Rat Queens Volume 1: Sass and Sorcery | Review

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Rat Queens Volume One: Sass and Sorcery by Kurtis Wiebe and Roc Upchurch

As my first foray into graphic novels, Rat Queens did not disappoint. It was fun, funny, full of adventure, and featured a cast of diverse kick-ass women.

The Rat Queens are made up of four very different women: the rockabilly elven mage Hannah, hipster dwarven warrior Violet, atheist human cleric Dee, and hippie halfling thief Betty; all with different body types, backstories, and personalities.

The basic plot is that the adventuring groups, of which Rat Queens are a part, are causing too much ruckus in the town, and someone is trying to stop them by killing them all off.

The graphic novel is gorier than I’d anticipated from a female-dominated story, but it didn’t bother me, I was just caught off guard at first (which is what I get from not knowing much about it prior to going in). It was also sassy and exciting, and I really liked all four Rat Queens.

RatQueens_1_2-525x233That being said, Violet is probably my favorite of the Queens, simply because she’s probably the closest to me (hipster, duh) and her backstory of leaving her tradition and family behind is the most relatable. Plus, she can rock a sword and has TEAL armor.

Dee’s atheist backstory is the hardest to follow, as there’s a different religion in the world, but the general gist is she doesn’t believe, but she has a hard time with it.

I really liked the spunkiness of the Queens, and how they didn’t care what the men in their lives thought or did; they embraced who they are and were proud to be women. 

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Very Good Lives | Review

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Very Good Lives by J.K. Rowling

When J.K. Rowling publishes a book, I buy it. It can be Rowling or it can be under her pseudonym Robert Galbraith; it doesn’t matter, hardcovers will be bought and read.

Very Good Lives is Rowling’s Harvard commencement speech from 2008 in book form. It’s a simple, small little book with plenty of illustrations, all in a red, white, and black combination. It’s adorable and beautiful.

Very Good Lives touches on the benefits of failure, and why not to fear it, as well as the importance of imagination and empathy. She goes into her background a bit, how hard she failed, but how that failure enabled her to be free to embrace who she was, and create The Boy Who Lived. She also tells about her experience working with Amnesty International while in college, and learning about standing together and empathizing with those whose lives are less fortunate, and working to make a difference.

“Those who choose not to empathize enable real monsters. For without ever committing an act of outright evil ourselves, we collude with it through our own apathy.”

timthumbYou can see where some of these experiences and beliefs inspired characters and situations in Harry Potter, particularly with regards to power and choice.

It’s an important message, and one I’ve also learned in life. Yoda isn’t right in this case; failure is an option, because sometimes it is only with failure that we learn who we truly are and what we’re truly meant to do. My favorite quote about failure comes from this speech:

“It is impossible to live without failing at something, unless you live so cautiously that you might as well not have lived at all – in which case, you fail by default.”

Not to mention, proceeds of this book go to her charity, Lumos, which works to make sure all children grow up in a happy and healthy environment.

Rowling is a genius and a saint, and Very Good Lives is a must.

watch her speech here

The Silver Dream | Review

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The Silver Dream (InterWorld #2) by Neil Gaiman, Michael Reaves, and Mallory Reaves

The Silver Dream picks up two years after InterWorld left off, and Joey Harker is, if not well-liked, at least a substantial member of the group. His team is out on a mission when things go wrong and they’re saved by a strange female named Acacia, who turns out to be more important than she’s letting on. In addition, the evil forces of HEX and Binary are coming together and not everyone at InterWorld can be trusted.

Whereas InterWorld was filled with heavy scientific jargon, The Silver Dream was a bit easier to understand on the whole. Sure, there was still some space-time stuff mentioned, but the details were for the most part glossed over in a need-to-know way.

Joey, Joe as he now likes to call himself, is now sixteen, and has matured a bit from the first book. He’s not as caught up on himself and his own losses as he was, though he does still suffer from what other people think of him, and he seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time a lot.

