This was a nice little gem. Reminds me a lot of Highlander in a good way, but has a different edge to it. I wish the action scenes were less repetitivThis was a nice little gem. Reminds me a lot of Highlander in a good way, but has a different edge to it. I wish the action scenes were less repetitive and more detail with the sword-fighting, but otherwise a good action/adventure novel.
Alexis Davenport is angry. Her mother has forced her to move to Grand Junction, Colorado, to live with her mother's sister, away from all herSynopsis
Alexis Davenport is angry. Her mother has forced her to move to Grand Junction, Colorado, to live with her mother's sister, away from all her friends and the life she knows. Even if it's because her father left them and took all their money, no one asked her opinion. Alex is expecting the worst, her first year of high school in a new school with no friends. On the way to their new home, Alexis sees another girl's face in the mirror, a girl from the past, and has no idea what to make of it. The siting happens again, and this time, when she touches the mirror, she ends up in this girl's body, trapped in the past, until she accomplishes what she's been sent to do.
Alexis has a special gift. Her consciousness leaves her body and enters the body of another person in the past. And each time, she has a mission, working against an evil presence that wants to change history in the worst of ways. And this is on top of dealing with the usual angst of teenage years, like the mean girls who have it in for her, and a crush on the "It Boy" at school who happens to be her lab partner. Alex's life is about to get a lot more interesting.
I had no idea what to expect of this book, but it turned out to be a very enthralling read. Alex is a character that will stimulate a mix of emotions in the reader. At times, I felt like her ungrateful behavior towards her mother and aunt was very hard to swallow--she seemed a little bratty. But it was clear that Alex had a lot of reason to be troubled, on top of just being a girl on the cusp of womanhood. I also felt deep sympathy for the intense bullying she had to deal with by a classmate who decided she has in it for Alex. West captures the tension, the awkwardness and the everyday terror of being an unpopular teenager who is finding their way through difficult social situations. This part was very well-written and realistic. Readers who have struggled with being bullied will find solace here, and it's also a good learning experience for those who managed to avoid bullying in their teen years. I like how the writing shows Alex's growth and her developing emotional maturity in these situations without being preachy. It was an interesting touch that Alex was such a huge history buff. I liked that she really enjoyed school and learning, and how this was a pivotal aspect to her personality.
The time traveling aspect was intriguing and exciting. Alex's gift is very special, and she has to learn to live with it and employ it to do the right thing and to stay safe. There are some thrilling scenes as Alex faces a nefarious person with similar abilities and a lot more experience, teamed with no scruples. History buffs will appreciate the various snapshots in history, and feel like they are walking in Alex's shoes as she works to preserve history but make the right decisions.
Dangerous Reflections is a good start to a series, and it ends in a way that will draw readers into continuing the series. Alex's growth as a person is realistic, and readers will sympathize with her and cheer her on as her experiences as a time travel empower her to have courage in her everyday battles. I recommend this book to young adult readers and readers of young adult fantasy fiction.
Overall, this was a good book. I had a few quibbles, but they did majorly affect my rating in a not-so good way. Let's talk about the bad first.
CallumOverall, this was a good book. I had a few quibbles, but they did majorly affect my rating in a not-so good way. Let's talk about the bad first.
Callum's behavior was pretty reprehensible. He stole and damaged property and never had to face the wrongness of most of his actions. I'm not trying to be moralistic here, but those actions made me think less of him. I almost didn't want to finish the book. In light of later revelations, it felt even more manipulative to have him committing not so minor infringements. I feel that books for young readers don't have to be ethics primers, but honestly there are consequences when we do wrong. When books for younger readers overlook that, it makes me feel uneasy inside. And with all honestly, this reader was already rooting for Callum to grow in character over the course of the book. I'm not sure he did in crucial ways. There are some major plot spoilers that I can't go into, but even in light of the story direction, I wasn't okay with that.
The ending was too abrupt and clearly was a sequel bait. I don't like the tendency to create series that aren't terribly self-contained. I feel that it's better to write a story that feels complete even if I don't continue the series. I know that this is probably a minor thing for other readers, but it's increasingly becoming an issue for me.
