Book Reviews: January 2019

I only had a book in hand for about 7-8 days of January. My husband and I have been preparing to move across the country since early December (and he’s already in our new city) so I only had the mental capacity for light reading.

Thrawn review has minor spoilers.

  • Thrawn #2: Alliances by Timothy Zahn

  • The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

  • Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins


THRAWN #2: ALLIANCES BY TIMOTHY ZAHN

Thrawn: Alliances is the second book in the new canon Thrawn series by Timothy Zahn. The first book followed Thrawn’s rise through the ranks of the Empire. In Alliances, Thrawn and Vader team up to take out a disturbance the Emperor has sensed.

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Alliances was a great read, mainly because Vader was in it and Eli Vanto was not. Picture this in Jean-Ralphio’s voice: “Eli is the woooooorrrssst!” Seriously the most bland character in all of Star Wars and Thrawn had to explain EVERYTHING to him in the last book. He made canon Thrawn #1 the worst of the five Thrawn books. I loved having Vader instead.

The part I most appreciated was Anakin’s refusal to listen to Thrawn and Padme as he was destroying the mine. That was a chilling moment that highlighted where he was in his decline toward the Dark Side. It’s been several weeks since I read it, but it’s still stuck in my mind.

I did have a few issues, though. I’ve been picky lately.

  1. Padme running off on her own mission in the middle of a war seemed odd. In the prequels she was often away from Coruscant, sure, but she at least always had people with her even if that someone was C-3PO. What about her meetings? Wouldn’t she have emails to respond to?

  2. Zahn has this habit of waaaay over-explaining some of Thrawn’s thinking by having Thrawn teach his commanders strategy. Which would be fine if it wasn’t such basic stuff. On the other hand, someone would get shot or something would be wrong with a ship and I would only have a vague idea of what happened, and the story would continue without explanation.

  3. Zahn dumbed down Vader somewhat to make Thrawn seem smarter. I think Zahn just likes his villain best.

Even with the issues above, I still really enjoyed reading Alliances. It was (mostly) mindless Star Wars fun with my favorite character of all time making an appearance as both Anakin and Vader. It doesn’t take much more than that to make me happy.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars (Rounded to 4 on Goodreads.)

THE HUNGER GAMES TRILOGY BY SUZANNE COLLINS

I was on a plane back to DC when I finished the Thrawn book above, and I didn’t have anything new on my Kindle...but I did have the Hunger Games trilogy! I first read these books at the end of 2011 and it was what got me back into fun reading toward the end of my senior year at VT. I was an English major, so I did a lot of reading but very little outside of class. I read through this series probably at least seven times in that first year or two after I found it, mainly because it’s so quick to get through. My first job after college also had many periods of downtime so I’d read it on the Kindle app on my phone.

The Hunger Games is not the most well-written trilogy. It took me less than a week to get through all three books again. It’s very action based and I’m always wishing there was more detail. (YA in general does that to me, though.) That being said, I truly love this trilogy. I actually have Catching Fire listed under my all-time favorites; I remember being unable to go to sleep when the Quarter Quell was announced. I’m still Team Peeta, but I had a bit more sympathy for Gale than I did in my last read six-ish years ago.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars for The Hunger Games and Catching Fire, 4 of 5 stars for Mockingjay

2018 Book Summary

I set my 2018 book goal at 45 books and I sort of reached that goal. If you count all the comics, a few plays, and a short story then I exceeded it at 68! But that number is mainly just because Goodreads counts everything read as one “book.” I always add comics so I can track when I first read them, but really I only read 37 books this year.

I’m glad I switched to putting my 2018 book reviews in a monthly post, instead of a post per book like I was doing. I still got to write my reviews but it was a LOT less stressful.

Below are the books I read in 2018 that I own, minus the comics.

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Click here for my 2017 book summary.

Click here for the full list of what I read in 2018. If you don’t want to click the link, here’s a quick breakdown.

