Book Review: Binti

 

Synopsis:

Her name is Binti, and she is the first of the Himba people ever to be offered a place at Oomza University, the finest institution of higher learning in the galaxy. But to accept the offer will mean giving up her place in her family to travel between the stars among strangers who do not share her ways or respect her customs.

Knowledge comes at a cost, one that Binti is willing to pay, but her journey will not be easy. The world she seeks to enter has long warred with the Meduse, an alien race that has become the stuff of nightmares. Oomza University has wronged the Meduse, and Binti’s stellar travel will bring her within their deadly reach.

If Binti hopes to survive the legacy of a war not of her making, she will need both the gifts of her people and the wisdom enshrined within the University, itself – but first she has to make it there, alive.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve been meaning to find and read this book for a while and I can’t remember exactly how I was introduced to it. I haven’t found a whole lot of afrofuturism in literature and I wanted to read more about the genre and to broaden not only myself but my library. So when I saw this book the other day I snatched it up and tried reading it as soon as possible.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story was very interesting to read and it presented some topics and ideas that will take me some time to fully digest and absorb. Binti was not quite what I had expected when I first discovered it.

The beginning of the story was definitely the strongest part of the novella. This is when you are not only introduced to Binti, but you’re also introduced to her people and her culture. You learn that the Himba are the best at creating futuristic astrolabes and that they’re taken advantage of and mistreated by the Khoush. This narrative, to me, seemed to be a commentary on possibly the history or relationship between African and European people. The Himba and the Khoush aren’t at war with each other, but they’re not necessarily on good terms either.

As the story progresses the story begins to lose its strength. Major events happen to progress the story forward, events that should’ve had a devastating effect on the readers and Binti. However, one of the major events seemed to fall emotionally short. I understand that with a novella that you have limited time to convey a story, but I felt that not enough time was given to developing emotional attachments between the readers and the characters and the other characters to Binti. If done correctly, emotionally important scenes could’ve been told in just a few sentences or even a single paragraph that would’ve added so much to the pathos of the story.

This was an interesting coming of age story because it tackles the question of who is Binti. From the beginning she questions her decisions and what kind of person would they make her. As she continues on her journey she wonders who she is without her people, who she is as a Himba and not. Then by the end she still doesn’t quite know who she is but she accepts that she is more than just her people’s traditions. This was an interesting journey because of the added element of her people. The Himba are very traditional, something that I haven’t seen in a lot of coming of age fiction, so the traditions and the conflicts associated with them made the story more unique.

Rating:

3/5

This story was very unique and interesting to read. I would highly recommend it to anyone who wants to read soft sci-fi literature, afrofuturism, or just wants to read something different. Overall, Binti was entertaining and thought provoking. I really enjoyed the concept of the Meduse, which were pretty much Space Jellyfish, but I also felt that they weren’t really developed. In the story they’re seen as ruthless killers and then suddenly they’re described as honorable with no real reason, at least not a memorable one. The science in Binti is very limited, not much is really explained and you just have to accept that it’s real, which makes this a soft or lukewarm sci-fi. I think this story would have been stronger if it were longer, and not considerably longer either. A lot of emotion was lost that could have been saved with a few well-placed sentences. Other than that, the coming of age story was unique because of the added traditional background of the Himba, making Binti’s journey different from similar stories. I’m curious what happens in the rest of the series, so I’ll be looking forward to reading more about Binti’s journey.

Details:

Title: Binti

Author: Nnedi Okorafor

Publisher: Tor.com

Release Date: September 22, 2015

Genre: Young Adult, Science fiction, Afrofuturism, Coming of Age

Pages: 90

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Book Review: Scent of Death

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

 

Synopsis:

James Goodwin uses his olfactory equivalent of perfect pitch to sniff out people’s emotions, from love to malice. He earns a handy living by uncovering corporate cheats, but he’s growing bored. When billionaire Garth Cotton asks him to cook up the world’s first love potion, James first smells a grand challenge, and accepts. But once on the high seas in Cotton’s mega-yacht, James smells treachery. He sniffs out secrets that land him and Cotton’s dazzling assistant, Samantha Heartgrave, on a timeline to death. To save himself and Samantha, James must exercise his gift of smell in ways he never dreamed possible.

