Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James |Blabber

Black Leopard, Red Wolf (The Dark Star Trilogy, #1)

Black Leopard, Red Wolf by Marlon James
Dark Star Trilogy, Book 1
Read Feb 18 – March 19
Released Feb 5th, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber
This is one of the most divisive books I’ve ever read.

Every review I’ve seen on it has either been 4/5 stars or 1/2 stars. I have seen maybe one or two 3 star, middle of the road kind of reviews.

Unfortunately I was in the 1/2 star camp. I didn’t like this book.

I buddy read this book with Katy @BookbinderWay and she ended up really enjoying it, I think she gave it 4 stars. Whatever she saw in it though, I obviously didn’t see, which is a shame. I wanted to like this book, I did. This was an anticipated release and I bought very quickly after it came out. And if you’ve been following my blog at all, I wrote a post recently about DNFing books, discussing time wasted versus money wasted. In the post I didn’t name what book I was talking about. Take a guess, though. Guess.

I didn’t end up DNFing this book, I finished it, but honestly I don’t know if it was worth it. In retrospect, the money I spent on the book was basically paying for the unpleasant time I had reading it, so there’s another point to my discussion in that post. Anyways, onto my thoughts:

The first thing I noticed about the book was the writing. It was written like you were sitting around a campfire, listening to someone tell you an ancient tale. And it worked for me… for a bit. But soon it became difficult to tell who was saying what, what was a side thought and what was spoken aloud, what was important and what wasn’t. There was no emphasis on things over other things. I couldn’t tell if a tangent a character went on would be important information for later, or if it was just, well, them going on a tangent.

The plot meandered and while I typically don’t mind a meandering plot, the whole synopsis of the book, the ‘find the boy, big mystery’ plot, took a backseat. The stakes were supposedly high but because the earlier mentioned lack of emphasis, I couldn’t gather why. It’s like the author was like ‘this is the big thing that’s gonna happen but we’ll just make it of equal focus to everything else that’s going on’. It made the reading experience difficult and muddled. I also didn’t end up caring about any of the characters. I hated Tracker, the main character. I didn’t like The Leopard, I didn’t like really anyone except Sadogo.

I think the thing I disliked the most about this book – what really kept me from getting invested, is how unnecessarily sexually violent everything was. Rapes here, rapes there, threatened rapes, actual rapes, people literally dying from rapes. Comments about penises doing penis things left and right, people assaulting each other sexually and nobody finding it abnormal. I mean… it was gross. I was uncomfortable, and it kept me from like.. enjoying the story because every other page someone would threaten to ravage someone else’s ass or something. None of it was even relevant to the plot – I felt like it was just in there to be shocking for its own sake.

So, about half way through the book, I wrote the post I mentioned earlier, and I decided to pick the book up on audio. That did help. Hearing this book that felt like an oral tale told, well, orally, helped. The narrator did a fantastic job – he actually put emphasis into things and spoke side-thoughts so they sounded like side thoughts. I could actually tell what was important and what wasn’t. So at that point, I could somewhat get passed all the problems I had been having and actually focus on the plot of the story. Unfortunately though, while everything was more clear, the plot still fell flat for me.

So – while I very much didn’t like this book over all, there were some good things about it. The world that James crafted is really neat. The creatures he mentions are fascinating, the cultures are really neat, the lore he based everything off of is fascinating, and I wanna read more things inspired by it. And just experiencing the world and its various magical elements was really, really cool.

But unfortunately, the setting wasn’t enough to save the book for me. The premise was good, the world was great… but the characters, violence, and meandering really ruined it for me.

If you’re in the mindset to read something containing all that, I can see how you’d love the book. It felt like I was reading an epic like Gilgamesh or something at points. But, for me, it did not click. I did not like it, which is such a bummer.

I haven’t decided if I’m gonna unhaul the book or if I’m gonna wait a few years and reread it. We’ll see.

1.5/5 stars

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics by Hiromu Arawaka

Fullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel ComicsFullmetal Alchemist: The Complete Four-Panel Comics by Hiromu Arakawa

Manga
Read March 15-16th
Fantasy
128 pages
Released in English March 12th, 2019
Spoiler-free blabber

This was so nice.

I had no idea this collection of four panels was coming out until I walked past it in the bookstore – it wasn’t even in the manga section. I froze and picked it up immediately.

