Tag Archives for " book review "

Mar 20

What I’m Listening To: The Wheel Of Time by Robert Jordan

By Melinda VanLone | Book Review , Thoughts

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The original mass market cover.

 

I started reading this series a long, long time ago. Back when Jordan was still alive, and there was hope and promise that the story would reach some sort of conclusion though with every book released it was dashed, only to be sprung anew. As a huge fan, I didn’t care if it never ended. That is, until the day he died, when I realized it never really would. He did leave notes, and partially written drafts of scenes, and other things to guide those who came after. And I’m sure Brandon Sanderson and Jordan’s wife Harriet McDougal did a remarkable job finishing what Jordan started under the circumstances. I’ll find out sooner or later. But since these books are epics the likes of which George R. R. Martin only dreams about, they take awhile to read and/or listen to, and by the time you get to Book 6 or 7 it’s not uncommon to completely forget what happened in Book 2 or 3. I couldn’t just read the last few without refreshing my memories. I mean, that just wouldn’t be fair, right?

The fact is, I love the world he created, and I love the characters. I hate to give them up, and I can totally understand why he never finished the tale. How do you put an ending on the circle of life? It’s a circle! Constantly turning, constantly renewing and evolving. Always changing, always pushing forward. Plus, how do you bring an end to something you love that much? As an author, I totally get it. As a reader, I’m right there with him. I never want my favorite books to end. I’ll read them twenty times in an effort to keep the magic just awhile longer.

So to give The Wheel of Time the proper fan-girl attention, I started the series over at the beginning. I listen to them all on audio book, because the narrators being the story to life in such a delightful way, and because I can then listen while I exercise. (The same narrators read for the entire series, which is astounding to me given the sheer length of the series.)  It turns a task I find especially trying into one I can lose myself in. It works better than music, for me. I forget how long I’ve been walking, how fast, how tired or hungry, or anything, because I’m somewhere lost with Rand Al’ Thor or Egwene and Nynaeve.

If you’ve never heard of the series…I’m not entirely sure what planet you live on. But suffice to say, it’s epic fantasy, and legendary for both the length of the series, the length of the books, and the depth and breadth of the characters and plot lines. It has all the twists, and then some, of anything in Game of Thrones, but without the bloodshed to your favorite characters. Sure, there’s war and things like that, but there’s a core group guiding the adventure who remain relatively intact. At least…until the very end. Since I haven’t read the very end I can’t speak to whether they all die in the Final Battle or not. I  hope not. But having lived a lifetime with them I’ll understand if they do.

I read once that Jordan’s wife gave him input on all the female characters, which totally shows in their actions and speech. They feel like real women, not like a man would imagine a woman would be. And the men? Yep, real men. It’s all so real…with the One Power thrown about for good measure and the entire concept of the Wheel of Time itself that I find fascinating. What if it’s true? What if the world does, at some point, reset and begin anew? Oh the possibilities…

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The updated cover, for ebooks. I hate it. I wasn’t a fan of the other one either, but this…doesn’t fit the story. At. All.

 

But I digress. Really, I’m re-listening to all of these because it’s one of my favorite series and because it’ll keep me in exercise entertainment for a long, long time. There’s 14 epic length books in the series, each one about 10 hours of listening time, give or take. Break that down into 30 minutes segments and you can see why I’m only on Book Seven.

I can’t possibly sum up all that is The Wheel of Time. Wikipedia gives it a go, so I’ll leave the link here for you to peruse at your leisure:  Wheel of Time Background Info

If you love fantasy, and epic adventures of good vs. evil, right vs. wrong, man vs woman…wait, man working with woman…wait…oh heck, both of those and more, pick this up. Start with Book One, The Eye of the World. Read them in order, because it won’t make sense if you don’t. Each builds on the other until the story is so complex you’ll need therapy to figure it all out.

