Book Review Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Book Review Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson
The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Redawn by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, Even as the Galactic Superiority offers peace and placation, the last remaining humans receive a warning in the form of Alanik, the alien who crash landed on Detritus to warn Spensa of the coming threat. She’s woken up, and now she wants to defend her own home, and that will require a different alliance. Secrets are revealed, and everything will change before this battle for Redawn is finished.

Character: The characters and their arcs are the main reasons why this book is surprisingly wonderful. I don’t mean that I didn’t expect it to be fun or good. I just didn’t expect it to be this good. Jorgen absolutely steals the show. The weird part is that the story is told from Alanik’s point of view, an there are times when I feel like I’m reading her summary of Jorgen’s story, and that is awkward. Alanik’s arc is far less interesting than the things going on around her.

Exposition: Other than the necessary reviews that happen with any book in a series, this book is pretty seamless. Honestly, this book flew by for me. It’s probably my second favorite book in the saga (Cytonic was cool for a few reasons). So any time the pages fly, I know it wasn’t bogged down by needless data dumps.

Worldbuilding: We see a new planet and a new culture here. There are some interesting cultural elements in Redawn that I enjoyed. I liked the scope this story created. We’re starting to see the greater universe of this story, and when that’s combined with compelling characters, the story is exponentially better.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: One of the biggest character and plot points actually happen as a result of dialogue. Honestly, if one wanted to study up on how to use dialogue to develop character and plot, this book (heck now that I think of it, there are two) is a great case study. The impact moment occurs during the plot. A big turning point. (Now I’ve thought of three!) This book really is packed full of beautiful moments (both good and bad) that work well because of how the dialogue worked.

Description: The description here worked just fine for me. I wonder how fans of hard science fiction would feel about it. Most of the historically best-selling science fiction novels I’ve read have an amount of description and details that annoy me (but not too much). The books I hated are the ones that just annoy me to no end and seem to freeze the plot. This book never comes close to freezing the plot. I’d say there’s probably more description than an average Sanderson novella, but given the amount of new characters and locations we see, it makes sense.

Overall: This book is severely underrated. Yes, it’s a YA novella, but man is it compelling. It exemplifies that a book doesn’t have to be large to be great. If I were a voter, I would actually strongly consider nominating this book on its own for a Hugo in the category. I don’t think it would hold up. Frankly, most Hugo winners are more … contemplative than narrative, but I think this book is fantastic despite what it is (not “for what it is”).

Thanks for reading,

Matt

p.s. I worked very hard to get an image of Janci, but whatever is going on, I can’t seem to save her image.

The Top Five Authors Who Influenced Me

The Top Five Authors Who Influenced Me

Greetings all,

Image from Pixabay.

Whenever I’m struggling to think of things to write in this blog, there’s always a top five list I can do. This time, I thought it’d be fun to share the top five authors who’ve influenced my work.

#5) Stephen King: I’m of two minds here. This is in no way an endorsement of his content. Quite frankly some of his books go to places I’d never want to visit nor would invite others to go. But I’d be lying if I denied his influence on me. This is because of his book On Writing. That book is, in my opinion, the greatest call to action book an author could have. King’s book taught me about the momentum of writing and the importance of consistent reading. It was his book that led me to start writing every night, and ultimately led to the completion of my first (and therefore all) subsequent books.

#4) James Patterson: This may seem a bit odd since I so rarely mention him or his work, but it’s undeniable. I had been a huge fan of the Women’s Murder Club series before I think Book 11, which I feel drastically hindered the main character in the series. However, the pacing of his stories stuck with me, which is why I endeavor to have quick, hard-hitting chapters through the bulk of any of my books.

This image of Dean Koontz was taken from his Amazon author page so I can say what an impact he’s had on my writing. Please don’t sue me.

#3) Dean Koontz: I pretty much read a ton of Dean Koontz, and I love Odd Thomas. If someone were to make the accusation of Bob Drifter was only a little more than an Odd Thomas ripoff, I’d probably just thank them. Dean as cleverly adorable dialogue and charming characters. From him I learned how powerful a sympathetic character was.

