Review: The Ship of the Dead by Rick Riordan

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Genre: Middle-Grade, Young-Adult, Fantasy, Mythology (Norse), LGBT+
Pages: 432
Series: Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard  #3
Release Date: October 3, 2017
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Star

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Took me a while to get my thoughts in order. I honestly thought I was over my reading slump. And in a way, I am. Just have to take things slow. And avoid big books.

This book isn’t that big, but it also isn’t that small. And we again have a whole lot of names I can’t pronounce (though there’s a guide provided). Seriously, where do all these giants and their names even come from? Half the problem while reading came from there. The other half came from Alex, but we’ll discuss that later.

This is the final novel of the Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard trilogy. Loki’s free and his ship of nails is almost ready to sail. And as soon as it sets off, with Loki on board, Ragnarök will begin. It’s up to Magnus and the crew to stop him from sailing or the world will end. But since that requires a sea voyage, Annabeth suggests that he gets some helpful tips from, none other than, Percy Jackson. By the way, ending the last book with a tease like that was so not cool.

But yeah, Percy’s in the book. Not for long, because uncle Rick lives to torture his fans, but he’s there and it’s awesome. Percy’s my favourite person in the whole world.

Afterwards, they’re off. There are a lot of giants and gods and god-giants. They get vague clues about what they should do and have to figure the rest of the stuff out on their own. The book is funny, as usual, with lots of exciting adventures. Magnus is a great protagonist. And another great thing in the novel was how each character (like Mallory, TJ and Halfborn) got their moment to shine. There was lots of getting-to-know and development for each character.

My favourite of the series is still Hearthstone. I can’t explain it, but I don’t think there’s any character who makes me as fiercely protective as he does. I want to tuck him into the world’s most comfortable bed, wrapped in the softest blankets, in the world’s coziest room and, outside the room, post the Avengers on guard duty. It’s that bad. He’s just so… good and innocent. He’s also has the worst. He was shunned by his entire species. And then his brother died and his father put him through so much. Basically, I love him and I will, honest to God, murder anyone who hurts him.

Hearthstone aside, I like all the other characters too. It was really great finally getting to know where they came from. One character that bothered me was Alex (for the sake of the review, I will be referring to Alex as a he), who I loved in Hammer of Thor.

It’s wasn’t a huge thing. Alex still kicks major butt. The problem was with his relationship with Magnus. I felt that he was a bit too harsh. He’s harsh with everyone but with Magnus, he was almost cruel. To the point where Magnus doubted he (Alex) cared about him (Magnus) at all. Magnus has low (or zero) self-esteem in the first place and the way Alex treated him was like kicking a man when he’s down. It was unnecessary and I didn’t like it.

Other than that, things were fantastic. This was a great novel. Loved the ending. It concluded the current storyline perfectly, while also dropping hints of a future Norse series, one that I would be very interested in. Fingers crossed that uncle Rick writes it.

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Review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary, Fantasy
Pages: 317
Series: None
Release Date: August 27, 2015 
Publisher: Walker Books

3 Stars

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I finally understand why this novel is getting so many three stars. It’s not because this is a bad novel. Just an underwhelming one.

The concept of the novel is great. Even when I didn’t know about it (or maybe before it came out), I wondered if someone would write about the people who weren’t the chosen ones or in the thick of things. You know, the rest of the people. And then I heard of this novel and was pretty freaking excited. But the lukewarm response gave me pause. Finally read it though.

Like I said, it’s about the people who aren’t the protagonists. In this case, that’s Micky. Bad shit is going on with beams of lights and fissures to another world, but none of it is happening to Micky. He’s just living his life, worried about graduation, going to college, his OCD, a girl he’s been in love with since forever. It’s all normal stuff. He doesn’t know much about what’s going on with the “indie” kids. “Indie kids”, in this novel, are the usual MCs to whom bad shit happens.

At first, I found Micky to be interesting. But then it turns out that it was his disorder that I found interesting, not him. I’m not sure if that’s insensitive, but take away his struggle with anxiety, and he’s just a guy pining after a girl who seems to be stringing him, and another guy, along. He’s also prone to douchiness caused by jealousy.