This book is a collection of all the Fullmetal Alchemist four-panels – at the back of each of the 27 volumes of manga, there’s a small section of fun comics that the author made. They’re humorous, don’t really play into the plot (but do reference it, so they’ll be spoilery if you haven’t finished the series), and when I read them, I loved them. So that’s what I thought I would be getting when I picked this up.

Turns out, it was way more than that. It started with the manga four-panels – a title at the top would tell which volume it was from. And then after that, there were four-panels that were included in the original FMA anime DVD collection. I didn’t even know they contained four-panels. And then it went into comics from the FMA Brotherhood DVD collection. After that, it threw in all the comics that had appeared in Shonen Jump issues and various other medias, and finally it included a few comics that were never published anywhere.

So… I expected one thing and I got that and so much more. It. Was. Fantastic. I already knew I was going to like rereading all the four-panels – it had been a few years since I read the series so while most of them struck a chord of memory for me, some of them I had forgotten completely. And they’re funny – I laughed out loud multiple times. When I got to the DVD collection comics and beyond, it was a mix of new material and nostalgia. I had never seen the comics before obviously, but the contents of them hovered around the content of the DVDs, so having seen both anime series multiple times, it was very enjoyable to read extra material about them.

So overall, I loved this. I can see myself rereading it multiple times in the future, and I do believe it’s gained a spot in my ‘favorite books’ list. And man, it really, really made me want to reread the series. Maybe that’ll happen this year. It’s been years.

Rating 5/5 stars

Goblin Slayer vol 1 by Kumo Kagyu

Goblin Slayer, Vol. 1 (Goblin Slayer Manga, #1)Goblin Slayer volume 1 by Kumo Kagyu
Art by Kousuke Kurose
Character Design by Noboru Kannatuki

Manga
Read March 15
Rated M
Fantasy
176 pages
Spoiler-free Blabber

Goblin Slayer is visceral and vicious.

And I loved it.

Goblin Slayer is one of a trend I’ve seen recently: manga and anime that basically seem like a D&D campaign. Not that I’m complaining, mind you – I’m digging quite a few of them right now. This one in particular though is the most intense, the most violent. Trigger warning for blood, gore, and rape.

Goblin Slayer follows the story of a young priestess who is set on becoming an adventurer – one who fulfills jobs, usually hunting and killing various creatures or finding various artifacts for money. The story opens with her getting her first job – hunting a band of goblins that have stolen some young women from the nearby town. She goes in with a band adventurers, also brand new. What she experiences in the goblin cave is far worse than she had anticipated, and then Goblin Slayer shows up. That’s his name, the guy in the armor on the cover. He, unlike the priestess, is not a rookie.

So as mentioned above, multiple trigger warnings for this – even moreso for the anime (which is also really good and I really recommend. But the anime is even more visceral than the manga, believe it or not). This manga does not shy away from the danger these characters are putting themselves in, nor does it hand wave any of the brutality the goblins are capable of. This first volume is a good set up of the world the characters are living in, and even starts to touch into the back story of the enigma known as Goblin Slayer. Having seen farther in the anime than I’ve read in the manga at this point, I know the character development and world building is only going to get better from here.

There were a few things in the manga that were a welcome surprise though – insights into goblin thought patterns, background info on characters. I really liked it all. While an overarching plot has not really taken hold in this first volume, the ending of it hints at one, and it makes me want to buy the second volume yesterday. I really like the art in this too – the characters are well-designed and I never had an issue remembering who someone was.

I think my only complaint about this is it gets a bit fan-servicey at times. Boobs when they’re not relevant, butts when they’re not relevant. You get the gist. It didn’t occur often enough though to really take away from my enjoyment of the manga, but it did happen often enough that I noticed it. So hopefully it’ll stay at the level it’s currently at or decrease. I feel like an increase in meaningless boobs wouldn’t really benefit anything.

And to reiterate what I listed at the top: this manga is rated M, so be prepared for M rated content, because man, it does not shy away from it. If you’re willing to go into it knowing this though, and you tend to like fantasy and d&d, you’ll probably like this. I really did.

Rating: 4/5 stars

Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain | Blabber

Anthony Bourdain's Hungry GhostsAnthony Bourdain’s Hungry Ghosts by Anthony Bourdain, Joel Rose, Alberto Ponticelli, Vanesa Del Rey, Mateus Santolouco, Leonardo Manco

Graphic Novel/Cookbook
Read March 1st, 2019
Hardback
Spoiler-free blabber

Hungry Ghosts is not what I expected it to be, then again, going into it I wasn’t sure what I was expecting. I had never read a graphic novel cookbook combination before.