#2) Robert Jordan: The Wheel of Time is my second favorite series of all time. One day, I hope people are theorizing about my books the same way that my brother and I spent hours talking about certain aspects of the Prophecies of the Dragon. I’m still trying to diagnose and understand how he worked his worldbuilding and foreshadowing to such a refined degree. I’ve tried it a few times (and maybe not in the stories you think), but I think I have some more to learn before I can make a true attempt (though that’s coming.)

Honorable Mentions: So obviously if Dragon Riders of Pern is my favorite series of all time, Anne McCaffrey would be high on my list, and if this were a list of my favorite authors of all time, she’d be on it. However, what she did best (her worldbuilding) is something I aspire to, but it’s just not a skill I think I have at the moment. Also, Leo Tolstoy is among my favorite authors. I don’t know if I can call him my favorite anymore, but he holds a special place in my heart. However, like McCaffrey, as much as I love his writing, I just don’t know that he impacted my writing as much as those on this list.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his website.

#1) Brandon Sanderson: This certainly hasn’t been a secret I’ve kept, though I’m not certain I’ve proclaimed this as overtly as I am here. No author or person has inspired me or impacted me more on any level. Write About Dragons is pretty much the foundation on which I built my workflow as an author. Writing Excuses gave the discovery writer in me focus. I honestly wish I had (or took the time) to listen to it. But if I’m listening to anything, it’s probably an audio book. It was Brandon of encouraged me (personally during an event) to put my work out there even if I had to do so by self publishing. I’ve met him a few times, and I don’t know that he’ll ever truly understand just how wonderful and motivating he’s been in my life as an author and a fan of fiction. Top that off with his prolific determination, and it’s easy to call him the most impactful author to my career.

So there you have it. If you’re a writer, how does my list compare to yours?

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul

Book Review: Defending Your Faith by R.C. Sproul

In Defending Your Faith: An Introduction to Apologetics, R.C. Sproul seeks to defend two simple claims for the defense of Christian truth. They are: God’s existence and the authority of the Bible.

I picked this book up because apologetics fascinate me. While I was hoping for more archeological and scientific information, this book is still wonderful for what it does do.

Before anyone takes my previous statement too far, please do not misunderstand. What I meant was more in depth archeological study. This book is actually quite analytical and scientific. In fact, it begins with a clear distinction between the terms contradiction, paradox, and absurdity. It then continues with its truth statements using certain criteria. One I remember is two different things cannot be true at the same time in the same circumstance.

Sproul bases his arguments on the fact that if his two main points are true, everything else must be, and that much is true.

So here I state a fundamental principle. None but those who are called will come to saving faith. Apologetics are intellectually valuable, but without God’s intervention, a human cannot come to believe. We are, however, tasked to defend our faith and share the good news, so those two principles are a fantastic place to start. C.S. Lewis started his series Mere Christianity in much the same way. 1) There is a God. 2) It is the Christian God. 3) His word is authoritative.

Sproul doesn’t simply provide evidence for those statements. He also provides counterargument to several other views.

This book is absolutely worth reading for Christians and non-Christians alike. For those just seeking to understand fundamental Christian beliefs, this book (obviously the best would be the Bible) is a reasonable summary. For Christians seeking a better understanding and manner to defend their faith, it not only provides comforting evidence, but counterpoints that answer questions I know I had when I was younger in my faith.

Thanks for reading,

V/R
Matt

Book Review Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Book Review Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson

Spoiler free summary: In Sunreach by Brandon Sanderson and Janci Patterson, FM and Jorgen must work together to understand the Taynix and how they are able to do the amazing things they do, but the Galactic Superiority is working that much harder to eradicate humanity before they have that chance.

Character: The book takes advantage of the relationship readers probably have with these characters already. I think people just picking up this book might not really connect because they don’t have the same history. They’re not bad or boring at all, but the bulk of my sympathy for these characters was developed in the first Skyward Flight book. What I appreciate is that these characters grow. We see them evolve from that book. It’s not just more of FM or more of Jorgen, it’s a true continuation of their development as characters, development we wouldn’t have had without these novellas.

