Category: Book Review


Chad agreed to write a review for my blog about The Night Angel trilogy. This trilogy includes The Way of Shadows, Shadow’s Edge, and Beyond the Shadows. I’m happy to present his review.

Genre: Fantasy

Plot:

For Durzo Blint, assassination is an art – and he is the city’s most accomplished artist.

For Azoth, survival is just the beginning. He was raised on the streets and knows an opportunity when he sees one – even when the risks are as high as working for someone like Durzo Blint.

Azoth must learn to navigate the assassins’ world of dangerous politics and strange magics – and become the perfect killer.

Review:

The Night Angel trilogy by Brent Weeks is my favorite book series of all time.  I’ve read the entire series twice and both times it was extremely enjoyable.  The second time maybe even more so because you get to pick up on little details you missed the first time, much like when you re-watch a movie.

The funny thing is we actually purchased the first book in this series, The Way of Shadows, for Heather.  However, she was taking too long to get to it and I picked it up one day to read a few pages and see what I thought.  I was immediately hooked, and she never got the book back.  It now sits on my shelf along with every one of Brent Weeks’ other books, all of which are signed.  Suffice it to say I’m a big fan of his writing.

In The Night Angel trilogy, Brent excels at creating believable characters.  Not just a few either; there are literally dozens of characters that you have to keep up with.  Virtually every one of them has their own agenda and their own traits and they almost all play a large part in the story.  From Mamma K’s kind heart and serious approach to running the city’s brothels to Logan Gyre’s intelligence and childlike innocence, Brent captures everything perfectly.  Throughout the course of the three books, you witness the characters grow and develop in believable ways.  Some characters, like Azoth, go through extreme transformations, changing names and identities entirely.

Adoration of the characters aside, the plot is just as well developed.  Within the main plot there are many intertwining sub-plots that keep the story interesting and keep it from getting dull or boring.  As I said above, all the characters have their own goals and they’re all working for different things at the same time.  Some of them succeed and others fail, but the beauty of it isn’t realized until the end of the third book, when all of those sub-plots and characters come together for the greatest conclusion to anything I’ve ever read.

If you’re a fan of fantasy books but you find it really hard to get into the intensely detailed writing of some authors, Brent Weeks may be an author for you to consider.  His focus, as he has mentioned on more than one occasion, is on his characters.  The details of the world come to you slowly in an easy to follow manner.  Brent doesn’t really “vomit” description on you at any point, and it actually feels more like you’re a part of the world he has created.  It takes you a while to learn things that some of the characters already know, and it feels more natural as opposed to having the entire history of the world dropped on your head in the first chapter like some books do.

If you’re looking for a series with easy to understand writing, an incredible story, and incredible characters, you need to give The Night Angel trilogy a shot.  Be warned though: Characters you love will die and characters you hate will win.  It’s a believable world full of believable characters, and I absolutely love it!

Chad’s Rating: ★★★★★

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Choker Review

Genre: Young Adult

Choker by Elizabeth Woods is a mystery novel that revolves around a sixteen-year-old girl named Cara. Since she moved away from her best and only friend, Zoe, years ago, Cara has been a loner. She’s ignored by her classmates, and when she’s not ignored, she’s picked on by the popular kids. One day, when Cara comes home from school, she finds Zoe waiting in her room. As the story progresses, the reader learns how far one friend is willing to go for the other.

Even though Cara sits with the other girls on the track team, she doesn’t consider them true friends, and to make the situation even worse she is known as “Choker” because of an incident in the cafeteria. When Zoe comes back into Cara’s life, Cara is thrilled. She learns that Zoe ran away from problems at home, and Zoe wants to hide out with Cara for a while. Cara agrees and enjoys having her best friend back in her life. It seems Cara’s life has changed for the better, but it starts to collapse when a girl in town goes missing. Matters only get worse when Zoe begins to act strangely. Cara begins to wonder what Zoe does all day long while Cara is at school, and Cara starts to question who her friend has become.

