pirates, serpents, and ships — oh, my! | series review

the liveship traders trilogy by robin hobb

Series Rating: ★★★★★

Within the series: Ship of Magic (#1), Mad Ship (#2), Ship of Destiny (#3)

‘ware pirates, sea serpents, and sentient ships in this trilogy! Told through multiple POVs and story lines, this tale is full of drama, adventure, romance, and politics–not to mention magic.

Recommended if you like:

  • pirates and sea voyages
  • multiple POVs and intersecting plotlines
  • a bit of everything–adventure, romance, politics, and more
  • complex characters and relationships

Continue reading “pirates, serpents, and ships — oh, my! | series review”

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i’m very glad my childhood was not so creepy | book review

the ocean at the end of the lane by neil gaiman

A man returns to his hometown to attend a funeral, and while there, old memories resurface. He finds himself making his way back to a farm where he met a girl and her family, who protected him during a most mystical time in his life, that he didn’t even remember until now. This book is the story of that time, during which the man was just a boy trying to escape an evil being that had been accidentally let loose.

Recommended if you like:

  • whimsical and nostalgic short stories
  • a sort of witchy, mysterious, and unexplained magic
  • brave little boys who try their best to overcome evil

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My Spoiler-Free Review

This was my very first Neil Gaiman read, and I’m pleased that I really enjoyed it. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this 181-page story, but it certainly wasn’t what I got. This book is freaky, mystical, and somehow also nostalgic and sweet. Only a master writer could evoke all of those feelings at once.

The things the little boy goes through in this book make me very glad my childhood was normal and free of fantastical happenings. He has a hard time of it! (And he doesn’t even have a name…this poor child!) I mean, goodness, the story begins when his best-buddy kitten gets run over. That was enough to make me sympathetic, and that’s only the beginning.

Thank goodness our little boy makes a friend with one Lettie Hempstock, and together they learn all about bravery and defeating evil.

The Ocean at the End of the Lane by 6vedik
art by 6vedik

Beware the freakiness in this book. If you’re looking for a great thrillery, strange, Halloweeny read, I would definitely recommend this. I was honestly scared at more than one point in the story. The magical realism is so mysterious that you’ll want to keep reading for more of it. The writing is so lush and vivid, it’ll make you think of your own childhood.

My only major disappointment with this read is that I didn’t have a huge emotional connection to the story–probably because it was so ~out there. I also wished there was a bit more of a definite conclusion at the end. I’m all about vague endings, but in this case I wanted a bit more.

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

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What books have you read that make you thankful for a normal childhood? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

when a prince’s bastard son becomes a royal assassin | series review

the farseer trilogy by robin hobb

Series Rating: ★★★★☆

Within the series: Assassin’s Apprentice (#1), Royal Assassin (#2), and Assassin’s Quest (#3)

A six-year-old boy is dropped off at a keep, returned by his family to the prince who fathered him. This boy comes to be known as FitzChivalry, the bastard son of Prince Chivalry, next in line to the throne. Fitz becomes a catalyst to a series of events that occur in the land of the Six Duchies throughout his growing years. Invaders from the sea, tension within the royal family, and mysteries of magic and Elderlings create the chaos in which Fitz tries to find his place, and eventually realizes that while here is a mere boy, he’s also a piece of a larger puzzle.

Recommended if you like:

  • coming of age stories
  • dynamic characters and relationships
  • subtle yet complex fantasy
  • long, winding plots and descriptive writing

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My Spoiler-Free Review

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This series is our hero’s backstory, and a tragic backstory it is. Fitz’s childhood is tough, heartbreaking, and challenging.  The story begins when the only family he’s ever known basically abandoning him, and continues as he tries to find his place as the bastard son of a prince in a world that doesn’t care about him. If you’re looking for a warm and fuzzy boyhood story, this series isn’t it.

That said, Fitz’s story will tug at your heartstrings in the very best way. Hobb accomplishes this by writing a cast of complex, developed, interesting characters, including Fitz himself. He grows from an innocent young boy to a slightly exasperating teen, and finally a matured young man. Other characters, though not protagonists or evolving in such a dramatic way as coming of age, still shift and complete their own character arcs and development in satisfying ways. More than anything, Hobb excels at character development, dynamics, and relationships.