 

Mar 12

What I’m Reading – The Legacy Human by Susan Kaye Quinn

By Melinda VanLone | Book Review , Thoughts

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I’m a big fan of the MindJack Trilogy, so picking this book up was a no-brainer. Though I have to say…the reason I’d give it 4 stars and not 5 is because it’s in first person present and I just HATE that. It pulls me out of the story and makes my brain hurt. I know it’s all the rage in YA but I just can’t stand it. It’s merely a personal bias, not a fault of the writing. But I figure I should mention it in case someone else feels the same way I do. And if you do, read this one anyway.

 

After struggling with the first chapter, I was so fascinated by the story and world that I forgave the present tense and pushed on through, because I simply HAD to know what happened. And I gotta say…the ending? darn you! When the heck is the next book coming out??? How could you leave me like that?

 

I found this whole world fascinating. It’s dystopian but not as you’d normally picture it. Sure, humans are downtrodden and under the boot of the, well, machines for want of a better word. The Ascended ones, but I still see them as machines. But where Hunger Games has kids killing each other, this has them competing in the Olympics, except that instead of sports or athletics, the Olympics now feature music, writing, poetry, and art. Gotta admit, I LOVE that idea. How cool is that? Sure they’re competing for the chance to Ascend, but underneath that is the idea that creativity and Art is what was lost when humans moved forward in their evolution. And that it’s the one thing they wish they could get back. And our boy here might just be the key.

 

Running through all this is a current/theme of what, exactly, is a soul…and was it also lost when humans moved forward. Religion, faith, that spark that makes you “you”…all of it is at the core of this story. Those looking for a fun way to make their teen think will really like this.

 

I also enjoyed that it was a male POV protagonist. And that’s an artist. I just want to hug him and celebrate that…Art is just not valued as much as it should be these days and it’s nice to see it celebrated here.

 

So if you like sci fi/futuristic/dystopian/figuring out who you are and coming of age/adventure…check this one out. No real romance in it to make the boys feel icky, no real blood to make the parents feel icky, no swearing that I noticed. And possibly a great conversation starter on the subject of faith and creativity and finding your place.
And if you don’t like first person present tense…grit your teeth and bear it 😉

Feb 12

What I’m Reading – Fool Moon, by Jim Butcher

By Melinda VanLone | Book Review

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This week I’m immersed in the Dresden Files, an urban fantasy series by Jim Butcher.

The series has been around forever, but somehow I missed it. Or perhaps the covers just don’t catch my eye when browsing, so I’ve never bothered to pick one up and find out if I’d like the story. I see on Butcher’s website that the covers have been revamped, though I’m not sure the new ones would have captured my interest either.

That said, while doing research for a new series I’m about to start writing (more details on that soon) I’ve been reading more detective-type urban fantasy, and realized I had to give Butcher’s Harry Dresden a try.

I’m really glad I did.

Harry is a professional wizard who hires himself out both to the police and to individuals for those needing wizardly help. No love potions, please! This is serious wizarding. He can do potions that would make Snape proud and make me long for the ability myself. Plus he has some sort of blasting rod that would come in handy when walking down dark streets or on the subway or in the grocery store.

First Line:

I never used to keep close track of the phases of the moon. So I didn’t know that it was one night shy of being full when a young woman sat down across from me in McAnally’s pub and asked me to tell her all about something that could get her killed.

 

Love that opening! It’s so full of questions I must know the answer to that I can’t stand it. I didn’t put this story down for hours after I read that.

This is the second book in the series, and both this and Storm Front have been entertaining, full of action, and steeped with enough magic and paranormal creatures to make my heart go pitter-pat. Harry is a good man, though he keeps hinting at dark deeds done in the past that makes him believe he isn’t one of the good guys. His actions say otherwise. I think he’s too hard on himself. There’s also hints of parents with secrets being dangled here and there, plus interfaces with demons and a secretive White Council whom I’ve yet to meet in person. It’s enough to keep me coming back for more, for sure.