This book came out October of last year, and it had been on my radar ever since. I really like Anthony Bourdain’s work, and with recent events, it made me want to read it even more. So, when I saw it in the store, sitting there going ‘Emily here I am!’ I had to pick it up.

The basic premise of this book is a group of people are having a fancy dinner when they begin an ancient samurai game of nerves – light a bunch of candles, tell a scary story, and then blow out a candle. Each person in the group does this until all the candles are extinguished. Samurai would do this feat of nerve with the expectation that speaking about the spirits and demons would draw them near, and the darker it got, the more likely it would be for the speaker to become possessed.

Each story that a person tells plays out as a chapter, so you get a bunch of mini stories with the overarching popping in and out around it. The art in this was really neat – the illustrators did a really good job. It’s a much darker, heavier style than I’m used to, but it fit for the content of the thing and I really enjoyed it. Each story was illustrated in a different way too, which was really cool. It was also really neat getting to see all of these monsters and myths of Japanese folklore played out. Some of them I had heard of, others I had not. Each story surrounded hunger somehow (hence the title) which lent to a sense of cohesiveness.

Overall I really liked the structure and the content of the book. I think the one thing that kept me from loving it was lack of depth. And I know that it might not be fair, judging a graphic novel for depth, but at the same time, there are definitely other graphics I’ve read that do have that depth within a single trade issue. This one felt like we were only scratching the surface of what could have been really thorough looks at all these monsters, and because of that I had a hard time getting really invested. The ending was also rather abrupt and I finished the story with a feeling of ‘Wait, that’s it?’. At the same time though, the abruptness and the quick stories of each creature was probably what was desired by the authors and artists – scary stories are scary stories, and a lot of them originated from small snippets of tales like these ones. The structure was probably set up that way to feel like it was going back to the roots.

The recipes at the end are fun too, though I think I’d only be able to feasibly make one of them, the risotto. All of the others are way above my cooking skills. I liked them though and if anyone wants to come over and make them for me, be my guest.

So, do I recommend this? That depends. If you’re looking for something to become totally invested in, probably not. But! If you’re interested in Japanese myth, don’t mind a quick-paced campfire-esque telling of stories, and really want to see some neat art, then definitely. This book was a really neat thing, and I enjoyed it.

3/5 stars

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

King of Scars (Nikolai Duology, #1)King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo

Hardback
546 pages
YA Fantasy
Nikolai duology, book 1
Read Jan 29 โ€“ Feb 18
Spoiler-free blabber

Pacing.

My kingdom for some consistent pacing. Parts of this book, I really liked. Parts of it I wasn’t a huge fan of, but overall, the pacing was the major factor that kept me from rating this book more highly.

This book follows Nikolai, and takes place after the both the Grisha trilogy and the Six of Crows duology. It delves into the political unease culminating between Ravka and its neighbors, the imposing threat of parem, and the growing movement of those who worship the legacy and memory of the Starless Saint. Guess who.

We’ll start with the negatives and end with the positives. Overall I did like this book, I just didn’t love it.

So, the negatives:

As mentioned, pacing. The pacing of this book was all over the place. The beginning of the book starts out decent, the middle drags, and the end goes very very quickly. There were multiple story lines going on in this – one following Zoya and Nikolai, one following Nina, and various smaller others that meandered in and out of the two of them.

My major issue with the pacing was due to how these two major timelines interwove, or didn’t, rather. I’ve read a few reviews on this book at this point, and one of the major points that people tend to make and that I agree with is that some of the perspectives seemed pointless at times. It jars the reader, jumping from the “main” plot line to the side ones, because the paces of them are so different, particularly towards the end of the book.

Speaking of the end (and as mentioned, no spoilers) a lot of things happen very quickly in the last hundred pages or so of the book. Things that I wanted to know more about, that should have been delved into, were skimmed over. Particularly what Zoya is up to during that time wasn’t given the attention it needed and deserved. Because of this, future chapters in the next book could have her feeling a bit unevenly developed. It’ll be like ‘suddenly she’s this way, because remember those 10 pages they talked about it in the last book?’. I hope very much that Zoya gets more focus in the next book – some internal strife, some monologuing, something that will give more attention to the development she went through so very quickly.

