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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

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My Musings: Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire

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Synopsis in a sentence: A half-human, half-fae woman must solve the murder of a fae countess and in doing so, is pulled back into the very world of dark magic and danger she has been trying to avoid for most of her life.

As a fan of Ilona Andrew’s Kate Daniels series, I have been looking for another good urban fantasy world to delve into and after hearing so many interesting things about the October Daye books, I was excited to try Rosemary and Rue. The plot was relatively straightforward enough and the world building was as intriguing as it was gritty. With that being said, I struggled to connect with Toby throughout the novel. While I liked how this protagonist for once isn’t a stereotypical “chosen one” character with amazing superpowers far above those of everyone else, I couldn’t help but find her almost not capable enough. In other words, throughout especially the last half of the novel, she can’t seem solve any helpful pieces of the case and in the end her constant series of mistakes leads to innocent side characters’ deaths—characters that barely receive any development in the first place, but whose deaths seemed unnecessary to the overarching plot as well. As a result, by the end of the first book, I found myself feeling detached and disappointed by the ending rather than excited to read more about Toby’s other adventures in the following novels. With that being said, Rosemary and Rue was a fast and easy urban fantasy read for anyone looking for just that.

📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of urban fantasy.

This book reads like a…modern fantasy noir 

Check out the official summary of Rosemary and Rue by Seanan McGuire on goodreads.

My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★

 

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My Musings: The Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo

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Favorite Quote: Love speaks in flowers. Truth Requires thorns.” 

This was one of my favorite reads of the whole year! While usually, I’m not a huge fan of short stories, Bardugo’s writing had me hooked from the very first page. Styled in the tradition of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, The Language of Thorns contains six fantasy tales and retellings that spark the imagination and re-illustrate some of the most famous and beloved stories with a beautiful dark twist. Rather than a usual review, this will serve as more of spotlight in which I will emphasize my thoughts and favorite (spoiler free!)  aspects of each of the stories listed below.

Ayama and the Thorn Wood-This opening tale is loosely based on the greek mythological story of the minotaur, and it was absolutely brilliant! Rather than placing a high value on physical beauty like so many fairy tales, this story prizes the main characters’ uniqueness and compassion—an aspect that I found made it infinitely more touching and memorable.

The Too-Clever Fox-Like the title, this tale is very cleverly told. It revolves around a fox who believes he can outsmart a famed hunter. Without giving away any spoilers, his pride ends up costing him dearly in the end, and one of the things I liked about this one was that it reminded me of the countless parables and folktales I read in storybooks from when I was younger.

The Witch of Duva-This disturbing tale seems to be based loosely on Hansel and Gretel, and was every bit as dark as the comparison implies. While fantastical, this story, however, explores the horror and darkness within the ordinary and is made every bit as enthralling and disturbing because of it.

Little Knife-Like The Too-Clever Fox, this story reads more like a parable than a regular short story or fairy tale complete with a simple but powerful moral at the end. I also love the way Bardugo speaks directly to the reader as if relating an old haunting folktale while sitting by the fireside on a chilly winter night.

The Soldier Prince – I absolutely loved this retelling of the Nutcracker from the titular character’s point of view. In this tale, the “Soldier Prince” longs to be human and gain freedom over his own fate, and the way Bardugo recreates all the other well known characters such as Clara and the Mouse King while also beautifully illustrating the poignancy of time passing and life’s choices is as real and raw as it is enchanting.

When Water Sang Fire -How can I adequately describe this without giving the ending away? All I can say is that it’s a retelling of the Little Mermaid but with some dark and heartrending twists that leave you thinking about the story long after the story has ended. This is a great haunting tale to end this anthology!

📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, Hans Christian Andersen, and dark fantasy.

If I could summarize this book in two words: darkly mesmerizing  

Check out the official summary of the Language of Thorns by Leigh Bardugo on goodreads.

My rating (out of 5 stars): ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️

 

 

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My Musings: The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood

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Synopsis in a sentence: An ordinary girl uncovers a conspiracy involving the dragon empire in her homeland.

This novel was a unique and interesting read. The beginning started out strong with the introduction of a terrifying enemy and an all new perspective on dragons as massive pets and honored steeds that I had never encountered before. Within the initial hundred pages, however, the plot began to drag. Given the novel’s suspenseful first couple of chapters, I couldn’t help but be disappointed by the all too predictable direction and slow pacing of the story overall. More than that, rather than a narrative, the novel ultimately developed into an extended commentary about the nature of religion. Once again, while the author presented this discussion in an original and intriguing way, I found myself hoping for a more fulfilling story throughout with characters that seemed more like people rather than opposing mouthpieces for the various factions concerning the world’s fictional and overly complicated religion. What I was hoping for was an intriguing and entertaining story about dragons. What I got was a long and drawn-out metaphorical discourse on the nature of religion using dragons. With that being said, I appreciated and enjoyed Lockwood’s ingenuity and found The Summer Dragon to be a refreshing read.

📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of Eragon or dragons in general.

If I could summarize the book in five words: good, not amazing, but good

Check out the official summary of The Summer Dragon by Todd Lockwood on goodreads.

My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

My Musings: Blade Runner 2049

Blade Runner 2049 is an entirely immersive and rich cinematic experience. With multiple mesmerizing aesthetic landscapes and an entrancing musical score from the one and only Hans Zimmer, this noir-scifi film was a visual treat. Despite not being a huge fan of the original, I was nevertheless thoroughly entertained by the majority of the movie. Ryan Gosling’s character made a likable enough protagonist while Harrison Ford’s part was adequate if somewhat predictable. Even with some great scenes and unexpected twists, however, the story’s pacing was too slow. With little suspense—due to the lack of action sequences or even particular compelling characters—the film could have easily been cut down from its nearly three-hour running time. While this will hardly bother fans of the original, considering it contained slow pacing as well, the sheer amount of unnecessarily drawn-out scenes and aesthetic shots, ultimately lowered my rating of the film overall. Most importantly, however, is the fact that the film left off with so many unanswered questions—so many that by the time the credits rolled, I was scratching my head trying and failing to puzzle all the confusing and inconsistent pieces together. I understand that the original Blade Runner set out to be a more philosophical film than many of its counterparts in the same genre, and the latest installment attempts to do the same. However, a little more moving action scenes and tighter plotting wouldn’t hurt either.

🎬✔︎ Would recommend for those looking for a cinematic treat with mediocre characters and plot

If I could describe the film in four words: Visual stunning, mentally confusing

★★★1/2

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

My Musings: Kingsman-The Golden Circle

Beginning with a dizzyingly fast-paced action sequence that promises the same kind of high-suspense and almost ludicrous entertainment as the first film, Kingsman: The Golden Circle succeeds in packing a fun punch of a ride for the audience. Despite his acquired status as a kingsman, Eggsy still retains the boyish and innocent charm that made him endearing in the beginning, and I was perfectly content following his adventures throughout the story. Another pleasant surprise was that other supporting characters, such as Merlin and *spoiler (not really)* Harry underwent more character development as well. If I had to critique anything, it would be the seeming lack of development of the female characters along with the unnecessarily high death rate of both supporting and main characters. Still, while the plot twists were a little predictable at times, the overall film was suspenseful and eccentric. Filled with fast-action fight scenes spanning from the streets of London to a whiskey distillery in Kentucky and finally to a 1950’s retro dinner in the middle of the jungle, Kingsman: The Golden Circle is definitely worth seeing.

🎬✔︎ Would recommend for those looking for a spy movie that doesn’t even try to take itself seriously (but in a good way)

If I could describe the film in two words: bizarrely exhilarating 

★★★★/5

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My Musings: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J. Maas

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Synopsis in a sentence: High Lady Feyre of the Night Court, along with Rhys and their friends, must gather an army to save the world from the evil King of Hybern and the deadly weapon he wields.

Given that Sarah J. Maas is one of my favorite authors, I was looking forward to this book, expecting epic plots, sharp dialogue, swoon-worthy romance as well as fully developed and interesting characters that pulled me into their world. While the last part of the novel delivered on all of these accounts, the first hundred pages were surprisingly and disappointingly slow being as they were filled with too much description and not enough action. Instead of becoming invested in the worldbuilding and characters—something that had never been an issue for me in Maas’ other works—I found myself constantly bored and disinterested. Rhysand went from being a swoon-worthy character of mystery and excitement to one that was almost annoying in his unmatchable saintliness. Feyre, too, was portrayed as being overly perfect—a fact attributed to her suddenly becoming the first High Lady of a realm—and, therefore, unrelatable. Rather than showing adequately how Feyre had become a stronger and more confident leader as well as warrior through her actions, Maas seemed content to simply remind the reader over and over again of this fact. In some ways, Feyre came across as an almost weaker protagonist in this latest installment than in any of the previous ones. It was only in the last part of the novel that the pace and plot finally picked up and returned to the quality that made Maas’ other books successful. Overall, while disappointing in some parts, this was a good conclusion to the series, and I am looking forward to the later spin-off novels set in the same world.

 

📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of romance and fantasy.

If I could summarize the book in five words: good, not amazing, but good

Check out the official summary of a Court of Wings and Ruins by Sarah J. Maas on goodreads.

My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★1/2

 

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The Fantastic and Mundane Chronicles of an Aspiring Writer

My Musings: Angelfall by Susan Ee

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Synopsis in a sentence: Tough girl needs the help of an enemy angel to find her kidnapped sister in post-apocalyptic Northern California. 

