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Book Reviews

Book Review: Race to the Sun by Rebecca Roanhorse

Rebecca Roanhorse’s entry in the Riordan Presents imprint was really fun. Nizhoni Begay is my new favorite. Her journey of self-acceptance and perseverance, while being typical middle grade fare, is generally delightful.

I was often hoping during this book that it was the first in a series. While it moved at the relentless pace that one expects from a Riordan-adjacent middle grade novel, some characters and plot elements seemed to get not enough attention. The sole focus on Nizhoni mostly worked, but it felt like there were gaps related to her companions.

Not my favorite middle grade mythology read, but enjoyable nonetheless. Four stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Brightest Fell by Nupur Chowdhury

*Thanks to Nupur Chowdhury for sending me a digital copy of this book*

The Brightest Fell is a political thriller centered on young genius Jehan Fasih and the politically enmeshed Shian family.

With unclear motivations, Fasih schemes to oust Rajat Shian from the premiership of Naijan, as Shian puts more and more pressure on Fasih to complete trials on the Amven drug.

Amven and it’s potential uses motivate the actions of the Naijani political players. The drug makes its subjects more pliable and docile. And while many of Fasih’s compatriots ostensibly want to use the drugs on criminals and terrorists, Fasih suspects even more nefarious users from rival ruler Maganti.

Readers are left to discover what is truly happening along with the Shian children, Rito and Abhijat Shian. Both of whom are loyal to their country now let by Fasih and yet infuriated by the political maneuvering against their father.

The Brightest Fell was highly entertaining. It had the feel of a 24-esque TV show along with some Sorkin-inspired pacing and dialogue. While some characters like JehN Fasih and Rito were interesting and even endearing. Others were frustrating and at times unbelievable.

Four stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Alloy of Law

Third time through this book, first review.

This may not be peak Sanderson, but it’s certainly a testament to the power of his craft that my opinion of this book has become more favorable with time.

What started as a standalone novel between eras of the Mistborn series became the jumping off point for the Mistborn era 2 steampunk fantasy quartet.

The Alloy of Law follows Waxillium Ladrian, a Twinborn (one who has access to Allomancy and Feruchemy) back in the city in which he was raised, Elendel, after spending two decades as a Lawman in the “Roughs.”

Much like the Ascendant Warrior, Vin, centuries before, Wax finds that he must negotiate two sides of himself and discover the alloy of his true identity.

Wax’s counterpart, Wayne, is the major comic relief of the book. Remaining btrue to the spirit of the Survivor however, his topsy-turvy take on life and sense of humor are born of a deeply tragic backstory.

Readers of the original trilogy will be delighted by all of the allusions to its beloved characters. Sanderson clearly had a lot of fun playing with a new cast centuries later in the same world.

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Bookish Content Spiritual Stuff

Beautiful Waste

Since having a little one and the advent of many, many children’s books in my immediate vicinity, I’ve come to really appreciate the medium.

Don’t mistake me, just like any other group of literature, there’s a spectrum of kid’s books from bold, original, and beautiful to tired, lackluster, and lazy.

However, over the last three years I have read many, many books primarily for children (thanks Kent District Library!) and a few specific books many, many, many times. Kid’s books have a lot going for them: typically simple, direct messages, humor, pictures! But my favorite aspect of kid’s picture books is the ways in which many of them waste space.

Right now we are on an Elephant and Piggie kick. White space takes up good portion of each page in Mo Willem’s hit book series. The focus is on simple actions and dialogue, and it works really well.

I also love in a picture book when you turn the page and there is a fully spread without any dialogue–perhaps simply reactions to what has happened on the previous page. There is space to breathe. To watch. To wait. To enjoy. To savor.

When I actually stop to delight in a really good picture book, it feels like I’m actually taking in a piece of art, allowing it to stop me in my tracks and perhaps even let it change me in some way.

Steeped in American culture as I am, I’m often looking for more and more content in less and less space. It’s more efficient. Access to every Disney property at any time? Sign me up! Every song ever released? Sure! (Not trying to simply rail on our culture, especially as a binge Clone Wars while my son tells Alexa to play Baby Shark.)

Kid’s books typically aren’t full of content, but they are deep. They open up new realms of beauty and thought within a few pages. There is life and energy in the blank space.

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Book Reviews

Review: Me

Me by Elton John

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

An excellent read!

Elton John considers his life and career, taking the good and the bad in measured perspective. He holds his own drive to achieve in one hand and the potential serendipitous role of fate in the other and beautifully weaves them together to the delight of longtime fans and newcomers alike. I highly recommend this book!

5 stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: A Gathering of Shadows

A Gathering of Shadows by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

V.E. Schwab kills it again with A Gathering of Shadows, book two in the Shades of Magic series.

This book messed with my emotions in so many ways, which–let’s be real–was in large part what made me pick up book two.