My First Thoughts:

I’ve read another book by Mr. Ross, The Jubilee’s Daughter, and I thought that I would give this one a try too. At first, I was a little leery about the concept of a hero with a super sense of smell making a love potion, but I thought to give it a try anyways.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

This story was hard to get through and honestly, it just wasn’t for me. I could suspend my disbelief of someone with an overpowered sense of smell, but there were just other things in the story that I couldn’t get behind.

I can imagine that writing a character like James would be hard, and I applaud Ross with this attempt. Writing any kind of character with a special gift that no one has heard of or that not many have written about is hard. There’s a lot of creating that the author has to do, in this case Ross had to figure out just how to describe emotions using different smells. After figuring out what smell went with each emotion he had to find a way to easily describe how James came to identify those smell and emotion combinations, trying to make it as believable as possible to the readers. I think that Ross did a commendable job trying to figure out this special gift and write it in well enough for readers to understand and enjoy, it really did add in an extra layer to the story that you wouldn’t normally encounter. My only complaint is that the smells were too specific. Instead of saying something like ‘a sweet flowery smell’ for a certain emotion he specifically identified lilac. Instead of describing a scent as strong or putrid, he used oil and rotten meat. I found it a little hard to believe that emotions would be that specific and that everyone exhibiting that emotion would smell exactly the same. Humans and nature in general, follow basic guidelines but within those guidelines individuals vary—hardly anything is the exact same every single time. Also, not every reader is going to know what lilacs, raw oil, or sandalwood smell like. It would be hard to come up different ways of describing the various smells without giving them a specific label, but I think in the end it would have made the story a little bit stronger.

Ross’s writing has improved from the previous book that I’ve read. He has gotten better at mixing description with dialogue and inner character monologging. However, I felt like the flow of the story was a bit off. I believe that Ross spent too much time building everything up before the breaking point, the start of the climax, and it made the second half of his story seemed too rushed and underdone compared to the first. The introduction to the characters and the situation was fine and well done, but there were scenes during the experiments that could’ve been left out. I felt there was a lot of over explaining of the experiments done for the ‘love potion’, almost like trying to describe it to a child and not adults. Some of the scenes in the beginning need less time than they got and definitely less dialogue. If more time was spent on the latter half, maybe adding in longer scenes or longer sections of just descriptive information, and the first half was trimmed down a bit then the story would’ve been better balanced.

Unfortunately, I could not relate to any of the characters. I liked James for a while but I just couldn’t agree with his morality, I’m not saying he was a bad person, but his reasoning for not liking the love potion just didn’t sit well with me. He also felt a little too nonchalant about the whole business with the love potion until it was too late, even though throughout the whole story there were reasons to find it all very dangerous. Not once did I like Samantha, she was uninspiring and just down right flat as a character. There was no rhyme or reason for her personality or actions. One minute she’s a demeaning, bossy individual and then several chapters later she shows this nice ‘sensitive’ side. Her character just didn’t feel natural to me and I just didn’t care for her or her dilemma. The other main characters were even more unnatural and off-balanced as she was. The villains lacked complexity or drive, they just did horrible things and nothing more. I get that there are people out there that are just rotten to the core and most of it came from how they were raised or something, but I’m tired of villains that are just the caricatures of evil—they’re just boring. My favorite characters were the side characters that didn’t show up much in the story, but they still played important roles which was nice.

Not only did I have some issues with the characters in general, but I had issues with character interactions as well. Specifically, I had trouble seeing the chemistry between James and Samantha. When you meet Samantha she is a Grade A b***h to James and she stays that way for most of the book, except for a few pockets of breaking character in the middle and her ‘change’ towards the end. I get it, extreme situations can change someone for the better but it just felt wrong for her character. James spends most of the book telling himself and the reader that he’s not interested in Samantha, a few times saying he had a girlfriend already who was so much better. However, by the end they’re in love and the girlfriend (who was given a name but you never meet) magically drops off the radar with no further comment. I couldn’t see this all it takes is one week to love kind of romance, and I even had a hard time labelling it as a romance too. All around the romance felt like a last minute addition that was slapped onto the book before publishing. There was little chemistry between the two characters and the romance was plagued with in consistencies from both James and Samantha. The faceless girlfriend was also another thing that bugged me about James because he would only think of her when Samantha tempted him, no other time and then was just discarded without any sort of mention or reason. Yea, great job there James.

