Quarter Year Reading Wrap Up

Unfortunately this is a late post since we’re heading towards the middle of April now. But I want to talk about the books I’ve read so far and the current count is 9, which means I’m behind on my goal of 50 books for the year – but I do plan to catch up!

My TBR has changed as I added books I’ve received from the Indiecember Giveaway pack and prioritized them. I managed to read one book from my initial TBR, though, which had consisted of 5 books. I also read books that were not on my TBR out of curiosity… I guess I needed to discipline myself.

My current TBR will be a different post, but here are the books that I’ve read as of the end of March, a little synopsis on them, and my overall thoughts.

23635434The World of Ice and Fire by George R. R. Martin / Elio M. Garcia Jr. / Linda Antonsson. It took me a while to finish this book, but I managed to finish it before deciding on my TBR. This is a fictional history book on the rich lore of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series told from the perspective of a maester. Like a real history book, some parts were boring, but I’d say 70% is quite interesting and in fact intriguing. This definitely makes me want to pick up Fire & Blood but I have a long list of books to read as of now, so it’s not really a priority. You don’t need to read this book to enjoy or understand the books in the main series but I feel that it will enhance the experience especially if the world-building of the “A Song of Ice and Fire” series interests you.

26308563Echo Volume I, II, & III by Kent Wayne. Only the first volume was in my TBR but I continued with the series out of curiosity. This series actually contains four books, but I found myself stuck in what seemed like an endless loop of training montage in the middle of the fourth book, so I put it on-hold for a while. This is a sci-fi dystopian series with fabulous world-building centered around Kishchan Atriya as he struggles through action-packed missions full of tech and mech and discovers himself through magic and mind-bending philosophy. Not fond of all the “Old Earth” references because they distract me from the story, but the action, world-building, and the main character himself definitely makes this a wonderful read. So far, anyway.

35034255Reflections by Briana Morgan. This is the first book I received from the Indiecember Giveaway. This is about a young insecure girl, with past trauma, who encounters and joins a tribe of shapeshifters who helps her acquire the same ability, as she struggles to solve the mystery of girls being murdered in the woods, as well as learn to love and be confident with herself. I wish that the fantasy elements in this story was used more, but overall it is a decent read.

42946515Theonite: Planet Adyn by M. L. Wang. This is the first book of a series, the second of which I plan to read in the future. The main character finds herself with special abilities that no one else seem to have and she learns to harness and hide them, until she discovers that the new kid in class seem to have abilities too and may not even belong on the same planet. I enjoyed this book, especially the main character Joan who is so endearing, and will definitely want to continue the journey with her.

40220795Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas. Was not in my TBR but picked it up out of curiosity. This follows an imprisoned young assassin who is given a chance to gain her freedom by competing in a tournament against other mercenary-type warriors, while finding herself in a romance with the prince, and trying to solve murders occurring in the palace. This book was a struggle to me because the main character was poorly written as an assassin, romance was bland, and the resolution of the mystery wasn’t particularly compelling. However, I did enjoy the main character as a teenager, as well as two other characters, and the glimpse of the magical lore intrigued me. Overall, it wasn’t a waste of time and I do plan to read the next book in the series someday as I do want to follow the characters as well as learn more about the lore.

41139191Reciprocity by Sean M. Locke. A very unique story set in a dark sci-fi world about a lesbian mafia goon who finds herself in the middle of a gang war as she helps a noblewoman retrieve a dangerous family weapon prototype off the streets, and falls for her in the process. The writing is slick and clever, the world-building is captivating, and the characters are cool and complex. Thoroughly enjoyed this book and very happy to know that the author himself confirmed that there will be a sequel because the two main characters of this story definitely deserves it.

44172434Swinging Sanity by N. F. Mirza. A poetry book where pain and darkness are beautifully expressed. From the title to the art to the words themselves, the book is an excellent package. My favorites are: “Clash of Extremes”, “Insomniac”, and “A Million Dead Stars”. This was also not part of my TBR but, once again, I picked it up out of curiosity. Totally worth it.

 

That’s it for now.

Thanks for reading!

Quick Review – Reciprocity

Reciprocity by Sean M. Locke

41139191All Kaeri Hawen wants is a peaceful life in the Lower Terrace. No more collecting debts. No more breaking kneecaps.

But then the Boss’s loose cannon of a son massacres a dozen rival gangsters with a single pull of the trigger. Kaeri’s quiet retirement is off the menu—for now.

Kaeri knows she’ll get no rest if this looming gang war erupts into the streets. If she wants out of her life of crime, she’ll have to stop Kasper and his devilish weapon first.

