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Boyhood Dreams + Love + Adventure + Fantasy World ⇉ Review of Magician by Ramond E. Feist

Tuesday, May 22, 2018
Long long ago, I read Magician: Master by Raymond E. Feist. Years later, I finally bought Magician: Apprentice and read the two books back to back. The Magician books are truly, as Feist explains in the foreword, a fantasy adventure that was written for the author's pleasure, and it is best enjoyed as a fantasy that fulfills boyhood dreams of love and adventure in a fantasy world.


WHAT I LIKED


A Fantasy That Fulfills Boyhood Dreams
The Magician books are best read as a story that fulfills the boyhood dreams of the protagonists Pug and Thomas and, in the process, the reader's dreams of love and adventure. While the two boys go through hardships, events seem to work out for them in incredible ways. To enjoy this book, it's best to put skepticism on hold and enjoy this book for the fantasy romance that it is.

Likable Characters
The protagonists and the primary supporting characters are likable and come from all walks of life.

A Tale of Two Worlds
I like how the story shows events that take place on both worlds. This gives insight into the culture and beliefs of both sides and, as a result, allows the reader to emphasize with both sides. War is complex; both sides have their reasons to fight. Magician shows this complexity.

Furthermore, despite the hopes of the characters, there is no simple resolution to the war in the end. Some of the aftermath is shown at the end of Magician: Master. I hope that later books show more of the consequences of the war.

Strong Female Characters
The female characters are more than a pretty face. To name a few of their traits, they can speak their minds, have attitudes, love fiercely, and survive trials. They fight alongside of the ones they love, and a few even take a turn at narrating events. I appreciate how we're given insight into their thoughts and struggles.


WHAT I DISLIKED


Under-portrayed Character Development
The characters are almost too likable and, as a result, can come off as bland and lacking in complexities. Their personalities don't entirely come off the page. While growth can be seen, in Pug and Thomas in particular, insufficient time is spent to fully portray the character development that takes place. This is in part due to the time skips and alternating POVs.

Too Many Trails to Follow

The war is fought on multiple fronts. For containing it in two books (long as they are), Feist does a good job giving the reader an idea of what is going on. That said, it also means the reader doesn't get the full picture, only glimpses into each front. It also means that the character development isn't shown to its full potential.

In the End, Who Wins the War?
Though the protagonists do their best to protect the ones they love, greater powers are at play. In the end, the outcome of the war is debatable. Despite the happy ending, things feel unresolved, and I expect to see some of these trails continued in later books of the Riftwar Cycle.


FINAL THOUGHTS


Overall, Magician is best enjoyed as a (for the most part) straightforward fantasy romance. It provided light, easy reading for me during a time of sickness, when my brain couldn't process complex thoughts. I recommend it to readers who enjoy fantasy novels that spend more time developing the characters, their relationships, and the socio-political climate of the world.

★★★★☆


To the forest on the shore of the Kingdom of the Isles, the orphan Pug came to study with the master magician Kulgan. His courage won him a place at court and the heart of a lovely Princess, but he was ill at ease with normal wizardry. Yet his strange magic may save two worlds from dark beings who opened spacetime to renew the age-old battle between Order and Chaos.





CHAT WITH ME


If you were to become an apprentice in a fantasy world, what occupation would you pursue?



Publication Info
  • Magician: Apprentice by Raymond E. Feist
  • Published by Bantam Spectra
  • On January 1, 1993
  • Original pub date: October 1, 1982
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 485 Pages
  • Format: Mass Market Paperback
Series: The Riftwar Saga
  1. Magician: Apprentice
  2. Magician: Master
  3. Silverthorn
  4. A Darkness at Sethanon
  5. [Note: there are other books in the Riftwar Cycle, but these four books complete the first saga set in the Riftwar Cycle.]
Content 
  • Alcohol
  • Kissing
  • Some sexual scenes / thoughts (not explicit)
  • Violence (not explicit)

Character Theme Songs for The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods

Tuesday, May 15, 2018
Happy book birthday to The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods!

Today, I'm delighted to share a playlist of character theme songs for this middle-grade novel. Alice, a former regular on the blog, helped me out with the content since I got sick over finals week and am still recovering. Alice is going through some health issues herself having had a bad fall recently, so I'm really grateful for her help.

As soon as I've had a chance to finish reading Matilda's novel, I'll be sharing my thoughts on the blog. If you enjoy lighthearted fantasies or magical realism for younger readers, you'll want to check this one out!

~ Kris


CHARACTER THEME SONGS


The Boy (Tito)

1. "O-O-H CHILD" by The Five Stairsteps
This song speaks to Tito's situation before he ran away. It provides the assurance that things are hard now but there are better times ahead.



