Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Unpopular Opinion: The Most Disappointing Books I've Read So Far in 2017

Recently, I've learned I'm a book snob. I used to never DNF a book unless I really couldn't get into it. Now, I DNF books left and right without feeling a thing. So I thought I would list books I've read recently that didn't live up to my Book Snob Expectations. Since there aren't 10 books published this year that I was disappointed in (I'm actually surprised), I'm going to discuss books I read this year, regardless of publication date, that left me dissatisfied.*

*If you enjoyed any of these titles, have no fear. I have ridiculously high standards sometimes, and most of these books received 3-stars from me despite my irritations. I feel that most of these could have been better, but if you enjoyed them, great! There are tons of books I read so far this year that received similar ratings. I just didn't have any expectations going into it, like I did with these.

1. The Raven King by Maggie Stievfater
Don't hurt me. Please. I inhaled the first three books of The Raven Cycle in a matter of weeks. I was eagerly looking forward to the grand conclusion, and I had high hopes based on Goodreads reviews. But... I was not satisfied with The Raven King. (And I learned that Goodreads reviews lie.) The Raven King had a lot going on, which is probably the biggest problem. There was too much happening without enough explanation. And the whole build-up to Blue kissing Gansey? Garbage. SPOILER There was no explanation for why he died because she kissed him. Like yeah, there was a prophecy about her or whatever that said she'd killed him, but there wasn't a concrete reason?!?? He died because of the prophecy, not because of Blue. And I just couldn't handle that. Then it didn't even matter because they simply brought him back with *waves arms* MAGIC. I wanted him to die! As harsh as that sounds, I think the story would have benefited if he'd died. (The CYCLE would have been complete, and it would have been great.) But instead, it wrapped up into a nice, little present of GOOD FEELINGS and HAPPINESS. But just... ugh. Also what the frick-frack happened to Noah? He was my favorite ghost boy ever, and he just disappeared. I'm angry. 

I'm sorry. I wanted so, so badly to love this. But I felt like I was ripped off with that ending. It could have been better.

2. Carve the Mark by Veronica Roth
I tried. I tried so hard to read this book. But I gave up after about 100 pages. The beginning chapters were intriguing, I was like... okay, maybe this will work. But then it just. got. so. slow. Nothing happened for ages and ages. And it was a disaster. I read several Goodreads reviews (I really shouldn't trust it, though) and decided to give up. Because who has time for 500 pages of slooooowwww reading that isn't worth it in the end? Not me. (Aka Book Snob Mode has been engaged.) Plus! Plus, it ripped off Star Wars almost word for word. Did you really think we wouldn't notice that "the current" sounds an awful lot like... I dunno, THE FORCE? The best thing about this book is the cover, honestly.

3. Defy the Stars Claudia Gray
The cover of Defy the Stars is absolutely gorgeous, but I couldn't get into the story or connect with the characters. I wanted to. And I might give this another try when I have more time, but for now, I've marked it as DNF, and occasionally, I give it sad faces from across the library.

4. Wintersong by S. Jae Jones
Why??? Okay, so the premise of this book sounded cool, and I freaking loved the references to "Goblin Market" by Christina Rossetti. I was hooked. And while the story is great, it kind of just... didn't work? There was a lot of content that could have worked better as an adult book, and then there were parts that just dragged. I don't know. It wasn't bad, but it didn't live up to my Book Snob Expectations.

5. Caraval by Stephanie Garber
This book had its highs and lows. The concept was great, the descriptions were gorgeous, and the plot was a wild adventure. It had a lot of potential. So. Much. Potential. And I felt like parts of it, especially the ending, didn't live up to that potential. It definitely could have been better. And now I'm a sad panda because of it.

6. Daughter of the Pirate King by Tricia Levenseller
Go. Away. Just go away. Again, this book had a lot of potential, but I can't believe I finished reading it and didn't give it up. There was so much about it that annoyed me. (Like I wanted to strangle the main character???? That's not normal.) And it was predictable and vague and at times booooring. The pirates were boring?! How is that even possible? I'm also a pirate snob, so you know, there's that.

7. The Secret Diary of Lizzie Bennet by Bernie Su and Kate Rorick
Why does this even exist? It was garbage. All garbage. Don't even bother reading it. Nope, not even for Darcy's letter. (Everything in the letter is revealed in the show anyways, so whatever.) Honestly, I'm still angry about this book.

8. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli
I read 20 pages of this book, read a few Goodreads reviews (again, why?), and gave up. I just knew I wasn't going to like it. It felt like it was pushing an agenda, which okay whatever. But it wasn't something I wanted to read. It has a lot of high reviews, so if you liked it, great. But it wasn't just not my thing.

9. The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi
This was pretty, but where was the plot? the pacing? I love the concept, especially the inclusion of Indian mythology, but this book had a lot of problems. The pacing was awful and the plot kind of dissipated part way through. It needed more time to stretch and flesh out. But there were also beautiful, beautiful moments. *sigh*

10. When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon
*groans* Don't even get me started. Just read my rant if you really want to know how much I hate this book right now.

What books have you read recently that disappointed you? Do you have any "unpopular opinions" about certain titles?

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Things I Learned in Florida

Last week, I spent seven days in the Ocala National Forest in Florida, helping at a summer camp as part of a missions trip with my church. It was my first time going to Florida, and while I didn't go to a beach or Disney World, what I did experience was amazing. I would definitely go again, so here are a few things I learned (and should remember) about the Ocala National Forest and Florida.

