The Bookish Snob Tag

The Bookish Snob Tag

I was tagged to do this by Leah. Her blog can be found here. If you haven’t checked her blog out, you totally should because she’s awesome and super nice.

ADAPTATION SNOB: Do you always read the book before watching the film/ TV show?

Pretty much always. Unless I (somehow) don’t know that the movie/TV show is based on a book, I always read the book. And I usually like the book way better.

FORMAT SNOBYou can only choose 1 format in which to read books for the rest of your life. Which one do you choose: physical books, eBooks, or audiobooks?

Physical books. I can see the upside to the others, but physical books will forever be my favorite format of book.

SHIP SNOB: Would you date or marry a non-reader?

I would. Someone being a non-reader isn’t a deal-breaker for me. They just have to put up with, and listen to me, rant about plot holes, bad endings and other things that drive me crazy about books.

GENRE SNOB: You have to ditch one genre – never to be read again for the rest of your life. Which one do you ditch?

I’d ditch literary fiction in a heartbeat. No offense to anyone who enjoys it, but it’s just not for me.

UBER GENRE SNOB: You can only choose to read from one genre for the rest of your life. Which genre do you choose?

I guess I’d have to say fantasy, because there’s so much opportunity for new and interesting worlds and ideas. There’s a lot more diversity, creatively, in fantasy than I see in other genres.

COMMUNITY SNOB: Which genre do you think receives the most snobbery from the bookish community?

Young Adult gets snubbed because of the intended audience being teenagers, so some don’t see it as “real”. In certain corners of the bookish community, fantasy also gets a lot of flak because it has “silly” things like magic and dragons and the like and the assumption is that the book can’t tell a serious or compelling story.

I TAG:

Krista @ Bookish Hedgemom

Rosie @ Little Bird Book Blog

Kristy @ Caffeinated Fae

and anyone else who wants to do it!

Chipless

Chipless

Chipless

Chipless is a 2018 dystopian science fiction novel by Kfir Luzzatto. It was published in May of 2018 by Pine Ten. I decided to read Chipless after I read and enjoyed one of the author’s short stories, The Blue Sirens.

The novel takes place in a post-apocalyptic dystopian society where every citizen within The City has a computer chip implanted in their brain shortly after birth. The chip is meant to prevent disease and improve the health of the citizens, however the leaders of The City manipulate the chip to keep the populace in line. When a young physicist named Kal accidentally discovers the truth about the chip, and how his very reality has been manipulated, he finds himself in danger. With the help of Amber, a chipless girl from a faraway city, Kal flees the city and head towards the only group that can help him: the rebels hoping to use his knowledge as a weapon against the City’s tyranny.

This novel had a lot of the standard tropes you expect to see in science fiction and dystopian novels. There’s the seemingly idyllic city that’s risen from the ashes of the apocalypse, in this book’s case an event called The Pulse, with sinister secrets. The government of said city hiding information from the general population in order to keep the citizens in line. Lawless borderlands surrounding the “perfect” community. There are also computer chips in people’s brains controlling them and hovercrafts and futuristic weapons. All things a reader would expect to see in a sci-fi dystopian novel. This novel is unique, however, in the sense that the “big lie” the leaders of The City are hiding is sort of the opposite from what you’d expect. Rather than the leaders making the world seem worse, to keep people scared, they convince everyone that the world is actually much better than it truly is, so that people won’t want leave The City. Some of the ways the chip was used in the story were interesting, as it can augment reality, which allows for endless possibilities for both Kal and the bad guys trying to capture him. While those aspects were refreshing, the rest of the novel felt very by the numbers though. Kal, through his journey leaving The City to travel to Freeland, where Amber lives and the rebellion is, overcomes the conditioning he’s been under his whole life and comes to terms with reality and the part he seems meant to play in overthrowing the leaders of The City. While his character arc was very predictable for this type of story, it was still enjoyable to see him grow and change. The author did a very good job immersing the reader in the world he’d created. I found it very easy to visualize not only The City, but also the borderlands Kal and Amber traveled through and how The Pulse transformed the world. The description of the setting is very well done, as was his ability to inform the reader of the different societies that had cropped up in the borderlands and Freeland, without going into too much detail.

