Tag: book review

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Review

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray – Review1000 Pieces of You by Claudia Gray
Series: Firebird #1
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Tavia Gilbert
Length: 9 hrs and 18 mins
Genres: Young Adult, Sci-Fi, Mystery
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Evelynne's rating: four-half-stars

A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is a YA sci-fi mystery in which teenager Marguerite Caine must use technology developed by her parents, the Firebird, to chase her father’s murderer across multiple dimensions.  She finds out that things aren’t as they first seemed.

I picked this book up partly because of this concept and partly because I’ve enjoyed books (Star Wars) by Claudia Gray.  Thanks to Amazon’s Whispersync for Voice I picked up both the Kindle book and the audiobook, narrated by Tavia Gilbert.  Most of the time I listened to the audiobook which was amazing.

What I liked

The concept.  I found this a really intriguing premise for a novel, moving into alternate dimensions to solve a murder mystery.  Gray comes from a sci-fi background and clearly has a firm handle on it.  It was a lot of fun when Marguerite jumped into a new dimension trying to work out what situation she was in! I’m not certain that I’d agree with the Orphan Black comparison; the main – only? – similarity is that characters frequently find themselves having to impersonate other people and to think on their feet to work out what’s going on. 

The audio narration.  Tavia Gilbert did an awesome job of narrating this book.  Her accent work was impeccable.  There’s a funny scene early on where Marguerite has fun with her current doppelganger’s accent.  That came across really well in audio format.  My one frustration with this is that often the accent “spoiled” in some way the leaps into new dimensions.  From the voices it was often clear where Marguerite had landed long before it was revealed in the text.  

The worldbuilding.  The fun thing with this concept is that Gray gets to build several worlds; the multiple alternate dimensions into which Marguerite leaps.  It would be too spoilery to name them all, but each of them is beautifully developed with supporting characters, rules and challenges for our protagonist.  The fact that Gray’s travel system has limitations was particularly well done – as in fantasy, often it’s the limitations in the magic system/technology which can generate the most interesting conflicts for the characters.  I loved that the dimensions had varying degrees of technological advancement which made things interesting.

The pacing.  Gray keeps the plot moving along fast, with new information and revelations keeping our protagonists – and readers – engaged.

What I didn’t like

The characters.  I found Marguerite somewhat bland.  The way her loyalty seemed to be so easily won and lost did not sit easily with me, and the revelations of the villains was a little too obvious.  The fact that Gray reverted to the trope of “the special”, our protagonist having unique traits which make her the only person capable of foiling the evil plot is rather disappointing.

Despite these flaws, I really loved 1000 Pieces of You and gave it four and a half stars out of five.  I will certainly be picking up the sequel soon.

four-half-stars

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare – Review

The Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black and Cassandra Clare – ReviewThe Copper Gauntlet by Holly Black, Cassandra Clare
Series: Magisterium #2
Also in this series: The Iron Trial
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Paul Boehmer
Length: 8 hours and 21 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Harry Potter with a twist continues in The Copper Gauntlet, the second book in The Magisterium series from Holly Black and Cassandra Clare.

As I mentioned in my review of book one, The Iron Trial, it is impossible to read The Magisterium and not think of Harry Potter.  In this case, imagine that Harry has learned about his Horcrux situation right at the beginning of his academic studies and that Neville has been acclaimed as the Chosen One, able to defeat Voldemort.  This gives Call a far more nuanced outlook than Harry, especially at an equivalent age (Chamber of Secrets era.)  which makes him, to me, a more interesting character.  Don’t get me wrong; I love Harry.  However, in the early books at least, he sees things very much as black or white, good or evil. Not so Call.  

The connections are too numerous to be accidental.  This time around they are more subtle, but still present.  We have an antagonist whose main objective is to conquer Death itself.  His nickname is “The Enemy of Death.”  Voldemort, anyone?  Fair enough, it is a fairly common trope, but combine it with magic school and you have Harry Potter. Another theme common to both is the idea that we are defined by our choices. Although Clare and Black are using many of the same tropes as Rowling, the way they handle them is very different and this makes The Copper Gauntlet a great read.  