Exposition: Given that this novella is a side project from a larger series, there are several points where information dumps are just plain necessary. While they do exist in this story, they occur at proper times and in the proper amount. It’s sort of like being forced to eat your vegetables during your meal. It’s probably not your favorite it part, but it really does balance everything out.

Worldbuilding: I’d say the bulk of this book itself is based on worldbuilding. It’s like a giant demonstration on how the magic system of this world works. Normally, that would annoy me. What makes it work is we get character development and progression woven in with all the technical fine points. I don’t know if the most stout fans of hard scienc fiction would enjoy this. I don’t know that the most stout fans of epic fantasy would like this. They might. But what I do know is that fans of both worldbuilding and character development will enjoy it.

This image of Brandon Sanderson was taken from his author bio page on his webite.

Dialogue: This felt like a typical Sanderson novel. A little wit, a little snark, a dash of off hand punchlines, and we have ourselves an entertaining story. I read Chasing the Skip by Patterson a long while back, and she had that same flavor. It’s not surprising given their professional relationship. I saw a few v-logs about this series, and some people were down on this series because it wasn’t an exclusive Sanderson story. I don’t really feel that way. This was fun. I blasted through it and the rest of the series quickly. That speaks well of it, and the dialogue is one reason it was so easy to read.

Description: I honestly think I could have had a bit more here. I’ve seen Brandon show pictures of Doomslug, but the writing (and name) feel a bit off to me. Now there is enough of it for me to get a better picture, but for half the saga, I’ve been thinking a Taynix as something that might fit in your hand (you know, like a slug), but I think one was described as roughly the size of a loaf of bread (I think). So the visuals could be a bit stronger here, especially since we’re looking at creatures that don’t exist. However, this didn’t bother me as much as it might others. I don’t honestly care what stuff looks like, so I tend to glaze over description anyway. But as I think back, I realize it’s a bit hard for me to picture some of the elements of this story.

Overall: This was a pretty nice little story. I’m glad I stuck with it, because the others are so much better, but this one sort of tops out at “not bad.” The characters are sympathetic, and the magic system is interesting. I made the effort to listen to this story (audiobook) because I was already invested in the saga as a whole. I don’t think it would do well as an introduction to the series, but I do think it’s a fantastic side story in a very underrated saga.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

p.s. I worked very hard to get an image of Janci, but whatever is going on, I can’t seem to save her image.

Book Review: Rhythm of War (second read)

Book Review: Rhythm of War (second read)
The cover image for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Greetings all,

So in my effort to soak in more tidbits regarding Stormlight, I always re-read the series after I finish the newest book.

This means that after I finished my first read, I started over, and Rhythm of War marks the end of that sequence of re-reads.

As always, I try to use these subsequent reviews to focus on different things since you already have a normal review.

Reaction 1: Adolin might be my new favorite character. His arc is so endearing. Sanderson could take him to darker places, places other authors might have gone. I genuinely love pretty much everything about him. With every book, I love him more. Honestly, if Stormlight were nothing but Adolin’s arc, it might not work because of how much set up he required. Remember he was just a doubting prince early on. But man has he developed.

Reaction 2: Kaladin is back (I think). His arc took a lot longer than I’d have liked, but I feel like he’s back to being the hero I fell in love with in Book 2. With a main character, one needs multiple arcs, but with these arc exhibiting similar symptoms, even though the challenges are very different, they feel redundant. Still, he’s found his feet, and I’m happy for it. Also, best. Hoid. Motivational. Story. Ever.

Reaction 3: Still not really a fan of Shallan. So I don’t hate her like I did in Book 1, but I’m still more or less annoyed when I read her arc. It’s interesting. It has some beautiful moments. But I don’t think she has a lot in the way of redeeming qualities. I actually think she took a step back from the previous book. Her arc (at least as it ends in this book) is satisfying, but I keep finding myself wanting to skip it. I’m pretty sure eighty percent of the reason I read her arc is because Adolin is involved. For the record, I’ve been Team Adolin from Book 1.

