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review 2014-09-22 00:26
Assassin's Apprentice by Robin Hobb
Assassin's Apprentice - Robin Hobb

As you can probably guess by my rating... I adore this book. There's something very comforting about the writing that just grips me each time I read it.

 

I love all the characters even though all their names are silly. The main character, FitzChivalry, and all his friends, mentors, and enemies... the emotions behind all those relationships are so beautifully written that you can really feel the connections Fitz has with them.

 

This book is not perfect. Still, each vital ingredient that is necessary for crafting a wonderful book is present. I just always want more. I'll try to explain...

 

 

It is really short for an epic fantasy and some of the world building suffers because of this. The setting is what you'd expect from this genre and the magic system isn't ground breaking. Yet, I still love the choices Hobb made with her magic system and tying it in with the worlds own mythology and history. The magic is shrouded in mystery which, I suppose, makes it all the more interesting. There isn't much exploration of the Six Duchies, but the places that were part of the adventure were great. This is mostly because the writing is so good that you don't even have to try to imagine... it just happens.

 

The beginning also starts off weak. You have to really try to suspend disbelief while Fitz recounts his earliest memories.

This is an obvious hint at Fitz being an unreliable narrator that many might not pick up on the first read.

(spoiler show)

Another issue early on is time. There isn't a clear picture on how time is passing until you are told that he is finally thirteen. Seven years go by without many markers (besides seasons) and so it's a little unsettling. This section doesn't last long and these minor concerns don't continue as the narrative launches into the meat of the story.

 

With assassin as part of the title, some might expect lots of actual assassinations to take place. They don't. This book deals with the internal struggles of becoming an assassin as well as external conflict surrounding the kingdom (raiders and a zombie-like weapon) and the politics (power moves) of said kingdom. It's a coming of age story and so we see Fitz change as he acquires new knowledge/skills and we see him stick to his principles regardless of the struggle he faces to remain loyal to his kingdom. These internal and external conflicts are so well balanced, very fulfilling.

 

The ending is surprising in how different it is played out. I won't spoil anything here except to say that I love it when things don't go exactly how you would hope or expect. Things are tied up nicely even though there are a few topics that are left in mystery or that hit an unexpected roadblock.

Such as the resolution with his relationship with Molly.

(spoiler show)

Effective in leaving you wanting more. There's not a single moment of boredom in this book even when there isn't massive action... the writing is that good. Compelling to the very last page that I even stayed up past my bedtime to finish the last 10% this time around.

 

Even with these faults, I'm sticking to my rating. This is a book that every fantasy lover should read at least once. The other books in these trilogies aren't as special but are still worth reading because they are good (3-4 stars, IMHO). I won't be re-reading the entire series just yet... but I do plan to over the next year or two to get up reviews and refresh my memory before diving in to the new Fitz and the Fool trilogy.

 

Recommended for those who love character development... and animals! :)

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text 2014-09-16 02:16
Oliver Twist VS Artful by Peter David

I was motivated to re-read Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens after selecting the book Artful by Peter David from the Kindle First program back in June. I finally got around to the re-read and I enjoyed it as much as the last two times (once as a child around age eight and again in college around age sixteen). I tried writing a review for Oliver Twist but eventually gave up. What can be said that hasn't already been said? Reviewing a classic is tough business! My take on it was not intellectual in the least and since it is a social commentary... well, my review ended up sounding foolish.

 

I love Oliver Twist because of the villains. There, I said it. I am evil. I can become intrigued by villains who are mistreating a nine year old who has the mental capacity of a six year old. This is not to say that when the villains get their comeuppance that I wasn't just as captivated. Even more so, it's the best part of the tale.

 

I initially gave the read four stars but then bumped it down to three and a half. The ending doesn't sit well with me. Nature vs nurture. That sort of thing just bothers. The twist about his mother's sister, barf. Also, making Fagin out to be a devil and then referring to him as the Jew. How Dickens didn't realise this would be insulting to so many people... a let down. My mother told me (when I read it as a child) that by the end he had stopped that foolishness. So, in a way, it's good to see that people do overcome their ignorance.

 

I selected Artful from the Kindle First program because at the time I was thinking... hell yeah, a story about Dodger! If anything, Oliver Twist is acted upon by all the other characters in the story and so everyone else seemed three times more interesting. Dodger was no exception. When I read what the book was about I thought, 'oh, a twist with vamps. OK!' Click and download. I hadn't even thought through what I was doing. This is some type of fan fiction. I don't like fan fiction. I came to this realisation after completing the first chapter. Head, meet desk.