With regard to being defined by our choices, it is interesting to note that this is something Call decides for himself through the maintenance of what he calls his “Evil Overlord list”; he mentally tallies each choice he makes and action he takes to decide if it makes him more or less evil.  Sometimes, this is played for laughs when he thinks things like “well, an evil overlord wouldn’t fetch sandwiches for his friends,” but it still expresses that same theme.  This is something he chooses to do for himself; Harry has to have this explained to him by Dumbledore.  

Another trope in common is that of the leaders of the society being in denial about the reality of the situation.  The Ministry of Magic denies the reality of the threat posed by Voldemort as the Assembly declares that Madden is dead and gone and that the war is over.  Given that there are three more books to come, that seems rather naive, especially as it appears a traitor is working against them.

One theme which hasn’t yet come up explicitly in the Magisterium is that of Love.  As any Harry Potter fan knows, it’s the core of the whole series; Lily’s sacrifice of love for Harry and Voldemort’s inability to love are what make them them.  This appears to be turned on its head in the Magisterium.  Call’s mother’s final act is, apparently, to leave instructions to kill her son, and Constantine Madden was motivated to wage war on Death because of the loss of his beloved younger brother.  I believe this is too important not to be a part of the Magisterium, too, and I look forward to seeing where Black and Clare take this.

Despite the comparisons with Rowling, I did enjoy this book; possibly more so because of the Harry Potter parallels.  True, we lose a lot of the wonder of Rowling’s worldbuilding and humour, but it is balanced by rich, nuanced characters.

I gave The Copper Gauntlet four stars out of five.

four-stars

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb – Spoilers, Review and Speculation

Fool’s Quest by Robin Hobb – Spoilers, Review and SpeculationFool's Quest by Robin Hobb
Series: Fitz and the Fool
Also in this series: Fool's Assassin, Assassin's Fate
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Elliot Hill
Length: 33 hrs and 11 mins
Genres: Epic Fantasy
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Evelynne's rating: five-stars

One of the books I was most anticipating this year was Robin Hobb’s Fool’s Quest, which was released on August 11th and it certainly didn’t disappoint.  I found it impossible to review this book without mentioning some minor spoilers, so I will hide the spoiler part of the review.

To summarise though I loved this book.  Fitz and the Fool are one of my favourite literary partnerships and I loved reading the continuation of the story.  This is the second in the Fitz and the Fool trilogy, following on from Fool’s Assassin.  The first book was a slow burner, if still very enjoyable, focussing more on character development than action.  This followup is more action oriented and is a wonderful read.

I gave Fool’s Quest five stars out of five and would thoroughly recommend it to any Hobbs fan.  For those new to Hobbs, start with Assassin’s Apprentice (but be aware it’s a slow starter but well worth it)

The rest of the review may contain spoilers and my speculation for book three, so click through only if you have read the book and/or want to be spoiled.

(more…)

five-stars

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – Review

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson – ReviewFirefight by Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Reckoners #2
Format: Audiobook
Narrator: Macleod Andrews
Length: 11 hours 39 minutes
Genres: Contemporary Fantasy, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson is the second in his YA contemporary fantasy trilogy Reckoners about ordinary humans turned megalomanic villains when they received superpowers.  It continues the story – begun in Steelheart – of David and the Reckoners who aim to bring down the despotic Epics.  If you enjoyed Steelheart, you’ll likely have fun with Firefight – it’s more of the same.  It continues on the theme of power corrupting and strength of spirit perhaps overcoming this.

What I liked

Expanded world and character set.  In this instalment David and the Reckoners leave Newcago, the location of the first book, to go take on a new Epic, Regalia, in Babylar, in other words, New York.  It’s always fun when an author takes you new places, and Sanderson’s world building is excellent.  His take on New York is unique and adds to the whole scope of the novel.  As well as new locations we also meet new characters.  They are a lot of fun and and are reasonably fleshed out.

New layers in the whole origin of the Epics plot.  In this book, David learns more about the cause of the Epics’ superpowers and their weaknesses.  I imagine we’ll learn even more in book three, Calamity.

The pacing.  As with most of Sanderson’s works, the story moves along at a brisk pace with something always going on.  It helped keep my interest in reading.

The narration.  This is one of the first audiobooks I have listened to since getting my hearing aids.  It was narrated by MacLeod Andrews who did a great job of bringing the characters to life.  

