Archive for January, 2015

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

Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins – ReviewLola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins
Format: eBook
Genres: Cutesy romance, Young Adult
Pages: 386 pages
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four-stars



Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins is a companion novel to Anna and the French Kiss which I reviewed a while ago.  Lola focusses on a different character who forms part of the same social group as Anna, the protagonist from the first book.  Like Anna and the French Kiss, Lola and the Boy Next Door is a cutesy YA romance novel with great characters.  It is an easy, fun read and I really enjoyed it.

What I liked

The character.  Lola is an engaging protagonist and I enjoyed reading about her emotional journey.  The challenges she faces were well portrayed and I liked how she overcame them.  The supporting characters were also well developed, particularly Nora, and gave a good foundation for Lola’s romance.  Although I didn’t enjoy the love triangle, it was consistent with Lola’s growing self understanding in the book.

The writing style  Perkins’ writing style is very fresh and immediate and easy to read.  I fairly flew through the book.

Lola’s non traditional family.  It’s fair to say that Lola is growing up in a rather non traditional family.  I appreciated the way Perkins portrayed this as just a variation of contemporary family life, despite the challenges it sometimes caused for Lola.

What I didn’t like

No School of America in Paris.  I really loved the setting for Anna and the French Kiss and was a little disappointed that the setting for Lola and the Boy Next Door is back in the States.  Ah well.

The love triangle.  It was rather too obvious and predictable.  In fairness though, the book was more about Lola’s character development and how it impacted her romantic life than the triangle itself.

I would certainly recommend Lola and the Boy Next Door as a fun, easy, cutsey read.  I will certainly be reading the third in the series, Isla and the Happily Ever After.

Lola and the Boy Next Door earned four stars from me.

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four-stars

Good morning, welcome to another reading roundup.  The biggest item of note this week is that I am now Bluetoothed up to my hearing aids so I can listen to my audiobooks directly throughly hearing aids.  Yay!! It’s lovely to have the audio directly in my ears without having to wear headphones which are painful with my hearing aid.  I tested it with Firefight, the Brandon Sanderson novel I had been enjoying – it works really well and I can enjoy my audiobooks again.  On the TBR list for this week is Jim Butcher’s Death Masks – the fourth in his Dresden Files series narrated by James Marsters.  Good stuff.

In a previous entry I have mentioned the web series Green Gables Fables, a modern retelling in transmedia format of the classic Anne of Green Gables series.  Those of you familiar with the source material will know there is a truly heart wrenching moment towards the end of the first book.  The series reached that point this week, and I have to say I found the last video a real tearjerker to watch.  I’ve not been so emotionally engaged in a web series since Lydiagate broke in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries.  Kudos to the writers and cast of the series.  It is well worth checking out, although keep a box of Kleenex on hand for episode 42.

Added to my library this week

Bossypants by Tina Fey.  This is an autobiography written and narrated by comedian Tina Fey.  I borrowed the audiobook from the library but I returned it.  I will likely invest an Audible credit in the book when I’m in the mood for it.

Het Achterhuis.  This is the original Dutch version of The Diary of Anne Frank.  Yes, I speak Dutch.  I do love this book and thought it was time I added the original to my collection.  I picked this up from a Dutch bookseller’s website so it will be readable on my Kobo.

Romeow and Juliet by Kathi Daley.  OK I was drawn in by the name first of all.  Romeow and Juliet!  Adorable.  From the synopsis it sounds to be one of the cozy cat mysteries I do enjoy.  It was on my Amazon recommendations for only a dollar or two and so I couldn’t resist.

That’s all I have today, folks.  Have a good weekend!

His Fair Assassin Series by Robin LaFevers – ReviewGrave Mercy, Dark Triumph, Mortal Heart by Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin
Genres: Young Adult
Format: eBook
Pages: 1434 pages
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five-stars

Robin Lafevers’ His Fair Assassin series is a young adult historical fantasy series set in sixteenth century Brittany.  It tells the stories of three young women who are affiliates of a convent dedicated to Mortain, god of Death.  Yup, we’re talking teenage nun assassins.  In old Brittany.  With supernatural powers.  LaFevers has blended historical fact into her fictional world, most notably the struggles of Anne, Duchess of Brittany, and her attempt to keep Brittany free of French rule.  Each of the three novels focuses on and is told from the viewpoint of one of the young nuns and each of books progresses the overall plot.

