Monthly Archives: April 2013

KayKay #CRB5 Review #23 A Quest of Heroes by Morgan Rice

A Quest of Heroes

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

This was one of those books that Amazon is continually recommending to me based on books I have previously read.  I had read the sample before, which didn’t grab me.  The summary of the story sounded like just the type of book I like- a heroes journey, so I finally decided to give it a try.  Here’s what I thought…

Plot

Thor (short for Thorgrin), has hoped all his life to join the Kings Legion.  He is overlooked when the knights come to town, so he runs off to Kings Landing to convince them to take him.  He gets in, he makes friends with the kings sons and becomes squire to the most popular knight in the land (Erec).  He falls in love with the princess (who was named as successor to her father).  And although he made some enemies (he even won one of them over to his side), he did pretty well for himself, saving the lives of others, getting a falcon and finding a snow leopard cub.

There were some plot points that I found to be cheesy- for example the king has six kids, one of which isn’t legitimate and two are girls.  By rules / tradition neither should be able to inherit the kingdom.  Because the legitimate sons were either not suited or two young, the king names his daughter as successor.  His reasoning was that he was king so he could break the rules.  But if he was going to break the rules, he should have chosen his eldest son (although illegitimate, he is best suited to run the kingdom).  It’s little glossy plot points like this that made this book feel like a YA novel.

The other ‘slippery’ part of the plot, is at the end, when Thor warns the king that he is going to be poisoned.  The king knows someone is going to try to kill him, his sorcerer has warned him and he acted as if he believed it (by talking to his daughter about succeeded him).  However, when Thor (someone he has publicly accepted as a part of his family) warns him, he disregards it.  And, when Thor knocks the poisoned drink from his hand, instead of thanking him, they accuse him and put him in the dungeons.  I felt that was totally out of character with this king who had previously been portrayed as understanding.

I did like the fast moving plot.  He was home tending sheep, then running off to the capital city, falling in love and joining the legion.

Plot Score: 3/5

Location, Location, Location

This location has an interesting setup.  It’s a land that is surrounded by a canyon, which is magically powered by the Destiny Sword.  The land is divided into two sections, one run by the McGils, the other by the McClouds (totally Hatfield and McCoys style).  There are all manners of beasts and savages living outside the ring that are continuously plotting to attack.

Location Score: 3/5

Characters and Relationships

Overall I wish the characters were less black and white.  Either they were instantly good, or instantly bad (with the exception of Elden, who was instantly bad, but became good).

Thor- I wish he was more of a dark hero, but he is an idealist.  He is always following his spot on instincts and making immediate judgement of the people he meets.  It’s either “he couldn’t help but feel that he was making a lifelong friend” or “he did not like him at all”.  This even carries over to his animals, both of which he had an immediate connection (sometimes a ‘mystical’ connection.)

Characters Score: 2/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

None

Bigger Meaning Score:  0/5

Style

Defining Quote:  “You must defend others who cannot defend themselves.  It is not a quest for the light-hearted.  It is a quest of heroes.”

I loved the pacing of the book.  The plot moves and I was able to finish the book in a couple of days.  However, I didn’t expect from the dark cover for this to be a YA book, but based on the cheesy aspects of the story and the black and white characters, I have come to the conclusion that this is a YA novel.

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

-I can’t figure out Thor’s mysterious background.  I think he might be another illegitimate son of the king, but that would make his love for the kings daughter inappropriate.  There is something going on here, because the Queen has an immediate dislike of him (reminded me of the Starks in Game of Thrones).

Total Score and Recommendation
11/25- If you are in the mood for a YA book, I would recommend this one.  I’m definitely going to continue on this quest.
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KayKay #CRB5 Review #22 Hands to Make War: The Awakened Book Three by Jason Tesar

HandstoMakeWar

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

I finished this book about a week ago and I have already forgotten this book!  I normally have notes and marks on my kindle version of the book to reference when I write the reviews, but I have purchased a new device and it did not transfer my notes.  (or perhaps I didn’t make any…).  Well, this won’t be as in depth as normal, but here’s what I thought…

Plot

As I previously mentioned this book has already started to slip my mind.  An ancient evil power was awoken, and one of his spawn.  Kael was able to defeat them both.

