Books

Am I Just Not That Into Epic Fantasy?

I want to preface this post by saying I adore the genre of fantasy.  Give me magic, sword fights, knights and princesses over any other genre any day.  But I notice, whenever I try to read epic fantasy novels, it takes me so long to finish them.  Or, I don’t even finish them at all.  I’m really into young adult fantasy and paranormal/supernatural media, but give me something like Lord of the Rings and I just….can’t.
I’ve been reading a more modern epic fantasy series lately, The Riyra Revelations by Michael J Sullivan.  It grabbed me from the Audible preview, with how quirky the characters were, and how life like they were just from the 1 minute preview.  It seemed like it would have fun characters to follow, and a plot that would be interesting, as we followed two thieves – and they both don’t have a heart of gold, they both have really differing, dynamic personalities, and complement each other perfectly.  So I picked up the first 2 books in the series, and really liked the writing.  The usual high fantasy books read like a different language to me, it’s just so hard to follow.  But this one, that wasn’t the case at all!  The first five chapters of the first book, I was enjoying thoroughly.  The characters were amazing, and the preview I heard met every expectation I had for the series so far.

 

But then…

 

Smack dab in the middle of the book, we get a huge lull in the plot progression.  Random out of the blue backstory for the world just thrown at us as a certain character is met.  I got so tired of hearing the backstory that took up an entire chapter, I stopped reading for a few days.
Next chapter, story picked up again, hurray!  I was so happy to be back to the central plot with the characters I loved and…oh here’s a monk spewing a ton more exposition about the religious structure of the land, why?
Don’t get me wrong:  I know world building is important, and a poorly built world isn’t fun to visit in books.  But the tonal shift between the expositional backstory and the actual present place adventure was so jarring, and the chapters are very long in length.  So when I felt like we’d get back to the main story, only to have an hour of exposition dumping, it turned me off so much so that I read another book, came back to this one and wound up enjoying it a lot more because of that.

 

The exact thing happened to the second book in the series.  Good beginning, but then we’d get sent off to a completely different, very long section of the book that would show us all the politics going on with the kingdoms and sniz and it took me days to go back to the book.  It took me 2 months to get through both of these books, and both of them are ten hour reads so…I kept on asking myself, why?  I do enjoy the series, all be it winding up to be a church system wanting power being corrupt plot in the end but there should be no reason that I can’t get through a book I enjoy easily.

 

So that got me thinking, is it something about epic fantasy in particular?  About this book series?  This series is self-published, and at times it shows: there are sections that really should be trimmed immensely, if not all together omitted because they add no real weight or interest to the story.  But that aside, I think I may have figured out why epic fantasy has never been a sub genre of fantasy I can get into.

 

That would be, the pacing.  I’ve tried to read other epic fantasy books, like the big greats:  Lord of the Rings, is a prime example.  I know there’s a good story buried under the mass amounts of travelling, story lulls, and immense world building, but for the life of me, it’s just so slow paced with it all, I can’t get through the first few pages.  When something like say, The Lunar Chronicles series, is fantasy that has a good world, characters, and backstory, but is able to balance keeping a decently consistent pace in its plot and storytelling, that even if it had a more extensive exposition dump somewhere down the line it would feel more accessible to me than the abrupt stop and go of exposition  that happens in epic fantasy settings.  Even with how modernly written Riyra Revelations is, whenever it would get to those sections of backstory my brain would just check out.

It’s really a shame, because I’d love to read more epic fantasy.  I know there are good stories in the genre, but it’s just so difficult for me to get through them.  Though maybe reading them slowly isn’t a bad thing, and I just need to accept that that’s how I have to read epic fantasy if I want to read the genre.
All that being said, I’d love to hear your recommendations for good epic fantasy novels!  I’m willing to give the genre as many tries as I have to, if it means I get to enjoy even more stories.  Would love to hear your thoughts on epic fantasy as a subgenre of fantasy, as well!

