The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins Book Review

Image result for the girl on the train by paula hawkins

Review by: Dancingonrain.

Rachel takes the train to and from work every day, but then, one day she sees something from her seat while the train is passing a neighborhood. Something that is not normal.

This book lived up to its hype. I usually don’t read that many literary novels because I can never really get into them, at least not in the same way that I can a fantasy/action novel.  I’ve always found literary works dry, but that was not the case with this book.

The characterizations was good. It was done so well that I barely noticed it while I was reading it, and by the end you’re like, “Of course that’s who it was,” or, “Of course that’s what would happen,” or something along those lines.

And when I finally started to realize the direction things were headed and who the culprit was, I got “chills” that were shortly followed by me humming in my head, “I know who did it. I know who did it!” 😀

I loved the book and while I don’t want to talk about it in depth in fear that I’ll give too much away, I would recommend it if you like darker material, give this book a shot.  I would have finished it in one-sitting if I didn’t have other commitments.  It is a murder mystery.

 

Warbreaker by Brandon Sanderson Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

 

The main story begins with two Idrian Princesses, Vivenna and Siri.  Originally Vivenna was supposed to travel to Hallandren and wed the God King as a peace treaty between their two nations, but their father sent Siri instead.  Siri is supposed to produce an heir for Hallandren as part of that treaty, but how can she when she’s not allowed to speak or look at the God King?  And he seems to want to do nothing but sit in the same room with her and just watch her?

Vivenna travels to Hallandren in hopes to rescue her sister from that fate.  Along the way she meets the mercenaries Denth, Tonk-Fah, and Jewels and her Lifeless, Clod.

But things do not appear to be what they seem.  For both girls.  When Vivenna meets a mysterious man known currently as Vasher, (he’s used many names in the past) she begins to question everything she once knew.

And as for Siri, things change for her in a big way when she discovers a secret about the God King that not only a select few know and that is also something she was never supposed to find out.

This book was great!  While it did start off a little slow for me, once the story picked up, it really picked up.  There was lots of action.  This is not to say that there were non-stop battles, but more that there was always something happening to move the plot/story forward.  While you may not have been aware of it in the earlier parts, as the story progressed closer to the end, everything started to fall in place .  At some parts you told yourself that “that makes sense and why didn’t I realized that sooner.”  You always had a feeling that something was off, but you couldn’t quite put your tongue on it.  This is especially true when we discover something tragic about the God King and it changes our perception of him.

I love the stories where you head into them thinking you’re going to enjoy one point of view character the most and be annoyed with another, but then as you progress through the book, the opinions you originally thought you were going to have ended up being the exact opposite.  I went into this story thinking I wasn’t going to be all that invested in Siri and much more invested in Vivenna, which, in the end, was not true.  I definitely enjoyed reading about Siri more than Vivenna.  This is not to say that I didn’t like Vivenna, just that I liked Siri more.  And, of course, I liked Vasher from the beginning.  From the first scene he’s presented in, I wanted to know more about him, the kind of world this was, this interesting thing known as Breaths, and his mysterious talking sword, Nightblood.

I would have to say that overall I enjoyed this book.  I liked this one, Warbreaker, more than Elantris, but less than the Mistborn series.

Either way, if you’re looking for a stand alone novel and like epic fantasy, try this book.  😀

An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

With Laia’s grandparents killed by The Masks and her brother captured for treason, she seeks the assistance of the resistance.  They agree to find and save her brother from certain torture and death if she agrees to go undercover as a slave and spy for them on the deadliest person of the Martial Empire’s greatest military academy.  The Commandant Keris Veturius.

Elias is one of the top Masks (soldiers)-in-training at the academy, but secretly he wants nothing to do with the life.  He wants freedom from the tyranny and training he was forced into at a young age.  He would desert, but he knows what happens to those who do.  Torture until death.

When these two meet, their lives and the fate of the Empire itself will change more than they ever thought possible.