While I wasn't enamored of the narrator, it didn't affect my rating that much. He wasn't terrible, just a little more flat than I liked.
What I loved;
*I felt that the story did keep me guessing. There were some reversals that I seriously didn't expect and kudos to the authors for that. *The Magisterium is beautifully described and some aspects felt very unique. I loved how the food source is based on things that might grow underground, but they have tastes that you wouldn't attribute to something like dried lichen or mushrooms. The skills tests were fun. *The developing friendship between Callum and his fellow students in his cohort. It reminded me of my time in professional school and how you tend to look to people in your class as a support system. *I loved the ethnic/racial diversity. It's so easy to do it and have it be a normal part of the story. There was no reason for everyone of the students to be white/European, and I was glad that the authors didn't go that way with the story. *The dark aspects of the story appealed. I like that middle grade/juvenile fiction can be done well with serious tension and thrills without assuming younger readers can't handle it. *The pet wolf Havoc. I was so, so in love. I want!
I'm going to give this 3.5 stars. I imagine some would rate it higher, but with the issues versus the kudos, I think it's a very fair rating....more
This was a rather dark story about humans who willfully exterminate legendary creatures, evil or otherwise. I enjoyed the change of heart that the youThis was a rather dark story about humans who willfully exterminate legendary creatures, evil or otherwise. I enjoyed the change of heart that the young Slayer developed through an unlikely friendship with a young female Sphinx. I would like to continue this series.
Let me be transparent in advising readers to think twice about experiencing this book as an audiobook. I'm not sure it works that well. It could be meLet me be transparent in advising readers to think twice about experiencing this book as an audiobook. I'm not sure it works that well. It could be me. I am a very visual person when it comes to higher level concepts, especially mechanistic disciplines, such as geometry, architecture, and engineering. The geometrical descriptions were hard to visualize and my mind started to wander at the beginning of each chapter when Sanderson uses the metafiction device of reading from a textbook of rithmatics. Honestly, that was the major reason I didn't rate this book highly. Secondly, I didn't care for the narrator. His voice was too bland, almost monotone or robotic. I feel that if you are going to narrate a book, you need to give it a vitality, and this book lacked that.
On the positive end, I can see why Sanderson is a lauded author, and I can certainly see why he is qualified to teach writing. I think that his craft is evident. The characterization is sound, and instead of settling for thinly veiled archetype, he endows characters with added depth. You know the ones that feel very familiar like the boy who grows up to be the hero, the spunky female sidekick, the mentor, and the dark lord? Thus he gives each one a distinctive life that works very well to make this more than just the typical coming of age fantasy novel. Additionally, the idea of this story is intriguing. A look at wizardry and coming of age school story becomes something different when the concept is built around a magical art of endowing chalk figure-drawing with life.
His view of the United States as an archipelago was interesting. He doesn't describe why it's that way. It just is. The story has a steampunk-light feel. Enough to give the vibe, but it doesn't take over or define the story. Instead, the focus is on the school and the low-level magic at work.
I liked Joel a lot as the main character. He is the kind of hero you end up rooting for. He's normal and the underdog, and you want him to buck the system. Sanderson does something pretty clever here, in that the hero doesn't get his dreams come true. Instead, he's going to have to work for what he wants. That felt more realistic, and also strayed away from the expected archetypes of fantasy where the lead is the one who has the unexpected greatest power of all time. Melody is a fun character. She won me over with her love of unicorns and pegasi. Her feelings of being a failure and feeling forced into a mold she doesn't fit resonated with me. Yeah, she felt like someone I know, maybe myself, and I could feel her youthful angst to a nearly uncomfortable level. It was such a cute touch how her abilities end up being strengths that were taken for granted. I also loved Professor Fitch. His nervousness was rather endearing, and I do have a fondness for nerdy professors.
The chalkings were fairly unnerving and the accompanying villainous element was quite effectively sinister. I wasn't sure if I liked it at first, but as I listened, I was drawn into this world and it became very real. The end has a very good twist, well, I should say two piled on each other. Sanderson surely got me!
