Mini Reviews | 2

I slacked a bit near the end of the school year with writing full reviews (and wrap-ups) of the books I’ve read. Rather than break my pledge to review every book I read this year, I figured I’d compromise and write mini reviews of the books I read in April and May, complete with my general thoughts on each. This post is the second of a two-part mini review series. You can view the first part here. Enjoy!

61kqENa2G0L._SL300_Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale | Audible (5/5 stars)
The Chamber of Secrets has always been my least favorite Harry Potter book, but obviously I still love it. Listening to it on audiobook was so much fun, as the story comes to life more than I would have thought possible with Jim Dale’s lovely narration. There’s not much more to say about it, but you can read my full review of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone here. I highly recommend checking out the HP audiobooks as they are relatively inexpensive via Audible and can make mundane tasks like driving or cleaning more enjoyable.

16000044Rebel Spring by Morgan Rhodes | Goodreads (3/5 stars)
Rebel Spring is the second installment to the Falling Kingdoms series. The series follows a cast of characters and perspectives and has been described as a “YA Game of Thrones.” While I do see some similarities, the writing in this series is definitely lower-level and the characters are often unlikeable. I found this sequel tedious and hard to get through until late in the book, where it picked up for me.

17342700Gathering Darkness by Morgan Rhodes | Goodreads (3.5/5 stars)
The third book in the Falling Kingdoms series, Gathering Darkness was pretty good. It’s my favorite of the series so far, as I found the characters more complex and interesting and the plot deeper and thickening. Morgan Rhodes loves to do plot twists and put her characters through the ringer, which I find entertaining and, thus, appreciate. I got into the romantic tension that builds in this novel and cannot wait to pick up the fourth installment, Frozen Tides, if only to find out what happens next. While I don’t think the Falling Kingdoms series is amazing, it has become addicting and definitely keeps the reader on his or her toes. I’d recommend checking it out if it interests you, or if you’re a younger reader looking to delve into young adult fantasy.

Thanks for reading.

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Mini Reviews | 1

 

I’ve slacked a bit over the last two months in writing full reviews (and wrap-ups) of the books I’ve read. Rather than break my pledge to review every book I read this year, I figured I’d compromise and write mini reviews of the books I read in April and May, complete with my general thoughts on each. This post will be the first of two. Enjoy!

Hamlet by William Shakespeare | Goodreads (3/5 stars)1589254My AP English class read Hamlet aloud this spring. I have to say, it isn’t one of my favorite Shakespeare plays. I’m unsure whether that’s because I didn’t like the content or because I disliked the manner in which we read it. I believe it’s more of the latter, because I found it hard to understand and don’t think I got as much out of the unit as I could have. Regardless, Hamlet is an exciting, yet frustrating, tale of murder, familial relations, court politics, conquest, and, most importantly, revenge.

Untitled-14The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads (2.5/5 stars)
This was a weird one. Patrick Rothfuss admitted it would be in an open letter at the beginning of the book. The novella is set in the world of The Kingkiller Chronicle series and follows Auri over the course of seven days as she awaits Kvothe’s return (from where, we don’t know). Auri completes all sorts of odd tasks around the Underthing and readers get a glimpse into her fragile and childlike mind. I personally didn’t much enjoy this book and skimmed through quite a bit of it. There’s not really a plot, per say; rather, the story winds aimlessly as Auri does whatever it is that Auri does. I thought the writing was beautiful, but The Slow Regard of Silent Things was a snooze for me.

20443235The Winner’s Kiss by Marie Rutkoski | Goodreads (4.5/5 stars)
The Winner’s Kiss is the third and final installment in The Winner’s Trilogy. In it, we follow Kestrel and Arin’s separate struggles as they face war and imprisonment, then rejoice as they reunite to kick some emperor butt. I won’t say more on the plot because I don’t want to spoil the series for those who haven’t read it, but I found The Winner’s Kiss to be a very satisfying conclusion to the trilogy. I liked the first two books a bit more (I gave them both 5 stars, I believe) and found this installment to be a little less intense, but perhaps that’s because I read reviews beforehand and knew that everything would end well. Nevertheless, I really enjoyed watching Kestrel and Arin grow individually as well as together and I wish them a happily ever after.