Choker is a quick read and an interesting mystery. While there is a large focus on the mysterious aspect of the novel, there is more to the story to keep the reader engaged. There is a lot of focus on the relationship between Cara and Zoe. The characterization is well-done because the characters had very distinct personalities, and it’s easy to see why the two were friends. Zoe is the bold and outgoing one while Cara is more reserved and introverted. Since they were little, Cara has always been the follower while Zoe has been the leader. I enjoyed seeing the interaction between the two friends, and it does seem plausible. The character development is a bit intriguing when it comes to Cara. Even if there isn’t a great deal of development, the ending explains exactly why Cara didn’t particularly evolve in this story. 

While there is some great characterization and character development, the story can be predictable, and it’s easy to tell where it’s headed most of the time. Once the girl goes missing in town, it’s clear who did it and why. Although the twists and turns are expected, the ending will shock a lot of readers. The conclusion is a pretty big surprise, and it’s fun to go back through the story to find the clues that led up to the final confrontation. I have to say that I loved the ending. I did know what would be happening towards the end, but that’s mostly because I’ve seen a lot of mystery/thriller movies, shows, and books with this ending, and I enjoy it each time. It’s fun to see how each director and author will handle it. I feel that Woods handled this ending well.

The story is a fun read and will keep the reader entertained. There may be quite a few predictable plot points, but there are entertaining characters that keep the book interesting. I would recommend this novel to anyone wanting a fast and enjoyable story.

My Rating: ★★★★

Black Box Review

Genre: Young Adult

Black Box by Julie Schumacher is a realistic fiction novel that follows a teenage girl named Elena. While Elena is the protagonist, the story focuses on Elena’s older sister Dora who has been diagnosed with depression and is hospitalized. Dora’s depression ends up affecting everyone around her, and the reader finds out how depression can affect relationships and families.

Elena and Dora have had a close bond and have told each other everything, but when Dora is diagnosed, their relationship is strained. While Dora is away, Elena has to deal with her parents arguing more and has to cope without Dora by her side. However, when Dora is discharged, life only seems to become more difficult. Elena is willing to do anything to help Dora, even if that means accepting more responsibility than she can handle, which in this case, might not be the best for either of them.

Black Box is a quick read at only 168 pages or so. The novel is able to describe depression in such a way that’s believable. There is nothing pretty about what happens in the story which makes it more realistic. Depression can be a hard illness to discuss, but I think Schumacher explains it well. While it may seem as though the novel never goes into a lot of detail about depression, the way Dora talks about her illness is key. Dora never gives Elena a clear description on how she feels and that makes it difficult for Elena to help in any way.

Not only does the reader see the changes in Elena and Dora’s relationship, but he/she also witnesses how the illness can affect an entire family. The parents are completely unprepared to help Dora through her depression, and they have a hard time understanding what she is going through. All the pressure eventually falls to Elena who is forced to make a tough decision.

The story is emotional and grim at times. I found the novel interesting, and I felt it was a good change of pace from all the usual young adult subjects like romance, dystopia, and paranormal. This is the first young adult book I have read that features depression as the main topic. While I really enjoyed the book, keep in mind that it’s a sad story, and it might not be for everyone. It’s definitely worth reading though, even if only to see a different side of young adult fiction.

My Rating: ★★★★

Genre: Young Adult/Realistic Fiction

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is told through letters written by the protagonist Charlie. He’s an awkward teenager that writes to a “dear friend.” It’s unclear who the “dear friend” is because his/her identity is never revealed. These letters to this friend reveal Charlie’s experiences in high school from making new friends to discovering himself as a person.

Charlie is a quiet student that doesn’t like to draw attention to himself. He has dealt with a lot of trauma in his life, and he keeps his distance from people until he meets Patrick and Sam at a football game. They introduce him to their group of friends, and throughout the story, Charlie grows as a person and becomes more comfortable with this group. Mostly, he is happy that he is accepted and fits in. At the end, the truth is revealed about Charlie’s childhood and what he went through when he was younger.