I feel bad because I am likely underrating this book. But I have to say that the choice of medium was a big factor in affecting my reading experience, so I have go with what I know for now. I will probably continue this series because it was an interesting read. I think I'll go with the print version of the next book.
The Hammer and the Blade is fun sword and sorcery adventure. Kemp has done something interesting here. This book is quite low brow in its use of vulgaThe Hammer and the Blade is fun sword and sorcery adventure. Kemp has done something interesting here. This book is quite low brow in its use of vulgar descriptions: constantly describing puking and spitting and other bodily functions. Yet in contrast, I had to look up a lot of words when I read this, for apparently Kemp has quite a vocabulary. Maybe he was trying to prove that just because someone has a potty mouth doesn't mean they lack intelligence.
As far as a buddy story, this one succeeds on that level. Egil and Nix are tight. We don't get to find out how they met, and they are quite different. But that doesn't stop them from being very good friends who watch each others' backs and fight at each others' sides. Egil is a hulking man, who uses two hammers and a crowbar as his weapons. He wears a tattoo of an eye on his head, a symbol of the Momentary God. He is reflective and tends towards somberness. Nix is smaller, the body and persona of a thief. He reminds me of the trickster archetype. He is quick and sly, and fond of sharp, slender blades. He grew up in the slums, and part of him doesn't want to leave that behind. It's a huge part of his identity. He doubts that he possesses any sense of morality, but the quest he undertakes in this book will prove whether that's true.
While sword and sorcery can tend towards sexism, Kemp seems to want to subvert this. While most of the main characters are not women, there are more than a few secondary female characters that show a lot of depth and the complexity of the female gender. Nix and Egil are forced to reexamine their views of women and how women should be treated continually throughout this story. I really enjoyed this aspect of this novel. Yes, I am a woman, so it makes sense that this would be a crucial aspect for me. But I like to think that men can also be dismayed at how women can be sidelined, maligned, and abused in most cultures, simply because they are women. I am glad to see that Kemp seems to struggle with this as well.
The action/adventure part of the equation is well done. Plenty of fighting and escapades. Tomb robbing and escaping mystical booby traps. Lots of demon and creature fighting, and some fights between characters of the human persuasion. Some of the scenes got a little gory, but I guess that's to be expected in a sword and sorcery romp. While I didn't like some of the vulgar descriptions, I didn't think Kemp went over the top with the violence.
As far as the sorcery, that was definitely a strong aspect of this novel. One of the characters is a sorcerer whose family has a dark pact with demons for their power. And I do mean dark. This storyline becomes a very prominent thread that place Egil and Nix at some crucial moments of defining who their identities are as people and where they draw their line in the sand. As I read it, I marveled at the extremes people go to obtain and keep power, and usually they end up making someone pick up the tab for their actions and ill-gotten gains. Definitely the case in this book. Glad we had some unlikely heroes around to try to make things right.
I didn't rate this book higher because it was just too vulgar for my tastes. I felt like this was a hindrance for me to dive deeper since I just can't stand vulgarity. It's a personal taste thing here. There were other things to like about this novel, such as the fantasy world-building and the humor and camaraderie between Egil and Nix and a few other characters. It was a fairly entertaining novel despite the fact that the vulgarity was off-putting. I will probably continue this series.
Three Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them intThree Parts Dead is a fantasy novel that teases at the senses and perceptions of the reader. Gladstone takes some fantasy concepts and weaves them into a creation that has its own flavor and feel. It's not urban fantasy in the common sense. It's not epic fantasy, either. It's a novel that forges its own path.
Gladstone takes the sticky territory of faith and belief in a deity and asks the reader to trust him and to follow where he's going. For those readers who are believers in God and who consider themselves religious, it will take some trust not to assume that Gladstone is attacking the system of belief and devaluing it. In fact, he gives the reader something to ponder and does not do this at all. While I don't believe that my God needs my faith to keep him alive, I did like how Gladstone examines the intrinsic relationship aspect of faith. Faith requires trust in your God. Faith requires a commitment to keep believing despite what circumstances may show. In the case of this book, the character of Abelard acts as a stand-in for a person who lives a life of faith. The struggle that is inherent in living in a world in which belief in God is steadily becoming an oddity and many have rejected such an idea and consider it irrelevant. With Abelard, he faces that crisis of faith and that anguish of being confronted with the idea that his god doesn't live anymore, and the hole within that comes from that lack of communion with him. At the crux of faith is that understanding that what one believes does benefit that person, even when others lack an understanding of how this happens.