In addition, while Zoya developed fairly well throughout the book (and then… very fast, which makes me nervous) the other characters kinda fell flat. The series is called the Nikolai duology, but he didn’t feel quite as uh… vivid, as he did in the Grisha trilogy. I’m hoping it was because the author wanted to focus on Zoya, but this first book didn’t really feel like his book, if that makes sense. Nina as well seemed a bit less vibrant. But at the same time, that could be due to grief and I’m just being unsympathetic.

Speaking of, the positives:

(Spoilers for Crooked Kingdom) Nina’s grief. I think it was handled very well at the beginning of the book. It actually had me tearing up a bit, which… isn’t something I usually do when reading books, honestly. But I think it was the situation, the way Nina spoke about Matthias, the way she finally let him go, Nina’s sorrow felt very real to me, and very possible. It wasn’t overly dramatic or played out. It was a girl mourning the death of her love, and I felt it.

The characters, though they felt a bit flat, were generally still decent. While some of Nina’s bits were boring (aka moved at a glacial pace) I did enjoy seeing her. She was probably one of my favorites from the Six of Crows duology. That series I liked a tad less than the norm. It was a solid 3.5-4 star thing for me, which is a bit lower than you see on Goodreads. This King of Scars book I think is juuuuust above Six of Crows and juuuuust below Crooked Kingdom for me as far as rating goes.

Anyway, Nina’s plot line, while I still cannot fathom why it was drawn out so much, has me curious what will happen. It, more than Nikolai’s in my opinion, hints at a looming threat that I’m sure will come to fruition in the second book.

Nikolai, while uh… dampened, was still fun to read from. I particularly enjoyed his banter with Zoya, and enjoyed getting a bit of his inner monologue during the trials he was going through. Zoya as well, I really grew to like. Aside from the weird punch-in-the-face of stuff she went through at the end of the book, I really liked how we got her backstory. I think she is my favorite character.

The plot of this book I liked, but as mentioned, it felt stilted. It bumbled around for four hundred pages, but then really got on track at the end. Did it feel super rushed? Yes. But was it a good plot development? …I think so, yes. So I like the direction it’s going, I just hope the feeling I felt at the end of the book will stick throughout the second one, whenever it comes out. Speaking of, the ending. The very ending. Unfortunately I predicted what would happen two hundred pages before it did. It kinda took the wind out of it for me.

Despite that though, I’m still kinda pumped for it. I like the ‘what happened’, I’m just not sure if I’m totally on board with the ‘why and how’. hm hm.

So many things about this book gave me so many positive and negative feelings. That might be good though. It gives the second book so much more chance to shine. I’m excited for book two and definitely think it has the potential to be a five star book for me.

Just needs pacing.

3.75/5 stars

 

Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

Crooked Kingdom (Six of Crows, #2)Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

Hardback
546 pages
YA Fantasy
Six of Crows duology, book 2
Read Jan 11 โ€“ Jan 23
Spoiler-free blabber

I picked this book up right after having finished Six of Crows. The first book suffered from over-hype, and having read it and been a bit disappointed, I went into this one with a much more realistic mindset. Because of that, I enjoyed it more than the first one.

This book picks up immediately after the finale of book one, and the characters have to deal with the new situation they find themselves in. The plot set-up for this book I think is more realistic than the first one was, and the ways the characters go about completing their objectives are much more believable. I stated in my blabber for the first one that one of my biggest problems with the book was that I found it hard to suspend my disbelief. It was easier this time around, as the motivations and actual skill sets of the characters had been more developed, and those of the enemy were less all-encompassing. It made the idea that the bad guy could potentially be overthrown feel more possible.

In addition to the plot, the characterization in this book was much more fleshed out. I griped in Six of Crows that Kaz was built up to be this ruthless, cold, vicious person, that he had this huge reputation for it, but we didn’t get to see it. Well, in this one, I was expecting more of the same, but thirty pages in, I went ‘Oh there it is’. The characters acted more how they’ve been described in this one, and it was nice to see a bit of cohesion there instead of ‘say one thing do another’. The other characters developed nicely as well. I particularly liked how Wylan grew – he became more sure of himself and his abilities, and ended up being one of my favorite characters by the end of the book. This book was funnier than the first one too. The humor wasn’t all over in-your-face, but there were a few times were I laughed. This book was fun to read.

Just like in the previous book, the main issue I had with this book was the pacing. The pacing, while a bit better than in Six of Crows, was still stilted and awkward. The beginning part of the book zooms, comes to a mini-climax, and then stagnates. It’s slow then, for about a hundred pages, and then it zooms again until the end of the book. The middle of the book isn’t supposed to make the reader want to put it down. And that’s what almost happened – I almost set it aside for a different book. I wasn’t going to stop reading it all together, but the way the plot progression was going, I was losing interest big time. That’s uh, that’s not a good thing when you’re building up to the finale of a series.

