Books

Getting Into Goodreads

At the end of last year, I found out that Kindle on PC was accessible.  Now me being an avid reader, I dove into reading a lot more than I used to.  I gotta say, I’m so happy that I did, because there’s a part of me that really missed reading and I’m just so excited to be able to read as much as I used to as a kid.

 

I watch a fair amount of Booktubers, and always hear them talking about using Goodreads.  I figured since I got back into reading, I’d go join and give it a shot.  I didn’t realize how much fun I’d have with it, and it’s honestly helped me stay on track with reading, find books I wouldn’t normally find, and just really enjoy getting engaged in reading in a way that wasn’t possible before.  I’m usually not one for apps if I’m being honest, but there’s just something about the features that I like to use on Goodreads that makes me really enjoy Goodreads as a whole, and I wanted to share that with you.  Keep in mind, I don’t use nearly close to all of the features on Goodreads.  I think that’s a good thing about the site though:  You can choose what you like to use, and not feel like you have to use every aspect of the site to enjoy what you do enjoy using on Goodreads, if that makes sense.  I notice a lot of apps try and upsell you to use EVERYTHING on its platform and that always has annoyed me, so it’s just nice to use what I want to use, leave the site, and call it a day until I’m ready to hop back on and do it all over again.

 

The main features I use on Goodreads are the progress updates on what you’re currently reading, hunting down book recommendations, using the shelves, and writing reviews and rating books.  My favorite feature out of all of these is the update progress feature.  All you have to do is mark you’re currently reading a book, and you get to update your progress in page numbers or percentages.  You have the option to leave little notes about how you feel about the book you’re reading too, and this is my favorite part of this feature.  When you’re done, you can go back and read what you thought and it’s just a lot of fun to me to see if my thoughts about the book have changed, if by books end I liked it a little or a lot, and it helps me with reviews, as I can see my general thoughts of the book overall and use that for my rating and reviewing of the book.  I also like that when you mark the book finished it counts towards your reading count for the year instantly, and towards the reading challenge you set for yourself for the year.  It’s just a really convenient way to track your reading, and it’s my favorite part of the site.

 

I really like how after you’ve rated a certain amount of books, Goodreads recommends very on the nose books to you after a certain point.  Sometimes it isn’t what I’d personally want to read, but I get why it recommended the book to me in the first place because it would be  something someone who liked the genre I read the most would like.  Reviewing and rating is fun and easy too, and it helps me stay engaged in reading consistently.  Seeing my progress just makes me feel accomplished as weird as that sounds, and just reading without Goodreads to track this sort of stuff in the past has made me fall off the wagon.  The reading challenge really helps with that too, and I’ve set it up so I can hopefully read 30 books by the end of the year, like I wanted to do a few years ago.

 

All in all, Goodreads has been a really enjoyable experience for me.  It’s helped me find books to read, given me enjoyment in tracking my reading progress, and it motivates me to read a bit more than I would be without it.  It’s highly accessible for the parts of it I use, and there’s so much of it that I haven’t touched on here simply because I don’t use those aspects of the site.  Will I use things like lists, communities, and friends more in the future?  Maybe, but as of now I honestly really enjoy Goodreads just being for me, and I think that’s something that gets lost on people sometimes.  I use Goodreads more as an enjoyable efficiency  tool, and have enjoyed every moment of doing so.  I’m not ready to make that change, so as of now it’s just going to stay as a book tracker and recommender for me.  So

happy I decided to use the site though, really like it!

 

What aspects of Goodreads do you like to use?  Let me know in the comments below!

Books

The Autumn Republic Book Review [Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 3]

The Autumn Republic is the best book in the Powder Mage trilogy for me, hands down.  All pacing issues are gone, every character feels like they matter, and there’s a satisfying ending to every characters story arc.  Not all of them get the ending you’d expect either, but it’s a fitting ending for them and it was nice to see the author take risks and actually go there with a lot of the stuff in this entry of the series.  Of course, you’ll need to have read the first two books for this one to make any sense:  it once again takes place directly after events in The Crimson Campaign, but man is this one a roller coaster I couldn’t get off of, start to finish.

