Mini-Reviews: QUEEN SONG & STEEL SCARS

Titles: QUEEN SONG and STEEL SCARS
Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen, #0.1 and #0.2, respectively
Genre: Young Adult – Epic Fantasy, Dystopian, Novella
Publication Information: HarperTeen, 2015 and 2016, respectively
Rating: 4 Stars and 3 Stars, respectively
Recommended For: Fans of the Red Queen series.
Watch Out For: Violence

QSQueen Coriane, first wife of King Tiberias, keeps a secret diary—how else can she ensure that no one at the palace will use her thoughts against her? Coriane recounts her heady courtship with the crown prince, the birth of a new prince, Cal, and the potentially deadly challenges that lay ahead for her in royal life.

(Summary from Goodreads)

This was my favorite of the two novellas because I liked reading more about the inner workings of the Nortan court, plus Coriane seemed like a genuinely lovely person who met an unfortunate end. This one was also particularly interesting because of the insight it gives us into Elara’s character, and Elara is my queen, so. (Idk, what does that say about me?)

SSFarley was raised to be strong, but being tasked with planting the seeds of rebellion in Norta is a tougher job than expected. As she travels the land recruiting black market traders, smugglers, and extremists for her first attempt at an attack on the capital, she stumbles upon a connection that may prove to be the key to the entire operation—Mare Barrow.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I actually could’ve just read an entire book about Farley infiltrating Norta because that part was interesting. I didn’t connect with her as much as I did with Coriane, but it was nice to get a look at how the Scarlet Guard came to be such a force in Norta and to learn about its inner workings.

TL;DR: You don’t have to read these novellas to follow the story in the main books, but it does add an extra layer to some of the character motivations if you do read them.

Book Review: SOUNDLESS

SoundlessTitle: SOUNDLESS
Author: Richelle Mead
Genre: Young Adult – Fantasy
Publication Information: Razorbill, 2015
Rating: 2 Stars
Recommended For: People who enjoy books that read like fairytales.
Warnings: Some kissing, but nothing that wouldn’t be appropriate for a middle school audience.

For as long as Fei can remember, no one in her village has been able to hear. Rocky terrain and frequent avalanches make it impossible to leave the village, so Fei and her people are at the mercy of a zipline that carries food up the treacherous cliffs from Beiguo, a mysterious faraway kingdom.

When villagers begin to lose their sight, deliveries from the zipline shrink. Many go hungry. Fei and all the people she loves are plunged into crisis, with nothing to look forward to but darkness and starvation.

Until one night, Fei is awoken by a searing noise. Sound becomes her weapon.

She sets out to uncover what’s happened to her and to fight the dangers threatening her village. A handsome miner with a revolutionary spirit accompanies Fei on her quest, bringing with him new risks and the possibility of romance. They embark on a majestic journey from the peak of their jagged mountain village to the valley of Beiguo, where a startling truth will change their lives forever…

(Summary from Goodreads

The premise to this one sounded really interesting, which is why I’d initially picked it up, but unfortunately, the execution didn’t really work for me.

I seem to recall that this was based in Chinese folklore, but I honestly wouldn’t have been able to tell if I hadn’t been told — which was disappointing because that was part of what interested me about the book. Aside from the names, the world felt really Generic Fantasy to me. Which isn’t to say the world building was necessarily bad — Mead made good use of details, especially as Fei starts to hear. (Actually, those scenes where Fei hears things for the first time were my favorite ones.) But I definitely wouldn’t have sold it as Asian fantasy since it really wasn’t.

That being said, though: the cover? YES. SO HERE FOR IT.

I also had a hard time with the characters. Aside from the scenes where Fei is describing different sounds for the first time, or talking about her painting, she really didn’t interest me, and her romance with the miner (whose name I can’t even remember, tbh) fell so flat for me that it might as well not have been there at all. And to be totally honest, this book really didn’t need the romance at all. Fei saving Beiguo easily could’ve been interesting enough on its own and the romance actually took away from that for me.

TL;DR: Good world building but not much else going on for me.

Book Review: THE GUNSLINGER

43615Title: THE GUNSLINGER
Author: Stephen King
Series: The Dark Tower, #1
Genre: Adult – Fantasy/Horror/Western/Post-Apocalyptic
Publication Information: NAL, 2003 (originally published in 1982)
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommended For: People who enjoy genre bending and constant confusion.
Watch Out For: Violence, sexual content, sexual violence

In The Gunslinger (originally published in 1982), King introduces his most enigmatic hero, Roland Deschain of Gilead, the Last Gunslinger. He is a haunting, solitary figure at first, on a mysterious quest through a desolate world that eerily mirrors our own. Pursuing the man in black, an evil being who can bring the dead back to life, Roland is a good man who seems to leave nothing but death in his wake.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I’ve had several people recommend The Dark Tower series to me, so I figured that since there’s an adaptation in the works, it’s time to finally read it. While it’s not what I normally read, there were certain aspects of it that I enjoyed, and I plan to continue reading the rest of the series.

