Reading Between February and March, I read six books, a novella, and an anthology. Title The Three Body Problem Short Synopsis Science fiction novel featuring China’s cultural revolution, a high tech video game, and aliens. Thoughts Slower paced than I … Continue reading
Title: The Diabolic Author: S.J. Kincaid Publication Date: November 1st 2016 Note: I was provided an advanced copy by the publisher, but opinions are my own. Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction Synopsis: Nemesis was engineered for one purpose: to keep Sedonia, the daughter of a … Continue reading
I didn’t know what to expect going into this book. I was worried with the way Wolf by Wolf ended this book would be all filler in an attempt to make a series out of a standalone.
I was wrong. Continue reading
Title: Wolf by Wolf Author: Ryan Graudin Publication Date: October 20, 2015 Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, enters an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The … Continue reading
Title: Morning Star (Red Rising #3) Author: Pierce Brown Published: Febuary 9, 2016 Genre: Adult Science Fiction Note: Because I find it impossible to write a synopsis of this book it is being left out of this review. I’ve kept this review as … Continue reading
Title: The Martian
Author: Andy Wier
Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Synopsis: Mark Watney was part of an early mission to Mars, but what had been the opportunity of a life time quickly becomes a disaster. Believing Watney died in a Martian sandstorm, the crew has left Watney behind. The next Mars mission isn’t scheduled to arrive for another four years and Watney’s supplies were designed to last 31 days. With no way to contact NASA, Watney must find a way to defy the odds and survive.
Review: It’s next to impossible to write a good book where the main character is alone almost the whole time, but somehow Andy Weir has managed to pull it off.
This book is extremely well researched. As someone who has done a significant amount of research on Mars for the purpose of writing my first (never to be published) novel which was set on the red planet this is something I really appreciated. One of my issues with Red Rising was that it was clear little to no research had been done on the planet itself despite the fact that the entire book was set there. (Note that I still really enjoyed Red Rising overall in spite of this and gave it four stars.)
Our narrator, Mark Watney, has very strong voice. This allows him to carry the story on his own without it falling apart due to the lack of character interaction. The sections told in third person by members of NASA also add side characters to the story.
The pacing in this book is good. Just when one disaster ended another that somehow seemed even more desperate than the last began. In spite of this, I somehow did not feel as strong an urge to keep flipping pages and keep reading whenever possible as I do with some books. This brings me to my next point.
The reason this loses half a star is due to the fact that I didn’t feel enough emotional attachment to what was going on. I can’t say exactly why this is as the stakes were high at pretty much every moment. It might have something to do with the fact that we never seemed to get to hear much about Mark’s backstory, or at least it seemed that way to me. We heard a little bit about his college life and he mentioned his parents, but beyond that we never got to hear about someone outside of the crew who personally knew and cared about Mark. I think giving someone from Mark’s personal life a little page time or revealing more about his past may have made me care more.
What readers should know: This book is intended for adults. The language would be enough to make it rated R if they kept all of it in the movie, but due in part to the low amount of character interaction the language is just about the only thing that could be potentially deemed inappropriate.
Rating: This is a very realistic depiction of a Mission to Mars. Even though it wasn’t always as gripping as I would have liked it was still a great read and one that I highly recommend to readers who are even the slightest bit interested in Mars or space exploration.
August was a great reading month. I read nine books: one adult sci-fi, three adult fantasy, and five young adult fantasy. I also started revisions on one of my writing projects.
From now on I’m going to be splitting my monthly wrap-ups into three sections: reading, writing, and blogging.
Short Synopsis: Astronaut is stranded on Mars.
Thoughts: A very realistic, well researched portrayal. Though I really liked it, the book didn’t always grip me as much as I would like. Review to come.
Short Synopsis: A princess is forced into a marriage to the mysterious “God-King” in an attempt to prevent war between too nations. While this princess settles in to life in the foreign palace her sister tries desperately to free her.
Thoughts: Once again Brandon Sanderson’s world building proves extraordinary. The plot is captivating and unpredictable, the breath and color based magic system is well thought out and unlike any I’ve read before. For my full thoughts see my review.
Short Synopsis: Elantris was once the city of the gods. Now it is a city of the living dead.
