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Red Seas Under Red Skies Review

Locke Lamora’s adventures continue in the second novel of the Gentleman Bastards sequence by Scott Lynch. This sequel sees Jean and Locke planning a heist while avoiding mystery assassins. They become unwilling participants in piracy and must find a way to take matters back into their own hands.

It was a nice change to have more female characters in RSURS. They were strong, well-written characters who fit nicely into the group dynamic. Zamira Drakasha and Ezri Delmastro were quite likeable, in spite of being pirates. It was easy to root for them throughout the novel. Selendri was interesting enough that I wish the novel had spent more time on her. Even Merrain left me eager for more. All in all, I was really happy with the new cast of characters. I’m really looking forward to reading about Sabetha whenever she finally pops up.

A large part of the novel took place at sea, and Scott Lynch threw in a large amount of nautical terminology. He did so masterfully, with the reader learning terms as Locke and Jean learned them. As someone with no point of reference for these terms, I felt that I learned the terms well enough that they never took me out of the story.

I was often in awe of Lynch’s imagination. He comes up with such wondrous games and events and I found myself inspired and wanting to learn more about the world of these novels. It was great to explore new locations and hierarchies of power.

The humour that was prevalent in Book One was still sprinkled throughout Book Two but it was understandable that it wasn’t quite as funny as the first. A lot of the funny characters from the first book were unable to be in this one, and while Jean and Lock are still humorous enough to supply plenty of laughs. There was a small portion of the book where Locke wasn’t quite in the right mindset for humour.

Overall, I really liked this novel and felt that everything was wrapped up nicely. There are still two or three dangling threads that I can think of but I’m sure Scott Lynch has planned out how they’ll fit into the other novels so I’m not worried.

5 out of 5 Stars!

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Look Who’s Back Review

What would happen if Adolf Hitler suddenly woke up in Berlin in 2011? This is exactly what Timur Vermes sets out to explore in his novel, Look Who’s Back. People react to his return by thinking he’s simply a character actor pretending to play Hitler who never breaks character. He becomes a YouTube star, has a TV show, and has a lot of strong opinions.

The novel is intended to be satirical and humourous but I felt that a lot of the time, the comedy fell flat. Timur Vermes’ novel was originally written in German so I’m not sure if some of the humour was lost in translation. However, Hitler goes on such long-winded rants that you forget what he was ranting about in the first place.Minor things were done in a way that were hilarious, such as Hitler’s assuming that granola bars took the place of good German bread and instant coffee meaning the British were blockading the seas and forcing the German volks to rely on substitutions.

The novel wasn’t all bad. It was very obvious that the author had done painstaking research. There were a lot of historical figures and military strategies mentioned. Locations of battles and descriptions of places where they took place were peppered throughout. It showed that the author wasn’t simply making things up.

Unfortunately for me, while I love history, especially world war two stuff, this novel was a chore to get through and I found myself putting it down for months at a time. I found it a bit confusing and repetitive  at times. As much as I tried, the book was unable to hold my attention and keep me turning the page.

2/5 Stars

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The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe Review

The first book written in The Chronicles of Narnia (and second chronologically) was an even better introduction to the fantasy world than in The Magician’s Nephew. It was great to see so many characters from the world with fun personalities and to learn a bit about the lore and ancient magic that comes with any good fantasy series.

The characters of Lucy, Edmund, Peter, and Susan were fun to follow, even though it was hard to like Edmund through most of the story. It was great to see the evil witch Janus again and learn more about her motivations.

I’m still not certain that I like C.S. Lewis’ style of writing. Having the narrator say things like “now we need to go back to Edmund” or “you’ll remember this from the previous chapter” just took me out of the story. It wasn’t a dealbreaker but it definitely took away from my enjoyment of the novel.

Overall, this was a pretty good book about four kids travelling to a magical land. They get wrapped up in a sort-of war and go to battle for Aslan. They make some interesting friends and grow as characters and as siblings.

It’s interesting to see aspects of this story which inspired other things I’ve seen and read.

4 Stars/5

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The Magician’s Nephew Review

It is my first time ever reading C.S. Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia. I’ve never fully watched any of the movies either. I have a basic knowledge of what the series is about and had some high hopes for this novel. What I hadn’t realized before picking it up, is that the novel doesn’t focus on the children from the rest of the books. Considering this book as a prequel of sorts (though it’s #1 in chronological order and #6 in publication) is probably the best way to view it.