The team that went. 
  • There is no dirt. The dirt is sand.
  • It's either hot or hot and humid. Nothing else.
  • Gators croak and dig deeper in the water if you throw rocks at them.
  • Kids are kids no matter where they are from or what kind of life they live.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Florida has deer and squirrels.
  • Florida also has snakes, lizards, toads, and bugs everywhere, so watch out.
  • There are also bears.
  • Don't think about what's in the lake water.
  • Palm trees can be short and tall.
  • The lizards are fast.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Cockroaches like to hang out in bathrooms.
  • Mosquitoes are bigger and darker, which makes it easier to squash them.
  • Don't touch the mossy vegetation hanging from the trees because there are probably ticks.
  • Hot dogs are God's favorite food because they are made from a little of every creature He created.
  • Don't lose your team flag.
  • Be flexible.
  • Wear sunscreen and bug spray or you'll regret it.
  • It thunderstorms every day.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Bring extra clothes, especially underwear. 
  • If you have to use the bathroom, you aren't sweating enough.
  • Don't slide, you might get a splinter.
  • It takes longer than an hour for 40+ girls to shower, even if they are short showers.
  • Everybody is somebody. There aren't any nobodies.
  • Dirt is good. But we aren't not dirt. We are gifts from God.
  • Follow the instructions.
  • No PDA (pronounced: Puh-dAH)
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Bring your water bottle everywhere.
  • Andrew. Amber. Michael. Matthew. Come here. Sit down. Get back here. Listen. Get off me. Don't hit.
  • You can bribe kids with single digit dollars into doing almost anything.
  • If you don't like what's for dinner, eat it with a smile anyways.
  • Water is your favorite drink and whatever is being served is your favorite meal.
  • Say Amen.
  • The Forest is loud. It is also quiet.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • Girls talk a lot.
  • If you sneak out, you will regret it.
  • If you are wet, wait about ten minutes and you'll be dry.
  • Most bugs in Florida want to bite you.
  • If a big white van pulls up, get in.
  • The sky is blue, even when it's thundering.
  • The sky is also huge.
  • The Forest in Florida is basically a jungle and a forest smashed together. Meaning you can get attacked by a bear and trip over vines and jungle-y ferns at the same time.
  • Bugs literally drop from the ceiling. So do children.
  • There are gigantic red ant things and gigantic red wasp things. Both sting. 
  • Pool sticks are for playing pool. Not hitting.
  • Drink lots of water.
  • The best way to arm wrestle is to scream.
  • If your feet can't touch the bottom of the lake, find someone who is taller than you.
  • If you hear Pastor Dave's voice, stop talking and listen.
  • Breakfast is at nine. If you're late, your breakfast is cereal.
  • Drive 75 mph in a 55 mph zone. 
  • Make sure your navigator knows he or she is the navigator.
  • If you feel something land on your legs, smack it.
  • 3AM doesn't exist.
  • Drink lots of water.
Dinner after the camp week was over! Do we look tired?

Friday, July 21, 2017

Book Rant: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon

WARNING: This post includes spoilers and an unpopular opinion about a highly praised YA novel. Read at your own discretion.

Often times as bookworms (or as I like to call myself bookdragons), we focus on the books we love, the stories that sweep us away, and the characters we befriend. We like to ignore the stories we didn't like, leaving them in a dark corner of our bookshelves to collect dust. We can be afraid to share our opinion, to admit that something about a book didn't work for us, especially when a book is highly praised by so many other readers. We don't always want to talk about aspects that we're tired of reading.

One YA trope I'm tired of is when two characters, often times who barely know each other, fall madly in love and sleep with one another without consequence or discussion.

For example, let's look at When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon.

When Dimple Met Rishi is an adorable YA contemporary romance about two Indian-American teens who hold varying beliefs about tradition and are arranged to be married by their stereotypically oblivious parents. So there's Dimple, who is this headstrong young lady who doesn't hold to Indian traditions and would rather go to college for computer science and have a career than please her parents who want her to get married and become the typical housewife with ten children. Enter Rishi, a hopeless romantic that upholds tradition, believes in kismet, arranged marriages, and Indian gods, and wants to please his parents to no end.

This sounds like a fantastic story waiting to happen. Until it actually happens. For one, I thought Dimple would stay this headstrong, geeky girl throughout the novel, maybe pushing Rishi along to follow his dreams while Rishi would nudge Dimple into embracing some of her Indian traditions. Instead, we get a messy, convoluted story with one of the worst female characters I've read and the precious cinnamon roll Rishi, who deserves so much better than Dimple.

All because of (can you guess?)... sex.

Ah, yes. The stereotypical, I've-only-known-you-for-three-weeks-and-I-hated-your-guts-two-weeks-ago-but-we-share-something-special kind of sex.

Kill. Me. Now.

Now it wouldn't have been as big of a problem for this story, mainly because it's a YA contemporary romance and at this point I expect the characters to sleep with one another, but it's the way it happened that miffs me the most.

Dimple hated Rishi. And I mean truly hated him. She threw her perfectly good iced coffee at him when they first met, tried to switch partners during the coding camp, and complained every other sentence about how much she disliked him. Yet after one fun (and unnecessary) "team bonding" exercise, she starts to change her mind.

Her loathing of him doesn't last longer than a good twenty-four hours, we forget completely about the awesome STEM-focused coding camp they are attending, and soon everything involves kissing. For pages. Pages and pages upon them kissing or thinking about kissing. Even when Dimple has this firm belief in not having a relationship right now, but instead, focusing on college and career goals.

So it's during a particularly heated kissing scene, which is only a few weeks after they meet mind you, that Dimple decides that she wants to have sex. And Rishi, being the precious cinnamon roll he is, tells her that right now it's probably not the best moment, considering they are both racing with hormones and emotions and what decision do you think they were going to make during that time anyways? Plus, there's a hint of him wondering if that's what he wants--or if he wants to respect his morals/traditions/parent's opinion and do the right thing? (To which, Dimple complains it's their life, not their parents and they don't have to listen to their parents' wishes. I really wanted to slap her at this point, except I really wanted to slap her at every point.)

So they wait to make that decision at a later time when both are in the right frame of mind. Except only a few pages later, they're making out again and decide right then and there to have sex.

No discussion. Not decision-making. No talking about it afterwards either. Just do it and move along.


Where did that come from? What happened to all of Rishi's morals and beliefs? They just flew out the window when Dimple walked in? And also, why the heck did Dimple want that? Over and over in the story, she talks about how she doesn't want a permanent or long-distant relationship. She wants to focus on her school, on a career. Yet again, the moment Rishi shows up, she throws caution to the wind and wants a relationship (then doesn't want it, then wants it again, until I was whiplashed so hard I can't believe I could still finish reading this book).

And it was after they sleep together that Dimple wonders if Rishi loves her. Again, I ask: WHAt?! If you don't love someone, why are you sleeping with them? Have YA books stooped so low that it's okay to do that? That doesn't sound healthy to me.

I was angry. Angry because this was the perfect opportunity to spotlight a religion and set of traditions that are not the "stereotypical" or "cliche" Christian way but has high morals and beliefs. And it was thrown out the window, for what? To have realistic depiction of teens? To have a steamy sex scene in a YA novel? I just don't get it.

I've heard a lot of excuses about this kind of content in a YA book, for both insta-love and built-up relationships. It's realistic. It's normal. We need to show teens having safe, healthy sex. But honestly, I know a lot of teens who are not having sex, who aren't even in a relationship, and don't want to read about characters in the majority of YA books having sex. Instead, they want clean reads, books that show characters making the decision not to have sex or drink alcohol or use drugs. Characters who change the world, not the bedroom.

It would be great to spotlight people who have morals and beliefs beyond the "stereotypical" Christian books. (Though, if you write Christian books and you do it well, props to you. People need you to keep writing also.) Because a lot of people in our world have morals and beliefs. Even Dimple's belief of women being more than just a housewife would have been nice to see. But that part of her personality kind of faded away, came back for a moment, and then just dissipated. (Along with her interest in coding and computers.)

