July Minireviews – Part 1

So I find that I not-infrequently read books that I just feel rather “meh” about and they don’t seem worth writing an entire post about.  However, since I also use this blog as a sort of book-review diary, I like to at least say something.  So I’ve started a monthly post with minireviews of all those books that just didn’t get more than a few paragraphs of feelings from me.

Sprig Muslin by Georgette Heyer

//published 1956//

Actually, I felt more than “meh” about this book – it was a delight, and an easy 4/5.  However, what can one say about Heyer’s work that hasn’t already been said?  The characters were lively and clever, the adventure took many hilarious twists, and there happy endings handed out all around.  Heyer is always so relaxing and pleasant – never any niggling doubts as to whether or not everything will end with sunshine and rainbows.  I really loved everyone in this book, and it had me snorting with laughter on more than one occasion.  It felt like the ending was a bit rushed/it would have been nice to see a little bit more of a love story between Gareth and Hester, but all in all this story was just super adorable and happy.

Also, it was #10 for #20BooksofSummer!

Sunlight & Shadow by Cameron Dokey

//published 2004//

I really liked Dokey’s fairy tale retellings (this is the third I’ve read).  This story moved right along.  It was a little weird because Dokey used five first-person perspectives, and never told us who we were jumping to next, you just kind of had to read a few sentences and figure it out.  This felt weird at first, but once I got into the groove, it worked completely.  The voices were actually really, really similar, though, so it was mostly the actual circumstances that indicated who was doing the talking.

In her afterword, Dokey said that this book was actually inspired by the story from one of Mozart’s operas, which I found entertaining.  It has a very mythological flavor, since the main character (Mina) is the daughter of the Queen of Night and the Mage of Day.  The story is not just about Mina finding true love (which of course she does), but about the balance between light and darkness.  As always, Dokey has a slim thread of thoughtfulness running throughout a story that appears to be all fluff and lightheartedness, leaving me thinking about it a bit after I’ve finished.

An easy 3.5/5 and a very pleasant read, as well as being #12 for #20BooksofSummer!

Unwilling by Elizabeth Adams

In this Pride & Prejudice variation, shortly after the Netherfield Ball, Mr. Bennett finds out that he doesn’t have much longer to live.  He regrets wasting time and money, and decides to do the best that he can to make up for it.  He makes a bunch of rules for the girls, including sending Lydia back to the schoolroom, and gives them actual lessons to do, which feels a little bit weird since Jane and Elizabeth are in their 20’s.  Mr. Bennett is also determined that if any eligible suitors come asking, he will marry the girls off, as long as it doesn’t seem like the guy is a total jerk.  So at Hunsford, Mr. Darcy asks Mr. Bennett for Elizabeth’s hand in marriage, and Mr. Bennett says yes.

All in all, this was actually a really pleasant P&P variation.  It was definitely PG13 – a lot of innuendo and discussions, but nothing explicit.  It was also quite refreshing that there were no ridiculous villains.  However, it did feel like only Elizabeth was doing the changing.  In the original, both Darcy and Elizabeth realize their shortcomings, but in this version, Darcy didn’t really seem to have any.  Towards the end, he is really insulting towards the Gardiners when he meets them for the first time.  Elizabeth takes him to task and Darcy apologizes, but he never interacts with them again in the story, so it didn’t necessarily come through that he really felt remorseful about the situation.

Still, a pleasant story and an easy way to spend an afternoon.  3.5/5.

The Making of a Marchioness by Frances Hodgson Burnett

//published 1901//

Burnett is another one of those authors whose two most famous books – The Secret Garden and A Little Princess – were childhood favorites (that I still love today), but somehow I’ve never really checked to see if she wrote anything else.  So I added The Making of a Marchioness, along with its sequel, The Methods of Lady Walderhurst to my 20 Books of Summer list.