Books

A Heartstrikers Book 4 preview Has Been Released and It’s Amazing

I was going to write about something else today, but when I opened my email, I saw that I got one from Rachel Aaron’s newsletter.  The title and release date of Heartstrikers Book 4 – A Dragon of a Different Color – was dropped about a month ago, but I wasn’t expecting anything else about it until release.  Today, I got a link to an extended preview of the book, and man am I even more pumped for this book AHHH!  I haven’t been this excited for a series since Harry Potter, so pumped!
I don’t want to talk about too many details, because the author specifically states in the newsletter she doesn’t want that.  If you’d like to read the preview, go subscribe to her newsletter.  But, without spoilers,   it’s safe to say A Dragon of a Different Color picks up right where we left off with Julius and the Heartstriker clan.  From the exert, it seems like we’re going to have a book full of mystery, action, and drama, and ayaaah I just can’t wait!  Two of my hunches already have been addressed in the first 2 chapters and ugh it’s just sooo good.  The writing is still on point, the characters are still amazing, and I’m beyond excited to hop back into the Heartstrikers series.  I’m going to drop everything to read it, like seriously!
I’m hoping that the Audible release is going to drop the same day the physical book drops.  From the release schedule of Caraval though, that seems to be the case with audio book releases now – something that didn’t happen when I used to read books, so it’s a really nice convenience to have now.  This is a series that I adore so much in audio form.  I read the exert with my screen reader, and I still love the book but the narrator is just so good at performing the book, that I really don’t want to experience it any other way. So fingers crossed it’s released at the same time as the book, ayaaaah!!!

 

A Dragon of a Different Color is coming out on July 28.  If you’d like to read an extended exert of the first few chapters of the book, subscribe to Rachel Aaron’s newsletter for updates.  And, if you’d like to pre-order the book, you can do so at Amazon!

Books

Caraval by Stephanie Garber Book Review

This book is good.  If you want the short and sweet version of this review, I’d say read it.  It has flaws, sure, but it’s pros outweigh its cons for me and the mysteries, characters and world are worth getting through them because there’s major payoff at the plots conclusion.  Plus, the sequel book sounds like it’ll be great after the epilogue!  I just wanted to get that out of the way:  This is a good book, if you like fantasy, romance, and mystery, check it out.  But for those of you who want a more in depth review, keep reading!

 

Plot summary

 

Welcome, welcome to Caraval – Stephanie Garber’s sweeping tale of two sisters who escape their ruthless father when they enter the dangerous intrigue of a legendary game.

Scarlett has never left the tiny island where she and her beloved sister, Tella, live with their powerful – and cruel – father. Now Scarlett’s father has arranged a marriage for her, and Scarlett thinks her dreams of seeing Caraval, the faraway once-a-year performance where the audience participates in the show, are over.

But this year Scarlett’s long dreamt of invitation finally arrives. With the help of a mysterious sailor, Tella whisks Scarlett away to the show. Only as soon as they arrive, Tella is kidnapped by Caraval’s mastermind organizer, Legend. It turns out that this season’s Caraval revolves around Tella, and whoever finds her first is the winner.

Scarlett has been told that everything that happens during Caraval is only an elaborate performance. But she nevertheless becomes enmeshed in a game of love, heartbreak, and magic with the other players in the game. And whether Caraval is real or not, she must find Tella before the five nights of the game are over, a dangerous domino effect of consequences is set off, and her sister disappears forever. – From Audible

 

World Building

 

The world building is done interestingly, though I won’t say it’s perfect.  We see the world through the main characters eyes, and due to her upbringing, she has a very narrow world view.  We get a description of how the world works, and the way finding out the basics of the world is done in a well rounded way that isn’t just an exposition dump.  There are a lot of vague descriptions when we get to Caraval that I felt tried to lend to the mystery – but at the same time, parts of the book were really frustrating to read because of how vague the author kept descriptions.  The magic system in Caraval alssso…doesn’t really make sense, in all honesty.  But if you ignore that and just come along for the ride, the book is enjoyable.