The book community is constantly (to the point of suffocatingly) looking for books that represent all people. Diverse reads are highly sought, which is great and which is why When Dimple Met Rishi is so highly praised. But I think to be truly representative of all people, we also need books where characters make the decision not to have sex or not jump into a romantic relationship because there are some teens that aren't in relationships or are choosing not to have sex. There are also teens that don't swear or drink alcohol or do drugs. I know these teens, I see these teens every day at work. It's possible to write books that are clean, there are some out there, but we need more. We always need more. (And we need better written ones.)

Who says that only Christian books have to include characters who are abstinent or drug-free? Or only Christian books can spotlight religion? There are so many diverse religions and people groups in America--in the world--that share similar beliefs and lifestyles such as not consuming alcohol or using foul language or having premarital sex. If the book community is begging for such diverse reads, why can't we show those lifestyles also? I would love to read a rip-roaring space adventure without a cliche conversion story or a high fantasy where the characters don't have to cuss up a storm every two paragraphs or sleep with every person in sight like they're some kind of feral animal.

Sometimes there needs to be a point where a character realizes there are more important things to do than get a girlfriend or boyfriend. I mean, if we can have a highly successful Spider-Man movie where Peter doesn't kiss the girl, I think we can have a YA novel where the romance doesn't overshadow the plot or where the characters don't sleep together by the end of the book.

When Dimple Met Rishi had a lot of great moments, especially representing Indian tradition. I just wish it had gone a step further and shown a different lifestyle that is often overlooked in YA. There were other problems I had with the novel as well (like the plot that disappeared once the kissing started or the unnecessary side drama), but I won't go into that right now. I wanted to like this book, and I'm not swearing off Menon's writing forever. I will definitely try more of her books in the future. But sometimes, I feel like I'm asking too much from YA, and maybe this expectation is the perfect example of why I normally avoid YA contemporaries. Because usually they are not my cup of tea. (Or iced coffee, eh?)

Is there a common trope/element of YA (or another genre) that you're tired of? Let's discuss it.

~I borrowed When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon from my local library and chose to write this post of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Beautiful People: July 2017

For some writers, July means scrambling to write as many words as possible for Camp Nanowrimo. For me, it means I'm in the depths of editing--at least this time. And surprisingly, it's going well. Maybe it's the story, maybe it's my motivation, maybe it's something else entirely--either way, I'm going to keep at it while it lasts. So for Beautiful People this month, Sky and Cait decided to feature questions not about characters, but about the authors to commemorate Camp Nanowrimo's craziness!

So sit down, grab the closest mythological beast (for cuddles, obviously), and learn about me, the author.


How do you decide which project to work on?

(Me, basically)

Usually, the project picks me. Whatever story (or character) won't leave me alone is what I focus on. But sometimes I have to postpone stories in order to edit or move forward with long-term projects. (I still keep a notebook or computer document handy to write down any ideas that come my way, though. Don't want to lose those!)

How long does it usually take you to finish a project?
What is this word... finish?

Just kidding! It really depends on the story. If I'm participating in Nanowrimo, sometimes I can finish a first draft in a month. If I'm working on editing, I have no idea how long it'll take, considering I've never finished editing a project yet. But mainly, it depends on what story I'm telling, what part of the process I'm focused on (read: drowning in), and what else is happening in my life.

Do you have any routines to put you in the writing mood?

Ha ha. Just kidding. Not really? I just have to be focused. So if something is distracting me or I need to do something first, I have to do that in order to focus on writing. Most of the time.

What time of day do you write best?
I'm most productive at night, when it's quiet, but I'm usually always writing. Even if I'm not writing on my computer or with a pen to page, my mind is dwelling on writing, forming stories and worlds, learning about characters--it's all there.

Are there any authors you think you have a similar style to?
According to the "I Write Like" website, I have a similar style to... Agatha Christie

Not sure that I do, but okay then. I'm not sure who I have a similar style to, though. (If anybody has read my work, let me know in the comments who I'm similar to!)

Why did you start writing, and why do you keep writing?
I can't recall why I started. As a wee child, I must have had an idea and decided to write it down. But I keep writing because it's the best way I can communicate. It's the best way for me to express myself. And it's the best way to make me feel alive. (Annd....)

What’s the hardest thing you’ve written?
That 20 page lit theory paper in college was a disaster.

(Me, when I finished)

Is there a project you want to tackle someday but you don’t feel ready yet?

I have a lot of projects I'd like to tackle someday. My idea bank won't stop. I have plenty of Pinterest boards to help me gather ideas for when I'm ready. A lot of ideas--like the Airplane Novel or my fairy tale retellings or my Peter Pan retelling--would require more research and re-reading stories. Other stories, like my space opera and my superhero novel, just require having time to do so. (And probably the best mood/frame of mind to do so.)

What writing goals did you make for 2017 and how are they going?

(Me explaining my 2017 goals)

I never publicly announced any writing goals for 2017, but I think the big thing I want to focus on is editing and rewriting my library novel. I'm in the depths of editing now, which requires re-reading the story and figuring out what needs to be fixed and improved. So I'd say so far it's going well. A lot better than earlier this year when I found it difficult to write or edit anything. If I could finish this story up enough for beta readers by the end of the year, that would be stupendous.

Describe your writing process in 3 words or a gif!

Okay, okay. Just kidding. It's more like this:

(Three gifs, sue me.)

What does your writing process look like? Let me know if you're participating in Beautiful People!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Book Review: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber

Ever since I read the Storm Siren trilogy by Mary Weber, I've been waiting for another book by this lovely author. When I learned she was releasing a YA science-fiction novel, The Evaporation of Sofi Snow, I was stoked and placed the book as one of my most anticipated reads for 2017. I finally finished the book toward the end of June (come on, I had to read all the library books I had checked out first), and while the ending left me eagerly anticipating the sequel, I thoroughly enjoyed the story. (And the cover is absolutely gorgeous, and I'm still not over it.)


Sofi Snow, an online gamer and hacker, assists her brother Shilo in the Fantasy Fighting arena, which consists of real and virtual games put on by Earth's ruling corporations. When a bomb takes out part of the arena--and supposedly her brother with it--Soft sets off to find answers, clear her own name, locate her brother, and effectively disappear. But to do so means confronting the Delonese, an alien race that live on the ice planet that currently orbits Earth, and teaming up with someone from her past--someone who hurt her. 

My Thoughts

This book had it all: a female character who is good at hacking and gaming, diverse characters, sibling relationships, excellent world-building, and a focus on real-world issues that are often times overlooked or left unaddressed. I was thoroughly impressed with how much was packed into this 350-page book and how well Mary Weber addressed all those issues.