Maria Cantabile is a clever young noblewoman with a penchant for tinkering and a devastating right cross. She’s descended into the Lower Terrace to retrieve two precious possessions: her delinquent little sister, and the stolen prototype of her reciprocating repeater carbine.

Kaeri knows just where to find both—the girl and the gun sit in Kasper’s greedy, bloodied hands.

The deadly noblewoman and the gold-hearted gangster will have to work together to stop a city-wide bloodbath. They’ll have to break their own rules, and betray their own families. They’ll have to risk falling in love. Do they have what it takes to save the Lower Terrace, and save each other?

This dieselpunk crime fantasy is perfect for readers who enjoy the hard boiled noir fiction of Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammett, but want to see more LGBT romance and airships. If that sounds like your shot of whiskey, check out RECIPROCITY!

 

REVIEW: An excellent sci-fi noir mobster story with a lesbian lead | ★★★★★

I am not that much into mafia stories and I was not able to relate to everything here, but boy, oh, boy, is this a solid piece! The writing is slick and clever, the world-building is captivating, and the characters are cool and complex. I would definitely love to follow Kaeri and Maria in another adventure, perhaps in a sequel? ;)

Review originally posted on Amazon.

(Not So) Quick Review – Throne of Glass

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas

40220795Read the book that started the phenomenon. Sarah J. Maas’s New York Times bestselling Throne of Glass series has taken the world by storm.

Meet Celaena Sardothien.
Beautiful. Deadly. Destined for greatness.

In the dark, filthy salt mines of Endovier, an eighteen-year-old girl is serving a life sentence. She is a trained assassin, the best of her kind, but she made a fatal mistake. She got caught.

Young Captain Westfall offers her a deal: her freedom in return for one huge sacrifice. Celaena must represent the prince in a to-the-death tournament – fighting the most gifted thieves and assassins in the land. Live or die, Celaena will be free. Win or lose, she is about to discover her true destiny. But will her assassin’s heart be melted?

 

REVIEW: Enjoyable if you don’t take it seriously | ★★★☆☆

I feel like the main character Celaena Sardothian being given the label “the greatest assassin” is a huge insult to the term “assassin” and I really resent the book for that. She has the behavior, attitude, and mentality of a modern-day teenager because she is a teenager (although not supposedly in modern-day), and actually, there’s nothing wrong with that. But she’s as immature as teenagers tend to be, and to label her an assassin just to make her look cool is bringing down the coolness factor of the word “assassin”. The way she reacts to and views certain things are quite normal for a teenager but somewhat laughable for an assassin. There was a part where I actually laughed out loud because she was upset that she was not invited to the ball. This “greatest assassin” is upset that she was not invited to the ball. LOL! I wish there was this angle of “she was a trained assassin but is just now learning how to be a teenager” coming-of-age theme just to make her immaturity a bit more believable. We could also maybe get flashbacks of her past kills from time to time. But we get neither of these and instead we have an immature assassin at best.

The romance is a bit bland because instead of it being the “forbidden romance” between assassin and prince, it felt more like two teenagers being attracted to each other where I’m more inclined to let them enjoy their youth (so stop being overdramatic and just go for it!), than to feel any kind of weight or stakes for this kind of romance. I guess this is supposed to be a love triangle… and I’m actually rooting for the other guy — who, by the way, seems a bit young and inexperienced for a “captain” (yet another term whose coolness factor is brought down).

The tournament itself is also problematic. We have elimination tests that are set so far apart, and they’re not even that elaborate. And we are informed of some of them in hindsight and kind of dismissively. And in between these tests the participants are required to train — but why would established assassins, murderers, thieves, etc. need to be given time to train? It would have been much more believable if this whole thing was like a young assassins academy or something and they are on their way to graduating by performing these series of elimination tests. Also, the action is really lacking, which is weird because introducing a main character as an assassin usually implies a lot of action.

There is also a mystery plot where people in the castle are being killed horribly. To avoid spoilers, let me just say it ended up to be underwhelming for me.

Now that I’ve given my negative points, I’m gonna start with the positives.

The cover art looks good. That’s all!

Haha, kidding. From the get go I realized that this book is on the less mature side of Young Adult, so I decided not to take it so seriously and try to enjoy what I can.

Removing the assassin aspect to it, Celaena is not exactly unlikeable. Although I never felt that she was cool, I feel that she is a relatable character (for teenagers, not assassins) who can stand on her own. I love that she enjoys reading and is resourceful. More often than not, her connection to Chaol, Dorian, and Nehemia are enjoyable to read and I find these friendships believable. Dorian is not particularly interesting, but Chaol and Nehemia are. I never really believed him as a Captain, but Chaol feels like that honorable dependable buddy for both Celaena and Dorian. Nehemia is probably the most intriguing character in this story and that’s all I’m gonna say about her (to avoid spoilers).