Thoughts: I can really tell this is the first novel Brandon Sanderson published. His prose were really clunky and this is the only Sanderson novel where I’ve skimmed sections. Still an overall enjoyable read though, it’s interesting to see how much Sanderson has improved over the years.
Short Synopsis: Kell is one of the only people left who can travel between parallel worlds. Kell uses his ability to illegally smuggle objects between worlds. One day an object Kell smuggles turns out to be especially dangerous and it’s up to Kell to dispose of it before it’s too late.
Thoughts: I haven’t read a lot of books about parallel worlds, but when done right it’s a topic I find intriguing. There were times when I felt this story felt a little predictable and the characters not as developed as I would like, but it was an excellent read overall. Review to come.
Short Synopsis: A princess struggles to free herself from expectations of her. Book two in the Heart of Betrayal series.
Thoughts: I’m surprised how much I liked this one as I had mixed feelings about the first, but there were certain aspects I really liked. Review to come.
Short Synopsis: A thousand years ago one nation became seven and the world was shattered during a terrible disaster. Now Han, an ex-thief, and Raisa, the princess heir, must learn from the past in hopes of a better future. The entire Seven Realms series.
Thoughts: The pacing at the beginning was a bit slow, but once I got into these I just couldn’t seem to put them down. I read the last three over what was primarily a two day period of time. The world building is some of the best I’ve read in YA (in a lot of YA it tends to be lacking), and the characters were so much fun. I’m surprised this series isn’t more popular. Can’t wait for the spin-off series Shattered Realms.
What I wrote last month: In August I started revisions on my high fantasy work in progress. It’s working title is A Rose Like Death, and it was my project for NaNoWriMo last November. Most of what I’ve been doing so far is rearranging the files of chapters and scenes into an order I think would better fit the story. (I use Scrivener.)
My main focus right now is big picture edits and making everything flow. I’m also doing a lot of rewriting to change my main character, Yuliana’s, voice because the narration feels too distant at the moment. Feedback from everyone who has read the first chapter has been very positive overall with most issues involving grammatical and sentence construction errors that I don’t intend to fix until far later. Everyone seemed to have a much better grasp of the world building and character dynamics than I expected by the end of chapter one, and each person who read it had a different theory about the direction the plot would take. Only one really got anywhere near to the truth.
What I plan to write next month: I plan to continue with what will become the second draft of A Rose Like Death. Now that summer is over progress is going to slow and the goal is to have it finished by October 31 so I can start a new project for NaNoWriMo in November, but I’m not sure if that is realistic yet.
I know I’m behind on my tags. It might take me a while to get them posted, but I haven’t forgotten about them. I’ve been tagged for the quote a day challenge and my blog has been given the Liebaster Award, but have yet to post about them. I’m planning to combine the quote a day challenge into one day instead of three because I post once a week and like to keep it consistent.
Read or write anything interesting in August? I’d love to hear about it in the comments!
Title: Golden Son (Red Rising #2)
*Note: This is a review of the second book in a series. If you have not read the first book I suggest reading my review of Red Rising instead to avoid spoilers.
This review contains major spoilers for Red Rising, but not for Golden Son.
Author: Pierce Brown
Publication date: January 6, 2015
Genre: Science Fiction
Synopsis: The mines of Mars are an unforgiving place. There the “Reds” labor believing their work is critical to both humanity’s survival and the process of making Mars habitable. Never realizing the Martian surface was settled centuries ago and humanity’s population has never been higher. This was Darrow’s childhood.
After successfully infiltrating the “Gold” upper class Darrow might just have the chance to spark the revolution to help free his people. Darrow’s plan to destroy the upper class from within is challenged more and more each day. Not just by Darrow’s enemies who long for his death, but by Gold friends who make him question his hatred of the upper class as well. It’s up to Darrow to decide whether he is after retribution or freedom from oppression.
Review: Resuming four years after Red Rising started, Golden takes the conflict and world building in this series to a new level. The first book took place entirely on Mars, but most of this one takes place primarily in outer space. The change in setting gave me an idea of the true scope of this society that I lacked in Red Rising. It also made the book feel less like a dystopian and more like a space opera even as the story-line focused more on the rebellion. I’m not the biggest fan of dystopian novels at the moment so I appreciated the new direction.
