with writing for teens, she has entered the more modern, urban field of dystopia this time around. I am awed to have been given the chance to read this novel in advance.

I am particularly torn on this review for that reason. I requested this book on the cover  (which alludes to dragons) and the sense of a great fairy tale (this is one of the most published women of fantasy) to be told. The creatures from Otherside are taken straight from the pages of mythology. That part was an exciting approach for me. I just absolutely love the myths of old and their creatures, good and bad. It was also nice to see the more realistic approach to those mythological beasts. While shiny, remorseful vampires are all well and good, that is not their mythology or origin. Seeing them here all hideous and true to their history (and the slight author commentary/jab that went with it) was excellent.

Where I got lost with this book was the obvious set up for why the Diseray happened to cause this future dystopia. The United States clearly ends up split between those who decide to be mindless sheep herded into safety by the military and preppers after some cataclysmic world event. I am just honestly a little tired of these attempts to satire our modern culture as an attempt at a wake up call (but then again, that is what literature is all about). Fans of the dystopia genre however need to pick up this book. Lackey introduces a very cool dystopia for which to be a part.

The story moves along a little sluggishly for my tastes and could have used a more guided hand on the editing process for where to cut and where to add a dash of excitement. We spend most of the story being set up for the final two chapters without much to entertain us in between. This left the ending feeling a little anti-climatic. Clearly this was meant to be a trilogy from the start. If you are familiar with the author at all, then you should have been expecting it. We didn't need the half-hearted cliffhanger to get us there.

At most, I give this novel 3 stars. I recommend it to die hard fans of Mercedes Lackey or those of the dystopian genre just so you can say you have read them all. Otherwise, readers looking for that sense of entertainment and wonder--pass.