This was a pleasant read, but was almost like an outline of a book rather than a full-length story.  It’s only around 180 pages with large print, so more of a novella.  Still, the main character, Emily, was rather adorable, even though she was almost absurdly nice.  Through a series of events she gets invited to a country house party (mainly so she can do a bunch of errands for the hostess) and ends up marrying the most eligible bachelor there.

However, there really isn’t much of a love story.  Walderhurst admires her from afar, but during his proposal, he says that he “must marry, and I like you better than any woman I have ever known.  … I am a selfish man, and I want an unselfish woman.”  It doesn’t seem particularly romantic that he’s marrying her because she won’t make very many demands on his time or purse, but overall he seems like a fine fellow, so I actually did end the book believing that they would deal well together.  A 3/5 and I am intrigued to read the sequel.  Also, #15 for #20BooksofSummer!

March Minireviews – Part 2

I realize that we are now several days into April, but I am trying to wrap up the backlog of March reads.  It always makes me sad when I have to reduce the pile this way, but life is just too busy to keep up on the blog, I’m afraid!

Psmith in the City by P.G. Wodehouse

//published 1910//

I actually love the Psmith books, although many people find him rather obnoxious (he is).  This book had a whole new level of interesting since I read Mike at Wrykyn and Mike and Psmith.  In those books, we discover the foundation of the friendship that is at the heart of Psmith in the City, so that added much more depth to the overall story.  In many ways, Mike is actually the central character, with Psmith playing a bold supporting role.  Mike is such a steady, stolid character, which contrasts all the better with the rather pompous Psmith.  I also love how whenever Wodehouse has Mike refer to Psmith in conversation, Mike always says “Smith.”  Wodehouse’s subtle decisions to keep or drop the P are cleverly done.

Another favorite thing of mine is discovering connections between different books and events, so it was great fun to find a reference to Three Men in a Boatwhich I read last fall.  All in all, Psmith in the City is a delightful 4/5 (on the Wodehouse scale, where a 1/5 is the same as a 4/5 for normal books) and definitely recommended – although you’ll enjoy it even more if you read the Mike books first.

From Italy With Love by Jules Wake

//published 2015//

This books is actually a DNF, so I’m not sure why I’m bothering to mention it, other than to see if someone else has actually finished it and thinks that I should totally keep reading because it gets better later on.

I really liked the premise, where an eccentric uncle leaves his niece a rare antique car, but in order to inherit it she has to drive across Italy, following a specific route which he has laid out for her.  As part of an inheritance for this other guy, the uncle says that the guy has to go, too.  I always kind of enjoy crazy old meddling old people who set up the young’uns, especially from beyond the grave, so I was all for it.  However, so much of this book just didn’t make any kind of sense.  The uncle promised the dude, Cam, that he could have this special car, so Cam has already told his brother that they can use this car for some fancy car show where they’re going to make tons of money except they had to spend tons of money to get ready for it.  Except how did Cam know that the uncle was going to die???  (Maybe he actually knocked him off and the book turns into a mystery later?!)  So Cam is obnoxious the whole time, which also makes no sense because what he is actually going to inherit from this drive across Italy is the first chance to buy the car from the niece (Laurie).  So wouldn’t it make more sense for him to be buttering her up and trying to get on her good side?

Meanwhile, Laurie is actually engaged to this other guy, and it’s obvious from literally the first page that this guy is a total tool, and as the first couple of chapters progress, it’s painfully obvious that the dude is trying to get in on all the cash he thinks Laurie is going to inherit, but Laurie seems basically oblivious to the whole thing, and it really bothered me that she went off on this trip (and is presumably going to fall in love with) some other guy while still being engaged to the first guy, even if the first guy is a jerk.  I found it 100% impossible to believe that Laurie would inherit this car and not do any kind of research on it, even something as basic as finding out how much it’s worth.  I mean, seriously?