  • 42 books

  • 26 comics (Darth Vader & Saga #9)

  • Of the 42 books…

    • 4 were Shakespeare plays

    • 1 was a short story (The Star)

    • The rest were “normal” book length

    • 11 were non-fiction or memoirs/autobiographies

  • Everything was new to me, except for Black Beauty and The Star

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In random order, my 2018 favorites:

  1. The Stormlight Archive series by Brandon Sanderson - Last year, Mistborn made the cut and in 2018 I loved loved LOVED The Way of Kings, Words of Radiance, and Edgedancer. I’m very much looking forward to Oathbringer.

  2. I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou - This book is just beautiful. I feel inadequate to have read it, much less review it. If I were an English teacher, I’d teach it.

  3. Star Wars media - I finally read one of the Darth Vader comic series and adored it, plus the original Thrawn series and one of the newer books. (I still have Thrawn: Alliances to get to.) Being back in the Star Wars non-movie universe was like being back home.

For the first time since I started this blog, I thought I’d share my least favorite reads from this year. I don’t want to be negative, because we all have our preferences, but this also helps me look back and remember.

  1. Ready Player One by Ernest Cline - This is Twilight for eighteen-year-old boys who socialize mostly through video games and have never had a girlfriend. Listen, I was a late bloomer myself and I’m an introvert. I’m not trying to be mean, but this was poorly written and books that are basically just a list of 80’s references aren’t my cup of tea.

  2. A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab - People on bookstagram love this one so I had high hopes, but even my normal leniency toward the YA Fantasy genre couldn’t save it. It was boring, the magic was completely undeveloped, and by the end the only thing that had caught my attention was the flippy coat.

So that’s it! My 2019 Goodreads goal is 40 books. That goal is high enough to keep me motivated to read and not just browse the internet in the evenings, but it’s not such a high number that I stress out.

For fun, my Instagram top 9 is below! All were book related except my two year wedding anniversary post.

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Book Reviews: December 2018

This is my last monthly post of 2018! In December I read:

  • Edgedancer (Stormlight Archives #2.5) by Brandon Sanderson

  • The Star by Arthur C. Clarke

  • Kingdom of Ash (Throne of Glass #7) by Sarah J. Maas

EDGEDANCER (STORMLIGHT ARCHIVES #2.5) BY BRANDON SANDERSON

After finishing up Words of Radiance at the end of November, I didn’t really feel like reading anything other than Sanderson, but I also wanted to save Oathbringer for later. That 2020 release date for the next book seems really, really far away so I’m forcing myself to take it slow.

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But! The novella Edgedancer was ready and waiting so I picked up my copy of Arcanum Unbounded. I liked this story. It made me really love Lift, who I was intrigued by in her WoR chapter but she didn’t become a favorite character until this story. SPOILER! I laughed at the shardfork moment.

Edgedancer won’t make much sense if you haven’t read books one and two. If you have, be sure to check this out at some point.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars


THE STAR BY ARTHUR C. CLARKE

It’s my own personal Christmas tradition to read this every year, ever since a professor of mine assigned it way back in college. It’s very short, only about four pages. I highly recommend.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars

KINGDOM OF ASH (THRONE OF GLASS #7) BY SARAH J. MAAS

Kingdom of Ash is the final novel in the Throne of Glass series. This is going to be long and rant-y with abundant spoilers. You have been warned.

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I finished the first five books of the Throne of Glass series over two years ago, ending sometime in November of 2016. I read book 6, Tower of Dawn, in July 2018. So that one was not long ago, but it only focused on Chaol so it felt more like a stand alone novel than part of a series. Overall, it’s been about two years since I was in the Throne of Glass world.