Once the reader finds out about Charlie’s past, the pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. It explains his awkward behavior and shows that he suffered a lot as a child. Charlie is conflicted with his feelings, and this story focuses on how he is dealing with what happened to him. He goes through life wanting to be accepted by others and wanting to be recognized as a person. This can make Charlie relatable because most people his age want to have friends or at least someone who acknowledges their existence.

The way the story is told is interesting. As Charlie is writing these letters to his friend, the reader gets to find out more about his life and the challenges he has been facing. The novel felt more personal with the letters, and it’s as if the reader is the “dear friend” that Charlie is writing to. There is more of a connection to Charlie than there would be if the story was told from a different point of view.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a great coming of age story, and I believe it can help readers not judge others before knowing them. It’s hard to know what a person has been through, which is why we should treat others with respect no matter how strange or awkward they may act. Everyone is fighting their own battles, and it’s important to remember that when it would be easy to pass judgment.

My Rating: ★★★★

A Monster Calls Review

Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy

(Note: There may be lots of gushing praise over this story.)

A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness is a fantasy novel based on an original idea by Siobhan Dowd, and it’s illustrated by Jim Kay. The story follows a thirteen-year-old boy named Conor who is dealing with his mother’s illness. This book is able to demonstrate the psychological nature of an adolescent boy and his difficulties in understanding life and himself.

Conor has been having nightmares ever since his mom started her medical treatments. One night, a monster shows up at midnight. Conor expected a different monster, the one who shows up in his nightmares every night. The monster that arrives tells Conor that he will be told three stories and that after the stories, Conor must tell the monster a story of his own. This monster wants something from Conor that he is reluctant to give. He wants Conor to speak the truth.

A Monster Calls is such a beautiful book. The illustrations are gorgeous and make the story really come together. I have no complaints about this story because I believe it was written and illustrated perfectly. It’s very rare to find a story that can hold your attention and give you such joy for the written word. The novel is able to take hold of the reader and never let him/her go until the story is finished. Once you finish, it’s possible to just sit there to take in all of the details of the story.

The characterization and character development is done amazingly well for a 204 page novel. There is a lot of depth in Conor’s character. He is a teen, struggling with the fact that his mother is sick, and he doesn’t know how to cope emotionally. Conor starts out as an untrusting, hostile boy who wants nothing to do with anyone. The three stories that the monster tells Conor are quite original and demonstrate moral challenges that relate back to the main story. By the end of the novel, Conor grows as a character and learns to deal with his fear and his nightmare.

The story is incredible and sad. A Monster Calls can easily bring a reader to tears. As I was reading, I was close to tears myself. There’s a real longing to help Conor through his struggles. If the reader has ever experienced anything similar to what Conor is going through, it’s easy to relate to him. At one point near the end, I had to put the book down because I was trying not to cry. I had to take deep breaths and start again a few minutes later. I find this to be an accomplishment because I rarely cry over a story. I’m by no means heartless (or so I think), but it takes a lot to push me over the edge. This story had the right amount of believable story, sad plot, and relatable characters that got me to tear up.

I hope this is a book that people will read in their lifetime because it really makes you step back and appreciate everything in your own life. This is a beautifully crafted story that deserves all the praise it has been given. I’m excited to read more of Patrick Ness’ books because I have heard nothing but good things about all of his work.

My Rating: ★★★★★

Ender’s Game Review


Genre: Science Fiction/Young Adult

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card is a science fiction novel that takes place in Earth’s future. Humanity has advanced over the years, but it has encountered an ant-like alien race called Formics, also known as the “buggers.” In order to deal with this new threat, the Battle School was created by the International Fleet to prepare intelligent young boys and girls for a career in the military.

