Book Review: The Senator’s Youngest Daughter

32073917**The views of this book do not reflect our political views or ideals. This book was provided in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: The Senator’s Youngest Daughter

Author: Kelley Rose Waller

Publisher: Versive Press

Release Date: October 1, 2016

Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia

Pages: 313

Synopsis:

Senator A.C. McFerren has been missing for more than six months. The obvious prime suspect in his disappearance is the homegrown terrorist group known as the Army of Social Justice.

Searching for her kidnapped father leads Brenna McFerren Jefferson to the terrorists’ elusive “Death of Government” headquarters, known as The Doghouse. But nosing around where the federal government won’t investigate puts a target on her family and sets in motion a rebellion she isn’t prepared to lead.

Dreams of liberty cause the Senator’s daughter to disguise herself for undercover recon, recruit a high-ranking defector, and partner with a subversive news agency that combats government propaganda. As Brenna’s strength and family ties are tested, she unites a political party that commands the power to transform the United States.

My First Thoughts:

I was so excited to read this book. Dystopia is probably my favorite genre, and I especially love really political, espionage-y ones. From the synopsis, this book sounded like it was right up my alley.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

It’s taken me a long time to write this review; I couldn’t figure out what to write about it. I don’t really know if I enjoyed it or not. I found that the writing was fine. It was easy to follow and clear. The characters were developed, if a little lacking in dimension.

This story is narrated by the main character, Brenna, and I found that the narration did match her dialogue, which I appreciated. However, as a fellow teacher, I did find her hard to connect with at times. She mentions often how all she wanted was to be a kindergarten or first grade teacher, but she left because of how government restrictions were affecting the education system. Now, there are many teachers who are frustrated and feel restricted by what we currently deal with in education and there are many teachers who leave because of it. However, the teachers that talk like Brenna talks throughout the story are never the ones who do, because they know they need to be there for the students. They work with and around restrictions; they don’t normally just give up. As someone who had to fight tooth and nail to get where I am in my career, Brenna’s thoughts about teaching are almost infuriating.

Here’s the part that has been killing me about writing this review: This book reads like a republican’s nightmare about socialism. That’s not to say that I am in favor of socialism, because I’m not. When I took my “What is your political alignment” test in my government class, I was almost in the exact center. While I can see how aspects of socialism have had positive impacts in several countries, I believe there are fundamental differences between the US and those countries that make it so it probably wouldn’t work here. However, this book seems to ignore the fact that it has worked other places and that there are positive ideas in this. It also runs off of several misconceptions about socialism, portraying a more communist society than a socialist society. Politics and society are difficult and complex, but the viewpoint of this book is very simplistic and fear based, rather than a critique based on research.

Final Thoughts:

In conclusion, my feelings about this book are mixed. I was ok with the writing, characters, and overall story; this is a genre I really enjoy. However, the political situation and climate is so one sided and filled with the fearful ideas I hear constantly in the conservative place I live I found it jarring. It was hard to read, not because it was bad, but because it hit close to home.

Rating(s):

2/5

I would recommend this book to people who don’t understand why some people cannot see “How socialism would be a benefit to society.” I think it is a very good perspective into the thought processes of people who are fearful of socialism. It is also a fine political drama, but one that I did find was so extreme it would pull me out of the story and turn me off reading it for a while.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: An Unlikely Friendship

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: An Unlikely Friendship (Book 1 of the Fidori Trilogy)

Author: Jasmine Fogwell

Publisher: Destinee S.A.

Release Date: April 8th, 2016

Genre: Young Reader, Fantasy, Illustrated

Pages: 118

 

Synopsis:

While living in the old inn of Nemeste, James discovers that he and his parents are not the only ones calling the inn home. On the third floor lives a mysteriously old lady named Rionzi DuCret. Though Rionzi is feared by the villagers and confined to her room, she and James strike up an unlikely friendship and soon discover that they have both befriended leafy, mushroom footed creatures in the woods called ‘Fidoris.’ But the friendship is threatened as Rionzi grows suspicious of James’s claim of a certain Fidori sighting. How could he have found out about her deepest secret? Have the villagers set a trap for her to finally prove that she is insane?