 

Plot Progression/Pacing

 

The pacing is the biggest issue for me with the book, along with Scarlet in the first half of the story (we’ll get to that in the characters section).  I was so frustrated with how the book was progressing, and where it was trying to go in the first half, that I had to go read some reviews with minor spoilers in it.  They really just mentioned what characters would be popping up, and when I saw that my interest in the book was re-engaged.  But, the book doesn’t get interesting for me until around chapter 17 to chapter 20 – that’s when the book starts to get really good, and super engaging.  I marathoned the 2nd half of the book in 2 days, it just was really great.  The stakes were raised properly, it got really intense, and the characters all had mysteries I wanted to see solved.  Scarlet is amazing in the 2nd half of the book as well, and her character development had me rooting for her the entire book.

 

The plot was…well, the plot threads aren’t all answered, but the plot threads for the first book are.  I don’t think the multitude of plot twists at the end were all good, some of them felt like they were just thinly vailed reasons to keep characters in the game for a sequel novel.  Although all the plot twists weren’t welcome for me, the overall progression of the plot was slow in the first half, fast paced in the second.  When Scarlet couldn’t figure out obvious clues though, I was banging my head against the wall!  It’s a major irritant of mine when a character can’t figure out something that is so freaking obvious!
There were a lot of predictable plot threads, and a lot of convoluted plot twists, but if you suspend your disbelief and just enjoy this book for what it is, it’s tons of fun.

 

Characters

 

This is where the book shines.  The characters are great!  All well fleshed out, very realistic characters you feel for.  Scarlet, as I said, really annoyed me in the beginning:  but, the reasons she acted the way she did in the first half of the book were well explained, and her character arc was masterfully done.  I’m always annoyed with characters who are indecisive, but knowing what Scarlet has gone through her entire life, I felt awful for being annoyed with her because I know why she was acting the way she did.  And, that frustration had major payoff, because when Scarlet comes into her own, wow is she fierce!  Like I said in the above section by books end I was rooting for her, and absolutely adored her.  I really hope she appears in the sequel books, she’s so great.
Julian is another example of how well Garber writes characters.  He has secrets to hide, but the person we see is the person he is, and he’s a great foil for Scarlet.  Their relationships progression is one of the gems in this book.  No cases of insta love:  Their relationship grows from distrust, to trust, to friendship, to love and it’s throughout the entirety of the book, so once again, really realistic.  When he finally spills the beans about his true identity, I wasn’t really surprised to be honest.  The two things he wound up being, were two of my theories very early on in the book, but I thought what the final reveal was was a great way to subvert the readers expectations of what the reveal was going to be.
Scarlet and Julian are the perfect couple, and that’s not to say they’re both perfect.  They know how to push each other to be the best people they can be, accept each other for all of their flaws, know how to make each other brave and strong and it’s such a breath of fresh air to see a grounded relationship in a YA novel.  10/10, OTP!

 

 

Donnatella, much like Caraval, is a bundle of magic and mystery.  She does something that you’d originally think was horrible and selfish, but when you see the consequences of her actions, you see her in a whole new light.  Tella is selfless, brave, and just as strong, if not more so, than Scarlet and we see this both in the beginning, and end of the book.  But to say any more about Tella would be a spoiler, so I’ll stop there XD
Governor Dragna is the worst you can get.  The perfect villain, because you hate him from the start and want to see him get his (luckily, we do).  You see the effect his abuse has had on both Scarlet and Tella, and it makes you hate him even more.  That’s part of why Scarlet’s development is so amazing:  She escapes her Father’s control, by openly defying him, and it’s soooo amazing!
The supporting cast is all great.  I’m especially fond of Dante and Iko, but Legend is the perfect anti-hero, who by books end you still don’t really know anything about.  I hope the next book in the series explores the mystery of Legend a lot more, because seeing him in this book was interesting but made you want to see more.  No matter how big, or how small the cast member is in Caraval, they’re all wonderful to watch.

