Book Review: Red Sister

Red Sister by Mark  Lawrence

 

3.5/5 stars

I’d definitely classify this as dark fantasy. It starts off with the hanging of a child, the capturing and selling of children, and eventually children being sold for ring-fighting. So it’s not a book for those who hate stories about cruelty toward kids. Despite this, it’s a compelling story. Nona is an intriguing main character, with her story coming out in bits and pieces. I generally prefer stories that have more of a deep POV, where the reader knows everything the character does, so the fact that it’s a bit distant took some getting used to. Not a bad thing, but for readers who prefer deep POV, stick with it, because it’s worth it.

As mentioned above, Nona is captured and sold and eventually rescued by Abbess Glass (a fantastically-well done side character) who brings her to a convent to be trained as a warrior. It’s here were Nona learns more about her power and what it entails. I gotta be honest, there were parts of this that were a bit boring, and more than a few scenes that I feel were unnecessary and dragged the narrative a bit. I think what Lawrence was trying to do was let us get to know Nona in more of a normal-type of setting, having inane thoughts and every-day type of experiences. But I feel like there was too much of this. But that’s my preference. I don’t mind slow-building stories, but these scenes didn’t feel important to the plot. But I digress, because there were spurts of genius amid the drudgery.

When the action hits, it HITS, and you go from zero to a thousand miles an hour with barely a blink. The action was so well-written you feel like you are there, experiencing it with Nona as she does (and taking you into that deep POV I enjoy so much).

One interesting thing to note, and that I think Lawrence does very well, is that the word “said” is often left out of the narrative. It gives the story a very distinct feel, with more of a clipped writing style that I don’t think I’ve ever read before. I wonder what the author’s editor thought of that LOL. But it’s unique, and done quite well.

The worldbuilding is phenomenal. The magic system is unique, although I wish we had a better understanding of how it works, but with fantasy, this is par for the course. I’m assuming this comes out more in the following books. And the fact that Nona’s “knives” are like Wolverine from X-men was slightly annoying, but didn’t spoil the story for me.

All in all, this is compelling enough for me to want to keep reading. I really like Nona, and the worldbuilding, and the unique writing-style. I”ll be grabbing book two in the near-future.

Get it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

Book Review: The Black Prism

The Black Prism by Brent Weeks

4.5/5 stars

This book took my by surprise, and in all good ways. I’d heard of Brent Weeks here and there, but hadn’t picked up anything by him. To my SHAME. This story was incredible.

First things first. Gavin Guile is one of those characters that makes you wonder what his ultimate motivation is. The pretty standard trope “is he a good guy or bad guy” initially had me rolling my eyes, but I stuck with the story since the magic system was so intriguing, and Kip was so dang lovable. Thankfully, the trope is turned on its head as things are revealed (don’t want to spoil anything) that make everything he is doing make sense.

And that’s about it with this story. Everything you think you know ends up being something completely different. It’s not just the standard plot twists and turns that are there just for the sake of being there. The plot is just, quite simply, genius. It makes me want to reprimand myself for not reading it sooner (or, actually, listening, since I did the audiobook).

Weeks weaves a tale so spellbinding you can’t put it down. That’s the genius of a good writer. The characters were phenomenal, the plot engrossing, and the worldbuilding masterful. My one minor critique is the overuse of describing women in physical terms. Weeks tended to be more descriptive of what women looked like as opposed to men, and it got a bit *eyeroll* after awhile. But other than that, this whole story was flawless in every respect.

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Book Review: Quelling

Quelling by Angie Grigaliunas

 

Quelling is a fine follow-up to Sowing, in the Purification Era series. What it lacks in worldbuilding and cohesive plot points it makes up for with character development.

Rab and Ri find themselves in the same position as they were in Sowing. Ri is still physically abused by her mother and longing for freedom, but held back from running because of circumstances outside of her control. Rab continues to grow entrenched in the rebel movement, protecting Ri from their mother, and sorting through the trauma of her own sexual assault. The themes are dark without being overdone, and you get a really good sense of the inner struggle in these main characters (one of the advantages of first person POV).

We get a good bit more of the itzalin in this book, which I liked. I still feel there is more info we need to really understand the reason behind WHY they are so feared, besides the reason given in the book(s). I still feel the world is just too small. All the action takes place within one city, mostly behind its walls, so it gives a very limited scope of what this world is really like. If we had a bit more scope, it would bump this up to a 5 star for me, because I absolutely adore the phenomenal characters in this story.

The plot rambles a bit, and lacks some cohesion. It’s more a moment by moment type of style, as opposed to the normal 5 act structure one would expect for dystopian novel. Not necessarily a bad thing, depending on what the author is going for. It SEEMS the author really wants to focus on character arc, and worldbuilding/plot falls secondary. So instead of a build-up to a climax, there are sparks of action and intrigue throughout, setting a good pace and yet not really leading anywhere concrete except to highlight the intrigue and relational aspects of the characters lives. Again, not a bad thing, just… different.

As mentioned before, where this story might lack in some aspects, it MORE than makes up for in incredibly well done, intriguing, complex characters. There are a few side characters that might need a bit more to them, but the main characters are fantastic.