As previously mentioned, a lot of this novel felt very by-the-numbers. Nothing about The City stands out from dozens of other dystopian settings. There’s nothing unique about the tyrants Kal and Amber want to overthrow or the soldiers that follow them. I do wish there was something a little more unique about the setting of this story, as compared to others in the genre. Kal is running from the government because he learned something he wasn’t supposed to. Amber gets somewhat forced into helping him, but she also has a connection to the government, through her father, which just felt contrived. The story could’ve worked just as well if the government was searching for Amber because she was traveling with Kal, and not also because of her father. The plot point seemed a little too coincidental. Aside from Kal and Amber, there aren’t many other characters in this book worth mentioning. Most minor characters are introduced and drop out of the story once the pair move from Point A to Point B with nearly no further mention. As a result of this, and the way Kal acts at the beginning of the book, it would be very fair to say that most of the characters are very flat, as Amber is the only one with personality for the whole story. Because this book doesn’t focus on characters very much, I couldn’t bring myself to care very much about the romance that developed. I wasn’t very invested in the characters, so why should I be invested in their relationship? Lastly, there’s a “ticking clock” aspect of the story that’s introduced far too late to feel impactful. It was clearly meant to raise the stakes, but it fell flat because the threat it posed didn’t feel real and hadn’t even been hinted at up to that point. It instead felt like just another obstacle to overcome and the resolution of that plot point left me feeling annoyed.

My biggest complaint with the novel is how formulaic the plot is. After Kal leaves the City with Amber, the same four events take place in the exact same order over and over again with no real variation. Not only was this boring to read, but it really slowed the pacing of the book down. On top of that, since they got out of every situation unscathed, it was hard to feel any real suspense or concern when they next found themselves in trouble. It felt like there was coincidence after coincidence to get Kal and Amber out of trouble to the point where the actions of other people weren’t believable in any way and I had to complete suspend all belief in order to stop finding plotholes in the story.

I can see what the author was trying to do with Chipless. He clearly had a really great idea and the storyline had potential. Unfortunately, it feels more like a series of missed opportunity than achieving any of the potential the story had. For me, at least, there wasn’t enough about this book that stood out or made me want to read another book by this author.

Rating: 2.1 Stars

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My Book Series Bucket List

My Book Series Bucket List

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I was attending a virtual work conference and one of the speakers my company managed to get was Ben Nemtin, who some of you may know from The Buried Life. For those of you who don’t know, The Buried Life was a project by four friends to complete their bucket list and for each item they crossed off the list, they helped a strange cross something off their list..

After his presentation was over, I started thinking about my bucket list and I realized that most of my bucket list had to do with books. More specifically, my list was of the book series I wanted to read at some point. So, I decided to create this, my book series bucket list, as of October 2020.

If a series hasn’t been published completely yet, I noted the number of books that have been released as of time of October 2020. (For the purpose of this list, I did not include duologies)

  1. The Wheel of Time by Robert Jordan: 14 books, not including the prequel novel. Currently reading Lord of Chaos, book #6
  2. The Stormlight Archive by Brandon Sanderson: 3 books released.
  3. The Poppy War by R. F. Kuang: 2 books released.
  4. Legacy of Orisha by Tomi Adeyemi: 2 books released, 1 read
  5. Rampart Trilogy by M. R. Carey: 2 books released.
  6. Rolling in the Deep Series by Mira Grant: 2 books released.
  7. Lightbringer by Brent Weeks: 5 books
  8. Children of Time by Adrian Tchaikovsky: 2 books released.
  9. Discworld: Death Series by Terry Pratchett: 5 books, 1 read
  10. First Law by Joe Ambercrombie: 3 books.
  11. Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss: 2 books released.
  12. Gentlemen Bastard by Scott Lynch: 3 books released.
  13. The Broken Earth by N. K. Jemison: 3 books.
  14. Hainish Cycle by Ursula K. LeGuin: 6 books.
  15. Remembrance of Earth’s Past by Liu Cixin: 3 books.
  16. Foundation by Isaac Asimov: 7 books.
  17. The Murderbot Diaries by Martha Wells: 6 books.
  18. The Forever War by Joe Haldeman: 3 books.
  19. The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson: 6 books.
  20. The Dark Tower by Stephen King: 8 books.