And honestly, I could have overlooked a lot of this if the story had been remotely interesting, but it wasn’t!  To top everything off, it was boring me out of my mind.  Plus, while as of around 30% through the book Wake hadn’t dragged me through any sexy times, she still kept hinting around at stuff, so I had to keep listening to Laurie get “flushed” and “flustered” a whole lot, and, even worse, be repeatedly exposed to the word “nipples.”  Please.  “Nipples” is not a word that engenders romance, so I don’t want to hear about them, or hear what some guy thinks about them, or even to really think about them within the context of a romantic encounter.  Ugh.

So yeah, a rambling DNF on this book, but at least it’s one off the list!

Nettle King by Katherine Harbour

//published 2016//

This is the third and final book in the Night & Nothing series.  Thorn Jack was engaging, Briar Queen was engrossing, and Nettle King was a solid finish.  Part of the problem was that there was just too much of a gap for me between Queen and King, so I had trouble getting into the groove of this story.  But overall – I really liked this trilogy, and definitely see myself reading it again.  In many ways it reminded me of the Lynburn Legacy books by Sarah Rees Brennan.  These weren’t as funny as those, but it had a similar world-building in the sense that it all took place in a small, isolated community.

I also found myself comparing it a lot to The Fourth Wishwhich I had just finished.  In both stories, girls find themselves in love with guys who, due to magic, are basically eternal beings who have been around for centuries.  But where Wish felt ridiculous and contrived, I 100% shipped Jack and Finn.  Both characters are constantly seeking to put the other person’s safety and needs above their own.  Plus, they are a bit older (in college), and had a strong support system of other characters around them.  There was so much more depth to relationship between Jack and Finn than there was between Margo and Oliver.  I felt like Jack and Finn would be friends and lovers forever, but that Oliver and Margo would get completely bored of each other within months.

Anyway, the overall conclusion to the Night & Nothing series was quite satisfying.  I definitely want to read these books again within a tighter time frame, because I felt like I lost a lot of the intrigue by waiting so long between the second and third books.  A solid 4/5 for Nettle King and for the series as a whole.  Recommended.

March Minireviews – Part 1

Usually, I only post a group of minireviews for books that have just been sort of meh for me, leaving me with not a whole lot to say about the story.  But this month I’ve been super busy with work and other projects and just simply haven’t had time for reviews.  I really struggled through a reading slump the end of February and into March, but over the last couple of weeks have been back in the groove, which means I actually have quite the little pile of books waiting to be reviewed.  Unfortunately, I just don’t have the time to really unpack all the ins and outs, so I’m going to try to just give each read a few paragraphs… hopefully I don’t get too carried away…

Dead End Close by Dominic Utton

//published 2017//

I actually started a whole long review of this book but then got really carried away.  I disliked this book so much that the whole review was turning into a rather incoherent rant, so maybe I can just summarize a briefer, coherent rant here.  I actually rather enjoyed Utton’s first book, Martin Harbottle’s Appreciation of Timeand I think that added to the disappointment that I felt about Dead End Close.  This book focuses on several households all on the same dead-end street in Oxford.  There’s a bit of mystery/thriller aspect, but at the end of the day this book was just overwhelmingly depressing.  No one has a happy life, no one has a happy ending.  All of my notes on this book end with “???” because I just didn’t get this book at all.  There’s this weird guy meandering through the story (and sometimes narrating it) with a clipboard, and we are given the impression that he’s a supernatural/angelic being of some kind (???), but apparently there for observation purposes only has he does diddly-squat to prevent anything from happening.  Throughout the story, all the lives that started pretty bad to begin with only get worse.

But the biggest reason that this book gets 0/5 stars for me is that a huge part of the plot centers around a trio of Oxford boys who are trying to get into a club, and the initiation process requires them to rape a girl, video it, and then get the video to go viral.  This whole part of the book literally made me ill to read, it was so disturbing and dark and gross.  And maybe I could have gotten around this if this book had had some kind of point, but it didn’t.  The whole story was just completely pointless.  It went no where, there was no character development, terrible things happened to everyone, people get raped and killed, and a heavy sense of hopelessness lingers on every page.