In A Gathering of Shadows, Schwab further explores Red London and the place of the Arnesian Empire amidst its neighbors. She explores this world through the Essen Tasch, a magical tournament that allows mages from around the world to test themselves against one another and represent their kingdoms. The event is a chance for political dealings and and peacekeeping.

As Rhy is coming into his own as heir to the Arnesian throne, Kell continues to rail against the boundaries imposed upon him by his adoptive parents and the self-imposed boundary of his life tie to his brother. Kell is desperate to be somewhere else. To be someone else. To be more than the shame of what he has done. Schwab does a great job with Kell, as while at times I’m quite annoyed with him, I also really feel for him. Ultimately, Kell’s resolve to maintain the boundary between worlds and not submit to the deeper impulses of magic is tested once again.

Lila’s boundaries are only increasing. She is living her best life as a pirate and aspiring magician. Lila finds herself shore bound once more in Red London, as her captain, Alucard Emery, is to compete in the Essen Tasch. Being a a new, dangerous experience that could take her even further away from the life as Grey London street thief, Bard decides that she must compete in the tournament. So she does it, posing as someone else. And she advances to almost the final round. Lila is such a badass. Like her crew mates, I’m not sure if I admire her or am terrified of her. But that’s probably as it should be.

Brilliant work. 5 stars, but damn that ending.

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Book Reviews comics

Review(s): Adventure Time Vols. 7-8

Adventure Time Vol. 7 by Ryan North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Still insane. Still funny. Still really colorful.

I have given up on the bright green text over white commentary at the bottom of the pages, as it’s been pretty low comedic pay off for a lot of work on the eyes.

Otherwise I still love all of the people of Ooo. PB and Marcelline are life.

Adventure Time Vol. 8 by Ryan North

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This first non-Ryan North Adventure Time arc wasn’t my favorite, but it was still entertaining. The premise was fun and somehow terrifying (welcome to Adventure Time). The peoples of Ooo have forgotten how to prepare food for themselves. Chaos ensues! Turns out the solution was inside Jake the whole time.

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Book Reviews comics

Review: Watchmen

Watchmen by Alan Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Alan Moore’s Watchmen is iconic and a modern-day classic, finding itself on “greatest books” and the like. It’s difficult to approach reviewing it considering its status as one of the most popular works in its medium. That being said, I enjoyed reading it, even and perhaps especially as I was so disturbed by its events and cast of characters.

Watchmen helped open up a new subversive sub-genre within comic books. It’s dark and gritty, yes. But most noticeably it lacks a central character to guide readers morally and emotionally. I’m reminded of Millar’s Kick-Ass, featuring a young man who dons colorful tights and exposes the ludicrousness and brutality of the caped-crusader lifestyle.

Tied as it is to the Cold War, Watchmen did feel dated to me at times. The lack of moral clarity regarding sex and consent didn’t land well either. The moral ambiguity and lack of totally-sympathetic characters were both intriguing and frustrating. I was left unsure the degree to which certain characters were right or wrong.

However, I think Watchmen is a brilliant take on the superhero mythos of our time and the problem of nostalgia. Veering toward nihilo, it is above all concerned with the real and the here and now.

Four stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book has been on my TBR for some time. It was nice to not be disappointed.

I loved this book.

A Darker Shade of Magic is primarily driven by its characters and their desire to live beyond their station. Kell, apparently a pampered Prince of Red London, longs for the unattached freedom of normal life as he illicitly trafficks items between worlds. Lila Bard, street thief of Grey London, longs for more than what life has given her, for a real adventure.

While Kell and Lila desire freedom, the villains of White London desire power. It’s vile monarchs, Athos and Astrid Dane, are the stuff of nightmares, especially in the way Athos controls Holland. The later is perhaps the most complicated character of the bunch. It’s unclear to me whether Holland would been a “good person” without Athos’s control. Or if he would have simply been a free bad person.

The underlying pain and desire that suffuse this book have lodged the Londons in my mind, and I can’t let go. When I finished this book, I could not wait to jump into A Gathering of Shadows. Five stars.

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Book Reviews

Review: The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages by Brandon Sanderson

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The Hero of Ages is about how the end of the world might not be a bad thing.

Vin and Elend are given an end to their story as the power couple, having searched their own depths, are able to turn toward saving the world.

Spook finally comes into his own yet finds that his success is wrapped up in Ruin’s plans. His shame is instrumental in the world’s salvation.

But it’s Sazed the depressed Terrisman and his cynical yet desperate-for-hope takes on religion whose story Brandon is really here to tell.

This novel is Sanderson at his most Sanderson. The interplay if gods and humans. The existential, religious crisis. The emotionally insecure heroes. Lore that the reader somehow cares about that two books ago wouldn’t have made any sense.

The Hero of Ages is key to the unfolding story of the Cosmere and an excellent novel in its own right.

Five stars.

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