Category Archives: Reviews

Review: Year One

Year One (Chronicles of The One, #1)Year One by Nora Roberts
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

“Well, that’s unexpected.”
That was the running theme for this whole book, for me. I’m not a typical romance reader, but this was romance/thriller/apocalypse and came highly recommended, and I’m glad I gave it a shot! The plot twists were like riding an old-school rollercoaster; you’d think you knew where things were going, then whipla, you’re onto something else. That’s what is both good and bad about this book.

I love the concepts here. A curse/plague spreads globally, very fast, mutating so scientists can’t get a grapple on a cure. At the same time, magic starts to spread through the land, creating beauty and power in new and mysterious ways.

Great premise! So much potential. I loved the big ideas here, but then–maybe because I came to this as a fan of apocalypses rather than romances–I had a lot of pragmatic questions that were brushed aside. It also felt like the pacing was weird; things were slow at the beginning, but toward the end of the story I felt like things were being “said” not “shown,” in a much more creator-speaking-to-reader-just-go-with-it kinda way. I get that some of it is supposed to be jarring–it’s an apocalypse! But it sometimes felt like Roberts didn’t feel like really committing to the ick of the storyline, so she’d sort of zoom in and out to focus on the bits she cared about.

I also felt like the pregnancy plots would be really annoying to any pregnant woman or mother of infants. There’s a woman with three infants who never so much as blinks at having to keep them all fed in the middle of a disease-filled wasteland. There’s personal strength and then there’s that insanity.

A lot of the magic also tended toward the deus-ex-machina level; boom, magic fixed that problem, move on, let’s not stop to think about the fact that this woman just sprouted wings. And, as a fantasy reader who is used to “elf” and “fairy” being a literal race/species, it was a little weird for humans to start describing themselves as these without any explanation whatsoever (at the very least, I’d have liked a clarification: are we talking Christmas elf or Lord of the Rings elf here? It matters!).

Also, she spells magic “magick” the whole time and that drove me nuts.

But I liked the story, broadly speaking, and I hope it’s an entrypoint into fantasy and dystopian fiction for the romance-lovers out there. Unfortunately, the dissonance on some of the ideas was a little too much for me, so this is the last I plan on reading of this series.

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Review: Unf*ck Your Habitat

Unf*ck Your Habitat: You're Better Than Your MessUnf*ck Your Habitat: You’re Better Than Your Mess by Rachel Hoffman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I don’t feel confident in my cleaning abilities. I always feel like I’m behind or doing something wrong or don’t know when to do the cleaning. It felt like an insurmountable mountain.

But then I discovered Unf*ck Your Habitat. Author Rachel Hoffman offers simple, straightforward, pleasantly vulgar cleaning advice to help anyone, no matter how bad their mess, get started. And it’s shockingly compassionate. I envision this book like a big sister chiding me to do my chores… but then getting off the couch to help dry the dishes once I start.

Some people have complained about the swearing, but honestly, it’s barely present and any reader should expect it from the title alone. So those reviewers are full of shit.
The advice is solid, and yes, it’s easy. You don’t have to read or buy this book to get the message: she offers an active Tumblr and an app, if you prefer. But I feel like content creators deserve to be paid, so I bought the book. And besides, the book has some really helpful lists that I’m definitely going to use—I may laminate them. I’ve already thought of loaning this book to a friend who may benefit, but I may keep it to reread. It’s useful.

But—I would have liked a little more info on the down-and-dirty how-to part. For instance, her bathroom cleaning list says: “fill the sink with hot water and a bit of cleaner.” What kind of cleaner? What do I do with the hot water once it’s there? It’s left to the reader and… well, I could have used the guidance.

But overall, it is motivating, uplifting, and a great place to start.

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Review: The Way of Kings

The Way of Kings (The Stormlight Archive, #1)The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I don’t normally do this, but I’m putting this book aside. It’s crazy—the writing is great, the world is fantastic and absorbing, and the characters have depth. But the book is just so long and doesn’t feel like it’s going anywhere. I’ve given Sanderson 509 pages—and that’s not even to the halfway point. But I’m just not having fun. The character I was most interested in has been out of the story so long I can’t even remember her name. I can see where the other two storylines are going but I’m just not that interested in this incredibly slow-burn. It feels bloated. If this same story had, I don’t know, 500 fewer pages and got to the meat of the story faster, I’d probably love it. But I don’t love it right now and I’m tired of waiting around. At the very least, I’m taking a break. Maybe I’ll come back later.

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Review: The Fifth Season

The Fifth Season (The Broken Earth, #1)The Fifth Season by N.K. Jemisin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Resonant. Powerful. Distinct. The Fifth Season is all these. A dystopia with the depth of a fantasy epic, this book is potently unlike most anything I’ve read.
I mean that mostly in a good way. The story is unexpected, spooling out in three strands to unwind the central problems. My issue: I liked two of the three story lines, which left the one I liked less because it switched to second-person and felt gritty and weird in the flow. But that was probably intentional.
The story is about a place that is dramatically geologically unstable. It also has people with the power to stop—or cause—these tremors and volcanos. The world is harsh, and so the people are harsh, especially toward these oregenes. They are afraid and so they act out, and the oregenes suffer. Author N.K. Jemison is creative in her torments: another reason I both liked the book and can’t give it my full “I loved it” endorsement. This book will make you uncomfortable even while it wraps you in beautiful prose. I highly recommend it—to most, but not all, audiences.