The_Silver_Dream_by_Neil_Gaiman_Michael_Reaves_and_Mallory_Reaves_Interior_Number_TwoI felt like the story was easier to follow this time around too, even if some of the situations are hard to describe, and I really liked Acacia (not to mention, I still love Hue). The different variations of Joey were some of my favorite as well, and I’d love to see what life is like on all those different planets (wolf-Joey! vampire-Joey! angel-Joey! bird-Joey! robot-Joey!), even if all the J names can be confusing. I did like that there was a Cast of Characters in the beginning of the book, though, to help sort that out.

Also, how is this Joey all that special, and why do the others not like him as much? Aren’t they all pretty much the same? Isn’t that kind of the point? If they’re all still hung up on accepting him because of what happened in the first novel, isn’t it about time to get over it? It wasn’t his fault, anyway.

One thing I was bummed about was the publisher’s implying the novel was written by Gaiman, when in fact, it was written by Michael and Mallory Reaves, with the “story by” credit going to the original duo from InterWorld. It explains the different writing style and weak plot points, but was a cheap shot to have Gaiman’s name grace the cover in such big text when he didn’t actually write it.

The novel does end on a cliffhanger, setting up the final installment, Eternity’s Wheel.

City of Glass | Review

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City of Glass (Mortal Instruments #3) by Cassandra Clare

Clary is annoying and because she’s selfish, stubborn, and dumb she decides to ignore her Shadowhunter “brother” and go to Idris anyway, breaking the law and causing quite a ruckus in doing so.

Of the three books in the series so far, this one has the most action and stands apart from the other two in that it takes place predominantly in Idris, the land of the Shadowhunters.

Valentine is at it again, and now with the first two Mortal Instruments in his hands, he’s looking for the third, and with it, hoping to wipe out the “evil” Shadowhunters who are friends with the Downworlders (vampires, faires, werewolves, and warlocks) and purify the race. Except all the ones that would be left are terrible people, and all the good would be wiped out. But Valentine is crazy, we all knew that, and this book just confirms it.

7fa12e4dbb9b14733dae2ce540dbb9feI liked finally getting the answers to many of the questions Clare posed throughout the previous two books, and finally having the backstory to Valentine-Jocelyn-Jace-Clary cleared up. Thank Goodness. I was getting tired of it, and didn’t believe half of it anyway.

I also liked the change of setting; it was nice to get out of New York and into the Shadowhunter mecca, to see where Jace grew up and learn more about the Clave and the picturesque locale.

In the beginning of the series, I really didn’t like Simon, but as the series as gone on, and he’s evolved (and gotten over Clary, thank goodness), I’ve come to like him more. He’s come into his own and is a stronger character for it, and I love that he’s embraced his new world a bit more, and has two girls fighting over him.

The big reveal was predictable (there were PLENTY of signs), but it was still fun, and I found myself getting into this one a bit more than the other two (despite the odd cutting of scenes). Probably because of all the epicness and battles and whatnot.

This was the original ending to The Mortal Instruments, so it reads like a finale. Big giant epic battle. Everything tied up nicely at the end. An epilogue, even. It just makes me wonder where this can go from here (and HOPE that Clary finally gets over her recklessness and selfishness).

3.5/5 stars

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy | Review

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The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams

I’ve come to realize I definitely prefer more fantasy to sci-fi (except in the case of Red Rising, which isn’t a true sci-fi anyway), and that remains the case with Hitchhiker.

Arthur Dent is a normal human whose house is about to be demolished. Ford Prefect is an alien hitchhiker, working on the guidebook, A Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and has been stranded on earth for the past 15 years. When Earth is demolished by some bureaucratic aliens, Arthur and Ford are the only two to escape.

The first in a five-part series (“trilogy”), Hitchhiker sets up the characters and this vast universe in a funny, entertaining way, with satirical philosophy and absurdity thrown in as well.

the_hitchhikers_guide_to_the_galaxyWhile I enjoyed the story, I didn’t love it. It read like a serial of the week, with the characters getting in and out of trouble each chapter, only to be thrown into another one. As this started as a radio broadcast, however, it makes total and complete sense.

