Book Review: Pipe of Wings by Sarah K.L. Wilson

Book Review: Pipe of Wings by Sarah K.L. Wilson
Cover
The book’s cover image was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes.

Spoiler Free Summary:  Pipe of Wings by Sarah K.L. Wilson  is the fifteenth book in the Dragon School series.  Amel gets tricked into obeying her new prince. This new leader has her reaching out to old friends for aide. The mysterious pipe she’d found holds a secret that my prove to be a move valuable weapon than she imagined.

Character:  Right up front I need to state that this is Book 15 in a series that’s designed (based on my reading) to be read in order. On one hand, it’s unfair to judge on book in the middle of a series. On the other hand, most authors of a saga should realize that people are going to jump into their series in the middle, and those readers will need some help catching up. I’m not going to be too hard on Wilson, but it’s a challenge to get into a story when you came in on the 15th part. Why did I do this? Well, this book was a Book Cover of the Month winner back when I ran those brackets.  

That said: Amel is a sympathetic character. I’m fascinated by her disability (something about her leg, though I’m unclear what it is). As sympathetic as she is, she didn’t strike me as very proactive or competent. Now, this is YA fantasy, so there was bound to be a lot of decisions an older person like myself doesn’t necessarily feel were the best. Amel was interesting enough that if I had the time, I’d probably go back to book one and check things out, but she wasn’t so cool that I feel compelled to go back. For me, that’s telling. Heck, I didn’t even really know Amel’s name until the last third of the book. (I listened to the audio version, and she didn’t leave a lot of tags for readers to track who was who or even who was saying what.)

Exposition: Honestly, this might be the first book where I feel I didn’t get enough exposition. I was clueless through pretty much the whole book. Sure, I came in late, but readers who come in late don’t have a chance at gaining enough context to enjoy what might be an amazing story for those who started in book one. I think it’s a shame because every book should be an opportunity to invite readers to your other books.

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Image of Sarah Wilson was taken from her Amazon author page for review purposes.

Worldbuilding:  The pipe was an interesting element as is the relationship between the dragons and their riders. I don’t understand it too well, but it was interested. I’ll assume the world, politics, and societal issues I was lost on in this book are a result in my ignorance.

Dialogue: This felt pretty rough. This doesn’t have anything at all to do with context or what book I was in. The conversations felt a bit formulaic. There were points of conflict that I felt deserved to be dealt with that were instead glazed over or even just ignored, which made the scene hard to believe.

Description:  This was very good. While I didn’t know who was who, I still saw and sensed a lot. I like picturing dragons of different colors flying around. This was easily the strongest area of the book for Wilson. One reason I’m not such a fan is probably because its best attribute is my least-favorite story element. That said, the worldbuilding and description in Dune were also amazing, and I didn’t very much care for that book either. Dune is mandatory reading for SCIFI fans and Wilson is a best seller. I wouldn’t let my singular opinion stop you from checking this series out, but I would strongly urge you that, to give it a fair shot, you start on book one.

Overall: While this is obviously part of a series, this book doesn’t provide any context or background to help readers starting in the middle. If you’re going to give this series a try, start at the first book. That may seem obvious, but some books do a fantastic job of helping the reader (or listener) catch up. The story is fast paced. The characters are hard to connect with, but the premise is very interesting. This series as a whole has a very interesting premise with a lead character with the opportunity to be inspirational.

Thanks for reading

Matt

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Book Review: Heyshayol by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd

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The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Heshayol by Joshua Robertson and J.C. Boyd is the second book in The Blood of Dragons series.  It’s been a thousand years since Tyran and Drast have killed the Horned God, but their actions didn’t bring them eternal life; they brought the brothers imprisonment and the world in chaos as the old gods have returned. To remedy the situation, Tyran and Drast embark on a quest to recover the Horned God from the underworld.