My First Thoughts:

I’m always looking for books for younger readers, because I understand that parents are always looking for books for their kids. So when the author came to me and asked for a review, I was pretty excited to read and share another kid’s book! After reading my last book, I was also looking for a light story full of fun and uplifting moments.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Growing up, the only chapter books I read as a kid were Magic Tree House and the American Girl Dairies. I never read any of the others, so I don’t have much experience with chapter books for young kids. With that being said, I found that this story was very average and followed exactly as the synopsis read. There were no surprises or twists. The story just followed the given path, which is fine, but it didn’t add any excitement to the book.

Ms. Fogwell’s writing style is a little amateurish, which is understandable because it’s her first published book. Every new author’s first book is very stiff or reads a bit awkwardly, especially if the books don’t go through professional editing. With that said, even though the author’s writing voice sounds amateurish, it’s honestly not that bad. Mostly, there were just details and words that I don’t think a young kid would pick up or know. Also, the pacing of the story was very slow and might have a hard time keeping a child’s attention, but that’s dependent on the child. There was some action, but it was mostly a lot of conversation between the little boy and the old lady, which might not hold well with younger kids. Again, I don’t have much experience in that area. However, for future works the author can maybe step away from a more dialogue driven story and write with being the bigger driver.

Another thing that threw me was the end. When I got to the end of the book I wasn’t really left with the sense of ‘oooo! I need the next book!’ Instead, I felt a bit off put by the ending because it was so sudden and a little out of nowhere. I understand the pieces that lead up to the final reveal, but it didn’t really have much of an effect on me and it didn’t leave me wanting more. Now, I would like to continue with the story because I’m curious about where the author will take it, but that curiosity was not initially there when I finished the book. A younger reader may be completely different and beg for the next book right away, or they may feel a bit ‘so what’ and not bother continuing.

I think the reason why I do want to continue this series is because the author spent so much time with the area and the lore. I loved what she had to say about the Fidori and the world building she did in An Unlikely Friendship, but I’m not sure kids will have the same fascination that I do. I remember when I was younger I didn’t care much for all the background information, I just wanted action. However, I think that this book would be received better by younger audiences if it were read to them.

The illustrations were interesting to look at, but they didn’t always appear in the right place. Sometimes the illustrations for a certain scene would appear before the scene actually occurred, which through me off and out of the story a few times. I’m not sure why they were out of place, but if they were moved closer to their actual scenes then it they might better help illustrate the story.

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I’m not sure what kids would actually think of this book. I think the best approach, is for it to be read to children by their parents or teachers. I think that An Unlikely Friendship would be a wonderful book for kids to hear. However, if kids have to read this book on their own it may or may not have a hard time keeping their interest for all 100 plus pages.

For older audiences, if you enjoy magic and lore then this book may entertain you. There are some obvious flaws that the writer can easily approve upon with practice, but the world building is quite wonderful and the story would be interesting to follow or the lore alone. For those who aren’t into lore very much, then this book would not suit you very well.

Rating:

3/5

For a first novel, An Unlikely Friendship is a good start for Ms. Fogwell. The lore is interesting to read about and I’m curious to find out more about the Fidori! Her voice will grow with time along with her writing style; I hope to read her later books to see how she improves.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Molding my Destiny

Note: I got a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Molding my Destiny

Author: Patrice M. Foster

Publisher: Smashwords Edition

Release Date: December 18th, 2016

Genre: Nonfiction, Memoir

Pages: 189 (eBook)

Synopsis:

(As read on Goodreads):

Molding My Destiny is Patrice M Foster’s story of overcoming depression. Her Journey from rock bottom and back determine to beat the odds. She forge ahead not only surviving to thriving through forgiveness, acceptance and determination healing begin. Her memoir details her battle through poverty, neglect, and abuse. You can plunge to the depths, forever swallowed by the darkness of depression. Or, you can climb out inch by agonizing inch and survive…and even thrive.

My First Thoughts:

I don’t read a lot of memoirs, or nonfiction in general unless the topic really intrigues me. However, I’ve been trying really hard to expand the shelves on this site so that I can attract all sorts of people to my blog and let them leave with something different to read. So when the author approached me with this book I wanted to read it and I wanted to help her get her story out there.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

WARNING! This story is not for the faint of heart. It mentions things such as rape, parent/family abandonment, depression, anorexia, prostitution, racism, homelessness, wrongful imprisonment, etc. If any of these topics bother you, read at your own risk!