Unfinished Plot Line #1:  (Finished in Book 2)- It was Adair in the water.  We learn at the end of book 2 that Adair is in our world.

Unfinished Plot Line #2- What is happening with Adair- we finally get more than an opener and closer in the modern world.  The whole ‘multiple dimension’ story line, is still unfinished.  I guess this continues on in future books.

Unfinished Plot Line #3: Who is Saba?  (Partly addressed in book 2)  Looks like we have to read his book to get his story….

Unfinished Plot Line #4: What is Kael?  So we know Kael is the ‘Awakened One’ (which we could have assumed since book 1), but still unsure of the extent of ‘what’ he is….

Unfinished Plot Line #5: Where are the angels?  We had evil angels in this book, but it seems as if the story has just started.

Plot Score:  2/5

Location, Location, Location

I still enjoy the juxtaposition of our world vs. the Orudan Empire.  I wish this was explored more, and it seems as if Kael is heading there in the next book.

Location Score: 3/5

Characters and Relationships

Kael- I still prefer Kael as a character.  He is the main reason I come back to this story.  We are discovering his powers along with him, and he’s doing the best

Saba- I kept expecting him to break out some crazy ex-angel moves…but nope, getting nothing from him.

Maeryn- This character drove me crazy!  At one point, they are in the midst of a war and she’s worried about a courtyard that has a fountain by no vegetation!  Come on Maeryn- you’re flirting with the enemy, let’s get it together!

Characters Score: 3/5 (’cause of Maeryn, more Kael, the higher this score would be)

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

None….

Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5

Style

Opening Line: “Adair sat on a wide, cushioned bench and raised a steaming cup to his lips.”

For me, the biggest issue is the plot that focused on all the wrong things (too much Maeryn and not enough Adair and Kael and Saba).  The entire book is a teaser to get you to read the next story.  I want to read the next book, but I know if I read it, I’m just going to get another inch in the story.

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

I’m not sure if I’ll read the next book.  Sometimes I read a sample of a book and the sample stays with me, even if I’ve moved on to other samples or books.  This book isn’t sticking with me, even after 3 books in…I need a little more ‘meat’ to the story.

Total Score and Recommendation
11/25- If you’ve read the first two, might as well read this one…

KayKay #CRB5 Review #21 The Painted Girls by Cathy Marie Buchanan

ThePaintedGirls

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

After reading a CBR5 review of this book, I decided to give it a shot, although it’s outside of my normal sci fi / fantasy choices.  The reviews reminded me of Memoirs of a Geisha, a book (and movie) which I adore.  The Painted Girls sounded like a French version with ballet dancers instead of Geisha’s.  Did this book measure up to my expectations?  Here’s what I thought…

Plot

After the death of their father, and the unreliability of an alcoholic mother, three girls try to take care of themselves in the slums of Paris.  The oldest daughter, Antoinette, is rejected from the Opera because of her attitude, and begins to work at the laundry to help make ends meet.  The middle child, Marie, who was in school (and the only sister who can read) had to quit school to also work (dance) at the Opera.  The youngest sister, Charlotte, also begins at the Opera, with hopes of raising through the ranks.  Antoinette does a good job of taking care of the family, until she meets bad boy Emile.  Falling in love with Emile, she starts shirking her responsibilities for time with him- to the point where after he is convicted of murder (yes, he’s that bad), she resorts to prostitution with dreams of following him to New Caladonia.  At this point, Marie starts picking up some of the responsibility, and she takes a relationship with her ‘sponsor’ too far, and starts to fall apart (resorting to alcohol).  After stealing money from a client, Antoinette is sentenced to 3 months of jail and has an ‘ah ha’ moment there.  She realizes Emile’s character and focuses on taking care of her family.

