A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab Book Review

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Review by: Dancingonrain

I wasn’t sure about this book when I first started reading it.  It wasn’t that I didn’t like it, it was more that I was still trying decide what I thought of it.  Normally when I start a book, I can tell if I think I’m going to enjoy it or not, but with this book, I wasn’t sure until a few pages in.

There were parts in the beginning that I enjoyed, but there were also parts where I wasn’t as invested in as the rest of the parts.

But after reading the whole book, I can say that I rather enjoyed this book.  I thought it was a little different than some of the other fantasy books out there.  That being said, the only other books where the protagonists are traveling from world to world that I have read before have only really been Harry Potter.  I have watched a few television shows and movies that travel from world to world, but not as many books so, for me, I enjoyed that this was a little bit different than some of the stuff I’ve read in the past.

And the ending was definitely worth the entire rest of the book.  I think my favorite part of the book was Masquerade and on.  I still enjoyed the earlier parts, but from that point on was my favorite.

There was definitely a dark component to this book, but I thought the author did well with balancing it with a few comical and happy moment here and there.  I loved both the comical/happy and dark parts of this book.

One thing that bugs me is when the female protagonist is hard headed and ignores what a guy says just because he’s a guy and she thinks the only reason he’s telling her not to do something is because she thinks he thinks she’s a girl and therefore cannot and/or should not do something, but when she goes through with ignoring him, she gets in trouble.  That’s not a strong female protagonist; that’s a stupid protagonist.  You see this all the time in tv shows.  The female protagonist says something along the lines of: I can protect myself or I can handle it.  And then in the next scene she’s either getting kidnapped, losing, or dying.  That has always bothered and annoyed me how writers do that.  For once I’d like a character who says: I can take care of myself and have it actually be true.

Although Schwab’s main female protagonist did that many times, it was just who her character was and it was apparent from the start that she was stubborn.  I think it also helped when even though that was her character, in the end, she always came back around and did something to redeem herself.

I also enjoyed reading about a close relationship between two male characters.  So many times you see stories about two men who are close to one another and then the audience automatically wants them to be a couple.  While, I don’t think there’s anything wrong with gay couples, I don’t think there’s enough stories out there where there are two men or boys who have a close relationship to one another and it’s completely platonic.  Men can show they care about one another without it being because of some ulterior sexual motive.  I appreciated that aspect of this book too.

Although I wasn’t sure about this book 100% going into it, by then end I was definitely satisfied.  So satisfied that I bought the second book in the series.  I would recommend this series to anyone who likes fantasy where the characters travel between different worlds to try and accomplish something much bigger than themselves.


The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson Book Review

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Review by: Dancingonrain

When I first started reading this book, I wasn’t sure about it.  I felt like he introduced too many characters at once within the first few pages too quickly for me to be invested in one of them, but because I have read most of his other books and was already a fan of his work, I kept reading.

And it was worth it.

Kaladin was by far my favorite character in the story.  By the end of the book, things look like they’ll only become more interesting for him.

I liked Shallan’s arc, more or less, and I understood her motivations, but I also thought it wasn’t as strong of an arc as Kaladin’s.  I thought Shallan’s overall arc was a little predictable, but I still enjoyed it.  I think I found Jasnah a little more interesting though.

I had a harder time getting into Dalinar’s story until around the last few parts.  I’m not saying that I didn’t like his story earlier on at all, I just wasn’t personally as invested in it as much as Kaladin’s arc.

I thought Kabsul was an ass, but I could also tell his true intentions pretty early on even if the character he interacted with didn’t notice.

Sadeas and Gaz were bigger asses, which seemed to be their whole purpose in life, so that was well done.

I honestly didn’t really care about Alodin that much.  Not sure why.  I just didn’t.

Overall, I liked how things started to tie up in the end and how Dalinar and Kaladin’s stories came together.  I feel it was a good set up for a great second book.

I enjoyed most of the fight scenes, but found the very first one in the beginning harder to get into just because I hadn’t gotten a chance to get to know the characters, but I was thrown into the heat of battle at the very start of it all.  Kaladin grew to be my favorite character though anyway.

If you’re a fan of Brandon Sanderson’s works already, you should definitely read this book.

If you’re living under a rock and have never heard of Brandon Sanderson, then I would suggest reading on of his “shorter” books or series (Mistborn Trilogy) to decide what you want to do.