 

This book cements the Powder Mage universe as one of the best fantasy universes out there for me.  I have to admit, I wasn’t feeling it the first book.  Second one, it still grabbed me enough to read on, but not there yet.  Third?  I can’t wait to read the next series of books and all of the novellas, just such a fantastic job with this book and a worthy conclusion to the saga for these characters.

 

Read it if you’d read the first two books, you won’t regret it!

 

I usually put the book synopses after my brief review, but the one for this book holds spoilers to things in The Crimson Campaign, so I’m just going to launch into the review from this point on.  Here we go!

 

PLOT

 

The plot is really good in this  installment, doesn’t have nearly as much pacing issues as I found in the last two books.  I think that’s because we’re in the end game here, and every character’s plots get interwoven into the final stretch of the narrative.  Nila, Adamat, and Bo are my favorite set of characters overall in the series, but their plots in this range from empowering to heartbreaking and it’s all just such good writing.  Tamas’ plot, and story arc finish in this book, and while it wasn’t what I was expecting for the character, it makes total sense for it to have happened and for me it was the most satisfying out of all of the story arcs.

 

The least satisfying for me was Taniel’s sadly.  He branches off from the main group early on, and it just seems like there wasn’t enough time to give him a better plot than he had in this book.  I like his scenes with Vlora, and she got fleshed out way more in this book, but what they did to Ka-Poel really made Taniel’s plot less enjoyable, and I’ll leave it at that to not avoid spoilers.

 

Another part of the plot that came to a conclusion, was having to do with the gods of the world.  It didn’t feel rushed to me for the most part, but one character that was in the series throughout is revealed to be something they weren’t before and it just felt off to me.  Throughout the series, McClellan has done a really good job of leaving clues for us for other plot threads, so we could figure it out so the lack of such for this specific character just seemed a bit off to me.  If we had seen more of them, or if it had made more sense why the reveal wound up to be them it would have worked far better than it did.  It didn’t really hinder the reading experience for me, but I could see it being an issue for someone else so figured I’d bring it up.
Other than that, flawless execution of the story.  The first two books led up to the third so well, and this series shines because of it.  You do have to read all of the books to get the full effect of the plotting though, since this is more a continued story over three books than it is episodic books with self-contained plots that have overarching story in it.  Since all 3 books are out, I’d highly recommend reading all 3 consecutively instead of reading something in-between any of the trilogy to get the full effect of the narrative.

 

CHARACTERS

 

Every character that was introduced in Promise of Blood has a satisfying conclusion to their story, as stated above.  Not much development is given to them per say, but they’re put in situations where they have to act differently than they would, and their morals are pushed to the brink because of it.  You really feel for all of them honestly, but still stand outs for me are Nila, Adamat, and Bo.  They all were always my favorites since book 1, and that never changed.  I’d love to read a spin off book about Nila and Bo, and see where their stories further lead, but I also like where they left us with their plots  at the same time.

 

Tamas’ full story comes to fruition here, and in this book I realized that if you don’t like him, it’s fine.  We as the reader, were never supposed to like him.  If we did, that’s fine, but this story was always meant to tell us about a man driven by grief and revenge, and the destructive path being led by those emotions ultimately leads us.  It was really well executed, and as stated above, although I wasn’t expecting Tamas’ story to end the way it did, when it happened I was like “Yes,  this totally makes sense” and I’m so happy McClellan didn’t shy away from the darker stuff in this series, because it really shines because of the darker subject brought up here.

 

Taniel doesn’t super change throughout the series.  I enjoy his character, but other than circumstances pushing him forward, he doesn’t feel like he grows at all.  He gets what he wants in the end, but I just wish he would have gotten a tad more growth than he did, and we got to see his and Tamas’ relationship develop more because of his growth.  What we got was serviceable, just wish we got a bit more.