I think I was especially irked when I got to the end and Utton attempted to whitewash his entire story by acting like, somehow, there was a message of hope.  Like, “Oh wow, sometimes bad things happen, but there’s always hope!”  Yeah, that doesn’t really fly with me when the only “hope” part of your story is in the next-to-last paragraph of the entire book.

Dead End Close was given to me free of charge from the publishers, and this is my obviously very honest review.  I hated every word of this book and wouldn’t even recommend it to someone I didn’t like.  Weirdly, I would still read another of Utton’s books, though, because I enjoyed Harbottle, but this one was flat dreadful.

The Wreckage by Michael Robotham

//published 2011//

They say that a book can impact your mood.  I think this is true, but I also think that sometimes my mood impacts the book.  I picked up The Wreckage (the fifth in the Joseph O’Laughlin series) during the height of my reading slump and could not get into it.  And even though I eventually finished the book, it never really gripped me.  I can’t say for sure if that was the book’s fault or mine, but I definitely felt very meh towards this story the whole way through.

I think a large part of this was because it didn’t feel nearly as personal as the other books in this series.  The other books have dealt with tight, domestic-type crimes (kidnapping, murder, robbery, etc.), but this one was more political, following a storyline in Iraq, where a reporter believes that several bank robberies are connected; and London, where our old friend Vincent Ruiz finds himself entangled in a complicated web of disappearances, robberies, and embezzlement.

The story was done well, and the present-tense that Robotham insists on using made more sense as a third person narrative.  But my personal disinterest meant that I didn’t read this book very closely, and consequently it felt disjointed to me.  It left me with a 3/5 rating, but I think that it will be better when I read through this series again.

The Women in the Castle by Jessica Shattuck

//published 2017//

This was another ARC, but one that I thankfully enjoyed a great deal more than Dead End Close.  This story drifts back and forth in time, following the lives of three German women before, during, and after World War II.  While this wasn’t exactly a cheerful read, it was a very engaging one.  Shattuck handles the shifts in time perfectly, giving information about the lives of these women at just the right time.  It is not a mystery, but each of the women has her own secrets that are only gradually revealed.

It was quite fascinating to read a story about “everyday” Germans.  Marianne, passionate about the resistance; Benita, rather naive and sometimes willfully blind; Ania, caught up in the dream of a better life and failing to see how the promises were built on shifting sand.  The language is lovely and the characters are well-drawn, although I wish that we saw more of Marianne’s thoughts and actions.  She is weirdly both the center of the story and yet in the background of it.

While I don’t see myself returning to this book time and again, I would definitely read another of Shattuck’s books, and recommend this one to anyone who enjoys history from the perspective of ordinary people struggling to see what is right.  4/5.

The Fourth Wish by Lindsay Ribar

//published 2014//

This book is the sequel to a lighthearted YA novel that I read in February, The Art of Wishing.  While Wishing didn’t really blow my mind with its awesomeness, it was still an entertaining and pleasant read, and I was expecting more of the same from The Fourth Wish.  Unfortunately, it was overall pretty terrible.  In this book, Margo is struggling to adjust to her new life as a genie.  For some reason, Ribar decided that the overwhelming majority of people who get a hold of a genie would use their wishes to find some kind of sexual fulfillment.  Color me crazy, but if I had three wishes for anything, I really don’t think any of them would involve sex…???  Plus, we also have to spend a lot of time nattering on about how genies can be either male or female (I mean the same genie can be either), and how this doesn’t change who they are on the inside, and they can still love each other no matter their outward apperance, aw how romantic except why so boring and consequently not actually romantic at all.

I skimmed large portions of this book hoping to actually find a story, but there wasn’t one.  Margo was a total whiner in this book, spending most of  her time being a jealous girlfriend.  I don’t really have high hopes for her relationship with Oliver, especially since they are not both timeless, eternal beings.  Like I don’t think this relationship is going to last five months, much less five centuries.