I’m eager to start the next one.

If you like mysteries or police procedural/detective type books, and love a little supernatural thrown in, this is for you. Start at the beginning of the series, because the backstory is building through each one and it would probably be confusing if you didn’t.

 

Oct 08

All The Books I’ve Read…This Year, Part 1

By Melinda VanLone | Thoughts

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Last week I waxed on about how much I love to read. But I figure those were just words, and actions speak far louder, so I started looking at what I’ve read so far this year and it makes me do a little happy dance to see all the covers next to each other. It tells a story of the adventures I’ve taken this year, and reminds me of the worlds I visited. I feel a sense of accomplishment, looking at them. To date, I’ve read 56 books and counting. That’s full books…books I actually finished. I never list the ones that I don’t finish or did not like. I also don’t list craft books…things I read to sharpen my saw for writing and story telling. This is just fiction (well, sometimes non-fiction humor type stuff, but mostly fiction).

I thought I’d show them a little at a time and tell you what I loved about them. In case you were looking for a good read, too.

I keep track of the books I’ve read on Goodreads, so you can follow me there to see what I’m reading anytime. Or read along with me. I love to chat about books, so if you want to discuss feel free to send me a message here, on Goodreads, or on Facebook. Or Twitter. I’m easy to find.

Trinkets, Treasures, and other Bloody Magic: I love this world. I love the main character, who owns a bakery where she makes cupcakes. I love the descriptions of the cupcakes and I wish like hell I could be in her shop! Beyond that, our main girl is learning about her particular magic, about her origins, and she’s learning to use it all to protect and save people. Plus, there’s dragons! I gobble these up as soon as a new one comes out. No pun intended.

Divergent: I read this because the movie was coming out and I wanted to read the book first. I have to admit, this is one where I liked the movie better, because to me the main character was a little too stiff (yes I know she’s supposed to be somewhat like an Amish person but who said Amish people don’t feel passion?). I just didn’t get into her, and in particular I didn’t agree with the way the world was set up. To me it just didn’t seem plausible. That said…I read it. I finished it. And I enjoyed the movie. I’ll watch the next movie too, because…Four! He’s mighty fine. And I want to see what happens. It turns out I like dystopian, and this scratched that itch.

A Dirty Job: A friend recommended this book to me and I found it delightful, fun, humorous and quirky along with some very cool world building. Death, with a baby? What’s not to like! This one reminded me of Neil Gaiman. It’s very well done.

Waking the Witch: I love me some Kelley Armstrong! Looking back I realize I need to revisit the whole series because I love the story, the characters, and the world. Urban fantasy is my go-to genre and this does not disappoint.

Dollhouse: I can’t remember why I picked this up. It’s an interesting story. Fascinating…like watching a fire. It’s young adult and I do get tired of that after awhile but it’s strange and creepy and fantastical and all things odd which kept me hooked.

The Metaphysical/Alchemical/Shamanic/Infernal Detective: Riga Hayworth is a detective for the supernatural. I love that combination, and I love how greek myth and tarot are folded into the story world. You’ll notice I read four of the series in a row…that’s because I enjoyed them so much! Each one is a detective novel but there’s also subplots that carry over..so much so that I couldn’t stand not knowing what happens next. These were fun, cozy reads. Hmm, I wonder if there’s more out now? *scampers off to check*

Inferno: I really like Dan Brown’s stories, but I find them very difficult to read. There’s so much history info-dump, and that’s not really my thing. So when I want a Dan Brown story, I listen to it on audio. I highly recommend this. His stories are rich and fascinating, and I’m afraid I’d miss half of it trying to skip the history dumps. I know, most of his fans probably love the history, but I’ve never been a fan. Which goes to show you don’t have to be to enjoy his stories. And this one in particular made my blood run cold. There’s no magic in his story worlds…it’s real. So very real. And I feel like this one in particular could actually happen! Or might have, already. Seriously, a virus let loose in the world, the sole purpose of which is to curb population growth. Creepy, spooky, and the possibilities made my head spin long after I finished the book, because the way the virus operates…let’s just say I have personal experience.  Can’t wait to see this as a movie. Plus, Tom Hanks!