Safe to say, he’s not very likable. His older sister is better, but not that much. His best friend, Jared, is okay. The girl he’s pining after, Henna, and the whole arc between her and Micky, is nothing but a source of annoyance. And there’s this other guy who’s just… there. It’s like all the character have a gimmick. Micky’s obsessive-compulsive, his sister has history with anorexia, his friend is one-quarter god, Henna’s the love interest and the one going away soon, Nathan’s the new guy who’s part of the love-triangle. These are the gimmicks, and we don’t explore the characters much further than these facts. We don’t really get to know them and, therefore, don’t connect to them.

There were things I liked. The disorders for one, especially Micky’s, and how they was portrayed. I thought it was a really good representation. There was a chapter in which mental illness and it’s perception was discussed which was my favourite chapter.

Also, at the start of each chapter, we would get a paragraph summarising what was going on with the “indie” kids (I still don’t know what, specifically, makes someone an indie kid). Those paragraphs were great. They played with common genre tropes. They were funny and I loved the contrast between the shit going on in them and the normal stuff with Micky.

I wish the rest of the novel had that humorous tone because the overall tone was really off. On one hand, we got the summaries of supernatural stuff going on, the talk about “indie” kids and how some shit like that happened once every decade and yet adults never got involved and basically tried to pretend that they didn’t know anything. On the other hand, we has serious stuff like OCD, anorexia, and Henna’s parents taking her to a country that’s in the middle of a war. There wasn’t a proper balance between the two.

Overall, like I said before, this is not a bad novel. Very readable and with some good parts and truly good insight into OCD. But it didn’t live up to its potential.

Review: All Systems Red by Martha Wells

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Genre: Science-Fiction, Novella
Pages: 144
Series: The Murderbot Diaries #1
Release date: May 2, 2017
Publisher: Tor.com

4 Stars

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I was pleasantly surprised by this novella. Even though the synopsis sounded really cool, I didn’t have many expectations. It’s about a robot, but since it also has organic parts, I’m thinking more of a cyborg. But that’s beside the point. The protagonist, and narrator, refers to itself as Murderbot. It’s managed to hack into its system and sever the part which makes it obligated to obey the company that created it. The first line of the novella is this:

I could have become a mass murderer after I hacked my governor module, but then I realized I could access the combined feed of entertainment channels carried on the company satellites.

I mean, how awesome is that? Anyone who decides to forgo mass murder because there are so many book and TV shows to watch… that’s my kind of person.

Then there’s the fact that it genuinely does not give a fuck about anyone. It just wants to watch the shows and be left alone. It only does a half-assed job whenever it’s assigned to accompany a team of employers for their survey on a planet, acting as monitor and security. This time, there’s another team, people who actually seem nice. Not that it cares. It usually avoids people. But then stuff starts to go wrong and our beloved Murderbot may be the only chance of the team’s survival.

It’s a good plot. And the side characters are likable. I especially liked the team leader and the one guy who didn’t like our Murderbot. The world building could use work. I still can’t get a clear picture of what kind of world the novella is set in. And the writing is a bit dull. If it weren’t for the protagonist being as brilliant as it is, the novella wouldn’t have been nearly as good.

Back to Murderbot. I love this guy (I think it’s a guy because it sounds like one but I’m not a 100% sure). In fact, I have a couple more quotes from the novella.

“Are you all right?”
That was too much attention. I turned around and walked into the corner, facing away from them.

I liked the imaginary people on the entertainment feed way more than I liked the real ones, but you can’t have one without the other.

How could you not love it?! I can’t wait to see where it will fo next, especially after that ending, which I also loved. I highly recommend this novella, if only just so you can get to know Murderbot.

Review: Kindred Spirits by Rainbow Rowell

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Genre: Young-Adult, Contemporary. Short story/novella
Pages: 96 (but way shorter when you read it)
Series: None
Release Date: February 25, 2016
Publisher: Macmillan

3 Stars

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Elena is a huge Star Wars fan. Like can-name-her-top-50-star-wars-characters huge. And since The Force Awakens is coming out, she wants to camp outside the cinema for the “experience”. So four days before the premiere, she’s set. Except… there are only two other people there. But she persists. Be it her mom, the cold, the boredom or even the quiet guy ahead of her who doesn’t seem to like her, she wouldn’t be dissuaded.

It was kinda cute.

Elena had this adorkable and naive (and defensive) thing going on that made her relatable, but also made her annoying. At time I liked her. Other times, I wanted to ask her to open her eyes every one in a while, get a glimpse at the real world.