2. "Pocketful of Sunshine" by Natasha Bedingfield
This song represents Tito's hope for a better life and his desire for a safe place to escape.



The Coffin Maker (Alberto)

1. "Boulevard of Broken Dreams" by Green Day
This song shares Alberto's loneliness after losing his family.




2. "Skyscraper" by Demi Levato
This song speaks to strength in forging a new life for himself after having everything taken away from him.




BOOK DETAILS



Alberto lives alone in the town of Allora, where fish fly out of the sea and the houses shine like jewels. He is a coffin maker and widower, spending his quiet days creating the final resting places of Allora's people.

Then one afternoon a magical bird flutters into his garden, and Alberto, lonely inside, welcomes it into his home. And when a kindhearted boy named Tito follows the bird into Alberto's kitchen, a door in the old man's heart cracks open. Tito is lonely too--but he's also scared and searching for a place to hide. Fleeing from danger, he just wants to feel safe for once in his life. Can the boy and the old man learn the power of friendship and escape the shadows of their pasts?





CHAT WITH ME


Do you make playlists for characters? How do they add to your reading experience?



Publication Info
  • The Boy, The Bird, and the Coffin Maker by Matilda Woods
  • Published by Philomel Books
  • On May 15, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 544 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series
  • N/A
Content 
  • Age appropriate

This post was made as a part of the book tour of the novel by Matilda Woods.

Epic World Building + Intriguing Story = I Need Book Two Last Week ⇉ Review of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

I found The Name of the Wind when I was looking up good (fairly) recent fantasy books to read. Kvothe's introduction to his life reeled me in with the promise of an epic story. (See synopsis below.) Rothfuss didn't disappoint.


WHAT I LIKED


Poetic Language
The Name of the Wind is filled with poetic phrases. While they bring images to life, they are also beautiful to read and give me something to anticipate in future rereads.

Compelling World
In reading this book, I can tell that Rothfuss is familiar with his world and its rules. (I read in an interview that he even did the calculations for use of sympathy, which is akin to magic but scientific in its processes.) There is much potential for future exploration of this world, not to mention that a big conflict seems to be brewing.

Complex MC
Kvothe is both endearing and frustrating. I like his curiosity and desire to learn, and he has a natural flair for entertaining crowds. However, he is also very aware of his intellect and giftings. He is arrogant and prideful, and he picks fights that he cannot win. He also has a vice in his attraction for something unreachable.

Unexpected Plot Twists
I love how Rothfuss takes the legends about Kvothe and reveals how they actually came to be. It's so much fun to see them play out.

An Epic in the Making
As I mentioned in my comments on the world building, it looks like something big is brewing. I read somewhere that Rothfuss has said that he has tricked readers into reading a prologue, and it's reassuring to hear that. Given how little of Kvothe's life is covered in book one alone, I'm guessing that this trilogy will be solely about the building of Kvothe's legend. Yet, the happenings in the present suggest that there is more going on than what has happened in Kvothe's life alone. I hope to see more of this world soon.


WHAT I DISLIKED


Thinks-He-Knows-It-All Teen (Belief in His) Invincibility
There were many things that Kvothe did that made me question his intellect. I list this under what I dislike because these actions were frustrating and had me mentally headbanging. That said, I appreciate his know-it-all attitude because it portrays the dark side of his giftedness. As a gifted child, Kvothe would be arrogant and do stupid things thinking that he'll go ahead and take the consequences later.

What's the Main Plot?
The Name of the Wind felt like a chronicle of Kvothe's early life. (Well, the series is called The Kingkiller Chronicle.) Nevertheless, I do expect to see some kind of plot.

Kvothe's story of his life doesn't have immediate tie in's to his present circumstances or the present-day conflicts, and it takes a while for an enemy to be introduced to us. Even then, many of his misadventures don't connect with the conflict, at least not immediately. I get that Kvothe has been through a lot in his short life, but I would have liked to see a more coherent plot, one that sets the stage for what's to come.

Where's Book Three?
This is more of a personal complaint and has no bearing on my actual rating of the book. I've seen a lot on the Internet on the lack of visible progress on the third book of this trilogy, which promises to be the start to a larger series. I can understand that Rothfuss wants to take his time to write a good book without the weight of the guilt and burden to finish for the audience. At the same time, the wait time isn't encouraging me to pick up book two. Nor am I eager to think of picking up book three because I'll likely have to reread the first books first.