 

Character:  Tyran and Drast are why I enjoyed the first book in the series. While I didn’t get the same connection to them in this book that I got from the first, they’re still the stars of the show and the strongest part of the book. Their dependency and dedication to one another adds a degree of sympathy a lot of fantasy stories lack. I’m not actually sure why they have made the decision they made (rescuing the Horned God).  This element of confusion is something I tried to understand throughout the book. Yes, it’s a question I had, but it didn’t ruin the story for me because Tyran is pretty headstrong anyway. Whatever his reason, he won’t let anything stand in his way once he’s chosen a course. 

Exposition: The bulk of exposition that slowed this story down was actually in the dialogue. I think there was a bit more in this story that I’d like. Any time a story feels slow to me or I catch myself losing focus, I suspect exposition to be why. The story does slow down a time or two, but the authors offset this with compelling, well-written action scenes.

Boyd
Image of J.C. Boyd from Amazon.com for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding:  This is another strength for this series. This particular series is part of a deep saga called the Thrice Nine Legends. The meticulous attention to detail and deep mythology make this story a wonderful one for any who like expansive scope in their stories. While the pace might be slower than I like personally, people who want to study and immerse themselves in a different world will love this book.

 

Dialogue: This was better than the last book. Yes, above I mentioned a lot of loosely hidden exposition, and there was. However, there was also some adorable and witty exchanges. One of my favorite parts of the book was Drast’s interactions with another character (spoilers). I don’t remember much of the dialogue from the first book, but this book had some wonderful banter that built on the characters and revealed them even more.

Description:  I know this book had solid description because I have a clear mental picture of the characters and some of the scenes. In this case, if I think there is a bit too much, it’s probably just about right. This book has several cinematic scenes that the authors really bring to life with solid, punchy description.

Robertson
Image of Joshua Robertson taken from his Amazon page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Sure, it slowed me down a bit as a reader, but that’s because I personally hate description.  No, the book isn’t as well pictured as some other books I read, but it definitely activated all the senses.

 

Overall: This is action packed. I’m not such a big fan of the cliffhanger ending, but I liked seeing the characters. I think the first book was better, but this was fun to read. The action kept my attention, and I really wanted to learn more about the characters. The overall concept is pretty interesting, and I’d recommend it to any fantasy fans who like deep worlds and epic battles.

Thanks for reading

Matt

Book Review: Chimera by Mira Grant

Book Review: Chimera by Mira Grant
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The cover for this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

Spoiler Free Summary:  Chimera by Mira Grant is the Last book in the Parasitology series.  As the rise of parasite-controlled zombies increases, and the self-named Chimera are working to take over as the master-species on the planet, Sal is stuck in the middle, trying to return to her family and protect them. Can she find a solution that doesn’t end in one species eliminating the others?

Character:  Sal is who got me interested in the series as a whole (I have read the whole series). She’s a very interesting character. I can’t say I appreciated every decision she made, but she’s a compelling character. She’s a solid example in how to build a first-person-narrative story around an interesting main character. 

Exposition: I have to acknowledge that any first-person-narrative story is going to have more exposition than other stories. That said, as compelling as Sal is, I felt the story slowed down several times while Sal contemplated her place in the world and how humanity works. This created an odd sort of frustration for me. I enjoyed Sal, but I felt myself getting tired of her musings. I think the story would have moved a lot quicker if at least four of Sal’s inner soliloquies were removed.

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Image by Carolyn Billingsley was taken from Grant’s bio page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Dialogue: This fell a bit short for me. There were some parts where it really felt like each scene of dialogue were really just opportunities for each character to present his or her manifesto. It got a bit tedious for me. The conversations didn’t really feel natural. There’s one scene that relies heavily on Sal convincing another character to do something, and I just couldn’t buy it. This was because the character development wasn’t there for me any more than the dialogue.

Description:  I got what I wanted out of this area. It wasn’t vivid, and it didn’t really activate many senses for me, but I could picture the settings and characters well enough.

