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: 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!!!

Manga Review: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 2)

Details:28118570

Title: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 2)

Chapters: 13-24

Written by: Natsuki Takaya

Artist: Natsuki Takaya

Translation/Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka

Lettering: Lys Blakeslee

Publisher: Yen Press

Published: June 2016

Pages: 384

Genre: Manga, Romance, Young Adult, Shojo Manga

Synopsis:

When she was living in a tent pitched on the Sohma family’s land, Tohru Honda’s primary concerns were dirt and slugs. But now that she’s living with the Sohmas, magical powers and ancient curses are the order of the day! With Yuki and Kyo at each other’s throats like cats and… rats, life at the Sohmas’ is lively enough, but it all heats up as Hatsuharu joins the fray, spoiling for a fight! And even before the new school year can get underway, the mystery surrounding the family escalates when Akito, head of the Sohma clan, confronts Tohru without warning…

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

Once again, this volume of Furuba is very introductory. We’re introduced to several more characters, including two of my favorites, Hatsuharu and Ayame, and the hijinks only seem to escalate. This volume also includes our first encounter with the head of the Sohma family, Akito, who all the members of the Sohma family seem to fear. We start to dive into the troubled pasts of the Sohma family members, as well as the complicated relationships that bind them all together. We also see Tohru’s relationship with Kyo and Yuki get stronger, and we see more examples of just how devoted Tohru’s best friends, Arisa Uotani and Saki Hanajima, are to her.

I honestly love every volume of Furuba that I have read, but this volume is one where we start getting into why I find this series so good. While we’re still being introduced to characters and crazy, hilarious things are still happening to them, we are also starting to see the more dramatic, more serious turn that this series is going to take. I find this series is so reflective of life and real relationships. It starts out very superficial and steadily gets deeper, just like any friendship (normally) works.

This is also the only volume that I feel qualified to truly judge the new translation, since volume 4 of the original release is included in this volume of the collector’s edition, and it is the only one of the original release I ever actually owned. I really like the new translation! I feel everything that was changed was changed to make more sense, but all of the changes are really minor. According to a review I read online, “the inaccuracies from the Japanese still haven’t been fixed,” but since I don’t read Japanese and never knew that the translations were inaccurate to begin with, I really couldn’t care less. Translations are never truly accurate, anyway. They just follow the gist of the story, and this one is still telling the story that I loved long ago.

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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Manga Review: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 1)

28219400Details:

Title: Fruits Basket: Collector’s Edition (Vol. 1)

Chapters: 1-12

Written by: Natsuki Takaya

Artist: Natsuki Takaya

Translation/Adaptation: Sheldon Drzka

Lettering: Lys Blakeslee

Publisher: Yen Press

Published: June 2016

Pages: 400

Genre: Manga, Romance, Young Adult, Graphic Novel

Synopsis:

After a family tragedy turns her life upside down, plucky high schooler Tohru Honda takes matters into her own hands and moves out…into a tent! Unfortunately for her, she pitches her new home on private land belonging to the mysterious Sohma clan, and it isn’t long before the owners discover her secret. But, as Tohru quickly finds out when the family offers to take her in, the Sohmas have a secret of their own–when embraced by the opposite sex, they turn into the animals of the Chinese Zodiac!

A perennial favorite of fans and librarians alike, Natsuki Takaya’s beloved bestselling Fruits Basket series returns to print in gorgeous deluxe English-language omnibus editions with beautiful full-color illustrations that are not to be missed!

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

I started reading the Fruits Basket (from now on referred to as Furuba) when I was in middle school. It was one of my very first manga (the actual first was Tokyo Mew Mew, I believe), and it was the first one I became obsessed with. I only ever owned a couple of them, I would borrow them from a friend as they came out and she completed them. When that friend went on to high school without me, I would check them out from the library. It’s a series I don’t think I ever managed to complete because there were 23 volumes and I think I may have skipped a couple. I never managed to own more than a couple of the original series because TOKYOPOP went under and stopped printing them before I had any source of reliable income that would allow me to buy them all.

So, imagine my delight when I found out that Yen Press was re-releasing the entire series in 12 volumes with new (more accurate) translations this year. I believe I squealed. I have officially preordered the remaining books in the series and am eagerly awaiting the final two release dates for the manga that introduced me to an entire genre I would never have thought about approaching if not for my friends back in middle school.

