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Foul Fish in the Sea – A Review of Catch-22 by Joseph Heller

A review on the back of the book said that this was the only war fiction that they read that ever made sense.

Bullshit.

I would try to tell you what Catch-22 is about but I genuinely don’t know myself. I read on the synopsis it was supposed to be about the troubles of a paranoid bomber on an island in Italy and him trying to leave the war for good. I thought it was going to examine his attempts at trying to loophole various loopholes that would keep him flying at death’s door for the rest of his life.

Instead I got a headache and wasted 10 weeks trying to finish this thing just to tell you guys how bad it is.

Being a book taking place in the Second World War, I had high hopes for this and despite the confusing narration I kept on trying. Catch-22 wasn’t the first novel with odd narration I had read – in fact my all time favourite is one of those books. However, I can clearly say that this book put me off nonlinear novels all together. I wouldn’t mind reading something nonlinear if I could actually tell when I was taken forward and back in time. There was literally no way to tell up until the last quarter or so of the book.

I’ve heard many people say that they took a couple of rereads of the first few chapters before they got to reading the book. Heller should’ve known this would turn off readership. My word of advice if you can’t get into it within the first read: don’t. It’s not worth it. Here’s a few more reasons why:

Even without the changes in timeline, so much of this book was filled with filler. Every character had a backstory included in this book which brought nothing to the overall narrative. I don’t care that this Major’s wife doesn’t love him back – he was only present for three chapters in the book. Though Major Major’s backstory was pretty sad, it did nothing to the plot but make me wonder when we’d be going back to the story of the main character Yossarian. Was he even the main character? I can’t tell you. Barely any of the book touched on him trying to get out of the war when compared to all that wasn’t him trying to get out of the war.

I couldn’t tell you what any of the characters looked like. Each of them was described once, some of them without even a hint of their eye colour, and then nothing about their appearance was ever brought to attention again. This was terrible considering not only that there were so many of them but the fact that they were all white boys. Like 80% of the cast were white boys and only know the hair colour of one of them. Do you know how hard that was to visualise things and not get characters mixed up?

The “realistic” dialogue drag the story out for far too long. Yes, when we talk naturally we have a tendency to talk back and forth and eventually in circles and tangents. Conversation naturally drags our attention away from what is important. You can already imagine how poorly this translates in creating a narrative, especially when these tangents become pages long. To a reader, this is too much. I just want the story to continue.

A vast majority of the text was written in lengthy unreadable paragraphs that took up 3/4 of a page. Pieces weren’t broken down to make the text easier to digest, but it didn’t matter because as I said before there was a lot of filler. A bunch of “He said that she said…” was present. I found great joy in skipping paragraphs entirely, and that’s bad.

But in light of all these errors I decided that I wouldn’t hate on the story so harshly at first glance. I decided to give the TV series adaptation a watch to see if the story would actually be something I would enjoy. Some of the issues still stood like filler dialogue and difficult to distinguish characters, but I can conclude the following:

For once, the book was not better.

Catch 22 gets a score of 1/5. It only had the potential to be something average.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Deep Water and Deep Characters – A Review of Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

I had high expectations for Firefight. After loving its predecessor, Steelheart, I was hoping Brandon Sanderson would deliver.

He didn’t just deliver, he delivered something new. While Steelheart was a pepperoni pizza, Firefight was a vege trio pizza from Dominos. Both very exquisite pizzas, if you ask me.

After rescuing Newcago from the tyranny of the epic Steelheart, David Charleston and his fellow Reckoners have defended the city from other superhumans wanting to take over the city. They soon realise each have been sent by Regalia, the epic who runs the now flooded New York, renamed Babilar. While the leader of the Reckoners wants to go to Babilar to kill the epic, David has second thoughts. After all, the leader himself is an epic not yet corrupted by his powers. And somewhere out there resides Firefight, another epic David wishes to save from her powers. Could the Epics be saved from themselves after all?

Again, a strong aspect of this novel was the unique atmosphere of the world. If you thought Newcago had its own personality, then Babilar is something else. Even the way the world was built was very fascinating, seeing different cultures and the political standpoints of epics in this city versus the distance from the ones in Newcago. That and the way the city became rundown was amazing – an epic flooding the city so everyone has to live on skyscrapers AND vines overgrowing inside of buildings? Legendary.

The world was expanded upon well with the lore surrounding the epics too. One key aspect was studying what the core weakness of each of them was, especially when rumors were thrown around of a connection between an epic’s past and their Achilles Heel. This weakness became a key part of each epic it seemed and it was an interesting ride to analyse each of them and work out with David and the team what their weaknesses are. Granted I was often wrong, but it was still very entertaining to guess.

A significant improvement was with the characters as well. So much more depth was added to everyone that I thoroughly enjoyed. I especially enjoyed how David was developed, both with his goal of revenge gone and some fears adding so much depth to his character. He truly felt real in so many moments. Even characters I felt impartial to I wound up loving. But my favourite character has to be Mizzy, introduced in this book. She was fun, relatable and had great one liners right from the get-go. I can’t wait to see more of her in the future.