 

Adamat, poor Adamat!  His story along with Nila’s shows what happens when people are thrown into something because of someone else’s  desires.  Adamat never wanted to be any part of this, but Tamas dragged him into it and that anger towards the man really shines through in this book.  He’s my favorite main point of view character for sure, really enjoyed his investigations, his scenes with Ricard, and his family.  The investigations in this book are the most gripping to me, and I think The autumn republic is the best use of his character for sure.

 

WORLD BUILDING

 

We’re back in familiar territory here, where the story began.  No real ground broken here, nothing really expanded on.  Just back to the French Revolution setting of the book.  But I like that where a series starts, it ends sort of thing so being in familiar settings the entire book totally worked for me.  It may not for others, but for me seeing the inner workings of the city after everything that had happened was a lot of fun and added to what this book series ultimately was about:  One man, and how his choices effected a world, for better or for worse.

 

WRITING

 

The pacing is way better in this book.  The writing is still raw and gritty, but more polished so it just feels more raw, if that makes sense.  I think McClellan’s dialogue writing has definitely gotten better in this book, felt way more realistic than in the past two.  Other than that, pretty much the same as the prior two books.

 

CONCLUSION

 

This review is shorter because honestly, I can’t say much more about this series than I already have in the prior two reviews.  If you’d read Promise of Blood and The Crimson Campaign and enjoyed them both enough to get to The autumn republic, you’ll want to read this book.  How much you like it depends on how much you liked the other two since this series is purely linear in its story telling, and the full story spans all three books.  For me, I enjoyed this book especially and it fixed most of the problems I had with the series as a whole.  Just was a really good ride start to finish and the slow burn of the first two books was worth it.

 

I’d highly recommend The Powder Mage trilogy.  Only reason I’m not starting the next series in the Powder Mage universe is because the third one isn’t out yet  (by the posting of this review, the third book will be released).  But as soon as it is I plan to buy all 3 and read.

 

Pick up this series if you like a lot of action, interesting plots and world building, and really good political intrigue.  You won’t regret it!

Books

The Crimson Campaign Book Review [Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 2]

The Crimson Campaign is a vast improvement over Promise of Blood.  It also has its set of issues, but I found myself caring a lot more about the characters in this one than the first book.  That may be because we focus far more on the supporting cast, which as I said in my first review was far more interesting than our lead, but I just found myself caring way more about this book than Promise of Blood.  We get to see the bigger world out of Tamas’ sphere of influence, and that was a welcome surprise to me, who really doesn’t care for Tamas and the people who are loyal to him, therefore they justify his less than noble actions.

 

This book is also a slow burn, but just…more interesting than the last time.  This series, as I stated in Promise of Blood, definitely plays the long game and wants to use all 3 books in the trilogy to fully realize it’s world and characters.  I usually prefer self-contained stories per book that also pave way for the overall plot in a series, but it works in the Powder Mage trilogy far more than in other series I’ve read because this is a crazy war, and the long game is what a war is all about.  So it makes sense to have these two books be the calm before the storm that the third book is going to inevitably be.  Er Pr taks place a few month afomise of Blood, so you definitely can’t jump into this one without reading the first.  If I were waiting a year for the 2nd book in the series, I’d find that pacing to be a bit of a problem, but since I’m reading these all together with no lulls between books, it’s perfectly fine to me.  Just as a note, you’ll want to read each book right after the other, and not read another book in-between these if you’d like to get the full impact of the overall story because of the flow of the trilogy and how little time passes between each of the books.

 

With my overall, spoiler-free review out of the way, into the nitty gritty!

 

BOOK SYNOPSES

 

When invasion looms…

Tamas’ invasion of Kez ends in disaster when a Kez counteroffensive leaves him cut off behind enemy lines with only a fraction of his army, no supplies, and no hope of reinforcements. Drastically outnumbered and pursued by the enemy’s best, he must lead his men on a reckless march through northern Kez to safety, and back over the mountains so that he can defend his country from an angry god, Kresimir.