Tara represents the skeptic. The person who has trained herself not to subscribe to a faith-based way of life. Tara feels that she has it together, and has all the power within to make prescribing to faith in God unnecessary to her life. She feels with her education and her life, she is above having faith in a deity, and almost has a smug way of looking at Abelard because she sees things on a higher intellectual level and outside of his faith-based worldview. While Tara treats Abelard kindly, underneath there is a smug attitude that she'll show him that he doesn't need God. That the concept of a deity is just something that can be used to achieve some sort of end-goal. Look how well she's done. I'm not picking on Tara here. I'm just commenting on how her character acts initially in this book.
Both Abelard and Tara are younger people, who have a ways to go in their life experiences, although what they have experienced is not to be dismissed. Both have a lot to bring to the table, and I feel they learn a lot from each other, and working together, they can achieve an important purpose in this novel.
And then there is Cat. Cat's character is not as well developed as Abelard and Tara. I felt that she is in transition and hasn't learned who she is as a person, what her identity is. But in that, she is a stand-in for that person who is searching for something to ground them in their lives. Who they are and what they stand for in this life. How does faith or lack thereof tie into this?
The world-building is its own character. Gladstone doesn't give much of a frame of reference, because Alt Coulomb, the home of Kos The Everburning feels modern and ancient. The city's very machinery is powered by the god they pay homage to. You have touches of modernity, and even with Tara's agrarian origins, it feels as though the story is set in the present, but in a different world. The idea of Justice and the Blacksuits was another concept that was both alluring and unsettling. I have to say that with the teasing touches that I get in this book, I end up with more questions and wanting more of this world-building. This world that Gladstone created could easily sustain several books.
I absolutely loved the idea of the gargoyles. How they had made their mark both literally and figuratively on the city. The buildings were scarred by their talons. The descriptions of their unworldly and intimidating beauty spoke to me as a visual artist.
The concept of craft and magic was also alluring in this story. The manner in which Tara used her powers. The concept of altering reality through the use of craft. The idea of the God Wars, a background piece of history which proves integral to the plot, but is not described in great detail. This is another area that could easily be picked up if the author chooses to write more stories in this world.
It's so hard to condense my thoughts into a review because this book had my mind running. Some aspects lost me a bit and I would find my mind wondering. But then another scene or concept would grab my attention and refuse to let go of it. I guess that's why I couldn't give this five stars. Part of me wasn't fully satisfied with the story. I felt like there were two many goals with this story and the author wasn't sure what kind of novel he wanted to write. Part mythical fiction, part occult detective novel, with some probing insights into human psychology and the power of belief. What I was glad about was that he didn't take this opportunity to attack organized religion. That just gets old. I think that there is so much more to probe into when it comes to matters of faith than just beating the drum about how the church manipulates and takes advantage of believers. I think we know that this is possible and happens more than any believer would like. Let's put that aside and explore other aspects of belief and how this can clash with other worldviews, or how belief is not as foreign and unfruitful as we might assume. While Gladstone only scratches the surface here (since this book isn't 1000 pages), he delivers something thought-provoking that I could appreciate.
Three Parts Dead has something to offer the genre of Fantasy. I would recommend it....more
I first became acquainted with Sarwat Chadda when I read Devil's Kiss, and I knew he was an author I wanted to follow. Chadda has switched gears slighI first became acquainted with Sarwat Chadda when I read Devil's Kiss, and I knew he was an author I wanted to follow. Chadda has switched gears slightly, writing for the MG/Juvenile group with this series, and with a male lead. He has also set his book in India, I believe that he was drawing in some degree from his own heritage. With The Savage Fortress, Mr. Chadda has written an involving read quite full of darkness and danger, and incredible heroism at its center.
