Category Archives: Book Review

Book Review: The Selection

So the third Thursday is supposed to be a book review, but if you saw my last post you’ll know that I’ve been preoccupied by a few things lately.

First, I moved into a new apartment. Any of you who’ve moved before will know how time consuming that is.

The other thing that’s kept me busy is my decision to self-publish the novel I’ve been working on, The Hashna Stone.

Needless to say, I haven’t had time to even open a book, much less read one.

Since I don’t have any new books to review, I thought I’d go back to one I read probably about a year ago that really stuck with me (and not necessarily because it was the best book I’ve read).

I thought I’d warn you about the length of time since I’ve read this book so you won’t be too surprised by the rambling style this review is written in.

Hope you enjoy this last-minute post! (It’s possibly one of the last book reviews I do…I’ll explain later.)

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This book could have been such a good story (not to mention it has a beautiful cover!). A modern twist on Ester or Cinderella–a common girl gets the chance of a lifetime to become a princess through a competition. If she wins, she marries the prince.

I was disappointed from the opening.

First, there was the info dumping. One of the first things you learn as a writer is to never dump a bunch of information in the first chapter (or really ever). The first few pages of this book throws a bunch of random information to the reader about the main character’s family. It would have been much better if they’d been introduced as the scene unfolded.

I could overlook that. Sometimes good books have bad beginnings.

But then it got worse.

The main character, America, seems to think that she’s the ugliest person ever and gets upset if anyone says otherwise.

There are a few flaws about this.

One, if a person is truly beautiful enough for everyone in the entire novel to compliment her, then that person would eventually think, “You know, so many people think I’m pretty…I think it just might be true.” People who have above-average looks know it. Sometimes a little too well. (We’ve all come across those people 😛 )

Two, even if someone didn’t think they were attractive, they wouldn’t mind if their boyfriend told them they were. When have you ever heard a girl be upset because their boyfriend said, “Hey beautiful?”

Never. Even if America didn’t think she was very attractive or even if she wasn’t very attractive, she would have appreciated the compliment. She may have blushed, busied herself with something so she wouldn’t have to look at him, or stumbled over her words, unsure of what to say because she wasn’t used to such compliments. But she wouldn’t tell her boyfriend that his compliments got on her nerves  or try to convince him that she wasn’t attractive.

It’s fine to have a character think that they aren’t the most attractive member of society, but it’s annoying to be beat over the head the whole story with just how much this girl thinks she is ugly.

If America truly had such a low self image, this books should have been about her journey to accepting herself for who she was.

But instead it’s about….What exactly is it about? I’m not sure. The main character does zero growing throughout the book, nothing seems to get solved, and by the end I was left wondering what I’d just read.

In spite of my harsh words, I’m glad I read it. The dialogue, characters, and word choice were so ridiculous that I had a good laugh every page or so.

The author had a great story idea, but could benefit from some classes in character development, dialogue, and plot.

I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to improve their writing. Reading The Selection will teach you what not to do.

Rating: one star

 



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Book Review: The Rose Society

The rose society marie luAs amazing as The Young Elites is, the sequel is even better. (If you haven’t read it you may want to read my review of book one in this trilogy Book Review: The Young Elites.)

 

The Pacing

There was never a dull moment in this book. I was always on the edge of my seat, waiting for Adelina’s next move. Even with multiple view points, the story didn’t slow down. I never found myself rushing past a different character’s point of view to get back to Adelina.

 

 

youngelites_teaser-adelina-by-mree-closeupCharacter Arc (***Spoilers***)

Adelina wants revenge on the Daggers and on the inquisition, but what she needs is to realize that in spite of how she feels, there are those around her who love her. She goes through the whole book reminding herself that love isn’t for her and that power is the safest option, when all she needs to do is recognize the love her sister has for her, and open herself to Magiano’s love. (He’s an elite she recruited to follow her.) Charismatic Magiano manages to tug on her cold heart and even get her to feel a few rare moments of joy. But in one of the final scenes, someone (I don’t want to give too many spoilers :P) dear to her completely rejects and crushes her, confirming her belief that someone like her could find love.

In the end, she gets the revenge she was looking for, but it only makes her feel empty.