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Review: The Wise Man’s Fear

The Wise Man's Fear (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #2)The Wise Man’s Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Wise Man’s Fear is a colossal read. Rothfuss retains his breathless storytelling style, rich with detail that folds you immediately into this believably fairytale world. But it’s also constrained by the choice to tell the full story over three “days” (books), so this middle book is bloated and really should have been split into two but wasn’t. This may have been the first book I’ve read in awhile where I forgot parts of what happened while I was still reading it.

That shouldn’t be a discouragement, though. Rothfuss is a spellbinding author. The retrospective Kvothe is both believably a teenager, who makes dumb teenager mistakes, while also being greater than himself, a hero perhaps even he can’t understand. The “modern time” parts, with older Kvothe in the inn, are a refreshing breath of air hinting at much deeper mysteries (will we ever get those answers?). The split between what the characters know and the readers can guess is frustrating at times, because it’s impossible to reach into the books and shake the character into realizing, say, his family lineage, when it’s so blindingly obvious to the reader.

There’s only one part of the story itself that really bothered me, and that’s only because it was so jarring and out-of-left field, and felt mostly like a way for the author to develop Kvothe’s reputation for sexual prowess–his startling trip into the fae when he chases Felurian. Literally between one page and the next we are whisked out of the story and into another realm, an impulsive switch that seems out of character for careful Kvothe. But it has several narrative reasons for existing–outside of Kvothe suddenly emerging as a sexual master somehow *eyeroll*–so I understand and allow it. It is just the only part that felt ridiculous, which actually says a lot, when so much of the story involves magic and wonders.

Now I join the ranks of the (many) people eagerly awaiting the release of the final book. We’ll see it eventually, and hopefully get some answers.

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Review: SLAM

SlamSlam by Nick Hornby
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Nick Hornby has an incredible talent for writing realistic narrators, so believe me when I tell you this book is well-written even though it made my skin crawl with frustration. It’s charming even though the story caught me by surprise. Give it to your teenager.

That’s because SLAM covers a teen boy with his first real girlfriend and his completely realistic mistake to have sex “sort of” without a condom—and all the consequences that entails. We don’t see many books about the subject, so it is brave, but it made me feel a little squeamish, so maybe that’s why.

But the voice here is incredible. There are two twists that give the book something special: one, the narrator, Sam, has a penchant for talking to the poster of his idol, Tony Hawk. He helpfully supplies advice, in the form of quotes from an autobiography of Tony Hawk, in return. This makes for some rather hilarious and yet possibly deep conversations.

The other twist—possible time-travel. Sam blames this on TH, and maybe it’s all a dream, but Sam is given the opportunity to experience a day in the near-future, not that it is particularly helpful. In this way, Hornby muses on whether, even during particularly rough times, it would be any help at all to know what is going to happen a bit ahead, like that your mom won’t kill you when she finds out. But seeing the future and actually being in it turn out to be two different things. That’s a lesson for us all.

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Review: The Name of the Wind

The Name of the Wind (The Kingkiller Chronicle, #1)The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book is so astoundingly good that I’m mad i didn’t read it sooner. I read it as a library book and I’m already planning on buying it as well. If you at all enjoy fantasy books, stop what you are reading and pick this up!
The Name of The Wind is a deft tale—or rather, part one of three of a deft tale—about a precociously talented young wizard. Yes, there are some superficial similarities to Harry Potter, and if that entices you, bless you, pick it up. But if that makes you roll your eyes, to you I say, “stop, come back here, it’s better!” It’s a more nuanced and surprising story than HP ever was, harkening to some of the best parts of high fantasy while staying grounded.

The main character here, Kvothe, had a lovely family life as a traveling bard group, and it is remarkably pleasant to spend time with them through a child’s eyes. But this story also has crushing grief, the depths of poverty, and years of struggle. Kvothe is not perfect, but he’s extraordinary in ways that feel attainable and realistic. He seems like a kid you could know, if you lived in a well-thought-out world filled with past empires, real magic, and demons that seem all too real.

Don’t be put off by the massiveness of the tome; yes, it could probably stop a bullet and yes you could probably murder someone by dropping it on them. But I promise you will be so disappointed when you realize you’ve reached the end (and that the library won’t have book 2 available for two months because there’s a waitlist).

The anniversary edition, which I read, includes an author’s note, detailed information—including illustrations—of the many types of currency, and a pronunciation guide, and this you will read and reread just to extend the experience.

It’s a lovely book, and it will lull you into a comforting rapture so deep you will be shocked to find yourself at the end… at least, until you pick up the next one.

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