But the threats are closer to home…

In Adro, Inspector Adamat only wants to rescue his wife. To do so he must track down and confront the evil Lord Vetas. He has questions for Vetas concerning his enigmatic master, but the answers will lead Adamat on a darker journey.

Who will lead the charge?

Tamas’ generals bicker among themselves, the brigades lose ground every day beneath the Kez onslaught, and Kresimir wants the head of the man who shot him in the eye. With Tamas and his powder cabal presumed dead, Taniel Two-shot finds himself as the last line of defense against Kresimir’s advancing army.

In a rich, distinctive world that mixes magic with technology, who could stand against mages that control gunpowder and bullets? The Crimson Campaign is the epic sequel to Brian McClellan’s Promise of Blood.  – From Audible

 

PLOT

 

The plot is once again split into the three main points of view of Tamas, Taniel, and Adamat.  Once again, I find Tamas’ plot the least interesting, as it just feels like semi-filler that while interesting character beats happen to him in it, doesn’t super feel like was necessary.  I’m already reading the third book, and it doesn’t seem like it really impacted the story much other than his troops thought he was dead for a few months.  This rumor caused infighting, betrayal, and a shift in the military that was foreshadowed in the first book, so that aspect of him being split from the cast was interesting.  His actual story however, didn’t add much to the story for me and I found myself getting bored of the military battles getting done over and over again in his story.  The ending of it was interesting, and I liked that we saw that when Tamas wasn’t with people who were loyal to him, that they saw him for the terrible person he was and didn’t condone his actions.  This book doesn’t shy away from the fact that he’s just an awful person doing what he thinks is right for revenge, and since that wasn’t made clear in the first book, it made me feel justified in my feelings for his character.  Still don’t like him, but I can live with a book that calls its lead out on their garbage actions.

 

The most interesting plot for me was Adamat’s.  I really liked seeing his relationship with Ricard, and seeing all of his sleuthing finally pay off.  Getting to see him interact with Bo, and other key characters in the story was really cool, and he’s one of my favorite characters.  I don’t want to spoil anything in his plot, but it’s action packed and shows how much he’s willing to do for his family and I just found myself continuing to wanting to read his plot the most out of all 3 main points of view.

 

Taniel’s plot is…middle of the road?  I liked it when I got to read it, more because I like Taniel as a character than the actual plot.  The plot wasn’t bad, mind you:  he had to deal with trying to keep the army together when everyone was pushing against him, and trying to change the way the army was ran, and I love a good man against all odds story – but what was happening to taniel, his relationship with Ka-Pole, was really what sold his story for me.  Like I said it was enjoyable to read, and I think impacted the overall story the most, but it wasn’t the one I was most excited to read.

 

The pacing of these three stories is well done in this book.  The first book had to setup the world, and character motivations, so the plots where unevenly distributed I feel, but this one every character’s plot had it’s time to shine.  Although it was slow paced, and the last fifteen chapter or so were where the action picked up, once again like in the first book, I didn’t find it boring to read in the middle like I did in Promise of Blood.  Like I said only thing I wasn’t a fan of was Tamas’ plot, but to be expected since I don’t like him as a character.

 

The end of the book brings all of the characters together to set up for what so far is an epic third book, so fingers crossed The Autumn Republic stays as such ‘til the end.  I’m 20 chapters in and can’t put it down, so I’d say that’s a good sign that The first two books in the series, while slow at times, did their job properly.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters get a lot of development in this book, and side characters that seem like they weren’t going to matter totally prove you wrong, and matter a great deal.  Stand outs for me are Bo and Nila, I can’t get enough of them and I totally ship it so hope they wind up together by series’ end.  We get to see Adamat grow, Ka-Poel and Taniel grow, even Vlora gets her plot, that was introduced in the first book, resolved and becomes a pretty decent character.  Not as fleshed out as the others, but enough to be a good supporting character.