I found it wasn’t quite as engaging as when I read Steelheart up until the final quarter, but that wasn’t to demerit it. It had a lot more to think and reflect on in the novel rather than things to react to. This was mainly because David’s mentality had changed from react to reflect as well, making it a nice book to get through at an easy going pace. A distinct difference made for a different experience, allowing me to take it all in. It suited the atmosphere of Babilar too, especially being a new environment for David to be in. He had a lot more to take in than in Steelheart. So what it lacked in action it made up for in depth.

I suppose it just served as a calm before the storm that is Calamity: the final book in the Reckoners series. One I plan to tackle later this year. Can’t wait.

Firefight gets a score of 5/5. What can I say? The depth of the characters especially made this epic.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Woke, but Tiring – A Review of Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris

Just finished this book in time for the new year. Pity the review came out a bit later, so you didn’t know.

Another pity was this book. We’ll talk more about that in a second.

In Dead Until Dark vampires are real. The supernatural is mainstreaming and becoming part of daily life with humans. Including Sookie Stackhouse, a human with mind reading abilities. With the arrival of a hot vampire at the small town bar she works at, he brings on a little bit more trouble whether he wanted to or not. Murder. The deaths of various humans who get down with vampires, including one of Sookie’s coworkers. She’s down to prove the innocence of those she’s close with and do whatever she can to make sure she’s not targeted next.

Let’s talk about this Sookie character first. A lot of her traits felt very contradictory. She hates people due to reading their minds uncontrollably sometimes but she’s incredibly bubbly. Her emotions and feelings towards her clearly shifty boyfriend change more than weather in the spring, hating him in the morning and bedding him the same night. Her strengths became her weaknesses at the same time, and it was like the author flipped a coin to decide if she’d be good with them or not. It made me very hard to feel for her unless a situation she got into just had plain old shock factor.

Speaking of shock factor, the killer. This is a murder mystery plot after all. There wasn’t any realisation at any time during the novel over who the killer was and me being right, or when the killer was revealed I was in disbelief or realising it all made sense. It was just left feeling mediocre about it. It only barely made sense because this character really didn’t have a lot of presence in the story. There were no stand-out points that connected their motives and made everything click. It was like fixing a car with duct tape.

It wasn’t all piss poor though. The magical realism played into this book was quite well done, how the vampires decided to fit into the world and much about them was already well known to the general public, including some stereotypes. It made the world feel solid. Another solid part of the world was how diverse both the humans and vampires were and how naturally they were a part of it; black vampires, gay vampires, polyamoury between vampires and humans. It made the world feel all the more natural.

Until we talk about how the men in it were portrayed. All of them were assholes, and for some reason the main character looked up to a lot of them? The hot vampire she dates is clearly manipulative, her boss wants to be a homewrecker on her relationship, her brother calls Sookie’s mental trauma ‘excuses’. I’m not saying men are as pure as Jesus himself, but none of them came close.

And as much as I was looking forward to reading a lot of the series, I don’t want to now. This is the first and only Sookie Stackhouse/True Blood book I’ll be reviewing on this blog I’m afraid.

Dead Until Dark gets a score of 2/5. I’ll give it credit for being woke at the time of its publishing, but everything else can be discredited.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Poohrple Prose – A Review of Winnie the Pooh by A.A. Milne

Disney wasn’t my go to animation studio growing up. However, Winnie the Pooh was always a joy to watch, even today as an adult. There was so much whimsy and wholesomeness portrayed in the characters that made them very hard to dislike.

Until now.

We follow Winnie the Pooh and his friends in several short stories of their antics, from overeating and getting stuck in a front door, to tracking down Woozles and interacting with new neighbours. These include some come to life from various Disney movies as well as some ones I was not familiar with.

I’m usually all for unique styles of narration, which is evident in many of my favourite books and series. Percy Jackson, The Book Thief, The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time… but while it was a nice narration style at the start, it quickly became convoluted to read. Milne was very fond of songs and poems interrupting his work, and would often make up a paragraph with one incredibly long sentence filled with purple prose. It was supposed to add character, but it just added confusion to me. And a narrative within each short story that was far from concise. It makes me wonder how a child would wrap their head around stories like that being read to them when I had trouble as an almost fully grown adult.

The characters saved the story for me. Seeing the way that these characters were written and their adorable little quirks was incredible, especially seeing how in depth some of the characters go from a single quirk. One favourite for me was Owl portraying himself as a smart person but being ashamed when he knew nothing. It was downright adorable. Rabbit was a favourite too, far more likeable and sweet than how Disney portrayed him. I wonder why they decided to make him so bratty when Pooh was far more bratty and sassy to Rabbit in the actual book.

However, some of these characters were incredibly problematic. For instance, Eeyore. Hate to go and compare books to movies, but Eeyore in Disney’s various adaptations was sad, loveable, and in need of some cuddles. I wanted to punch Eeyore in the books sometimes. A lot of the time it felt like he was using his depression just to get attention, especially with his choice of words. And Winnie the Pooh himself had similar problems too! He was self centred and at times sassy.

This could just be culture shock as I transfer from the cinematic portrayal of the bear with very little brain.

The language was absolutely better in the form of a bedtime story. Just silently reading this on the bus is NOT the ideal way to read this story. Maybe reading this to a kid, things would be a bit more amusing.

