Friday, June 24, 2022

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses

A Court of Thorns and Roses
Book 1 in A Court of Thorns and Roses series
by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well I finally read it. And I will admit everyone is right; I'm total trash for A Court of Thorns and Roses. Is this just smutty teen crack? Yes, yes it is.

The Intended Audience
Just like I said with Bridget Kemmerer's series, that is okay, because that is the audience it was written for. Is Sarah J. Maas the most brilliant writer ever? No. That's not to say that she's isn't good at keeping the readers attention, moving the story forward, and creating intrigue. She's in fact excellent at all of those things. Although, I felt her descriptions were a bit lacking in places, and I would have preferred more lore and information about the magic and Fae system in general. But I'm a hard-core fantasy reader at heart and love world-building.

The Ending
The biggest thing that has importance to me in teen stories like this is that the ending isn't cheap. It was clearly set-up right from the beginning; it felt logical, the pieces locked in together and it flowed nicely. I was actually surprised that this book had a real sort of ending given it's a part of a larger series. You could read just this first book and have a complete story without feeling forced to move onto book 2. However that is not me. I will be starting book 2 in the next few days for sure!

The Best Part?
That is the easiest question to answer. And anyone else who also loves this character as much as I do probably gets it... Rhysand. Ohhh Rhysand.
I am a total and complete suck for the bad boy, anti-hero, do good'er villain. The one who might be trying to do covert good; but whose number one priority is keeping the imagine of them as a villain alive. Also, the descriptive, wicked, blue hair. I could imagine Rhysand almost from the moment he enters the room (page?). He's beautiful, sexy, and dangerous. Even at nearly 40-years-old I still appreciate the bad now. And I know 16-year-old me would have been completely obsessed and swooned for Rhysand. I've briefly seen in the past comments about being on a 'team' (gosh I hate that phrase for picking love interests) and if I had to pick I'm team Rhysand. It does not matter what he does in the rest of the series. He can be the worst person ever, I'll still love him. Just as I loved Jamie Lannister (Game of Thrones) a little bit even before he showed some humanity. The ultimate bad boy cannot be beat in my mind.

The Other Characters
As per usual with most books in this genre the character the reader is supposed to love and get all gooey about is not the one I liked much at all. I'm sorry but Tamlin is boring, annoyingly broody, moody, and overall just not that interesting. I do hope he gets a chance to show more of his personality as the series goes on.
Then it's onto our leading girl, I don't hate her. Which is saying a lot as I tend to really have an issue with a lot of female heroines in these types of series for teens. The lead girl in Iron Widow for example is just a horrible bitch, there is no two ways about it. So I'm pleased that I don't totally hate Feyruh, and I do hope that she is given the chance to grow and explore (mostly Rhysand, lol) her personality and feelings further. I'm assuming this growth is what makes the rest of the series interesting.

Sex, sexual tension, and oh look, sex
Finally, let's talk about the sexual nature of these books. These are not middle grade books. I wouldn't even call them young adult. While we often us YA and Teen interchangeably there is perhaps one distinction that should be made. YA generally doesn't have too much sex or implying of sex. Teen is generally that step above it. We often experience characters losing their virginity, experimenting, coming into their own sexually, etc. in teen books. I have no problem at all with a 15-year-old reading this. As I was that age when I was active; so it seems only fair that I at least accept that age is appropriate to read about sex. I would actually go as low as age 13 for this book. BUT I would be hard pressed to say younger. It might depend on the child; however I think most 12 and younger would not enjoy the sexual tension here because it's "icky". Their emotional maturity is just not there yet.
Honestly, given the violence, gore, and other elements of today's TV, movies, and video games; the making-out, lusting, and sex is quite tame. It may be important to point out that, for me, sex is no more taboo than gory. Therefore I am not at all concerned about how this is labelled or marketed the way some have been. Never mind the fact that the title, cover art, and blurb make it pretty clear you're going into a fantasy teen romance novel and those tend to get hot and heavy at some point. Especially as the series moves forward.