So, that’s my book bucket list. What books are on your reading bucket list?

Into the Wildbarrens

Into the Wildbarrens

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Into the Wildbarrens (The Gems of Elsana)

Into the Wildbarrens is a 2019 fantasy novel by Christian Sterling. It’s the first novel in the Gems of Elsana series. The novel can be purchased here from Amazon or here from Bookshop.org.

The novel follows a 20-year-old wizard named Falin as he goes on a quest to find the Gems of Elsana, items that will help him achieve his full power. As part of this rite of passage, Falin is accompanied by four Champions, one from each kingdom, who will help him on his quest. When the elder wizards reveal that Falin’s quest will take them into the Wildbarrens, a desolate land where dark creatures lurk, two outlaws who’ve survived the Wildbarrens are added to the ensemble. As the journey takes them across both strange and familiar landscapes, they uncover a sinister plot that threatens Elsana as they know it.

Typically, fantasy stories involving wizards follow the pattern of an old, wise wizard helping a plucky young hero complete his quest. In Into the Wildbarrens, the plucky young hero is the wizard and it’s up to the Champions to help him finish his quest. It was an interesting role reversal, and one that the author used to great effect to tell a compelling story. Wizards have a tendency to be restrained to the role of the wise mentor and, occasionally, the person who pulls all of the other characters out of danger at the last moment. It was an interesting subversion to have Falin not be wise and all-knowing and, in some cases, needing to be saved himself sometimes. I enjoyed the diversity in the main cast, as well. All seven of the main party belong to a different fantasy race, and each group is distinct from one another. Aside from the main cast, there’s also a variety of creatures, both good and evil, that they encounter. The author clearly put a great deal of thought into not only creating different races, but in making them distinct. My favorite antagonists in the story were the warlocks. Falin is one of the ten wizards who serve the Light, and opposing them are the ten warlocks who serve the Dark. Not only were the warlocks the most compelling villains, but they served as an interesting contrast to the wizards. As with any quest, the characters get into conflict and there are a number of action scenes. While not the best action scenes, the scenes were exciting and engaging. The author in general did a fair job of describing things well and creating an atmosphere for the story. I liked the minor romances that happened. There was a slight element of “instalove” for one of them, but they didn’t distract from the story as a whole and in terms of who fell in love, it made sense for the story and the characters. Lastly, the story ended in a good place. Quest stories are difficult to tell in a single book and I appreciate the fact that the author didn’t try to rush through the story so that Falin would have all four Gems by the end of this book. There’s enough story in this novel and enough is left unresolved to interest the reader in picking up the next book.

While there were parts of the novel that I liked, there were also some things that I didn’t enjoy as much. First, I wasn’t a fan of the world-building. I liked the world itself, however the way things about the world were revealed involved a lot of info-dumping through dialogue. Now, exposition can be given as dialogue and it can work being revealed that way, but it didn’t work here because it didn’t make sense in context. If everyone in the story knows that two specific groups don’t get along, for example, there isn’t really a need to have a conversation fully explaining why they don’t get along; the characters themselves already know that information. The pacing of this book isn’t great. There are some parts that are far slower than they need to be and it was hard for me to stay engaged in the story during those parts. With some fine-tuning and maybe moving some scenes around, the pacing could improve quite a bit, but as is, I wasn’t a fan of the pacing. The majority of the main characters don’t really have distinct personalities. They have their moments, but on the whole, nothing really stood out to me about them. Lastly, this story is very predictable. Aside from this being a wizard’s coming-of-age story, there wasn’t much in the story that I hadn’t seen before and I could easily guess what was going to happen in the next scene.

Into the Wildbarrens is a book that has an interesting idea at its heart. The author put a great deal of thought into creating a unique world and having a diversity of creatures within said world. A quest story is a tried and true staple of the fantasy genre and he was smart to use it in this novel. At the same time, the pacing and exposition weren’t handled very well and the characters lacked personality. The book is a light read, with a simple plot and stakes that aren’t very high. I’d recommend it to either young fantasy fans, or those looking for just a “feel good” type of story.

Rating: 2.6 Stars

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Do I Have That Book Tag

Do I Have That Book Tag

Hello everyone!