Winnie the Pooh gets a score of 3/5. I’m pretty sure I read this the wrong way; not aloud.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Betrayal, Betrayal Everywhere – A Review of The Savior’s Sister by Jenna Moreci

This one is a special one folks. Those of you who have stuck around long enough might have spotted my first review on this blog, The Savior’s Champion by Jenna Moreci. One of my writing idols, I must say.

So yes, I was in fact close to tears when I got emailed an Advanced Reader Copy of The Savior’s Sister, the next book in the series. So first off, you might want to read its predecessor. Important stuff happens in that book that leads into this one.

This is the review of an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Jenna Moreci’s novel. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

We’ve heard Tobias’s story about him fighting in a tournament to win the heart of The Savior he never loved. Except, the real Savior of Thessen was the healer girl he had fallen for instead, Leila. Now we follow Her side of the story, fighting for Her own life in Her own home against Her own father. And the tournament She knows is what will kill Her. It’s up to her to fool the competitors, of which her assassins are among, find whom in her home she can trust, and keep her newfound love safe from the target she never meant to put on his back.

Sound familiar? Well, it is. It’s a companion novel. It happens at the same time as The Savior’s Champion, in roughly the same place, just through Leila’s perspective instead. The same coin, but a different side. Initially I thought it was going to deter my engagement in a lot of scenes, ones I had already read before but through Tobias’s perspective.

I was wrong. I never should’ve doubted Jenna.

Leila’s perspective of already mentioned scenes became very insightful as Her feelings were put into perspective before me. They never made those scenes one I could just gloss over. Her powers and what they do to Her made for a very unique perspective and a literal emotive way of talking, how She sees emotions in colours. God, that was beautiful.

What’s also interesting was the contrast between Her powers and Her personality. It definitely felt deliberate considering how She was brought up; Her hard and cold exterior shielding Her light and warmth which both offered their strengths and weaknesses. That’s one of my favourite tropes, but it was interesting to see it from a main character for once. Also I’d like to add the retorts She made to her father were probably making him want to kill Her more, and I loved that but at the same time felt scared for Her.

Politics was quite the focus for this book. Not my thing in real life, but it sure was here. A lot of it was very palace and family focal, but it was still engaging to see the corruption sweeping through the court. And even out of it. Seeing relationships established with the common folk of the palace and other realms was enlightening.

Now I need to mention my favourite character from this book. Hylas. God, there was this one scene that absolutely made me love him. I won’t say what it is, but just know something amazing is in store for him. I would personally like to protect Hylas. He’ll be safe with me.

Now a minor flaw I would like to mention. There has been action in this book for Leila almost as much as there was for Tobias. I prefer what Tobias had faced over Leila’s fights and battles. It was mainly because all the fights that She got into felt the same, just harder every time. I’ll give it credit for having her struggle, for using environments well and for setting stakes, but each time those fights didn’t have the distinguishable sparks like Tobias had faced. They did feel a tiny bit “here we go again”.

But don’t let that one little thing discern you. I’d say you should pick it up when it’s released. The Savior’s Sister comes out on September 29th 2020. You can preorder it on Amazon or through this link here. You can also enter her presale giveaway while you’re at it.

And now the verdict.

The Savior’s Sister gets a score of 4/5. Same story, fresh-as-a-peach perspective.

Yours in writing

Amy

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The Tale of the Misguided Edgelord – a review of Spirit by Brigid Kemerer

Bit awkward. I’m reviewing book 3 of this series when I haven’t reviewed books 1 and 2 on this blog.

Granted I did read them before I decided this blog was going to be a thing. Don’t expect me to backlog every single book I’ve read. #sorrynotsorry

Actually most of the books backlogged would wind up being Rainbow Magic books, so I won’t apologise for that. Be relieved I won’t be reviewing the tonne of books I no longer have.

Anyway, the Elementals series! This series follows a family of four brothers, each controlling a different element. But there’s one kind of elemental not in the Merrick family; a Fifth, the spiritual elemental. One Fifth is Hunter Garrity, whom the Merricks can’t decide if he was on their side the whole time or betrayed them. We follow his story as one of his former friends, a fire elemental, threatens to burn down the town if the Guides, hunters of elementals, don’t come and cause chaos themselves. Little does Hunter know that the new girl who caught his interest has an agenda with the fires around town too.

Okay, first thing I have to say is that Hunter needs a hug. Like right now. One weary thing that can happen with characters as tragic as Hunter is that they won’t do anything about it and become very passive characters. I absolutely loathe pivotal characters who remain inactive in their sorrows for their entire lives and waste their lives away. Hunter wound up being very active and turbulent, making much of the things that happened to him very powerful. It was never a matter of his emotions in the moment for long, he would always lead on to ways to fix the problems in front of him. His emotions rarely made him passive to the problems faced in front of him. I admire that in characters like him.

Emotion was actually a huge core to Kemerer’s writing, which I find absolutely excellent. Especially in third person writing, at times emotions are glossed over. Emotion is a core to the storytelling presented. I really engaged with the story through emotions alone, how each action was presented at the base of a feeling. It became almost effortless to get into the characters minds and understand what was going on.