Sofi Snow is a badass. She not only escapes confinement with practically nothing, but she can navigate a computer system with just as much ease, and that's awesome. I'm glad there's a least one book out there with a female character who thrives in the gaming/hacking world. It was a nice change of pace than other YA novels. Miguel was an interesting character. I liked that he was bilingual and had crazy colored hair. I knew there was much more to him than surface level, so I enjoyed watching his character unfold and reveal itself in surprising ways.

The world-building was definitely interesting and well-developed. There was a lot of cool technology incorporated, yet it still felt reasonable and believable. The government system, the games, even the strange aliens and their world was incredibly detailed and thought out. The reason I'm so wary of a lot of YA dystopian is that I feel like the world-building is only half-there (and the plot is only half-there as well). But that is not the case with The Evaporation of Soft Snow. This world feels alive and lived in, it feels like a natural progression from our world.

Of course there were a few things here and there that didn't work for me. Sometimes there was too much information or too much going on that I couldn't keep up. It also referenced Miguel's blackmail photos for ages without revealing even a hint of what it could be. (I honestly prepared for the worst and was surprised when it wasn't as bad as I had thought.) But she does an excellent job touching on a lot of real-world issues. From human trafficking to mental illness to how girls are treated because they're friendly (not flirty), this book highlights a lot of issues, both big and small. And I'm thankful that Mary Weber chose to include these things instead of ignoring them. The book also as a largely diverse cast, which she based on people from her own life. I think that was important and impactful as well.

Now, we have to talk about that ending. That ending. Mary Weber's first book, Storm Siren, ended on a pretty huge cliffhanger that left me screaming. I never thought she would do that again, but I was wrong. (Why was I wrong? Why didn't I see it coming?) The Evaporation of Sofi Snow ends. It just ends without a significant resolution, without even a warning. It ends. And I am so angry! Now I have to wait almost a whole year to find out what happens next. (The agony!)

Overall, I enjoyed The Evaporation of Sofi Snow. It's similar to Ender's Game, The Hunger Games, and Neon Genesis Evangelion, for all different reasons. (Which sounds pretty awesome to me.) I liked the characters, the world-building, and the story. I liked the focus on family, on forgiveness, on doing the right thing, making the right decisions. There are a lot of twists and turns with this story, and it definitely did not disappoint. Mary Weber, you rocked it once again!

~I purchased The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber and chose to write a review of it of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

TFI's 2017 Summer Reading Mission: Challenge Accepted

The Fangirl Initiative is hosting a summer reading challenge, which includes the opportunity to win a bookish surprise! All you have to do to enter is post photos of the books you're reading for each prompt on social media with the hashtag #TFIMission. (Full details of the challenge on the website.) Here are the books I have read or plan to read to fulfill each prompt.

1. Book related to the beach or ocean: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson. (Completed! You can check out my full review of this amazing book here.)

2. Something that takes place in a different place than where you live: When Dimple Met Rishi by Sandhya Menon. This book takes place in San Francisco. (Completed!)

3. Finish a series you've already started: Forever and Always, Lara Jean by Jenny Han. This is the third and final book in the To All the BoysI've Loved Before series. (Completed! I just finished this book. It was insanely adorable and had a perfect ending.)

4. Graphic novel (or comic book): I read a lot of comic books and graphic novels, so this one wasn't hard to complete. I could use Lumberjanes Vol. 5 or 6, Hawkeye Vol. 6, Civil War II, Gotham Academy... etc.

5. Book you wouldn't normally read (whether because of format or genre): I'm planning to read Silence by Shūsaku Endō. This is a hard prompt because I read a lot of different genres and formats. I don't, however, typically read such serious, historical books, but I've been intrigued by this book since I first heard about it.

6. Book that inspired a movie or TV show: I plan to listen to the audiobook of Wonder by R.J. Palacio later this summer. The movie comes out in November. If not this, then maybe The Death Cure by James Dashner, since I never finished that series and the movie is scheduled to release early next year.

7. Released this year: Our Dark Duet by Victoria Schwab, though I have a couple that could have worked. (Completed! This book ripped me to shreds.)

8. Book you own but haven't read: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness. I've been interested in this series for a while but just recently found a copy and added it to the top of my TBR list. It doesn't hurt that a movie adaptation is in the works with Daisy Ridley and Tom Holland.

9. Book you picked for the cover: The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber. This is sort of a stretch because I probably would have read this book no matter what, but you have to admit that cover is gorgeous and I can't get over it.

10. Book recommended to you: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch. I've had several friends recommend this to me forever ago and several more recommend it to me more recently. I figured I should give it a try.

Let me know if you're participating in the challenge or any other reading challenges and what books you're planning to read!

Friday, July 7, 2017

Book Review: The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

Owlcrate's June theme was "Make It Out Alive," which centered around dystopian and survival stories. I have to say I was genuinely surprised with the book selection for this month, and I can definitely say it was my favorite part of the box. The book was The Sancastle Empire by Kayla Olson, a dystopian survival-thriller for fans of Lost and The Hunger Games.


When the Wolfpack takes over the world and its resources, Eden loses everything--her home, her family, her freedom. Her father, however, tells her about Sanctuary Island, the last neutral ground left on Earth. Determined to find both answers about her father's disappearance and a safe haven away from the Wolfpack, she escapes along with three other girls. But when they get to the island, things aren't what they seem. The island is full of deadly traps and new enemies, including the people Eden has come to know and care about. 

My Thoughts

I stayed up late finishing this book, and when I turned the last page and closed the book, all I could think was: WOW. I was surprised while reading The Sandcastle Empire. I've been wary of dystopian novels ever since The Hunger Games prompted tons of YA dystopians that were half-baked ideas of disappointment. But The Sandcastle Empire is far from disappointing or half-baked. It's clear while reading that Kayla Olson took her time developing the world, the characters, and the plot of her book. The Sandcastle Empire was terribly beautiful.

The world-building was believable, despite how scary that is, and how everything is explained over the course of the book worked well. We didn't get all the information right away, which made the book feel like it had a slow start. But this book is far from slow. There's a lot of tension and thrills throughout. Sanctuary Island is one creepy place, and it was intense to read.

The characters were also well-developed. I could easily tell the difference between the four girls, and later the three boys, after a only few pages of their introductions. Eden's first person POV was stunning. I never felt annoyed that I only had her side of the story. Her thought process was beautiful and full of so much meaning. The Sandcastle Empire also did an excellent job portraying anxiety and characters who help one another with anxiety. It was empowering to read.

The entire plot and story unfolded in an organic, logical way. Everything seemed to connect and work together to build upon the conflict and resolution. There was a little bit of romance, but it worked well. It wasn't the focus. There was a connection between characters. It happened. But the entire book didn't revolve around character A and character B getting together. There were more important things to do than finding a boyfriend or sleeping with someone. So I'm extremely satisfied with that. (Honestly, give Kayla Olson bonus points for writing a YA novel without all the typical YA tropes.)