 

Writing

 

This is the one hit I’ll give the book. The writing tries to be whimsical with flowery pros, but all it does is frustrate the reader at points.  Scarlet feels her emotions attached to colors, which I thought was interesting in the beginning because I thought that would somehow link to the magic of Caraval.  But nope:  It’s just how she feels emotions, so throughout the entire book we get to read things like “The gray ash of disappointment” “the violet danger” “the emerald greed” and to me, it just felt like a lazy way to not have to actually explain to the reader what was going on in any detail.  Along with that, descriptions are made into vague pros like “Our kiss felt like the beginning of something and the start of something new”, “It tasted like midnight”, “her dress was periwinkle, the color of happy endings” and none of those things equate to anything in my mind other than vague, non-descript descriptors that are just there to try and make the book sound a lot more introspective than it actually is.  Would it be so hard just to say Scarlet tasted something, and it was spicy?  I don’t think so!  I know Garber was trying to have “The magic of Caraval” apparent through her pros, but really it just got annoying after reading through the 100th metaphor.  I really hope in her next book, she uses these in moderation and gives us a bit more of a grounded sounding narrative because there were so many times I just went “There’s no way I would even know what midnight would taste like because it’s not a sensation attached to taste”.  Using a completely opposite word to describe another sensory detail isn’t good writing, it’s just overly involved writing that’s distracting.

 

Julian had a “nickname” for Scarlet the entire book that was super annoying too.  Crimson.  Crimson?  That isn’t a nickname, it’s a synonym!  Once again, another thing thrown in that makes absolutely no sense and adds nothing but irritation to the narrative.
But I will say:  I freaking adore how every one of Scarlet’s dresses were described.  That was perfectly done.  I could totally picture each gown, and ugh it just made the fashionista in me squeal:  all so pretty!

 

Overall/Final Thoughts

 

In the end, I loooooved this book.  It’s a great tale of two sisters who love each other so much, that they fight to keep the other safe in their own way.  It’s also a tale of two abused young women fighting to come into their own, and be free of their Father, both in very different ways.  The backdrop is the magical game that is Caraval, full of magic and secrets, and secrets and magic!  But in all seriousness, this is a really great first book in a series.  If you’re ok with a good magical mystery, wrapped in romance, and fantasy, pick up this book.  As long as you’re willing to turn your brain off for a while and just enjoy the ride.

 

The epilogue is pretty clear in the character who we’ll be following in the next book, and I really can’t wait to read it!

 

To me the mark of a good book is a book that has you thinking about it days after you’ve read it.  Thinking about what parts in the book now make sense after getting to the end, how the characters will be in the next book, things like that.  I’m still thinking about Caraval days after I read it, and finishing it left a really good feeling for me.  So despite any flaws I see in this book, or any discrepancies’ I have with the writing, I think Caraval is an amazing story that deserves to have been told.

 

Have you read Caraval?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comment’s!

Books

My TBR List for June and a Very Mini Review of Blame

I was going to write up this intense review of this anime movie I watched a few days ago, but honestly I don’t really have much to say about it.  It was called Blame, it was fantastic, if you like a character piece with a really slow burn that still is interesting, go see it.  I don’t have anything constructive to say about it, because I just loved it so much.  So, if you’re looking for a good anime movie that’s sci-fi cyberpunk, check it out!  I heard it was a really long running manga, and I hope this means we get some OVAs of it because the ending was so open ended but I want more so bad.  Such an amazing movie!

 

With that out of the way, on to my TBR list!  I’ve gotten a pile up of books that I really need to read, so much so that I’ve canceled my Audible subscription until I finish them up, because I don’t just want a ton of Audible credits piling up while I have books waiting in the wings I need to read (that may work for some people, but for me it drives me nuts and puts pressure on me to read super quickly or spend all of my credits and ayaaah the pressure!).  I’ve picked a lot up from sales, some were on my wishlist, some just books that sounded interesting so I picked them up.

 

  • Theft of Swords by Michael J Sullivan:  Picked this up on a Audible 2 for 1 sale.  The summary sounded ok enough, but when I listened to the book preview the writing and characters sold me.  The world building and characters are great, but my main issue with it is the issue  have with epic fantasy:  it moves so slowly!  I’m up to chapter 6 in this book, and am hoping I can finish it before the month is up.  I’m enjoying it so far, just wish it were a bit faster.
  • On the Edge by Illona Andrews: One I picked up on a sale a long time ago, just haven’t gotten to it yet.  Want to get to it this month!
  • Dragons of Autumn Twilight by Margret Weis and Tracey Hickman: The 2nd book I got on the 2 for 1 sale.  I’ve only read a little bit of the prologue and sounds interesting enough, but I hope it doesn’t fall into the slow epic fantasy pacing that I don’t like.
  • Caraval by Stephanie Garber: I’ve been wanting to read this one since it came out, and when I was needing to use my last credit before cancelling I looked at my wish list, saw it and went “Oh yeah, I need to read this!” so picked it up.  Can’t wait to start it!