That being said, some moments were placed off and drew me out of the story. The strongest (or I guess weakest) example was the climax. It was a very short lived chapter, thus the emotions and the stakes felt more like ripping off a band aid instead of tearing down a wall. This was odd when compared to the depth of other scenes target felt so long, so real. Like the midpoint, very well executed. But with such a big deal as the climax being so short, it made me doubt whether the storyline being resolved was actually important or not. This was especially when the previous climaxes in the series were built up and expanded upon so much more.

Perhaps if Kemerer put more emphasis into those final scenes I would have given this book a perfect score.

Spirit gets a score of 4/5. There was passion put into the characters and the very emotive writing, if only the same could be said for the ending.

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50 Cents Payoff – A Review of The Emperor Mage by Tamora Pierce

Admittedly this was a long time coming. My reading was interrupted, first by a terrible book before this I did not finish and then by an overwhelming amount of crucial assignments. Thus this next book was a much slower one to try and finish.

That’s not to say the third instalment in Tamora Pierce’s Wild Magic series was bad. Not at all.

In this book Wild Magic user Daine travels South to Carthak. There she tends to the Emperor’s animals and explores the culturally different atmosphere the realm has to offer. Meanwhile, her royal peers try to resolve conflicts the Emperor might start. Then Daine is told by the gods looking over her that she must be weary for what else is in store, more importantly their wrath.

An improvement from the last book in the series, the already introduced characters were mentioned and suitably active. Although it sounded like the events in the previous book a lot of the time were insignificant, aside from Daine learning her shapeshifting abilities. This seems to be a problem across the series, where many of the events don’t appear to correlate across books. This book had less problems occurring with that than the previous ones though, with characters from book one returning with purpose, even if it is minor.

The world building and character interactions linked together well in this book, granted it was one of those “new land” kind of storylines. I have to give props for the variation in settings used to build the world, taking on Eastern cultures to inspire the land of Carthak. There were a handful of moments where it felt like whitewashing was about to take place in the book, but the way that Daine and Kaddar handle it and discussed it as the book progressed wound up sensible, with Daine suggesting societal improvements without depriving Kaddar’s culture. The way these two altered each other’s perspectives worked really way, making me enjoy the chemistry between the two.

The plot was the strongest it has been in the series yet. It was engaging to work out the various mysteries and how they all connected, from the Graveyard Hag to the Emperor’s suspicious behaviour. The buildup was incredible and had me hooked each time, by far Pierce’s strongest plot type compared to her journey and infiltration plots in previous books.

Now comes the biggest issue, the one addressed in the title. Daine ends up in a rage over an event that happens in the climax, a very rare occasion for her. She creates an army of animals to storm the Emperor’s palace in vengeance with the intent to kill him it seems. She does a fantastic job of wrecking the palace, but then she gets to the Emperor. Does she cause any form of physical harm to the Emperor herself? Nope. Other characters do it for their own personal reasons. Then is turns out the event that Daine thought happen didn’t happen due to an illusion? And all she does is get embarrassed for her rage? No. I’m not happy with that. Nothing paid off for Daine in the end. It didn’t feel like a victory despite how obvious it was because her goal was not fulfilled.

You know what they say about an ending making or breaking a book? That applies to me.

The Emperor Mage gets a score of 3.5/5. A filling book with a bad aftertaste, so let’s just imagine that Daine actually resolved the plot herself.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Captured My Heart – A Review of Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

There are very few books I would describe with the phrase “I couldn’t put it down.”

Where do I begin with this book? I guess I should tell you what it’s about first.

Steelheart is the first book of the Reckoners series, which combines action, science fantasy, and dystopia together to create this alternate version of earth. Superhumans known as Epics have taken over the world, each claiming a city or region as theirs to dictate. The one ruling over New Chicago, Steelheart, has killed David’s father, and since then he has devoted his life to working out how to take this epic down. For he’s the only one who knows his weakness. David seeks out to join the Reckoners, a group of underground rebels, their mission aligned with his. They seek out Epics across USA to kill, to give the people hope. If David wants to take Steelheart down, they’ll need to join forces.

A plot and story very reminiscent of Marvel movies, if you ask me. But GOD this was so much greater than them.

First off let’s talk the main character, David. When I first read him, one thing went into my mind. There wasn’t much to him. He started off as a very everyman kind of character, a relatively blank slate. All he had to him was his goal to kill Steelheart. But as I continued to read into the story, that was the point. He was realising how cold his blood had been running. He was so geniusly written! His character arc wound up brilliant as he ultimately became more and realised there was more to the world around him. I wasn’t sure if I would like him initially, but I absolutely did by the end.

Let’s actually take a moment to talk about that world. The way it was politically built felt incredibly real, even when the world is ruled by superhumans. Every aspect of it was shown as it was relevant, barely any information felt forced. From the socio-political status of Newcago’s citizens, to revealing technology and powers, none of it was ever shoved into my face. The way it combined various aspects of fantasy, science fiction, and dystopia into the story felt seamless. I could imagine it so vividly. I guess part of that was the unique imagery of an entire city made of steel, but it had so much more character than that.