This book takes place in the 1800s and begins with Digory meeting Polly. Digory lives with his Uncle Andrew, a magician, and his Aunt Letty, while his mom recovers from being ill. The inciting incident is when Digory and Letty enter Uncle Andrew’s room in the attic by accident and Letty becomes a guinea pig for Uncle Andrew’s experiment with magical buttons.

For what it is, I enjoyed the novel. The characters were interesting and the settings were described in a way that allowed me to really visualize them. I think I did myself a disservice reading/watching Lev Grossman’s The Magicians series because I kept thinking about the Neitherlands whenever Digory and Polly were in The Wood Between Worlds even though they only have dozens of pools/fountains in common.

This was a great introduction to Narnia as you get to see it from it’s creation. You see the creating of the Talking Beasts, the tree that protects Narnia, the origin of the wardrobe (kinda), and other elements of the series. Of course, you’re introduced to Aslan as well. Through his introduction you become aware of the gravitas of this magnificent beast. It’s  a great novel for background info. If the series were published today, these would be probably be novellas a la The Assassin’s Blade, Fairest, or Dorothy Must Die Stories.

4 Stars out of 5.

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Superman: American Alien Review

Superman: American Alien is a collection of seven Superman stories by Max Landis. We see Clark Kent as a child, a teenage, a fledgling superhero, a journalism student, and as the Superman of Metropolis. The collection states outright that it’s not a Superman Comic. It’s a story about Clark Kent’s road to becoming the well-known Superman in mainstream media.

Each of the seven stories covers a different point in Clark Kent’s life. They’re each drawn but a different artist as they each convey a different tone. There are appearances by Oliver Queen and Batman as well as some DC villains and of course Lana Lang and Lois Lane. It’s cool to see variations of these characters through the different artists who draw and colour them.

The thing that sticks out to me is how well the writing makes you care about Clark Kent. Max Landis’  version of the sometimes overpowered God-like alien is much more in line with a small town farm-boy from Kansas. He’s a more relateable Clark Kent who struggles with identity issues and really wants to fit in but also learn about where he came from and what his purpose is. As any fan of Superman knows, Krypton was destroyed when Clark was sent to earth. When Superman learns this, it’s heartbreaking. Nobody wants to see a grown superhero cry.

This book is a must-have for any Superman fan. It manages to be sexy, funny, intense, and heartbreaking throughout the course of the seven stories. It’s a great look at different snapshots of Clark Kent’s evolution into Superman.

5 Stars

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The Stupidest Angel Review

Murder. Zombies. Sword fights. It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas.

Christopher Moore’s Tale of Christmas Terror is the third book in his Pine Cove series. However, I hadn’t read the previous two books and I wasn’t left confused by anything, so I assume you can also just read this one and be fine.

In The Stupidest Angel, residents of Pine Cove are preparing for Christmas. The story follows a few characters, such as Molly, Tucker Case, Theo, and an angel named Raziel. Each character is interesting and fun to read about. The minor characters are just as interesting and almost everybody in the book has funny things to say.

Moore’s humour is seen right from the dedication page in which he declares the book is dedicated to a friend who suggested he should write a Christmas book , to which he replied, “‘Kay”. He has a warning a few pages later about not buying this book for your grandma or kid because it contains cusswords and tasteful depictions of cannibalism and people in their forties having sex. If you’ve read his other novels, expect the same humour. If you haven’t, get ready to laugh your ass off, or at least have a grin on your face while reading. This has got to be tied for my favourite Moore novel, right up there with A Dirty Job. I couldn’t find a single thing about it to dislike.

This quick read is perfect for the holiday season. You can easily finish it in one night by the fireplace with a nice mug of tea.

5/5 Stars

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*Mild Spoilers* The Giver Review

Lois Lowry’s The Giver is typically read in school around here. In fact, in one of my placements for Teachers’ College, a grade 7 or 8 class was reading it.  For some reason, I’d never read it until yesterday. I’m not sure why I waited so long because this book was great!

There are some books that you read and they hit you right in the feels. It happened with The Book Thief. It happened with The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry. It happened with The Perks of Being a Wallflower. These books are all memorable and I consider them to be classic good reads. I can now add The Giver to this list.