Some of you may be wondering why I stated the warning above, it’s because this book is very real. There’s no sugar coating things. There’s no glitter to make bad situations less horrific to read. Yes, things aren’t overly explicit, but there are enough details there to make the mood very real for the reader. And because of that, this book was very hard for me to read at times.

For the most part, this book was an interesting read and very insightful into Ms. Patrice’s life. I can’t really say that I enjoyed reading the book. I don’t mean that in a negative way, this book had a lot of advice and powerful messages for young women, minorities, etc. But it’s like I can’t say that I enjoy reading books about the Holocaust, mass shootings, or the history of slavery. This book, like those things, was very depressing to read and it made me really want to reach out to the author and scream at the world for being unfair. There are happy moments in this book, but they are greatly overshadowed by the misery and darkness that has followed Ms. Patrice throughout her life.

My main complaints about this book are the timeline and the pacing. For the most part the author went in chronological order. However, there were times in which she would go off a tangent that would take the readers away into the future from where the story actually was. Sometimes this was fine when a person doesn’t get mentioned again after that point, it gives the reader closure for them. But most of the time it would be about future events that could have been placed later into the book just fine. By occasionally going back and forth between distant past and not so distant past, it can make it hard for the reader to follow and keep up with where they are in the timeline. One thing that might help this book is a more structured timeline, for instance heading off a new passage as May of 1998  if what happens in that section occurs in May of 98’. That way, readers aren’t so confused on where they are in the timeline and the author can go off on tangents without fear of losing them.

My other complaint was the pacing. Most of the pacing issues I had were because of the back and forth of the timeline. But there were times when the author would spend a great deal of time in one area of the story, and then briefly glance over a part of equal or more value. I understand that this may be due to limitations in memory, but it messed with the flow of the story some. Also, I felt like this story ended like a chapter before it did because Ms. Patrice made this wonderful speech about how she overcame her adversities, how she changed as a person and why, and just gave a lot of insightful comments about life for the reader to take away and then there was the last chapter. I felt that after reading that speech, the last chapter kind of fell short of its intended mark, and the real ending to her memoir was less powerful than the speech before.

Overall, though this book is an interesting read and I’m glad to have read it!

Final Thoughts:

This book is not for the faint of heart, I cannot stress this enough! Molding my Destiny contains a rape scene, neglect, parent/family abandonment, abuse, poverty, depression, and anorexia. If any of the listed themes disturbs you or makes you uncomfortable, please read at your own risk. Molding my Destiny is a real dark, but true story about the author’s life from her childhood in Jamaica through her years growing up in America until now. While there are many light and positive moments described in the book, the overall mood is depressing and can be a downer. So if you’re impacted greatly by what you read or aren’t looking for something depressing to read, this book might not be for you. If you loved collecting quotes or inspirational pieces you’ll find them here!

Rating:

3/5

The only problem I had with this book was issues in structure, which is completely understandable for a first time author. If the author does decide to edit this book, the issues can be easily fixed. Otherwise, it’s a pretty good read full of life lessons and inspirational quotes.

Related Reviews/Books:

Book Review: Zucchini’s Zany Life

zucchinis-zany-lifeNote: We were given a free copy of this book in exchange for and honest review, which reads as follows:

Details:

Title: Zucchini’s Zany Life

Author: Marilla Mulwane

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: November 25, 2016

Genre: Children’s Nonfiction

Pages: 72

Synopsis:

This is the story of the house duck named Zucchini who steals hearts and provides the dearest bond anyone could experience. Ever thought about having a duck as a pet? I don’t mean an outdoor duck in a pen or that wanders around your pond. I mean a duck that lives in the house with you, sleeps with you, eats with you, plays with you. If you never have considered it, you just might once you’ve read about Zucchini.

If you have considered having a house duck, then this book will teach you everything you need to know to keep your duck happy and healthy. Learn useful information such as:
-How to set up a duck cage
-What to feed your duck
-How to diaper your duck at all ages of life
-How to bond with your duck
-How to keep your duck healthy and illnesses to watch out for
-How to clip wings
-How to train your duck (It’s possible!) and much more!

All this information is interspersed with fun tales and pictures of Zucchini’s zany life!

My First Thoughts:

Nonfiction is normally not really my thing, but the author sent me a picture of Zucchini that was just too cute! I fell and love with this little duck and had to read about her. Who knows, maybe someday I’d like to own a pet duck?