So those are three things I figured I’d share with you all this time around. If you haven’t picked up Stormlight, you’re missing out. It’s not in my top five, but it could grow there. (Top three is pretty much set for life, but you never know. I might eat those words). It’s still very good.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

I Now Have 100 Ratings on Goodreads

I Now Have 100 Ratings on Goodreads

Greetings all,

You have to celebrate the victories, and this is a big one. Ratings and reviews are a large influence on how readers decide to choose a book. Earlier in the week, I saw my 100th rating come up on Goodreads. I have a ways to go for reviews (49 at the moment), but that’s still nothing to laugh at from an independent author.

With 100 ratings in there, I’m sitting at an average rating of 4.07, which (to me) means most the peopl who read my books like my books.

I’m very appreciative of every one of those reviews. I’m very humbled and honored that people not only put in the time to read my books, but even took a moment to throw a rating at it.

I just wanted to celebrate that with you.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Oathbringer (Third Read)

Book Review: Oathbringer (Third Read)

Greetings all,

If you’re looking for my typical review format, you can do that in my original review right here.

As for these subsequent reviews, I try to focus on whatever drew my attention.

I remember having an oddly polarizing set of emotions for Oathbringer, and this time going through reminded me of some of that, but I didn’t feel it as intently as I did the first time through. I don’t remember what I focused on for the second review or even The Thrill, which was sort of a cheat in my opinion.

What I remember is this is the book that (for me) confirms that Dalinar’s arc is one of the better arcs in fantasy fiction. I think what I come away with most is that if you are (or possibly were before this book) a fan of Kaladin’s this book might have rubbed you the wrong way. This relies on something I can appreciate in that it relies on an understanding of PTSD and how Mr. Sanderson conveyed that. If you understand that problem, then the debate is how it was conveyed, and while I do understand the condition to a degree, I think the problem is how the condition was conveyed depends how familiar one is with the actual condition.

That’s an interesting study in and of itself. I feel that this conversation is debatable. I wish it was conveyed better, and I wish there was more effort to address Kaladin’s abilities, which make it much harder for a casual reader to buy off on because it can be pretty hard to understand what Kaladin was actually going through. I personally feel it was accurately conveyed, but only to the degree I mentioned above. Now that’s awesome in the effort Sanderson obviously put forth to treat the condition with dignity, and I appreciate that. However, if I were a bug in Sanderson’s ear, I might have asked that he create the circumstances to make it more difficult for a Windrunner.

I would also argue that the degree to which I was disappointed in Kaladin’s arc was at most equal (if not less than) the degree to which I loved Dalinar’s arc.

Watching Dalinar grow from beginning to end would have created a far more complex situation than letting us get to know the man he is before we see the man he was, and that’s something some authors need to consider. A lot of writers (especially new ones) are very linear, and while that might really work in most situations, to get locked into a certain formula cuts one off from opportunities that might be even better.

Ultimately I feel this book is polarizing and depends on where fans of the series weigh their love of Dalinar in comparison to their love of Kaladin. Thankfully, the next volume brings all that back together.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 74 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 74 by Tite Kubo

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 74 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, finally, the story comes to an end as Ichigo and Yhwach face off. The story ends, and we learn what the cost of this war was.

Character: Almost nothing. That’s the cost of this war. The anticlimactic ending was undercut further by the magical way characters thought lost (though not all) are back just like that. The losses that stuck had some power, but as much as I like this volume (I swear I do), it’s more because of the ending of the story as a whole than the ending of this particular arc. We see the adults these young men and women come to be. It’s nice to see the heroes come into their own, but we don’t see that climax moment I wish I did.

Exposition: As this is a climax, we don’t need a lot of exposition. Neither do we get a lot. It’s better than most manga, but manga stories have an edge in this category to begin with.

Worldbuilding: This is more like worldclosing than building, but I think it’s relevant. There are new captains named (and old ones returned). The balance is reset, and the resolution is far better than it would have been had they stopped after the Aizen arc. This volume would have been just as good had happened after the Aizen arc.

Dialogue: There was a cool scene at the very end where dialogue reveals not only where one of the main cast is, but how he stays connected to his friends. This is the value of dialogue sometimes, and I think it’s underrated. So this volume is probably stronger than most because there are several scenes like this in this volume.