What I didn’t like

David’s dodgy metaphors/similes.  At first in Steelheart this quirk was cute and funny.  By the end of the first book it was getting very old.  By the time we reached Firefight I was truly done with it.  I hope it’s moderated considerably in book three…  It was beginning to drive me nuts.

I did enjoy Firefight – it is a fun, easy read – and I gave it four stars out of five.

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four-stars

Fool’s Assassin by Robin Hobb – SPOILERS Review and Speculation

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau – Review

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau – ReviewGraduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau
Series: The Testing #3
Also in this series: Independent Study
Format: eBook
Pages: 296 pages
Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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Evelynne's rating: four-stars

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau is the third and final book in The Testing trilogy.  It continues the story of Cia Vale, survivor of the brutal University entrance exam known as TheTesting, University student and rebel as she attempts to end The Testing.  i have enjoyed both previous books and enjoyed reading the ending of the story.

What I liked

The protagonist.  I really liked Cia as a YA protagonist.  She has her head on her shoulders and gives great consideration to the consequences of her actions.  She’s very much of the watch and wait mould.  That doesn’t mean she doesn’t take action, but she doesn’t act without thinking.  These character traits are what lead to her central position in the drama.  The story would have played very differently with a Katniss Everdeen or a Tris Prior as the protagonist.

The themes.  The theme of Testing is continued throughout the series.  This is continued in Graduation Day when Cia must test the loyalty of those she wishes to have as allies, and she herself continues to be tested in more ways that one as she seeks to end the horrific University entrance exam.  Trust is also a major theme in Graduation Day as Cia must decide whom to place her trust.

The pacing.  The pacing kept moving along briskly and kept me turning the pages.

What I didn’t like

Mockingjay.  Two leaders, one rebel, one elected, both telling two different stories.  Teen heroine must work out which of them is telling the truth and the future of her society rests on her decision.  Sound familiar?  In my review of The Testing I commented that it had similar themes and plot points to The Hunger Games, and I’m seeing the same in the final book of the series.  In all fairness, given that the characters involved are very different – and indeed Cia’s personality is of key importance – things play out in quite another way,  I suspect this was partly deliberate by Charbonneau to bring the characterisation of her protagonist to the fore.  

Questions not answered.  One of my biggest issues with the series was that, in a society where a reduced population is a serious issue, the government would ruthlessly cull a significant number of its brightest young citizens.  I’m not certain that the answer given in Graduation Day really explains things to my satisfaction.

Despite these minor quibbles, I did really enjoy Graduation Day and The Testing trilogy.  It’s definitely a thought provoking series.  I gave Graduation Day four stars out of five.

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    four-stars

    Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – Review

    Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas – ReviewThrone of Glass by Sarah J. Maas
    Series: The Throne of Glass #1
    Also in this series: Heir of Fire, Empire of Storms
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Elizabeth Evans
    Length: 12 hours and 47 minutes
    Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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    Evelynne's rating: five-stars

    I actually found this review of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass quite difficult to write.  It tells the story of assassin turned prisoner Celaena and her participation in the competition to become the King’s Champion.  I LOVED the book and got caught up in the story and characters.  However this made it rather tricky to analyse why I liked it so much and what made it work.  Nevertheless I’ll give it a go.

    What I liked

    The characters.  I found our protagonist Celaena Sardothien very engaging and fun to follow.  She is strong-willed, smart, resourceful – and very funny.  It’s clear her experiences in the prison of Endovier have left their mark on her, both physically and emotionally.  Maas did however add in a few quirks to keep her real.  I liked that she wasn’t immediately up to full physical strength after her imprisonment and had to balance physical weakness with smarts.  The fact that she was terrified to stand on the glass in the glass castle was interesting.

    The setting.  Now, I am a person who has a stronger affinity with words than with pictures, but I loved the mental picture that Maas conjured of the glass castle at Rifthold.  I really wish I could visit it.  I liked that the fantastical aspect of the story was kept pretty low key.  The magic is more Game of Thrones than Harry Potter.  

    The love triangle.  Again this was very low key.  Unusually, both love interests seemed valid partners for Celaena – often it’s clear which one is the “right” one.  That’s not true in this case.   I look forward to seeing how both relationships develop in future books.

    The pacing.  The plot is pretty straightforward with few subplots or diversions.  Maas keeps it moving along at a good pace, with always a reason to keep turning the page.