I thought this book, in one word, was amazing!  It is the first in Tahir’s first series and the second book comes out in a few months.  I think it’s catered more to older teenagers rather than the younger ones and it was dark.  Darker than Marie Lu’s Legend and I’m a sucker for those stories.

There were many things I enjoyed about this book, one of which was that all the characters, even most of the minor ones, had a major part to play in the end.  Some books have minor characters there for no real purpose, but everyone eventually played their part, which was nice and fun to see how it unfolded.

Occasionally I wasn’t sure that some of the character’s motivations made sense, but it was never large enough for me to think it was ridiculous.  Sometimes even the characters mentioned that they weren’t sure why they were doing such and such or why they felt a certain way, but they still did.  If the characters were aware that what they were thinking may not be the natural feeling or reaction, then at least they knew their thoughts weren’t the norm.

I would have finished the book in one sitting if I hadn’t had other responsibilities such as work.  If you love fantasy novels, you’ll like this one.  To be honest, I think I enjoyed it more than The Hunger Games.  I’m not saying that trilogy wasn’t good, it was, but I loved An Ember in the Ashes more.  I would highly recommend this book.

 

Alanna: The First Adventure by Tamora Pierce Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

Alanna is a ten-year old girl who wants nothing more than to avoid going to a convent to learn to be a lady.  She wants to become a knight.  Her twin brother Thom wants to become a sorcerer more than anything, not a knight.  Their negligent father would not give them what they wanted even if they asked, so together Alanna and Thom hatch a plan with the village healer, Maude, where Thom will go to train to be a sorcerer and Alanna will disguise herself as a boy to become a knight.  She soon discovers that she doesn’t know as much as she thought she did and was tempted to quit for a few times, but through persistence and determination, she accomplishes more than she thought she could.

The Song of The Lioness Quartet series was one of my favorites when I was a child.  I’ve read it over a few times since then and sometimes I’ve enjoyed it and other times not as much.  I think I’ve discovered that I tend to like the book depending on where I am in my life at the moment and right now I like it.

I do remember that I enjoyed the plot of the Song of the Lioness Quartet series: Alanna, In the Hand of the Goddess, The Woman Who Rides Like a Man, and Lioness Rampant, but I think I liked the main protagonist, Kel, from Tamora Pierce’s Protector of the Small Quartet (First Test, Page, Squire, and Lady Knight) better.

While I do like Alanna’s determination, I felt that a lot of the times she was a Mary Sue character to some extent.  Yes, she had her flaws and struggles so we know she wasn’t perfect.  She had to succeed through hard work, but many of the pages didn’t know how to read when they first got there.  She did.  While many of the other pages had just begun to learn some of the tactics and knowledge of knighthood, she came there already knowing a good amount.  The book mentions that she had trained a little with her brother years before they had been sent off to their destinations.  As the story unfolds we see less and less of that Mary Sue-esque factor and I hope that continues because perfect and flawless characters, for me, are unrelatable and boring to read regardless of gender.

There were other times where other characters would tell us how amazing she was (or he, to their knowledge), but I don’t want to be told that someone is amazing, I want to be shown the how and the why.  One thing that has always bugged me is that some female characters have other characters talk about her like: oh she’s so great.  Or oh she’s so good.  And so on.  It’s like the writers want you to like this character so much, that they have to shove the idea of how amazing she is in your face.  I don’t like that.  I’d rather watch her character and her actions unfold and then make up my mind about that character through what the writers/author show us about her—how she interacts with others, how she treats others, etc.

While I know the story grows and gets better in the other three books following this one, some of the prose didn’t connect with me like when it did when I was a child.  There is a good part of time skips and jumps through summary and telling rather than showing.  There was one epidemic of a dark magic sweating sickness where one of Alanna’s (or Alan’s, her chosen male name) friends dies from the sickness.  We had never really heard that much of Francis until then and then, in a small paragraph, we’re told Alanna was good friends with him.  But because I didn’t read or see her interact with him that much up until then, I didn’t really feel sad like she did that he’d died, because a connection to him hadn’t been established with me.  I realize that this book is meant for a younger age and so Pierce probably didn’t want to make the book too long, but if I had seen more scenes with Alanna interacting with a few characters, none of which really included Francis, then I may have felt sadder when Francis had died.