 

Tamas, we get to see more of his motivations and inner workings.  As I said it doesn’t make me like him any more, but it shows us his headspace, and I can respect an author for doing that.  I don’t think Tamas was ever meant to be this grand war hero, and The Crimson Campaign makes that abundantly clear.

 

A lot of other cool side characters introduced here, which once again if I listed we’d be here all day.  All good additions to the cast, and they only serve to make the world more interesting as a result.

 

WORLD BUILDING

 

The world gets expanded a tad in this book, as we see Tamas go through Northern Kez.  Nothing super interesting if I’m being honest:  We don’t see their culture, or any of the people other than their army and royals, so it doesn’t really serve to flesh out the world more than say, using it as a set piece.  The magic system is expanded on a bit which is interesting, but nothing groundbreaking that makes the system different enough to mention.  Just more of the same, which isn’t bad, but nothing majorly expanded on.

 

WRITING

 

The writing definitely is improved upon in this book.  It wasn’t bad in Promise of Blood, but a lot of the sparceness is gone for a more realized writing style.  It’s still got that raw and gritty style I really enjoy for this sort of genre, but it seems a lot more polished than in the author’s dayview novel.  The pacing is vastly improved as well, and that also lends to a more seasoned author.  The third book only gets better, so the author is totally coming into his own as a writer and I can’t wait to see where his writing career progresses.

 

CONCLUSION

 

If you’re invested in the Powder Mage trilogy, you’ll want to read this book.  I’m happy to say it gets better with each book in the series.  If you decided to DNF Promise of Blood because of lack of interested, then obviously you’re not going to want to read this book.  It’s good though, made me invested in the series far more than Promise of Blood did.

 

Have you read The crimson Campaign?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Books

Promise of Blood Book Review [Powder Mage Trilogy Book 1]

I was told by a friend to read this series a few years ago if I liked Full Metal alchemist.  While the distinct FMA vibes are there in the beginning of the story, they fade and the story becomes much more its own world and plot.  I’ll say right off the bat:  This book is definitely a slow burn.  There’s a lot of setup that is more for the entirety  of the series than the enjoyment of this singular book.  Not to say this book was unenjoyable – but there’s definitely a feeling of this book is making sure the groundwork is set for the other 2 books in the trilogy to be able to be the best they can be.  The last ten chapters were the most gripping for me, the rest was good enough to read but at certain parts during the middle of the story I found myself wondering if I was going to continue this series.

 

After finishing book 1, I instantly bought books 2 and 3.  They sit in my Kindle as we speak, and I’ve already started book 2.

 

So I’d say book 1 does a good job in the end at making you want more, and as of now I’d recommend this series if you like really well thought out plots, magic systems, and political intrigue.  If you like characters, however….

 

Well, we’ll get to that later in the review.  With my overall thoughts out of the way, let’s get more into it!

 

BOOK SYNOPSES

 

The Age of Kings is dead…and I have killed it.

It’s a bloody business overthrowing a king….

It’s up to a few….

Stretched to his limit, Tamas is relying heavily on his few remaining powder mages, including the embittered Taniel, a brilliant marksman who also happens to be his estranged son, and Adamat, a retired police inspector whose loyalty is being tested by blackmail. But when gods are involved….

Now, as attacks batter them from within and without, the credulous are whispering about omens of death and destruction. Just old peasant legends about the gods waking to walk the earth. No modern educated man believes that sort of thing. But they should….