I liked the concept of the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, the guidebook within the book, which helps explain the nuances and complexities of this world in an unique and less info-dumpy kind of way.

The importance of Earth in this story was also really intriguing, and I was a big fan of how Adams incorporated that, as well as the spin on the Ultimate Question. To take the complexity and search for the meaning of life and pair it with sillyness and strife is quite a statement.

While I appreciated some of the more accurate observations about humanity, I didn’t love this book as so many others do. That being said, I’m going to give the audiobooks a listen for the rest of this 5 book trilogy.

Throne of Glass | Review

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Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

The king hosts a tournament to decide his next assassin. The world’s most notorious assassin, Celaena Sardothien ,who hates the king, is recruited by the Prince as his champion in the competition. Meanwhile, there’s a darker evil floating around the castle, which Celaena must be the one to stop.

Everyone RAVES about this book. It was okay.

It’s your standard YA fantasy: girl protagonist is better than everyone and must save the world; all the boys love her; she has a dark and twisty past she won’t reveal; she’s perfect.

The things I liked:

Overall, I liked the characters, and I liked the story. It’s standard, but it’s enjoyable. I also liked the intrigue and the fact that Celaena is a bit of a badass, which was a nice change. I’m a sucker for fantasies and their different worlds, and this was no exception. The backstory of the world itself is rich, and I’m excited to see more of that in future books.

It was a really easy, enjoyable read. I was captivated by the mystery of the killings, and I’m also a big fan of competitions, which is partly why I love The Hunger Games and The Testing so much too. I almost wish there’d been more, but what there was, I really liked.

That being said, I did have some problems:

Celaena is supposed to be the best assassin in the world, yet she’s only eighteen. She does comment on this, but it still seems implausible. That means she probably started killing when she was like twelve… how is she as calm and normal, if not more so, than everyone else? Also, for being the “greatest,” some of her choices were a bit odd, and I would’ve liked to see that awesomeness detailed in the story rather than just told about it. I mean, I totally get her picturing how she would kill everyone around her, but just once I’d like to actually SEE her do it.

throne_of_glass___on_the_way_to_the_competition_by_leabharlann-d6clnmbAnd while I appreciate that Celaena is a badass, she was just too perfect for me. She is the best assassin in the world, sure (or so they say), but she’s also amazingly talented at chess and piano, is an avid reader, and apparently solves crimes too. Like, come on. Oh, and she has two guys in love with her, and is obsessed with clothes and her looks. Where are her weaknesses, and how do all these things tie together? She’s not THAT well rounded. No one is.

Some of the details were either missing, or contradictory. I couldn’t quite picture the Glass Castle… how does that work exactly? Everything is made of glass? So couldn’t everyone see everyone all the time? And in one scene, Cain is super fast and beats Celaena, but the next time she sees him she’s faster? Also, the clocktower’s placement confused me. How was it in the middle of the fighting ring? That makes no sense.

As for the love triangle and secondary characters, I was not a fan of the pseudo-love triangle between Celaena, Chaol, and Dorian (especially since SO MUCH TIME was wasted on it, for nothing). She’s a super strong independent woman (sort of) but yet she’s, at times, boy crazy and wishy-washy about both of these guys.

On their own, I really liked Chaol and found him to be the most realistic character, though I wished for more backstory and for his character to be more fleshed out and dynamic… though I did find it slightly hard to believe he was the Captain of the Guard so young and without killing anyone. I was not a fan of Dorian, I found him arrogant and stereotypical and a waste of Celaena’s time. Then there were the other women. Nehemia, I really liked, and I’m hoping to see more of this relationship in the next book; as for Kaltain, I felt really sorry for her, but she was interesting to read. Elena just confused me, but I suppose that was the point.

I’ve heard the second book gets better, so I’m hoping some of these things clear up.

A Darker Shade of Magic | Review

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A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

The hype surrounding this book is intense, but for once, it didn’t disappoint.

Kell is one of the last Antari – magicians who can travel between the worlds – and has a penchant for smuggling trinkets from one world to the next. It’s one of these trinkets that throws his London, as well as the others, out of balance and into what could ultimately be destruction of everything.