The Sandcastle Empire is a slow read that builds, but in the best possible way. This is not a book to rush through; it's a book to take in, to let the words sink into your bones, and to think about what's being said. For now, it's a standalone, and I'm also grateful for that. I would like to spend more time with these character, to learn what happens after, but I'm also okay with the book being done and over. We'll see, though!

Basically, this book surprised me in the best possible way. I couldn't put it down. I read half of its 455 pages in one sitting, and I stayed up late trying to finish the rest of it. It was that good. The Sandcastle Empire reminded me of Lost, The Hunger Games, The Handmaid's Tale, and The Maze Runner all wrapped up in one, but it's definitely more than that. And I think I enjoyed it more than any of those other titles. I'm grateful this book was in June's Owlcrate because I'm not sure I would have picked it up otherwise, but you definitely should read this book. It was well-written and kept me on the edge of my seat. It already jumped high on my list of Best 2017 Reads. Kayla Olson is someone to keep your eye on.

~I received The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson in the June 2017 Owlcrate box. I chose to write a review of the book of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Comic Book Conglomeration: June

June was a good month for reading novels apparently, since I read eight. But once more that means I read less comic books and manga. Still, most of the comic books I read this month were pretty good. (And no, I did not get through the Wonder Woman comic book stack I had. Most were taken back to the library unread and added to my TBR list on Goodreads for later. *sigh*)

Arki, 1 by Keiichi Arawi
I was handed this book in a car while waiting for people to shop in Wal-Mart. Needless to say, I finished it in one sitting. I wasn't very impressed overall. The stories were cute, but they were so disconnected I had a hard time keeping track of who was who or what was happening. I love slice of life, but these were more unrelated mini-episodes instead of building upon one another. I think I would like it better as an anime than I did as a manga.

The Legend of Wonder Woman Vol. 1: Origins by  Renae De Liz and Ray Dillon
Maybe it's because I read this right after watching the Wonder Woman film, but I really enjoyed this comic book. I liked how the did her origin story, explaining the gods and how she becomes involved with the war. Diana and Etta and the other gals were great, but my favorite part of the volume was the artwork. It was just so pretty and clear and wow. I'm impressed. I look forward to reading more in this series.

Bunny Drop (Usagi-drop) Vol. 1 and 2 by Yumi Unita
I watched the anime of this about a year or so ago, and I loved it. It's so cute. The manga, at least right now, is much the same. Daikichi's face still cracks me up, and Rin is so sweet. I can't wait to read more and get overwhelmed by all the adorbs!

Lumberjanes Vol. 5 and 6: Band Together and Sink or Swim by Noelle Stevenson, Shannon Watters, Carolyn Nowak, Grace Ellis, and Brooke A. Allen
Both of these volumes continue the wacky, hilarious adventures of the Lumberjanes. I adore these comics and highly recommend them. I love the art style, the creativity, and the craziness of them. In addition, these volumes revealed new secrets of the camp and showed how the girls all met, which was sweet.

Hawkeye Vol. 6: Hawkeyes by Jeff Lemire and Ramón Pérez
This comic hurt a lot. Clint and Kate grow apart due to the events of previous volumes, and it was a hard comic to read. There are a lot of flash forwards and flashbacks, and I loved how they mixed up the art styles and color schemes to differentiate what was happening between the past, present, and future. Despite the heartbreak, this comic was good. It became better and better as I read, and what was explored was touching.

What comics or manga have you read recently? Any recommendations?

Friday, June 30, 2017

Book Review: Rebel Rising by Beth Revis

I have a confession to make: I didn't like Rogue One. I know, it's shocking that I didn't like a Star Wars film. But I didn't. There were parts I did like. Stardust. Cassian's face. The soundtrack. "I am one with the Force and the Force is with me." Diversity. Darth Vader's pun. K-2SO. Realistic depictions of war. Overall, though, I was disappointed in it. I was disappointed everybody was saying it was the best Star Wars movie ever! (Really? Better than the Original Trilogy? Better than Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens? Nah, man.) I was disappointed in the lack of character development, the lack of character motivation, the lack of the opening scroll.

But I wanted to like it. I wanted to see what everybody else saw. But I couldn't. I felt they could have done better. (Maybe if they had invested in a live-action TV show all about the rebellion instead of the animated Disney show that I've been told has terrible writing, it could have been better. Maybe if it had time to flourish, for me to understand the motivation of the characters, to know their sacrifices, to feel that their sacrifices were worthwhile, to be invested, it could have been better.) I felt that it was rushed and that parts of the story were cut or left unexplained. (I mean, is there like a ton of cut scenes I'm missing or something? Because I'm confused.) Still, I tried.

So when I heard that Beth Revis had been selected to write a Star Wars novel and that it would be the backstory of Jyn Erso, I wanted to give it a chance. I wanted to see if maybe her book would help give me an explanation behind Jyn's character in the movie, if maybe it would help me understand what I had watched. (After all, Revis' book is canon.)

And it did.

Slight spoilers for Rogue One included below. 

Rebel Rising follows Jyn Erso from the moment her mother is killed and her father is taken away by the Empire up until the Rebel Alliance recruits her for their mission. It tells the missing pieces of her story that Rogue One only hinted at. Her time with Saw Gerrera, learning to fight, learning to rebel. Her time imprisoned in an Empire work camp, forming her attitude against both the Empire and the Rebellion, becoming the stoic, guarded Jyn Erso on the screen.

The book itself starts off slow. A lot happens in a short amount of time, and a lot of it is telling instead of showing. But as the story unfolds and Jyn becomes involved with Saw Gerrera's side of the rebellion, the book picks up. We see her learning to fight, learning to make decisions about life and death, understanding Saw's motivation. We see her being abandoned, left alone to survive. We see her interacting with other people, even falling in love.

Some parts of it may come across predictable. I guess if you've seen Rogue One you know where she'll end up eventually. This is also a Star Wars YA novel. There are going to be certain aspects included, like the love interest, that might seem cliche, maybe unimportant, or predictable. But I also noticed that like Rogue One, Rebel Rising has a significant point to it. The depiction of Saw's rebellion is much different than the one Luke fights for, the one even Jyn fights with during Rogue One. His rebellion is brutal, it's dishonest, and it's sadly realistic. In our world today, there are tons of people who have the same mindset of Saw: kill or be killed. Completely destroy the enemy, no matter the cost, or die trying.

And I think this depiction, along with Jyn's realization of what Saw believes and what Jyn herself comes to believe, is significantly important for our world today. Fantasy has this habit of exploring truths about today's world and humanity in a way that gets the point across. Somehow other books can't always do this, which is the many reason why I read fantasy. It's truth spelled out plainly. And Beth Revis does that through Rebel Rising. She points out the different kinds of rebellions people fight--the different methods of overcoming, of defeating an enemy, of choosing a side--and then she allows the reader to make the decision for himself or herself which is the right way.

