Firebolt, Adrienne Woods

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“You make your own future.”

I have mixed feelings about this one and here is why.

Adrienne Woods takes us deep into a well thought fantasy world from the first pages of the book. The immersion comes fast and hits hard. We don’t know who Elena is before we are thrown into a magical world of dragons and their riders. The book is set somewhere in between the medieval fantasy (dragons and magic) and urban fantasy (Paegeia is even more advanced than the world outside its borders).

The change comes fast and maybe too fast. I would’ve liked to see for myself how Elena suffered her father’s constant paranoia rather than being told about it. I think this was the problem throughout all book. Most of the time Woods told what happened and how Elena felt afterward instead of showing through the actions of the protagonists and their friends.

The characters don’t develop throughout the book, they rest as shallow as they were in the beginning. Craving for the most fashionable outfits and the perfect boyfriends and then jumping on an incredible adventure when a real threat arises even though they all might die.

I understand that as a character Woods wanted to show overwhelmed Elena when she arrived at Paegeia but even though her reaction to the death of her father seems dull. She is over it in about one chapter and is deep in a relationship with a prince of Paegeia by the next one.

The romance and all the relationships are far too easy and far from normal. The first girls Elena meets are instantly her friends and the first boy she sees is her perfect boyfriend. Well, technically the second one, but I have no doubt the first one will be hers too. Take that for a fairy tale.

The book is just too predictable about it. And not only the relationships, the adventures too. I didn’t feel surprised at any turn in the story and wasn’t relieved when the perfect happy ending arrived (almost perfect).

All in all, for a fantasy, even though it is a YA one, the world was well thought and well structured. The school for dragons reminded me of Harry Potter, but there is no way to escape it. After the success of the Harry Potter series, anyone confronted with the words magical and school will think about Hogwarts. But the first book in the Dragonian series stood apart and had its own background and conflicts.

But before I put this book to rest on one of my shelves, I want to take a moment and talk about editing. There were far too many grammatical errors and adverbs for a novel that is published, even if independently. “Show, don’t tell”, a lesson that was missed by Adrienne Woods.

This was a good enough read that I am already busy reading the next one.

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Everything is F*cked, Mark Manson

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“True freedom doesn’t really exist because we all must sacrifice some autonomy for stability. No one, no matter how much you love them or they love you, will ever absolve that internal guilt you feel simply for existing. It’s all fucked. everything is fucked. It always has been and always will be. There are no solutions, only stopgap measures, only incremental improvements, only slightly better forms of fuckedness than others. And it’s time we stop running from that and, instead, embrace it.”

I am a big fan of The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck by Mark Manson. I have it in an audio-book format and I listen to it from time to time. It has that dose of humor and good advice that allows us to take a step back in any given situation and rethink our position on some subjects.

When I found out that M.Manson wrote a new book and with the title Everything Is F*cked, it was immediately placed on my to-read list and no longer after that it migrated to currently-reading. It took me less than four hours to finish and I enjoyed every moment of it.

M. Manson has a way of telling a story without any filter, without caring who will think what. I must say I agree with most things M.Manson says, not all of them. But it doesn’t change the fact that I see him as a person with strong opinions that are clearly stated throughout the book.

I saw a few reviews that range from “I liked this book, it was more mature than The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck” to “Horrible writing, bad comparisons…”. Different people hoped for different things when they started reading this book and I think not all of them wanted to hear what M.Manson had to say.

Well, I didn’t come with high expectations for this new installment but I was surprised. M.Manson has his opinions and he is putting them down on paper. That you do not agree with them or do not like them does not mean that he is wrong or that the book is bad. Yes, what he says sometimes is rough and radical. But we got used to living in a bubble where even a single word or opinion can hurt us. There are some much harsher things happening all around us and we need to remember that. We need to fight for the inequalities to disappear, instead of being drawn to the new scandal between some celebrities on the tabloids.