Angelfall by Susan Ee didn’t have a slow passage in it. From the first page, the pacing was fast and the plot suspenseful. Penryn is a strong and ruthless yet heroic female protagonist, and the sarcastic banter between her and Raffe is one of the most fun aspects of the entire novel. Raffe, too, is a likable character, with just enough mystery and broodiness to fit the relatively stereotypical YA love interest mold. While the plot was entertaining overall, the world building was average at best. I understand that it takes place in a world ravaged by supernatural war, but more details regarding the angel culture and mythology as well as the incorporation of additional multi-dimensional characters would have greatly enriched the story. The ending with its multiple plot twists that led up to it, however, ultimately leaves the reader wanting more and makes up for any other flaws in the narrative.

📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of post-apocalyptic fiction or angel mythology

If I could summarize the book in one word: suspenseful 

Check out the official summary of Angelfall by Susan Ee on goodreads.

My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★

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My Musings: The Queen of All That Dies by Laura Thalassa

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After hearing so many good things about this indie novel, I was excited to finally read it. Unfortunately, I found The Queen of All that Dies to be disappointing for a number of reasons. Because my feelings toward this book are so jumbled, rather than writing a typical essay review, I am going to separate my thoughts into different sections.

What I liked:

1) The pacing-from the first page of the novel, I was hooked. The relatively simple, yet suspenseful prose was riveting, and even when the plot was lacking, I still wanted to continue because it was such a fast and easy read.

2) The potential– This goes along with the pacing in that in the first thirty pages, there was so much potential to build a rich and original apocalyptic setting as well as a seemingly impossible, but epic love story. In the end, however, the reader was given neither, which ultimately leads me to…

What I didn’t like:

1) The pacing-While at the beginning, the fast pacing was originally what drew me in, as the novel progressed the succession of events became almost dizzying because they happened so quickly. Rather than spending adequate time with each scene by including appropriate and enriching details, it felt like the author was rushing through everything almost with barely any thought.

2) The plot– …I just didn’t get it. I mean, well I understood the basics; The female protagonist has spent all her life fighting against an evil king of the world only to be forced to marry him and fall in love with him while turning on her own people. Sure, there were twists, but instead of a compelling storyline, the reader was left with only a skeleton of a plot that’s events were half-hazardly strewn together.

3) The worldbuilding– There was none. Usually when I read, I can at least visualize the characters and settings to a certain extent, but when I read this all I could see was the black font and white paper in front of my eyes.

4) The romance/characters-Once again, in the beginning I liked the main character Serenity. She was tough if a little bit one-dimensional. But I liked her.

King Lazuli, on the other hand, was downright horrible. Oh, in the first part of the book, he was charming, and I seriously thought the author would reveal some good side to him, some possible reason or motivation–however misguided–for performing all the horrendous things he did. Only…she didn’t. There was nothing, NOTHING redeemable about this character. He was a power-hungry mass murderer who felt no remorse for any of his actions. Even as a potential villain, he was entirely one dimensional, and the fact that he was supposed to be portrayed as a love interest? I couldn’t believe it.

Even worse, as soon as Serenity falls in love with him (though Thalassa never explains how she could actually love such a monster in the first place) all her strength vanishes. Seemingly within a handful of pages, she turns on her own people and believes that Lazuli is rightfully the king of the world even though he was directly responsible for *Spoiler* the murder of her entire family. 

In conclusion, this novel started out strong, but left a bad taste in mouth for days afterward.

📚✔︎ Honestly wouldn’t recommend. I was looking for a compelling romance and what this book provided was an unhealthy, controlling and bordering-on-abusive relationship.

If I could summarize the book in one word: disappointing 

 

My Musings: Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews

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The latest addition to the Kate Daniels’ series has everything that’s great about the series: suspense, humor, great fight scenes, and, of course, quality Kate and Curran time. Yet despite all of this, for some reason, this installment didn’t hold my attention as much as the previous ones. In short, I was able to put it down. For a while. Honestly, when I try to remember the basic plot I can recall a blur. To me, I guess, this book felt like a fill-in volume. Yes, Kate, seemingly out of nowhere can now hold her own against her father’s invincible power, but *spoiler* he still hasn’t been defeated by the end. Towards the middle, the pace was beginning to pick up and pieces were falling into place for an awesome battle scene at the end—which turned out to be way shorter than I expected, not mention drastically anticlimactic. Don’t get me wrong. Like I stated before, this book is still very much a part of the Kate Daniels’ series with the same charm as all the previous novels, and when I finally got into it, I couldn’t put it down. Still, something about it just seemed off to me. Maybe it was the short length or lack of substantial plot, I don’t know. With that being said, I’m still a fan of this series, and I will definitely be reading the next volume.

📚✔︎ Would recommend for fans of urban fantasy with action and romance

If I could summarize the book in three words: entertaining, but forgettable 

Check out the official summary of Magic Binds by Ilona Andrews on goodreads.

My rating (out of 5 stars): ★★★★

 

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