Throughout the series, Fitz brings together a found family of sorts, and his relationships with these people are deep yet complicated. He clashes with these people and he doesn’t like them all the time, but they are his people. These characters and their relationships not only make you fall in love with this trilogy, but want to continue reading the entire Realm of the Elderlings series.

The plot, though slow and perhaps meandering at times, has many shades to it as well. There are two major conflicts within the series: the first and foremost, a war with invaders from across the sea. The second and more subtle: tension within the royal family itself. When Fitz begins training as an assassin, a King’s Man for his grandfather King Shrewd, he is inexplicably drawn into this tension, and as he grows older, he plays his own part in it. As a bastard, he inevitably creates unique situations and tension himself, and it’s all deliciously suspenseful and dramatic.

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Hobb’s writing is a delight. Though she tends to be overly descriptive, you can’t say she doesn’t write a vivid world. The details and pictures she gives makes the world of the Six Duchies come alive, and as you read through the series, each new location featured is just as vibrant as the rest.

The magic in this fantasy world is subtle yet interesting. There are two types of magical abilities. First is the Skill. This ability allows someone to read another’s mind, see through their eyes, and also speak to them in their mind, sway their thoughts, or cause them to see an illusion. This Skill is found mainly in the royal bloodline, so Fitz, although he’s a bastard, could develop it. The second type of ability is called the Wit; in many ways, it’s the opposite of the Skill. This ability allows one to bond and communicate with animals. However, it is seen as a perversion and not encouraged or fostered by any civilized person. Both abilities are featured in this series, and you can imagine how they could create some conflicts.

In sum, pick up this series for a magical, political, suspenseful story. You will fall in love with the characters, delight in Hobb’s descriptive writing, and wonder at the magic of it all.

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Have you read The Farseer Trilogy? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

how would you feel if giant robot parts were found scattered across the earth?

sleeping giants by sylvain neuvel

My Rating: ★★★☆☆

This story begins when a young girl, Rose, wakes up from a biking accident in the middle of a giant metal hand. Fast forward a few years, and adult Rose finds herself involved in the study of this artifact, trying to discover where it came from and what it can do. She becomes part of a small team, led by a mysterious nameless benefactor, to put the pieces together–in more ways than one.

Recommended if you like:

  • robots and science
  • mixed format stories
  • intrigue and mystery of the sci-fi variety

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My Spoiler-Free Review

What an intriguing concept for a story! I just love sci-fi books that I could picture happening right here and now. This means not so heavy on the aliens and space, and more of a focus on weirdness happening here on Earth. So interesting.

This book is short and fast-paced, a very quick read. The story is told through interviews, journal entries, and various reports. Because of this, there’s lots of scientific jargon and little world-building. Expect to skim over some of the complexities yet find yourself wishing for more depth at the same time.

The cast of characters is certainly interesting as well. We have a small team working in close quarters on this project, and that creates some interesting dynamics and surprisingly quite a bit of tension. While I expected the plot of this book to be more driven by the discovery of the robot, it actually focused a lot more (than I expected, anyway) on the drama between the characters.

The writing is hard to comment on because it was written in such a different way. Neuvel managed to really capture the way people talk, and the interviews came across so naturally. Though I didn’t listen to the audiobook, I have a feeling it must be stellar. However, I did wish for more description and overall world-building. I felt the story lacked depth and impact overall.

Will I continue the series? Probably. But I’m in no rush.

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Have you read Sleeping Giants? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | uprooted by naomi novik

uprooted by naomi novik

My Rating: ★★★★☆

An unconventional fairy tale, featuring a protagonist who’s a bit of a slob but also a powerful witch, a wizard who takes villager girls away to his tower, and a prince who only wants to save his mother from the corrupted Wood she was lost in 20 years ago.

Recommended if you like:

  • Fairy tales tropes turned on their heads
  • Subtle magic systems described in tangible detail
  • Unconventional protagonists and romance

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My Spoiler-Free Review

The premise of this book, according to the back cover, is that the Dragon–a powerful wizard who protects the valley from the corrupted Wood–has descended from his tower to choose a new girl to take back with him, as happens every 10 years. Everyone knows that this year, Kasia will be chosen; she’s beautiful, composed, and clever. Yet also, everyone despairs over this fact, including her best friend Agnieszka.