I mean what can I say that everyone else hasn't said? Not a lot really. It's as good as people say; IF that is the kind of content you want. I get why some hate it; because they are just not into books like this. And that's okay. But for those of us that do love this romance trash; it's up there with being very compelling to read.
I'd like to add that within 5 pages of reading the riddle I knew the answer. Maas actually gives a tiny tip-off shortly after reciting the riddle that I'm sure most picked up on. And while I was quite certain for the next 100+ pages I knew the answer; it was still exciting to read the solution.

If you like Bridgit Kemmerer, Rin Chupeco, or Tracey Deon (Legendborn), or most big name authors in the fantasy teen realm then I am quite confident you will like this.
If you're an adult that has enjoyed Laurell K. Hamilton (Anita or Mercy series), Anne Bishop, or Jacqueline Carey's Kushiel series then I think you'll enjoy this. It's a bit tamer than your adult horror/fantasy scenarios listed; but in the same vein. It keeps up the idea of punishment for punishment sake, and love for love's sake; and ultimately taking punishment to show love.

I'm picking up book 2 tomorrow, because somehow I had book 1, 3 and 4 on my shelf! Weird or what? I can't wait to get further into the pants (I mean mind...) of Rhysand.
Lastly, if you didn't laugh at my joke just now and kind sneered or wrinkled your nose then maybe don't pick this up, it's probably not your cup of tea.

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Friday, June 17, 2022

Book Review: Or What You Will

Or What You Will 
by Jo Walton
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m clearly a child of the 90s as all I could think when there is a segment about naming our narrator was Never Ending Story. Which made me giggle and took away any semblance of deep soul searching that might have been happening in this book. Added to that it’s a bit haphazard of a read. I’m sure English lit majors would be happy to tell me how brilliant it is; but for me it was okay. Or what It Will is the type of book I’m liable to forget about by next year. Which is unusual as I have really enjoyed Jo Walton's works in the past.

The biggest thing about this that should have been exciting, but ended up being confusing, was that our narrator is unreliable. Normally an unreliable narrator is the best! You have to read between the lines, get a gist for their bias and preferred outcome. While that is all here and present with our narrator; the reality is that they are not really the main character. The 'author' actually is. The narrator is telling the author's story; and then relating it to his existence. Now this is relevant as the narrator is the muse inside the authors head (more or less) and so does not exist with them. As the story goes on this idea of who exists where and when gets more convoluted. It is not helped by the idea that the narrator needs a name, or when the narrator starts to talk to us, the reader. I wish I like this more. It could be a super cool 'break the third wall' type of literature. But instead it just got a bit haphazard for me.

What I did enjoy however were Walton's tidbits and comments on writing good fiction; especially certain genres. If you are an aspiring writer you could get really great tidbits on what not to do from the discussions the narrator and the author have that we are privy to. If you look closely enough it's possible Walton has actually explained how best to avoid these many pitfalls. I was a bit distracted and less engaged at times (as our narrator was a bit verbose) and so likely missed some great tidbits. This lengthy narration is why I say this book is likely a literary major's dream. There is a lot that could (I think) be unpacked here. Especially about how characters in stories come to life, where ideas are generated from, and in general how people consume stories.

If you want something a bit wild, definitely weird, and certainly introspective on writing then Or What You Will might be for you. If you're looking for a lighter, fun read I would avoid this Walton story. But don't let it have you avoided her work entirely as Jo Walton has some wonderful pieces out there!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Tuesday, June 7, 2022

Book Review: Magical Animal Vets - Oona the Unicorn

Magical Rescue Vets: Oona the Unicorn 
by Melody Lockhart
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Will little girls (and boys possibly) love this story about a new girl to town who makes a friend and then finds out the woods behind her a magical and full of mystical animals? Probably.
Did I personally enjoy it? Not really.
There is no reason why introductory readers like this, a simple book good for readers at a level 3 or 4, shouldn't also be well-written books. That said I know two little girls who read this series around the age of 6 and 7 years old and they thought it was amazing. So what do I know right? For this sole reason I am giving this book a four star review (instead of 3) because I can't argue with the target market's love of it. 