I could also imagine the action scenes so vividly. Not only was everything so clear and vivid in my mind without having to write stage directions out like a script, but the emotions and sensations felt so real too. This is what I live to create in my own fight scenes! Seeing it through David’s thoughts, emotions, and logical ways of thinking made it feel very real and personal in my eyes. Not to mention the backdrops they were placed upon felt very cinematic and thematic.

So much of this book was engaging. Honourable mentions go to the first quarter of the book and the last third. That’s not to say this book had a sagging middle, it was still very entertaining. But I read the first quarter and the last third in one sitting. Each. Now that’s what I call engaging. There are very few books that can do that to me outside of the climax alone. And there are very few books where I get close to crying. I won’t say what made me get there, I’m kind like that, but I will say well done for cracking my emotional core.

And yes, this book is now one of my all time favourites. Also I heard that there’s a freaking board game based on this book. HELL yes.

Steelheart gets a score of 5/5. A book that’s impossible to put down will forever be a winner.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Lived Up To Its Name – A Review of Nowhere Fast by Kevin Waltman

Contemporary. Big hit or miss typically in my eyes. There’s either a concept I fall in love with or one that I would never touch.

Well I finally found a middle ground book.

Nowhere Fast follows Gary, a teen in a small town in the US. He finds excitement being towed by his rebellious best friend Wilson and comfort from his girlfriend Lauryn, all to distract himself from an abusive father. Gary doesn’t have a life of his own, though. All he wants is a break from his life, a chance for something new like moving out of town. But things get a little hectic when Wilson encourages him to “borrow” a suspicious man’s car overnight.

The language used in this novel was absolutely stunning. The descriptions were very vivid, very personal both inside and outside of Gary’s head. That was really the highlight of reading this book, how such simple concepts were described so divinely in such a short space of time (this book just surpassed 200 pages). I could really connect to Gary through these emotions he saw his town through.

But let’s talk about Gary for a second. I mentioned that he wasn’t his person. That’s literally all that can be said about him, even after his character arc was “complete”. Everything about him is that he’s attached to this person or does as this person says, making him an amalgamation of all the people in his life. For me that just makes him devoid of character. Just a reflective shell of himself. I was expecting him by the end of the book to become his own person, but he’s just that same shell after all he went through.

Speaking of which, this novel had the most hollow ending ever. It was a negative resolution, but that’s not bad if there’s some message that comes out of it. But I genuinely can’t find it. Gary has mildly changed, it feels like the start of his character arc if anything, his wants remain exactly the same, and he hasn’t pinpointed what was wrong in his life. The story feels pointless. Not to mention how many unanswered questions there are. I feel like something more needs to be there to establish the change that happened to Gary.

But if there’s one thing that redeems Gary it’s his relationship and the way he treats it, or at least tries to. I wouldn’t call him and Lauryn my one true pairing, but the relationship they endorsed was one of the healthier and more consent driven ones I’ve seen. Gary is an incredibly respectful boyfriend, and he is aware of making sure Lauryn is comfortable and is embarrassed when he takes a step a little too far. It’s fantastic to see a relationship like this that is also romantic, a couple that goes out instead of just sticking to themselves making out and getting heated. It was great to see that kind of rep in Young Adult fiction.

That being said, this plot didn’t know where it was going for me a lot of the time. When one direction or outcome was established, the story changed so it established something else. Gary wanted a change of pace or scenery, her never got it or realised to love his home. Wilson said he might end up moving out of town, nothing was done to stop that happening. Many things felt disjointed and unresolved as a result. This book was a stand alone and there were still so many loose ties.

Dare I say it, this book went nowhere fast.

Nowhere Fast gets a score of 2/5. You were written nice, but finish the damn story!

Yours in writing

Amy

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Ten Spoonfuls of PSAs – a review of Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods by Rick Riordan

This review will be very different considering I can’t really critique narrative values of myths. I feel like a lot of the content talk will either be me hating on or praising the Greek Gods.

Regardless, Percy Jackson was the series that got me seriously considering writing my own books. I loved it to no end as a 10 year old, binged the whole series in half a year. Thanks to my Year 5 teacher for sparking the fandom inside our classroom!

Anyway, everybody’s favourite son of Poseidon is telling us a new set of stories. This time, he’s exposing the Greek Gods, from the tale of creation to every last Olympian on a throne. And of course, it’s in Young Adult jargon. Though it was published in 2014. So… millennial jargon? American millennial jargon.

I’m just going to get my overall thoughts about the Greek gods first. A lot of them would be arrested in modern society. When I first read Percy Jackson I really liked Zeus, but his godly portrayal is disgusting! The king of the gods was a rapist. And a major player. And heavily tempered. All I read in the books initially was that he had a temper. This makes me look at a lot of the content that the gods do very differently and it makes me question the morals of ancient Greek society.

Leading off of that, I’m surprised this book was still appropriate for it’s age group of 10+. There were some dark things being mentioned, but they were done in a way that was appropriate. Somehow. Maybe it’s just because it’s been years since I read the original Percy Jackson series. Regardless, I didn’t gasp out loud too much. I’d call that age group appropriate.