Thanks for reading.

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Me Before You by Jojo Moyes

15507958Novel: Me Before You by Jojo Moyes | Goodreads
Release Date: January 5, 2012
Publisher: Penguin Books
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.5 stars

Louisa Clark is an ordinary girl living an exceedingly ordinary life—steady boyfriend, close family—who has never been farther afield than their tiny village. She takes a badly needed job working for ex-Master of the Universe Will Traynor, who is wheelchair-bound after an accident. Will has always lived a huge life—big deals, extreme sports, worldwide travel—and now he’s pretty sure he cannot live the way he is.

Will is acerbic, moody, bossy—but Lou refuses to treat him with kid gloves, and soon his happiness means more to her than she expected. When she learns that Will has shocking plans of his own, she sets out to show him that life is still worth living.

A love story for this generation, Me Before You brings to life two people who couldn’t have less in common—a heartbreakingly romantic novel that asks, What do you do when making the person you love happy also means breaking your own heart?

Me Before You is a beautiful and thought-provoking novel filled with seemingly real characters, realistic problems, and British humor that I’ll openly admit I didn’t always follow. The story is set in a small tourist town in the English countryside. It’s told mostly in first-person from Louisa Clark’s perspective, with a few single chapters told from minor characters’ perspectives sprinkled throughout. And just as a warning before you read Me Before You: it’s not really a romance. It is an adult contemporary novel about all sorts of complicated issues and the interconnected lives of characters; a bit of romantic love develops slowly, but it isn’t what the novel is about. Rather, it’s a marketing tool that’s been abused as a selling point for Me Before You.

Louisa and I didn’t get off to a great start; I found her whiny and contrary in the first three chapters and actually put the book down for about a week. However, when I picked it back up I got right into her perspective and the story, so maybe I was just having a bad night initially. I really enjoyed Louisa’s wry voice, which is filled with humor, compassion, self-deprecation, and blunt honesty, about both herself and the world. I liked reading about her family dynamics, her lackluster relationship with Patrick, and her growth over the course of the novel. The one thing I found a bit disappointing with regards to Louisa is the way Moyes addressed her history with sexual assault. I thought it could have been dealt with more thoroughly and in a more impactful manner.

Our other main character, whose perspective we only see in the prologue from third-person, is Will Traynor. And he is a character. Will has a big personality; before his accident, he did everything big, with passion and intensity. He had designed a life he loved living, and now that his dream life is gone forever, he wants to commit suicide. He tries to, which is why Louisa is hired to watch over him. I really want to leave it at that, because the rest is for the reader to discover while reading. But I loved Will and found his life before the accident to be exciting and his life afterwards to be eye-opening. His perspective and philosophy on living is inspiring and he made a mark on my heart.

I’m always wary of hyped up books when I am late on the hype train. They’re almost always spoiled for me in some sense, and my reading experience and overall opinion of a book is altered—for better or for worse—because of its hype. If I had read Me Before You when I’d originally planned to—back a few years ago when my mom did, before all the movie hype—I think I would have been shocked by it. Its ending would have swept me off my feet and face-planted me into a pool of my own tears. That being said, it still made me said and my eyes did water a bit (I finished it at a swim team banquet and thus held in the tears that otherwise would have spilled down my cheeks). But my prediction of why everyone says it’s such a sad book and that “omg” they cried at the end was right. And I knew it would be right (without actually looking it up). So in that sense, Me Before You’s hype took away from my experience reading it, although I still found it fresh, heartbreaking, and wonderful. I would give it 4 stars based on my own experience and know I would have given it 5 had I not known what would happen. So I settled on a solid and, in my opinion, fair 4.5 star rating.

I highly recommend reading Me Before You. There is also sequel out for those interested; I felt very content with the first book’s ending because it is a complete story with no loose ends, but I may check out the second installment and review it. Let me know what you thought of Me Before You (or After You) if you’ve read either, but please keep any comments spoiler-free!

Thanks for reading.