I wasn’t tagged by anyone to do this tag, but I found it on Berries and Books‘s blog and it looked interesting, so I decided to give it a go. If none of you are familiar with her blog, you should go check it out.

Anyway, let’s get into the tag.

Do You Have A Book With Deckled Edges

A Secret History of Witches

Yes! I had to look up what this was, but yes. A Secret History of Witches by Louisa Morgan

Do You Have A Book With 3 or More People On the Cover

One of Us Is Lying (One of Us is Lying, #1)

One of Us is Lying by Karen McManus. I don’t know if it counts, because you can’t see faces, but I’m going to act like it does.

Do You Have A Book Based on Another Fictional Story

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West (The Wicked Years, #1)

Wicked: The Life and Times of the Wicked Witch of the West by Gregory Maguire

Do You Have A Book With A Title That’s 10 Letters Long

Neverwhere (London Below, #1)

I’m assuming this means either a one-word title with 10 letters, in which case, the only one I have is Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman.

Do You Have A Book With A Title That Begins and End with the Same Letter

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine

Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

Do You Have A Mass Market Paperback Book

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss.

Do You Have A Book Written By An Author Using a Pen Name

The Dragon Reborn (The Wheel of Time, #3)

I have a lot of books by Robert Jordan.

Do You Have A Book With A Character’s Name in the Title

Dorothy Must Die (Dorothy Must Die, #1)

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

Do You Have A Book With Two Maps In It

The Eye of the World (The Wheel of Time, #1)

The Eye of the World by Robert Jordan, along with most of the rest of The Wheel of Time.

Do You Have A Book That Was Turned into A TV Show

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)

A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin. They made the book into a show. I don’t know if anyone reading this might’ve watched it.

Do You Have A Book Written By Someone Who is Originally Famous for Something Else

Bossypants

Bossypants by Tina Fey

Do You Have a Book With A Clock on the Cover

I don’t have a book like this one.

Do You Have a Poetry Book

Milk and Honey

Milk and Honey by Rupi Kaur.

Do You Have a Book With an Award Stamp on it

All the Light We Cannot See

All The Light We Cannot See by Anthony Doerr

Do You Have a Book Written By an Author With the Same Initials as You

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I don’t have this book, yet, it’s in the mail though. My initials are S.L. and The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch fits this criteria.

Do You Have a Book of Short Stories

Endless Apocalypse Short Stories

I actually have a lot of these, but I’m going to go with Endless Apocalypse: Short Stories

Do You Have a Book That’s Between 500-510 Pages Long

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Eragon by Christopher Paolini. My copy is 503 pages.

Do You Have a Book That was Turned into a Movie

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The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien. I know that’s a pretty obvious one, but, you know, it still counts.

Do You Have a Graphic Novel

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Injustice: Gods Among Us Year One by Tom Taylor, Jheremy Raapack, et al.

Do You Have a Book Written by Two or More Authors

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This is How You Lose the Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone

I don’t have specific people I’d like to tag, so if anyone reading this would like to complete the tag, consider yourself tagged.

Seven Rules of Time Travel

Seven Rules of Time Travel

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Seven Rules of Time Travel

Seven Rules of Time Travel is a 2020 science fiction novel by Roy Huff. It was self-published by the author in July of 2020. The sequel novel, Trouble With Time Travel is slated for release in July 2021. The novel can be purchased here from Amazon.

The novel follows a man named Quinn Black. After witnessing his boss die in an accident, he wakes up to find that he has a chance to relive that fateful day and possibly change its outcome. He soon realizes that he has the power to travel through time and change events. With such an ability, the possibilities seem endless, but he soon learns that time travel is more complicated than he imagined and his actions could save the world, or completely destroy it.