 

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Other Characters Worth Mentioning

I thoroughly enjoyed Magiano, one of the Elites in Adelina’s new group. I love the careless way he plucks at his lute, even in dangerous situations (even when meeting Adelina for the first time, right after witnessing her power). And the way he slouches and moves in an unconcerned manner like an impish wanderer, but wears a wild assortment of rich clothing that would make royalty jealous. He is equal parts wise vagabond and treasure-seeking prince. This colorful dichotomy makes Magiano a fun and unforgettable character.

 
Villain

The Villain

The villain of the story is a bit tricky. Is it Adelina? Is it Teren? Is it Raffaele?
To figure this out, I’ll start with what all of these characters have in common: abuse.
Adelina was horrifically abused by her father. Teren is abused by his father as well, then later by Giulietta. Raffaele is abused by the very clients that claim to love him and is treated over and over again as an object of pleasure in spite of his own wishes.
How each of these characters handle their abuse shapes the decisions they make.
Both Adelina and Teren use their abuse to fuel their own selfish desire; Adelina wants revenge on the Inquisition for what they did to her and absolute power over the kingdom and Teren wants to absolve himself of being a malfetto. These desires lead both of them on a dark path pathed with destruction and hate.
Raffaele on the other hand, doesn’t go on a killing spree or aspire to gain more power. He wants revenge like Adelina, but why he wants it is different. Adelina wants revenge for what’s been done to her. Raffaele wants revenge for what’s been done to the malfettos and Enzo.
This ability to look outside of himself and have compassion for others is apparent in his first scene where he is using his power to calm a frightened girl after she has been abused much in the same way he has been. He takes time to comfort the traumatized malfetto refugees even though the Daggers chide him for taking the time when there is so much for him to do as their new leader.
While this sole trait isn’t enough to draw the line between who is a villain and who isn’t, I think it goes a long way in shedding some light on the question.
Observation gifInteresting observation
None of these characters seemed to have truly escaped their abusers. Though Adelina makes a brave getaway from her father, and even killed him, she carries his ghost around with her. He is constantly feeding her the same words that he did when he was alive.
Teren may not be a child trapped under his father’s critical, condescending ways, but he chooses to stay with a woman who is controlling, physically abusive, and only keeping Teren around for what he can give her.
Raffaele stays a consort through all of book one and only escapes when he is forced to flee the country and become the new leader of the Daggers. But he immediately finds himself back in the same role. (I won’t say much more because of spoilers 😉 )
This makes the profound statement that, many times, those that are abused aren’t necessarily free from their abusers simply because the abuser is no longer present.
I can’t wait to start the last installment in the series. Rose Society gets five stars from me.
five stars

 

 

 

Book Review: Men Are Like Waffles, Women Are Like Spaghetti

My last few reviews have all been five stars– probably because I’m excited to talk about books I love–so today I thought I’d talk about one that was less than stellar.

It’s a little different than the normal fictional books that I review here, but it is on relationships, and this month the month of hearts and candy so this is a good opportunity to bring it up.

So without further ado, here is the review (I didn’t mean for that to be a cheesy rhyme 😛 ).

 

 

men are like waffles women are like spaghetti

This book had some good information but their classification of men and women is a bit too cliché.

I like their advice on communication and overcoming problems. They suggest that couples make a list of things in life that are important to them: successful careers, having a clean house, maintaining a healthy body, spending time with children, alone time, time with one another, hobbies, having a nice car, etc…. Then each person would give it number from one to three. One meaning it’s very important and three meaning it isn’t. This is very helpful in seeing the differences and similarities in what you and your partner value in life so you can see where conflicts may arise.

The part I didn’t like about the book was the way that men were portrayed as neanderthals who could think of nothing but sex and how women were portrayed as mindless creatures who rambled on and on about nothing.

While I do agree that men and women have differences, they were exaggerated in this book to the point of being insulting. Men, just because they are men, are not incapable of conversing. Women, just because they are women, don’t constantly feel the need to jabber endlessly.

There are plenty of men who talk more than women and plenty women who don’t de-stress by immediately getting on the phone to gab to their friends while cleaning something (an actual example from the book).