In the end, 2/5 and nothing that inspired me to find out if Ribar has written anything else.

Briar Queen // by Katherine Harbour

//published 2015//

Life continues to be quite busy, although I am feeling a bit more like reading these days, so we will see how that translates into blogging!  I’ve missed being active here, but sometimes real life interferes with my internet life!!

Quite a while back I reviewed the first book in the Night & Nothing Trilogy, Thorn Jack.  In that book, we met Finn, who had moved (with her dad) to her dad’s hometown in upstate New York.  However, the seemingly idyllic little college town of Fair Hollow is actually the home to a group of fairy-like creatures known as the Fata.  Finn falls in love with one of the Fata, Jack, who used to be human.  By the end of Thorn Jack, the love that Finn and Jack have for each other has made Jack human again.

Part of the reason that Finn and her father left San Francisco and moved to Fair Hollow was because they were recovering from the suicide of Finn’s sister, Lily Rose.  In Briar Queen, Finn learns that her sister isn’t actually dead – she has been taken by the Fata and is being held in the shadow-world that parallels the human one.  Soon, Finn, Jack, and Finn’s friends are all embroiled in an rescue attempt that leads to many terrifying and exciting adventures.

It’s been a while since I actually finished this book – almost a month, actually – so I don’t remember all the specific details.  However, I liked this book better than Thorn Jack, I think mostly because a lot of the first book was spent setting up the world and characters.  In the second book, we were able to jump right into some action after a brief recap.  Despite the fact that my notes for this book say, “Plot like a pinball machine,” overall this book seemed more cohesive than the first.  In the first book, I complained about the story feeling choppy and jerky, but Briar Queen flowed much better.  It was full of action and adventure, but still stayed focused and had a fairly cohesive plot.

All in all, this book was a 4/5 for me, and I’m rather excited to (someday) read the conclusion, Nettle King.

The Art of Wishing // by Lindsay Ribar

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//published 2013//

This book has been on the TBR long enough that it doesn’t have a date attached, and the blog whose review inspired me to add it appears to no longer be a blog!  So I don’t really remember what it was that originally caught my fancy.

While in some ways a typical YA, this book does have a fun little premise and, on the whole, is executed well.  Margo McKenna is our narrator and heroine.  She’s a typical high school senior – good grades, loves math, and is really excited about landing the lead role in this year’s musical.  She totally nails her tryout, but the role goes to a sophomore instead, leaving Margo feeling confused – especially when it turns out that Vicky is kind of terrible at singing and acting.  But when a series of coincidences mean that Margo ends up with a ring that was once in Vicky’s possession – Margo finds out that Vicky had a little help…  magical help.

I think that the main reason that I enjoyed this book is because I liked Margo herself.  Throughout, Margo is trying to make decisions that are not just good for her (or for her love interest), but for a variety of people in her life.  I also really appreciated the way that she works hard at becoming a better person.  There are several times that, instead of caving into the temptation to be bitter and angry about the fact that Vicky has the lead role, Margo makes a conscious decision to not let that bitterness rule her.  Instead, she is unfailingly polite to Vicky (and not in a sarcastic way), and completely throws herself into the (secondary) role that she is supposed to play.  I love that Margo wasn’t “naturally” nice about the situation, but worked hard at approaching the situation maturely.

While there is a bit of insta-love between Margo and Oliver (who turns out to be a genie), it ends up making sense within the context of what is happening, and I actually liked a lot of the way that their relationship panned out, and I felt like they had some good discussions.

The bad guy was a little over the top, and I didn’t really like the violence that went with his character.  I also felt like it was really weird that Oliver acted like it was pretty normal for his “masters” to request/expect sexual favors while they were in control of their wishes.  Like… why would one of only three wishes involve having sex with a total stranger…???  It wasn’t this huge part of the story, but it was all part of Oliver explaining how the whole thing worked.  I think he was trying to emphasize the fact that he has to do whatever his master wishes, but it still felt kind of weird.  His stories about having to kill people/arrange for their deaths seemed to make that point more poignantly to me.