In this novel, Quinn is both stuck in a time loop, reliving the same day in 2021, and able to travel through time but only as far back as he remembers. I’m a big fan of time travel as a concept, although I’m a bit skeptical when it’s used as a plot device. For years, comic book writers and TV shows have used it to get themselves out of a corner and without thinking of the possible ramifications. I was pleasantly surprised by how much I liked the way time travel was used in this novel. The author clearly put a great deal of thought behind not only how time travel works in this story, but also the drawbacks and consequences of traveling through time. I enjoyed the fact that, even when Quinn was trying to change events for the better, the outcome wasn’t always better. It added a real depth to the story and to Quinn’s character as he became more experienced in time travel and he debated what the right thing to do was. The author is a research scientist, so there’s a great deal of research and scientific theory put into this story as the plot develops and more information about why Quinn is looping through time is revealed. I enjoyed not only trying to put the pieces together myself, but also seeing how much thought was put into the explanation of time travel. Since, to my knowledge, time travel doesn’t exist, I can’t say whether it’s accurate, but the author clearly didn’t want the details of time travel to remain an unanswered question. I was a big fan of how the story develops. As mentioned in the blurb, Quinn initially is focused on saving his boss from an accident. He then becomes aware of more sinister factors at play, and the story becomes a mixture of Groundhog Day and a thriller. Later into the story, it becomes almost a disaster movie, with Quinn trying to prevent a massive disaster. Even though the story changes quite a bit from start to end, in regards to stakes, the escalation is done in such a way that it makes sense for the story. Lastly, the novel does an excellent job of making the reader feel for Quinn. When he’s first stuck in this loop, and doesn’t know why, the reader feels his frustration at the seemingly unescapable situation. The first time he tries to change a major event, to create a better outcome, and fails, you feel his sadness and anger at making things worse. These scenes, more than anything, make Quinn’s character far more compelling and sympathetic than I expected. As with any story involving time travel, this book focuses on themes such as fate, free will and the consequences of the choices we make/

While I enjoyed parts of the novel, there are things I wasn’t a fan of in this book. First is that, as a result of the main conflict evolving, a number of plotlines disappear entirely. The people responsible for the accident drop out of the story almost entirely, which might have worked if there was some kind of conclusion for that plot point. Perhaps these threads will be picked up in the sequel, but it felt like they mattered in one chapter and didn’t matter in the next, with no explanation. The way the story is told is somewhat confusing. Time travel is inherently confusing, but there are also scenes that don’t have enough context and the back-and-forth nature of the narrative takes a bit to get used to. At times, it felt like the book was trying to do too much. Quinn was trying to stop the future disaster, prevent several major events in history from occurring, save his boss, and there was also a focus on his unknown impact on one character’s life. This was a lot to happen over the span of a single 300-page book. Quinn is the only character that really has much development. In 2021, everyone is, unknowingly, living the same day over and over, leaving little room from development, but he spends years in the past and during that time, there was plenty of opportunity to for characters such as Jeremy, his best friend, and Cameron, the girl he likes whose father is a brilliant scientist, to grow and develop, but that’s not really seen in the story. Learning that Quinn’s from the future and that something terrible is inevitable doesn’t change them, and I was expecting at least a little growth with them. The author did an okay job building suspense in the story, but it’s difficult to building tension when the main character can simply go back and change anything that goes wrong. My final criticism is in regards to the ending. The ending itself, and whether the major disaster in 2021 is averted is left ambiguous, which I don’t have an issue with in this type of story. The two or three chapters right before the ambiguous ending felt rushed though. The climax arrived and then immediately, the story moved forward to the open-ending.

Seven Rules of Time Travel is a compelling time travel adventure story. The time travel and time loops make the plot interesting and allows the narrative to move in unexpected directions. The author clearly had a lot of passion for this story. At the same time, it’s easy to get bogged down by all of the science being thrown at the reader and the ending isn’t the most satisfying. The various plotlines can also be a little daunting. If you’re a fan of time travel stories, I would recommend this book.

Rating: 3.6 Stars

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September Wrap-Up

September Wrap-Up

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September is over. While it wasn’t my best month readingwise, I did read quite a bit and I had a wider variety of books and genres than I normally do.