But overall, I enjoyed the book and since I’ve read the series before, I know it gets better.  For example, a magical cat becomes her ally and friend and who doesn’t want a magic cat?  (I’m ignoring you if you don’t want a magical kitten ;D ).

 

Writing Fantasy-The Top 100 Best Strategies for Writing Fantasy Stories by Blaine Hart (Audible) Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

 

The title implies what the book/audiobook is about.  While the title may make the book seem like it’s just a list of strategies, it’s more than that.  I love writing fantasy, but I’ve noticed that most instructional or “self-help” books are catered more towards the literary fiction side.  Even though I don’t have a problem with literary fiction help books because some of the advice can also apply to writing any genre, I’ve also found that instructional books for specifically writing fantasy have been scarce.  It was nice that this one finally popped up in my recommendations lists.

This book/audiobook is the book I didn’t know I needed.  It’s more than just a list of strategies, it also gives you examples and some exercises for you to do.  It gives you advice for more than just one way of doing things.  Lately I’ve realized that you can read as many self-help books for writing, but in the end, there really are no real rules or guidelines.  You just have to find what works best for you.  This book gave you advice on multiple topics from help with world building to characters.

There were some things it said that I already knew, but there was also a good amount of new information I learned.   I had listened to this book while I was driving, so, one of these weekends I’ll probably sit down with it at a desk and try some of the advice.  If anyone is interested in writing fantasy, I would suggest checking this book out.  Whether you learn something new or how to make a small tweak to your current routine or methods, I think you’ll find it worth the purchase.

 

Yotsubato! (Yotsuba&!) by Kiyohiko Azumi Volumes 1-3 Review

Review by: dancingonrain

 

Yotsuba is a five year old girl who just moved into a new home with her adoptive father Yousuke Koiwai with the help of his friend, Jumbo.  Yotsuba is overly enthusiastic about everything and doesn’t understand normal things most girls her age already do such as doorbells, air conditioners, escalators, and much, much more.  The story often centers on Yotsuba and her father’s daily interactions with their neighbors, three sisters, Asagi, Fuuka, Ena, and their mother and friends.  While this series has no continuing plot and is mainly Yotsuba living her daily life through discovery, this is perhaps the most adorable series I have ever read.

When I first heard that it was basically a girl going through her day-to-day life, I was skeptical I would like it, because, after all, reality where there’s not climax and nothing real intense happens tend to bore me.  I am surprised at just how much I am enjoying this series.  Not only is Yotsuba adorable, but the story itself is also entertaining, and by that I mean funny and random.  There was one point where Yotsuba’s dad puts his underpants on his head and then yells: I am Pants Man.  And then he proceeds to chase Yotsuba around the house, both of them temporarily forgetting that they have a guest.

There was another funny moment where Yotsuba spent the day catching Cicadas with her father’s friend, Jumbo, and their neighbor Ena.  When they were finished, they returned to Ena’s home where her mom was and asked them how it went.  Yotsuba told her that they caught a lot and then opened the cage where they had kept all the cicadas they’d caught.  The bugs flew all over the inside of the house, much to Ena’s mother’s dismay, and then they had to spend the remainder of the day recapturing all the cicadas.  These are just two of the many funny and/or random moments throughout the series.

As the stories unfold, we find tid bits about Yotsuba’s previous life, although, it’s not much.  We’re only told that she didn’t have a mother and that Yotsuba had been abandoned.  Yousuke left to a different country for some time, found her, and then ended up adopting her and bringing her back with her.  With where I am in the story, I don’t know if they’ll reveal more about this in later chapters, but I hope we learn more.  If we don’t, I think that would be realistic as people with closed adoptions at her age know very little about their biological parents, but as a reader it would be nice to have at least some closer so we know.