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

Nonfiction is not a genre I find myself gravitating toward or that I get very excited about. However, I found this book to be informative and cute. I loved getting to read the stories about the author’s pet duck, Zucchini, and I found the information presented in a way that was child-appropriate and mostly easy to understand. I feel that there were things included in this book, like how to make a diaper for your pet duck, that I probably wouldn’t find in most other how-to care for a duck books (if there  even are some?). I appreciated how the author and her duck have a relationship where the Zucchini spends most of her time out of her cage, because I feel like most kids would want that kind of relationship with their pets and most duck-raising books are probably more directed to farmed or caged ducks (although, I genuinely don’t know, having never researched how to care for a pet duck!)

I learned a lot reading this book, but there are some things, like potential health issues, that I feel were a little glossed over because of the target age range. That’s fine, but I would want to consult more books before I actually took the step toward owning a pet duck. Most of the author’s resources seem to be from personal experience, but that colors her writing and leads to instructions that are a little unclear and rambling.

Final Thoughts:

I feel like this would be an excellent book to present to a child (at least 9 years old) if they express interest in having a pet duck. It covers the fun parts of owning a duck, but it also talks about the parts that aren’t fun, like pooping, illness, and nesting. However, the several guides in the book for building or creating things for your duck are a little hard to follow sometimes and I wish that there was a list of other resources that could be used to supplement the adult-in-charge’s education about taking on the responsibility of a pet duck.

Rating(s):

3/5

Like I said, I believe that this is an excellent book to give a child that is considering a pet duck so they can learn about how to take care of it. It has a lot of good information and fun stories to keep a kid entertained as they learn about their new responsibility. However, as a worry-wart adult, I would want to consult other books as well, and I wish that there was a list of additional resources somewhere in the book.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Blogger Note: Please don’t forget that we are also involved with Inkitt’s Novel Writing Contest! It was announced recently by Jessica in this post. If you’re interested in entering the contest or want to read more about it, you can do so here!

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Book Review: The Night Parade

the-night-paradeDetails:

Title: The Night Parade

Author: Kathryn Tanquary

Publisher: Sourcebooks Jabberwocky

Release Date: January 5th, 2016

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Cultural

Pages: 320

Synopsis:

The last thing Saki Yamamoto wants to do for her summer vacation is trade in exciting Tokyo for the antiquated rituals and bad cell reception of her grandmother’s village. Preparing for the Obon ceremony is boring. Then the local kids take an interest in Saki and she sees an opportunity for some fun, even if it means disrespecting her family’s ancestral shrine on a malicious dare.

But as Saki rings the sacred bell, the darkness shifts. A death curse has been invoked… and Saki has three nights to undo it. With the help of three spirit guides and some unexpected friends, Saki must prove her worth – or say good-bye to the world of the living forever.

My First Thoughts:

I found this book on Christmas Eve when I went up to Rehobeth Beach to spend Christmas with my boyfriend and our families. I’ve been trying to read more books for younger readers and this bookstore, Browseabout, has this wonderful section dedicated to those books. I’ve read a lot of books (manga) that come from Japan, but I’ve never read a book about a Japanese character in Japan written by an America author. I know, there’s this whole thing going on about readers attacking authors for misrepresentation, culture appropriation, and poorly done diversity. Honestly, I wasn’t afraid that this book wouldn’t do Japanese culture justice because it seems like the author actually live in Japan, teaching English to Japanese students and asked some of her colleagues to help with the manuscript. The Night Parade was advertised as being one of the employees’ top picks for the month and I decided to give it ago, to see for myself the quality of the book.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a first time author, this book is pretty fantastic! The Night Parade reads like if Hayao Miyazaki was asked to take the elements of The Christmas Carol and make his own story out of it. The descriptions were wonderful, just enough to describe the fantastical characters that Saki runs into without going overkill. As I read the story I could see the scenes play out before me, and for kids with better imaginations than my own I bet it would be fun for them to imagine.

In The Night Parade the main character Saki is really the only character that you read about through the whole story. None of the supporting characters really stay long, for instance a lot of the spirits she meets have brief appearance in the story. Her family and a village girl are the only characters that consistently keep showing back up, however, only the village girl has a major role. Saki’s family appears to be there for plot sake, but they play no real role in her adventures between the human world and the spirit world. This kind of story telling is not bad, especially when the major audience is younger readers. However, some older readers may find it a bit harder to read the book like this.