“It is about being born downtrodden and staying that way.  Hard work makes no difference, he is saying.  My lot, the lots of those around me, were cast the moment we were born into the gutter to parents who never managed to step outside the gutter themselves.”

I really thought that this story was going to mirror the play in the book (summarized by the above quote).  They would not be able to rise above their circumstances, and I prepared myself for the worst.  They were able to redeem themselves in the end, and make a nice life for themselves.

Plot Score: 4/5

Location, Location, Location

A slum in Paris during the 1800’s.  I believe the writing captured the feel of that time and location, not to mention the specifics of the Opera and the ballet and the art scene at the time.

Location Score: 4/5

Characters and Relationships

Antoinette-  At first she lived only for herself, and that part of the story was boring.  Once she meet Emile, she fell in love and sacrificed for him.  She didn’t make great decisions, but her story became more interesting.

“Already I know I want his hot breath upon my skin again, his stroking fingers upon my fresh.  If he don’t come begging to me, I am going begging to him, and I don’t see any point in pretending something different for an evening or a day”

When Antoinette wants something – she puts 100% into it (including lying when convenient, staying with a boy after he is convicted of murder), whether it’s a failing relationship  or her sisters.  When she is with Emile, it’s like watching a train wreck- we know nothing good is going to come of it, but we keep watching.  I was at the point where I was hoping Emile would get the death penalty so Antoinette could be set free.  But, she freed herself in the most appropriate way.  Her defining moment was when she realized how her behavior affected her sisters.  At that point, she decided to tell one more lie- one to clear her sisters conscience.

Marie- I had high hopes for Marie.  I thought she was going to ‘make it’.  But when her sister abandoned her for a boy, she was left in charge.  Unable to handle the pressure, she started spiraling out of control, and relying on alcohol (like her mom).  She is not as ‘hard’ as Charlotte and Antoinette, she is educated, she is sensitive and she cares about her family, more than dancing.  After burning evidence that would prove Emile guilty of a second murder, to stop her sister from wasting her future on ‘that boy’.  She knows she did the right thing, but she can’t handle the guilt of the conviction of Emile and  Knobloch.  Antoinette’s last lie is to tell Marie that the evidence was not authentic.

Characters Score: 5/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

“Sisters before Misters”.  Based on Antoinette’s evolution during the book, I really think this is a story of the importance of family, and understanding our importance in others lives.

Bigger Meaning Score: 3/5

Style

Opening Line: “Monsieur LeBlanc leans against the doorframe, his arms folded over a belly grown round on pork crackling. A button is missing from his waistcoat, pulled too tight for the threads to bear.”

The opening line did pull me in, I especially like the phrase “Pulled too tight for the threads to bear.”

This book is like a beautiful song.  It starts soft, it gets dark, it has a final crescendo.  The plot, the emotions, the growth of the character, were masterfully put together.

It was difficult to get the terminology- there was some french terms I had to look up on wiki, and some ballet terms that I had not encountered before.  After I got familiar with the language, it was much easier (and clearer) reading.

Style Score: 4/5

Final Thoughts?

– It was one of the books that requires a breather before reading another book.  You need time to digest the characters and the plot.

Total Score and Recommendation
20/25- This is a beautiful book, I highly recommend it.

KayKay #CRB5 Review #20 Paths of Destruction: The Awakened Book Two by Jason Tesar

Paths of Destruction

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement.  Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers.  Continue on at your own risk!