So that’s my biggest complaint. All the other complaints I had in book one have either solved themselves or they were improved on at least a little bit. If I remember, I think the Grisha trilogy had some pacing issues as well, so I’m hoping it doesn’t continue into the next series set in the same world.

So overall: This book was better than the first one. The characterization was improved, the plot was more believable, the humor was better, the characters were more likeable. It was all just better. If you read the first book and loved it, you’ll love this too. If you were luke-warm to it like me, I suggest picking this one up. Odds are, you’ll like it more.

4/5 stars

Silver Spoon (vol 1) by Hiromu Arawaka | Blabber

Silver Spoon, Vol. 1Silver Spoon by Hiromu Arakawa
192 pages
Released Feb 27, 2018
Read Jan 7, 2019
Manga – Slice of life
Spoiler-free blabber

Who knew I’d like reading about cows so much?

Silver Spoon volume one is a new series from the same author that wrote Fullmetal Alchemist. Anyone remotely familiar with manga or anime has likely at least heard of that series, and since it’s one of my all-time favorites, the author has become a bit of an auto-buy for me. So when I saw this one, I picked up the first volume to try it out.

Very much unlike the high action, high stakes plot of Fullmetal, Silver Spoon is instead a slice of life manga with a much more sedated pace. It follows the main character Yuugo Hachiken, a student who enrolls in an agricultural high school, as he learns the ins and outs of managing a farm and farm animals. The author herself grew up on a farm, so the knowledge put into the story is first hand.

The series alters between a light, humorous tone and a grimmer one. The story does not shy away from the grit required with handling farm animals. The main character, having no farming background himself. learns what that means quickly. The narrative explores the main character’s discomfort with seeing exactly where his food comes from, but it does it in a way that is neither cruel or really makes fun of him or the other students who are doing the work required. It was interesting to see, as someone who was very much raised in a city and has been around a full sized cow only in petting zoos.

The character design in the manga is very similar to that of Fullmetal Alchemist, and it was almost a nostalgic experience, seeing characters who look close to ones I know already. The humoristic art style is also the same, and I enjoyed it just as much as I did last time.

In addition to the raising of farm animals, this manga, within the first volume, also starts to cover various other important topics, such what it’s like to experience a lack of motivation. The main character finds himself surrounded by highly driven people, all with their own goals and aspirations, and finds himself feeling inadequate. It talks about what it’s like when you’re expected to feel all these things, but you just… don’t. It’s not a topic often discussed, as ‘go-getters’ tend to be the center of story lines.

Another thing I really liked about this manga was one of the female characters: Tamako Inada. She’s introduced right near the beginning of the series and is very overweight. Her classmates make comments in passing about her, ranging from concern to outright meanness. My favorite thing about her though, is that she doesn’t seem to care – everything said about her just bounces off her, she ignores it or she proves them wrong purely by who she is. She’s just so resilient, and she has a really great sense of humor to boot. She’s by far, in my book at least, the funniest character. I think she’s one of the hidden gems in this series, and will become one of my favorites.

So overall, the humor in this combined with the seriousness made me really like this first volume. Hiromu Arakawa has exceeded expectations once again, and I plan on getting more of this series soon!

4.25/5 stars

 

Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo | Blabber

Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1)Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Hardback
465 pages
YA Fantasy
Read Jan 5 – Jan 11
Spoiler-free blabber

Hype is a dangerous thing.

I had heard many, many good things about this book before I picked it up, and with King of Scars coming out at the end of this month, I figured I should get to it beforehand in case events within are mentioned in passing in the next series. I am a fan of the Grisha trilogy – all the books in there hover around 4 stars, give or take – and the majority of people seem to actually like this book more than that series. So going in, I was pretty pumped.

Unfortunately, I guess I was too pumped. I ended up liking the book, but that thing, that ‘oomph’ that everyone felt that made them absolutely adore it.. I didn’t feel it. As stated, the book was good. I liked it. I didn’t love it, though.

