Thursday, December 19, 2013

Review: The Well of Ascension

Title: The Well of Ascension
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy, science fiction

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:
They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a healthy new society in the ashes of an empire.
They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.
It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

This book is so slow. I was bored through the middle, but I still trudged on.

I'm so glad I did.

The last fifty pages of this book had me at the edge of my seat and the final words had me leaping to my feet. I'm not sure I would say the plodding was necessary - the titular well of ascension isn't so much as mentioned until almost the end - but it was definitely worth it to get to the end (and even more worth it to get to an incredible third book).

The Well of Ascension picks up a couple of years after the end of The Last Empire. Vin and co. are attempting to establish order and rebuild their world after overthrowing the Lord Ruler. There's a lot of politics, a lot of threats and manipulations, and a lot of whining mopey characters. But then the end happens and everything gets turned on its head and you are left in utter delightful shock.

Vin and Elend are both incredibly whiny in this book, trying to make their relationship work despite both of their incredible burdens/stresses and responsibilities. It was almost unbearable to keep hearing them doubting themselves and thinking they each were unworthy of the other or simply being used but not loved etc etc. I also wanted to whack Breeze over the head with a frying pan (can you tell I've watched Tangled recently?). My favorite character, Sazed, thankfully continued to be awesome (if anything, even more so than in the first book). So thank you Sazed, for making the middle of this book bearable. I also really liked Zane - he was really freaky, and although I didn't realize it at the time, he is the first hint of things to come in the third book.

I don't want to spoil anything, but the end of this book gets a very unexpected ball rolling, which snowballs into the third book. Let's just say not everyone is as good - or evil - as we were led to believe in the first book. There are larger forces at work...

I can't say this book is particularly good, but I can say that the third book is definitely worth your time. So read this one, if only as a stepping stone to something better.

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Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry

Title: The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry
Author:Gabrielle Zevin
Genre: literary fiction

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Goodreads description:
On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.
A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.
And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming. As surprising as it is moving, The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry is an unforgettable tale of transformation and second chances, an irresistible affirmation of why we read, and why we love.

This book is simply adorable - both an homage to books and a gloriously happy look at people and family and love and all those other wonderful things in the world :)

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry is part journey of self-discovery, part love story, and part love letter to books. It chronicles the life of a certain Mr. Fikry, an owner of a small-town bookstore. The story weaves in various (adorable) characters and anecdotes, but what really made this book special is how quiet and quaint it is. It's about the ups and downs of daily life and the people in your neighborhood; it's about the quiet power of words to provide comfort and inspiration. I know that might sound dull to people, but it's a really charming story and had me grinning and tearing up throughout.

I really loved the way the story had a diverse set of characters and broke a lot of conventions, but did so quietly. I am becoming more and more appreciative of books that include people of different races and backgrounds in their stories without making that a major deal. These characters are not only diverse ethnically and socioeconomically, they also bring to the table a decidedly unconventional love story (or two).

I really don't want to say anything about the plot for fear of spoiling things, but the story was engaging and it was a pleasure to watch these characters grow and mold to fit each other into their lives.

I think "charming" is by far the best word to describe this book. It brought a lot of smiles to my face, but also a few tears in my eyes, and when I finished reading, it was very bittersweet. I highly recommend reading this one while it's raining outside and you're curled up in bed - this book will give you all the warmth you need.

*An e-copy was provided by the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review*

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Friday, December 13, 2013

Review: In the Woods

Title: In the Woods
Author: Tana French
Genre: mystery, psychological thriller, adult fiction

My rating:  4.5 of 5 stars

Goodreads summary:
As dusk approaches a small Dublin suburb in the summer of 1984, mothers begin to call their children home. But on this warm evening, three children do not return from the dark and silent woods. When the police arrive, they find only one of the children gripping a tree trunk in terror, wearing blood-filled sneakers, and unable to recall a single detail of the previous hours.
Twenty years later, the found boy, Rob Ryan, is a detective on the Dublin Murder Squad and keeps his past a secret. But when a twelve-year-old girl is found murdered in the same woods, he and Detective Cassie Maddox—his partner and closest friend—find themselves investigating a case chillingly similar to the previous unsolved mystery. Now, with only snippets of long-buried memories to guide him, Ryan has the chance to uncover both the mystery of the case before him and that of his own shadowy past.
Richly atmospheric, stunning in its complexity, and utterly convincing and surprising to the end, In the Woods is sure to enthrall fans of Mystic River and The Lovely Bones. And look for French's new mystery, Broken Harbor, for more of the Dublin Murder Squad.

This book is so compulsively readable - it took me a while to get into, but I finished over half in one sitting!

In the Woods is about Detective Rob Ryan of the murder squad working on a case that has eerie ties to his past. As a child, he was once found in the woods with blood pooled in his shoes - it wasn't his own - and the children who were with him were never seen again. Now, over twenty years later, another murder brings Ryan back to the woods. Ryan is drawn to the possibility of bringing a repeat killer to justice, or at least unlocking his repressed memories. But it's not going to be easy...

What I really liked about this novel was that it was as much about people and their complicated relationships as it was about the actual murder. The case is a big part of the story, but it is not all about deductions and red herrings and investigation. I liked getting into Ryan's head and seeing his fears and insecurities - but then again, he is quite the unreliable narrator so I don't even know if there was more to him than he let on. I also really liked Ryan and Cassie's relationship. They had an incredible friendship, and their banter was a lot of fun to read - I was really sad that things ended up the way they did, but I again appreciate the way French portrays the complexity of people's relationships with one another.

The crime itself and its resolution were pretty disturbing - I did not see it coming at all. It's scary to think that people like that exist, and absolutely infuriating that some of them can get away with it.
I couldn't believe anyone could be so twisted as to poison and eventually murder her own sister. Rosalind was definitely a psychopath, and the scariest thing is that you don't even realize. I did feel like something was off with her, but I thought it was more of the catty teenage girl thing, not a manipulative psychopath thing. And worst of all, they couldn't even charge her because she admitted to everything without an adult guardian present! GAH!

A lot of people wrote in their reviews that this isn't a book that you read for answers, and I think that's pretty accurate. You aren't going to get a lot of answers about why people are the way they are, or what happened to them to make them that way. You will get some of what you're looking for, but part of the beauty of this book is its portrayal of broken people, and sometimes you just can't put them back together again.

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Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Top Ten Tuesday 9

Top Ten Tuesday is a meme hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week's theme: Top Ten 2014 Release I'm Dying To Read

I could only come up with 8 from next year that I really want to read - a lot of the books I want to read were published this year :)

Ruin and Rising (Grisha #3)

Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)
Mortal Heart (Grave Mercy #3)
Dreams of Gods & Monsters (Daughter of smoke and bone #3)
Ruins (Partials #3)
Sinner (Wolves of Mercy Falls #4)
Burn (Pure #3)
We Were Liars

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