That being said, you could tell this was for their age group because there was a PSA on every five pages about not cheating on your partners, not having a relative as a partner, and condoning underage drinking. In literally every scene that contains it. This was one aspect that felt first off, very distracting, and secondly, out of character for our narrator, Percy. Especially to the ridiculous extents that they went to, like saying wine is only drunk by middle aged people. They can hope! I may not drink alcohol much, but I wouldn’t be such a buzzkill for those that do.

Let’s talk more about Percy’s voice. This honestly had some very mixed results with some questionable executions. It is fair that Percy makes a lot of modern references to put the Greek gods into a more relatable perspective. My main issue was how some of them pulled me out of the story. For one, there was the constant comparison of saying Mt. Olympus was an apartment complex? That was one of the worser ones that added nothing to the way each god’s story was told. Some of the others made absolute sense, like setting up the dinner date scene for when Uranus died. But a few really had me question a lot of things.

One of the most enjoyable parts of this read was how Percy’s voice and comparisons humanised the gods. Throughout this I imagined the tales of the Greek gods working just as well as a modern drama series, probably on the Game of Thrones side with the war and bloodshed still going on. These gods were put down as much as they were glorified and it showed them as true of colours as any well written character. The wordings worked wonders too, able to take a mature concept to a younger audience without degrading the stories themselves. For the right moments, Riordan was able to write something serious and beautiful despite the narrator typically not being that way. And it felt natural.

Speaking of realism, what I really appreciated was the moments of ambiguity that related to changing views in classical society and a lack of sources. Having taken history and classics in high school, I approve highly of this. And the way this was explained felt organic to the world, with Percy implying the issues with word of mouth.

I think I reviewed that okay? It’s harder to review something without a typical narrative when that’s your strongest point of study in the writing craft. Hope this review suffices.

Percy Jackson and the Greek Gods gets a score of 4/5. Those PSAs were so frequent and corny that they need to become memes, but the rest of it was literature.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Politics. But it’s Animals! – a review of Wolf Speaker by Tamora Pierce

Wild Magic was this novel’s tame predecessor. And in this case, you can’t beat the original.

Daine returns in Wolf Speaker to save the wolf pack she grew up with. The leaders of a human settlement nearby are driving the wolves out of their home, and Daine, as a voice for the animals, must find a way to give the animals their home back. But it’s more than just greed behind the plights of the royalty and the mages that rule there…

This being the first book that’s a continuation of a series I’ve read being reviewed on this blog, I have a lot of different things to talk about here.

This book didn’t build a lot off of the previous book, Wild Magic. The connections between books one and two felt like an afterthought, with characters previously crucial in the start of the series only appearing, or even being mentioned, at the climax. While realistic, it wasn’t done well in terms of narrative. The only things that felt truly connected were Daine’s magic, the divine badger, and Daine’s anger for Stormwings. This makes these facts only forgiven if the entire series was binged, which it was not. I read the first book at least eight months ago. Despite a majority of the plot from that book not being remembered, I read this book feeling like it was a second beginning to the series. Right from chapter one the link between the two stories felt disjointed.

That being said, the story was good standing alone. These new characters, although many, felt very real and with a strong variety. The magic being built on the world was splendid, as did the building of the monarchy. There was additionally a real, solid villain who didn’t have lines straight out of a Batman TV episode. There wasn’t a character I hated amongst that book at all! They were all very well built with their motivations, too. However, many of the less iconic characters did blend together a lot. Many of the characters talked the same, especially the animals. There were too many wolves to work out who was who aside from two of them.

Whether this is because of my greater knowledge in the craft of writing or not, Wolf Speaker’s use of language and words seemed significantly weaker than in Wild Magic. Odd bits of passive voice, grammar errors, and lines I had to reread came up. This made the reading a lot slower, alongside some strong pacing issues towards the start. It didn’t help that these were lengthy chapters that could have easily been broken down further. The endings of the chapters made me more relieved than wanting more, in all honesty.

However, the second half of the plot was definitely engaging. All writers seems to know how to write a climax effectively in my opinion. Some very topical political and environmental implications built up the plot well. And it didn’t get old, the story still relevant over 15 years on! This was especially well implemented with characters like Maura, oblivious to the harms being done on the nature and learning to care for it and see things a different way. That being said, a few characters felt like they were being swayed a bit too easily. Still, the ending was satisfying even if some of the threads were still left flying in the wind. That will probably lead into book 3, which I’ll be reading later this year.

Wolf Speaker gets a score of 3.5/5. You can’t beat the original if you barely acknowledge it, even when your plot and cast are so good.

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A Distorted Reflection – A review of Dark Mirror by M. J. Putney

This review will contain a massive spoiler for this book that you need to know. I don’t want you to react the same way that I did when I read this.

Dark Mirror has two sides, what the author tells you the book is about vs. what the book is actually about.

This is what they tell you: Dark Mirror follows Lady Victoria Mansfield, who has to have her recently discovered magical abilities oppressed in order for her to regain her birthright. She goes to Lackland Abbey with the intent to get it rid of her and home to a family who will love her again, but instead winds up embracing it in a literal underground group who intend to protect England.

They didn’t tell you that there was also time travel involved. Crucially involved. But not until the novel’s midpoint.