I picked up the first book, Grave Mercy, while I was in the midst of a reading slump and had already picked up and rejected several good books.  Within a chapter I was hooked.  LaFevers’ narrative style, world building and characters drew me in right from the start.  I ended up marathoning all three books in the series one after another – I just couldn’t put them down.

What I liked

The historical setting.  I really enjoyed LaFevers’ basing her world on real historical facts and people.  I felt this gave a very strong, solid base for her more creative world building. I found the mythology of the old Gods and the convent gripping.  Within a very short time I was completely sucked into the world of His Fair Assassin.

The characters.  Our three main protagonists are all very different in character; each has her own emotional baggage and journey.  They were all very well written and I loved getting to know all three.  All of them were a lot more self aware than many more modern teen protagonists.  Each is also very kickass in her own particular way. I really liked that each of them ended the series feeling much more comfortable in her own skin than when she started – they all underwent a real journey.

The romances.  In a young adult book, boy meets girl romance is almost inevitable.  This series is no exception and each of our three girls meets her man.  The romance was very nicely handled though.  The romantic tension didn’t overshadow the political and magical tension in the books and I appreciated that all three had a rather sensible attitude to their romances.  There was little of the willful miscommunication that seems to plague some teenage novels and no love triangles, thank goodness.

Aspects of death.  Each of our protagonists highlighted one particular aspect of Death.  One shows the mercy in death in relief from suffering, another death’s justice another his humanity.  Nicely done

What I didn’t like

Although I loved the series I did have a few minor gripes

Not enough time in the convent.  Fairly early on in all three books the protagonists leave the convent of Mortain and set off on a journey.  I found the brief snippet of day-to-day life we see in the convent exceptionally interesting and there wasn’t enough of that for my taste.

Dropped plotlines.  There were times when I felt that some plotlines were leading somewhere and they didn’t.

The audiobook narrators.  I picked up both the Kindle books and Audible books for each of the three books and HATED the narration.  For me in all three audiobooks there was a serious mismatch of narrator and character.  Please don’t misunderstand me; the narrators did a good job, but for me personally the voices chosen were completely wrong for the characters portrayed.  The characters are from sixteenth century Brittany and LaFevers has gone to some trouble to describe their worldview as being very different from that of a modern teen.  So why, for the love of Mortain, choose narrators with American accents sounding more like Divergent’s Tris or Hunger Games’ Katniss than our nun assassins?

Despite these issues I adored the series.  Each book easily gets five stars.  Did I mention teenage nun assassins? Go check them out.

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So welcome to my first reading roundup of 2015!  Yay!  The first thing I want to talk about this week is my GoodReads reading challenge for 2015.  I failed to achieve my goal of 100 books last year – I read 91 – and I noticed that because I was listening to more audiobooks, books were taking me longer to finish.  This year I have set my goal for 75 books.  That’s still just under a book and a half a week.

My family was also very generous to me over the festive season.  I was showered with Amazon and iTunes vouchers – thanks everyone, you know me well!  I also received the gift of Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! book in my Christmas stocking.  I look forward to reading that.

This week I did something I don’t often do – I accepted I was never going to finish a book and removed it from my currently reading list.  The book in question was Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton.  I’m sorry, but life is too short to stick with a book that really isn’t doing anything for me.  You can check out my review to see why I dumped it.

To respark my interest in reading, I picked up a cutesy romance – in this case Stephanie Perkins’ Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I loved it and it really hit the spot.  Look for a full review soon.

I am currently reading Brandon Sanderson’s Firefight, which I’m enjoying immensely and this book also marks the first time I’ve listened to an audiobook since I got fitted with hearing aids.  Yay for Sanderson!  I’m hoping to  get back into audiobooks in the next couple of weeks when I take delivery of a Bluetooth streamer and headset which will allow me to stream my audiobooks directly to my hearing aids.  Woohoo for tech!

While I was on vacation with my family, I introduced my father-in-law to the delights of Whispersync for Voice with Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance.  I’m curious to learn how he gets on with it.  For me, the integration between Kindle and audiobook really rocks my world.

Added to my library this week

Firefight by Brandon Sanderson.  This is the second book in the Reckoners series.  I’m really enjoying it so far.  I picked this up in both Kindle and Audible formats.

Lola and the Boy Next Door.  I was really, really in the mood for some light, cutesy romance and Lola was really calling to me.  I’m happy I picked it up in, you guessed it, both Kindle and Audible formats

Amazon had a great deal on N.K. Jemisin’s Inheritance trilogy.  I’d  heard great things about this, so I snapped it up.  This was in Kindle format.

As I mentioned I received Amy Poehler’s Yes, Please! as a Christmas gift.