While there were the expected unintended consequences of wishes, I felt like some of those areas were explored thoughtfully, in a way that made me wonder what I really would wish for if I had three wishes – because who knows what the long-term consequences are when you start meddling with fate?  I really liked the bit where Margo was trying to decide whether or not she should make her wish change the mind of someone in her life – her thought process through whether or not it was fair/right to force someone to do something they wouldn’t have actually done – even if it’s the best decision from Margo’s perspective – was really interesting.

The ending was good, with a bit of kick and only slightly rushed.  While it felt like this book worked well as a stand-alone, there is a sequel, so we will see where that leads.

All in all, this was a pretty solid 3/5 read.  It was entertaining and fun, had a decent story, and involved characters who were around 18 instead of 15, so their actions and decisions made a lot more sense.

Thorn Jack // by Katherine Harbour

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//published 2014//

What with one thing and another I’ve had a bit of a gap between finishing the last series that I read (The Lynburn Legacy all the way back in December!) and starting a new one, mainly because I started and then didn’t finish a series that was really just too, too boring.

But Thorn Jack is the first in a trilogy, and since I count anything with more than two related books as a series, it qualifies!  All in all, despite the fact that I found this book to be, at times, needlessly complicated, it was still a decent read that I enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to seeing what direction Harbour goes with the next two books.

First off, the book itself – the physical book, I mean – is almost square in shape, which I found to be weirdly appealing.  It also meant that there was more text than one might expect from 300-odd pages, so while I moved through the story efficiently, it wasn’t a particularly fast read.  At the beginning of each chapter was a quote from a random (real life) source, followed by a quote from the journal of the main character’s sister.  The journal quotes were written in a fancy script font that my poor, tired eyes found a bit difficult to decipher as it was also rather tiny.  I fear, dear readers, that I am growing old.

The story centers on Finn Sullivan.  At 18, she and her father have moved back to her father’s hometown in New York (state, not city), and are living in her grandmother’s house.  (As an aside, Harbour is a bit vague as to what happened to the grandmother.  She says that she was “last seen” at a funeral, but no one says in so many words that she actually died.  After this mention on page six, we never really hear about or from her again, which seemed odd to me.)  One of the main reasons that they have moved here, from San Francisco, is because Finn’s older sister, Lily Rose, committed suicide almost a year before the book begins.  It is time for a change, they’ve decided, and so Finn’s dad has accepted a professorship at a small college near their new home in New York.

Finn is beginning college as well, although on a different campus than the one where her father teaches.  HallowHeart is a small school, and in some ways an odd one.  But then, as Finn begins to discover, the entire town of Fair Hollow is a bit odd.

Soon Finn befriends Christie and Sylvie, and the adventures really begin.  I quite liked the friendships between these three.  Christie and Sylvie have grown up together, but they accept Finn into their circle quite comfortably.  Christie is actually rather popular and a bit of a flirt, so it was kind of nice to have a situation where it wasn’t “the outcasts” against the world.  Instead, both Christie and Sylvie seem to be of average popularity.  Despite the one-boy-two-girl scenario, there isn’t any romancing between the three of them, which was also refreshing.

When Finn meets Jack Fata, the story really begins to roll, as it is rather obvious that there is something a bit odd about Jack as well.  While there is definitely a bit of insta-love between Jack and Finn, it honestly fits with the fairy tale-esq feel of the whole story.  I liked that Finn’s driving force behind her actions wasn’t just to save/protect Jack, but an overall sense of what is right and what is wrong, and a determination to protect several innocent victims caught in the mix.

This was one of those books where I felt, at times, that the author was taking the whole “show, don’t tell” thing a bit too far, as she leaves the reader to muddle about in confusion for quite some time.  I honestly might read the first several chapters of this book again now that I know that it ends – I think it will all make a great deal more sense.

