Posts Tagged With: book reviews

Blog Revival!

Sorry for the long hiatus folks.  I could write a long essay full of excuses or I could just give one – I produced a spawn and he’s destroying my life force.

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Kidding, kind of.

Anyway, I want to get back on the horse here but I’m changing tactics.  I’ve decided I don’t enjoy writing lengthy reviews and they are a bit boring to read.  Instead I want do to book lists, ie: 10 books to read on a beach, 5 books that take place on the beach, 7 books with beaches on the cover.

I need a beach vacation.

I’m taking submissions for suggested list topics – post in the comments with your ideas (and if you have books to match those lists!)

Thanks!

-Ashley

Categories: Writing | Tags: , , | 1 Comment

Book Review: The Gods of Gotham – 5/5

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The Gods of Gotham by Lyndsay Faye

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Engrossing! This book had me hooked from the start. I’m not one who often tackles mysteries but this has so many other nuances – historical fiction, romantic interest, poetry – it’s going to be pleasing to all kind of readers.

Let’s start with the last I mentioned; the poetry. Faye’s writing is beautiful. I just love the way the story is described. The unfortunateness of an audiobook is how hard it is to dog-ear favorite lines but I have a lot of them. The way people grimaced, the way the sun fell over the city, the smells and sounds of the day all were described so uniquely and so beautifully. It fit is really well with the setting and I think that manner of seeing the world a little differently helped us as the reader understand the main character as well. It was like the general narration was a part of what made Tim such a great detective- he already saw the world in a unique way.

Let’s add that on to the historical fiction – oh, I love the setting. So interesting, so changing. I adored the use of the different language and jargon – it worked extremely well in the book. Very pleasingly hard to follow at times. It wasn’t just thrown in there to be in there – Faye used it well.

The characters in this story are unique – people in particular like Valentine and Mercy are a mixed bag of questions. They really off-set the other cast of characters. That’s the thing with mysteries that is always hard – you have to have a good sequence of people so the suspect list isn’t too short, but you can’t flesh out everyone. Having two really unique people I thought helped balance it out nicely. The fact that these people meant a lot to the main character – brother and love-interest respectively – made it all that more important that they were the interesting ones.

Lastly, of course, there’s the plot. It was a truly good story! Unique background that kept me guessing. Toward the end I had a very good understanding but it wasn’t so far in advance that it was predictable.

And that’s that! I don’t have a bad thing to say about the book. Recommend!

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Series Review: The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier – 4/5


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The Bridei Chronicles by Juliet Marillier – 4 out of 5 stars

Marillier is my kind of writer. I have now completed five books of hers and I love her style. She mixes history with fantasy in a way that makes everything come alive. It’s genius. The stories feel like fairy tales and yet they are darker than that – they have the low heartbeat of life throughout. They are poetry and yet easy to read. I’m sold on her style and someday I am sure I will devour all of her writing.

I was able to enjoy these books on audio and, can I just say, the narrator for this audio book has the voice. Like – melt the ladies right down to their Maryjanes kind of voice. Not that my own husband doesn’t have a nice voice and all, but if he spoke like Michael Page… *fans self*

Each book in this series works toward the same goal – the rise of a new king to the kingdom to bring all the lands together.  It starts off at the core of it all; we see the future king grow up from the mere age of 8. In some ways that can make the first book a little slow and predictable. In others that predictability really clashes with the magic and wonder that arises and makes the whole scene really interesting. Book one is focused on Bridei and Tuala, while book two and three hone in on other characters, with Faolan playing a large part in all three (in many ways I feel like this series ought to be called The Faolan Chronicles.)

Book one may seem a bit slow as it establishes the new reign – but where book one lacks adventure, book two makes up for it. Most of the story in the second installment takes place in a faraway land where secrets and suspicions run wild. Unpredictable love abounds and magic plays an even deeper role.

The third book rounds out the other two perfectly.  A lot more focus is placed back on the kingdom and there’s even more history involved, but that’s not to say the action is put at bay. People who were once perfect are no longer one-dimensional. There’s a lot that goes on and we have yet another excellent character thrown into our midst.This book relies heavily on character growth and it happens so well. What Faolan went through in book two was crucial to put him in the right spot for book three.

I love the likely and yet unlikely romance that occurs in all three books.  Marillier does a wonderful job of making it the focus but not the whole story. I find it hard to believe that the series is over. In many ways I don’t want it to be (there’s so much promise of what Bridei and Tuala’s children will become – and even what Saraid will mean in it all). Maybe that is another series that has been created or yet to come. Regardless, I was sad to put these characters away. For me, this was one of the best ends to a series I’ve ever encountered. A little Disney-esque maybe, but it worked really well and tied off a lot of loose ends.

All in all, a great read.

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Book Review: Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal – 3/5

Shades of Milk and Honey by Mary Robinette Kowal

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My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This novel just wasn’t my bag. I’ve actually had the pleasure of seeing Mary Robinette Kowal speak in Chicago and enjoyed hearing her ideas, so I was excited to pick up this novel. She says it herself – when you hear “Jane Austen with magic” you get pretty interested. Super props to another NaNoWriMo novel. Despite what I think, this book is obviously a success and I love that.

Still, for me this just fell flat. I think the danger in saying it’s like Jane Austen is that then the writing gets compared to one of the greatest writers of all time (in my opinion). That’s a pretty high bar. I felt Kowal can definitely hold her own with style and form but pieces of this novel just didn’t work for me. Some of the scenes felt forced or unimportant and, try as I might, I had such a hard time seeing the magic and the ether and really understanding what the magic was.

Probably, for me, the most frustrating part of this novel was the use of the magic. Everything in this world was 100% normal except for the magic. And what was it used for? Nothing. Absolutely nothing. It was just a way to make things prettier. Whhaaaa – how disappointing. What’s the point of having magic if it doesn’t otherwise change their lives? Sure it enhances and obscures items but it didn’t mean anything. It could make items prettier and more lifelike. Man, I wanted so much more than that. I wanted this ether to matter somehow – I wanted the positives of the beautiful created to have some kind of negative (aside from exhaustion). I liked the idea but I feel like there could be so much more here.

The other piece I found challenging was how closely the storyline mirrored Jane Austen. I knew, of course, that was the intent. I have no problem with the usage of similar plots but this felt so incredibly similar to Pride and Prejudice it made it dull. I knew immediately who the end man would be. Maybe it’s because I have read all of Austen’s completed works and I know them a bit more than the average reader, but I wasn’t able to feel any element of surprise. With this, I found the main character, Jane, to be unbelievable. Why was she so vain, really? “Plain” is not a unique problem to have, or a big one. You would think the rest of the world were supermodels by how worried she is about the length of her nose. It just seemed silly based on how talented she was. If she had a cleft lip or something, then I would have understood, but I felt it was a stretch. It simply didn’t make sense that she was passed up for as long as she was with her only downfall, literally, the only one, being “plainness”.

Still, I think this novel has some positive parts. I did get through it quite quickly and, unlike Austen, it was pleasantly easy to read. It still has the elements of old language but has the satisfying tendency to have direct conversation and events, rather than implications. The idea of glamour was interesting and her characters are well developed. I think historical fiction fans can really like it but I hesitate to recommend to die-hard Austen fans such as myself.

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