And I think that's incredibly important. Just as important as it was for Rogue One to show that victory does not mean everybody survives. That war always means sacrifice and loss. Rogue One realistically portrays another side of the rebellion we don't see in the Original Trilogy; it's the harsh side, the side people don't want to talk about. But we need to talk about it. And I'm grateful that Beth Revis took the next step, through a Star Wars book, to talk about other sides of rebellions as well, even if it's in a small way (though I hope it's not).

And hey, Rebel Rising made me stop and consider Rogue One again. I might try to watch it once more, and maybe the second time around I'll understand where the characters are coming from (or at least understand Jyn's motivation behind her actions). And maybe, I'll enjoy it. But if not, at least I know there are merits to Rogue One, and Rebel Rising follows right alongside those merits in a number of ways.
"You never know. Something small and broken really can be powerful." -Galen Erso, Rebel Rising

~I borrowed Rebel Rising by Beth Revis from my local library. I chose to write a review of the book of my own free will. All opinions and images are my own.~

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Top Ten Tuesdays: The Best Books of 2017 So Far

This week's Top Ten Tuesday prompt is a list of the best books I've read in 2017 so far. It's kind of open-ended, so I'm going to list only books that were published in 2017. Here are my favorites! (They're in order of how I read them, not how I rate them.)

1. Wires and Nerve by Marissa Meyer: I was stoked when I learned Marissa Meyer was writing a graphic novel set in The Lunar Chronicles world. I was definitely not ready to say goodbye to these lovely characters. Thus, I'm glad I enjoyed reading it. It had the same humor, adorableness, and action-y awesomeness that the books have. I'm already looking forward to part two!

2. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab: I inhaled the first two books in the Shades of Magic trilogy, so when A Conjuring of Light came out, I had to read it immediately. It was worth it. So worth it. Every page, every moment. I don't know if I've ever been so satisfied with a story's conclusion than this one. V.E. Schwab's writing is just magic.

3. King's Blood by Jill Williamson: I'm not always a huge fan of big books because they usually take forever to read, but in some cases, long books are good. King's Blood is gigantic, but it was definitely worth all those pages. The story that unfolds is intriguing and heart-felt. A lot happens, and it's wild. (Check out my review of it here.)

4. Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor: There are some authors that make me want to give up writing because there is no way I'll ever reach that level of amazing. Laini Taylor is this author. Strange the Dreamer goes above and beyond her other books, weaving a story with stellar world-building, fantastic characters, and gorgeous descriptions. Just go read it now! (If you're not convinced, check out my review here.)

5. Attack on Titan, Vol. 21 by Hajime Isayama: I don't normally include manga or long comic series volumes in my top books list because one volume can't always accurately capture the entire series. But Attack on Titan Vol. 21 is the exception. (Really, Attack on Titan is always the exception.) This volume revealed a lot, completely changing everything I thought I knew about this story. It's kind of incredible, and it definitely left me screaming.

6. The Dark Prophecy by Rick Riordan: Basically, Rick Riordan can do no wrong. Once more, he knocks it out of the park with his perfectly placed dialogue, his blending of mythology and modern day aspects, and his fantastic, wonderful, amazing characters. (That was for you, Apollo.) If you love Percy Jackson, Heroes of Olympus, or anything else Riordan has written, read Trials of Apollo. They're hilarious and well-written.

7. Spider-Gwen Vol. 2: Weapon of Choice by Jason Latour and Robbi Rodriguez: Spider-Gwen has easily become one of my favorite comic book series. There's just something more to her that I never quite caught with Peter Parker's Spider-man. Her relationship with her dad is definitely a high point, but I also admire Gwen's determination to do the right thing, no matter the cost.

8. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia: This book surprised me because I expected it to fall into a typical YA formula, but it didn't. It had a lot to it--highlighting many important issues--and I loved the characters. I'm grateful for what Francesca Zappia has done with this novel. (Check out my full review here.)

9. Rebel Rising by Beth Revis: Like Eliza and Her Monsters, I was impressed by this book. I expected it to fall short of my expectations, but there were moments when I realized how important this book was, both for the YA genre and for the Star Wars universe. It made me appreciate Rogue One and Jyn's character more than I originally did. I think Beth Revis did a stellar job with her story.

10. The Evaporation of Sofi Snow by Mary Weber: This book was definitely one of my most anticipated reads at the beginning of the year, and it definitely had me hooked. While I'll never forgive the author for that cliffhanger ending (why must I wait until March for book two? Why?), I thoroughly enjoyed the story, the world-building, and the diverse cast of characters. If you're looking for a science-fiction, conspiracy story filled with aliens, action, and lots of romantic tension, read this book. (Or if you're not looking for that, read it anyways.)

What are your favorite books of 2017 so far?

Friday, June 23, 2017

Mini-Reviews: "When I Look at the Stars" (Books with "Star" in the Title)

For some reason, I've read a lot of books recently that have the word "star" in the titles. It doesn't really come as a surprise, since I love outer space and anything related to stars. I'm not sure if I was drawn to these books because of the titles, the gorgeous covers (depicting stars, of course), or simply for the story. Here's what I thought of each one.

The Star-Touched Queen by Roshani Chokshi

The Star-Touched Queen is a re-telling of Beauty and the Beast or the Cupid and Psyche myth and the Hades and Persephone myth mixed with Indian mythology. The concept sounds so amazing, and I was told to read this book by a friend who thought it was absolutely stunning. And it is. Or it mostly is. The descriptions in The Star-Touched Queen are beautiful, but I felt that the characters and the plot was a bit flat. I wasn't a huge fan of the main character, Maya, and I'm kind of tired of the whole "bad boys are mysterious and alluring" trope that continues to crop up in YA books lately. No, thanks. Give me the nice, sweet dork and I'll be happy. Still, somethings about The Star-Touched Queen didn't work for me. The pacing was off, there were so many "dumb" moments or plot holes, and it was predictable. I wish the book had more time to flourish, even if it meant splitting the story into multiple books. It isn't a bad book, but it definitely isn't a favorite.

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Starflight by Melissa Landers

Starflight is a crazy space adventure involving space pirates, bounty hunters, and the ragtag crew of a beat-up spaceship. Basically, it reminds me of Treasure Planet mixed with Firefly. I was surprised with Starflight because I expected it to turn into a cliche, stereotypical mess of a YA novel. But it didn't. It was fun and exciting. There were a lot of good twists and turns (though I did predict a few ahead of time), the characters were excellent (I loved their banter), and the romance wasn't immediate or annoying (aka it made sense and flourished over the course of the book). The world-building was cool too. I think the author did a great job with the story. It was a fun adventure in space. And that cover is stellar.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Starfall by Melissa Landers

Based on other reviews, I full expected to be disappointed in Starfall. This book follows two of the minor characters from Starflight and what happens to them after the events in Starflight. I was mainly surprised that I did enjoy it, though, because it focuses heavily on political aspects (ruling a kingdom, leading a war, etc.) instead of space action-y stuff, but I was actually intrigued by these concepts. There is still a lot of rip-roaring adventures in space, of course, complete with more space pirates, bounty hunters, and the entire ragtag crew of the beat-up spaceship. It was definitely different than Starflight. It follows different characters, different stories, different paths. But it was still a fun story set in outer space. And once more, that cover art is A+.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Have you read any of these titles? Are there certain covers or book titles that you find yourself drawn to? 