 

That’s everything I got, I’m hoping I can get through these books in the month!  What’s on your TBR list?

Books · Uncategorized

The Siren by Kiera Cass Book Review

Sometimes you just pick up a book because it has a good concept, or has a mythology in it that you like.  I picked up The Siren because I love mermaids, and Sirens.  After reading the plot synopses, I knew it would be a generic romance, that part of it didn’t bother me.  What wound up bothering me however, was the drawn out premise, the directions this plot went, and how predictably cliché it wound up being.  If it wasn’t for the fact it had sirens in it, I probably would have stopped reading.  Overall, it was a good enough read because of its length:  the audio book was 7 hours, and I finished it in 2 days (could be one day if you felt like binging the book).  It’s definitely what I like to call, a popcorn read.  It’s nothing ground breaking, but enjoyable enough and engaging enough to finish.

 

I’m not going to review this in my normal long form format with all the categories and stuff, because honestly the book was short like I said and really not much to fill in each section.  So I’ll just touch on the things I liked, and didn’t liked, and then give my final thoughts.  Going to be major spoilers in this post, you have been warned!

 

I’ll start with the things I liked:  I loved the core cast of characters.  All of the Sirens had really distinct personalities and quirks, and it truly felt like we were looking in at pre-established relationships.  The one character that started to bother me sadly, was the main POV character Kahlen.  She just kept on whining about everything!!  I don’t mind a character complaining in a book, but the entire time she wasn’t even trying to change her situation and just was whining the entire time.  They establish early on that “her talent is obeying” but she kept on fighting against it and rebelling, but only halfway. And then going back to the way she was.  Everyone but her moved the plot forward, and although the overall themes of the story were good, Kahlen was infuriating to read about.  Half of the book is her being depressed or pining or angsting over something and it’s just so irritating to read.

 

Interestingly enough, I thought the best character in the story, was The Ocean.  In this, The Ocean speaks to the sirens, and is their maternal figure for them.  Her story is way more interesting than Kahlen’s, and she kept the story going when at times it was hard to get through entire chapters of Kahlen moping, or being depressed.  Making The Ocean a talking character that interacted with her daughters was a really nice touch.

 

 

Coming off of that, I really loved how the siren lore was used in this!  Kiera Cass did her research, while still adding her own lore to it to make the narrative cohesive.  Like I said, I love sirens, and getting an explanation of their lives and powers, and why The Ocean picked certain women to be sirens was really cool.  Honestly, if it weren’t for this section of the book, them going out and singing, and coping with killing to feed The Ocean, not allowed to speak to humans because their voice literally would make them want to kill themselves, using sign language because of this, therefore having a really good depiction of disability in the book was great to read.  It added great depth to the story that wasn’t there for me when it was strictly a romance.

 

But with all of this cleverly crafted lore, there was one thing that was a HUGE missed opportunity, and it had everything to do with the predictable turn the second half of the book took.  Eventually, Kahlen gets sick.  Which is odd, because sirens can’t get sick, don’t need to eat, etc etc.  So, I instantly thought, “Oh, really cool!  She’s going to make it like Kahlen is becoming human because she fell in love, and a siren can only be set free early from her sentence if she finds true love”.
But nope!  Instead of going with that, which would probably be just as predictable, but fit more with the story, we get some soulmate mumbo jumbo that is so convoluted and half baked that I literally was like what are you serious.  It would have made so much more sense to make the conclusion to Kahlen’s sickness be a siren based problem, and not a random soulmate’s via insta-love problem.  Dropped the ball there, Cass.