For popular non-fiction, the book was well researched and when one opinion or another was given, there was a solid-base explanation behind it. The book was easy to read and had down to earth explanations of the philosophical teaching that

It wasn’t as much fun as The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck even though I hoped for it, but some chapters and passages reminded me of it, like How to Start a Cult. But I think to compare it to The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck is to be unfair to Everything is F*cked. The books are different. The Subtle Art of Not Giving A F*ck is an autobiography of sorts, Everything is F*cked is an essay on the current state of our society. The subjects explored in Everything is F*cked are broader but everything is related to the main theme of hope and human relationships.

This is a book that I recommend you to read if you have an open mind and you are not scared to hear someone to disagree with your opinions.

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How Best to Stage a Breakdown, H.M.Reynolds

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Save that space because
I need the time to disperse my rain. The day ahead is
Still long yet, longer than the days behind and
Weeks lost between, that we used to use to have discipline.”

I got this chapbook for free after meeting H.M.Reynold on twitter. I knew from the start that this isn’t the kind of poetry I love, which is basically, the one that has rhyme and rhythm. But as I will read almost anything that is put in front of me, I wanted to give this collection of poems a chance.

Putting it in a simple way, I might not be the perfect person to bestow my judgment on this collection, but as a reader, I have a few things to say.

I find it hard to read poems without any rhyme or rhythm and in these poems both were not present. I did like some of them, but each one I liked there was another one I didn’t. The figures of speech were elaborated, but sometimes too much.

The poems explore subjects such as depression, anorexia, manipulation and dysfunction, but they didn’t invoke any particular feeling in me, and most of the time, I just struggled to understand what the author meant in her poems.

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Flamecaster, Cinda Williams Chima

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“We don’t protect them because they’re weak. We protect them because they are strong, and strong people make enemies.”

This was one of the books that I got to pass the time while I was on my 20-day trip. I rarely read so many books, so fast and one after another. I read fast, but normally I don’t have enough time for it.

I have not read Seven Realm series and maybe I missed something, I think all the fans of C. W. Chima will tell me that of course, I did. But I came in green and I found it as a good start for the YA series Shattered Realms, even though it is clearly meant to be a part of a larger story.

Flamecaster… I still don’t understand why this was the name of this book… Well, technically one of the main characters was called this way and C. W. Chima tells us why, but I didn’t feel like it was enough. The explanation certainly didn’t satisfy me.

There is a lot of work done on character development. They all have their problems, their stakes in the conflict and its resolution. They all have a different point of view which is understandable since they all have a different background. We can easily relate to all of the characters in the book.

I liked the writing, it was sharp, concise, showing enough of the world to leave the rest to my imagination. The characters were attractive, keeping me turning the pages to figure out what is going to happen to them, to discover who they are.

But what I don’t like about some books is when there is a need to show a scene or a few from the point of view of a secondary character to avoid any future plot-holes. Such is the case for the part of the book narrated from Destin and Lila. I think the author easily switched from one character to another, showing the world through their eyes, each with his or her own view. But the constant change in the narrator kept me wondering who were the real protagonists of the book.

And the same went for the story arc. I understand that this is a part of a series, but even though I had trouble figuring out the conflict for a long time. I mean, yes, it is kind of obvious, but with so many different protagonists I had too many doubts. I still don’t understand the reason for the presence of the St Malthus Priests in the book, except to cause tension in the moments when it is much needed. I guess the explanation will follow in the next books in the series, but for me, it will rest a mystery.

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The Master Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Decide where you want your life to go before you set it rolling.”

As with The Glass Magician, I didn’t even have half-a-day between finishing one book and starting the other. And I was disappointed.

From the first pages I felt less enthralled. The story was not as attractive to me. From the synopsis I had read before starting it, I hoped for me. Ceony seemed rather stupid in this book and Emery mostly absent.

I would rather understand a bad second book and a good third one. That’s usually the case when there is a trilogy. The transition tends to worsen in the middle of the series and pick up again in the ending. This series did the opposite.

That is not to say I didn’t like the ending. One of the things that is most important to me in a series is how the author will finish it. I love open endings, even though they leave me with an aching heart and I love the happy endings, even though not everyone gets one. And Charlie N. Holmberg found that perfect balance for a good one.