The last thing that bugged me about this book was the characterization of the animals mentioned. For the experiment they used lab mice to test out the love potion, which is fine I guess? I’m not sure when it comes to various forms of experimentation which set of animals is best used to simulate what for humans, so I can’t critique that. But I can critique the fact that the experiment relied on the anthropomorphizing of lab mice and their behavior. Animals don’t act like people and in science we often have to remind ourselves and others that any action you see that is human-like isn’t actually real. So in this case the experiment relied on the lab mice to show very human-like displaces of love and affection. Why would this bug me? Because there is no proof that mice show affection toward each other, there are some rodents that do but there is a very clear evolutionary reason as to why and they’re the odd man out. If the experiment was done using prairie voles, which do mate with the same female more than once and might show affection toward each other, then it would be a bit more believable and less flawed. Another thing about testing for human emotions is that we know what it looks like in humans, but we can’t accurately record or gauge them in other animals because they can’t actually tell us if we’re right or wrong in our observations. The other animals mentioned were sharks, which were never identified and to my knowledge and that of my shark enthusiast friend don’t actually exist. The closest I could find was the smallest shark known to man, the dwarf lantern shark which can be as small as 8 inches. However, they are found within deep dark waters and therefore can’t be kept in an ordinary tank, especially not one where you can throw a severed arm into. Also, the description of the sharks in the book don’t match those of the dwarf lantern shark. Instead, they’re described as being 6 inch versions of the shark from Jaws, and they pretty much act like it too. That characterization of sharks annoys and angers me because it’s not a true description of their normal behavior and it only adds to human hysteria and blood thirst. Sharks are not ruthless killing machines always trying to eat everything, especially humans. Ross would have had a better time selling it if he replaced the sharks with very starved piranhas, but they would have to be extremely starved to act the way the sharks did in the book. And I wouldn’t make such a big deal if they didn’t play a big role in the story, but they did so I am.

Rating:

2/5

Overall the story wasn’t my cup of tea. The characters weren’t very likable or relatable and there was no real character development or depth to most of them. The flow of the story was messed up by an overdeveloped beginning and an underdone ending. There were elements of romance, but it felt cheap and slapped on. And the characterizations of the animals used in the story were just too incorrect to keep me rooted to the story, many times actually angering me. However, Ross’s writing has improved from his previous books and I found that he handled this overpowered sense of smell rather well. I would recommend this book to anyone who wants an easy read or loves suspenseful stories.

Related Reviews/Books:

Details:

Title: The Scent of Death

Author: Jonathan Ross

Publisher: Amazon

Release Date: June 15, 2017

Genre: Adult, Action, Suspense, Romance (???)

Pages: 194

Book Review: In the Land of Broken Time

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

Synopsis:

This book is about the adventures of the boy named Christopher, the girl named Sophia and retriever Duke. By chance they found themselves in a balloon, that took them into a fairyland, where mysterious events happen.
Children wanted to find the way home. The heroes had to solve a lot of mysteries.They learned interesting ways of time measuring and found a time machine.

My First Thoughts:

There’s always a special joy I feel when an author from another country asks me to review their work. There’s also the excitement of reading outside of what you would consider normal. After reading books that have saddened and/or infuriated me, I look forward to reading children’s books because they’re normally much simpler and fun. So I was more than happy to read this book as we drive through South Dakota on a long cross country trip!

Rating:

3/5

I was pleasantly surprised by In the Land of Broken Time. It’s definitely not the next Magic Treehouse, but it was interesting enough with subtle learning concepts that would make it a fun read for children and parents alike. The story concept was really interesting, the characters were fun, and the world building was quite imaginative.

Time was a big theme in this story. The authors build the world around time, going so far as using time related names for some of the characters and places. Throughout the story the readers get to learn about various different ways of telling time, such as using a sundial, hourglass, water clocks, and aromatic clocks. I honestly can’t name a book that talks about similar things, so I found it interesting to see how children may be introduced to suck clocks. There were times where it felt a little forced, especially the few times when the kids were explaining the more complicated mechanics of some of these things. It was a little unbelievable that these kids would know how an aromatic clock would work, even if they were only describing what they were witnessing.

Another big theme was friendship, and the authors draw two main messages from this theme. One, don’t judge a person by their outward appearance; you never know if a rough individual on the outside will be a great ally later. The second is that you should never let the rumors about a stranger shape your opinion of them before you lay eyes on them. These messages deal with one of the minor characters that ends up having a big role in driving the plot forward.