This volume is the introductory volume of the series. Most of this volume is introductions. We meet our lead, Tohru Honda, and journey with her as she becomes entangled in the lives of the cursed Sohma family. She learns of the Zodiac curse and is introduced to the key players of the series. By the end of this volume, even though we haven’t met all of the Zodiac members, we have met most of the key players in the series, and we are seeing the relationships of the characters’ form. There’s never a calm day in the Sohma household, and we are set up for a story full of fun, drama, and growth in this first volume. 

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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Manga Review: The Seven Deadly Sins (vol. 6)

the-seven-deadly-sins-vol6Details:

Title: The Seven Deadly Sins (Vol. 6)

Chapters: 38-46, plus a bonus story (broken up into three parts)!

Written by: Nakaba Suzuki

Artist: Nakaba Suzuki

Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell

Lettering: James Dashiell

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published: January 13, 2015

Pages: 200

Genre: Manga, Historical-Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

Blast from the Past!

Howzer whips up a huge storm in an attempt to defeat Diane, but even a human-sized giant can stand strong against the fiercest tempests. In the next match, Meliodas faces Cain, who conjures terrifying fire magic while also leveling fiery accusations at Meliodas about his rumored involvement in the destruction of Danafell. How will Meliodas respond? Can he take the punishment for his alleged sins?

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

Volume 6 brings an end to the fighting festival with an interesting turn of events. The action doesn’t slow in between transitions, instead it picks up rather quickly. Griamore still has his ever changing body size, though the muscles don’t get too drastically large this time around he looks a lot better with his helmet on. In this volume you get to see more into Meliodas’s past and you’ll start asking more questions about his character. There’s also a bit of character development for the team in general as they start asking the same questions that the readers are.

As a whole, this volume is rather explosive with activity and new character development. There’s more action and fighting sequences than there are major plot points, if you don’t know what you’re looking for. It’s rather interesting to see how the Holy Knights differ in not only abilities, and where they get their strength, but also in ideology. You get to see the beginning of just how different the two fractions are. Overall, the fighting sequences are great, though there is one character that frustrate me. So far this manga has done a great job with the armor of the knights, making them appear more logical than others of the genre, however, there is one character with rather impractical armor and it more sexual than anything. I mean seriously, why would you allow your breasts to be exposed when a sword can easily stab through your chest and kill you?!

Warning: If you read this volume you must have the next one in hand because the cliffhanger is quite a doozy!

Manga Review: The Seven Deadly Sins vol. 5

the-seven-deadly-sins-vol5Details:

Title: The Seven Deadly Sins (Vol. 5)

Chapters: 30-37, plus a bonus storie!

Written by: Nakaba Suzuki

Artist: Nakaba Suzuki

Translation/Adaptation: Christine Dashiell

Lettering: James Dashiell

Publisher:  Kodansha Comics

Published: November 11, 2014

Pages: 192

Genre: Manga, Historical-Fantasy, Action/Adventure, Young Adult, Romance

Synopsis:

It’s A Showdown!

Four of the Sins have been reunited and it feels almost so good. Entering a fighting tournament where the grand prize is Diane’s weapon, the unthinkable happens when the Sins and Holy Knights clash on stage! But who is the other faction of Holy Knights, dubbed the “New Generation”, and what could this monstrous group of demon-like knights be planning?

Overall Thoughts/Opinions:

4/5

This volume is centered on a tournament with a few flashbacks that add depth to our characters. As tournaments go, this one isn’t really different, especially when it comes to manga. There are some really over powered players and some that are in really far over their heads. Still, the tournament is rather fun to read, mostly for the various commentary between the contestants. We get to see some new and old Holy Knights with this volume shedding some more light on some of the older ones. The one thing that really bugged me was Griamore’s ever changing body size; I swear, every time we see him in a new panel his body gets larger and he has more ripped muscles that don’t actually exist on the human body. Don’t get me wrong, I love the character, but the inconsistency kept drawing me away from the action, especially when his head looked so tiny compared to the rest of him. In this volume we also get to see more of Elizabeth and her relationships with the people around her, especially more development between her and Meliodas. I do have to warn some people though, if you’re uncomfortable with fan service this volume may be a bit tough for you to read because there is a lot more of it. There’s also a bit more gore, so this is not a read for the faint of heart.

(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!!!