When I started this series, I enjoyed it as a mentally unchallenging, sparkly-yet-shallow guilty pleasure read, even though each book had a few things that I didn’t like. My two biggest complaints were always: 1) How is everything so easy for Aelin and why is her perfection so annoying? And 2) Does EVERYONE have to have a mate? Kingdom of Ash is just like every other book in this series in that sense. I could really stop this review right here, but for some reason I’m more bothered by the flaws two years later. Maybe I’m more cynical after two years of Trump as president? Maybe global warming has made me permanently bitter? Whatever it is, the fun parts of this book weren’t enough to make me be generous toward its flaws. My apologies for any hurt feelings.

Before I start my review, here’s a summary of my previous ratings:

  • The Assassin's Blade (Prequel novellas): 3/5

  • Throne of Glass #1: 2.5/5

  • Crown of Midnight #2: 4/5

  • Heir of Fire #3: 5/5

  • Queen of Shadows #4: 3.5/5

  • Empire of Storms #5: 4/5

  • Tower of Dawn #6: 3.5/5

  • Kingdom of Ash #7: 2.5/5

For funsies, my ACOTAR ratings:

  • A Court of Thorns and Roses: 2.5/5

  • A Court of Mist and Fury: 5/5

  • A Court of Wings and Ruin: 3/5

Notice a pattern? SJM’s books start out intriguing, but not perfect (Throne of Glass, A Crown of Midnight & A Court of Thorns and Roses). Then, they peak right in the middle (Heir of Fire & A Court of Mist and Fury, the latter of which is by far her best book). Then the ending is kind of a let down, everything is too happily-ever-after and all the couples you once rooted for are bland and exactly like the others (TOG #4-7 & A Court of Wings and Ruin).

Okay. Now onto my rants.

Aelin’s torture didn’t seem that bad. Hear me out! On page 304, Rowan tells Aelin she was captive for “two months, three days, and seven hours.” Aelin then confirms that Maeve had healers fix Aelin after every torture session, so that Aelin would be confused. Later, on page 482, Fenrys tells Rowan, “It took the healers two weeks to fix what he did to her hands and wrists. And when she woke up, there was nothing but healed skin.” (This is when Rowan is wondering why Aelin seems afraid of fire.) Do you see the issue here? Two weeks of two months is 25% of her total torture. And her scars were gone from her entire body, so her back and arms and probably legs had some work done. So, give it another week, maybe even two more for healing, and that’s a month! Half of her imprisonment dedicated to healing! Plus, it’s not like she was waking up during those two weeks because the text very much insinuates that she was always completely healed, so was that a solid two weeks of being unconscious? Aelin is supposed to be THE MOST BADASS EVER. She was the top assassin in a very violent country, trained by a sadist, she’s a Queen with magical fire powers that kill thousands in one blow, but...she couldn’t handle a month of torture? I mean, I know I couldn’t, I’d crack in about 15 minutes. But this is Aelin we’re talking about, Queen Mary Sue.

Kingdom of Ash was way too long and poorly written. It should’ve been 600 pages at the absolute max. Maas has this issue with trying to end every chapter on a cliffhanger. For example, she ended a Chaol chapter with Aelin dramatically walking in. Then, we saw what happened next. THEN, we got Aelin’s perspective of arriving. I might have those backwards, but you get the idea. The redundancy didn’t just happen in the POV switches, no! It also happened line by line. Here’s an example:

Pg. 891 - “Aelin didn’t dare to look. To take her attention away for that long.” (After Erawan looked at something on the castle.)

Pg. 893 - “Aelin didn’t dare look behind her to see where Erawan had gone.” (After Erawan flew to that spot at the castle.)

Ya’ll, it was 900 pages of that. Every other line was a line that I had read before. It was torture.

No major characters died. I’m not expecting Game of Thrones level death, but it’s just too perfect that the only named characters that were lost were Gavriel and the Thirteen.

Borderline plagiarism. Some of the battles felt very LOTR-y, same with the giant spiders. The Little Folk are GOT’s Children of the Forest; the wild men are basically the wildlings. As I write this, I’m remembering knock-off Finnick Odair from book two.

