Book Review: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher

Book Review: Peace Talks by Jim Butcher
This cover image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: Peace Talks is the sixteenth book in the Dresden Files series by Jim Butcher. All the magical powers in the world are holding negotiations to end hostilities, and that’s when Harry’s brother, Thomas, decides to do something stupid. Already caught between four very different and conflicting lives, Harry must navigate these tightropes that can’t coexist. But most people aren’t even remotely interested in peace. One group plans to use this for its own ends.

Character: On one hand, it was just so good to see Harry and Murph and the others, that a part of me just sort of relished having them back. I remember feeling like this book was good to see old friends, but that the story itself didn’t really move for me. However, just having the gang back after I don’t know how long, made me happy. I must also note (and I feel this is the right section to do this) that I sort of consider these two books to be one larger story kindly split in two reasonable chunks. They are absolutely part of one narrative arc. However since both were individual titles, I kept them as separate reviews. I think readers should read both one right after the other to get the right effect.

Exposition: I was a little surprised here because while there is exposition, I actually expected there to be more. It’s be a looooong time since we’ve seen Harry, and I for one didn’t re-read the other books to re-familiarize myself with the plot. There’s really not so much going on that one can’t catch up, but maybe this isn’t the book to start. Honestly, this book (if I understand what I think I understand) is sort of leading up to the very end of the Dresden Files, which I disagree with. There’s so many more directions for this story to go. Hopefully I’m wrong. Regardless, it’s still leading to the end of a conflict that has been building for a few books now. So new readers will, I think, be a bit lost.

This image of Jim Butcher was taken from his website (quite some time ago) for review purposes under Fair Use doctrine.

Worldbuilding: Given that this is the sixteenth book, Butcher doesn’t really expand on the world he’s been writing in. Instead, he just uses it as a launching point. This is another reason why it’s not a recommended path for new readers. It’s a solid edition to the series, though not great in and of itself.

Dialogue: Most of my favorite authors have witty dialogue. This is no different. It’s good to hear the banter between characters. It’s every bit as enjoyable as any other. I don’t really know what one would have to do to have “great” dialogue. But good dialogue is that in which the conversations express character at least (if not more than) advance the plot or provide exposition.

Description: If I’m being fair, it’s hard to evaluate something I don’t typically want to think about. I know Harry is tall. I know Murph is short. I know Thomas is handsome. I know Harry’s grandfather is old. So I have what I need to a certain degree. I think Butcher is great with fight description and scene description. But I don’t know that I can see the characters so much. I don’t personally care. I tend to want stories where I can sort of book my own cast. But then I think about Wheel of Time, which got annoying with description, but I can picture those characters in my head. I think writers should consider this and what they want readers to do when they write stories.

Overall: This book is more of a ramp up to the next, and that’s OK. It’s not a great stand alone story. I even remember feeling a bit let down when it came down to it. However, the next book (see my review next week), delivers on the promise this book makes.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

A 3-Star Review For Hazel

A 3-Star Review For Hazel

Greetings all,

Today I get to share this three-star review for Hazel on Amazon. I’m always happy to get reviews. There are some who maybe get super invested in the number of stars, and there is some merit in that for some, but the content of the review (if someone is kind enough to leave one) is where I find the most pleasure.

Ultimately, I want to write stories people enjoy. Don’t get me wrong. I’d love it if one of my stories was one of your favorites. I’d love it if a lot of things happened. However, if people read my book and find it enjoyable, that’s all I could ever hope for and more.

Please consider taking a few moments and leaving a rating and/or review for any of my books that you’ve read. It’s always nice to see, and it really does help.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

Book Review Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson

This image was taken from the book’s Amazon buy page for review purposes under Fair use doctrine.

Spoiler free summary: In Cytonic by Brandon Sanderson, Spensa is trapped in the Nowhere, which, as it turns out, is somewhere. It’s a strange place composed of various fragments from various planets. Spensa must travel a path that will help her unlock her powers, but each step forward brings her closer to the Delvers she’s trying to defeat.

Character: Spensa and M-Bot have always been a cute duo. This book takes their relationship with readers to a new level. There is one particular scene in this book that down-right forced a tear (just one mind you) from my eye. It’s one of those horrific moments where you realize what’s about to happen, but you’re helpless to do anything about it. We meet other characters who are equally charming. These characters are why the series is so strong, but it’s not what make the book special.

Exposition: For a third book in a series, this book doesn’t have the inordinate amount of exposition one would expect. Given how much I read in that universe before this book came out (see my previous reviews on Sunreach and ReDawn), I think I just kind of mentally skimmed over it. Given the worldbuilding, there is a lot of dialogue-based exposition, but it’s spaced out in a manner that keeps the pace moving.

Worldbuilding: This is what sets this book above others. This book reveals not just a more expansive universe, but also a historical aspect that’s really intriguing. For me, just this worldbuilding wouldn’t have been enough. To be blunt, the plot line is essentially a travelogue through the history of this universe. So while interesting, it’s not compelling to me. However, this connected with compelling characters (and a few other bits of mystery) really flesh out what would otherwise have been a flat (if still enjoyable) read.

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

Dialogue: Sanderson reminds me of Koontz in how his dialogue can seem witty and fun. It’s a style I try to emulate. This only happens when the characters are well established. Spensa’s relationship with M-Bot remind me a lot of Buffy’s relationship with Xander. I’m not really sure why, but it does. There’s a element of innocence mixed with admiration (though not romantic in this case) that I find lovely. The playfulness is charming, too. That tear moment I mentioned above, that was in dialogue. It all came together well. Yes, the inevitable “teacher” shows up, and that individual has to give all the expositional data on how the Nowhere works, but it’s still presented in a charming fashion.

Description: While I was happy with the description in the story, I think, perhaps, hard scifi fans might be disappointed. It’s a balance I don’t worry over too much, but it exists. I saw what I needed to see. Sanderson unlocked my imagination and let it do the rest. I feel like scifi fans want more. They want to see what the author sees, where as I just want to see enough to let my mind do the rest of the work. I’ll probably blog about that in the future. Regardless, I was happy.

Overall: This book is equally underrated as Redawn is. I’m honestly hard pressed to put one above the other, but I’d give this book a slight edge. This series is better than the average YA book series out there. It’s fresher than the Divergents and Hunger Games, and also less dark even though it’s still dystopian and still has some deep content to consider. Frankly, I still think this series should get some Hugo consideration.

Thanks for reading,

Matt

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 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