The last book I picked up this week was borrowed from the library.  It’s the ebook of Poehler’s partner-in-crime Tina Fey’s Bossypants.  This is read by the author herself and I’m looking forward to it.

That’s all for this week folks!  Have a good weekend and stay warm.

Endgame – The Calling by James Frey and Nils Johnson-SheltonEndgame by James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton
Series: The Calling
Genres: Young Adult
Format: eBook
Pages: 480 pages
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two-stars

Endgame by James Frey and Nils Johnson-Shelton is a YA novel in which a group of young people, known as Players, have to fight for the survival of a section of humanity in Endgame.  For generations, certain bloodlines have been privy to a secret; Endgame is coming in which humanity will be judged and culled by a mysterious group of aliens.  Only a subset will survive.  Which groups will survive will be determined by the winner of Endgame.  I understand that this book contains real-life puzzles for readers to solve which will lead to a real world prize.

I will start by saying that this book ended up in my didn’t-finish pile.  I thought the concept was interesting, but I had several issues with the execution.  I read around 50% and then found that I was really struggling to pick up the book to finish.

What I liked

The concept.  This is what drew me to the book.  I found the idea of a group of people battling for the survival of their ethnic group intriguing.  I liked that humanity in general is unaware of its pending destruction and only those who are chosen to represent their groups and their advisers are in the know.  The fact that each of the Players has a different attitude towards Endgame was well done.  Some are horror struck that they must take on this responsibility and kill or be killed, others are excited to put their years of training into practice.  Some of them choose to ally themselves with others, while many are out only for their own survival.

What I didn’t like

The writing style.  The book is written from a multi character viewpoint, with very short chapters switching between the characters.  These are interspersed with what I assume are the real-world puzzle part of the book.  The narrative is written in a very immediate, choppy style which I really didn’t appreciate.  The short paragraphs switching between characters made it very difficult for me to engage with any of the protagonists.  For me it might have been better to have longer sections with each of the protagonists.

Too many protagonists.  There are about 12 or 14 Players and at least up until I gave up they were all being given equal page time.  I found it very difficult to care for any of them because I didn’t feel we spent enough time with any of them to get to know them better.  Also, they are frequently referred to by the ethnic groups they represent.  Although there was a list provided, for me at least I found it difficult to connect the character with the ethnic group, and each time I had to pause to work out which character was being referred to, I had been thrown out of the story. Perhaps that might have got better if I’d stuck with it, but for me personally, the little enjoyment I was getting from the book was not worth the continued effort.  I also didn’t see these aspects improving for me as the book went on.

Obvious themes.  At the point i left it, there was a divide amongst the Players between those who were willing to work with the others and those who would kill their fellow Players on sight.  I think I’m pretty safe in saying that the the series will reveal that the point of Endgame is not to survive but to prove to the mysterious judges that humans are capable or working together in peace.

All in all, I can’t give Endgame more than two stars out of five.  You may find that it appeals to you more than me, however.

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Now that it’s 2015, I would like to share some of my most anticipated books of 2015.  Let’s get started!

The first of these is Fairest: The Lunar Chronicles by Marissa Meyer.  This is a prequel to the three books currently published and tells the backstory of series antagonist Queen Levana.  For those of you who don’t know the Lunar Chronicles, they are sci-fi retellings of classic fairytales.  The characters are kick ass, the world building is fantastic and they are a brilliant read.  I’m really looking forward to Fairest, which is released on January 27th 2015.  The final book in the series, Winter, is due for release in the autumn of 2015.

I’m also excited for A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab.   I loved Schwab’s Archived and the premise for this one sounds interesting – parallel universes, with certain people having the ability to travel between them.  Sign me up!  A Darker Shade of Magic is released on February 24th 2015.

One book I’m surprised I’ve not seen on more Most Anticipated lists is The Skull Throne, the four book in Peter V. Brett’s Demon Cycle.  I’ve loved the previous books in the series and find Brett’s world building wonderful.  I look forward to seeing how Arlen gets on fighting the Corelings.  The Skull Throne is released on March 31st 2015.

Later this year sees the release of a new book in Keira Cass’s Selection series.  It follows the next generation of Schreaves and new Selection.  I am looking forward to getting back into this world.  The Heir is released on May 5th 2015.

Next up is the continuation of Mark Lawrence’s Red Queen’s War series.  His Broken Empire series really sneaked up on me, and built up book after book, so although Prince of Fools, the first in the series, didn’t grab me as strongly, I’m still keen to see where it goes.  The Liar’s Key is released on June 2nd 2015.