When that happened I encountered a massive “WTF” moment, literally the same three words repeating in my head over and over. It was barely foreshadowed or set up aside from the vague title, which tells us that there will be a Dark Mirror involved but not what it does. This made the book seem like two ideas tacked onto each other with two completely separate stories because thereafter the tension and conflict established in the first half became trivial. Now I see that it may be a setup for the rest of the series, but those ends still wind up waving in the wind while the ties of the second half were all neatly plaited together. They were just abruptly cut. New strings of stories were tied onto those ends.

I feel more comfortable talking about this novel in two halves, so I shall do so.

The first half was a great setup of what I thought would be the story I was about to read. Characters were established well, as well as the direction of Tory’s arc. The stakes were evident and investing. The mood worked incredibly well also. Tory’s emotional depth was explored really well in this section as she fought between the selfish need to oppress her magic and the selfless need to use it for the good of her country. She was great as an insecure character.

When the second half came along it turned it into an entirely different story, and I would have appreciated it more had it not been the second half of a completely different story. More compelling characters were introduced with interesting needs and goals, and the whimsy of Tory in a new environment made her seem different from her counterpart. This would have worked better for her had this been her primary story.

I keep talking down this book from that who two story standpoint, mainly because both tales lost their potential being spliced together. But somehow it kind of worked? I do intend to put the next book in the series on my TBR, only now that I know what the story will be like. With this in mind, the second installment in the trilogy I expect will be far more appealing to me.

Favourite Character

Jack Rainford was charming. I fell for him the instant he was introduced – a teaser and joker with still serious goals. He provided much of the comic relief, but still had great depth. He was even more compelling that Tory’s love interest to the point where I thought they’d get together instead.

Favourite Chapter

Chapter 17 was were the A story stakes were at their highest. It was very investful chapter that really got me hooked into that part of the story.

Favourite Serious Quote

“… All you poor, talented aristocrats are raised to hate yourselves. Only a few have the courage and wit to break out and learn how to be real mages.”

I am all for self acceptance and expression! As simple as this quote is, it really stands by me.

Overall Verdict

The story felt indecisive, but all worked out anyway. Dark Mirror gets a score of 3.5/5.

The Title Was Already A Pun – A Review of Bridge of Clay by Markus Zusak

It is no secret that I love The Book Thief. So when I heard that Markus Zusak was releasing another book, I knew I would be buying that.

I can honestly say that I had no idea what to expect of the plot. All I knew before I read it was that the Dunbar family of five brothers were going to experience some conflict, and it was down the the second youngest, Clay, to bring the family back together again.

God, was it more.

I was really curious about this book, as it is marketed as being very contemporary. I’m very selective when it comes to general and contemporary fiction, but I knew I was into something good judging by how deep Zusak would go into his works. I wasn’t wrong. He dives into elements you wouldn’t expect to come out of what he is writing, tying so many things together and making meaning out of seemingly insignificant things and moments. I guess that’s what draws me to Zusak. He takes something you think you’d know everything about, and then he shows you the rest of the iceberg.

Zusak used an interesting choice of structure in the telling of Clay’s story. It certainly wasn’t linear, but parallel. Chapters would switch between the past and the present, and the connections made between them were small but meaningful and gave a grand perspective of things. And it made total sense for it to be written swapping between the two. The situations were very relevant in respect to each other and it built up on the character of Clay a lot.

Speaking of Clay, his character is very interesting. He is very enigmatic at first, but that’s because we don’t know about him. The structure enhances us knowing his drives, insecurities, and connections with his family.

There was one thing I was uncertain of in Zusak’s decisions. I wasn’t entirely sure why it was the oldest brother telling the story. There was obviously some kind of reason behind that and I feel I might have missed it, and I doubt that reason was beyond the connection between him and Clay. I’ve been thinking it over for a while and still haven’t found any other clues.

Character I Loved

I really enjoyed the boys’ mother, Penny. Her drive and her story was all very touching, and she was a very strong character as well. Everything associated with her I fell for.

Character I Loved to Hate

There wasn’t really one of those, but Rory could get pretty annoying at times. It was all intentional, I could tell, but some of the things he did, man.

Favourite Chapter

Chapter 7 was very interesting with the focus on Clay’s love interest, Carey. It was quite the change of scenery and focus that felt pretty nice in my opinion.

Favourite Serious Quote

How many letters to Carey could he formulate, but not yet write?

Well, this was a familiar feeling. This quote stabbed me in the heart with an honest weight.

Favourite Not-So-Serious Quote

I don’t have a favourite, but they’re all to do with their donkey, Achilles.

Overall Verdict

A simple story with a whole lot of depth. Bridge of Clay gets a score of 4/5.

Yours in writing

Amy

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Tom and Ashwen are my BroTP- A Review of The Misadventurers: An Almost Epic Tale by Steven Partridge

Well that’s the longest post title on my blog to date.

This book comes from another AuthorTuber, Steven Partridge. I’ve only been watching his content for a couple of months, and he is a saint. The Misadventurers is his debut novel.

This is the review of an advanced reader copy (ARC) of Steven Partridge’s novel. I was given a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.