The story was simple enough. It was set in the four days leading up to the premiere and it was between her and the quiet guy (I forgot his name and don’t feel like looking it up. But he was an okay character). It was a sweet little romance. They talk and stuff about… stuff. There’s not much to tell here. I liked things between them and I really like the ending.

The things I had a problem with were mainly related to the fact that Rainbow Rowell doesn’t seem to have mastered the art of writing a novella. The thing with novellas and short stories is that you have to know how many characters you can handle and plot points you can successfully tie up. Because even though it’s short, it still has to feel complete. This one felt like it just skimmed the surface of things, like it left loose ends. It’s a problem I’ve had before with Rainbow Rowell, with Fangirl.

My point is, there were things brought up, but not delved into. This was almost like reading a sample of a full-length novel. It’s not bad, but also not very substantial.

Review: Perfect State by Brandon Sanderson

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Genre: Science-Fiction, Fantasy, Novella
Pages: 87
Series: None
Narrator: Christian Rummel
Duration: 2 Hours, 4 Minutes
Original Release Date: October 13, 2015
Audiobook Release: March 31, 2015
Publisher: ‘Dragonsteel’ and ‘Audible Studios’

Star

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Kairominas is a God-Emperor of his world. He’s united the entire world under his rule and now doesn’t have much to do. I mean, what do you do after you’ve achieved everything? In Kai’s case, you get a nemesis from another world who’s set on destroying you. You also have to meet a woman, who is the ruler of another world, for a date.

Kai avoided the date thing for as long as he could. But it’s his duty, and required of him by a universal alliance of sorts.

He was given a list of women and he picked one at random. He doesn’t know anything about her, not even the kind of world she comes from. And by that I mean it could be an advanced world, another magical type, or a renaissance era-esqu. All he knows that it’s one of the few things he’s obligated to do and he’s doing it; while his nemesis is, once again, planning something.

Now, from the synopsis, you may have some ideas about what kind of story this is. It’s not that kind of story. There’s a little revelation early on in the book that changes a lot of things. At first I was going to write it in the review, quite a few people have, but I, myself, liked not knowing so… you’ll just have to find out. And because I can’t mention the revelations, I’m having difficulty with deciding what to say.

The theme is very interesting. Kai is the ruler of his world, but is that enough to make him happy and content? The novella explored humanity in many ways.

Also, I love that the people arranging the date aren’t evil. It might not make much sense but we’ve had a lot of evil governments. This one is just trying to make everyone happy, including our protagonist, who is not the most riveting of characters. He seems a bit generic and stiff. But his morals, his beliefs, and his journey, are all interesting. As is his position as God-Emperor and his interaction with his date. He and his date have very differing opinions about their duties and they definitely make you think. I’m totally on Kai’s side, by the way.

Overall, the novella is really good (though not Sanderson’s best) and the narrator of the audiobook did a good job. He gave Kai’s voice a ‘dry humor’ type quality that increased the entertainment value and made me laugh out loud quite a few times. This is very short read/listen. Definitely worth checking out.

Review: Legion by Brandon Sanderson

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The review is for the first two books of the Legion series. No, there are NO SPOILERS for either book. The second book is called Skin Deep.

Genre: Urban Fantasy, Science Fiction, Mystery
Pages: 88 & 208
Series: Legion #1 and #2
Release Date: August 31, 2012 & November 24, 2014
Publisher: Subterranean Press

5 Stars

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Stephen Leeds, or  Legion, is a genius. He has a condition akin to schizophrenia, but not exactly like it, because to which he hallucinates a wide variety of people who he refers to as aspects. Each aspect has an area of expertise. With the help of his aspects, Stephen occasionally takes investigative cases.

In the both the books, the protagonist is the same and while there is continuity in personal affairs, the case in each is new. That’s why I’m reviewing them together. In the first novel, the case is finding the missing investor of an extraordinary camara, and in the second novel, he has to find the corpse of a biotech engineer who may have stored some important information in his very cells.

The mystery in both the books is really good. The second one is my favourite for sure. But both are written very cleverly with just enough hints dropped to keep the reader thinking and to give that click feeling when the case is finally solved. Loved ’em.