The characters were interesting enough. The children became fast friends due to circumstance, but their friendship also read genuinely enough too. Not much can be said about them because there wasn’t enough story to really delve into their personalities. In fact, I think the minor characters were given more depth and personality than Duke and the kids. This doesn’t really bother me, mostly because it’s hard to flesh out children characters and the authors needed to show why we would trust certain minor characters and not others.

Overall the story was pretty interesting and well written. There were times in which the language was a little advance for Christopher and Sophia to realistically say for their age. There’s some debate as to if some of the words used in the story would be too advanced for the target audience, but honestly I think a few challenging words would be good for young readers to encounter. The story itself is pretty simple; there are no complex reasons as to why events take place or why certain actions are made. If this story were for an older audience, I may take issue with the construction of the story, but I don’t know of many young readers that would sit there and poke holes in a fantasy story. Parents reading this story to their kids may see the plot holes or the utter leaps the story takes to get from one scene to another, but listening children will just go along for the ride.

The illustrations in the book are pretty nice. I especially love the color and detail that went into the cover; it’s one of my favorite covers! The illustrations in the story were cute and provided a nice break in the story on occasion; however, I just wish there were more of them in the story. The pictures were few and so sparsely laid out that at times I forgot there were any illustrations!

All in all, In the Land of Broken Time is an interesting and simple story about time and friendship. The ending is a bit abrupt, but the story has a nice overall flow that will keep children interested until the end. I highly recommend it to any young reader looking for a fantasy to read or for any parent-kid duo looking for another bedtime story! I can’t wait to read more from Mark and Maria Evan.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

Details:

Title: In the Land of Broken Time: The Incredible Journey

Author: Max Evan and Maria Evan

Illustrator: Maria Evan

Publisher: self published

Release Date: August 3rd, 2016

Genre: Middle Reader, Fantasy, Action/Adventure

Pages: 52 (eBook)

Book Review: On Their Way

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

Details:

Title: On Their Way

Author: A.D. Green

Publisher: self published

Release Date: June 3rd, 2016

Genre: New Adult, Contemporary, Romance, Realistic

Pages: 275 (eBook)

Synopsis:

On Their Way centers on the ordinary, but confusing modern-day lives of two close friends in their mid-twenties who find themselves on an unexpected journey to Spain.
Meet Ella – she is perceptive, creative, cerebral, loyal, opinionated, full of dilemmas, and torn between decisions, people, places and life trajectories. Meet Will – he is stubborn, free-spirited, witty, sarcastic, and a writer. The novel offers a glimpse into their lives before, during and after their trip.
As the story unfolds we follow how they change, what they resolve, and how they handle the consequences of their choices. It is a story about friendship, finding meanings, self discovery and moving on. The characters search for understanding, take new chances and realize that you cannot await happiness but have to step into the unknown.

My First Thoughts:

I haven’t run into many New Adult books that I’ve liked, and the ones I did enjoy were actually mislabeled. So when the author presented me this book and called it New Adult, I got rather excited. I don’t normally go for many contemporary romances, but it sounded like a coming of age story and so I gave it a try.

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

It took me months to finish this book and by the end it was a bit of a chore to finish. Yes, that’s a harsh thing to say but this book frustrated me to no end the more I read it.

The beginning was hard to get into. I understand that it’s supposed to be just-another-day sort of feeling, but if I wasn’t asked to read this book then I would’ve put it down before the end of the first chapter. Nothing interesting happens during the first few chapters, or better yet there should’ve been drama but it felt hollow because I didn’t understand why or what was going on.

We’re introduced to Ella first, who already has her masters in Criminology and is checking her email for job/interview acceptance (mostly rejection) messages. She complains about roommates you never meet and don’t seem to actually exist within the story before she’s scared by a previous lover, who magically entered the house without her knowing. She’s angry to see him there and they keep referencing something that happened between them years ago, but the author doesn’t tell us what it is until much later. This kind of writing pisses me off, to be frank, because I spent more than two-thirds of the book wanting to know what happened to them not out of interest for the story but to understand Ella’s hostility. When I do find out what happened between Victor and Ella it was so underwhelming that I almost gave up on the book right there. The author spends so much plot time referencing this one thing only to reveal it too late in the game for me to really care anymore and the impact was barely a tap. But for Ella this one thing shaped her for all of her college years, blah-blah-blah, and she couldn’t move past it. I get that she’s supposed to be sympathetic, but her character was the least likable for me and I felt nothing for her and her plights.