Darrow’s character development takes an interesting turn in this book. In Red Rising Darrow consistently did some pretty remarkable things and the only time he really failed at anything was his dual with Cassius. Golden Son begins with Darrow failing epically. The way Darrow dealt with and eventually learns from his defeat adds interesting depth to his character arc.
Time jumps aren’t something I usually enjoy in fiction, but I understand why this one was necessary. Darrow’s life training with a razor and learning to command space ships wasn’t really relevant to the rebellion and everything Darrow is trying to accomplish. In an interview Pierce Brown stated that the reason for the time jump had to do with the fact that the story was written in first person and the time jump was to get to the next time period in which Darrow could narrate. While many books have the narrators learn skills in ridiculously short periods of time in order to avoid these time jumps I’m inclined to agree with the author here and say this one was for the best.
I really appreciate how well developed side characters in this series are. It’s very clear most, if not all of them each has his or her own motivations, goals, and schemes. I especially liked how the characters who learned Darrow’s true identity in this book each reacted very differently. So many books brush over reveal scenes, and have characters accept one another’s huge secrets without much skepticism or negative consequences. There isn’t much to say on this topic without getting into major spoilers, but let’s just say Golden Son had some realistic character reactions in this regard.
Golden Son is well paced. I started this one directly after finishing Red Rising and had a lot of trouble putting it down to do things between sittings. This is especially true of the last hundred pages or so which were particularly difficult to put down.
What readers should know: The first book was somewhere on the hazy edge of young adult, adult, and new adult where I just couldn’t decide on an intended audience. In Golden Son Darrow is 20 and though this book probably has less potentially inappropriate content than the first book it is most definitely not young adult anymore. That said, if a person was able to handle the content in the first book they should be able to handle this one.
Rating: This book resolved the minor problems I had with Red Rising and earned a five out of five rating for its excellent side characters, good pacing, and great world building. If you’ve read Red Rising I highly recommend continuing with the series.
Title: Red Rising
Author: Pierce Brown
Publication date: January 28, 2014
Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction
Synopsis: Darrow spends his days on Mars mining the minerals needed to terraform the planet’s surface. He could care less about the fact that he is a member of the lowest “caste”, oppressed by the Society. Darrow is too busy trying to provide for his wife and extended family. Darrow knows the price of rebellion. He attended his father’s execution at five years old.
Darrow’s outlook on rebellion changes when another of Darrow’s loved one is killed by the society. Her dying wish: break the chains. Now Darrow will stop at nothing to make her dream a reality. Even if it means infiltrating the Gold, upper-class, society and pretending to be one of his enemies.
Review: Mars is one of my favorite settings. It’s where I set the first novel length manuscript I completed, and I’ve always had a fascination with the planet. So of course, when I saw a book set on Mars with generally good reviews I wanted to read it.
The first fourth or so of this book is very different from the latter three fourths. Based on reading many reviews, what seems to make or break the reading experience is whether the reader likes the path the story takes in the later portion. For me both portions worked. Although the “teenagers in an arena fighting for their lives” and “boarding school” tropes that showed up in the second half have been overdone in fiction as of late Brown did a decent job in portraying it in an exciting way.
This book clearly draws inspiration from many others. Sometimes this bothers me about books, but for some reason it didn’t in this case. It likely has something to do with the fact that I don’t think I’ve ever before read ideas put together in this particular way before.
The ideas are drawn from so many vastly different places I have trouble categorizing it. The book is set on Mars, but has a very dystopian feel at times. At others it has a mythological fantasy feel with all because the houses at the school Darrow attends are named after Roman gods or even Lord of the Flies.
There is also the question of whether or not it is young adult, new adult, or adult. Darrow starts the book at 16, but within it two years pass, and I know for a fact the next book has a time jump in between and the story restarts with Darrow at age 20. This book is also very realistic in the horrors of the totalitarian regime and the actions of the characters who live within it. Many characters bring out the worst in themselves in this novel.
While I wanted to see more of some world-building aspects others felt overly simplified. I can think of other books off the top of my head that use a color classification system to differentiate between classes of people. Then again, I’ve been reading an excessive number of Brandon Sanderson books lately and have come to expect excellent world-building.