Overall:  This book is a great example of just how much I love character. I can’t say Sal was a “great” character. But she was good enough to carry a story that wasn’t as entertaining as others. It’s also a good example to demonstrate that an author doesn’t have to do everything well if she (in this case) does a few of them very well. The worldbuilding and character of this book carries the rest of the story. This was a decent ending to a pretty decent saga. I’m glad I read this book to see how it ends, and that ending was reasonably satisfying. l

Thanks for reading

Matt

Examples of Good Book Qualities

Examples of Good Book Qualities

Whenever I do a review, those familiar with my blog know that I have a very consistent approach because I know what I like in stories, and I evaluate stories by what I like. I think the more someone works to understand what they like, they’re more likely to find books they enjoy and (if they aspire to be an author) write books they will enjoy.

What I decided to do today is provide examples on what books did particularly well in various categories.

Name of the Wind
Image of this book’s cover was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Character:  The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss. I chose this specifically because of how divisive this book is in my opinion. I love it. I know people who hate it.  The love and hate of this book is based entirely on how people feel about Kvothe. I think Kvothe is a brilliant character. He’s sympathetic, proactive, and highly competent. Now this is actually why a lot of people don’t like the book. He’s too perfect. I don’t think he’s a Mary Sue, but some do. Still the point is, this book hangs it hat on the main character.

Exposition: Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson.  Every book needs exposition. Sooner or later, the author has to just tell the reader what’s going on. The trick is to make sure that writers show everything they can and lace the exposition through the story. Mistborn has an incredibly complex magic system, and the world it happens in has a deep history. This book never once beats up the reader with complicated blocks of exposition. There is one “education” scene, where Vin learns the basics of allomancy, but other than that, the book weaves what we need throughout the action.

Worldbuilding: The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan. If you’re wondering, yes, it was very hard to not include Sanderson here as well, but Eye of the World is another example. Great stories typically have worlds that feel real. Eye of the World establishes so much with culture, the magic system, the mythos, and the setting. It’s truly masterful worldbuilding, but it’s not just worldbuilding for the sake of worldbuilding. There are books I feel that take worldbuilding too far. I don’t want to spend my life reading about the economic value of a whosit. This book balances intricate worldbuilding with the story to make the scene and universe believable.

Dialogue: Brother Odd by Dean Koontz.  I’ve always been a fan of the dialogue in Koontz’s books, but I think this book is a text book for how dialogue is done. The conversations in this book are crisp and relevant, and each character has a distinct voice. Also, it’s a pretty amazing book.

BetrayersBane
Image of the book’s cover was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Description: Betrayer’s Bane by Michael G. Manning. Honestly, I’m so finicky with description, this is hard for me. I think Timothy Zahn should also get some credit here, but Manning came to mind first, so here it is. This book has a lot of action and a lot of dramatic scenes. Manning artfully places strategic adjectives that bring a story to life without beating the reader to death with huge paragraphs of description.

There are many books that do many of these well. I don’t know that I can truly place a book here that does all of them well. I think a good book only has to do a majority of these well. I’ll even go so far as to say that, for me personally, I just need good character and low exposition, and I’ll probably like it. The point is, the more of these a writer pays attention to, the better the book will be.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

 

 

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Book Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

CoverSpoiler Free Summary:  A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab is the first book in the Shades of Magic series.  Kell is one of the few people alive who can travel across dimensions, which in this story revolve around alternative versions of London. As an adopted son of the royal family in Red London, he’s a messenger from one king to another. Since Black London was sealed off, strict rules exist about transferring objects from one London to another. That doesn’t stop Kell from doing it. When he accepts something that truly brings danger on not only himself, but also the world, he ends up in Grey London, where is’ promptly robbed by Delilah Bard. Can they work together to not only escape those who are after them, but put right what Kell’s impulsive actions set wrong?

Character:  For me, Delilah steals the show. I didn’t see Kell’s relationships enough to understand his motivations. I also don’t understand his motivation very well. I’m not saying it isn’t explained, but I don’t necessarily feel that connection. Delilah, however, experiences situations that help me connect with her better, and this might be why the book didn’t quite grab me the way it did pretty much the rest of the world.