Some women (me included) would rather retreat to a “man cave” and not be bothered while working on a project. Because (guess what?) some women are introverts!

They also seemed to think women get their self worth from their kids and the condition of their house. As a woman who plans to never have children and who feels a lot more satisfaction after writing a blog post or finishing a painting than cleaning the house, I just can’t relate to that, nor do I think that every woman sees home and kids as the ultimate goal in her life.

I’m not even sure I buy into the whole “waffle box” and “spaghetti” thing. They say that women are great multitask and will have no problem doing several things at once, but I can’t stand being interrupted and want to do one thing at a time and finish whatever I’m working on before moving to the next task.

Women are also supposed to jump topics in conversation more while men want to focus on one thing at a time. This sounds more like an extrovert/introvert type thing. Extroverts typically cover a broad amount of topics while introverts will talk about one topic for hours.

I feel that they are “dumbing down” men and women by lumping them into stereotypical categories rather than helping them.

This book has some good exercises, like making a list of free ways to make your partner feel loved and the one I mentioned above, but if you are looking to understand your partner better, it would be more helpful for each of you to take the Myers Brigg personality test and discuss your results.

Book Review: King’s Dark Tidings

Book Review: Free the darkness King's dark Tidings Kel KadeThis book grabbed my interest when Reskin’s delirious, dying master croaked out that the most important rule for him to follow was to “protect and honor your friends” when he was supposed to say “your king.” All of a sudden the cliche fantasy story of a hero trained from birth to become a killing machine and be sent out on a grand mission becomes the story of a trained killer making it his mission to find these friends so he can carry out his purpose and protect and honor them.

When he comes across a girl who casually uses the word “friends” to describe the two of them, he immediately makes it his top priority to protect her and her traveling companion. He thinks his higher ups assigned him a network of friends and that his purpose in life is to find and protect them. This makes for a comical scenario because anytime someone uses the word “friends” Reskin thinks, “Another one? But how will I protect this friend when my other friends are traveling in a different direction?”

Reskin is good at everything he does. He can fight with any weapon, he can use herbs to heal, he can break into even the most heavily-guarded banks, he knows every fact in history, he knows all the rules of high society and can act more noble than the nobility. Every mission he carries out goes smoothly and others admire him in every social interaction (even though he is doing it from a strategic stand point rather than an organic understanding).

A character so good at everything would usually make me put the book down in a heartbeat, but I find Reskin enduring because of how naive he is to normal life and everyday interactions between people. Growing up in such a harsh environment with such strict rules, he is baffled that so many people don’t know how to defend themselves, that they walk around completely unaware of their surroundings, and is confused that they somehow reached adulthood without mastering “the rules.”

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It is hilarious to watch him assess social interactions. For example, he sees a man and woman at a table looking deeply into each other’s eyes. He disproves at how unaware they are of their surroundings, thinking they could be attacked from any side and wouldn’t noticed until it was too late. He notices that the man is holding the woman’s hand and thinks it must be because he is restraining her. Perhaps he doesn’t trust her and thinks she will pull out a weapon. Maybe that is why he is looking so deeply into her eyes; he wants to discern if she answering his questions truthfully.

I cannot do the comical moments in this book justice. I’ve never read a book that had me laughing out loud as many times as this one did. The misconceptions the other characters have about Reskin and the situations they get into are hilarious. The author has a unique way of letting us into the other characters’ thoughts at just the right moments to see the irony of their perceptions of Reskin. The switch in point of view is done seamlessly and in a way few authors can pull off.

I only have two complaints. As I said earlier, Reskin never fails to accomplish what he sets out to do and rarely even has any complications. I would like to see Reskin in a situation where his many skills aren’t quite enough and he really has to work to get out of said situation. I do have a feeling that this will happen in one of the next books, since I feel the story is building to a big confrontation.

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My second complaint is the lack of competent female characters. Every single female character, from the maid to the sword-baring “warrior” instantly falls for Reskin and spends the book fawning over him and fighting each other for his attention. This does make for a lot of comical moments since Reskin is completely oblivious and is confused by the woman’s actions. I don’t begrudge any of the current female characters and their actions, but it would be nice to have at least one female character who didn’t have little more on her mind than a romantic night with Reskin.