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The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

6266872Novel: The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss | Goodreads
Release Date: March 27, 2007
Publisher: DAW (Penguin Group)
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
Rating: 4.75 stars

MY NAME IS KVOTHE

I have stolen princesses back from sleeping barrow kings. I burned down the town of Trebon. I have spent the night with Felurian and left with both my sanity and my life. I was expelled from the University at a younger age than most people are allowed in. I tread paths by moonlight that others fear to speak of during day. I have talked to Gods, loved women, and written songs that make the minstrels weep.

You may have heard of me.

So begins a tale unequaled in fantasy literature–the story of a hero told in his own voice. It is a tale of sorrow, a tale of survival, a tale of one man’s search for meaning in his universe, and how that search, and the indomitable will that drove it, gave birth to a legend.

The Name of the Wind is an adult fantasy novel that is 1) not convoluted, 2) easy to read, and 3) well worth the hype. The Name of the Wind is so good. SO. GOOD. I wanted to give it 5 stars. I resisted mainly due to a fair few typos and the author’s annoying use of commas instead of semicolons, a petty pet peeve of mine. There were also a couple parts of the novel (mainly the beginning, in which I was confused, and the few days of little action that Kvothe spent with Denna near the end) that I found a bit lagging, but that’s me really nitpicking. The book is good.

Now, be forewarned. I am absolutely dying to read the sequel, The Wise Man’s Fear. It is taking everything in my power to sit down and write this review, rather than pick up the next installment and dive right back into Kvothe’s tale. So please forgive my all-over-the-place review. I feel like a Denner addict. (If you’ve read the book, you know.)

The predominant storyline in The Name of the Wind is the first portion of a three-part story, which will span across three books in a series titled The Kingkiller Chronicle. For the most part, the book is narrated in first-person by Kvothe as he recounts to a Chronicler his life from the ages of eleven to sixteen.

Kvothe is such an awesome character to read. He’s clever, witty, brilliant, talented, cultured, curious, and an excellent storyteller, just to name a few traits. I loved his storytelling, and his remarkable memory made it easier not to scoff at the details any normal person would likely forget. I tend not to like books in which a character is telling a story; I’d rather see the action unfold in real time. I found the beginning of the novel confusing because it’s not told in first-person and I didn’t know who anyone was. It was purposefully crypt, but just know that the novel doesn’t begin with Kvothe telling his tale. Patience, young grasshoppers.

That being said, I took the book for what it is, knowing I don’t particularly like this method of storytelling, and I ended up really enjoying it. The narration style is a nice balance in that the fact that Kvothe is telling his story is noticeable in all the right places; it doesn’t hinder the reading experience. The interludes were well-placed, as well. I am already concerned about the final book, though. I am hoping we will come back to the present and there will be some resolution there, as Kvothe is leading a sad life in a miserable world, still at quite a young age. I want to see him be awesome in the present!

All right, let’s talk love. It’s not really love yet in The Name of the Wind, but it most likely will be in the future. Kvothe cares deeply for Denna. I do not. I don’t dislike her, per say, but I don’t like her either. I think I might understand her more if I knew more about her past and why she’s always disappearing, but as it is, I find it supremely annoying, probably because I wouldn’t deal well with such an unreliable and secretive person in real life. And then Kvothe puts her on a pedestal and I’m just like sigh, okay. I do admire Kvothe’s respect for Denna and his acceptance of her nature and behavior. For me, Denna is whatever in The Name of the Wind, but little is revealed about her so I am expecting that to change in future installments.

The best part about The Name of the Wind, other than Kvothe himself, is its descriptiveness. There are some awesome magic scenes, detailed action sequences, and vivid images of life. I felt so much that Kvothe seemed to feel, so props to Mr. Rothfuss. When Kvothe was confident, even in a scary situation, I wasn’t afraid. When he was nervous for his admissions to the University, my stomach was rolling over. When he was living on the streets of Tarbean, I could see his hardships crystal clear. It was absolutely incredible.

In summary, I loved The Name of the Wind. It wasn’t quite perfect, but it was darn near close to 5 stars for me. I am looking forward to more character development, more imagery, more world-building, and, most of all, more of Kvothe’s story in its sequel. All of these elements were excellent in the first installment of The Kingkiller Chronicle and I cannot wait to read more. I highly recommend giving The Name of the Wind a go.