For adults, I imagine that Saki would be a little hard to follow because of her abysmal personality. However, I don’t that middle schoolers or younger would notice how annoying her character is at the beginning. For myself, I had a difficult time sympathizing with Saki because she seemed to make a lot of poor decisions for all the wrong reasons. Her personality does improve over the course of the story, much like Scrooge in The Christmas Carol, but it does take time before some readers begin to notice the change.

The pacing in this story is okay for a first time author. There are these long periods in between the intense action in the beginning, which can take some readers out of the story. For me, the pacing wasn’t too bad because I’ve read enough stories with similar speeds that it doesn’t bother me as much. However, for readers who thrive off of action, they may wither some in the long lulling periods, towards the end though the action picks up and stays pretty consistent till the end. Younger readers may find this pacing kinda boring, but I believe if read to or a loud, the pacing wouldn’t be much of an issue.

The one issue that I had with the plot was that not everything was fully explained. There were just things said or done that were briefly mentioned in the story with no follow through. It was as if the author wanted to write more on those issues, using them to drive the plot more, but then abandoned ship early and then forgot about them. There was even a character that all the spirits kept mentioning throughout the story but you or Saki never meet them, the character never shows up and plays only the role of a boogeyman. It was a little frustrating, because I wanted to see where the author took us with those things but they didn’t go anywhere, but I don’t think a child would notice these things as much.

Final Thoughts:

I’ve already recommended The Night Parade and even gave my copy to a friend of mine to read. She’s an exchange student from Japan who was eager to read the book because it is uncommon to see an American author write a story set in Japan with Japanese characters and culture. So I can’t wait to get her opinion on the book!

For young readers, I think this is a great book for them to read. It allows their imaginations to run wild, while showing them a different culture and teaching them various lessons. Depending on the age, it may be better for the book to be read aloud by an adult to combat the boredom that the pacing may bring. It would be a great book for a teacher to read to their classes, especially if they’re good storytellers.

I would recommend this book to adult readers who don’t mind a bratty main character. Saki does change, but her personality and actions may be too much for some older readers to handle before she starts to grow as an individual. For those who don’t like kids, or just the annoying ones, this book may not be the best pick for you.

Rating:

4/5

Overall this is a fantastic book, especially for a first time author! The storytelling had beautiful imagery and the descriptive language wasn’t too complicated or long winded. The various characters that our main heroine ran into were unique and interesting. Some minor characters were more memorable than others, but overall they were well done even though they didn’t stay long within the story. The pacing is a bit off and there were some aspects of the story that seemed more important than they were, or were just abandoned all together. However, for a first book the author did a fantastic job telling a story that reads like the brain child of The Christmas Carol and Hayao Miyazaki. I believe that fans of both will find enjoyment from The Night Parade!

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COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

temptation-of-dragonsNote: We were given a free copy of the book in exchange for an honest review, which reads as follows.

Details:

Title: Penny White and the Temptations of Dragons

Author: Chrys Cymri

Publisher: CreateSpace

Release Date: March 31st, 2016

Genre: Fantasy, Christian

Pages: 230

Synopsis:

Bishop Nigel smiled at me. ‘Holy water doesn’t harm vampires. Which is just as well, as it would make it impossible to baptise them.’

When I was asked by a dragon to give him the last rites, I never dreamed it would lead to negotiating with his cannibalistic family or running from snail sharks. Life as the priest of a small English village is quite tame in comparison. At least I have Morey, a gryphon with sarcasm management issues, to help me. And if all else fails, there’s always red wine and single malt whisky.

As if my life weren’t complicated enough, a darkly beautiful dragon named Raven keeps appearing where I least expect him, I’ve met a handsome police inspector who loves science fiction as much as I do, and my younger brother is getting into trouble for trying to pick up vampires.