I just hoped for more of Ceony and Emery during the book and I found their relationship absent during all of it. The romance that made me smile and hope during The Glass Magician, was no longer there.

New characters appeared. The encounter with Pritt, the boy and now the man who hated Emery for his bullying and I guess other differences, was welcome. I absolutely loved that he was there because I wondered about his life as a magician from the moment he was mentioned in the first book, but he wasn’t developed until the last book. Bannet, another student from her past also was there to make for a richer world. But the characters were shallow and with no backstory.

The tension I felt during the first two installments were absent from this book. Ceony did things not to protect someone or in a sense of urgency, but because… Well, I don’t think I can answer that. I found her boring, annoying and not easy to relate to.

Even though that the enemy is even more evil than Grath, the antagonist from the second installment of the series, the only conflict that seemed to flow through the book was ‘Will Ceony and Emery finally be together or not?’

The book was addictive, showing excellent writing that Charlie N. Holmberg is good at, but at the same time frustrating as nothing of interest was happening and no tension was present. This was a good read for the most part of it. It gave a nice final touch to the series even if not the best one.

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The Glass Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“But a man doesn’t have to have dark magic to do dark things.”

I jumped from The Paper Magician right onto The Glass Magician. I was biased starting this book because I was already in love with the two characters. But I guess this is a show of good writing, when you just can’t stop yourself from jumping from one page to the other, from one book to the other.

Nevertheless, I didn’t come with high hopes. How many times did you love a book so much that you go for the next one in the series and it just dull and the writing is not as good? Well, this was not the case. If something I found this book with a more gripping story and full of interesting twists that were not there in The Paper Magician.

Needless to say that the scenery was less confusing, but that is not such a hard thing to do when you switch from memories, hopes and fears to the real world, with persecutions, fights and murder. The unique world created by Charlie N. Holmberg keeps surprising with the focus on the glass magic in this new installment of the series.

Some new characters and more presence from the old ones were also a welcome sight. It made the world richer and more welcoming. But there was no story to them. They are there to fill the gaps with no background nor future for them in the series.

On the other hand, the antagonist was more profound with a reason to pursue Ceony, with a rich past and a deep personality, contrary to the one in The Paper Magician. Grath is a powerful enemy, he is respected and feared.

And the love story… Don’t start me on that. I love a good old love story. The more I read, I find fewer and fewer passages that clutch my heart and make me smile like a school-girl but this one certainly did the trick. Yes, it might be wrong, they are a magician and an apprentice, almost 10 years the difference… But was it good? YES!

But, and there is always a but, when there are only 4 stars and not 5. I don’t like a switch from one character to another for the sake of avoiding plot-holes. I think there are other ways of showing a scene that happened without changing the protagonist of the book. I respect Holmberg’s decision, but for me, you either write all the book from one character or all of the book is switching between the two. To find a chapter written from Emery’s point of view was a surprise and for me not a welcome one. I would rather hear it told from his lips when Ceony wakes up in the hospital than to see the scene through his eyes.

And well, we’ll see where this young and smart apprentice will take us in the next book.

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The Paper Magician, Charlie N. Holmberg

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“But she still had time. Surely she still had time. Stories like this one weren’t meant to end badly.”

I went into the book waiting to be disappointed, waiting for the magic of a good story to fade. But it didn’t.

The reviews and the ratings were not ravishing and this book migrated between my shelves of to-read and not to-read for some time. I had doubts, but the synopsis and the cover were so promising. I hoped that my judgment of the book by its cover (even though no one should ever do it, but we all do it anyway) would not fail me and it didn’t.

Yes, it had flaws. Yes, sometimes the details were too brisk. Yes, the story was sometimes confusing.

But I loved it. The Paper Magician surprised me with a new kind of story, taken out of the typical perimeter set for the YA novels, bound to be about romance, strong almost omnipotent protagonist and the events swirling all around her. Instead, the book has a unique world constructed around magicians bound to the elements. Ceony has hers chosen for her and it is paper. For the next few years she will spend her time as an apprentice with a paper magician named Emery Thane. What a useless material paper must be, you may say. But no, as Charlie N. Holmberg shows us it is not exactly the case. With its own limits, paper can save Emery and that is what Ceony is determined to do.