But… they were not the highlight. That was most definitely Stephen and his various aspects. Stephen has to be one of the most interesting characters I’ve read about. And his interactions with his aspects? Pure gold. Because you see, the aspects not only have different fields of knowledge, they also have very different personalities and different disorders. Tobias is a nice, wise man. He’s a historian and also someone who calms Stephen down. Tobias is also a schizophrenic and has a hallucination, Stan, who’s an astronaut travelling around the earth in a satellite and who tells him about the weather. Stephen can’t see Stan, only Tobias can.

Then we have Ivy, a psychologist, and Stephen’s therapist. He has a real one too, though. Then there’s J.C., the ex-Navy SEAL who’s very fond of guns. And using them. He also doesn’t accept the fact that he isn’t real and is a ton of fun. There are many others and you’ll meet them, but these three are the most prominent.

The dialogue between the aspects, and between them and Stephen, is fantastic. That’s the best part about having so many different characters together, even if only one of them is real. Though you shouldn’t underestimate the real one. All the aspects come from him, don’t they? They’re a part of him. In the first novel, it’s mainly about introducing the character, how he works, how his aspects work, and solving the case. That’s more than enough to be done in less than a hundred pages. In the second novel, we go into more depth about Stephen’s psychology. It’s slower, but not in a bad way.

The intrigue and the fun remains consistent, as does the narrative, which is awesome. I highly urge you to read, at least, the first novella. Sanderson has created a fascinating character that I think everyone should get to know. And his mysteries always have a sci-fi touch to them, making then even more interesting. To end, I shall leave you with one of the best first lines a book has ever had:

My name is Stephen Leeds, and I am perfectly sane. My hallucinations, however, are all quite mad.

 

Review: They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera

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Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, LGBT+
Pages: 384
Series: None
Release Date: September 5, 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen

Star

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How does someone get away with killing both the characters in the end, and telling all the readers about it beforehand? It really shouldn’t happen. I’m a happy ending person. I love it when things end on a positive note. And while I don’t think of death as something evil or horrible, it’s not exactly jolly either. So this read was borderline masochistic for me.

And is it silly that, before starting the book, I hoped that they wouldn’t die? As soon as I started reading though, I immediately knew they would. There’s very little focus on how they would die or whether it’s something that can be prevented. Death is inevitable and it’s what you do before that matters. And in case of both our protagonists, when they gets a call from Death-Cast, telling them that that will be the day they die, they want to live as much as they can in the little time they have left.

Mateo has always been terrified of death, and it has prevented him doing many things he wanted to. He doesn’t want to be alone on his last day but with his dad in a coma and a best friend he would rather spare, he’s got no one. He downloads a popular app called Last Friend and meets Rufus, who’s been having his own difficulties. Together, they’re going to live it up on the only day they’ve got.

Of course, it’s a timid start. They’re both strangers and Mateo is very reserved. You can’t get over your fears in a flash so it takes him time. And a part of me was frustrated with him because it was literally his last day on earth and he was messing it up! But he grew out of his shell (very slowly) and grew on me as well. All those years of being afraid had stopped him from living his life and he wouldn’t waste more time. His character development was quite brilliant. And so was Rufus’s, who lost his entire family in an accident a few months ago and was still struggling with that …and with the fact that he was going to die.

Together, Mateo and Rufus made an unlikely pair. Rufus is a lot more bold and outspoken. He’s also has a very different life. But they begin to like each other. Mateo admires Rufus’s spirit and Rufus is fascinated by how good and nice a person Mateo is.

The novel is sert in a alternate reality and told from both of their perspectives (first person) and while I’m still on the fence about the amount of ‘yo’s in Rufus’s narrative, Adam Silvera did a very good job of giving them distinctive and immediately recognisable voices. I also liked the addition of random chapters written in third person about the lives of some of the people Mateo and Rufus encountered on their adventure. I loved seeing the little threads of connection between everything.

If I have a complaint, it’s about the names of those random-perspective people. I suck at names and there were so many that it always took me a few paragraphs to figure out who we were talking about.

Overall, this was emotional but not gut-wrenching, which I appreciate (I don’t think gut-wrenching is something the author was going for). The novel had a very simple message of living life while you can, one that was beautifully delivered. It’s very well written with two great protagonist and a simple but touching story. I didn’t entirely buy them falling in love (and no, it’s not about the short time span) but they were dying so it makes sense for emotions to be a little heightened. I really liked the book and I think you should give it a shot.