Rab/Ri and their endearing love for and loyalty to each other is sooooo well done. They are becoming one of my favorite sister/friendship duo’s EVER. You don’t get this type of relationship THIS well done very often in literature, let alone YA. The author has a firm grasp on who they are as a character. Their voices are unique, consistent, and believable. Ariliah, the youngest, is timid and shy, yet undergoes a steady buildup to believable motivations and an understandable reason for being the way she is. Rabreah is fiery, often impulsive to the point of stupidity, yet has the heart and courage of a lion. Yet we get a glimpse of those walls coming down with Sorek, and it’s heart-meltingly, hits you right in the feels type of development.

Don’t get me started on Masrekah. The complexity of this character is so well-done it makes me sad he doesn’t actually exist. Sniff. I’ll just say this: one minute you’re convinced he’s a good guy at heart, and the next you are certain he’s an arrogant, narcissistic ass who needs to be taken down a peg or two. But that’s just it. He’s both, and the splendid weaving of his story only gets better with this book as it progresses.

All in all, 4/5 for me, and I look forward to book 3. Get it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads.

Book Review: The Gods of Men

The Gods of Men by [Kloss, Barbara]

4.5/5 stars

This was (almost) everything I wanted it to be. A solid, rip-roaring epic fantasy, with all the beloved elements of the genre. Usually when I pick up such a story, I rate it on four (albeit completely arbitrary and unique to myself) elements: magic, monsters, (wo)+men, and mayhem. All four of these things were *very* nearly there, and made my fantasy-loving heart oh so happy.

First, magic (and the only category with a docked half-point). The magic system was solid, but didn’t completely do it for me. I don’t mind unclarity (is that a word? If not, I declare it so) with magic. In fact, I prefer a little mystery to accompany the system, but this had a little TOO much fogginess with how it worked. I’m assuming it will become more concrete with the next installment of the series. But I would have preferred a little more clear lines with what it is and how it works. I feel like with certain POV’s, it could have been fleshed out more, particularly Rasmin’s. But generally, I enjoyed the unique element of music being a part of it, and the Shah was certainly an interesting concept. It will be cool to see how it (hopefully) becomes more defined in book 2.

Second, monsters. I love some good scary beasts adding unpredictability to a narrative. This book had it in spades. The shades were super scary and unique, and the chakran was downright terrifying. They kicked the intensity up a notch, and raised the stakes at times, so it had this element that I really enjoy and typically judge an epic fantasy by.

Third, (wo)+men, which is just a dumb way of talking about the characters while having everything start with an “m”. I thoroughly enjoyed ALL the characters, which is unusual for me. Usually there are one or two that I have complaints about, be it their character arc or motivations. But every single actor in this story was well-written, had believable motivations, and flowed well with what the author seemed to be trying to accomplish. Even the Maker, the god in this story, wasn’t typical. I love how the characters each interacted with him differently, had various ways they believed or didn’t believe, and how that affected each of their stories. Sable was a compelling main character, and the Wolf, while somewhat typical (at least, IMO) had elements to him that made him a bit different, too. I really loved the “is he a good guy or bad guy?” question throughout the whole book, and how it made him unique. There were snippets here and there throughout the book of fun, believable relationships. Wolf/Braddok and their friendship, the complicated Wolf/Sable thing going on, and even the sibling relationships the author delved into were awesome. My only complaint (very, very minor) was what happened with Astrid’s character arc. It was heartbreaking, in a way, but also made me both angry and unsatisfied. However, I think this is probably what the author was going for, and it in no way detracts from the story.

Lastly, mayhem. This book delivers on complicated plots, battles, fight scenes, and general madness that makes epic fantasy so fun and engaging to read. The author has a knack for pacing that is pretty unusual with epic fantasy, too. Most authors (usually unique to epic fantasy writers) can’t quite strike a good balance between worldbuilding and pacing the plot forward, but the author has mastered this. There wasn’t ever a point where I was bored by the descriptions of the world, because it was so masterfully woven into the narrative. Yet there wasn’t ever a time I was confused, either, by parts of the world because there wasn’t an explanation of it. YOU GUYS. This is so hard to do. I write epic fantasy, and this is the hardest part of writing it, hands down. It seems like this author literally had no issue with mastering this, and it makes me jealous. It seemed so effortless, so immersive, and kept the pacing of the book flawless. Major kudos.

All in all, this ties with one of my favorite epic fantasy reads this year. I’m really looking forward to book 2, and following this author’s career.

Grab it on Amazon or add it on Goodreads

Book Review: Short Literature Pro Market 2019

Short Literature Pro Market 2019

5/5 stars

A helpful, no-nonsense, straightforward guide to the various outlets available for publishing short stories in multiple genres. It’s easy to understand and read, and full of helpful info for writers looking to traditionally publish their work through magazines and other sources. Highly recommend. It’s a all-in-one place to research and find outlets for your short stories.