The main romance line is foreseeable after about 30% of the book, but it is lacking. There were some hints dropped here and there and the vision at the end of the book promises a good deal, but there is no actual romance in this book, nothing that would make your heart swell with emotion.

Even though the scenery is ever changing, the descriptions give enough detail to immerse you in the world lived by Ceony even if it is hidden in another man’s heart.

As many reviews had said there is a bit of a discrepancy with the setting. The book is set somewhere between the Victorian era and the modern times, but Ceony speaks as if she was living in the present days with expressions that weren’t present in those times. It didn’t bother me, but if you love your historical-fiction right to the tiniest facts, than this will be a constant annoyance for you.

The protagonist herself was a rich character, with her own troubles, mistakes, guilt and hidden powers that surprised me and made Ceony all the more likable and strong. She has her own kind of humor and ways of saying things that make her stand out as a strong protagonist. Contrary to her, the antagonist in lacking in compelling traits. It seems as if the Excisioner only does things because she wants to, there is no plan, only determination to give revenge.

But in some ways the story was more about Thane than about Ceony. Holmberg revealed more secrets about the magician than about his apprentice and it was told in an unusual way, through the memories, hopes and fears, rather than through dialogs and monotonous recollections.

I had some questions through the book, for some things I consider almost plot-holes. But it didn’t bother me for too long for the narrative was light and addictive.

The next two books will tell if the whole series is worth reading or not.

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Red Rising, Pierce Brown

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Funny thing, watching gods realize they’ve been mortal all along.”

I was going to leave for a trip for 3 weeks and couldn’t bring physical copies of the books with me. At least not as many as I would want to. So, for the first time in years I bought kindle versions of a few books.

I decided to clean my want-to-read and owned-to-read shelves and this is one that’s been on one of those lists for a long time. I don’t think the synopsis really convinced me and I wasn’t sure the book would be worth buying.

I regret that I formed an opinion before giving it a real chance. I think I might want to have it on a shelf of my bookcase so I can re-read it or just flip through the pages to savor the good passages.

This is one of those books that really surprised me. There was action, a bad-ass character, suspense… Everything you want in a good novel that takes you in its grip and doesn’t let go before you flip the last page.

The future that this book is painting is simple but evil.

It has been compared to The Hunger Games, and I thought the same by the middle of the book but P. Brown created something new. It may be another dystopian future, another example of our flaws and habits, but it is also an example of what we might become if a handful few can grab the seats of power and impose their will, hiding the rest of us in the dark for the next centuries.

If I only knew that there would be Greek and Roman mythology involved I would have picked the book sooner. P. Brown used the names of the gods and their characteristics and attributes to show the different battling houses of the Golds, but at the same time mentioning the differences between Greek and Roman mythology.

The main character is not perfect, but deep and easy to connect to. He might be above average in his skills or strength, but then again, it was all built for him. And throughout the pages P. Brown shows us the change in the protagonist, his doubts, his fears, but also his never ending will to push forward. We get to presence his evolution and the adjustment to his new role in the society.

The story is gripping and full of twists. Even though some of the turns of the events are easy to foresee, the story is ever changing. The fluid relationship between the characters and the protagonist is sometimes surprising like with Tactus, Servo and Pax, other times not so much as with Mustang. But the author is not afraid to kill one or several of the characters you liked or started to like, leaving you on the edge of the seat to see what will happen next.

It was a good ride and I hope you will take it too.

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The Martian Chronicles, Ray Bradbury

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“Ignorance is fatal.”

The Martian Chronicles was a book that my dad mentioned whenever we talked about good books and classic science fiction. Ray Bradbury was known to me since I was little and I think Fahrenheit 451 was one of the books that showed me that love for literature that all of us practiced readers have. It was short, precise and it painted a futuristic image that we’ve almost achieved in today’s society. With the exception of burning books… Wait, I heard some priests in Poland actually have burned Harry Potter ones

But I am here not to talk about Fahrenheit 451 no matter how good it was, but about The Martian Chronicles.