I would definitely recommend this book.


A Dog’s Purpose (Audible) by Bruce Cameron and Narrated by George K. Wilson

Review by: dancingonrain.


This was an adorable, creative, but also sad book from a dog’s point of view.  Every time he died, he was reborn as a puppy with a new story, life, and sometimes owner.  He had many names and was reborn as both a male dog and a female dog so for the sake of the review, I’m going to choose one of his names and stick with it, Bailey.  In one life he was a simple household dog and in another life he was a police dog, etc.

It was quite interesting to go through the hardships people and the relationships they have with one another and face on a daily basis or even a yearly basis through a set of our loving, furry friend’s point of view.

While I don’t think it’s the best book I’ve ever read, I still thought it was well done, especially for being in a dog’s point of view.  I never once questioned during the entire book that I was in a dog’s mind.

This book was written in a very simplistic way and yet I still found myself still entertained about it.  Despite the simplicity of the prose and point of view, there were still some dark parts throughout the book that would probably keep most people intrigued.

If you love dogs, their ability to love unconditionally no matter what, and you’re looking for a different kind of book, than I would give this book a shot.  It was a quick listen for audible and it would probably be a quick read too.


The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16 step program gaurenteed to take you from idea to completed manuscript by Evan Marshall Book and Computer Software Review


Book: The Marshall Plan for Novel Writing: A 16 set program gaurenteed to take you from idea to completed manuscrip

Computer Software: Novel Writing Software–The Marshall Plan

Review by: dancingonrain

This book is exactly as its title suggests.  I read it once a few years ago and then again last month.  It’s still as useful as it was the first time I read it.  The author is a publisher so not only do you get advice on how to writer your book, you also get some advice about how to go about finding publishers and editors and what they usually do and do not look for in a book.  The book not only has good information, but it also has blank worksheets so that you can photocopy as many as you like to help you plan your novel.  The Marshall Plan has other books including a workbook (where it has more worksheets than the previous book listed) and another book more specific to getting published.

These books are great tools to help you out, but there is also a newer The Marshall Plan computer software you can download.  It’s basically the same thing.  The books have a little more detail in them, but the computer program has set up all the worksheets for you in an organized fashion so if you prefer to have that instead of millions of worksheet papers flying around on your desk, this program can help you keep everything a little organized.  The downloadable program does cost money, but I’ve been using it for a few weeks now and think it’s worth it.  The program is more to help you plan out your novel rather than to write it.  You’d probably use microsoft word to actually write the novel, but the program has helped me organize my characters and ideas better.  You choose a word count, a “suppose,” and then the program will structure the layout for you so you don’t have to.  It does give you room to do your own structuring and point of view character uses towards the end of the beginning, the entire middle, and the end of the end so you’re not completely tied to one way of outlining the entire time.  I’ve actually found this program more helpful, especially for longer works, than Scrivener, but both programs still have their uses.

Either way, if you’re an aspiring author or writer of any kind, I would highly recommend both the books and the program.  😀  !


Elements of Fiction: Beginnings, Middles, and Ends by Nancy Kress Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

This book is written in three sections.  Beginnings, middles, and ends.  It is written in a way to help the aspiring writer who may be struggling with one of the above or all of the above.  The book provides detailed exercises, descriptions, advice, and examples to help s/he breakthrough whichever of the three sections s/he finds the most difficult to write.

While the reader only needs to read about the section that gives him/her the most difficulty, I still found the book, as a whole, helpful anyway.  I thought the author made some good points.  Some of the information you may have already known, but it was still presented in a clear and helpful way.  I also felt like this book may help some writers that have a “writer’s block” in particular to one or more of these sections.

One thing I appreciated was that Kress did talk a little bit about what may or may not turn off editors and publishers throughout each of the sections and how a writer really only has the first 3-5 paragraphs to grab an editors or publisher’s attention for a short story and about 5 pages for a novel, which makes those beginnings even more important.  And then she discussed how to refine the start of your book.

One thing I learned, but really is actually quite obvious, is that if you struggle during the beginning, middle, or end, or even more than one part, then the chances that your very beginning set up are well done, are not high.  She really emphasized how one section influences the other and how everything is connected to one another.  If you are struggling with a specific part, chances are that the problem has actually originated earlier than where you are now.  She then went on to discuss how to rework it to make everything flow better.