    What I didn’t like

    The only thing I might have to say negatively about Throne of Glass is that the King seems somewhat of a moustache twirling villain.  I like my villains to be more subtle.

    I gave Throne of Glass five stars out of five and look forward to reading the sequel, Crown of Midnight.

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    five-stars

    Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly – Review

    Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly – ReviewDeep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly
    Series: Waterfire Saga #1
    Format: eBook
    Pages: 373 pages
    Genres: Epic Fantasy, Young Adult
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    Evelynne's rating: three-half-stars

    Deep Blue by Jennifer Donnelly is the first in the Waterfire Saga and tells the story of mermaid princess Serafina, who, along with several of her friends, is called to fulfil an ancient prophecy and prevent an untold evil from rising.  

    What i liked

    The worldbuilding.  There are not that many mermaid books around that I’m aware of – Anna Banks’ Syrena Legacy series excepted – so I found this a fresh change.  I loved the world Donnelly created, complete with languages and histories and mythologies.  The little fishy reference such as merlfriend instead of girlfriend were rather amusing.  

    The pacing.  Donnelly keeps the plot moving along briskly with something always happening and a new danger to escape.

    What I didn’t like

    Bland characters.  While the characters were OK, and their mermaidness added some interest, other than that they were cookie-cutter YA heroines with little depth to them.

    Generic plot.  The plot is your generic teens have to bind together to track down the McGuffin to prevent the Big Bad from doing what he or she wants to do.  So far there were no interesting twists to this.

    The narration.  I started listening to the audiobook, but within a short time Bea Miller’s narration had irritated me to the point that I chose to continue in ebook format.  I don’t think she was a bad narrator – she did well in distinguishing the voices for the characters – however the voice she chose for the protagonist just grated on my ears.

    Despite these gripes, the charm of the worldbuilding and the smart pacing was enough to keep me interested in the story.  I will certainly continue with the series.

    I gave Deep Blue three and a half stars out of five.

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    three-half-stars

    Ironskin by Tina Connolly – review

    Ironskin by Tina Connolly – reviewIronskin by Tina Connolly
    Series: Ironskin #1
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Rosalyn Landor
    Length: 9 hrs and 33 mins
    Genres: Classics, Contemporary Fantasy
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    Evelynne's rating: four-stars

    Ironskin by Tina Connelly is a retelling of Jane Eyre with a fantasy twist.  Unlike similar classic/fantasy blends such as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or Jane Slayre, Ironskin avoids the humorous side of such a juxtaposition and plays it relatively straight.  It tells the story of Jane Eliot, a young woman who must wear an iron mask to contain the effects of a injury sustained in the war against the fae.  Although the war is long over, she is still very much an outcast and takes employment with one Mr. Rochart looking after his young daughter, Dorie.  Dorie, it seems, has also been affected by the fae.

    What I liked

    The adaptation.  This version, while not following the exact plotline of Jane Eyre, does an excellent job of maintaining the characterisations and emotional beats of the original story.  Like Jane Eyre, our Jane Eliot lives at the fringes of her society, and this has a large influence on her character.  Edward too, is very similar to the Edward Rochester of the book – his guilt for his past is a block in his admitting his feelings for Jane.  Ironskin focusses mainly on the Jane/Edward relationship and hits most of the same emotional beats as the original with the love, betrayal and reunion.  I didn’t feel Ironskin came quite up to the emotion of the Jane Eyre ending where Jane is finally reunited with Rochester.  The fae side of the story was nicely woven in along with this key relationship.

    Beauty as a theme.  This is an interesting theme woven throughout the novel.  Jane, physically scarred as she is by the Great War, is very sensitive to this, especially as she sees the “pretty ladies” who congregate around Edward.  She must decide how best to compete for the love of the man she adores.  The whole fey beauty becomes a major plot point.

    Supporting characters.  Although it focusses on Jane and Edward, I did enjoy the supporting characters in the book, especially Poole (half dwarven!) and Dorie.  I liked how Jane’s relationships with them are developed through the book.

    The narration.  I was drawn to Ironskin as much by the plot as the audio narration sample.  When deciding whether to buy the Audible book or the Kindle ebook I often listen to the sample.  I loved Rosalyn Landor’s voice and narration in the sample and she did not disappoint in the least.  I loved the entire narration.  Maybe it’s because I am British (soon to be Canadian!), I generally warm to British narrators more than American ones.  Landor narrates this with a wonderfully rich received pronunciation accent and brings a lot of life to the tale.