In a tale reminiscent of a Dungeons and Dragons campaign, a group of adventurers from different walks of life are forced together to complete a quest. They must retrieve the sword of dire power. Emphasis on must. They literally cannot walk out of this until they complete their quest.

This kind of book isn’t usually my cup of tea. But let’s just say I downed it. I didn’t expect to be as hooked into it as I wound up being.

The world was built really well, and we set foot into many communities to show it. Each city felt like their own character, and was a fresh outlook for somebody seeking more than the textbook settings. From the bustle of Greenridge, to the industrial Stonebluff, to the colour of Trundleburg Village, I loved every place the characters dragged me to.

I’m always a sucker for great, diverse characters, and they were absolutely delivered. These were delivered so well that my favourite characters were constantly changing. They mainly swapped between Ashwen, Beryl, and Cole. But that doesn’t mean the others are discredited. Heck, the chemistry between the main five was brilliant as well! I was particularly a sucker for every moment Ashwen and Tom talked, or in Ashwen’s cased bickered, with each other. Their friendship is the most wholesome thing I ever read.

I spotted some references in there to giggle over, which I mainly know from watching a couple of D&D livestreams. I feel I’d find and appreciate a lot more of those references had I been into RPG games a lot longer. Well, it’ll be a happy little hunt for you guys when you read it.

Also, did Tom get his name from the scene where he spies on Beryl? Because he was a peeping Tom?

Character I Loved

This changed way too much, but I think in the end it wound up being Cole. I’m not going to say too much about him due to spoilers, but this was a character with some serious depth. And I’m a sucker for tempered characters.

Character I Loved to Hate

Goddamn Princess Garnet. There were so many times I just wanted to squeeze her head until it burst, but I’d be too weak to do that. Is there anyone who would actually be capable of that to do it on my behalf, please?

Favourite Chapter

I was seriously enticed by Chapter 9 due to the setting and the way it was explored. I’ll leave the magic of reading it up to you guys, but I’ll tell you it’s industrial, communal, and absolutely unique.

Favourite Serious Quote

“Until you see past the illusions of the world, you will remain unable to truly connect with it.”

Damn, that’s deep. Honestly, this whole scene was. But this quote in particular should be the slogan for world peace.

Favourite Not-So-Serious Quote

Curse his insight.

Let me guess, Tom rolled a natural 20?

Overall Verdict

A fantastic adventure lead by brilliant adventurers. The Misadventurers: An Almost Epic Tale gets a score of 4/5.

The Misadventurers: An Almost Epic Tale will be out on August 27th. You can preorder Steven Partridge’s debut here:

http://www.amazon.com/dp/B07VR2LKS4

http://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/the-mis-adventurers-steven-partridge/1132715789

Yours in writing

Amy

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I Did Nazi That Coming – A Review of Bitter Seeds by Ian Tregillis

I had never thought I’d be using this pun in the title of a review, and here I am.

I picked up Bitter Seeds in a bookshop at the end of January, intrigued by its seemingly unconventional plot. It lived up to its first impressions and was finished in under three weeks.

In case the title of the book didn’t provide insight into this book, it takes place during the second world war. Only that there are some unusual players in the game; the Nazis have young adults with trained psychic abilities on their side, as British government agent Raybould Marsh finds out on a mission in Spain. As the Nazis gain on the Allies in the war, Raybould calls upon Will, a friend from university, to help provide their own supernatural secrets to win the war. That secret is Warlocks.

The premise itself was a hook; I have recently discovered a joy over reading books taking place in the Second World War. But this book was full of surprises. It was not simply battles and blood, although they did feature in it. The explorations of loyalty and morals were done very well in the context of this. And boy, was it dark. If you’re not a fan of dark stuff, this may not be your book. Oh, but it was SO my book! These relationships, these stakes… it was good!

But there was still some bad. I feel like with some characters while they got me engaged their personalities could have gone deeper. In particular, some of their motives get lost. The ending was also a lot calmer than I had anticipated. Without giving spoilers I’d say that the stakes weren’t quite as high as is typically structured at that point of the book, so its final chapters were a deflation of a lot of the mood.

Character I Loved

Gretel outright wins this. Her character is the most intriguing I’ve ever seen. From her thought processes, to her sinister charm, to her relationships I was hooked in. She was as well written as the protagonists, but I love her more than that. While she is totally on the bad side, I kind of want to protect her. Not that she needs it…

Character I Loved To Hate

Reinhart. Oh, the bastard. The things he does combined with his asshole nature just boils my blood! While Gretel did some dark things, some even darker than he did, I hate him more because of that a-word that is used to describe him.

Favourite Chapter

Chapter nine was full of all the emotions, and I drank them right up!

Favourite Serious Quote

‘Ravens everywhere huddled in their nests, to ride out the ice.’

This requires a lot of context and knowledge of its symbolism, but in short it was a beautiful way to describe how the world in the perspective of the ravens had turned to chaos.

Favourite Not So Serious Quote

‘Incoming.’

And that was how Gretel roasted Rudolf and I fell in love with her.

Overall Verdict

A pleasant surprise with engaging content.

Bitter seeds gets a score of 4/5.

Yours in writing

Amy