Tuesday, June 20, 2017

Top Ten Tuesdays: Series I've Been Meaning to Read But Haven't

This week's Top 10 Tuesdays (which is actually going to be posted on Tuesday!) is a list of series I've been meaning to read but haven't yet. Unfortunately, that list is longer than ten. With over 800 books on my Goodreads to-be read list, it's bound to be full of series I need to start. Here are ten I probably should read soon.

1. Chaos Walking by Patrick Ness: I've heard good things about this series for a long time. I even own the first book, which I plan to read soon-ish. In the next coming years, the series is getting a movie adaptation, so I definitely need to read them!!

2. A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin: I don't know how many times these books (or the TV show) have been recommended to me. I own the first four books, but I have yet to feel brave enough to pick up the hefty volume and read it. Maybe soon? Or... never?

3. Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas: Like ASOIAF, I've been told numerous times but numerous people to read Throne of Glass, but I haven't. I'm not sure why. Maybe it's because I've also been told it's not that good, or maybe I just focused on other (read: better) books that are out there?

4. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard: This series is right there with Throne of Glass. I've been told to read it, but I've also heard it wasn't as good. I've been kind of back and forth about what to do, so maybe I should just try it out and decide for myself.

5. The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rothfuss: I've been told over and over by a few close friends that I need, need, need, need to read this series. But... the books are so long! I love a long story (I mean, I read Les Mis last year), but sometimes long books are so intimidating, especially when my TBR pile is overflowing. What to do... what to do...

6. Gentleman Bastard by Scott Lynch: Again, I've been told by multiple friends that I have to read these books. The first is on my short list to start soon, once I finish all the library books I currently have checked out. So we'll see.

7. The Broken Empire by Mark Lawrence: I was recommended the first book in this series during a writing workshop in order to help my own writing and world-building, but I haven't gotten around to reading it yet. I should probably put it on my short list and read it soon, right?

8. Space Trilogy by C.S. Lewis: I read Out of the Silent Planet forever ago, but I never finished the trilogy. I received a copy of all three books in one volume (which has a gorgeous cover) for my birthday several years ago, but... I still didn't finish. Do you see my problem?

9. The Dinosaur Lords by Victor Milán: This series is about medieval knights that ride dinosaurs into battle. I mean, come on! Did somebody read my Christmas list or what? This sounds epic, and most of the reviews say it's good. Must. Read. Soon.

10. The Queen's Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: Okay, okay, I read The Thief a while ago, back in high school, and honestly, I forgot the rest of the series existed. (Oops.) But recently with the hype for the Thick as Thieves release, this series has caught my interest again. I'll probably have to re-read The Thief first, but hey, it's worth it!

Should I even bother with any of these? Any other series you'd recommend?

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Fantastic Fathers (and Where to Find Them) of Literature

A few years ago (and by a few, I mean forever), I did a post about my favorite mothers of literature. There weren't many at the time, and since then, I've probably found a few more I could add to the list. But since it's Father's Day today, I'm not going to talk about my favorite mothers of literature; instead, I'm going to talk about my favorite fathers of literature. So without further ado, in no particulate order, here are ten fantastic fathers (and where to find them).

1. Mr. Betarrini from the River of Time series: Mr. Betarrini (whose first name I think is Ben?) isn't in the River of Time books a whole lot. Mainly because he spends the first two dead. (Weird, right?) But when he finally does show up due to this awesome thing called time-travel, he's pretty cool. He can fight, he's smart, and he cares a lot about his daughters. I like him.

2. George Stacy from Spider-Gwen: One of my favorite aspects of the Spider-Gwen comics is Gwen's relationship with her father, George. He cares an awful lot about his daughter, but that doesn't automatically mean their relationship is perfect. They struggle a lot trying to understand each other, but their love for one another trumps any other confusion or feelings they might have. Their relationship is realistic and touching, and I am grateful it exists in the comic book vein.

3. Elrond from Lord of the Rings: Sometimes I feel Elrond gets a bad rap. He's the stone-faced elf that won't allow his daughter to marry her one true love, right? (Or is that just the movie version?) But I think his concern for his daughter is admirable; he doesn't want to leave her behind, to be alone, to be sad. He's old; he knows the world. He's heard of Beren and Luthien and other elves, and he understands what it means for an elf to stay behind. Plus, Elrond is super wise and knowledgeable. He deserves more credit as a father.

4. Mr. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time: After recently re-reading A Wrinkle in Time, I realized how much I adore Mr. Murry. Like George Stacy, he's not perfect and his relationship with his family isn't perfect. He may be smart, but he still makes mistakes. When Meg finally finds him, she expects everything to become better, to be magically fixed, but it doesn't. This portrayal shows a realistic side of parents that I think more books need to include. Plus, in the face of adversary, strife, and despair, Mr. Murry is always optimistic and hopeful, pointing toward the good that still exists. If that's not admirable, I don't know what is.

5. Mr. Bennet from Pride and Prejudice: Who doesn't love Mr. Bennet? Sure, he may seem to slip away from his family and ignore his wife's mutterings, but when they need him the most, he steps up. His most famous moment is when he tells Elizabeth she doesn't have to marry Mr. Collins. Secretly, I think it's because he doesn't want his daughter to end up like him: in a loveless marriage. Or maybe he just loves to give Elizabeth her way.

6. Pa Ingalls from the Little House books: Growing up, Charles Ingalls was like a second father to me. I spent hours reading the Little House books, traveling all across the Midwest with the Ingalls family. Charles is a hard-working, entertaining, and ornery father that raises Laura to be the same. From playing violin and singing songs to building log cabins and harvesting crops, Pa Ingalls is a honorable man, worthy to be recognized.

7. Hans Hubermann from The Book Thief: Hans Hubermann isn't Liesel's biological father, but he's definitely her papa. He's a quiet man, known for his kindness and accordion playing that cheers people up. It's no wonder he finds a way to warm Liesel's heart in The Book Thief. I get teary-eyed just thinking about their relationship and the way the story progresses. He's admirable for his actions, whether it was teaching Liesel to read or hiding Max from the Nazis or simply walking the street playing his music.