 

The “romance” between Kahlen and Akinli erked me too, because it wasn’t a romance.  They met once, and then she ran from him for a year, then met him again one more time.  So it was twice before he offered her the world, and then she had to run again because she thought she’d hurt him but oh she loves him so much and can’t stop thinking of them because they’re total soulmates!  I don’t mind insta-love, but initially the book made it like we’d be following their actual romance, and the hurdles Kahlen would face dating Akinli while being a siren.  Instead, we got two meetings, and her pining for him all through the book.  If you count the final chapter, and the epilogue, they were together a total of four times in the book and the rest of it was Kahlen moping about how she couldn’t be with Akinly because of her duty to The Ocean, and daydreaming about being in love with this boy she had only hung out with probably a total of like 30 hours.

 

And still, with all that said, there was something engaging about this book that made me want to keep reading.  Maybe it was the half good seen amongst the half flaws, the other more likeable characters that weren’t the leads, the fact that they were sirens (I can’t stress how very in love I am with mermaids and sirens) or the fact that it was just so short it wasn’t worth not finishing.  I’d honestly probably read it again if I were bored, because it’s a quick, enjoyable read like most romance novels are.

 

I usually wind up liking paranormal romances, but an aspect of them frustrate me.  I think this is a good example of that:  They always have so much potential, but at the end of the day they’re made to sell for a light read on a trip or something, so not much weight is put behind the interesting, dynamic concepts initially put forth.  The Siren is a shining example of that, but still something I’d suggest reading if you just want an easy read, and want to see a good take on siren mythology in modern culture.

 

Did this book make me want to read any more of Kiera Cass’ novels?  Not at all.  If your stand-alone novel can’t do that, I feel like there maaay be a problem with your writing.  But hey, I may be wrong, and The Selection series is an amazing piece of literature I’d enjoy.
Have you read The Siren?  Or any of Kiera Cass’ other works?  Would love to read your thoughts in the comments!

Books

Heartstrikers Book Series By Rachel Aaron Review

When you start a book you usually have one of these reactions:  You can’t put it down, you can’t wait to see what happens next, and if there’s another book in the series, you can’t wait to pick it up and continue the series.  For The Heartstrikers series of books, I had all three reactions every time I started reading, and finishing each of the books.  Sadly, the series isn’t over yet (ugh I need the fourth book so bad, think it’s coming out later this year) but I’m so happy I took a chance on this indi author.  Rachel Aaron is an amazing author, her writing style is so fun and captivating and her characters are just….ugh I love these books!  I wanted to hold off reviewing them individually, because really, each book would have just been me gushing about how much I loved them because they are all amazing.  I found Rachel Aaron through looking for books on Audible, and got recommended the first book in the series:  Nice Dragons Finish Last.  When I heard a preview, I not only fell in love with the audio book narrator, but with the authors voice.  Really quirky, fun world building and characters all around and…ugh I just love these  books so much!  But instead of gushing here, time to gush in the review!

PLOT

 

Julius Heartstriker is the only nice dragon in his clan and instead of making waves, he hides from his older, more aggressive siblings to stay out of trouble.  His Mother doesn’t tolerate this anymore and throws him out at the age of 24 into the DFZ  (Detroit Free Zone) and Julius has to figure out how to make it in the world with no money, no street smarts, and trying to avoid being killed in the DFZ because the DFZ is a no-dragons-allowed zone.  There’s a lot more to the series, but that’s the plot of the first book and more or less the series is Julius gets thrown into a situation and gets out of it by being himself, with the help of his BFF Marcy, mage extraordinaire.

WORLD BUILDING

 

I’ve complained in the past about fantasy worlds not having a concrete place they inhabit.  For example, does the story take place in a full fantasy world, or an alternate Earth.  The Heartstrikers series does a wonderful job of both showing, and telling us the world we’re in.  A meteor hit the Earth about a hundred years before our story started, bringing magic back into the world.  Along with magic, we got the reawakening of spirits, dragons, and human mages and they’re all getting used to magic being back in the world.    The series is clearly an urban fantasy dystopia (I know it sounds weird, but it totally works) set in our world.  How can you tell it’s in our Earth’s timeline?  There are super high tech magic-technology phones in use, along with self-driving cars and GPS.  Not only that, but we get characters referencing things like Batman, Super Mario, Star Wars, and a lot of other pop culture references that would be archived in the databases of a post-magic-tech Earth.  Does the narrative tell me that?  Not at all:  but because of how rich the world building is, and how intricate the showing, and telling the world building we see in the books, I can deduce that without even having to be told that somewhere in the narrative.