Lila, on the other hand, is from the magic-less London, and is a thief whose greatest desire is to captain a ship. When her world collides with Kell’s the adventure sings to her, and something else pulls at her as well.

This book is dark and rich and wonderfully built, with gripping characters, vivid descriptions, and a great take on magic.

Though I found it slow at times (and that very well could’ve been my own exhaustion when reading after work), it was enjoyable and compelling, and I didn’t want to read anything else.

tumblr_nm6gqxXWgQ1qkxrq4o1_1280What I found slightly confusing was the way the magic worked for non-Antari, and how it differed between the various Londons (the descriptions, and the concept of which, I absolutely loved). I also wish there’d been more backstory and world building with the characters prior to the plot of the novel. And sure, some of the characters feature some stereotypical elements, and some of the plot is borrowed from other fantasy stories (the one ring and the horcrux locket, for example), but it’s still done in a way that feels unique when reading (it’s only in retrospect I think of those other series).

The book wrapped itself up nicely at the end, which is nice for us folks who have a love-hate relationship with cliffhangers, but I’d like to see a bit more setup for the next book in the series (though who knows, there could’ve been, we just can’t see it without having read the next book). And maybe some of those backstory issues will be resolved there as well…

But haters be damned, issues thrown aside, I really enjoyed this book, this world, and these characters.

I keep hovering between a 4 and a 5, but my heart wants to go 5, so I’m sticking with it.

Anna and the French Kiss | Review

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Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

Oh, YA Contemporary romance, you’re so predictable and eye-rolling, yet warm and full of squees at the same time. And Anna and the French Kiss is no exception.

When I first started reading it, it was like I was meant to read this book, because Anna is in love with film and wants to be a critic (okay, I wanted to make them, but still), and her best friend Bridge is a female drummer who doesn’t get the acknowledgement she deserves because of her gender… which totally happened to me senior year as well.

Except that’s kind of where the similarities ended.

Anna is a high school senior whose Nicholas Sparks-esque father decides that in order to look better amongst his peers, he needs to send his daughter to a boarding school in Paris. Okay, so that premise is a bit like my Hanson fan fiction I wrote when I was 10; convenient and a bit unrealistic.

But okay, I’ll bite.

Anna has to leave behind her best friend Bridge and her crush, Toph, and her ex-boyfriend Matt who is still friends and is upset about it because it’s her senior year and ugh, Paris.

Um. Hello. It’s PARIS.

But okay, she’s a teenager and has to be against anything her parents say. Right. This is YA. Once she gets there, she immediately makes friends with her next door neighbor, Meredith, who introduces her to her group of friends, and they all accept Anna with no problem.

I wish making friends were that easy.

PrintAnd then there’s the love story. It’s easy to see coming. Etienne St. Clair is gorgeous, an American-British-French hybrid that sounds incredibly sexy (which makes me feel weird, because he’s 18 and I’m almost 28…), but St. Clair (as the cool kids call him) has a girlfriend, who graduated last year and is still in Paris but their relationship is on the outs.

Meanwhile Anna and St. Clair are getting closer, because they obviously have feelings for one another, etc.

I generally liked the characters; even if Anna’s “she don’t know she’s beautiful” vibe and the “love at first sight” thing is a bit cliche and unrealistic for me. She’s Bella Swan, except instead of traditionally clumsy, she’s scared of speaking French and bumbles around trying to avoid it rather than just trying to learn it. I mean, YOU’RE IN FRANCE. Learn French and stop complaining.

And as much as I liked St. Claire (because, I’ll admit it, he charmed the pants off of me, and I mean the British translation of pants, lol), I wasn’t a fan of how he treated Anna and Ellie. Grow a pair, dude. That’s not cool, and it’s not what I want to build a relationship off of.

Of course there’s drama, because what would YA be without drama? Teenagers THRIVE on drama. There’s some friend backstabbing, some will-they-won’t-they moments, some JUST GET TOGETHER ALREADY moments, some definite eye rolls, but overall, it’s cute and sweet and makes me want to go to Paris and kiss my fiancé.