Ash Mistry is an English boy of Indian descent. He gains the opportunity to explore the land of his parents' birth when he goes to stay with his aunt and uncle in India. Ash doesn't care much for India, despite his romantic hopes. It's hot, dirty, and basic in amenities. He'd rather be at home in England, with his videogames and his friends. I could identify with Ash in that I hate being hot and dirty, and the descriptions of India in that sense make me question whether I would enjoy my first experience with it any better than Ash does. However, Ash finds his destiny and comes to life in a way that staying in England never would have provided.
When his uncle gets the opportunity to translate a scroll for the very rich Englishman, Lord Alexander Savage, Ash encounters evils right out of Indian legend and folklore. For Lord Savage is a wicked magician cursed with immortality in a decaying body, and surrounded by blood-thirsty rakshasa creatures (rakshasa is a general term for demons who can have a variety of animal/human forms). Ash begs his uncle to have nothing to do with the man and his dark enterprises, but his uncle doesn't believe him. Ash falls in a deep hole at an archeology site funded by Lord Savage, and pricks his finger on an ancient arrow that connects him to the power of an ancient god, whose power belongs to the wielder of the arrow, which is called an astra.
Things go downhill from here and tragedy results in Ash and his young sister Lucky being on the run for their lives. An ancient holy man and his strange companion intervene, and guide Ash closer to his destiny as the wielder of the astra, and the only person who can stand in the way of Lord Savage's wicked intentions.
Mr. Chadda is definitely in touch with the child part of himself. He understands that kids want adventure and wonder, but don't always have awareness of what comes along with that fun parts. Ash is like a stand-in for the thirteen-year-old self of older readers, or the young readers who read this book. It's a case of "Be careful what you wish for." We can't even know how dark our world is until we face it head on. Ash encounters things that made my hair stand on end. And the author is almost gleeful in describing the gore and violence. Not too much for a MG book, although I think the age restriction should be 13 or older, honestly. I could see this book causing nightmares to a younger reader. I was hesitant to read it late at night, just in case.
There is no lack of adventure and danger, and Ash's character undergoes desired and necessary growth in character. At the end of his harrowing experience, he is not unchanged. He realizes that we are accountable for our actions and we do have responsibilities in our lives to do what's right even if it's hard. While some readers might not be as accepting of the polytheistic elements of this story, I think this content can still be enjoyed as a fiction work, and I would recommend that parents investigate this book before letting their younger children read it. Even though I don't subscribe to the Hindu beliefs, I do think there are some good lessons to be learned about accountability and personal ethics. As a lover of folklore and mythology, I thought the world-building was fascinating, and Chadda describes India vividly. I felt as though I was there. He shows a lot of textures in the different peoples in this book, and I think it's good for readers to be exposed to multicultural characters and the diversity of our big, wide world.
Bruce Mann is an excellent narrator. He utilizes a variety of tones and accents that fit this book very well. I especially liked how he speaks Ash's part. Ash has a very distinctive way of speaking and he comes to life for me. I liked the kid a lot. I'm glad my library had this in audio, even if took me ages to finish listening to it (not out of boredom, just time issues).
I'd recommend The Savage Fortress to 13 or older children (with parental approval) and older readers who enjoy MG/Juvenile fiction with folklore. I'm looking forward to more of Ash's adventures....more
The Night Shifters is a novel about a young woman who was always more invested in her dream life than her real life. She sleepwalks through her days aThe Night Shifters is a novel about a young woman who was always more invested in her dream life than her real life. She sleepwalks through her days at a job that does nothing more than pay the bills, biding her time until she can find solace in her extremely vivid dreams. Until one night, the dreams never cease, and her life becomes one waking, ongoing dream within a dream.
Hazel gets transported to the land of the Night Shifters, and she has to navigate herself through this world in which it’s hard to tell friend from foe. She might find a secret destiny, and love along the way. And the power to make her real life more exciting than her dreams.