The magic system is really interesting, and makes tons of sense.  There are different magic systems for how humans, dragons, and spirits use magic and even when it’s being explained (it’s explained a lot through the series, it’s a major over arching plot point) never was I confused.  I read that in the third book the human system of magic confused a few people, but it made perfect sense to me.  And, how the dragons overall work is just really great!  I’ve never read dragon fiction before, but in this series, dragons have a human form and a dragon form and it’s just so fascinating and adds so much to the story.
So yeah, all in all, the best world building I’ve read in a modern fantasy series.  I’m not huge into urban fantasy, and wasn’t aware this was going to be one when reading, but it’s so great.

CHARACTERS


 

They’re all perfect~

Ok to go into more detail every character is really fleshed out, human, and interesting.  Even the side characters, even the characters that you know are there just to be offed later.  Any important player in the story is very human, very real, and very loveable.  If they aren’t lovable, you understand their motives and are able to sympathize with them to a degree.  I adore Marcy, who is Julius’ best friend/love interest, and all of Julius’ siblings we see (he has a lot of them, his Mother gets busy) wind up having wonderful storylines and plot motivations and by the third book we see something big is coming together, and I can’t wait to see how it will end for our characters.

WRITING

 

I mentioned this in my opening paragraph, but the writing is what got me wanting to read this series.  It’s like reading a sit com, but a really good sit com!  Whitty dialogue, great descriptors, really good pacing.  All around just an amazing job from Rachel Aaron.

FINAL THOUGHTS

 

The Heartstrikers series ventures to answer this question:  Can a genuinely nice person succeed in a world filled with power hungry, aggressive people, and still stay true to himself and his ideals?  Will doing so change his surroundings for the better?  Along with that, we have plotting dragons, humans and spirits just trying to survive, and the magical future of the world coming to a head.  When you think someone is “the villain” you find out their motivations, and realize what they’re trying to do may not be so bad.  It’s a book series about humanity at its core, what drives us to do things, what makes us stay true to ourselves, and how someone we’ve met by chance (or perhaps by fate dun dun dun) can affect us, for better or worse.
nice Dragons Finish Last, One Good Dragon Deserves Another, and No Good Dragon Goes Unpunished are all amazing reads.  I think there are one or two books left in the series that aren’t out yet –shakes fist- but I anxiously await the next installment of the series because ugh this is so good!  I haven’t been this invested in a book series in a very long time.  If you haven’t read it, I highly recommend you do!  If you have read it, I’d love to talk about it in the comments!

Books

What Characteristics Engage Me in a Story?

I swear this isn’t exclusively a book blog.  I’ve just started an Audible subscription a few months ago, and have been reading like a mad woman.  I’ve seen a lot of people say they prefer to add their own voice when they’re reading, but for me that doesn’t really matter.  If I’m reading an Ebook, or a book in a PDF, my screen reader is doing the reading.  So instead of being able to make my own voice in my head, a robotic voice is reading the text quickly to me.  Between that, or having a human being perform the book like it’s a play, and having voices for the characters pre-made and stuff, I’ll take the Audio Book any day.  There are a few exceptions, like if there is an audio book narrator that bores me to tears, so much so that I can’t finish the book, then I’ll default to my screen reader doing the reading.  One thing that’s majorly annoying, though, is the main Ebook hub is Amazon Kindle, right?  Well instead of allowing me to use NVDA’s screen reading voice, it uses the horrible Microsoft narrator one!  Have you ever heard the Microsoft narrator voice?  If not, go turn on Narrator in the Windows settings if you have a PC, and you’ll see what I’m talking about.  That voice gives me a freaking headache.  So for me at least, reading Kindle books is out.  I guess I coooud get used to it, but I’d rather not spend money on a book I won’t read because I can’t stand the narrator voice.