The story follows a six year old boy named Andrew “Ender” Wiggin over the course of seven years. Ender is drafted into the Battle School due to his high intelligence and compassion based on him being a combination of his brutal brother Peter and his passive sister Valentine. He goes through vigorous training and education while at the school, and he’s presented many challenges that he must overcome in order to succeed.

Even though Ender’s Game was never intended to be classified as a young adult book, it’s a compelling story that young readers will enjoy. The story is deeper than most young adult stories, but it’s told in such a way that most will understand. The character development is well-established. Ender grows as a character as the narrative progresses; he goes from being a young boy to a teenager who has been through turmoil. The incidents at Battle School change him as a person, and the school and teaching methods force him to grow up quickly. At the end of the novel, he is no longer an innocent child but a scarred adolescent. Peter and Valentine are well-developed characters as well. Although the reader doesn’t spend a great deal of time with these two characters, the scenes they do have show their character and what each of them is truly capable of.

The plot is developed in such a way that it seems believable. If an alien race were to attack Earth, humans may act in a similar manner to defeat the enemy. The book is able to reflect how humans might react to a threat and how they will do anything necessary to survive. While the world development mostly involves being in space, the description of different areas keeps the reader’s imagination working. Ender is moved around throughout the book, and he must adjust to different surroundings. The reader is able to see the different areas through the eyes of a child, which gives an alternate perspective.

Ender’s Game is a captivating story that keeps the reader’s attention. There is no excessive fluff that is only there to fill space. Scenes are kept short and to the point without adding in unnecessary details. Ender’s Game has won both the Hugo award and Nebula award in science fiction, and it deserves all the positive recognition. Readers of all ages will be able to enjoy this book, and it’s possible that this will be regarded as one of science fictions best works for many generations to come.

My Rating: ★★★★★

Slated Review

Genre: Young Adult

*Slight spoilers in the 5th paragraph

Slated by Teri Terry is described as a psychological thriller. The story is set in a dystopian London in the near future around 2059 or so. In this world, when a person under the age of sixteen commits a crime, the government has him or her taken away to be slated. Being slated is where the person’s memory and personality are wiped blank, and he or she is given a second chance with a clean slate. Besides having memory and personality taken away, everyone who is slated is required to wear a device known as a Levo, which monitors the person’s emotions. The levels range from 1 to 10, 10 being overjoyed and 1 being extremely angry or miserable. If a person were to go below 3, there are consequences for not being able to control his or her emotions.

The protagonist is a sixteen year old girl named Kyla who has been slated. Even though she has no memory of her past, she is different from the others who have had their memory erased because of her intense nightmares and her ability to observe things around her. She notices that criminals are not the only people disappearing. Innocent people are being taken away for no real reason. She wants to ask questions about the disappearances, but she knows that if she wants to continue to live with her new family, she must play by the government’s rules.

Terry brings up some appealing ideas about what to do with young people who have committed a crime or who need a fresh start to try again. The concept of the story is interesting, and it had a lot of potential; however, it seems to fall short on what it was attempting to accomplish. Slated is considered to be a thriller, but it doesn’t live up to the genre. Of course, there are a few moments of suspense, but they don’t make up for the lack of thrills in the story.

The plot moves slowly and tends to focus on Kyla being placed with her new family during the first half of the book with many dull conversations. The last twenty some pages are full of excitement, and the story would have been better if the book was more focused on the action of the plot. It seems the action was placed in such a way to make readers buy the next book to find out what happens, and hopefully, it explains more about the plot, the government, and the terrorists. This book felt as if it was only setting up the plot for the second book and that’s where the real action and story will begin.

Kyla, as a character, is monotone and can be boring. She has nightmares that she believes are memories, but it’s obvious what they are intended to be. Kyla also seems a bit fickle when it comes to her decisions. Throughout the book, she wants to know who she used to be, and when she is presented with an opportunity to find out more, she changes her mind. Another example would be when she is trying to stop Ben, her love interest, from doing something dangerous and then decides to help him do it better. Ben and Kyla’s relationship seems forced so that the plot can move along for the second half of the book. During this part, her motivation to worry about Ben and to do whatever she can for him doesn’t completely make sense. There was little connection between the two characters besides that she liked the way he looked and that she felt as if she knew him from another time.