I liked the plot. I loved the world. I liked the pacing. I liked the characters… mostly. The biggest thing that killed this book for me though was the characters’ ages. I knew going into the book that it was young adult and therefore I would be reading about seventeen year olds. But even going in with that mindset, I still couldn’t suspend my disbelief enough to get passed that, well, a bunch of seventeen year olds were breaking into a military stronghold deemed impenetrable. The method they used to get in as well, seemed a bit farfetched to me. I just kept sitting there thinking ‘Someone at some point in time must have tried that method. Like, how long has this place been around and nobody tried this?‘ But apparently, this group of people in particular, these teenagers, were way, way smarter than any military strategist or security personnel with decades of experience. Who knew.

I guess my point is that, after the build-up of the stakes and the danger and whatnot, the actual exhibition kinda… fell flat, which leads me into my other issue with the book. Whether it was the writing or the fact that I couldn’t suspend my disbelief, I just couldn’t feel the intensity of the situation. The stakes are basically life and death, in the long term. You’d think that would have me going ‘oh no oh no oh no are they gonna make it ugh ugh’, but it really didn’t. The situation, which should have had me on the edge of my seat, lacked any sort of feeling of urgency. And I think this reason specifically is why I rated it lower than people tend to. I wasn’t able to get myself to feel for the characters or the situation. There was no sense of impending doom, no anxiety build up about what would happen should they fail. It just.. wasn’t there.

Also, I don’t like Kaz. He reminds me too much of Kvothe from the Kingkiller Chronicles and I hate Kvothe. Kaz had the vibe of ‘I’m good at this stuff just because’, and it drove me bonkers. The second I realized the similarities, I actually said, “Oh nooooooo,” out loud. Kaz has this reputation for doing the gritty stuff, for doing any job, for being nefarious and cruel and yada yada. You don’t really get to see that, though. Sure it’s alluded to, but it really felt like ‘I’m telling you this stuff so I don’t actually have to write it and do the character development’. He had development during the story, which was ok, but his background didn’t really show through. I knew he was supposed to be this tough guy but like.. it didn’t really seem like it.

But! Like I said, I did like this book. What lacked for me in immersion, intensity and Kaz was made up for by just being back in the Grisha universe again. As stated, I like the world this novel takes place in. The world building for the city, the island, and the other countries mentioned are pretty neat. The magic system is super interesting and its use in this book had a different dynamic than in the Grisha trilogy, so it was nice seeing it from another perspective. I feel like so much more could take place here, and going by the new series that’s coming out soon, I’m gonna get my wish.

The side characters as well – basically everyone except Kaz, I really liked. I liked Nina in particular, because she had the same feelings towards Kaz as I do. Because of that, it makes me question him – maybe he was supposed to be written as an insufferable butt on purpose and will get called out on it in book two? Who knows. If that happens though, then you can bet your butt I’ll be singing its praises. The other side characters too were rather entertaining. I really like the character dynamics between Nina and Matthias, though I think the reason for the strife between them is a bit farfetched. The reason the author used to get them not quite liking each other is, well, ridiculous. The reasoning given for Nina doing what she did was that she had no other choice. She totally had another choice. There were so many other choices. It’s a minor issue though, I guess. I guess. The interactions between Jesper and Wylan too, I really enjoyed. I think those two characters are my favorite overall, and I hope to see them grow and develop in the next book.

And I think the best part about this book was the pacing. While I didn’t really feel the intensity of the situation, the pace of the writing kept me reading at a steady rate. Nothing felt slow or unnecessary, nothing felt rushed. The pacing saved this book for me. I really appreciate it when an author can keep a steady sense of ‘keep reading’ in me throughout the book, whether or not it’s during an action scene. It doesn’t happen super often, so it was so nice that it did.

Overall, this book was good. It wasn’t great, as I had been led to believe, but it was good. I liked it.

3.75/5 stars

 

Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb

Dragon Keeper (The Rain Wild Chronicles, #1)Dragon Keeper by Robin Hobb
Fantasy
494 pages
Read Sept 2 – Sept 29, 2018
Rain Wild Chronicles, Book 1
Realm of the Elderlings, Book 10

Spoiler-free blabber

I buddy-read this book with Zezee! This is what feels like our millionth Robin Hobb buddy-read, and it was just as enjoyable as all it’s predecessors. ๐Ÿ˜€

I think that I would have enjoyed this book more if the previous Hobb books in the Realm of the Elderlings series weren’t The Tawny Man trilogy. I say this because to me, Tawny Man is her best works so far. I loved that series. So coming down off that and going into this one, I think my expectations were a bit too high, or I was still not over the previous one.