Exposition: Any time you have a first book in a magic series, you’re going to be a bit heavy on the exposition. The reader needs to learn the magic system, get to know the characters, and understand the world. This book has essentially three worlds to refine. Then there is the culture. Fans who like broad, varied settings will love this (see below). However, all the (pardon the unintended pun) dimensions required explanation. This is the second of two (see above) reasons why I think this book didn’t really hit the home wrong.  If I’m keeping the baseball metaphor,  I’d say this was (for me) a double. But it was hard to get into the story and follow the characters amid the three Londons and magic system and history lesson crammed right in the middle of the plot.

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Image of V.E. Schwab taken from her website for review purposes under fair use doctrine.

Dialogue: While there’s still a certain amount of thinly veiled exposition in this dialog (normal in any book, especially fantasy), Schwab actually does use dialogue to advance and reveal the character. It’s not as snappy as a Sanderson or Rothfuss, but it’s absolutely  more than spoken lines to progress the plot.

Description:  This book has great description for settings, fight scenes, and even clothes, but I couldn’t tell you what color hair Delilah has or what skin color any of them are. Now, I’m not a very attentive reader to details of that sort, so please understand I’m not making the assertion that character description is absent; I’m simply saying that there weren’t enough descriptive beats to create a clear mental picture of the characters.  The settings were the best. Each time we saw a new London, we were immersed in senses that made each location feel real.

Overall:  This book has a creative magic system with great locations and worldbuilding. It was satisfying and fun to read, but the main character didn’t really grab me. Fans of deep worldbulding and mystery plots will probably love this series. No, I don’t think this holds up against any of my favorites, but I can see why some people love it.

Thanks for reading

Matt

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

A 5-Star Review for Repressed!

Greetings all,CoverLayout

These are my favorite blogs to post. I’m sharing this 5-star review for Repressed, which is part of the Oneiros Log

One of my goals with Repressed was to stay true to the character without limiting who can enjoy the story. I didn’t want the fact that Kaitlyn is a teenager to mean older readers wouldn’t enjoy her story or her struggle.

This review is evidence that I was successful in that. I certainly hope more people feel that way. Reviews have been far and few between lately. (I’d really appreciate one if you’ve read some of my work. Even if it’s bad.) So getting a review that is positive was big boost.

I’m hard at work editing Betrayed right now (10 chapters into the review), and I’m pretty happy with how the story looks so far. I’m glad Kaitlyn’s adventure is helping pass the time.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review: 9 Common Lies Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt

Book Review: 9 Common Lies Christians Believe by Shane Pruitt
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The cover of this book was taken from its Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

9 Common Lies Christians Believe and Why God’s Truth Is Infinitely Better is a book that takes nine phrases and explains why they are misperceptions. However, this book doesn’t stop there. Like the title, if you  just say, “9 Common Lies Christians Believe,” the reader doesn’t really understand the purpose of the book. The book takes those lies and shows how the truth is indeed better.

This book really had an impact on me. You see, some of these phrases are ones I’ve used and even sought for comfort, and they weren’t effective. Many of them (in my opinion) are just to the left or right of the truth, but to seek these things and not scripture can leave a person unfulfilled and even disenfranchised because they have only a partial understanding on what it is to be Christian, and the lack of a complete truth becomes an effective lie that works against the faith.

Shane Pruitt does an amazing job of breaking down each phrase and clarifying it with solid theological information if not direct Biblical reference, which might be the only gripe I have on this book.  It’s been about three months since I finished the book, so I can’t be sure, but I don’t recall any scriptural reference, which I think would have multiplied the effectiveness of the premise.

I don’t want to take from Pruitt’s book, so I’ll only tease a few phrases he looks into:  Follow your heart. God just wants me to be happy. God doesn’t give more than you can handle.

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This image of Mr. Pruitt was taken from his website for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine. 

I’ve used almost all nine of the phrases in the book (I think). And this book helped me see in a different light. Some of these things I have come to learn through my own walk in life, but this book validated a lot of those evolved ideas. Others I realize what I meant, but what I meant (connotation) was vastly different than what I said (denotation).

I think this book is something I’d recommend to anyone new in the faith or someone who is interested in becoming a Christian.  Obviously, the best book to read is The Bible. This book does provide some pretty good context to a lot of things many Christians say or even think.

Thanks for reading,

Matt