In fact, none of the characters were likable. Victor, who was a minor character, was a controlling and lifeless individual. Will, her best friend, is some pompous guy that has a thing against authors and self-help books. There’s this whole arc that deals with his failures and stuff, but I felt no compassion for him and not enough time was spent on it to make me care. Ella was also rather pompous, and when I say this I mean that their dialogue between them and others made me imagine their noses high in the air, and her actions made absolutely no sense what’s so ever. Out of all the characters, I liked Will the most because he was less of a jerk.

The dialogue in On Their Way felt so unnatural that it was almost robotic, but set to modern old English. All the characters, except Victor, took so long to say something so simple that I almost forgot that they’re supposed to be closer to my age than older adults. The conversations were also really dry, at times almost completely unnecessary, as if the author didn’t know how else to get to the next scene. Most of the time the dialogue was the only thing that propelled the plot, which weakens the story all together. I learned the most about what was going on from the dialogue and not Ella’s inner thoughts that she kept sharing. The big reveal/decision that she makes at the end came up suddenly in dialogue instead of gradually coming to that decision in her thoughts. The author told me that Ella thought long and hard on her decision and the plans she made, but I didn’t read a single word of that progression. Instead, I got useless ramblings that amounted to nothing. I was told more than shown what was going on, which is what led to much of my anger with this book and what killed any enjoyment I had reading it.

The other thing the angered me was the unrealistic nature of this book. I labeled it as realistic fiction, but I was half tempted to mark it as a science-fiction story instead because the author had no concept of time. The author kept switching back and forth about how many days had passed and how many more days Ella had. Hours passed in a blink of an eye even though nothing really happened during that passage of time.

The author also used this story to bash authors and airport security, all through the boring conversations between Will and Ella. According to the characters, anyone can be an author but few can be writers, which made me laugh because I believe the exact opposite. Will also takes way too much time spitting on authors of self-help books and the whole genre as a whole. Why? No. Idea. Then when they go through security to go to Barcelona, Ella takes the time to criticize airport security because they took her laptop aside and checked it. This actually happened to me before, it was no big deal and it may be possible for electronics to be made into explosives. Normally I don’t care what the author wants to speak out against in their novels, but this was all the action in the beginning-exciting, right?

The romance was the worst thing that I’ve ever read and it lead to my dislike of Ella. The reason I hated it was because in any other scenario, Ella’s actions would’ve lead to another Taken movie with Liam Neeson. She sparks an interest in a hotel bartender, okay that’s fine. She doesn’t ask for his name, they don’t even introduce each other before the first several dates, and she made it into some sort of game…Sorry, what? That can be hella dangerous not knowing anything about a person, not even a phone number, before going out a not one but several dates. She doesn’t even tell Will, her best friend and only known person in a foreign country, that she’s going out or with whom. Her actions in this romance were nonsensical and ill-advised, again in rea life she would be in serious danger of being kidnapped and sold into the slave trade.

Finally, the relationship between Ella and Will was barely there. They have all these memories and inside jokes, but they don’t act like friends. They spend hardly any time together on their trip, which was a gift for their birthdays, and when they do they’re jerks to each other. Will willing leaves Ella by herself in a foreign country, even brought her to a small town only to ditch her. Ella lets Will run off and be alone during some critical moments for him, when he’s in a pretty dark place. Overall, reading their interactions lead me to think that they were best friends at one point but are more like acquaintances now.

Rating:

1/5

Honestly, I have nothing good to say about this book. I’ve tried so hard to come up with something positive to say, but I haven’t found a single thing. The dialogue was a chore to read and propelled the story forward. The action wasn’t really there, the characters just floated in space for most of the story. None of the characters were interesting or relatable, so I couldn’t bring myself to invest in them or feel for them. The romance was infuriating, boring, and dangerous. Ella’s inner monologues were trivial. The tone and language of the story drew me out of the plot more times than in. There wasn’t a whole lot of imagery are descriptive passages. Overall the story was boring and frustrating, with the author spending all their time tell me what was happening instead of showing.

Related Reviews/Books:

COMING SOON!!!

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.

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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.

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