The story is a bit on the dark side of my taste, but there is still a bit of humor throughout, and the complete and total lack of a love triangle boosted this book’s rating in my view quite a bit.  There are some deaths and moderately gruesome scenes, but overall the story manages to stay away from the overtly violent.

Overall, the biggest detraction for me was that this book felt choppy.  It didn’t flow very naturally, and I frequently felt a bit jerked about.  It also seemed completely unreasonable that Finn and her friends would be in denial of the whole “there is something possibly supernatural going on here” for as long as they were.  And even as they accepted the fact that there was something crazy happening, they didn’t follow basic rules of dealing with evil spirits (which they talked about and so obviously knew), like not giving your name to possibly evil beings, or inviting them into your home.

In the end, this is a 3/5 for me.  The book had a lot of potential, and did avoid several of the tropes that I find most annoying in YA fantasy, but it squared up completely with some of the others, and also felt like it could use a bit of ruthless editing to make the plot flow better.  I’m hopeful for improvement in the next installment, so we will see where things go.

The Magician’s Workshop – Volumes I & II // by Christopher Hansen and J.R. Fehr

So I have still not been in a super blogging mood of late.  I’ve been busy teaching myself to play bass guitar (with the help of Rocksmith on the PS4, brilliant) and making adorable notebooks to sell in my Etsy store.  (Guys – people have actually purchased some of my notebooks!  Such a thrill!)  Blogging blehs usually go along with somewhat of a reading bleh – I never stop reading, but sometimes I go through periods where I only read fluff, evidenced this time around that I reread the entirety of Nora Roberts’s Bridal Quartet in five days.  Whoops.

However, I have every intention of catching up on a backlog of reviews soon, and today I was inspired to sit down and actually finish this review which I started two or so weeks ago(!), so that, if nothing else, you all would know that I am still alive… and reading!

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//published 2016//

As soon as I heard the premise of The Magician’s Workshop, I was intrigued.  A world comprised of islands that are peopled by individuals who all possess, at some level, magic?  How fun is that?  The answer is that it is quite fun, actually.

There is a lot going on in these books, so I am not really going to try and summarize them a great deal.  Suffice to say that the story focuses on several young people from all over O’Ceea.  In O’Ceea, there is a big event at a certain age where young people go through a ceremony that evaluates their level of magic, which in turn helps determine what they do with the rest of their lives.  Our story begins with several of these teenagers approaching the ceremony.

The story jumps all over O’Ceea, and many of the characters don’t know each other (yet).  Volume I, especially, is definitely focused on setting the stage, and I felt that it somewhat lacked in action because of that.  There were a lot of characters to meet and a lot of information to assimilate, but once I got into the groove of the story, I found myself enjoying it.  However, the broad cast of characters did mean that sometimes I found myself trying to remember where I last saw this character – I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I was reading this on my Kindle.  If I had a physical book, it would have been much easier to flip back to where I last saw this character and then transition into what that character was doing now.  My Kindle isn’t as page-flipping friendly.

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//published 2016//

The second volume had a lot more action and not as many new characters to meet, so I was more engaged in the story.  The big ceremony occurred, with lots of drama centered around that, and I was really excited to see what directions the characters were heading – and how their storylines might start to collide.

These are definitely stories that are teaching a lesson.  That aspect could probably be a little more subtle, but on the whole it doesn’t distract from the actual story too much, although I did find myself thinking about Dr. Seuss’s sneeches pretty regularly.

yearn for a map of O’Ceea.  I LOVE maps, and being able to better understand the geography of this world would be fabulous.

All in all, 3/5 for Volume I and 4/5 for Volume II.  The authors aren’t sure if they are going to continue with the series, but I most certainly hope that they do as I am quite curious to see how things play out.

NB: Volume I was given to me by the authors, which obviously does not impact my review.