FINAL THOUGHTS


Overall, the complexity of the world building, the depth of Kvothe's character, and the promise of an epic in the making easily makes this one of the top fantasy reads on my list. I sincerely hope to see book three released within the next several years so that I can see what Rothfuss has planned with The Kingkiller Chronicle. I wish him all the best in his writing and that he finds what he needs to complete the third book.

★★★★★


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.





CHAT WITH ME


What are some of your favorite favorite reads / series?



Publication Info
  • The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
  • Published by DAW
  • On April 7, 2009
  • Original pub date: March 27, 2007
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 662 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
Series: The Kingkiller Chronicle
  1. The Name of the Wind
  2. The Wise Man's Fear
  3. Door's of Stone
Content 
  • Alcohol
  • Language
  • Some sexual scenes / thoughts
  • Violence

Another Romance Novel . . . With an Oxford Setting and Frequent English Lit References ⇉ Review and GIVEAWAY of My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan

Tuesday, May 8, 2018
Oxford + Studies + Life Changes = a formula for a story. Having studied at Oxford before, the title caught my eyes. Today, I'm sharing my thoughts on the novel along with a giveaway for a copy of The Oxford Year.


WHAT I LIKED


Oxford Setting
As the MC Ella shares, Oxford is considered by some to be a magical place where dreams come true. Having spent some time there as a student, I was intrigued to see how the author Julia Whelan portrays it.

Characters Who Know Their English Lit
Much of the banter between different characters involves references to and quotes from literary works, both poetry and prose. English lit fans will enjoy seeing these references.

Character Dilemmas
Though there is a strong romance focus, romance is not the only issue they're dealing with. For example, as the synopsis says, Ella has to choose between her political dreams and being there for the man with whom she's falling in love.

Moral Questions are Raised
Various things from political issues to relationship issues raise moral questions for consideration. These questions will get the readers thinking about their their beliefs on these issues.

Note of caution: controversial political issues are raised, and the author takes a clear stance on them through Ella's responses to them.


WHAT I DISLIKED


Flat Characters
The characters fit easily into stereotyped roles. Though the MCs do find themselves taking a different path than they initially envisioned, I wasn't made to feel for the characters and the changes they go through. Their stories are fairly straightforward; the characters lacked a real sense of complexity.

Predictable Plot
I felt like I was reading another soap opera romance. The plot was predictable; it never made me feel like the characters were in any real problem.

Heavy on the "Romance"

In the end, it felt like the book was all about the romance or, rather, the physical relationship and ensuing problems it causes when things get serious (in various ways). The situation in which the characters find themselves seems only to be like the backdrop to the romance.


FINAL THOUGHTS


The Oxford Year felt like a Harlequin romance novel reworked to target a younger audience with an interest in political issues, particularly those on the topics of education and women. This wasn't what I was expecting going into the novel and didn't end up being for me. However, readers who enjoy romance novels with a foreign setting and a goodly sized dose of politics may want to pick up a copy of this novel. If you're interested, scroll down to enter for a chance to win a copy!

★★★☆☆


American Ella Durran has had the same plan for her life since she was thirteen: Study at Oxford. At 24, she’s finally made it to England on a Rhodes Scholarship when she’s offered an unbelievable position in a rising political star’s presidential campaign. With the promise that she’ll work remotely and return to DC at the end of her Oxford year, she’s free to enjoy her Once in a Lifetime Experience. That is, until a smart-mouthed local who is too quick with his tongue and his car ruins her shirt and her first day.

When Ella discovers that her English literature course will be taught by none other than that same local, Jamie Davenport, she thinks for the first time that Oxford might not be all she’s envisioned. But a late-night drink reveals a connection she wasn’t anticipating finding and what begins as a casual fling soon develops into something much more when Ella learns Jamie has a life-changing secret.

Immediately, Ella is faced with a seemingly impossible decision: turn her back on the man she’s falling in love with to follow her political dreams or be there for him during a trial neither are truly prepared for. As the end of her year in Oxford rapidly approaches, Ella must decide if the dreams she’s always wanted are the same ones she’s now yearning for.





ABOUT THE AUTHOR


Julia Whelan is a screenwriter, lifelong actor, and award-winning audiobook narrator. She graduated with a degree in English and creative writing from Middlebury College and Oxford University. While she was in England, her flirtation with tea blossomed into a full-blown love affair, culminating in her eventual certification as a tea master.

Connect with Julia
Website | Facebook | Goodreads | Twitter | Instagram


GIVEAWAY


My Oxford Year
Open to the United States

a Rafflecopter giveaway

CHAT WITH ME


If you were to spend a year abroad, where would you go?