Guess how surprised they all are when Agnieszka is chosen instead.

Agnieszka has no clue why she was chosen by the Dragon, a sullen, grumpy recluse of a wizard. She isn’t pretty, she’s a slob and a klutz. She believes there isn’t anything special about her. Until she realizes she has magic, and the Dragon can teach her more.

art by @radiumgl0w

From the get-go, this story sounded incredibly intriguing to me. Hate-to-love is such a great trope; I couldn’t wait to get started! Unfortunately, the beginning was slow going. The Dragon is an interesting but rather unlikeable character to start. There wasn’t much that made me want to keep reading until about halfway through the book.

Eventually, Agnieszka starts to really develop as a character. This was possibly my favorite part of the book. She learns more about magic with the Dragon as a teacher, but they find out she experiences magic very differently than he does–or anyone else, for that matter. This kick-starts her journey of self-discovery, which I found just lovely. She’s not more powerful than anyone else. Just different. And different isn’t wrong, or bad.

Another character that later on features a lot more prominently is Prince Marek. He’s an antagonist for sure, and quite insufferable, but I think he was my second favorite character. You really begin to understand him and his motives, even while seeing that he goes about things all wrong. It was refreshing to read about a prince who wasn’t perfect, who wasn’t the love interest, and who created lots of problems for the protagonists.

With these great characters, I was hoping to see more wonderful development for the Dragon and Kasia, too. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen. Their character arcs were basically nonexistent.

This affected the romance negatively. It’s certainly a different kind of romance, what with the Dragon finding Agnieszka an idiot in the beginning and Agnieszka rather hating him too. I really liked how it developed–again, I’m a sucker for hate-to-love. But, it would have felt a lot more fulfilling had both characters been fully developed by the end of the book.

One last aspect I greatly enjoyed was the writing and Novik’s great descriptions. She writes in a vivid way that’s not too flowery, yet not too bare. I easily pictured the settings throughout the novel, and the narration was lovely. I certainly wouldn’t mind reading more of her writing.

Overall: This is one to pick up if you love fairy tales and magic and strong female protagonists. Don’t let the slow beginning or the unique romance trick you into setting this one down.

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Have you read Uprooted? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | big little lies by liane moriarty

big little lies by liane moriarty

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Trivia Night at Pirriwee Public School, meant to be a night full of fundraising, ends with a shocking murder. Detectives try to piece the story together, and so do readers as we rewind to the  beginning of the school year. We follow the stories of three kindergarten mothers–Jane, the newbie mom with a dark past; Madeline, the old pro and feisty remarried mom; and Celeste, the rich, poised, couldn’t-be-happier mom. None of these women have the lives they appear to on the surface, and somehow, their interactions lead to the fatal accident on Trivia Night.

* Trigger warnings for domestic abuse, sexual assault, and, of course, murder. *

Recommended if you like:

  • beachy and coffee shop settings
  • snarky, independent, complex female characters
  • deeper themes amidst a lighter plot

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My Spoiler-Free Review

I enjoyed this more than I thought I would! I admit, I picked it up because I heard the TV show was good…but I knew I had to be a good bookworm, and try the book first.

Instead of a concentrated murder mystery, like I expected, I found myself reading a charming, hilarious, touching book that had deeper themes than I anticipated.

My likes

The characters. These are complex, real, strong women. The main three characters as well as the rest of the cast, even the side characters, were nicely done! They are distinct, interesting, and go through their own character arcs, with satisfying resolutions. I had a special fondness for Miss Barnes; as a teacher myself, I know in my heart of hearts that she was just doing her best–despite being judged incompetent by all the parents.

The complexity. There are basic ideas, relationships, plot points in this book that make it seem cliche and tropey. At least, that’s what I thought when I heard about the TV show. But Moriarty takes the cliches and make them complex. Instead of reading about a woman who hates her ex-husband, we get a woman who struggles with feeling inferior to her ex and his new wife. A subtle difference, but it makes for such better reading and connections to characters.