I spent a lot of time being confused about what was happening in the story – my usual response to thrillers, admittedly. This threw me off a bit. I also had a hard time because so much of it is spent in Roland’s head – there are occasional appearances from other characters, but mostly it’s all Roland.

I did enjoy how atmospheric the book was, though. King did an excellent job immersing us in Roland’s world from the start. I was actually in awe of this aspect of the book, since he constructs the setting so effortlessly. He doesn’t spend a ton of time describing it like in some of the other fantasy series I’ve read – instead it unfolds in front of us as we follow Roland on his journey through the desert without us even realizing what’s happening. The writing is really what kept me going here.

TL;DR: Here for the writing, lukewarm about everything else.

Currently…

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The one place in Bellingham where dogs aren’t allowed.

Loving

The weather we’ve been having lately. Even though it’s pollen-y and it feels like I got punched in the face a lot of the time. (Thanks, allergies!) And even though it feels more like July than May. Days like the ones we’ve been having remind us all around here why we haven’t left.

Reading

I’m still reading THE NAME OF THE WIND. I have about 300 pages left. I’ve returned an embarrassing number of books to the library unread in the past month. I’m enjoying it, though.

Watching

I saw the new Captain America movie on Friday, and had way more feelings than I expected to have, all thanks to the complexity of the character relationships. Also, there was tons of moral ambiguity to go around. I think I still liked Winter Soldier more, but Civil War was up there.

Also, Game of Thrones is back, so I’ve been watching that. I really want to see Sansa actually get to DO something with all that awesome character development that’s been going on. Also, I actually felt sort of bad for Cersei, for once?

Listening To

Thinking AboutIMG_2932

Revisions. I’m about 13k into the new draft and it’s going much better. The pacing at the beginning has improved a lot since I cut a lot of things and consolidated some scenes, and I’m feeling a lot better about where the story is going now.

Anticipating

Summer is SO CLOSE. We’ve only got about five weeks left of the school year and it’ll probably fly by because I’ve also been super busy lately. It’s already been feeling like summer for the past couple weeks, so that should make things…exciting.

Wishing

I had a money tree. Because grad school is expensive. (But not sleeping for three years sounds cool, too.)

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Update: applying for scholarships is still the actual worst.

Making Me Happy

I’m doing the YA Buccaneers Spring Writing Bootcamp and it’s always nice to have people to check in with and cheer you on! And I love cheering other people on. (Shout out to Twitter for adding GIFs because this has upped my cheerleading game considerably.)

Book Review: THE EYE OF THE WORLD

228665Title: THE EYE OF THE WORLD
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time, #1
Genre: Adult – Epic Fantasy
Publication Information: Tor Books, 1990
Rating: 5 Stars
Recommended For: Fantasy fans willing to make a long-term time investment.
Watch Out For: Violence – probably appropriate for mature middle schoolers.

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I started reading The Wheel of Time series in high school, read the first five or six books, and stopped. Now I’m ready to give it another try, but it’s been so long, and there’s so much going on, that I decided to start back over at the beginning. As such, reading THE EYE OF THE WORLD was a nostalgic experience.

One thing I always appreciated about these books is the world building. As someone who writes high fantasy, it honestly exhausts me to think about how much work went into building a world with so many different layers – especially in the later books, when it expands. (This one, for all its questing, is relatively small-scale compared to what I’ve read of the series so far.) The world building is extremely detailed and while this does have a tendency to make the story drag sometimes, nerds like me will probably enjoy that aspect.

I have a complicated relationship with the characters, particularly the female characters. They have a lot of power in this world, which is fantastic because that’s not always the case in fantasy novels. On the other hand, they spend a very large portion of their time talking about the men around them. I wanted to see a lot more of Nynaeve and Egwene figuring out how to navigate their newfound Ayes Sedai powers than we actually did, for example.

I think this one would be good for people who are already fantasy fans, because there are a lot of names and terminology to sift through that can get confusing for people who are used to books like this – I referenced the glossary in the back multiple times throughout the book. (Glossaries: another thing that makes my nerdy heart sing.)

TL;DR: The most critical 5 Star review I’ve ever written.