Something I would have liked to see more of is the world building, specifically how living on Mars affected the characters. We’re not shown much of the Martian Civilization, and the rebels themselves. The rebel organization was interesting, but like so many other dystopian novels I’ve read it was skimmed over in this novel, but I’m hopeful more of the rebels will be seen in future books as the story expands in scale.
What readers should know: This book features a significant amount of swearing, mentions of cannibalism, mentions of sex, prostitution murders, executions, and some side characters are raped. The cannibalism, prostitution, and rape do not occur while the main character is present, but it’s clear what is happening. Darrow is present for and sometimes even participates in murders and executions. The sex scenes are not detailed, and the book puts little emphasis on romance.
Rating: I flew through this book and really enjoyed it overall, but would have liked the later portion to be more in depth details about the rebels and the world so I’ve given it a four out of five.
Title: Skylark (Skylark Trilogy Book 1)
Author: Meagan Spooner
Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Synopsis: All her life Lark has lived sheltered within a dome enclosed city powered by magic. The last human survivors of a war of magic that left the land surrounding the city a barren, desolate place. All she wanted in life was to be “harvested” of her magic so that she could finally grow up and become a productive member of the community, but when long buried secrets and lies come to light Lark must flee the city into the wilderness that Lark knows nothing about. If she doesn’t she risks becoming nothing more than the cities power supply. Lark has only two instructions: find the Iron Wood, and follow the birds. Only one problem, Lark has never seen a bird in her life. So far as she’s concerned birds are all but extinct.
Book Trailer: *Note: I did not make this trailer, Lerning Publisher did.*
Review: A blend of science fiction and fantasy, Skylark takes place in a future where everyone is born with a small amount of magic that is later “harvested” to power the city. The beginning of this story is confusing, and the middle was slow. So slow in fact, that I almost gave up on the book. Readers who are looking for a fast passed book should look elsewhere. The true genius of this book was in it’s ending. In the last third, I was able to clearly see how everything that had happened thus far had been building towards it. I just adore books where everything comes together at the end. As a result, if I was reviewing just the first two thirds of this book it would have a three rating, but if I was only reviewing the last third it would receive a four point five. So anyone struggling with this book should be sure to keep reading for the awesome ending.
The world building was done fairly well, although it was confusing at times. Lark wasn’t extremely aware of the world she lived in and readers had to find out facts about life outside the city wall with her. This led to many of Lark’s original assumptions being proven wrong. At the beginning the world seemed a little cliche (because of the dome city, the war that wiped out most of humanity, and the evaluation process that led to nothing good) but it moved away from that as the story progressed.
As for characters, Lark did get on my nerves sometimes (as in the whole of parts one and two), but her personality was what I would expect from someone in her situation. Which made her feel ultimately more realistic than annoying. The author did a great job of giving the general personalities of her side characters that were in the book for a relatively short number of pages. There were also some very interesting twists to character development. Some of which were predictable to the well read reader and some that were not.
There’s no way I’m going to spoil the ending for any future readers but I will say this: there was no cliffhanger. Some questions are left unanswered, it’s true, but there is little doubt that those questions will come to play later on in the trilogy. The reader is also left with a general sense that the book is a complete story but the reader was still left wondering what happens next which is my idea of a perfect ending.
Romance in this book was kept to a minimum. Every time I had a feeling that a relationship might develop something seemed to prevent it. However, I suspect that there may be more romance in future books. For a while it even looked like there might have been a love triangle but then Meagan Spooner took the story in a whole new direction. It was also nice how Lark eventually got upset when boys tried to keep her safe. (As illustrated by the quote below.) So if you are looking for a series that doesn’t revolve around romance but it is not entirely absent this might be a good read.
Quote: “I don’t want to be kept safe! I don’t want to have someone constantly trying to keep me from tripping on my own incompetence. I want to live in a world where I know the rules, where people are just people. Not one where they keep trying to eat me. That’s the reason I left the city in the first place. I don’t want to be kept, not by anyone.”
Rating/Recommendation: There were enough interesting elements in this book to give me the impression that Meagan Spooner is indeed a competent writer, however, because this book lagged so much in pacing that it took me over a month to finish I feel as though I can’t give it above a 3.5/5. Although, after that ending I really wanted to give it a four. I recommend this book to readers of YA who are tired of recurring romance cliche but are willing to read through the slow beginning and middle for the awe-inspiring conclusion.