When reading a series with more than one book published, I normally have at least a one book break in between the stories.  With this series, I felt the books were not ‘stand alone’ and that I should read them back to back.  There were several plot lines that were unfinished, and I was anxious to see what happened.  Did the plot lines get wrapped up?  Here’s what I thought…

Plot

This book jumps about 12 years in the future, with Kael having escaped the monastery and had his own set of adventures.  Kael has now (yes, 12 years after his freedom) decided to go back and see his mom (who thinks he is dead).  Unfortunately, his mom, involved in a rebellion to free slaves, has fled the city, the same day Kael arrives (mysterious confidence).  He then joins the army to dispose of invading troops.  Along the way, he learns that his old friends from the monastery are behind the invasion of The Empire.  The big reveal, is the new Emperor, who was once a General (and the secret leader of the rebellion) is the High Priest.

Unfinished Plot Line #1: In the ‘modern’ world, a mysterious man has been pulled out of the water / Unfinished Plot Line #2- What has happened to Adair?- Mystery solved, well, at least we know that the man pulled out was Adair.  He is now being guarded by soldiers who are at least getting him medical treatment and food.  We only get two chapters of Adair (the first and last chapters of the book).  There is so much good ‘stuff’ that can be written about him observing and living in our modern world, but it’s not really explored.  I’m interested to see how Tesar ties these two worlds together.  Twelve years has passed in The Empire, has it been an hour or two in our world??

Unfinished Plot Line #3: Who is Saba?  We get a little glimpse into Sariel, and he does get his memory back in this book, but his backstory has still not been revealed.

Unfinished Plot Line #4: What is Kael? Although he is starting to get more control over his abilities (his awareness of his surroundings), there is still no explanation of what he is.

Unfinished Plot Line #5: Where are the angels?  Still no angels…

Plot Score: 4/5

Location, Location, Location

The interesting location is Adair in the future.  I wish we had more of a glimpse of his reaction to modern technology.

Location Score: 3/5

Characters and Relationships

Kael- His is still my favorite story.  I think the book could have focused on his journeys, instead of having them just as a flashback.

Maeryn- She is being ‘wooed’ by Magnus, former general and new emperor, and the high priest.

Characters Score: 3/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

Not seeing any bigger meaning.

Bigger Meaning Score: 0/5

Style

Opening Line: Adair rested his head back against the seat, but kept his eyes open and focused on the terrain outside of the thundering locust.

I love to read a good journey, and this book has all the traits it needs to be great.  A boy who starts with everything, loses everything, then build his way back.  A boy who has special abilities.  The promise of ‘other worldly’ beings and power.  An enemy of equal standing.  However, I feel like the parts that are good, are the parts that are glossed over (in flashback retellings), and the stuff I don’t care so much about (Maeryn’s garden) has too much space.

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

– The timings were too convenient, his mom leaves right before Kael arrives.  Ajnai kills Lemus right before Kael arrives at the governors mansion.

-This story is a diamond in the rough, I wish it had been edited differently, with the focus being Kael and his journey.

-The best books can answer questions, and present more questions to keep us interested, I feel like this book has good questions, but it not making any progress towards answering them.  Hopefully answers will come in the third book.

Total Score and Recommendation
13/15- I’m going to keep going and read the third book (although I will be taking a 1 book break).  I hope the unfinished plot lines are successfully tied up.

KayKay #CRB5 Review #19 Awaken His Eyes: The Awakened Book One by Jason Tesar

TheAwakened

**SPOILER ALERT**

My book reviews are written as a discussion of a book, and not as an advertisement. Please be aware that there may be information that some would consider spoilers. Continue on at your own risk!