Books I Read and Reviewed

Eden’s Return by Duncan McGeary- 2.4 Stars

Anxious People* by Fredrik Backman- 5 Stars

The Paper Magician* by Charlie N. Holmbery- 2.7 Stars

Echoes of Starlight* by Eric Michael Craig- 2.3 Stars

Books I Read, Only Reviewed on Goodreads

The Shadow Rising* by Robert Jordan- 4 Stars (Goodreads review)

The Vanishing Half* by Brit Bennett- 4 Stars (Goodreads review)

Crane by Stacey Rourke- 2 Stars (Goodreads review)

Worthy of Time by K. Constantine- 1.5 Stars (Goodreads review)

Asteroid Jazz by J.C. Gilbert- 1 Star (Goodreads review)

The Perfect Roommate* by Minka Kent- 3.5 Stars (Goodreads review)

The Test* by Sylvain Neuvel- 4 Stars (Goodreads review)

The Good Ship by Jeremy Wright- 3 Stars (Goodreads review)

Accidentally Compromising the Duke* by Stacy Reid- 3.5 Stars (Goodreads review)

Genres Read
Fantasy: 4

Science Fiction: 5

Thriller: 1

Contemporary Fiction: 1

Historical Fiction: 1

Romance: 1

Figures
Number of DNFs: 1

Total Books Read: 13

Pages Read: 4,030

Average Rating: 2.8 Stars

What did you read in September? Any recommendations? Did you read any of these books?

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Echoes of Starlight

Echoes of Starlight

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Echoes of Starlight (Wings of Earth #1)

Echoes of Starlight is a 2019 science fiction novel by Eric Michael Craig. It is the first novel in the Wings of Earth series. It was published in March 2019 by Riverstone Press. It can be purchased here from Amazon.

The novel follows spaceship captain Ethan Walker as a routine cargo run becomes something far more serious. When his ship, carrying two passengers and medical technology, arrives at their destination, they discover everyone on the planet missing. Caught between his duty as the captain and the desire to solve the mystery of the missing civilians, Walker is forced to tread a very fine line. Then, his passengers make a decision that forces him into action, a decision that may cost him everything.

I found this book to be fairly average. I didn’t love it, but I also didn’t hate it. I was looking for a fairly easy read, and that’s what I got with Echoes of Starlight. The science fiction aspects of the story are mostly constrained to background of the novel. The story takes place mostly on a spaceship and while things such as faster-than-light travel, advanced technology and space exploration are discussed, none of those are the focus of the novel. The science fiction takes a backseat to the mystery of the missing colonists on the planet and the conflict their disappearance creates between Walker, another crew member and the passengers. The plot is very easy to follow, since the story is told in a linear fashion and the perspective never switches to other characters. The writing itself is very digestible and, even though this novel takes place decades if not centuries in the future, it’s very easy to understand the world the story takes place in and how things work there. On a similar note, certain characters such as the two passengers Kaycee and Elias, and the compliance officer Leigh, are written very well in the sense that, from their introduction, the reader gets a very clear picture of what these characters are going to be like. I can’t say the same for all of the characters, but for those three, the author did an excellent job setting up their characterization early on.

A lot of science fiction novels focus on “big” themes. Humanity finding their place in the universe or alien invasion or evil space empires. They have massive space battles or world-ending threats. This book falls into a minority, as it doesn’t focus on some future society or a large threat. The novel is focused around the decisions of one character, though it could be argued two characters, and how those decisions impact events. Like many books before it, the story is about actions and consequences rather than a large external threat or a lecture on human nature. I appreciate that the events of this book are very small-scale and are meant to be small scale. It was a nice change of pace to read in a sci-fi novel.

While I wanted to like this book, for reasons mention above, there were a few things that dampened my enthusiasm for it. First, there were a number of errors and formatting issues, such as line of dialogue not being in quotes and paragraph breaks not occurring when the speaker changed. It took me out of the story at points and were a little frustrating to deal with. Second, I feel like the blurb for this novel is a bit misleading. It gives the reader the impression that the story will focus on the missing colonists, but the majority of the plot isn’t concerned with their disappearance, but rather what the captain should do upon discovering it. I thought the disappearance was going to factor into the story more than it ended up featuring. There wasn’t really any suspense in this novel. I know it’s not a thriller, and therefore suspense isn’t expected, but every character behaved exactly as I expected them to, making it difficult for me to stay engaged in the story. It became predictable, which is unfortunate. Lastly, I feel like the book ended in the wrong place. I didn’t feel any satisfaction at the climax and, had there been a few more chapters or a revelation towards the end to lead into the sequel, I might’ve felt different. The novel currently reads like the first half of a larger book rather than a fully contained narrative in and of itself.