Anyway, if you’ve been feeling down recently, I would suggest reading some of this series.  It will definitely bring a smile to your face.

 

Alice 19th by Yuu Watase Volume 7 (Last) Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

 

The battle to save Mayura from Darva concludes.  Alice, Kyo, and the other Sacred Lotus Guides must face a god of death before reaching Darva and Mayura.  The god of death plays with Kyo and we find out what really happened to Kyo’s father those many years back.  Despite Kyo starting to fall into darkness, Alice frees him and then he defeats the god of death.  Finally have confronting and dealing with his hatred for his father, the mark that Mayura had placed on him a few volumes ago vanishes, but it’s intentionally left unclear if it was because Kyo had had closure with his father or if Mayura, still engulfed by Darva, removed it from him instead.

If Mayura did remove the mark from Kyo, that’s character development for her.  The entire series has been based on her jealousy and hurt feelings that Kyo chose to be with Alice instead of her and if she was the one that actually removed the mark from Kyo, then that means she finally realizes that Alice loves him more than she ever had or could.  A sign that her greed and jealousy is dissipating and that if Alice and Kyo save her, things could return to normal.  Even before the curse had been embedded into Kyo, although Alice wanted to move forward with him, she also didn’t want to continue to hurt Mayura so if her sister couldn’t accept Alice with Kyo when things returned to normal, Alice didn’t think it would ever work.  If Mayura did remove the remark, that would mean that Alice could be with Kyo without feeling guilty too.  But whether or not she did remove the mark, she realizes that Alice loves Kyo more and we see her regret what she’s done to them right before Darva completely consumes her and then takes on its true form.

One of the parallels between Alice and Kyo presented in this volume was how Kyo’s father died.  As a child and tired of being abused by him and blaming his father for killing his mother, Kyo wishes for his father to die.  The god of death told him that even back then the power of darkness within him was strong and that he would have made an excellent Maram master, but now he’s a Lotus master, how pathetic.  It’s understandable that Kyo starts to give into the despair, but Alice brings him back out of his trance and then together they defeat the god of death.  Likewise, there was a point where Nyozeka sacrifices herself to save Alice and Frey, Chris, Billy, and Mei Lin got tied up and defeated.  At this point, Alice drops to her knees with the dead bunny in her arms and freezes.  Kyo tries to snap her out of it, but he can’t.  So he runs straight into Darva to get Mayura alone.  Only after he’s gone does Alice come back to her senses.  Kyo got Mayura out and back to Alice, but now he is trapped inside Darva instead.

Alice loses everything for a moment, but then runs straight towards Darva and then single handedly pushes it back, more determined to save all of her friends.  Once she and Kyo are reunited, together they defeat the darkness being.  To be honest, if Alice from the first few volumes ago had been faced with the same circumstances, I’m not sure what would have happened.  Alice had proven time and time again that she will do anything for her friends so even if it had been in the first or second volume, she still might have stood up and fought, however, she also probably wouldn’t have had the confidence she did now and may have given up sooner.

One thing that I don’t understand was what was the point of bringing other characters like Chris, Billy, and Mei Lin, into play?  No offense to them, but they don’t do too much during this battle, except get captured a lot.  And I don’t think they really added much.  The only thing they did was save Alice and Kyo from some of Mayura’s attack attempts a few volumes ago, which Frey and Nyozeka could have done.  They did not do much for the final battle arc.  If the point was to show them that this Darva problem was growing all over the world, Watase could have simply had Frey say something like he’s had contact with other Sacred Guides and they’ve told him it was a worldwide threat.  I could have just been Alice, Nyozeka, Kyo, and Frey that went after Mayura and took on Darva and it would have been the same story and outcome.

But overall, this series was well done.  One of the great things about this series is that it’s only seven volumes long.  If you wanted to finish it in a day, you could.  Eight-some years later, I still enjoy it as much as I did back then.  I would recommend it to anyone that’s interested.  I was so immersed in the world that I forgot that I live in boring reality.