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Book Review: Symphony of the Wind

Symphony of the Wind (The Raincatcher's Ballad Book 1)

3.5/5 stars

This story follows the tale of Gallows, a Hunter who gets caught up in a whirl of conspiracy, revenge, and just plain, flat-out rollicking bad luck. It also follows Serena, a young girl who isn’t what she seems and has powers she knows little about.

I’ll start with the things I really enjoyed. Interestingly enough, I feel it was the side characters who really shined. Damien, Pierro, and V (who we didn’t get to see much of and I wish there had been more) were among my favorites. They were unique and engaging. I also really appreciated the world-building. It’s a unique society, with hints of bigger-picture politics and intrigue and conspiracy, which I usually enjoy. This was no exception. There were surprising plotlines, the writing was engaging and humorous, and generally speaking, the action kept me on the edge of my seat.

A few things tripped me up, but not to a large degree. Serena was bland, in my opinion, and there were aspects of her character that felt inconsistent. She cares very little when someone in her orphanage is murdered, but then worries about a stranger she barely knows who goes missing. I enjoyed Gallows a bit more. I feel he was more consistent and believable, as well as more likable.

The plot could have used some streamlining. It was a bit haphazard, and there were points where I was thoroughly confused and didn’t know what was happening. It would come together, but then it would shoot out again in random directions. This left the climax rather disjointed, and I felt like there were five or six mini-climax points as opposed to the story leading somewhere concrete. This won’t bother everyone, however.

I can definitely see why many readers love this book. I enjoyed it, too, despite some of my complaints. All in all, if you are looking for something different and unique as far as themes, world-building, and atypical characters, then grab this one.

Get it on Amazon (it’s on KU as well) or add it on Goodreads

Book Review: The Sword of Kaigen by M.L. Wang

Image result for the sword of kaigen

 

5/5 stars

The Sword of Kaigen is the first book I’ve read by this author, and certainly won’t be the last. I had a wide range of feelings and thoughts when I first started reading. What I’ll do for review purposes is start off with what I had (minor) complaints about before I get into the massive amounts of positive things. But first things first.

You can’t read this book thinking it’s about a progressive story, with a typical 5 act structure. The book centers around one battle that takes place about halfway through, and on two characters and how they respond. It took me a bit to get used to this concept. Typically I’m drawn to books that take you multiple different directions with the plot lines, and have some happenings that lead up to the plot climax. This is not that. So, when I finally understood this, I enjoyed the story much better. I’m sure this was purposeful on the author’s part (since this story takes place in a world she already created) so the book, from what I understand, is kind of a prequel type of story. This actually isn’t a complaint as much as a side note to how you should approach reading this book.

A couple things that I had to get used to. There is a LOT of concepts, terms, and language that is new. There is a glossary, which is helpful, but it was so pervasive that at least twice a paragraph I was having to go back to reference what was being said and talked about. For readers familiar with the author’s other works, this probably won’t be as much of a problem. But for me, it was almost too much. I nearly put the book down. I’m SO glad I didn’t. On the one hand, this lends to really being deep in the world, because of course the characters will know exactly what is going on. But there were other sections of the book that were info dumps (helpful in some cases) but I wish there had been a tad bit more of this so I had a better idea of what was going on without having to constantly be referencing the glossary (which is more difficult when reading an eBook, which I was.) Again, all that to say, stick with it. You won’t be disappointed.

Now, on to the good stuff. For me, there were three things that make this writer a stand-out. The book focuses on two characters, for the most part. Mamoru and his mother, Misaki. However, their stories don’t intersect that much until a good bit into the story. This isn’t a problem, though, because it’s actually a very clever worldbuilding element. You right away get the sense that family relationships are VERY different, but without being directly told this is so. That’s my first rave about this author: the worldbuilding is incredible. You immediately get tossed into a fantastic, unique world and story.

Secondly, the characters are multi-layered, unique, and far from predictable. Initially, I REALLY disliked Misaki, because her flaws seemed to far outweigh the good things about her. But then it hit me: this was absolutely intentional and vital to the story itself. Because not only is Misaki an incredibly unique and relateable character, it gradually comes out that this self-view she has is not accurate. And where it IS accurate, it only reveals the brokenness of her story and of the world itself, making her one of the most real, understandable, and fascinating characters I’ve ever read in any book. Ever. And I read A LOT.

Mamoru is also a very well-done character. It was hard at first to get into his story, since initially he comes across as just like every other coming-of-age teenager I’ve read. However, his character arc takes such a great turn that I finally grasped the scope of what the author was trying to accomplish, and was totally blown away. It finally struck me that this is more a story about the characters than the plot itself. And the story was so well crafted that I can’t even complain about it.

Lastly, the themes of this book were deep and so well done that you get the feeling the author is some multi-bestselling genius. Topics such as relationships in marriage, parenting, sexism, patriarchy, self-worth, and a host of others left me in awe. This story hits a hard punch to the gut in all the best ways. I can’t remember the last time I got choked up so many times reading a novel. It’s not just current and raw, it rips your heart up and then heals it.

A HUGE 5 stars. Wish I could leave more than that. This book isn’t even a risk. It’s a guaranteed enjoyable, emotional experience.

Find it on Amazon or add to Goodreads.