Firefight by Brandon Sanderson

Information

Goodreads: Firefight
Series: The Reckoners #2
Source: Library
Published: 2015

Summary

David did the impossible.  He killed a High Epic.  But in the process he lost another.  Now he’s on his way to Babylon Restored, formerly Manhattan–to try to find answers.  He needs to know that Epics can be redeemed.  But Regalia, ruler of Babilar, is waiting.

Review

If there is one thing Brandon Sanderson knows, it’s how to write a thrilling fantasy.  Firefight contains all the action, drama, and detailed worldbuilding a fantasy fan could want.  Combined with its cast of compellingly sympathetic characters, it’s sure to keep readers up all night.

Firefight expands the world of the Reckoners, bringing them out of Newcago and into Babylon Restored.  A new setting,  new crew, and new villain all ensure that the story stays fresh.  This is no repeat of Steelheart.  The Reckoners may kill High Epics, but each Epic is different.  And Regalia, ruler of Babylon Restored, seems to have bigger plans in mind than simply lording over what used to be Manhattan.  It’s a race against time as David and his friends attempt to solve the mystery before they find themselves in a trap they cannot escape.

Fans of Sanderson will need no urging to read this book or start the series.  They will know his unique ability to create complex worlds, intriguing systems of magic, and plots with twists it is hard to see coming.  This book contains all that while also delighting in its ridiculous adherence to all the best tropes of action films.  It almost feels campy–in the best possible way.  This is one of the few series that I wish contained more than three books.

5 stars

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Rainbow Valley by L. M. Montgomery

Information

Goodreads: Rainbow Valley
Series: Anne of Green Gables #7
Source: Library
Published: 1919

Summary

A new minister and his family have moved into the manse.  The Meredith children, however, are motherless and their antics are scandalizing the neighborhood.  From playing in the Methodist graveyard to showing up to church without stockings, nothing seems beyond them.  The Blythe children, however, are always ready to play and Mrs. Dr. Blythe remains their staunch defender.

Review

Rainbow Valley is classic Montgomery and everything enchanting.  The focus moves from Anne and her family to the Meredith children who, like Anne herself, tend to act first and think later.  Their innocent revelries are the cause of much consternation in the congregation.  Poor Miss Cornelia is not sure she will ever be able to face the Methodists again!  The combination of childhood joys, heartbreaks, and fancies, along with the gossip of the locals provides a perceptive look at life in a small town where nothing is ever dull and the tragedies of old maids are as great as the tragedies of queens.

Readers who miss the Anne of Green Gables days will delight in Rainbow Valley.  The manse children, though well-meaning, get up to all kinds of humorous high jinks.  Their desire to do good always seems to go awry in a way that is very reminiscent of our favorite redhead.  However, they distinguish themselves from Anne because their mishaps are often intentional–they simply do not understand the social mores of Glen St. Mary.  They go at life with vim and are confused when the staid old maids gossip as a result.

The gossip is, as always, both riveting and the target of Montgomery’s wit.  Montgomery makes small town trials and tragedies come alive, showing that passion is not confined to only higher segments of society.  But the gossip often centers around trivial matters when little else is happening.  Thus, the ladies of Glen St. Mary unconsciously couple stories of jilted lovers and vengeful wives with shocked whispers about the doings of the manse children, as if a childhood prank exists on the level of seriousness.  The ladies become a little humorous themselves even as they tell the silly doings of the children.

Rainbow Valley is sure to please any fan of L. M. Montgomery.  However, it also has much to recommend it to any casual reader.  It enters sympathetically into the world of childhood and brings readers back to the innocence of imagination.  But it also contains a keen wit and perceptive characterization as it charts the deaths, births, marriages, and courtings of Glen St. Mary.  The characters seem real, so real that leaving them feels like leaving friends.

5 stars

Tortall: A Spy’s Guide by Tamora Pierce

Tortall A Spy's Guide-min

Information

*written with Julie Holderman, Timothy Liebe, and Megan Messinger

Goodreads: Tortall: A Spy’s Guide
Series: None
Source: City Book Review
Published: October 31, 2017

Official Summary

The secrets of Tortall are revealed. . . .

As Tortall’s spymaster, George Cooper has sensitive documents from all corners of the realm. When Alanna sends him a surprising letter, he cleans out his office and discovers letters from when King Jonathan and Queen Thayet first ascended the throne, notes on creating the Shadow Service of spies, threat-level profiles on favorite characters, Daine’s notes on immortals, as well as family papers, such as Aly’s first report as a young spy and Neal’s lessons with the Lioness. This rich guide also includes the first official timeline of Tortallan events from when it became a sovereign nation to the year Aly gives birth to triplets. Part history, part spy training manual, and entirely fascinating, this beautiful guide makes a perfect gift and is ideal for anyone who loves Alanna, King Jonathan, Queen Thayet, Kel, Neal, Aly, Thom, Daine, Numair, and the unforgettable world of Tortall!