2015 sees the start of a new Rick Riordan middle grade series, this time based on Norse gods.  For me, Riordan is one of the most engaging middle grade authors writing today and has appeal for both young people and adults.  I have the feeling that Loki, Thor and all could provide a lot of scope for Riordan’s trademark humour, so I’m really looking forward to this one.  Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard is released on October 6th 2015, which can’t come soon enough.

Also on October 6th we have Shadows of Self, which is a new novel by Brandon Sanderson set in his Mistborn world.  Geez, that guy is prolific!  I’m constantly amazed at his ability to maintain quality with the amount of books he releases.  We have not had a new novel in this specific universe for some years, and I’m really looking forward to it.  The Mistborn universe is one of my favourites of Sanderson’s.  Roll on October 6th.

The final book I wish to mention is Cassandra Clare’s Lady Midnight.  This is the first book in a new series set in Clare’s Shadowhunter world.  There was  a lot of setup for this book in the final book of the Mortal Instruments – City of Heavenly Fire – and I am so pumped for it.  I had been a little anxious about the LA setting, but CoHF laid my fears to rest.  At this point there is no specific release date for Lady Midnight – it is anticipated in the autumn of 2015.  I can’t wait.

What books are you looking forward to?  Let me know in the comments.

Happy new year everyone!  I hope 2015 is a good one for you.  It’s about time I got on and did my review of my reading year.  It was a good year in general.  I did have a couple of major reading slumps, which meant that this was the first time in many years that I didn’t make my GoodReads challenge.  I had set my challenge at 100 books of which I read 91, which isn’t too bad going, I suppose.  My challenge goal didn’t take account of the fact that this year I listened to far more audiobooks than previously.  These do take me much longer than reading a Kindle book, but are very enjoyable.

Some stats

One reason I love GoodReads is that is can give you some interesting stats and a record of your reading progress.  Here are some of mine.

I read 91 books in 2014.  The longest of these was Brandon Sanderson’s Words of Radiance, which weighed in at a whopping 1,088 pages or 48 hours and 15 minutes of listening pleasure.  I gave my father-in-law this audiobook for Christmas – it will take him a bit of time to get through it!

I rated 21 of those 91 books as five stars.  I do tend to be quite generous with my five stars!

I rated 41 of those books as four stars.  This means that I really enjoyed over two thirds of the books I read in 2014 which is awesome.

23 books were rated three stars on my scale.  These were books that were quite good but didn’t fire up my imagination.

This leaves 6 that were two stars or unrated.

Here is the GoodReads chart showing which categories I read most in 2014:

Chart

That is pretty much what I would have expected.  I do love my young adult fiction.

Lowlights

I suffered a couple of major reading slumps this year, one of which I’m still working my way through.  Part of it is due to my hearing challenges and being fitted with hearing aids.  I know that, technically, there is no real reason why I can’t enjoy my audiobooks as before, but yet I can’t get into them.  I had really wanted to be able to stream my audiobooks direct to my hearing aids, but the ones I was prescribed for other reasons don’t have this functionality.  Ah well.

Highlights

One thing I really loved doing this year was my trip through Robin Hobb’s Realm of the Elderlings in which I marathoned a significant chunk of Hobb’s epic fantasy series.  This was in preparation for the release of the first Fitz and Fool book in many years.  I do love Hobbs’ writing style and her world building – it’s a testament to her craft that I was able to sustain interest in her world for six whole books one after another.  That is very unusual for me; generally I like to mix up my reading.  I remain on record as being totally on board the Fitz/Fool ship.

I read some excellent books in 2014. Ones that jump to mind are:

Marissa Meyer’s Cress.  This is the third book in the Lunar Chronicles series which is a contemporary/sci-fi retelling of classic fairy tales.  They have kick ass protagonists, imaginative world building and are just awesome.  Go read them.

Ian Doescher’s William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series.  This is best experienced in audiobook format.  The cast really brings out the humour in Doescher’s adaptation and I found myself laughing out loud many times.

I have also really enjoyed Rachel LeFevers’ His Fair Assassin trilogy.  I credit this with kicking my out of a major reading slump.  Kick ass teenage nun assassins in sixteenth century Brittany.  That says it all, really.  I won’t say too much more as I’ll do a full series review at some point soon.

Keira Cass’s finale to her Selection series, The One, was another great read this year.  A great series ender.  I would recommend any and all of these.

So there you have it; my reading year for 2014.  Here’s to 2015!