Publication Info
  • My Oxford Year by Julia Whelan
  • Published by William Morrow
  • On April 24, 2019
  • Genres: Romance
  • Pages: 352 Pages
  • Format: Paperback
Series
  • N/A
Mature Content 
(Highlight to See)
  • Language
  • Alcohol
  • (Premarital) Sex (frequent)
  • Terminal Illness
  • Political content

I received a copy for review from the publisher. All opinions expressed are my own.

Blood, War Horrors, and a Ruthless Protagonist ⇉ Review of The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang

Tuesday, May 1, 2018
I'm always on the lookout for books with Asian protagonists, especially Asian-inspired fantasies. I love reading books with characters who look like me, and I love Asian mythologies.

I also read the author's "review" of her book on Goodreads and was intrigued by her comments on her work. (Though after reading the novel, I would caution against reading her comments until after you finish the series . . . since on hindsight her comments seem to cover the whole of the work and may potentially spoil the books for you or have you anticipating something that won't happen in the first novel or two.)


WHAT I LIKED


Asian-Inspired World
The Poppy War draws inspiration from Chinese history (the Second Sino-Japanese war). I like how the story incorporate elements of Chinese culture in a fantasy world. Because the inhabitants of this world look like me, and that rarely happens in the American book industry.

Intricate Worldbuilding
The world building is not at the scale of great books like Rothfuss's The Name of the Wind or Tolkien's Lord of the Rings, but there is a fair amount lore in this book. I like that this is included because the lore of a people group tells you quite a bit about their history and culture.

That said, I do wish that more was shown about the people and culture of the different provinces along with the intricacies of their relationships. It feels like so much of the world building is focused on the mythologies. (Which is understandable given the nature of the "magic" in this novel.) Hopefully, we'll see more focus on the present day and culture in future installments!

Detailed Imagery
Besides the lore, this novel is heavy on the imagery. Of particular note to me, the imagery brings the setting and the horrors of war to life, the beauty of the world and the ugliness that may be wrought by the hands of humans (and gods).

An Intelligent, Inquisitive Protagonist
Rin is a bright, hardworking young woman. This aspect of her nature reminds me of some of my favorite books growing up, and I appreciate a protagonist that doesn't act on emotion alone.


WHAT I DISLIKED


Power-Hungry, Inconsistent Protagonist
Rin's ideologies have been twisted by the environment in which she grows up, and later they'll be influenced on the battlefield. Because of this, I can understand the reasoning behind some of her ideas and actions, if I cannot entirely embrace them. That said, she isn't entirely incapable of compassion. The problem is that her moments of compassion/regret/human-ness feel out of place because the context has not been set for them. These moments are too rare with little apparent motivation, especially when her thoughts contradict prior thoughts that she had.

Information Overload: Too Much Summarizing
It felt like most of this book was a summary of what was taking (or had taken) place. There were also a couple chapters that summarized what Rin was learning from her books and teachers. While some is needed in an academy setting, and in a fantasy world where the reader needs to learn about how the world functions, there was so much information being summarized (and in large quantities!) that it was dry and tedious to read.

As it is, it wasn't until I was over 40% into the novel that I felt like some action was taking place, but even then, large chunks of the novel still felt a summary of events. There were only a few scenes that felt like I was actually there with Rin on her journey and not being told what happened.

Sparse Dialogue and Little Side-Character Development
While the novel was strong in its imagery, it was weak in dialogue. There aren't many interactions between Rin and other characters, at least that we're shown, and when they do talk, conversations are short and not very revealing of the other character's personality or relationship with Rin.

In fact, the side characters aren't well developed. The most interesting character was her fellow Sinegardian student with whom she spends time on guard duty once the war starts. (I still think this student has something waiting for us to discover in a future installment.) For the most part, however, the side characters fit into tidy boxes and don't seem to contribute much to the story outside of these boxes.

Over-Revealing Synopsis
Most disappointing of all has to be the synopsis. While I understand that everything presented in it is important to the plot in some way, it gives away too much about the book and leaves little to be uncovered by the reader. In fact, it pretty much gives away the whole story, excepting the war's outcome, which is won't be resolved until a later book. (Which I don't consider a spoiler given that this novel is the first in a series.)


FINAL THOUGHTS


Much is left wanting with this book. There are quite a few inconsistencies with some elements being well done and others lacking. Few scenes drew me into the story, and for the most part, these were imagery-heavy scenes. All that said, the world presented to us in The Poppy War is creative and intriguing. While I wouldn't say that this is a great novel, it has presented a compelling villain. I am interested in learning more about this world and seeing what happens next.