But on the note of what is a bit meh about Oona the Unicorn. It starts with a poorly set-up premise. I'd like to know a bit more about why our lead gal has been moved and a bit more about how she feels about it. She seemed to be taking the move to a new area where she had no friends very well. It seems a bit optimistic by us adults to think that a child would be so easily adaptive to a new home. That said it's not the deal breaker that causes me to drop the rating to four stars.

What I cannot tolerate is silly lines referring to an (albeit mystical) animal that has "an allergy to gravity". Say what?
Why on earth would anyone think it's cute or smart to make up a fake allergy? Children have enough misinformation thrown at them on a daily basis; let's not make it worse by trying to be cute with a new species and making it allergic to something that: it has to encounter on Earth everyday no matter what, is completely false and can't cause an allergy in any living thing I know of on Earth. This is just silly for no real reason. There must be another reason why this animal lays it's nests upside down! I think Melody Lockhart needed to be a little more creative here and a little less ridiculous.

Between magical unicorns and boo-bears that are super cute (yes I'll admit it their spots are adorable) to magical flying carpets and doctors (vets) for magical animals you as the parent/adult/guardian may not love this book. But I know a lot of little girls (and some boys) will! Just throw in some less silly content while you're supplying your children with reading content please. I'm always a fan of Babysitters Club (no idea if new ones are good; but the old ones are!) to keep most of their thoughts on practical, reasonable things. Fantasy and imagination are some of my favourite things in the world; but I do recognize they can be taken too far at times.  Just imagine a child telling their teacher they are "allergic to gravity" and need to go home; feels like that would be one of those embarrassing moments we all want to avoid!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Book Review: Little Bunny's Sleepless Night

Little Bunny's Sleepless Night 
by Carol Roth
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

My first impression upon seeing the opening pages was that this book looks like one of the old storybook series I had as a kid; like the Bernstein Bears or Teddy goes to wherever books. I absolutely love the traditional illustrations! Then we get into the story and it's lovely! Perfect amounts of text per page, a wonderful rhythm to it that makes it easy to read (and no big words to stumble over).

Words are good, illustrations are good; this is going well! Only one last thing to make sure is suitable for a children's book: the plot or purpose of the story. Our poor little lead character, a bunny, is having trouble sleeping alone. So he tries to go to some friends houses to sleep but finds them a little less than ideal. Between quills prickling him, snoring bears, and a stinky skunk; our bunny decides that home, all alone, in his big bed is the best place for him!

Perfect for the transition to a 'big kid' bed for your toddler. Or for any child having trouble staying in their room or on their own bed. I would recommend this one in a heartbeat to anyone raising an only child, or an anxious kiddo when it comes to sleeping. It's perfect in just about every way; just like bunnies bed!

Please note: I received an eARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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Monday, June 6, 2022

Book Review: We Live

We Live, Volume One (comic)
by Inaki Miranda 
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The most unique piece of We Live is the QR code that delivers you a soundtrack intended to be listened to while you read the comic. This is a very cool idea, and one that really worked for me. I wish it was enough to get me into the story more and make me like it better.

Unfortunately the excitement and uniqueness mostly ends there. Not that We Live is bad, it's not. It's just fine, average, or even pedestrian. I was really hoping for something different here, the monsters to be interesting, the conflicts or race to get to the shuttle to feel more desperate. But instead I just felt like we were toddling along with our two lead characters to get to some place I felt I didn't even know much about.

This could almost have been Horizon Zero Dawn with it's lush illustrations and world set-up. Maybe that's the problem; it didn't feel unique enough to me given the current big titles out there. One thing the comic industry needs to realize is that if the trope they are selling is big in another area (ie: video games) then they need to be careful it's not too similar.

All that to say if you buy the individual comics there are some gorgeous variants and the wraparound, fold-out cover is a real treat. However, in this trade paperback collecting the first few issues you don't get that special feel sadly.

I will rest my case on the fact that my continuing recommendation since 2019 is Something Is Killing The Children. If you want crazy monsters, the blood and gore (that We Live definitely has some of), interesting characters, and an elaborate plot laying just behind the basic monster hunter story then go for it. If you'd like some pretty, but fairly boring pages of pretty green lush forests, and some average monsters that attack; then go for We Live.

Please note: I received an e-ARC of this book from the publisher via NetGalley. This is an honest and unbiased review.

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