Overall, I thought this book was a valuable source, but whether or not you need to buy it really depends on the writer him/herself.  If you’re short on money, or just don’t want to spend money on another book, I’m sure you could find this one at a library or online somewhere.  I found it a useful source to me so I did buy a copy to keep in my bookcase.

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain

After Laia helped Elias escape his execution after the Fourth Trial in the first book, An Ember in the Ashes, Laia and Elias, now fugitives, flee Serra and being a dangerous journey where they not only have to avoid and deal with Martial soldiers, but bounty hunters, other creatures, and nature itself.

Laia is determined to break into Kauf, the Empire’s most secure and dangerous prison, to save her brother Darin who is the key to the Scholars’ survival.  He holds the secret to making weapons that can defeat the Empire once and for all.

Elias is determined to help Laia rescue her brother even if it means his life so that the Scholar slaves may have the chance to rise and defeat the Empire with these special weapons Darin can make.  But in doing so will have to come face to face with his former best friend, Helene, who has been ordered to find and kill him by Emperor Marcus.

I find it hard to talk about this too much without giving anything away/spoilers, but I’ll do my best to keep it brief.

I waited months for this sequel to be released and now that I have finished it, I can honestly say I was NOT disappointed.  This sequel was even better than the first book of the series, An Ember in the Ashes.  While the book was predictable at times, it was still well done and I was able to over look that fact because of the story’s rich plot and developed characters.  While I felt that Helene could have used a little more development, overall  the book succeeded in convincing me of the characters’ motivations and wants in a realistic way.

This book was an emotional roller-coaster.  During one scene you would be laughing at a character’s typical jealousy antics and then in the next scene you’d be crying and then the next scene you’d want to throw the book at a window.  And then repeat that sequence all over again, but in a different order.

This book kept me glued to my seat and if I didn’t have a job and other commitments, I would have finished this book in one-sitting.  I avoided starting to read it at night because then I knew I’d be up all night.  Some people could get away with staying up all night, but I need my sleep in order to function  semi-decently.  Ha ha!

Overall, this book was definitely worth my time and purchase.  There have been few book series I have purchased and enjoyed as much as I did when I first bought them to many years later.  An Ember in the Ashes and A Torch Against the Night will not be one of those series.  I know I will enjoy these books for as long as I live.  I would highly recommend this series to all those fantasy lovers out there.

This series is like a young adult version of A Game of Thrones mixed with Roman Empire Gladiator-esque feel.  If you love those components of a story and don’t mind books a little more on the dark-side, then I know you’ll enjoy this book as much as I did.

Happy reading! 😀

Grave Mercy by Robin Lafevers Book Review

Review by: dancingonrain.

Ismae, a seventeen year old girl, escapes her arranged marriage to an abusive man by seeking shelter at the convent of St. Mortian.  Here, the sisters serve the Death God and are trained in his secrets to become assassins, handmaidens of Death.  In order for her to live at the convent, she must learn to destroy the lives of others marked by death.

This leads to her most important assignment at the high court of Brittany, a mission she is heavily under prepared and under experienced for, especially when the convent orders her to deliver Death’s vengeance against the man who has stolen her heart.

Even after I finished reading this book, I still haven’t made my mind up about it.  While there where some entertaining scenes, I also found myself bored at other parts.   This book had been recommended to me by a friend who wanted to know what I thought about it and now that we’ve discussed it, she was in the same boat as me.

While this book was fairly predictable and I think had too much of a happy-esque ending that didn’t seem all that realistic, it still did have its suspenseful moments.  But despite that, some of the prose brought me out of the story, especially some of the dialogue.  I realize this is set in an earlier time, but while I was reading, I couldn’t help but feel like normal people wouldn’t talk like that.  It wouldn’t have been as big of a deal if the older dialogue and prose had been consistent, but it wasn’t, which made it feel choppy whenever it used dialogue that didn’t seem realistic.

While this book wasn’t particularly my cup of tea, I’m sure there is someone out there who would enjoy it.  My advice would be to sit down and read it at a store or library before you decide to purchase it.  I’m not sure if I’d buy the second book in this series, but I may read it at a library or a store if I had free time, but it probably wouldn’t be any time soon.