Echoes of Starlight is a book that I felt very neutral about. I thought the plot was fine, the characters were fine. The world was fine. I was hoping for something other than “fine” but it is what it is. The author clearly has a larger idea in mind for the series and the themes he introduces were a change of pace for a book like this. At the same time, the lack of any build-up, in my opinion, hinders the story as does lack of resolution on certain key plot points. The novel isn’t a long or complicated read, however, and I’d recommend it to someone if they’re looking for an easy science fiction read that doesn’t require too much investment.

Rating: 2.3 Stars

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Netgalley, BookSirens and Other Ways to Get ARCs

Netgalley, BookSirens and Other Ways to Get ARCs

I was talking with a fellow book blogger the other day and somehow, we got onto the topic of ARCs, where we can get them and the pros and cons of each “source”. The conversation reminded me of all of the tweets I’ll see of people asking “Is Netgalley good?” or “Where’s a good place to find indie ARCs?”. I can’t answer either of those questions on Twitter, at least not completely, due to character limits.

So, I’ve decided to compile a list of pros and cons for all of the sites and methods I have for getting free books, in exchange for a review.

Netgalley (Site)

  • This site/service has a pretty wide selection of books. I’d say the widest of the sites mentioned in this post. Some are ARCs, while others have been released.
  • Includes releases from large publishers, small presses and indie.
  • There’s no limit on the number of books you can request or be reading at a single time.
  • For some books, you have to submit a request from the publisher to read/review it. Not all requests are approved.
  • Looking for a specific sub-genre can be difficult.
  • Book length isn’t given in the blurb, so you might not know if you’re requesting a 150-page book or a 500-page book until after you’ve submitted the request.
  • Some books are only available in certain formats. So, if you request a book and it’s not available in your preferred format, you may have to download another program in order to read it.

BookSirens (Site)

  • This site, from my experience, mostly has self-published works.
  • Most books have already been released prior to listing.
  • The number of books you can review at once is limited and depends on a variety of factors including how long you’ve been on the site and your review rate.
  • Authors will request reviews be posted on Amazon, Goodreads or both. The listing will specify which site(s) the author is requesting.
  • While the site doesn’t discourage negative or low reviews, they do not require reviews that are 2 Stars or fewer to be posted on Amazon or Goodreads.
  • Most books don’t require author approval, but some do.
  • The search function and filtering is a little more intuitive than Netgalley.
  • In a listing, information such as any trigger warnings, the type of ending and if the book is part of a series is provided.
  • Book length is given in terms of page count.

Reedsy (Site)

  • Books on this site are mostly from small press or indie authors.
  • The search and filtering functions are the best of the sites I use. You’re able to search not only by genre, but also sub-genre.
  • You can review up to three books at a time.
  • All books have a set deadline for your review to be submitted to Reedsy by. Once the deadline has arrived and the listing goes live, they ask that you post your review on Amazon, Goodreads, etc with a link back to Reedsy or a mention of the site.
  • The site provides guidelines in terms of writing reviews and encourages a variety of ratings.
  • If you DNF a book, they will request an explanation as to why. (Not for me, didn’t have the time, the book needs some major editing, etc)
  • Book length is given in terms of word count.
  • Of the three sites mentioned, their team has been the easiest to reach and communicate with when I encountered a problem.

Direct From Author/Publisher

  • This one works a little bit differently, as the author or publisher tends to contact me instead of the other way around.
  • These requests will come in fits and spurts.
  • This is usually done by self-published authors or very small presses.
  • There’s more flexibility in terms of deadlines and scheduling, since you’re talking with the author directly.
  • While I have a review policy on my site, I have no way of knowing if the person emailing me has read it, which leads to getting requests for genres I don’t read or enjoy.
  • If you DNF a book, explaining that to the author is awkward and stressful. The same is true if you give the book a more critical review.

Those are my thoughts on the benefits and drawbacks to each of the sources for review material that I use. I don’t think that one method is better than another, each has its own strengths and weaknesses. Maybe you found this insightful. I hope this will at least help someone trying to navigate the waters of ARCs and getting review materials.