The Night Shifters was a good book, and it was an enjoyable read. The story was a bit confusing at times, which bogged down the story. It was difficult to keep up with the narrative flow at times, as one scene tended to shift into another rapidly. Occasionally, I had to backtrack to catch up when I got lost. On the other hand, the bizarre, sometimes nonsensical occurrences felt a lot like dreams. Readers should be able to identify with the dreamlike quality of Hazel’s adventures, with some of the elements feeling quite recognizable, such as the scenario when one misses class all semester and shows up just in time for the final exam. Yeah, I’ve been out of school a long time, and I still have those dreams.
I could also identify with Hazel’s desire for her life to be more exciting than just a ho-hum job to pay the bills, for her life to have a deeper meaning. Her memories of a childhood of being picked on by the other kids and not fitting in made her a deeply sympathetic character, along with her down-to-earth and kind nature. I liked seeing her work through her emotional issues as she walks through the dream landscape of the Night Shifters’ lands. The fantasy elements were interesting, with a distinctive storyline about the land of dreams and the power that some individuals have to shape this land. The cast of unusual characters ranged from a kindly older man who resembles the actor Sir John Gielgud, to sexy, fae gearheads to wild, warrior bikers to seductive vampires, and a masked man who Hazel shared a sizzling attraction with. The villainous characters will resonate with readers, since they mix the fantastical with the mundane of the real world. You know, the beautiful, popular girl who made your adolescent life excruciating, or the obnoxious boss who seems to enjoy singling you out for the worst task? Imagine encountering them in the dreamscape, with horrifically magnified abilities to make trouble for you. Not fun.
All these elements combine to make The Night Shifters pleasant reading. The story didn’t inspire intense emotions in me, but I was glad I had the opportunity to read it. I would recommend it to readers who are looking for a quick fantasy read with an endearing heroine who is on the path to making all her dreams come true.
Reading Catherynne M. Valente is a unique experience. Her writing is full of magic and imagination. It doesn't always make 'sense', but it feels rightReading Catherynne M. Valente is a unique experience. Her writing is full of magic and imagination. It doesn't always make 'sense', but it feels right. The child in me who never grew up, who loves fairy tales, lands of magic, mythical creatures, and folklore, ate up this story like the most scrumptious dessert. I listened to this on audio, and at first, I wasn't sure how well it would work. There are a lot of concepts, and they don't tie together in a straightforward fashion at first glance. If other readers are like me, I'd encourage you not to give up on it if it doesn't catch you right away on first listen. Initially, I felt that Ms. Valente didn't quite feel comfortable reading her story. However, that changed, and she seemed to get into the flow of it, using different voices, timbres, and cadences for the various characters. I could feel how much she loved this story she had written, and the characters within.
This novel is one that both kids and grown-ups with a love of fantasy and make-believe tales would love. It's a story of a young girl who is very, very brave, strong-minded, determined, but with a very big heart for a kid (who are considered to be mostly heartless, according to the narrator). She goes to Fairyland on a romp, to escape the reality of a mother who works all the time and a father who was shipped off to war. Feeling alone and too different from the other kids she went to school with, she longs for adventure and a place where normal isn't the ideal. That's when she gets swept off to Fairyland and becomes a champion for this place of magic. And we are along for the journey.
At times, I got a bit confused with the narrative, because it's not exactly a linear story. Fairyland isn't a place that always makes sense, and that could make for strange listening when I was focused on driving or getting where I was going. If the reader embraces that this isn't that kind of novel, it makes for a very satisfying reading experience. Just immersing oneself in this marvelous world where anything is possible is gratifying.
This book is suitable for a young audience, but there are elements that feel pretty sophisticated, if one is older and catches the subtext. Some younger readers might not get all those references, but that's okay. I think it's fine for them to grasp an understanding of the story at their own level. There is some violence and dark subject matter, but the message of self-sacrifice, determination, friendship, and love are very good elements for kids to experience.
At one point, I thought I'd have to take off half a star because of getting lost and things slowing down a bit, but the overall beauty and power of this story requires a five star rating for me. I definitely recommend this book to readers who enjoy mythopoeic/folklore-rich fantasy novels, young and older....more