Also, the writing style is just fun. It’s sassy. Even though you know someone is dead by the end of the book, and the book touches on many serious, chilling topics, you’re laughing all the way through. And, it killed me (pun TOTALLY intended) how there were so many blithe comments about killing someone or how someone would be dead by the end of the night…all sarcastic to the characters, but morbidly hilarious to the reader. Or, at least to me.

My dislikes

My only real complaint is the pacing. While I thought the story moved along nicely most of the time, there were bits in the middle of the novel that were just slow. As I mentioned before, I enjoyed the characters and their development, but it did seem like some scenes could be cut or shaved to have a slightly shorter novel.

Overall

This was a great summer read! Easy, interesting, fun reading. This would be a great book for someone who doesn’t read often–it’s super easy to get into and get sucked into the mystery.

And, of course, if you enjoyed the show, do yourself a favor and read the book too.

+ the HBO series

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madeline, jane, celeste, and the kiddos

I was quite disappointed by the TV series, for the usual reasons. WHY screenwriters feel the need to change the story line, the setting, even the minute details like the characters’ last names–it’s beyond me. I understood why they made some of these changes, but they did not improve the story.

I did think the producers did an interesting job creating a mysterious, confusing, suspenseful feeling with the flashbacks and almost delusional moments the characters sometimes had. I also thought the casting was nicely done. However, the overall feel of the book just wasn’t quite captured in the show, which was a bummer.

And if they somehow manage to justify creating a sequel, I might punch someone. So not necessary.

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Have you read Big Little Lies? Or seen the TV show? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne

book review | the long way to a small, angry planet by becky chambers

the long way to a small, angry planet by becky chambers

My Rating: ★★★★☆

Captain Ashby Santoso leads a misfit crew on his spaceship, the Wayfarer, in this heartwarming sci-fi novel. The crew journeys to a far off land to create a new wormhole, and in the process learn more about each other, create connections, explore new planets, and face challenging trials. They come out of it for the better, and readers will too.

Recommended if you like:

  • diverse space characters
  • character-driven books
  • heartwarming sci-fi reads

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My Spoiler-Free Review

I had seen a lot of hype for this book before I read it, which is why I gave in and bought it. (It is now the most gorgeous book on my shelf so even if I hated it, I still wouldn’t regret the purchase.) And it lived up to the hype!

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just sooooo pretty *heart eyes*

You need to understand what kind of book it is before you go into it, though. It’s slow, not high-action, and definitely character-driven. It’s not boring by any means, but I know that I, perhaps like many others, have to be in the right mood for slower books. If you go into this expecting a really exciting, high-paced space story, that’s not what you’re going to get. You are, however, going to get a heartwarming, funny, touching, sweet, thought-provoking read.

My likes

I’m not one to get worked up over lack of diversity in books (most of the time), but the diversity among characters was the biggest highlight of this book. We not only have diversity in terms of age, gender, sexuality, and identity, but also species. I mean, this is a science fiction book. Weirdly enough, in sci-fi novels we don’t always see diversity in terms of species within the main characters. In this novel, we have three main characters out of seven who aren’t human.

And if you’re like me and a little unsure about those characters of different species, just give them a chance. Becky Chambers writes these characters so excellently. It’s impossible not to connect and empathize with every one of them. They all have unique quirks, backgrounds, motivations, and struggles. And they are a joy to get to know.

That’s what this book really boils down to for me–it is just a joyful, fun, warm and fuzzy read. I dare you to pick this up and not feel warm inside by the end.

My not so likes

As mentioned before, this book is slow-paced. There’s nothing wrong with that, but it did take me some time to get into it. I do much better with fast-paced novels, so working up the motivation to stick with something slower can be hard for me. I set the book down a few times before coming back to it and finishing it within a day or two, once I finally got into it.

On a related note, I wished the climax had been a bit more…climactic, if you will. And I wish the plot had built toward it a little more. It was all a bit sudden, which was weird given the slow pace.

Overall

Everyone could get something out of this book. Even if you don’t usually read sci-fi, give this one a chance! My guess is you won’t regret it.

Wayfarer crew by SebasP
art by SebasP

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Have you read The Long Way to a Small, Angry Planet? What did you think of it? Leave your thoughts below!

Until next time,
Brianne