It had been on my want-to-read list for far too long and then on my bookshelf for another few months before I finally opened it.

I came biased and I don’t regret it. I enjoyed every last page of it.

Not a single review of this book can be done without a quote that describes the human nature just the way it is. For me there was a passage to be remembered on almost all the pages.

But I am going to try not to copy the whole book just to make the review. I just think that Ray Bradbury saw us for who we are. Humans, creatures capable of adapting, but preferring to smooth the edges whenever it is possible to make our lives easier, to pollute and corrupt whatever we touch but still capable of greatness.

This book is a collection of stories, sometimes a few-pages long showing only a glimpse of a well-constructed and a bit scary world, other times they’re a long-narratives exploring an alien race and their upper hand in the evolution but lacking to foresee the total destruction by the our race. The symbolism of our perceived greatness, but flawed actions appears throughout the book.

The Martian Chronicles makes us ask numerous questions about who we are and what is the reason for our presence here. I just hope that there are more of us out there that are like Jeff Spender or even Captain Wilder than Biggs or Parkhill.

As in any science fiction, Ray Bradbury uses the imagined future it to create a world in which he can talk about what he wants, to describe and criticize it in subtle ways. He succeeds in getting the message across to the reader. The only question is will we achieve greatness or stay a blunt race that will do anything to accommodate themselves disregarding the consequences.

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The Magicians, Lev Grossman

Caution, mild spoilers ahead.

“If there’s a single lesson that life teaches us, it’s that wishing doesn’t make it so.”

I read some of the reviews from the people I follow before buying this book. And I actually left it on the bookstore shelf several times before finally picking it up and moving to the checkout line.

Usually I think about it for a long time if a book has a lower than a 4-star rating on the Goodreads. I have enough trust in the community, unless it appeals to me with its cover or its summary. The latter is what happened in this case and oh, boy how I much I regret it.

From the first pages of the book I had this feeling that I have read all of this somewhere else. Harry Potter, Narnia… but well it has been said so many times before and by better reviewers than me.

So let’s start with what I liked about this book. Sometimes I like reading about characters who are all perfect, other times the bad-ass crazy one appeal to me more. In this case the protagonists seem to be real people, who have problems and real feelings, who have relationships that are not perfect and which are constantly changing.

And that’s about it. Now to the stuff I didn’t like.

The characters are so dull. Quentin, Elliot, Janet, Josh… They have no depth. Almost in the ending I wondered maybe it was Alice the real protagonist, but no, I was right from the beginning. It is Quentin.

He is just a person with no motivation, who always gets what he wants and seems to get no satisfaction from it. Which leads to a heavy alcoholism for about 2/3 of the book. There were chapters that were so hard to get through just because it went on an on how the famous Brakebills quintet took all the drugs they could lay a hand on and tried to find their way to oblivion because they were just too perfect for this world.

Now to the plot-holes. The characters that appear in a scene and then are gone till the end of the book seem to be an endless treasure for L. Grossman. Their appearances almost seem to be there to tell you ‘Well, you heard of him/her once, isn’t it enough for him/her to be the biggest hero/enemy of the book?’

The information is laid in front of the reader so he doesn’t start doubting anything he is told.

The little cherry on the top of all this pile of nonsense seems to be the fact that all the narrative arc happens on the last 100 pages.

I wondered for a long time when will we finally know what this book is really about till I reached the 350 pages. For an exposition and the conflict to incite the readers’ attention that takes a really long time.

And it happens again at the resolution, when the tracks for the next book are laid. Quentin has finally accepted his uselessness as a character and he becomes what he should have been from the start only to be swept away on a new adventure on the last half-page.

The fact that the show that is loosely based on the book is already on its fourth season and has a 7.6 rating on IMDb, tells me that the show is better than the book.

Out of curiosity, I watched a couple of episodes and I regret to tell you that the show is definitely better than the book.

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