Description: So usually the description in a manga is weighed by the cool fight scenes, and this was very anticlimactic. I think Bleach painted itself into a corner. At a certain point, when a manga like this just keeps bringing in more and more powerful people, they run out of ideas because, well, “How do you really beat that guy?” When I first read this volume, I switched pages back and forth wondering if I scrolled too quickly (I read this on the Viz app on my phone). I didn’t. So this volume is a fairly good representative of the arc as a whole.

Overall: The very end of this is exactly the ending I wanted. But I sort of feel like I got told the end of a story without getting to see it. An arc that could have had great “heroes coming into their strength” moments just wasn’t there. I will say one of the main cast gets the treatment the whole cast deserves (at least in my opinion), but the rest don’t. However, those last five or so pages were what I was waiting for. While I will admit those pages were worth slogging through two arcs that just weren’t that great (especially on the level of the Aizen arc), I really just recommend you buy the last volume. Every cool think you’ve heard (is probably true), but they’re delivered in dialogue exposition that’s met with a shrug and a, “So is it time to fight now?” I leave the choice to you. I’ll say this ending is outstanding, but it could have been legendary. Instead, the arc drags down an otherwise fantastic saga. I don’t regret reading it, but I wish it met its full potential.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 3-Star Review for Hazel!

A 3-Star Review for Hazel!

Greetings all,

Hazel has still been plugging along in her life. She’s not doing as much as she was in the beginning, but she’s easily the best-selling title I have, and she’s selling pretty regularly, which makes me happy. What also makes me happy is that she’s been getting ratings and reviews.

That means I can share this three-star review with you. The reviewer was kind enough to post this on both Goodreads and Amazon, which is twice as nice!

As always, I hope you’ll consider leaving a rating and review. Even if you didn’t like it, there is no such thing as a bad review.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: Bleach Volume 73 by Tite Kubo

Book Review: Bleach Volume 73 by Tite Kubo
The cover for this volume was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Volume 73 of Bleach by Tite Kubo, finally, Urahara is up against an opponent who pushes him to his limit, and we see his Bankai. Meanwhile, Ichigo finally comes face to face against Yhwach, his final opponent and his terrifying omnipotence.

Character: This volume has a lot of “I’ve always wondered” or “I’ve always wanted to see that” sort of moments. The main cast starts to take center stage, and things begin to align for the overall resolution to the saga. I wouldn’t say this has great development for character, but we do get to see characters sort of come of age. It’s strange because I don’t know how much the characters changed so much as establish who they are at this point. Given all the fan service, I thought it was cool. It wasn’t the best payoff ever, but it was fun.

Exposition: This is probably even less (which is good) than most manga (which is common). This volume has a lot of build up that rewards readers who probably had flights of fancy when the Aizen arc ended. Now a majority of the loose ends are tied up, and we can enjoy the fight.

Worldbuilding: I remember a bit about Urahara’s fight (which actually started in the previous volume), but that’s about it. Like most in this series, the fight wasn’t memorable, and you might argue the Bankai was forgettable (because I forgot it). There are several Bankai in this series (Rukia’s and Kenpachi’s) that were awesome and so visually stunning. So maybe Urahara’s was awesome, especially to those who really loved Urahara. I liked the guy, and I did wonder what his Bankai was like, but whatever it was didn’t have a lasting impact like those others did when revealed.

Dialogue: I’d assume this was stronger. Somewhere in here we learn that there were a list of people Yhwach targeted because of their threat level, and that plays out in the neighborhood of this volume. So this didn’t feel as wooden as other manga volumes could get. The angle with the high threat targets was presented via dialogue in a manner that didn’t feel silly. I’m not really complaining in this aspect because it’s still par for the course in manga, but this volume stands out because it doesn’t conform to that pattern.

Description: Urahara’s fight was one of the better (top ten?) fights of this arc. It wasn’t in the top five, but it had some cool art. Yhwach’s throne room is interesting. The detail of this volume was probably above the series’ norm.

Overall: I think the main fight was overshadowed by another, but I may be getting this volume confused with the one before it or the one after it. While overshadowed by its contemporaries, it’s still fun to read. It might be a tad disappointing because there was one fight that I felt teased about but I didn’t get, but all-in-all, this volume was up there in the rankings.

Thanks for reading,

Matt