The Powder Mage Trilogy, Book 1 – From Audible

 

PLOT

 

The plot is the most interesting part of the book.  I’ve always wanted to read a novel that takes place after the big grand stand against the monarchy is done, and the aftermath of it.  This book definitely doesn’t disappoint on that front, and we see all of the tough decisions, gritty world, and hurt people that a revolution would produce.  I will say while at times the plot tries to make this war seem more like in their own mind, both sides are right, but for the most part we’re supposed to feel like our main POV characters are the ones in the right, and that they truly did the right thing.  This doesn’t exactly gel with me, because I find the main character of the book to be a self-righteous jerk, so for all of the book in his POV I found myself just getting upset that he was tearing this nation apart with no real plan.
I mean, he had a plan, but just the fact that he thinks running a nation is going to be smooth sailing other than a few bumps in the road, and that he thinks he’s in the right really erks me.  It doesn’t make him a compelling character, and for that the plot suffers a tad.  The pacing is a bit wonky here and there, since we’re split between 3 major POVs, and 2 minor ones.  It isn’t terrible pacing mind you, I’ve read worse – but when you’re invested in one plot, and then the very next chapter hops to another plot, you find yourself wishing more time was spent with the POV in the chapter before.  This would have been easily resolved if we just spent maybe 2 or 3 chapters with one character, then were sent to another storyline.
The last ten chapters fix this problem, as all plots are brought together to culminate in the 1 plot the book was leading towards.  I will say it was worth the slow burn of the previous 30 chapters, and the 2nd book so far has a very streamlined plot as all characters have been brought together and do a bit less wandering on their own.  We’ll see if this continues, I’m only seven chapters in, but it’s a vast improvement from book 1 already.

 

WORLD BUILDING

 

The world   building in Promise of Blood is the best part of the book.  The world was based on the French Revolution, and it shows:  the attention to detail, the grittiness of the writing, makes me feel like I’m there.  The magic system is split between 3 types:  average sorcery, the powder mages, and the knacked.  Powder mages ingest gunpowder to enhance their shots, and have a sort of gun telepathy to them, and knacked just have 1 skill they’re good at (perfect memory, don’t have to sleep) – the sorcery in itself is interesting also, as they have to use their fingers to connect to what they call the else, which is basically a magical energy resource.  It’s really interesting, and lends itself to super intense fights.
We’re on the brink of industrialism in this book as well, so we still have rifles, carriages, and old technology.  But it’s on the brink of being advanced and that really adds to the world, as we’re not just dealing with medieval swords and sorcery here.  I love seeing guns vs magic, and how inventive the fights get at times.  It’s just a really fun world to sink your teeth into, and I can’t wait to sink further.

 

CHARACTERS

 

The characters are the least interesting part of the book to me.  They aren’t…bad characters persee, but they aren’t interesting enough to grab my attention.  There’s attempts at depth to them, but it’s just so overshadowed by the plot, and there honestly isn’t enough depth to want to be interested in them further than them being engines for said plot.  Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy reading a few of them, only a few I genuinely disliked, but they just feel like walking manly man tropes that get a little tiresome after a while.

 

My favorites are Taniel, Olem, and Nila.  Those three are more side characters, but they have enough to them to have made me excited to read their story arcs throughout the whole book.  I really don’t like Tamas, which is a shame because he’s the main character: but for the reasons I stated above, really couldn’t get into his struggles.  I will say he got…a little better by books end?  But he just seems so one note to me, hopefully he changes in the net 2 books.

 

Adamat is our last main POV character, and I thought his plot was fine.  He  was investigating things for Tamas, and the first half of the story it worked well.  The second half however, we found out the answer to what he was investigating before he figured it out, so it just seemed like unnecessary filler after a certain point.  Taniel’s story I liked the most out of all of the POVs, Tamas I liked the least.  Like I said they’re serviceable for propelling the plot forward, but not much else.

 

The side characters I enjoyed far more.  The rest of the council, a royalist laundress, a master chef:  all of them were a lot more fascinating to me, and I hope the spotlight gets shined on them more as we see how Tamas’ short sighted cu has affected the little people, so to speak.

 

WRITING

 

The writing is simple.  The writing is raw, and gritty.  There aren’t any flowery pros, everything is just stated outright as far as our characters know.  It matches the world so well, adding to the atmosphere of this sudo French Revolution setting.  It melds so well with the world, that I honestly can’t imagine it being written any other way.  I tend to shy away from the overly flowery fantasy novels, so reading this writing style was really refreshing and I’ve never seen an author know what story he’s telling, know what writing style to use, and go all in with it.  The writing is raw, just like the battles, and emotions of war, and it’s just really well done.  I’m looking forward to reading more of McClellan’s writing in the future.