Mini rant on all the couples:

Dorian and Manon - NO. Just NO. I have hated this pairing since the beginning and I wasn’t any happier with it in this book. At least there wasn’t some happy reunion between them, but it was heavily implied they would end up married.

Lysandra and Aedion - Aedion was abusive to Lysandra in this book, period, and the relationship always felt forced to me. Lysandra deserves better. And I vaguely remember liking Aedion in earlier books, but in this one I just didn’t care about him at all.

Aelin and Rowan and Chaol and Yrene I’m neutral about in book 7.

The only couple I am genuinely here for is Elide and Lorcan. I kept reading for these two. And I have to say, I was extremely invested in the scene where Elide rescues him and Aelin stops the dam. THAT was a good scene, and a good example of how Maas’ writing can be very on point when she’s not getting lost up Rowan’s butt. If the book had ended similarly to that scene, I’d have been happy with it.

Random thoughts:

  • Fae males are way too possessive. Rowan once “snarled” at Lorcan just because he made an observation.

  • Did anyone ever find out what Maas means when she says “vulgar gesture?”

  • Every time Sorscha’s name appeared, I had to think for a second who she was and why Dorian was so sad about her.

  • Does Maas know any other way to describe shock outside of “legs buckling?” Seriously, someone received tragic news every chapter and their legs would almost fall apart and they would barely remain standing. Usually Rowan.

  • Why is Aelin so rude to people like Darrow and the other Lords? I remember being annoyed by that in a previous book. Aelin, you were running around killing people for years, it’s really not that weird that they were hesitant to name you queen.

  • That Rhysand spotting was one of my two favorite moments in the whole book, and it was only a paragraph. (The other favorite moment was Elide racing for Lorcan that I mentioned above.)

So. TOG is done, I’m done reviewing them, and now I own all the books. Would I read them again? Maaaaybe. My to-read list grows exponentially so I’m not sure when I would get back around to it. I don’t necessarily hate the series, but I like ACOTAR better anyway. That one I will be reading again at some point because Rhysand.

Rating: 2.5 of 5 (Rounded to 2 on Goodreads.)

Book Reviews: November 2018

November was a reading month that satisfied my nerdy heart. Star Wars and Stormlight, what more could you want?

  • Ricky Tim’s Convergence Quilts by Ricky Tims

  • Educated by Tara Westover

  • Darth Vader Comics by Kieron Gillen

  • Words of Radiance (The Stormlight Archives #2) by Brandon Sanderson


RICKY TIM’S CONVERGENCE QUILTS BY RICKY TIMS

I have no intention of making one of these quilts any time soon. I'm still "working" on my first basic t-shirt quilt, which is all squares and straight lines. My goal is to finish is before the decade is up. I picked this book, and a few others, up from the library in the hopes that it would inspire me to work on said t-shirt quilt. So far I’m still procrastinating…

The book was easy to understand, intermediate or advanced quilters should have no issues following his instructions.

Rating: 3.5 of 5 stars



EDUCATED BY TARA WESTOVER

Educated is a memoir that speaks to the power of education, independence, and knowing your own worth.

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I was suspicious of Westover before reading this book, because I read a lot of reviews that doubt her. (I normally avoid reviews before starting a book.) By the end of Educated, though, I believed her story. It’s certainly flawed, but powerful.

The marketing for this book is slightly misleading. Sure, going to college and getting an education completely changed Westover's life. But the main focus of the story is her relationship with her father and how it affected everything. Her father was abusive, her mother was an enabler, and they both enabled her horrible brother, Shawn.