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The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician

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The Paper Magician (The Paper Magician #1)

The Paper Magician is a 2014 fantasy novel by Charlie N. Holmberg. It was the author’s debut novel and the first novel in the The Paper Magician trilogy. The book can be purchased here from Amazon or here from Bookshop.org

The novel follows Ceony Twill, a young magic user. Having recently graduated from magic school, she’s assigned an apprenticeship under Emery Thane, a magician who specializes in paper magic, despite her desire to learn the magic of metals. Under Thane’s tutelage, she learns that there’s more to Folding, the magic of spelling paper, than she ever could’ve imagined. She also learns of dangers and forbidden magic. After an attack by a practitioner of dark magic, leaves Thane alive, but without a heart, Ceony must go on a daunting journey, and face the evil magician, to save her mentor’s life. The adventure takes her into the very heart of the man she’s trying to save.

I normally dedicate a somewhat long paragraph to the characters in the book I’m reviewing, but I can’t really do that in the case of The Paper Magician. The novel only has three characters, Ceony, Thane and Lira, the evil magician who serves as the villain of the story. Thane spend the majority of the story unconscious. Lira is depicted as a manipulative and thoroughly evil figure whose motives are clear, but a bit boring in my opinion. Ceony, the main character, isn’t half bad, but she doesn’t go through much character development. She’s smart, she’s brave and she’s capable, but there isn’t a lot I can say about her, since her arc consists of her realizing Folding isn’t a complete waste of magic.

The premise of Ceony going directly into the heart of her mentor had me hooked. Once that idea had been brought to my attention, I needed to find out where that idea was going and what the author would do with it. The way she used this idea was certainly unique and not what I’d expected. I enjoyed the magic system in this book. Magicians can bespell manmade materials, including paper, metal, glass, rubber and a few others, however once bonded to a material, the magician can only do magic using that material. It had a very fun and whimsical feel to it and I think the author did a good job of not trying too hard to make the magic seem more serious than it really was. Being able to create “living” things out of paper or make stories come to life was intriguing to me and added a sense of wonder to the book. I likewise really enjoyed the way Ceony’s dynamic with Thane developed in the first part of the book. While she’s not thrilled about having to learn Folding, slowly, she starts to respect the art more and becomes friendlier with her mentor.  The author is very good at describing and immersing the reader in the setting of a scene. There were times when the descriptions were a little too flowery, but for the most part, her writing helped me visualize the world Ceony was experiencing and things she was seeing. Lastly, I liked the way the author set up the next novel. This novel feels complete on its own, but also has a big enough cliffhanger to justify continuing the series. It’s not always easy to strike that kind of balance, but the author did it very well in this case.

Although I liked parts of this book, there were a few things that didn’t quite work for me. While I liked the main idea, or “hook” as I called it earlier, of Ceony traveling through Thane’s heart to save him, I feel like it could’ve been executed better. My issue wasn’t so much the ideas the author used, but more the pacing. Once Thane’s heart is stolen, the story never really has the right pacing. There are pages and pages of slow action of Ceony traveling through Thane’s heart, and by extension his memories. Then, after pages and pages of slow-moving plot, a number of things happen very quickly, almost too quickly for the reader to understand before the next thing happens. That part of the story gave me a form of whiplash at how it jumped from strolling along to sprinting through the climax. The author has a wonderful ability to create an atmosphere, however there were some anachronisms that drew me out of the story. This novel takes place in London around the turn of the 20th century, but occasionally, Ceony would say a certain thing or a concept would be discussed in a way that was a little too modern to fit the setting.  It wasn’t to an extreme degree or enough to make me stop reading, but it was a bit jarring. Lastly, I didn’t like the romance that’s hinted at in this book. It felt rushed, even though it’s only shown to be one-sided, and made me feel uncomfortable. While I understand this might’ve been done for use in later books, the romance element could’ve easily been removed and the story would’ve worked just as well.

The Paper Magician isn’t a bad book by any means, just one that I wasn’t blown away by. I do wish that the novel had focused a little more on the whimsical magic system and less on a battle against an evil magician. The elements that drew me to the book and made me excited to read it weren’t quite matched by how the author chose to use those elements. There is definite room for improvement in the series, particularly in terms of pacing, but this is the author’s debut novel and, as I’ve read later books by her, I know she’s improved her skills since this novel’s release. I enjoyed this book for what it is, but I’m undecided about reading the rest of the series.

Rating: 2.7 Stars

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