    Check out the sample here.

    The pacing.  With the focus on Jane’s time at the manor, the story moves along briskly.  Like in the original, there are several hints at Rochart’s secret, and this keeps the audience intrigued.

    What I didn’t like.

    There was little I disliked about Ironskin.  There were a few occasions where a more modern turn of phrase was used which I found a little off-putting, but other than that I really enjoyed it.  Ironskin is the first in a series of books set in this world.  The second, Copperhead, follows Jane’s younger sister, Helen.  To be honest, I’ll probably give that a miss as the character of Helen rather irritating in Ironskin and I have no interest in following her story.  However, the third book, Silverblind, due out later this year follows a grown up Dorie.  Now that I am interested in, and will certainly pick it up in audiobook when it’s available.

    I gave Ironskin four and a half stars out of five.

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    four-stars

    The One by Kiera Cass – Review

    The One by Kiera Cass – ReviewThe One by Kiera Cass
    Series: The Selection #3
    Also in this series: The Selection, The Elite
    Format: Audiobook
    Narrator: Amy Rubinate
    Length: 7 hours and 25 minutes
    Genres: Dystopian, Young Adult
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    Evelynne's rating: five-stars

    The One by Kiera Cass is the final book in the Selection trilogy which tells the story of America Singer and her participation in the Bachelor type contest to win the heart and hand of Prince Maxon.  I absolutely ADORED this book and would have happily read it had it been three times as long.  Cass continued to develop the things I loved about the earlier books and my minor gripes about the series were all resolved.

    Before I start I would like to reecho the comment I made in an earlier post about the Selection Collection – the ebook compendium that includes all three novels plus the two novellas, The Guard and The Prince.  I honestly don’t know what the editor who put it together was thinking: they have the two novellas following on after The One which makes zero sense.  The Prince is set before The Selection and The Guard is set between The Elite and The One.  If you read them in the order presented in the compendium you’re going to end up frustrated because all of the great character development of the later books is reset.  

    What I liked

    The blend.  In The One, Cass has achieved a wonderful balance between romance, politics, worldbuilding and character development.  It all fitted together perfectly  and made a gripping story.

    Character development.  All three of the main characters seemed to gain a great deal of maturity in this book.  This is particularly true in the case of Aspen, a character whom I’d actively disliked in earlier books.  Not only did I end up liking him a lot more, but I could also respect him which is saying a lot.  In general, too, I felt America handled her romantic situation in more of an adult fashion in this book, although she did have flashes of immaturity to keep her endearing.  I liked that characters who’d seemed a little two dimensional such as Celeste became a lot more human as America’s growing maturity gave her a more understanding perspective of them.  This was an aspect of the book that I felt was particularly beautifully written.  I noted in my review of The Elite that at times it seemed that America wouldn’t necessarily be the best candidate to take on the role of princess.  By the end of The One, Cass has convinced me that she can handle it.

    The triangle.  This was one aspect which had really irritated me about the earlier books, but I felt it was exceptionally well handled here.  I appreciated that America finally resolved her feelings for the two men in her life after a date in which they had an open and honest conversation.  It also helped that that date in the rain was super adorable!  That’s not to say that things were plain sailing after that – she still made mistakes but that kept her human.

    That scene at the winner announcement.  Holy crap.  It’s not often that I have to back up and reread a few paragraphs thinking bloody hell, did that just happen?  But in this case I did.  It caught me completely off guard.  After the fact though, it’s obvious that Cass has done her work well.  All the signs and foreshadowing were there if I’d been paying attention.  

    The narration.  I’d not been too fond of Amy Rubinate’s narration of The Selection and The Elite.  Perhaps it was because I enjoyed her narration of Rebel Belle so much that I did enjoy the narration of The One much more.

    What I didn’t like

    Aborted plotlines.  There were at least one or two plotlines which really intrigued me and then seemed to disappear.  One of these in particular I felt could have led to some really interesting conflict, but was resolved rather easily.

    This is a very minor gripe, so do I really have to say that I gave The One five stars out of five?  So far it’s one of my favourite books of the year, up there with Cress.  Go read it.  Now.  

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    five-stars
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