Review

As a longtime Tamora Pierce fan, I was delighted to hear about the release of Tortall: A Spy’s Guide.  It’s a beautifully designed and illustrated book that is supposed to be composed of papers from the files of George Cooper, the Whisper Man, himself.  This means that the collection of information is a bit more random than I expected (they’re seriously just papers he found jumbled together in a room next to his office), so I think the title A Spy’s Guide is slightly misleading about the content of the book, but overall this is a fantastic reference for fans and a lovely addition to any Tamora Pierce collection.

There’s an introduction by Pierce at the front of the book that welcomes fans and newcomers alike, but the book relies on reader recognition of allusions to characters and events from practically all of Pierce’s different Tortall series, so I see little value in recommending it to someone who hasn’t read Pierce’s other books.  For readers who do get the allusions, the volume is a treasure trove of information, including everything from letters from members in Alanna’s family to spy reports on characters like Thayet and Buri before they entered Tortall to the guide to how to spy itself.  Some of the information is more of a reference guide than something worth reading straight through, such as the descriptions of various Immortals and the timeline of Tortall’s history.

If you like Tamora Pierce’s Tortall series (and especially if you like George!), you will not regret buying this book.  It’s a great blend of new, exciting information and beautiful design, so it will be worthwhile addition to your shelves.

5 stars Briana

5 Reasons I Struggle to Listen to Audiobooks

Discussion Post

Audiobook Discussion

Credit: Sai Kiran Anagani – Unsplash

Audiobooks are currently experiencing huge growth, and as ebook sales stabilize, publishers are looking at audiobooks as the future. In June 2017, Publishers Weekly noted that “A study by Edison Research found that 24% of Americans listened to at least one audiobook in 2016, an increase of 22% over 2015” and “Total sales rose 18.2% over 2015, to an estimated $2.1 billion, while unit sales did even better. According to the report, unit sales rose 33.9%, to 89.5 million.”

Yet, in spite of this popularity and ever-increasing options for titles, I just cannot get onto the audiobook bandwagon, no matter how much I try. Here are five reasons I’m likely to stay a print reader:

I Hate the Narrator

I’ve tried listening to several audiobooks thus far, and the fact is that a good narrator can make a book, while a bad one can break it. I listened to half of Divergent before giving up and getting a print copy because the narrator sounded overly wishy-washy and made me despise Tris. I DNF’ed Wonder entirely because I disliked the narrator so much, and to this day I wonder if I would have had a higher opinion of the novel if I had just read it myself. Narrators are so hit or miss that I often hesitate to pick up an audiobook in the first place.

The Book Takes Too Long to Finish

I’m a fairly quick reader and can probably finish an average YA book in about 5-6 hours. So when I look at the run-time for an audiobook and see that I’m expected to spend 20+ hours to listening to the thing, I balk. It’s an enormous time commitment for something I can achieve efficiently by just reading the print book.

Speeding Up the Narrator Makes Them Sound Like a Chipmunk

Sure, technically you can change how fast the narrator reads on a lot of audiobooks, but the result often leaves something to be desired. I’ve had some success with marginal speed increases (like changing to 1.2x the speed), but if I speed up the book enough to make an actual difference in the overall run time, usually the narrator sounds like an incomprehensible chipmunk, and I have to abort the whole plan and go back to normal reading speed anyway.

I Can’t Multitask

Some people like to listen to audiobooks while they do something else, like commute to work or do the dishes or fold their laundry. Interestingly, however, polls have suggested that fewer people do this than publishers suspected. A lot of people just sit down and listen to the book, and I am one of those people. I can either concentrate on washing my dishes, or I can listen to my book, but I cannot do both at once. Usually this results in my missing part of the book and having to choose between rewinding or just dealing with it. The problem only gets compounded if I’m doing something noisy and can’t hear the book without cranking the volume up unreasonably high.

If I Don’t Move, I Fall Asleep

The obvious solution to problem #4 would be that I just sit down on my couch and listen to the book. Unfortunately, about 60% of the time that I try this, I fall asleep. It doesn’t matter if I wasn’t even tired before I sat down; if I listen to an audiobook for any reasonable length of time, I end up taking a nap. Then the book moves on without me, I miss everything, and I have no idea where I am or how to get back to where I was at the point I stopped listening. It’s a dilemma.

Conclusion

Audiobooks can be a great format, and, in theory, I understand why a lot of other people like them. They just don’t seem to work out for me, however, no matter how many times I try. It’s unlikely you’ll be seeing a lot of audiobook reviews from me on the blog anytime soon!

Briana

March: Book Two by John Lewis, Andrew Aydin, and Nate Powell

Information

Goodreads: March: Book Two
Series: March #2
Source: Library
Published: 2015

Summary

Following the Nashville sit-ins, John Lewis is now committed to helping the Freedom Riders integrate the buses.  Despite experiencing beatings and other violence, Lewis and the other activists continue to fight.  But the federal government is only willing to lend so much support.  And local law enforcement is often fighting against them.