Cress: I’ve raved about this series before. The Lunar Chronicles take fairy tales and spin them in a new, exciting way. The characters are there but rather than feeling surreal they feel…well, real. Like they could exist now. Of course, it’s also science fiction. It’s fairy tale science fiction! If you haven’t read the series, I can’t recommend it enough. Good read, good fun, good for teens and adults. My only regret is the freaking long wait for the next one. Sometimes I want to take traditional publishing and punch it in the face, for making me wait so long. Grrrr.

Odd Hours: The Odd Thomas series is another one I typically listen to on audio. I don’t know why, I just find it so enjoyable while I’m walking that I always opt for audio. I love the series. Odd Thomas is fascinating, and a modern day understated hero. He can see dead people. Sorta like Sixth Sense, except he’s an adult. He helps them cross over when he can, solves their murders when he can, or in other ways generally tries to make whatever is going wrong, go right. This particular book finds Odd in the company of a mysterious woman who seems a bit like the Virgin Mary, sorta, and embroiled in a Tesla time machine. Fun stuff. Mostly I just love the voice. Odd’s sense of humor is omnipresent, especially on audio. Love the turns of phrases, the lyrical writing. Love love love.

Hanna, Hanna, One-and-Two: This story haunted me long after I finished it. Fascinating world. The idea that one particular person can reset the world…give us a do-over. I love that concept and found this engrossing and thought provoking.

So that’s all for today. I don’t want to overload you! There’s plenty more to recommend in the coming weeks.

 

Jul 26

Book Review: The Silver Sickle

By Melinda VanLone | Book Review

The Silver Sickle, by Ellie Ann

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I had the pleasure of reading this on the plane on my way to Atlanta, and when we landed I nearly refused to leave until I finished. What a fascinating story! It has a real steampunk vibe, but it’s not Victorian. To be honest I couldnt tell you what planet it takes place on because it felt so very foreign to everything I know. In a good way.

I should probably explain that. The culture consists of humans, who live their lives and work and play all in the shadow of “goddesses” who steal away girls to be “consecrated.” It’s a great honor, and when they are harvested they go to The Silver Sickle. The thing is, nobody knows exactly what the Silver Sickle is. Some believe it’s paradise, where they will live like Queens the rest of their days. Others believe it’s a reincarnated life. Others believe it has a more menacing purpose. Who’s right? Well gosh I guess you’ll have to read to find out!

No, darn it, no spoilers on this one. Sure, you can beg. But I’m not tellin’!

What I will tell you is along with the humans and goddesses is a race of robot machines which look like mechanical dwarves (at least that’s what they look like in my head). Their entire goal is to protect and obey the King, and humans. If they don’t, they explode. Pretty strong motivation I’d say.

But what if those two orders are at odds? And what if the goddesses would rather they NOT protect anyone? Just who are these goddesses anyway?

Do read, and find out!

First Line:

 

The Clock Struck One.

 

Gira stood in the Silver Sickle. She planted her feet wide on the spongy surface. The hairs covering her torso trembled at the intense heat. That heat felt life-giving.

 

The cocoon was eye-level. She studied the shiny membrane – the rounded edges melting into the wall, the cord that emerged from the wall and slid down the hatchling’s throat, bringing the nutrients in. The shiny lips. The gray, closed eyelids. It had not been this big yesterday. She watched the wondrous creation grow.

 

Right away I knew I was in a strange world, and in for quite the adventure. This story is steampunk meets Thailand culture with a twist. Fun, fun, fun! If you like science fiction and/or fantasy, or being tantalized by a mystery wrapped around mechanical men, or just an escape into a fantastically different world, then this one’s for you.

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