★★★☆☆


When Rin aced the Keju—the Empire-wide test to find the most talented youth to learn at the Academies—it was a shock to everyone: to the test officials, who couldn’t believe a war orphan from Rooster Province could pass without cheating; to Rin’s guardians, who believed they’d finally be able to marry her off and further their criminal enterprise; and to Rin herself, who realized she was finally free of the servitude and despair that had made up her daily existence. That she got into Sinegard—the most elite military school in Nikan—was even more surprising.

But surprises aren’t always good.

Because being a dark-skinned peasant girl from the south is not an easy thing at Sinegard. Targeted from the outset by rival classmates for her color, poverty, and gender, Rin discovers she possesses a lethal, unearthly power—an aptitude for the nearly-mythical art of shamanism. Exploring the depths of her gift with the help of a seemingly insane teacher and psychoactive substances, Rin learns that gods long thought dead are very much alive—and that mastering control over those powers could mean more than just surviving school.

For while the Nikara Empire is at peace, the Federation of Mugen still lurks across a narrow sea. The militarily advanced Federation occupied Nikan for decades after the First Poppy War, and only barely lost the continent in the Second. And while most of the people are complacent to go about their lives, a few are aware that a Third Poppy War is just a spark away . . .

Rin’s shamanic powers may be the only way to save her people. But as she finds out more about the god that has chosen her, the vengeful Phoenix, she fears that winning the war may cost her humanity . . . and that it may already be too late.





CHAT WITH ME


For who or what cause would you be willing to kill?



Publication Info
  • The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang
  • Published by Harper Voyager
  • On May 15, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 544 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series: The Numair Chronicles
  1. The Poppy War
  2. TBD
  3. TBD
Mature Content 
(highlight to see)
  • Language (fairly frequent cussing, including one that involves a part of the female body)
  • Death, Various forms of torture, rape, and other atrocities of war described in detail
  • Violence (explicity)
  • Vulgarity

From Brokenness to Abundance, a 60-Day Journey ⇉ Review of The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp

Saturday, April 28, 2018
The Way of Abundance is a sixty-day devotional. Each day features a bible verse, a personal anecdote, and questions for reflection. Ann Voskamp's poetic language brings to life the mess of emotions and the wholeness to be found in the midst of our brokenness. Her story gives hope that our brokenness will lead us to Christ on our journey to abundant life.


WHAT I LIKED


Inspiring Message that Conveys Biblical Truth
When we're breaking inside, it's easy to feel alone, to feel like nothing can make us whole again. Voskamp speaks to the broken ones where they are. She does this by sharing her own experiences with brokenness and by professing the hope that is to be found through Christ, who also understands our pain and suffering.

Captivating Use of Poetic Language
Voskamp's language is poetic and beautiful to read. They not only paint a picture for the reader but the emotions brought about by the moments she describes. I enjoy reading the words over and over again to appreciate the beauty captured by her words.

Short and Sweet Devotionals
The devotions are short, no more than a few pages long each, and there are only two questions at the end for reflection. It's encouraging for the busy individual or the one who has a hard time sitting down for long periods of time to journal. The questions can spark reflection at various levels; you can get as much as you want out of this depending on how much time you want to invest in answering the questions.


WHAT I DISLIKED


Purpose of Bible Verses Not Clear
At the beginning of each chapter, Voskamp includes a bible verse. However, they aren't referenced in the actual devotional, so the reader is left to guess why that particular bible verse was included. This purpose isn't always clear.

"Stream Of Consciousness" Style of Writing
Voskamp's poetic use of language beautiful and heart stirring, but it does take its time reaching the message for the day. I confess that there were times when I wanted something more concrete and to the point.


FINAL THOUGHTS


Overall, I enjoyed Voskamp's devotional and would recommend it to individuals struggling to find purpose in their brokenness or hardships and to individuals searching for abundant, joyful living. A beautiful hardcover book with a ribbon bookmark, this would make a good gift.

★★★☆☆


What do you do when you wake up and feel like you're not enough for your life? Or when you look out the kitchen window as dusk falls and wonder how do you live when life keeps breaking your heart?

In sixty vulnerably soulful stories, The Way of Abundance moves from self-weary brokenness to Christ-focused givenness. Drawing from the critically acclaimed, New York Times bestseller The Broken Way and Ann's online essays, this devotional dares us to embrace brokenness as a gift that moves us to givenness as a way to draw closer to the heart of God. Christ Himself broke like bread, giving Himself to us so we might have a lifelong communion with Him. Could it be that our brokenness is also a gift to the world?





CHAT WITH ME


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Publication Info
  • The Way of Abundance by Ann Voskamp
  • Published by Zondervan
  • On March 13, 2018
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 256 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
Series
  • N/A
Content 
  • N/A

A copy was provided for review by BookLook Bloggers. All opinions are my own.