I most likely will not be reading the next book Fractured because Slated didn’t capture my interest enough to find out what happens next. This book had so much potential, and it’s disappointing that it fell flat for me. I would not recommend this book, but there are plenty of people who have enjoyed the book, so it’s best to do some research to see if you would like it as well.

My Rating: ★

Splintered Review

Genre: Young Adult

Splintered by A. G. Howard is a dark, twisted, and young adult version of Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The story follows a girl named Alyssa Gardner as she discovers more about her family’s history and inherits a strange gift. Alyssa must learn to trust her own instincts while she explores the mysterious and dangerous world of Wonderland.

Alyssa develops a special gift that allows her to hear the thoughts of bugs and plants. Even though she hides this ability, she believes that she will end up like her mother Alison and be placed in an institution. Alyssa’s family has a history of madness, starting with her great-great-great grandmother Alice Liddell. In order to cure this madness, Alyssa must do what Alice once did and travel down the rabbit hole. However, she’s not alone on her mission; she is accompanied by her crush Jeb. On their journey, they discover that the inhabitants of Wonderland are not what they seem and have secret agendas of their own.

Howard’s novel is a grotesque adaptation that shows what might have happened to Alice after her visit to Wonderland and the generations that would follow her. The story is modernized to fit with young adults of this time period such as the gothic descriptions, the interests of Alyssa, and the way the world is depicted. The world descriptions are beautiful and create a new and interesting realm for the reader to explore. This book doesn’t hold back on the showing aspect of storytelling. The world is brought to life, and the reader is able to visualize the different features of Howard’s Wonderland.

Alyssa is not a perfect character. She has out of the ordinary hobbies, and she has to deal with the madness that runs in her family, but in a sense, she is a normal teenager trying to deal with family issues while going on a bizarre adventure to discover herself. This allows her to be a more realistic character. However, Alyssa could have been a bit stronger and more independent sooner in the story. She relies on other characters to help her through her quests, and at times, she seems to need Jeb to make decisions for her. Jeb is extremely protective of Alyssa, and it can get slightly irritating to the reader when he’s calling the shots even though this is Alyssa’s journey. It did take a while before she was making decisions on her own, but it showed the struggles a teenager might have claiming his/her independence.

There are aspects of the story that can be confusing. One example is having all the female names in Alyssa’s family begin with the letter A: Alyssa, Alison, Alicia, Alice. During the first half of the story, it’s possible to mix characters up while trying to decipher which woman the author is speaking about.

Splintered is a book about a young girl growing up as a person and gaining her freedom from others. It reflects flaws in humans, such as being overprotective and indecisive, while telling an alternate story of Alice in Wonderland. This novel is worth reading, especially if readers have a love for Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and want to see a modernized version of the tale.

My Rating: ★★★★

The Maze Runner Review

Genre: Young Adult

The Maze Runner by James Dashner is a dystopian young adult science fiction novel. This story follows a young protagonist named Thomas. At the very beginning, he is forced into a world that he doesn’t fully understand, and he must discover who he used to be before his memory was taken away.

The narrative begins with Thomas riding up in a dark elevator with no recollection of his past. When the elevator is opened, he meets a large group of boys called Gladers. These boys live in an open, grassy area known as The Glade. This area is enclosed by giant stone walls, and beyond those walls is a maze that goes on for miles. The boys have built their own community within The Glade, and every boy has a job to perform each day. Their main goal is to solve the maze and escape. Thomas is only there a short time before another person arrives in the elevator. This surprises everyone because this person turns out to be a girl with a shocking message. After the girl arrives, the real problems begin.