8. Matthew Cubert from Anne of Green Gables: Like Hans, Matthew Cubert isn't Anne Shirley's biological father, but he's the closest thing she has to a father. Matthew is quiet, does his work, and obeys his sister. But he also learns to open up, just a little, to the spunky red-haired girl that invades his life. It's Matthew that convinces Marilla to give Anne a chance, and it's Matthew that spoils Anne because he wants her to be happy. Matthew is a soft, kind soul, and I can't help but cry at how wonderful a father he is.

9. Jean Valjean from Les Mis: Jean Valjean is a complex character. He takes in Cosette simply because he made a promise to a woman he met once, maybe twice. But he cares for Cosette as if he were his own daughter, and so she becomes his own daughter. He wants to keep her safe, from his past and from others, and he will do whatever it takes to do that... even entering a barricade battle to save the life of the man she loves so they can be together. Now that's noble.

10. Theoden from Lord of the Rings: Theoden's son dies early on in The Two Towers, but Theoden is still a father to both Eomer and Eowyn, his nephew and niece. It's his relationship with Eowyn though that makes him a fantastic father. He cares for her, wanting to protect her from the darkness of the world. He forbids her to fight because he wants to keep her safe from the atrocities of battle. In the end, by she avenging his death, she learns the reality of war. In addition, Theoden has a great redemption story; he was under the influence of Grima and Saruman, completely lost to the world, but he was able to come back from that and become a better king--and father.

Bonus: Sirius, Remus, Dumbledore, etc. from Harry Potter: It'd be hard to have a list of fantastic fathers (and where to find them) without including all the father figures of Harry Potter. From James Potter, who is Harry's actual father, and his sacrifice to save his wife and child to everything Sirius, Remus, and Dumbledore to do help Harry along his journey, the Harry Potter books are filled with fantastic father figures. Even Arthur Weasley is a wonderful, loving father-figure to Harry, welcoming him into the Burrow and taking him on wild adventures to Quidditch games and the Ministry of Magic. if given the chance to spend more time with these father-figures, I think their influence on Harry's life would only grown stronger and for the better.

Who are you favorite fathers of literature?

Friday, June 16, 2017

Audiobook Review: The Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini

I have a confession to make: I actually enjoyed the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini.

What?! Really? But-but... Jaime! You swore up and down all the realms that they had poor writing and wasted potential. Yes, yes, I know. For years, I've groaned about this series, stating it wasn't "good," yet I had only read the first two books (which are a poor portrayal of the potential of this story). But let me explain.

This reaction came from a mix of A. There are a lot of other (read: better) fantasy books in the world to read and B. I had a few friends in high school that liked to complain about Paolini's writing and more recently I've realized how easily I can be swayed by other people's opinions. So to throw off that stigma of the Inheritance Cycle being "oh so terrible" or "god awful" (as I've seen it described) and form my own opinion about the series, I decided to re-read the first two books and actually finish the series for once, but this time I listened to the audiobooks (much like I did with the Divergent series last year).

Let's just say, I was surprised at what I discovered. Eragon has always been held in a different place in my heart than other books because back in middle school (when dragons ruled the earth), Eragon was my life. It's the reason I started writing my own dragon stories and came to love dragons more than almost anything. (I mean, chocolate and books also exist.) Basically, Eragon (and The Hobbit because, duh, Smaug) is the basis of everything I write. But I always felt that the series let me down after I read Eldest, and I couldn't bear to pick up the monster that was Brisingr (and then Inheritance came out and made Brisingr look small, wowzer).

More recently, though, I can say that I enjoyed the series. Yes, there are a lot of flaws in the story. Yes, it's cliche and stereotypical. Yes, it could have been better. But you know what? For what it is, the series is good, it's decent, and it definitely has potential. (Seriously, though, give me a Game of Thrones-style show where it can dive into the darker, grittier side of high fantasy and I guarantee people would watch it, not the lame-o garbage of a movie we got in 2006).

Eragon follows the Hero's Journey so closely it's basically the story of Star Wars in a Lord of the Rings world. (Seriously, I could map it out for you; I might just do that because it's hilarious.) But if you can ignore that and the lengthy descriptions of exposition, the story isn't bad. It involves dragons and creepy monsters and Brom. Brom is definitely the best in this book, followed by Arya and Murtagh. (Basically, everybody but Eragon, amirite?) There's action and world-building (lots and lots of world-building) and did I mention the dragons yet? Because dragons. It's a fun adventure story with a lot of detail and dragons.
Rating: 4/5 stars

Of the entire "cycle," Eldest is the worst. It has a lot of boring parts like Eragon training (there is literally 5 minutes worth of narrative that consists of Eragon interacting with ants! Ants!!!) or Roran traveling for days on end with the entire village of Carvahall. But there are some merits: Roran kicking butt, Arya kicking butt, and Eragon... erm, Saphira kicking butt? I think the most memorable thing Eragon did in this episode was get drunk and cry over Arya. It's only memorable because it's sad. Give me a story about literally any other character and it would be better. Still, this one is necessary to read in order to read the others, so onward!
Rating: 3/5 stars (though it probably deserves like 2.75 or something)

Brisingr is a step-up from Eldest, but only due to the amazingly epic dragon battles! Seriously, those parts were the absolute best! (Yes, plural: two whole dragon battles. I mean, is it Christmas or what?) But this book dives deeper into the world's history and the dragon lore. There is so much explored and explained that I'm kind of in awe. (You mean Paolini has an imagination? What the what?) We also get our first appearance of Galabatorix, and it was kind of glorious. Nasuada and Arya are obviously cool also. If they (along with the dragon battles) weren't present in this book, it would suffer a lot. But they do. So it's definitely possible to get through this book without too much screaming or pulling out your eyeballs (*whispers* because dragon battles).
Rating: 3.5/5 stars

Inheritance, however, sealed the deal for me. This book--how it flowed, how the characters developed, how everything was resolved--it was all done well. I think you can see that Paolini grew as a writer over the course of the series, and it shines in Inheritance. It surprised me, but I think that's a good thing. There was a lot I enjoyed about this book, but to keep it spoiler-free, I'll just say if you've come this far, read Inheritance and finish the series. Believe me, it's definitely worth it.
Rating: 4/5 stars

The Inheritance Cycle is definitely not going to satisfy everybody. I know a lot of people who dislike it, and I know a lot of people who love it. I think if you can read it and enjoy it for what it is--a YA high fantasy involving dragons--then it's worth reading. Look past the flaws, ignore the lengthy passages (which are definitely not as lengthy as Tolkien's work), and appreciate all the dragons. Because there are actually a lot of dragons by the end of it, and it's glorious. What more do you need?

~I checked out audiobook copies of the Inheritance Cycle by Christopher Paolini from my local library and chose to review them of my own free will. All opinions are my own.~