That’s what happens when you’re dealing with an incredible and dangerous parallel world full of mythical creatures. And I have to learn to navigate it all without losing myself, or my brother…

 

My First Thoughts:

My last journey into Christian fiction was such a disappointment, so I wasn’t expecting much from this book. The author, Chrys Cymri, is a priest in England with a very Welsh name (from my limited experience), so I was intrigued about how mythology and Christianity were going to combine. The synopsis was… confusing, but all the reviews for it were good. I figured I would at least get a laugh from it, even if I didn’t enjoy it.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

In my review for Soft on the Devil, I stated that there are two ways Christian fiction can go: either Christianity and religion are used to genuinely add to the characterization and story, or the reader ends up getting beaten in the face with a bible. I’m so excited to say that Father Cymri has done a wonderful job incorporating Christianity into his book in a way that feels genuine! I’ve never actually read a book that managed to do that.

The main character, Penny White, is the vicar (a type of priest for those who may not be informed) for a tiny English village. It makes sense for her to have religion be a strong influence in her life, but unlike so many Christian novels that I have read, it’s not the only influence in her life. Penny is a woman who has interests in books, movies, and television that I’ve seen quite a few “Christian” websites completely denounce as “works of the devil” (Doctor Who, Buffy, Charmed, etc.). She supports gay marriage, women’s rights, drinking in a little excess, and evolution, as do most of her fellows in the cloth. She is also imperfect, which I love. She’s been orphaned and then recently widowed; she has doubts about faith and her relationship with God. Those feelings are real and so important. She seeks guidance from those in place to guide her, who tell her it is okay to feel like that and help her to work through it. I feel like too much Christian fiction either has perfect people who never experience doubt and people who don’t believe that have some sort of experience and begin quoting bible verses in a second.

I also love her associate, Morey. This little griffon who wise cracks, follows the verses of the bible to the letter, is a creationist, and is fiercely loyal is a great counter to our vicar as she discovers the new world she has been selected to join. Morey is another character who grapples with his relationship with God, the Church, and his fellows as the story progresses. For a fantasy character, he feels real and I find myself caring so much about him. He and Penny grow so much over the course of the story. Honestly, all the characters feel so deep and real, and I look forward to learning more about them as the story progresses.

Of course, this book isn’t perfect (honestly, would a perfect book be interesting at all?) and there are some minor complaints I have. While I feel like I know all the characters personally, I have trouble picturing the human ones in my head. Every fantasy character gets an in-depth description, but then all the humans are just there. They are deep and I know a lot about them, I just can’t picture what they look like. There are quite a few instances where characters speak Welsh, which is so cool, but because Welsh is such a ridiculous language I would appreciate some sort of pronunciation guide/translation insert at the end of the book, just so I could go back and not just have my inner monologue sound like a keyboard smash (although, knowing Welsh, it still might!). Also, and I’m sure that this is because it is the first book in a series, there are a lot of things that I feel are unanswered. I guess I’ll just have to read the next book to find out!

Final Thoughts:

Overall, I genuinely enjoyed this book. It was a lot of fun to read and a different take on fantasy and Christian fiction. I felt the characterization and inclusion of Christian elements was natural and in depth, and I found the story captivating.

Rating(s):

4/5

This book was so much fun. I would recommend it to anyone looking for something different. I think it is a wonderful example of what Christian fiction should be, and such a different take on what fantasy normally is. This would be great for a quick read over a long weekend!

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COMING SOON!!!

(Audio)Book Review: Rebel of the Sands

rebel-of-the-sands

Details:

Title: Rebel of the Sands (Rebel of the Sands #1)

Author:  Alwyn Hamilton

Narrator:  Soneela Nankani

Publisher: Recorded Books, Inc.

Release Date: March 8th 2016

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Romance

Play time: 9 hr and 31 min

Synopsis:

She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there’s nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can’t wait to escape from.

Destined to wind up “wed or dead,” Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she’d gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan’s army, with a fugitive who’s wanted for treason. And she’d never have predicted she’d fall in love with him…or that he’d help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been looking for a good book to listen to on my way to campus and on my long walks to my classes. I haven’t read very many books, fantasy or otherwise, with a Middle Eastern tone, so I was excited to give this book a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinion:

For a debut novel, Rebel of the Sands was pretty good. It wasn’t squeaky clean and shiny, but it was a good start to a series for a first time author. And for one of the first stories that I’ve read with a heavy Middle Eastern theme, it has given me a taste for more.