Review

March: Book Two continues the powerful story of John Lewis’ involvement in the Civil Rights movement, picking up after the Nashville sittings and focusing on the struggles of the Freedom Riders.  Lewis’ words leave much of the violence to the imagination, fading away tellingly.  And yet the art does not allow readers to escape.  The violence, the brutality, the ugliness of it all is presented to readers so that they might not forget.

Lewis’ presentation of history is always compelling because he does not seek to provide an easy or straightforward narrative.  Rather, he discusses the internal politics of the Civil Rights movement, noting how the principles of non-violence that he believed in were questioned and ignored over time.  He acknowledges that he understands the frustration, but also suggests that there are some paths he simply cannot choose to take.  His version of history is not the textbook version, but the lived version.  And readers are privy to all the setbacks and maneuverings, as well as to the triumphs.

March: Book Two makes an obvious addition to any classroom library, but it is not a dull “educational comic.”  It is not a textbook with illustrations.  It is a vibrant living story that brings the reader from the past into the present, daring them to remember the struggles that came before–and to keep on fighting.

5 stars

Edgedancer by Brandon Sanderson

EdgedancerInformation

Goodreads: Edgedancer
Series: Stormlight Archives #2.5
Source: Purchased
Published: October 17, 2017

Official Summary

From #1 New York Times bestselling author Brandon Sanderson, a special gift edition of Edgedancer, a short novel of the Stormlight Archive (previously published in Arcanum Unbounded).

Three years ago, Lift asked a goddess to stop her from growing older–a wish she believed was granted. Now, in Edgedancer, the barely teenage nascent Knight Radiant finds that time stands still for no one. Although the young Azish emperor granted her safe haven from an executioner she knows only as Darkness, court life is suffocating the free-spirited Lift, who can’t help heading to Yeddaw when she hears the relentless Darkness is there hunting people like her with budding powers. The downtrodden in Yeddaw have no champion, and Lift knows she must seize this awesome responsibility.

Review

I get the impression that Edgedancer is going to prove its value primarily after I read Oathbringer.  As I was reading the story, I thought that it was entertaining but not necessarily as special as a lot of Sanderson’s other work.  However, the book made more sense to me after I read Sanderson’s postscript: he wrote it because he realized he needed to offer more character development for two characters who will be prominent in Oathbringer.  In one sense, then, I’m not sure I can fully judge this before continuing to read the Stormlight Archives, but I’ll offer a few thoughts anyway.

Protagonist Lift is, admittedly, annoying, but I think one of Sanderon’s strengths is that he writes a wide variety of characters, and they are often realistically flawed.  In Lift’s case, she’s a bit hard-headed and determined to believe in her own vision of the world, no matter what other people say to her or what evidence she sees to the contrary.  Part of this, we learn, is defensiveness, which suddenly makes it more understandable.  So while she’s not necessarily my favorite book character of all time, and we certainly wouldn’t be BFFs, she’s interesting, and I think a lot about her is very real.

Plot-wise, the book is fairly straightforward with just enough small twists to remind me that Sanderson is generally a master of taking me by surprise.  This isn’t quite as mind-blowing as some of his novels, but since it’s a novella meant to fill in some gaps of the main series, I think the amount of surprises is fair.

Mostly I appreciated this book for prodding my memory about some of the primary events that happened in The Way of Kings and Words of Radiance.  I’m probably still going to need to read a more detailed recap of the first two books before jumping into Oathbringer, but before reading Edgedancer I remembered practically nothing about the start of the series, so it was nice to get some reminders about what the major developments are and what a couple of the major characters were up to.  (So, yes, Edgedancer is going to be spoilery if you have not read the first two Stormlight Archives books yet.)

I purchased this because Sanderson is basically an auto-buy author for me now, and even though it’s fairly short and not 100% on the level of most of his other work, I think it was money well-spent, and I think it’s going to be worth having read before I get to Oathbringer.

4 stars Briana

Ten Interesting Posts of the Week (11/12/17)

Post Round-Up

Around the Blogosphere

  1. Vlora and Shannon discuss the weird review requests they have received.
  2. Kristen addresses separating the book from the author.
  3. Holly lists 7 reasons to read The Sound and the Fury.
  4. Jade lists questions she frequently gets asked as a reader.
  5. Anushka explains how being a blogger has changed the way she reads.
  6. Interesting Literature shares 10 of the best poems about unrequited love.
  7. Ellyn recommends retellings.
  8. Allison Flood reports on the impact ebook piracy has on authors.
  9. Val shares shiny, pretty covers.
  10. Lianne reviews J.R.R. Tolkien’s Beren and Luthien.

At Pages Unbound