My husband and I share a Kindle account, and although he reads fantasy (like me), we often times don’t read the same books.  He must have purchased this in the past, as I got an email from Amazon that there were some modifications to the book (spelling, grammer, etc.) and that it was available to be re-downloaded.  Always willing to give a chance to a free (to me) book, I downloaded it and here’s what I thought…

Plot

First, we start out in a modern world (with satellites and automatic weapons, etc.) where they rescue a mysterious man, that was pulled out of the water.  We then move to a more ancient world for the rest of the book. (Story line #1 that remains unfinished).  Here we are introduced to a secret island in the ocean (with walls of mirrors that hide it from outsiders), which the governor (Adair) of a local territory explores, and is never seen again (Story line #2 that remains unfinished).  His wife (Maeryn) and child (Kael) and his childs tutor (Saba) are left with a new governor (Lemus), who gets to take the Adair’s property (including his wife).  The rest of the book follows Maeryn, and her support of anything anti-Lemus, Saba (who is exiled) and Kael, who everyone thinks is dead, but has secretly been sold to monks that train and raise him and 9 other boys to serve the ‘All Powerful’.  We learn that Saba has a mysterious past (he doesn’t remember who he is, story line #3 that remains unfinished) and Kael has mysterious abilities (story line #4 that remains unfinished)

The description of this book mentions angels, and we see some statues, symbols of winged ‘people’, but have not directly met any angels (story line #5 that remains unfinished)

This plot reads like the beginning of a large fantasy epic, and I’m glad the next two books are already published (and the pre-quel) because I feel like they are meant to be one continuous story.

Plot Score: 4/5

Location, Location, Location

Most of the book takes place in The Empire.  There is a hint of our modern world in Chapter One, but we don’t revisit that location throughout the rest of the book. There seem to be different religous beliefs- some believe in many gods, others believe in the All-Powerful, there are hints of angels, but no evidence of them yet. 

Location Score: 3/5

Characters and Relationships

Kael- I really felt the book picked up when it focused on his story.  I love a book that illustrates a characters journey.  He starts out the son of the governor and ends up a prisoner on a boat, in which he is forced to kill other children and eat a raw boar.  He is then purchased by monks (who really set up the whole prisoner thing to weed out the weaklings) and trained and educated.  He always feels apart from the other boys, and he seems special, but his uniqueness is introduced but not understood.  I am fully on board for his journey.

Saba- he starts out as a tutor for Kael.  We find he can remember nothing except waking up as an old man.  After Lemus takes over as governor and exiles Saba, he ends up in Orud and is captured.  We are introduced to someone that Saba has hurt in the past, which is still unexplained.  He starts to get glimpses of memories, but the memories only add more questions.

Maeryn- She was my least favorite character.  She did what she could, as the new wife of Lemus (who is very cruel).  She gets decides to use her position to gain information from him and give it to ‘the rebellion’.  It’s her way to rebel against Lemus, but she knows nothing about ‘the rebellion’- which is fighting against the entire empire, not just the city goverened by Lemus.  She may come to regret helping out one group to spite a known enemy.

Characters Score: 3/5

Life Lessons (fka Bigger Meaning)

I didn’t really read any ‘bigger meanings’ into this book.  I’m assuming there will be lessons learned as the story progresses.  I will say I wanted Kael to follow his gut and I think once he does that we will start to see him flourish.

Bigger Meaning Score: 1/5

Style

Opening Line: “The young analyst glanced quickly around the room, his eyes darting between the flickering computer screens and scores of other technical personnel.”

This was the author’s first book, and it was good, but a little unpolished.  I felt like it took a third of the book for the author to find his rhythm.  I’m hoping that he has his rhythm and the next three stories in this series continue to improve. 

As with all epic fantasy, the story continues in the next book.  However, most times the fist book can be stand alone- where most of the plot points are wrapped up, with some overarching story lines continuing.  With this book, it feels as if nothing is wrapped up, and this is the setup for the next two books.  I do wish that we would have gotten some answers in this book. 

Style Score: 3/5

Final Thoughts?

-I felt like this was a teaser trailer.  There were so many unfinished plot lines, but I am fully interested in seeing how the timlines and storylines progress.  Maybe these books should be published as one.

-What is up with Maeryn?  Should you help out the enemy of your enemy?  The evil she doesn’t know may be worse than Lemus.

Total Score and Recommendation
14/25- Recommended if you want to invest in more than one book…I’ll be reading the next installment.