Overall, I did rather like this book. It was very enjoyable, and I feel like it’s a strong set-up to what could be a really, really good quartet. But, with my mindset still partially on The Fool and Fitz, my heart was still a bit distracted, so I feel like I couldn’t give as much affection to this one because Fitz and The Fool weren’t in it.

The characters that were in it though, were nice and gray and complicated, just how Hobb loves to write and them and I love to read them. Each one within the first book developed distinct personalities and motivations. Some of them I very much like, others I started with disliking and ended up liking and some I started with liking and ended up disliking.

Alise. Probably my favorite character in the series at this point. In the beginning of the book, she enters into a marriage contract with Hest, a prominent trader in Bingtown, which would allow her to pursue her study of dragons in earnest. Alise starts as a character that has never really been the center of attention but by the end of the novel, becomes more confident in herself and her skills and what attention she does receive from the other characters, she revels in. There’s a gray area with her in this though, but saying what it is would be a spoiler, I think. Overall, her character growth in this first book was good to read, and while she is my favorite character, she’s toying a very fine line in morals. It’ll be interesting to see which way she ultimately slides.

Hest. Easily my most hated character. Alise’s husband, he’s a bit of a jerk. I think his character arc was the most easily predictable for me. I was able to guess ahead of time why he acts the way he was acting, and to have to play out almost exactly as I predicted kinda let out some of the steam I had had going for this book. There was only a small detail about it that I had not predicted, but man, that detail is coloring other characters more complicated and makes interactions between others more hypocritical. AUGH I LOVE IT. I don’t like Hest, but as far as his part to play in the story, his actions are going to cause a lot of waves, man.

Sedric. This is the character I started with liking and ended up disliking. In the beginning, I saw him more as a pure and innocent and overall good influence in Alise’s life. But as the story progressed and we got to read from his point of view, we get to see that all is not well in Oz. He’s gray man, his moral compass is all over the place. He’s righteous in some areas and a hypocrite in others. He’s a very interesting one to read from for sure. I feel like his character arc has a lot of room for growth. I hope he becomes even more complicated.

Leftrin. This is the one that I started with disliking and ended up liking. Leftrin original struck me as a sly, manipulative individual, with his actions in the beginning of the book. And he might still be and is just good at hiding it, but seeing him interact with Alise and others, he’s warmed to me. He seems like he genuinely wants to be better, despite wanting to gain a profit along the way. I feel like this character is another one that could surprise me with his growth.

Thymara. I know this character got a lot of screen time, but she is one I’m still the least connected to. I like her overall, but I feel like I haven’t really gotten to read deep enough into her yet. I know her motivations, and I know her personality, but nothing has really struck me about her character yet, if that makes sense. I hope in the next book that she gets more POV time so I can read more from her and hopefully grow to like her as much as I like Alise.


Plot-wise, this book was rather slow. The reading wasn’t slow, I blew through it, but the speed at which things were happening was slow. This book, about half way through it, Zezee and I realized was just set up for the next books. Not saying that it was bad, but nothing really happened until towards the end of the book.

Most of the book was taken up by world-building and character development, both of which were really neat. I feel like Robin Hobb’s ability to build her world in the book with so much depth and distinction without it feeling like an info-dump is one of her best talents. At no point did I feel overwhelmed with trivia, nor did I get bored reading. Everything flowed really nicely and I found myself being able to open the book and read 100 or 200 pages in a single sitting. Her writing was compelling even though, as I said, I felt like nothing super major happened plot-wise. I think it was the anticipation of the next book that kept me going – with everything that was built up in this book, the next book sounds like it’s going to be even more wonderful.

So overall – I liked this book. The character development was good, the world-building was good. I just was hoping for a bit more plot, I guess. Plus, Fitz and the Fool – I want them back, man. MY HEART, IT YEARNS.

3.75/5 stars

Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas | Blabber

Queen of Shadows (Throne of Glass, #4)Queen of Shadows by Sarah J Maas
YA Fantasy
Read Aug 23 – 27th
648 pages
Throne of Glass, Book 4
Spoiler-free blabber

I feel like these books are hard to review. Objectively, there are a lot of problems with them, but subjectively, I tend to adore them.

To prove my words, I wrote that top bit there and then I sat here for five minutes staring at my screen, trying to figure out how to start. Hm…

Queen of Shadows was a book on my 10 in 2018 list, the second year in a row it appeared there. I read the first three books rapid fire back in January of 2016 and then got distracted. This read was the second attempt. I picked it up once in 2017 and got a chapter into it before realizing I had forgotten character relations, major plots points, and all sorts of things from the first three. I ended up watching a spoilery in-depth review of Heir of Fire before jumping into it this time, and while my memory was spotty on it for a while, it definitely was a better experience.