In spite of my small irritations, I’m still going to give this book 5 stars. The author did a wonderful job of turning what began as a cliche story of an orphan boy trained to be a power-house killer into an enjoyable and anything but predictable story. I could not put this book down. Not to mention, it made be laugh so dang often.

 

 

Book Review: The Young Elites

Book review: The young Elites Marie Lu

While most characters in a fantasy obtain their magic by learning it or simply by being born with it, Marie Lu came up with a wonderfully unique way for her characters to get their powers. They have to survive a blood fever that leaves them marked in some way. They have a purple splotch on their skin, locks of blue color hair, or unmatching eyes.

Not only did the fever leave Adelina with silver hair, but it took one of her eyes as well.

The society she is in sees her as an abomination, not because of her missing eye, but because she is a malfetto, an abomination cursed by the gods. And some, the Elites, rumored to have supernatural power.

I love the twist that those with magic powers are feared and hunted down rather than revered. It creates a perfect backdrop for Adelina’s story to unfold. The story of an unloved girl, who thinks she has found acceptance and love in a group of people similar to herself, only to be betrayed.

This isn’t the story of a hero being made, but a villain being created.

Adelina truly tries to please her new friends, hoping to gain the acceptance and affection she’s longed for since childhood, but because of circumstances mostly beyond her control, she is labeled a traitor and loses the chance she had at belonging. This leads her to believe that there is no love or friendship for her.

What makes this story so powerful is that each one of us can empathize with Adelina. We’ve all felt unloved, been an outcast, or been abused. And maybe sometimes fantasized at getting revenge on those who have done us wrong.

This is the tale of a girl who has lost so much, she is forced to take from others. Who has had pain inflicted on her so often that she can’t help but inflict it on other. Of a broken girl who becomes a villain.

 

Stars: five out of five.

 

 

Book Review: Long May She Reign

book review: long may she reignThis book had my attention from it’s first line, “A hundred doves burst out of the pie.”

The protagonist, Freya, is a young girl trapped at court. Unlike most of these types of characters (you know…the princess who hates dressing up and wants nothing more than to go around in boy clothes and beat people up) Freya is refreshingly unique. She loves science and has a laboratory in her house were she is constantly sneaking off to tinker with experiments. Freya longs to discover something that will bring her enough fortune so she can leave court and live her life as a scientist. When the unthinkable happens and she becomes queen (even though she is 23rd in line) she is forced to abandon her dream and plunged into a world of political maneuvering and distrust.

I loved watching Freya find strength from within while using her already-present skills and staying true to herself. She would much rather be tinkering in her lab, but doesn’t shrink from the challenges that arise, including giving a speech when she can hardly carry on a conversation and has the enduring quark of trailing off with her sentences unfinished.

I enjoyed reading something that stayed realistic to what it would be like to be a socially awkward girl to be swept up in a world where social graces were so important. So many times in situations like this, the character most overcome their social awkwardness in order to become the true heroine of the book. Freya doesn’t learn the social graces to fit in at court, but creates her own new way of leading through quiet strength and uses the skills she already possesses to overcome obstacles.

She doesn’t give up, even though she is probably the only queen to have the crown fall off at her coronation. 😛

 

 

Book Review: Legend

Book review: Legend Marie Lu

It was wonderful to see something truly original in dystopian than the usual books that flood the YA market. I see books all the time that claim to be the latest Hunger Games, but this book truly is similar without copying plot or mimicking characters. The world is just as dark, the stakes just as high, and the action just as griping.

My favorite part of the book is the way the two characters, Day and June, are on opposite sides and have to play this cat-and-mouse game with each other while slowly falling in love. The author gives them very good reasons for distrusting one another, but give enough incentive to make readers breathlessly await the moment the two of them will end up together.

This book is in the point of view of the hunter (June) and the hunted (Day) so you’re seeing the story from both the controlling evil government and the rebel group, which is something I haven’t seen often since most dystopians, like The Hunger Games or Divergent, only tell the story of the rebels.

Excellent world building, fast pace, filled with action that moves the plot along, a romance between people from opposing sides…Loved this book!

Out of five stars: five!