Thanks for reading.

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Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone

61clY6n-0UL._SL300_Novel: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, narrated by Jim Dale
Release Date: November 20, 2015
Publisher: Pottermore from J.K. Rowling
Format: Digital Audiobook
Source: Bought
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads | Pottermore | Audible

Harry Potter thinks he is an ordinary boy. He lives with his Uncle Vernon, Aunt Petunia and cousin Dudley, who are mean to him and make him sleep in a cupboard under the stairs. (Dudley, however, has two bedrooms, one to sleep in and one for all his toys and games.) Then Harry starts receiving mysterious letters and his life is changed forever. He is whisked away by a beetle-eyed giant of a man and enrolled at Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. The reason: Harry Potter is a wizard! The first book in the “Harry Potter” series makes the perfect introduction to the world of Hogwarts.

I could not for the life of me find a decent description of this amazing book, so I provided the usual Goodreads one above. Regardless, everyone should have read Harry Potter by now, so in terms of content, you already know it’s magnificent. (If you haven’t read or didn’t like Harry Potter… Well, I’m quite sorry for your loss. Perhaps this review will inspire you to give it a go!)

So I’m going to be discussing the audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the pleasure I got from listening to it this month. Until this March, I hadn’t listened to an audiobook in ages. I think the last time had to have been 8+ years ago; I have The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis on CD, but I don’t think I ever finished it. I’m not an auditory learner, so I’ve always avoided audiobooks, and I’ve had my doubts as to whether listening to a book can really be considered reading. Regardless, I want to re-read the Harry Potter series this year (it’s been far too long) and my trip to Harry Potter World in Orlando in mid-march had me on a time crunch to start. I ended up checking out Audible again (I’ve browsed here and there over the past two years) after watching Christine’s review of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. She re-read the series via audiobook and completely sold me on trying out the experience. ANYTHING FOR HARRY POTTER.

Let me just say, I loved it.

Plot/Language
Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, and the entire Harry Potter series for that matter, is such a good story. I never quite realized it until I listened to it, but it’s as though this book was made to be heard. Reading it is magical; listening to it brings it to life. I felt like a little kid listening to a bedtime story, and it was hard to turn it off when I had to go to class or leave my car. The plot, characters, and narration of the novel make it prime material for read aloud narration. Brilliant!

Narrator
Jim Dale is an artist. I know there’s a lot of debate as to which narrator is better—Jim Dale (American editions) or Stephen Fry (British editions). I listened to several samples of both, and I think they’re both excellent—you really can’t go wrong either way. However, due to copyrights and all that, my only option was the Jim Dale versions and I am so happy with his narration so far. He has a lovely British accent and narrates the story wonderfully. His particular strength is his character voices; he does a different, yet distinguishable voice for each character, which makes following the book really easy. Yes, sometimes he makes Hermione sound too whiny, and he also made Firenze’s voice much higher-pitched (and Scottish?) than I imagined. But after adjusting to his interpretations, they’re fine. He also narrates the Quidditch matches really well! I want to listen to other audiobooks narrated by Jim Dale now, especially Peter Pan and the Peter and the Starcatchers series.

Length
The audiobook version of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone is about 8 hours and 15 minutes long. Additionally, it includes a bonus 16-minute sample of Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I think Jim Dale’s pacing is perfect; Stephen Fry reads slower, and though I didn’t notice it much (it didn’t bother me at all), when it comes to the longer books, the time adds up! Dale reads at an easy pace: not so quickly that you’ll miss anything, but not so slowly that you want to speed it up. I’d describe it as a leisurely stroll. The pacing really helped me absorb the story; I felt like I was watching the book as a movie, with no changes, or actually living it.

In summary, I really loved listening to the audiobook of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. I enjoyed Jim Dale’s narration and voices, and the story seemed more magical than ever before. The audiobook truly brings the story, characters, and wizarding world to life in a way I’d never imagined—and for Harry Potter, which is already so real to so many of us, that’s really saying something.

Thanks for reading.

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