I think my favorite part about this book was the journey. Looking back on some of the other review for this book people found the first part to e rather boring. Honestly, it was really refreshing to listen to a story about an unfortunate heroine that isn’t rushing at the chance to save the world, like so many popular YA do. People complained that there was no plot to this story and I have to argue against that. Rebel of the Sands reads like the classic hero’s journey. In fact, while I listened to the story progress I often had thoughts about Luke Skywalker and his hero’s journey.

Yes, the first part of the book can be very long to some readers who don’t care much for build. There’s a lot of action and character development in the first half of the story, but sometimes you just have to sit back and let the story wash over you. I found the ‘boring’ part of the story to be very interesting because the author took this time to try and introduce the larger world that she created for her characters. I promise that there is plot from beginning to end, it’s just a lot of the beginning of the plot is to subtly (and realistically) change the heroine into someone who looks out for herself only to someone who looks out for others. I found Amani’s journey to be quite interesting and I enjoyed listening to how she changed throughout the story.

For those willing to sift through the first part of the book (I promise, it’s not that bad but a lot of “big” reviewers have said otherwise) the second part of the story picks up the pace pretty quickly. Honestly, I got through that half a lot more quickly than the first, but mostly because I was not aware of how much time would pass when I listened. The change in pace wasn’t sudden, there was a nice easy transition that didn’t give you whiplash. However, one it really starts to pick up it’s really hard to put it down. Several times I had to remind myself that I had to get out of the car to go inside or that I needed to get homework done.

For the most part, I really enjoyed the characters and their development. Each character was just a little bit different and the author didn’t have to spend a lot of time showing us their personalities. Even the minor characters were easily discernable and could be imagined easily, which was nice because you meet a lot of them in rapid succession in the second half. Yes, our main character are a little bit cliché, but they were extremely enjoyable to follow!

Speaking of clichés, another gripe other reviewers had with this book was that it was riddled with overused themes in YA books. Honestly, it’s really hard to write a YA book without working in clichés into the story, it’s nearly impossible because every good idea has been used in thousands of books across the genres. With that said, this book actually didn’t have very many glaring clichés you might find in a debut novel. Yes, some of the things about the characters were a little cliché, but honestly they only appeared that way and the author slowly revealed why she wrote her characters that way. Could it have been written a little better? Yes, but for a first attempt at a bestselling novel, the author did a pretty good job of it.

The last thing I’ll talk about is the world building. One thing I love more than character development is world building, especially in fantasy or sci-fi where an author has the most range. While this book reads very much like it has a Middle Eastern setting, it is nothing like I’ve ever read. I really enjoyed being submersed in the sand with the characters, hearing stories about the county’s mythos along with them, it made my walks onto campus and to class seem almost mystical. The author’s world is more than just sand and sun, it was so much more and I loved seeing through my mind’s eye what it must’ve looked like. I can’t wait to see how the author expands her fantastical world in the rest of the series, especially as she grows as a writer!

 

Final Thoughts:

I recommend this book to anyone who wants to travel to a different place all together. I’ve read a lot of fantasies, but they normally spend a majority of the time in a very European-like setting where the characters visit ‘exotic’ places or deserts briefly, so it’s refreshing to read one set within the desert. The magic and mythos of the land is also different from what I’ve read before, so it could be a lot of fun if you’re looking for something fresh, something new.

I will have to say that this story does have some Western themes, which was a little odd for me at first because it didn’t seem to fit quite right in my mind. However, as the story plans out those themes add to the story and really help develop some of the characters. It does make some sequences in the story seem unbearably why, and some of you might ask why these scenes are needed. Trust me, the long sequences are very much needed but they dominate a lot of the first half of the story so it may be a little hard to get through that first bit.

Rating(s):

Story: 4/5

This story was pretty solid, definitely an excellent first attempt for a new author! I loved the settling, the overarching world, the characters, and even some of the clichés. I also enjoyed being surprised from time to time. There were some major reveals that I didn’t see coming or saw almost a little too late, which is always exciting for me. This book won’t be for everyone, but I bet that those who do enjoy it will have a lot of fun reading it. I can’t wait for the next installment!

Narration: 4/5

I really enjoyed Ms. Nankani’s narration of this story. I felt like Amani and her journey really came alive as she spoke. Sometimes her male voices were a little rough, especially when they were conveying certain strong emotions. However, I do understand that it can be hard for women to variate male voices. Overall, she was fantastic and can’t wait to hear her read the sequel!

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COMING SOON!!!