The Maze Runner is another book that is obviously part of a trilogy because of information being left out about why the maze was built and why these young boys are in it. It’s understandable that the second book will give more information about the maze and the boys, but the first book should have done this. It’s possible for a story to give all the details of the world and the plot without making the reader buy a second book to complete the story.

There was little characterization within the novel. Thomas never grew as a character; he only gained his memories back. He did receive a bit of back story when the girl arrived, but it was mainly about trying to figure out his past. Some boys did seem to be a cliché at times: the cowardly/loyal friend, the untrusting/evil guy in the group, and the knowledgeable mentor that teaches the protagonist. On the other hand, the story does a good job at keeping the reader’s attention. Even though at the end of each chapter there was a “dun dun dun” moment, I did want to continue reading. The novel is fitting for being a young adult book because it will make the young readers want to keep reading.

The Maze Runner ended in the middle of all the action. Most of the juicy details are briefly discussed at the end of the book before the story is cut off. A lot of the plot is left unexplained and leaves the reader a bit bewildered by what actually happened in those last few chapters. I’m not a fan of having to buy a second book that will finish explaining the plot that the first book should have clarified; however, I did enjoy this book for the interesting plot, and I most likely will get a copy (from the library) of the second book in the trilogy to find out what happens next.

My Rating: ★★★

Shizuko’s Daughter Review

Genre: Young Adult

Shizuko’s Daughter by Kyoko Mori is a young adult novel about an adolescent girl named Yuki Okuda. The story spans through Yuki’s teenage years and takes place in four different locations, but mainly focuses in Kobe, a city four hours away from Tokyo. Readers go through different points of view to understand the full story and to get different perspectives on the events taking place in the novel.

Yuki is twelve years old when her mother commits suicide. After this horrible incident, Yuki is forced to grow up without a loving mother, and she has to deal with the grief on her own since her father is hardly responsive. While she attempts to cope with her mother’s death, she has to deal with her father and his new wife. The stepmother treats Yuki badly, and Yuki’s father does nothing to help the situation. Yuki grows up alone and must overcome her sadness while learning to move on with her life.

Shizuko’s Daughter is an inspiring book. Mori brings up a depressing topic and is able to make her readers feel involved with the story. Throughout the novel, many events in Yuki’s life can trigger an emotion in the reader whether that is sadness, anger, or joy. There are plenty of moments that will cause sadness or anger and can make the reader want to jump into the story to help and protect Yuki. This reaction is due to the wonderful way the story is set up and how it flows from year to year or month to month, depending on the chapters. There is a focus on important moments in Yuki’s life without meaningless conversations or events. Everything that happens is important to the story in some way or the other.

The chapters, in this novel, were published separately first before they were a part of Shizuko’s Daughter. It is interesting to see how well each of the chapters fit together. Even though the novel skips through Yuki’s life to focus on main points, Mori sets it up in such a way that it makes sense for the piece. The story goes through the difficult steps in Yuki’s life as she learns to deal with her mother’s suicide and her terrible father and stepmother. The readers see the key moments in Yuki’s life that define who she is as a person and who she will be in the future.

While the arrangement of the story is good, the characterization is even better. The characters are realistic, and with each chapter, there is a sense of the different personalities coming to life. The reader is able to get into the mind of the mother, father, stepmother, grandmother, and grandfather. This shows alternate ways to look at the piece. Each person sees Yuki differently, and readers are able to see Yuki in another light, depending on who is talking. This creates a more realistic version of Yuki and shows how the family views Yuki’s situation. The story is not a one-sided argument with Yuki being the only person the reader is able to get any feedback from.

Shizuko’s Daughter is such a breath of fresh air for young adult books. Mori tells a fascinating story that can be quite sad and depressing because of the topic, but it’s an enjoyable read. I would recommend this book to anyone wanting a deep and motivating story, but be prepared for the heart-wrenching and tragic moments.

My Rating: ★★★★