 

I didn't even read enough to find out if Dodger was turned into something not worth reading. Obviously, his character is amazing in Oliver Twist because of the mysterious quality. Whether or not that quality remains intact in this book, I do not know. I stopped reading around 13% (chapter four).

 

The introduction had me in agreement, I was still on board. When the vampyre business showed up, I was sceptical but still willing to go along. When I got to the first chapter is when I became somewhat angry. The writing was -HORRIBLE-. I had figured that there was some type of gatekeeper with the Kindle First program. Nope. I'd just been lucky before. This book needs serious work! It seemed like the author tried to copy Dickens style and failed miserably at it. I tried, but by chapter four I had had enough.

 

Perhaps it was a mistake to re-read Oliver Twist before starting this? I think I'll try again sometime next year just to make sure. :P

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review 2014-08-14 00:28
Bay's End by Edward Lorn
Bay's End - Edward Lorn

I'd seen plenty of reviews for this book on my dashboard and the ratings were always up there. This, because I'm a cynical bastard, made me wary to pick it up and give it a read. Also, I started following the author and that made me anxious because I found that I really enjoyed his reviews and blog posts. I started worrying that if I read this novel, and hated it, that I wouldn't be able to post a review in my normal fashion (which, I admit, sometimes has heavy focus on the negative).

 

I'm happy to report that I enjoyed this book and that my rating has in no way been swayed by the above factors. I was also relieved to discover that I can review a book for someone that I follow without sugar coating things. Relief! Also, sorry for doubting any of you that have reviewed this. I've just been burned so many times! On to the review~


The writing style was the first thing that drew me in. I can usually tell within the first chapter if a book is going to be hard to get through or if it is going to be smooth sailing. This book was smooth sailing from start to finish. Everything was clear; the narrative mode kept me interested and invested in what would happen next. For any out there worried because this is free (and maybe self-published?), this book was well edited and definitely proof-read.

 

The second thing that hooked me was how real the characters and setting felt. I grew up during the 80s/90s before all the parents of the world decided that their children were safest kept/hidden indoors. Neighbourhood kids roamed the streets and often were out looking for mischief. Most of our entertainment was not filtered by mature ratings like it is today. You could say that it was from the most disturbing horror in this book that really transformed the freedom that youth had after my generation (especially in America, wow, the over-protectiveness of some parents here can be extreme).

 

Unfortunately (maybe my parents should have been more over-protective?), I experienced some of the horrors in this book in my real life which I'm not sure how that factored into my rating... but I'll try to explain. I think that the way this book handled these situations worked very well for me. The narrator revealed many things before they would happen which was a very smart move because otherwise I would not have finished reading it. These were trigger warnings so I knew that specific abuse was about to take place. Other readers out there might be angered at this because in a way there wasn't much suspense and you knew what was just around the corner. However, this book was not so much uncovering a mystery or having an 'oh, what the fuck' moment, it was a journey to be had with these characters.

 

Now for what I didn't like and what I think others might not like. There was a vibe of racism towards a specific character and his family that I felt made me lose a little connection to the main characters. It was very minor, but enough that I remember it still as the only thing that really put me off. For others, I imagine that many might find the character with Down Syndrome an issue. As I mentioned before, there is child and sexual abuse.

 

So, I'm stating these things because I know that this book is not for all. This book shows real horrors that are not fantastical, they happen every day and are very much a reality. Yes, there are obviously parts that are there for fun, but specific parts might make some readers angry. If you want to read a book that is a fun horror ride through and through (without deep emotional triggers), this is not the droid you're looking for.

 

Back to the good! I liked the ending even though it seemed a little cliched. I loved how things from the beginning were tied in to the end. That specific scene with all the connections coming together was great! I said above that this book isn't focused on WTF moments, but there is indeed plenty WTF's to be had. For me, I think I just really clicked with the characters (I felt less alone in regards to my own past) and I wasn't entirely expecting that out of a horror/thriller novel.

 

A grade for the villains, A+ for the writing and definitely A++ for characterisation. The plot was handled in a weird way (more telegraphing than foreshadowing) but that weird way kept me reading. This was a really awesome debut novel!

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review 2014-07-23 04:51
World After by Susan Ee
World After - Susan Ee

Alright, I read this one much quicker than the first. Maybe others also complained about not giving the MC enough breathing space to grow since this one was 80% all about the MC with a little angel action thrown in towards the end. Unfortunately, this did not save the book. It was, again, just an okay read.