There were many things that didn’t seem like full lies, but were weird omissions. I was over 200 pages in when suddenly it was mentioned that there were women working for Tara’s mother. A google search showed that the Westovers own Butterfly Express Essential Oils. (One article I found said it employs over 30 people, but I’m too lazy to go back and find that link.) I understand that she didn’t name the company for legal issues, but it made me wonder if that was how she managed to afford school? Grants only cover so much and her parents certainly weren’t portrayed as supporting her financially, but maybe it was more than she let on. She was clearly able to learn on her own, along with several of her siblings, so it seems like her parents gave her the basic ability to reason and grasp concepts, even if they failed by traditional standards.

To summarize: I believe Tara when she talks about her dad’s issues and all the abuse she suffered. Perhaps she’d have told this story better with some distance and a few more years of therapy, because sometimes I couldn’t get a read on her emotions. It seems like she’s still processing everything, and I certainly wish her the best as she continues moving forward. Educated is a validating story to people who may be suffering (or have suffered) abuse.

Rating: 4 of 5 stars


DARTH VADER COMICS (#1-25) BY KIERON GILLEN

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Prior to this series, I had never read any of the Star Wars comics. I know some people really hate that Disney killed the EU, but let's be real, it was very bloated and contradictory. Aside from a few standout series, there was just so much it was hard to know where to start. Most of my EU adventures were in the YA novels, like the Jedi Apprentice series. I still love those, so I'm happy to have my old favorites but have a new, consistent Star Wars canon timeline.

Anyway, since this series is considered canon and I've heard good things, I decided to try. And OH MY GOD. It is so good. These 25 comics take place between episodes 4 and 5 and overlap with some content from other comics. (Which I have not read, so I do have gaps in what happened, but I still enjoyed these just fine without stopping and switching to the other series.)

The art is amazing, especially when something is being conveyed in Vader's mask and body language without words. My favorite part is just how much of a badass he is. Vader has always, always, forever and ever, until death do us part, been my favorite fictional character. You know that end scene in Rogue One? And in Empire Strikes Back, when Luke is getting his ass handed to him? THAT'S the Vader in this series, and I love it, and I am sexually attracted to it.

One or two editions were slightly more boring than the others, and occasionally there would be panels that I thought needed some more text, but overall this series is a great addition to the Star Wars galaxy.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars


WORDS OF RADIANCE (THE STORMLIGHT ARCHIVE #2) BY BRANDON SANDERSON

***WARNING: This whole review is varying degrees of spoiler-y.***

The second book of The Stormlight Archive series, Words of Radiance (WoR), picks right up from where the action left off in The Way of Kings (TWoK). Kaladin, Dalinar, and Shallan all know something different about the forces that are coming back into the world. They must rush to get ready and trust each other, because the Everstorm comes.

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I took a break from this series after reading TWoK, mainly because book #4 isn’t coming out until 2020 so I wanted to drag it out as long as possible. Around mid-November, I could wait no longer!

There’s so much to say about a 1,300 page paperback, but I’ll try to keep this concise. I enjoyed this one just as much as TWoK, plus the pacing was more consistent. TWoK took about 600 pages to get started but WoR jumped right back into the story. It was a good mix of world building and plot, a lot of which was helped by the interludes - particularly Eshonai’s. Her introduction and subsequent chapters were really powerful.

As far as the characters go, Kaladin is probably still my favorite - the grumpiness didn’t really bother me because this is only #2 of 10 books, I figure he needed to get it out his system for the sake of character growth. My favorite chapter was when Kaladin fought alongside Adolin, EVERYTHING about that fight was perfect.

“Honor is dead…but I’ll see what I can do.”

I liked Shallan much better after getting her backstory. And aside from that one chasm scene - you’ll know it when you read it - her snarky little comments didn’t annoy me as much as they did in TWoK. In WoR, she was capable and independent. I did miss having Jasnah around as much, though, and the Dalinar POV.

WoR had more humorous moments than the first one. Every scene with Wit was great, but there were several parts without him that got me to crack a smile while reading. (I usually read with a RBF.)

In a nutshell - please read this it is amazing omg.

Rating: 5 of 5 stars