Currently…

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Loving

12933064_10156739845780324_6922971929797076750_nI’m on spring break, and I have so much free time, and it’s nice. I’ve read some books and written some words and watched some movies and gotten some sleep.

Reading

In the past month, I’ve finished reading:

  • THE EYE OF THE WORLD by Robert Jordan: Delightfully nostalgic.
  • CLARIEL by Garth Nix: I mostly just want to reread the other books now? I enjoyed it, but not as much as its predecessors, although I did appreciate reading a book with an asexual protagonist.
  • ENDURE by Sara B. Larson: I enjoy this series because it reminds me a lot of Tamora Pierce’s books, although the character development in the villains was lacking for me.
  • QUEEN SONG by Victoria Aveyard: I was out in public earlier today when I finished this one. Otherwise I probably would’ve thrown my phone across the room.12976897_10156744236815324_6126522734596802509_o

Now, I’m starting THE NAME OF THE WIND by Patrick Rothfuss, which I bought awhile ago and just hadn’t gotten around to reading yet.

Watching

I discovered the other night that THE PRINCESS BRIDE is on Netflix, and I immediately watched it (even though I own it on DVD). Last night I watched BEFORE WE GO, which Chris Evans directed, so OF COURSE I had to watch it, and I loved it.

Listening To

Thinking About

Revisions, always. Last month I mentioned deciding to scrap what I had so far and rework the beginning, and then I didn’t really get time to work on that until this week.

12919747_10156677090150324_5704811851184224647_nAlso, a couple weeks ago, Washington had their Democratic caucuses, and I was thinking about how lucky we are that we even get a say in who runs for president. Even if many of the choices we don’t have this time don’t seem that appealing, at least we still get the chance to choose the least-awful of the bunch?

I might not have been thrilled at waking up early on the weekend to go participate, and then going immediately to work a nine hour shift afterward, but it was cool to see how many other people were also willing to give up four or five hours of their Saturday mornings to make their voices heard.

Anticipating

So, in this section last month, I said I was waiting to hear back about grad school. And I did. I got my acceptance email literally right as I hit “publish” on this post. So, I’m doing my MLIS online starting in September, and I’m excited to learn how to be a librarian, and I’m also excited because I already feel like I’ve found my people. I mean, I love teaching (that’s why I want to be a school librarian), but I feel like I BELONG in a library.

Wishing

Okay, but, like, does spring break have to be ONLY a week, though.

Making Me Happy

This mug I bought on Etsy is pretty swell.

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Book Review: ALL WE HAVE IS NOW

22840148Title: ALL WE HAVE IS NOW
Author: Lisa Schroeder
Genre: Young Adult – Apocalyptic, Verse
Publication Information: Scholastic, 2015
Rating: 3 Stars
Recommended For: People looking for lyrical writing or something a little different.
Watch Out For: Language – probably appropriate for middle school.

What do you do with your last day on earth?

Just over twenty-four hours are left until an asteroid strikes North America, and for Emerson and everyone else who didn’t leave, the world will end. But Emerson’s world already ended when she ran away from home. Since then, she has lived on the streets, relying on her wits and on her friend Vince to help her find places to sleep and food to eat.

The city’s quieter now that most people are gone, and no one seems to know what to do as the end approaches. But then Emerson and Vince meet Carl, who tells them he has been granting people’s wishes—and gives them his wallet full of money.

Suddenly, this last day seems full of possibility. Emerson and Vince can grant a lot of wishes in one last day—maybe even their own.

(Summary from Goodreads)

I loved the writing in ALL WE HAVE IS NOW. It was lyrical, not to mention the fact that using third person present tense felt very natural and the poems also fit well into the overall story. I think, if you want to read a book in verse but are too intimidated, this would be a good one to start with because it was a good balance of poetry and prose.

One of the things I loved about the writing – the tense – was also a drawback for me, character-wise. I felt like I had a hard time getting to know any of the characters, and I think that was because telling the story in third person present made me feel more like a spectator and ended up distancing me from the story. That being said, I did still enjoy watching Emerson, Vince, and Carl on their journeys to help people and to get home.

I loved the premise – that there’s an asteroid about to hit Earth and wipe out most of North America. The story easily could’ve gone a different, darker direction – as most apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic novels do – but this one had a lighter tone, instead choosing to focus on the positive aspects of humanity, and I appreciated that. I also felt like the almost whimsical feel was appropriate given that the setting was Portland, Oregon, since that’s basically Portland in a nutshell.

TL;DR: A whimsical story with beautiful writing, but I felt too much like a spectator.