 

CONCLUSION

 

 

There are definitely flaws in this book.  The characters could be better, there could be a bit more tug of war between both sides morals, showing us that just because one side thinks they’re right, doesn’t mean that they are.  As it stands, it’s more of a one sided war story where we should think the main characters are the ones in the right.

 

That doesn’t detract from the excellent world building, unique writing, and very well done plot.  I’d say at least read Promise of Blood to see if you’d be interested in the rest of the series, and be prepared for a slow burn book that amps up at the very end, prepping you for what’s to come in the next 2 books.

 

Have you read Promise of Blood?  Would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!

Books

Part-Time Gods Book Review

I really enjoyed Minimum Wage Magic, so hopped right on over to listening to the audio book of Part-Time Gods.  Is it as good as its predecessor?  Yup!  Rachel Aaron knocks it out of the park with this sequel to the story.  She does a good job of keeping this story wrapped in its interpersonal relationships, while still having a bigger picture in play with the plot.  I think Aaron does a fantastic job of showing us the multiple sides of the story in this one.  As much as I like the Heartstrikers series, there was a clear divide of who was in the right, and who was in the wrong.  Julius just had to show them there was a different way of doing things and problem solved.  But in the DFZ series, you see both sides of this problem:  I found myself agreeing with Opal’s view point, and her Mother and Fathers.  Both have valid feelings, and both have the same problems of not wanting to listen to either side.  Eventually, they’re going to have to talk it out and come to an understanding with each other.  I think it’s a really great way to show the differing lives of people who would be living in the DFZ, and the cameos we got in this book from the Heartstrikers series were great, and added to the story, didn’t feel shoehorned in at all.

 

The plot ramps up hardcore in this book, and I marathonned the 2nd half of the book in one sitting.  Like it was that good: I was on the edge of my seat, waiting to see what happened next.  I read some people saying the end of the book was a cliffhanger, but I didn’t find that to be the case.  The book had a conclusive ending, but at the same time the book was leading to a bigger plot that is going to be concluded in the final book.

 

Everything came to a head in this book, and Aaron’s previous problem of filling the book with too much exposition for world building seems to have been curved overall.  It may help that the world of the DFZ is pre-established, but either way it’s refreshing to read a concisely written story.  The last 2 books of the Heartstrikers series were a bit wordy for me, so this is a really nice change.  It’s just a fast paced, super enjoyable read, that continues right where Minimum Wage Magic leaves off, so you’ll want to read that first before jumping into this one.

 

But yeah, needless to say, I super enjoyed this book.  I regret reading them both now only because I have to wait for the third book to be released, and I’m bursting at the seams!  I can’t wait to see what happens in the final installment of the DFZ books, and what will happen to Opal!

 

 

I’m mostly excited to see how Opal and her Dad will make a mends.  Like we saw some super interesting dynamics between the two – Opal is more like her Dad than she’d like to admit – and I really can’t wait to see more of their relationship in the next book.  I also really hope we see what happens between Nick and Opal (get together please) and all in all, seeing every relationships final conclusion is something I’m thoroughly looking forward to when the third book is released.

 

The DFZ is a great series, and a wonderful extension of the Heartstrikers universe.  I really hope Aaron writes more in this universe, because she has such a good grasp of it and seems to super enjoy it.  I know I do!
I’d like to end this review praising the audio book narrator, Emily Woo Zeller.  She does such a great job voicing Opal, and all of the other characters in this book that it gets me even more invested in the story even more than just reading would have.  I do miss the previous narrator when old characters from the Heartstrikers series pop up, but that’s really just my preference because it took me a while to pick this one up because I loved the narrator for the Heartstrikers books so much.  Getting over that though, and having time away from those books, she really does an excellent job capturing the grittiness of the DFZ, and all the different facets of Opal’s character.  I’d highly recommend picking up the audio books, you won’t regret it!
Have you read Part-Time Gods?  Let me know what you thought in the comments!