Going into this one, I had heard it was a party-splitter, that some fans adored it and others really, really disliked it. I read it, waiting and waiting for this opinion-altering event to occur, and… I never really found one. Overall themes in the book could be off-putting I suppose, but I don’t think I quite understand why this book is so disliked by some when obviously they had liked the first three. I don’t really see how it was so different overall. So, if you are in the ‘didn’t like this’ party, enlighten me, because I am truly curious what I missed.

I think my favorite thing about this book and Maas’s books in general, is how easy they are to read. I tend to pick them up when I’m in a reading slump, because without fail I fly through them. I think I read this 650 page book in… four days? Maybe five? I really buzzed through it, and considering I’d only been reading manga beforehand because ofย  the slump, I’d say that’s pretty good.

I’ve mentioned in past reviews of the series that Celaena or Aelin or whatever her name is, is not my favorite character. She rubs me the wrong way. I feel like her abilities are too much for the amount of training she’s received compared to her enemies, some obviously much older and much more experienced. I guess she just comes across as a bit unbelievable to me. Though, she’s nowhere near as bad as my favorite Mary Sue. And honestly, I think I liked her more this book than I have in any of its predecessors. Originally in book one, she was very immature – threw tantrums, was vindictive. I think seeing her actually have interpersonal relations with people has helped. And I very much like ‘Aelin’ more than ‘Celaena’. Her character development has been going pretty well and maybe one day, I’ll actually like her. Maybe.

So, I mentioned there are problems with the book objectively, the main character being a bit over-inflated being one. Another is the age of many of the main players and leaders of factions. Everyone from the resistance to the assassins to the guards are in their late teens or early twenties, with the exception of the centuries-old fae who is somehow able to get along with everyone with no maturity or generational-gap issues. He just… fits right in, but you would think he’d have more problems adjusting. A third is the eventual almost-guaranteed attraction of every male character to Aelin. At one point or another, all of them decide they’re crushing on her or more, regardless of their age. Heck, even her cousin gets territorial over her (though not for romantic reasons, don’t worry, it’s not gross). A fourth is all the ‘alpha-male’ bull-doody that results from issue three. Aelin herself calls it out, but she does it in a way that says ‘Oh you guys. Quit fighting over little ol’ me’ and never actually addresses the root of the behavior or why it’s weird for them all to be posturing to each other over this 19-year-old woman.

So yes, objectively, issues. None of these issues are particularly new, they’ve been in the series since book one and just growing broader with the addition of more characters. Do they bug me? Yes. Are they enough for me to dislike the series? Weirdly, no. But, I can see why they’d be too much for some people. I feel like if I wasn’t able to fly through the books as easily as I am, these issues would be much more of a factor for me. But I at least want to acknowledge them.

Plot-wise I rather liked this book. I liked the expansion of the world, I liked the subplots of the side characters. I like Chaol and I really like Manon. The witch subplot chapters were some of my favorites, and I really like how she’s been developing and how her thirteen are actually starting to get personalities. When she was introduced last book, I found her interesting but her chapters were kinda flat. Aside from Manon herself, none of the characters in them were really given any opportunity to show that they were more than cardboard cut-outs. This book allowed for that, and I think that Manon’s First is one of my favorite characters in the series now. She’s pretty great.

Another thing I liked seeing was the friendship that developed between Aelin and one of the female characters that was mentioned earlier in the series and then forgotten about. She reappears in this book and actually gets a good dose of character development. It’s always nice to see a movie or book pass the Bechdel test, man. Just because a book has a main female lead doesn’t mean it passes, and it’s a bit sad that fails are so common. I think this relationship in particular is what made me dislike Aelin less in this book than I have in the others. I feel like this friendship was a much needed dynamic, and I hope it lasts.

And finally, as mentioned above, I flew through it. The writing was compelling enough to keep me reading for over a hundred pages a day, and that is the main reason why I liked it so much. The book was fun. It was enjoyable to read, and I found myself unable to put it down. It made me wanna break my book buying ban so I could go get the fifth one (but I didn’t, I’m making myself wait).

So overall, despite the issues this book has, I did rather like it, and I’m looking forward to the fifth one.

4.25/5 stars