 

I've been thinking about what went wrong with this book and I keep landing on two things. First, for most of the book I simply felt like this girl could have a better life if she just ditched her family. It's great that she's all about family... but it seems to be such a drag and I often got the impression that the MC was so damn tired having to have so much responsibility. Second, she doesn't have anyone outside her mom and sister. Where are her friends? Where are the supporting cast that actually matter? Yeah, yeah... there is the angel. But he's like hundreds of years older than her and that match just gives me the creepies. Basically, there isn't enough outside of a girl with problems and a mission to fix those problems. It's tiring for the reader as much as it is for the character.

 

I didn't like the dream stuff with her sword. It was part of what the first book suffered from: too convenient situations for almost everything encountered. Oh, the MC doesn't know how to wield a sword? *the author must have forgotten to give her Kendo instruction in the first book!* Well, let's have her learn while dreaming. Yeah. It's funny because I actually experience learning while dreaming ALL THE TIME (especially if I'm working on scripting a program.... although those dreams suck!) but this was just so blah. I would have even liked a more convenient option of just having the sword move her body to where it needs to be at... so, I guess maybe it was all the eaves dropping on the angels past that bothered me? I don't know, just that those chapters were not my favourites.

 

With all that said... I still enjoyed the book enough to finish reading it and I will be checking out the third book when it becomes available (as long as it's also part of the lending library). I enjoy the fictional world Ee has built here, it just isn't anything mind blowing like I had expected.

 

Oh, and there was a secondary character that I did like. I just have a thing for villains, I suppose, but Beliel won me over with his little worm talk. Also, what happened at the end to him was hilarious. Probably my favourite scene out of the entire book. :D

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review 2014-07-18 00:42
Angelfall by Susan Ee
Angelfall - Susan Ee

A lot of time has gone by since I finished reading this book, so this has actually worked to my advantage in that there will be less nitpicking and more focus on what really bothered me about this read. If any of you are not familiar with my rating system, it goes like this - 1 star for each: story, characterisation, world building, compelling, writing. Each category was worthy of at least a half star. Everything about this book was just 'okay'.

 

There were elements here that have been done before (several times, really) and there were just too many tropes/cliches for me to take this book seriously. Right off the bat the characters are just so... meh. A 'crazy' mother, a fragile sister that requires protecting, and the main character: a super Mary Sue.

The main character knows martial arts and beats up other, much larger, characters. She is only human, she has no real super powers, she is described as a very small person. It seemed that every time a new characteristic was revealed that my eyes were rolling so hard I feared for my vision. :(

(spoiler show)

 

We first meet the angel as he falls from the sky and crashes onto the hood of a car. Please! How many times have we seen that in movies? That specific scene also had some point of view issues. There were so many point of view issues! This story is told in first person present... this is Susan Ee's first book.... so I gave most of these a pass (mostly tricked myself into not seeing them so I could finish the book).

 

I felt like the angel character really held back the main character. There was a part of this book that was great! It was towards the end when the main character is on her own. This was something like 2-3 chapters. If the entire book had just been like this, without the angel character getting in the way, the book might have been better for me. Instead, we get the same crap of an angel falling in love with a human (monkey, ahaha, we haven't seen that one before, either~) so there can be a silly love story twist at the end. Boo! I knew there were romantic elements coming in to this, but it didn't feel like the main point, more like filler when filler wasn't even needed.

 

I'm not saying that the two characters didn't work well together, either. The focus was just on the wrong stuff. For example, I'm really tired of reading stories with angels in them and where the main character thinks so often about the way their eyes look or their 'velvet steel' skin. It was repetitive in this book and really didn't add anything. I wish a different direction would be taken to show how a character is falling for another character without focusing on looks/obsessions/petty things. These parts also made me think less of the main character, specifically how easily she was distracted from her mission.

 

The book had proper closure but it was so super cheesy. If anything, the ending for this could score a movie deal with one of those low budget companies (you know, the kind that turn Dean Koontz books into films) or a television show on ABC/WB. It's kind of sad that I am picturing a bad movie/show from a book, usually I imagine a movie/show being epic and it turns out being bad compared to the book. *sadness*

 

Sorry folks, this one just didn't work for me but I am giving book #2 (free with Amazon Prime) a chance! Angels, demons, mythology - these are all at the top of my list of things I love... so maybe I came in with expectations that were too high. Expectations are taken down a bit now, so maybe I will enjoy the sequel better. :)

 

-Side Note: My family tricked me! They were supposed to leave last weekend but instead stuck around for an additional few days. I'm pretty sure all that excitement is now behind me. So so so happy to relax now and read read read. Yay! :D

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