Books

Minimum Wage Magic [DFZ, Book 1] Review

I have this on again off again relationship with reading.  It’s not that I don’t like it, I love it in fact.  It’s just so hard to sift through good series and books for me, and only using Audible for books can get expensive.  Luckily, I found out the Kindle Reader PC app was accessible, so here’s to hoping I read more, but still when I find an author I like I’m super loyal and read all of their books.

 

That author lately is Rachel Aaron for me.  I read her Heartstrikers series and fell in love with it:  the world, characters, and writing are all so great.  I’m not normally into urban fantasy, but this one just clicks with my tastes so much that I read the entire thing and am a big fan of the universe it takes place in.  So when I heard that a new series of books was going to take place in the world of the DFZ, I was all in.
Recently, I decided to cancel my Audible subscription just for lack of using it, so with my two remaining credits, I picked up the first 2 books in the DFZ series.  How do they compare to the Heartstrikers series?

 

That’s kind of hard to say.  They’re two completely different styles of books, and I think that was a smart move on Aaron’s part.  I like both, for different reasons, but as far as my personal preference, I like Minimum Wage Magic more.  As much as I like the Heartstrikers series, it eventually evolved into this end of the world scenario.  I like it when stories are more personal, and Minimum Wage Magic is just that.  We follow Opal, a Cleaner in the DFZ – aka, someone who buys storage units, and takes what she gets out of the units and sells them.  We find out early on that she has a big debt to pay to someone by the end of the week, and the plot only thickens when the unit she buys has a dead body inside of it.  Said unit has notes that lead her on a crazy adventure with fellow cleaner Nick, and I don’t want to say anything else because the fun of this book is not knowing what will happen next.
It has a very heist setup to it – beat another party to the prize at the end of the adventure.  There’s plenty of action, lot of flare, and most importantly, the characters we follow are really fun and interesting.  Unlike Heartstrikers, we aren’t following someone who doesn’t want to fight.  That also lends itself to making this series stand on its own, and not making it feel like a rehashed story – and, there are plenty of cameos from characters from the first series of books.  If you haven’t read the Heartstrikers series, it won’t throw you off at all, but for those of us who have it’s a really nice nod to the series and there are really fun references in here.

 

 

But as I was saying, the characters are really interesting.  Both Opal and Nick are super dynamic, both together and apart and I’m seriously hoping they’ll get together at the end of all of this because they just complement each other so well.  The book is told in first person, from Opal’s POV and it just…works.  Like it doesn’t feel like we’re getting too much into her headspace because she’s a closed off character, but we learn just enough about her and her personality to like her, and she tells us enough about the world around her to know how the world works.  Her interactions with other characters don’t feel like first person, and the dialogue has Aaron’s typical mix of humor and grounded logic that I’ve come to really enjoy.

 

And that’s the biggest thing I have to say about this book:  It’s a lot more grounded than the Heartstrikers series.  Instead of world threatening odds, we’re dealing with one woman and her life.  It’s far more personal, and throughout the story that totally gets across.  It’s a super fun heist story with a grounded sense of self, while still having magic and technology that totally makes sense in the continuity of the world.  All the characters feel real, and I’m rooting for Nick and Opal to make it in the crazy world of the DFZ together throughout the rest of this series.

 

I’m super interested after this first entry in the series, to see how Opal and Nick’s stories will end.  Aaron once again, knocked it out of the park with this one.

 

If you’ve read the Heartstrikers series, or if you haven’t, Minimum Wage Magic is worth the read.  I’m going to be starting the 2nd book in the series asap, and can’t wait to see what happens next in Opal’s story.
Have you read Minimum Wage Magic?  Let me know how you liked it in the comments!

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?