 

That tangent aside, I did something that I don’t usually do.  I read the first Throne of Glass book, and then Audible sent me an email for a sale.  First book in the series is 4.99!  As a book fanatic I couldn’t pass that up (I’m terrible at digital impulse buys) and bought a book in my wish list that I’ve been dying to read:  Nice Dragons Finish Last, by Rachel Aaron.  I use Audible like a library, more or less:  browse the digital book shelves for interesting looking titles, then click on the books that interest me and read the summary.  If it interests me, I click on the preview to see if I like the narrator and the writing, and when I did that for Nice Dragons I was instantly captivated by the humorous voice of the author, along with the interesting characters.
My second tangent aside, what I usually don’t do is start one series before finishing the one I had already started.  I like to read series books in a row, because I like to get the full story in a continuous motion:  part of the reason why I like to binge watch a series instead of watching week to week.  So when I finished Nice Dragons Finish Last, I had planned to purchase Crown of Midnight (Throne of Glass Book 2) but after finishing it, I had a dilemma.  I was really into Nice Dragons Finish Last!
So that got me thinking:  what made me like Nice Dragons more than Throne of Glass?  I liked Throne of Glass, it was a great read.  But there was something about Throne of Glass that made me not mind not continuing it right away.  Nice Dragons Finish Last, while being a slower read for me (I read five chapters of that a day, while I read one of Nice Dragons – although those chapters were far longer) in the end, Nice Dragons got me to want to read onto the next book in the series right away, while Throne of Glass, I don’t mind waiting to finish up.  That got me thinking:  What draws me into a story?  So let’s break this down after that very lengthy introduction!

 

 

I know for me, characters outweigh good plot.  A plot can be generic and overdone because let’s face it, every plot has been done before.  But what I read a book for, or engage in any story for, is good characters.  While the characters in Throne of Glass were really fleshed out and well done, the characters in Nice Dragons Finish Last were quirky, adorable, fleshed out, and so entertaining.  Reading Nice Dragons was like reading a sitcom, it was just so much fun and so funny.  I read the first half slowly (for me, which is in about a week) but the second half?  It picked up, and I read it in one night.  That wasn’t because of the plot, it was because of the characters.  Even the ones you dislike, you still like to a degree and everyone is really fun, even the side characters.  Throne of Glass had that sometimes, but other than Celaena who is amazing, the other characters stuck pretty well to their archetypes.  I’m not saying that’s bad, by any means:  I still enjoyed visiting with them, and will enjoy visiting with them again.  But for a full cast of amazing characters that I hope will grow in its second book, Nice Dragons Finish Last wins in this category.
For the world building too, I think Nice Dragons wins by a landslide.  It’s such an interesting setting!  I’m not a huge urban fantasy fan, but this is like, an urban fantasy with magic, and dystopia, and dragons!  It all merges together into something you think wouldn’t work, but it totally does.  A meteor hit the earth a few decades before the story began, and brought magic back into the world.  So it’s commonplace, and me being a majorly obsessed with magic fantasy fan, I ate this up with a spoon.
Once again, Throne of Glass’ setting isn’t bad by any means.  But what it is, is a typical fantasy world, with magic, and tyrannical Kings, and oppression and I think you get the jist.  It’s a Game of Thrones that I actually can read, so that’s saying something because I find epic fantasy to be too long and drawn out (sorry to any epic fantasy fans).  But once again, I attribute that more to Celaena than anything else.  She’s really the driving force of enjoying Throne of Glass for me.

 

After writing all of that out, I think I see why I decided to read Nice Dragons sequel over Throne of Glass’.  At their cores, both stories are good, but in the end Nice Dragons Finish Last offers more to me as a reader than Throne of Glass does.  Like I said earlier, Nice Dragons is a light, fun read that read like a sitcom, or dramedy and is really easy to get through. I enjoyed reading Throne of Glass, but it took me a lot longer to read it.  I kept on stop-start reading it over the month of February, and when I really enjoy a book, I can finish it in a week or less.  I’m still going to finish the Throne of Glass series, but after I read all three books in the Heartstrikers series.  I just have to know what happens next in those, where learning what happens next to Celaena will be interesting, but isn’t a priority of mine.
I’m glad I figured that out after writing that novel of a post!  I’d love to know:  what draws you into a story, or series?