The Giver is about Jonas who lives in a utopian community where there is no disease, no hunger, no fighting, and no pain. On the other side of that, each year, there are 50 babies born, people apply for spouses and children (they take a pill to control their stirrings), you’re assigned a job by an elder, and there’s no colour or music. Not quite the utopia it’s painted to be.

Jonas is about to turn 12 which means he’s assigned a job. He gets picked as the Receiver, a guardian of memories passed on by the Giver. Through Jonas’ journey in the first year of being a Receiver, the reader comes to learn a few things about the community (sorry for spoiling them) and is faced with a choice.

The book was a really good look at some of the things we take for granted each and every day. The fact that this book had me longing for snow really says something. It was a great read and unlike the last book I reviewed, I’m interested in reading the other books in this quartet.

5/5 Stars

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The Looking Glass Wars Review

Frank Beddor’s The Looking Glass Wars offers a new perspective on the classic Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass stories. It’s the first book in a trilogy that is sure to capture the imagination.

Beddor’s Alyss is a different girl than Alice from Lewis Carroll’s works. We are first introduced to her on her birthday in Wonderland. Through extremely unfortunate circumstances, and a birthday that is memorable for all the wrong reasons, tragedy befalls the Heart family. An usurper takes the throne and Alyss comes to our world where she is adopted by the Liddell family.

I was a fan of how Beddor played with the character of Alice Liddell, who was a real person, and incorporated her family and Prince Leopald into the story as well.The re-imagining of the Chesire Cat and the Mad Hatter as The Cat and Hatter Madigan was intriguing. The Cat was a really interesting character to me as I wasn’t expecting him to be an assassin with nine lives.  Hatter Madigan is also given the assassin treatment although I suppose he comes across more as a James Bond type, minus the love interest.It was cool to see different parts of Wonderland throughout the story as well as see different elements at play. I appreciated the use of White and Black Imagination in place of White and Black Magic.

I felt that the pacing of the story was a bit off as Alyss spent a good part of the novel in our world, aging about thirteen years, returns to Wonderland under her Aunt Redd’s control, and then suddenly masters her use of White Imagination within a chapter or two only thirty pages from the end of the novel.

I enjoyed the novel and was satisfied with the ending. I don’t think I was intrigued enough to read the other novels in the series but I think this ending works as a standalone too.

3/5 Stars

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Melody’s Key Review

   Disclaimer: I was given a copy of Melody’s Key by Dallas Coryell in exchange for an honest review. 

I’ve never sought out a novel in the romance genre. My knowledge of what happens in these books is limited to the Chick Flicks and Nicholas Sparks movies I’ve seen. When Dallas Coryell offered to send me his novel in exchange for a review, I was excited at expanding my literary horizons. The premise seemed intriguing enough and I hoped the novel could hold my interest.

It did.

Melody’s Key is about Tegan Lockwood and her family who own and operate a sort of summer getaway for guests in a small English town. The Lockwood family is struggling financially to keep the business afloat and Tegan has known this for some time now. The Lockwoods’ luck seems to change when they host a special somebody for the summer.

Tegan is a complex and interesting character who always seems guarded. She is quite well fleshed out throughout the course of the novel and always able to make relevant nerdy pop-culture references. Some of the other characters that we spend a lot of time with are just as interesting. Mason, Simon, and Ryleigh in particular felt like characters who you grew to know and care about. This is done so well, that when Tegan receives a figurative gut-punch near the end of the novel, I felt it too. Not an easy feat. The relationships that Tegan has with all of the characters felt real, and this is probably why.

Tegan also has a special relationship with music. The cover photo shows the keys of a piano and it’s an important piece of the characters’ lives. It was a nice bonus that all of the songs mentioned in the novel were on Dallas Coryell’s YouTube page for a listen. It added another layer to the novel. The author seemed quite knowledgeable about music but some of the technical speak in the novel kind of lost me. Luckily, it was only once or twice.

The overall writing of the novel was well-done. The novel flowed well. The chapter titles were creative. The banter between the characters felt very natural. However, sometimes there were sentences that seemed very mechanical or stiff. Something about them didn’t seem quite right.

Either way, I enjoyed my first foray into the romance genre and thought this novel was pretty good. Check it out!

4/5 Stars