The pacing of the story was also good. There were only few moments that felt dragging or too fast. The writing was very accessible and although not perfect, it was quite decent. And it played a huge part on why I enjoyed the book in spite of my frustrations with it. Another thing that kept me glued to the story is the intrigue behind the magical lore.

In the end, despite having major problems with it, I still managed to enjoy this book, with the hope that the next ones are better.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Quick Review – Theonite: Planet Adyn

Theonite: Planet Adyn (Book 1 in the Theonite Series) by M. L. Wang

42946515Joan is at her happiest when she uses her powers – stirring air currents, creating fire, and levitating metal objects – but she learned at a young age that no one in her small-minded suburban town was prepared to accept her abilities. Since that painful revelation, she has hidden her powers, isolating herself from others, even keeping her own parents at a distance.
However, all that changes when a boy named Daniel Thundyil transfers to her school and she begins to suspect that he is concealing powers of his own. Burning with curiosity and desperate to end her loneliness, Joan makes it her mission to get to the bottom of this boy’s secrets. What she doesn’t realize is that Daniel isn’t just another Earthling with uncanny abilities; he is an inter-dimensional traveler from a world of super-powered beings. And the moment she started prying into his life, she put herself in the sights of the godlike evil that follows him from his dimension.
Now, the most powerful girl on Earth faces a choice: will she retreat back to the safety of her life in hiding or brave the storm for a chance at truth and friendship?
For Daniel Thundyil and his crime-fighter father, Robin, adventures in exotic places are nothing new. The two of them have chased criminals all over their own planet of super-powered beings. But this is the first time a mission has brought them to a parallel dimension, and something about it doesn’t sit right with Daniel. Questions gather like storm clouds: Who is this villain they are hunting? Why won’t Robin reveal his name? As the sky darkens, Daniel and Joan start to wonder who is really being hunted.

 

REVIEW: An endearing coming-of-age superpower story | ★★★★☆

The portrayal of Joan as a child with superpowers is quite endearing because we get to see how she grows as a child with superpowers, how she harnesses them, and how she realizes that she must hide them. Ultimately, she meets a boy Daniel who seemingly has abilities too and we get to see how she deals with that. I enjoyed the book because I really like the main character a lot. We do get a glimpse of action, but I’m left wanting for more. I do wish for a lot more showing than telling in terms of Daniel and his father Robin’s background but it seems well thought out and intriguing. This is definitely a promising series.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Quick Review – Reflections

Reflections by Briana Morgan

35034255“Rama would trade almost anything for the chance to become someone else, even for a little while.”

In the small, rural town of Aldale, West Virginia, Ramachandra “Rama” Ganeshan wants nothing more than to avoid dressing rooms for the rest of her life. After a brutal assault destroys her confidence and self-esteem, she yearns to be someone else . . . someone pretty, popular, and loved—until multiple girls in town are found murdered.

After stumbling across her beautiful classmate’s body and a terrifyingly familiar face in the murderer, Rama encounters a group of shapeshifters who know more of the killings than they let on.

Only by earning the shapeshifters’ trust and becoming one of them will Rama be able to help serve justice.

But first, she must learn to love herself and confront her painful past—and find the courage to investigate the violence.

 

REVIEW: A decent read | ★★★☆☆

The struggles of young Ramachandra in dealing with trauma and her own self-esteem felt realistic especially for a teenager like her. I like that the intrigue of mystery and magic is added in as well, which makes the concept quite interesting. I wish though that the fantasy elements in this story were used more and explained more, further justifying its purpose. Overall, it is a decent read. I love the touches of Indian culture and the Additional Resources at the end regarding sexual assault.

Review originally posted on Amazon.

(Not So) Quick Review – Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony

Echo Volume 3: The Dialectic of Agony by Kent Wayne

34114908While Crusader Kischan Atriya fights to keep his life and sanity, his mentor Chrysalis Verus undertakes a perilous journey across the wilds of Echo. Their separate paths intertwine in the unlikeliest of places and across all borders, both psychic and physical.
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REVIEW: Glorious mech and “magic” | ★★★★☆

This third installment is a more in-depth exploration of the world of Echo as well as the psyche of our broken hero Atriya and his enlightened mentor Verus. Both the sci-fi and supernatural elements in this were enjoyable to read, most especially the intense action. A few philosophical elements were also inserted here, and I especially enjoyed Verus’ interaction with the “Flow-riders” as well as Atriya’s conversation with the Regent.

Verus’ journey in the desert was a change of perspective and change of pace from the previous book’s fast-paced action which centered on Atriya. She does eventually encounter some action herself, this time with manipulation of Kaia (which is somewhat akin to magic) rather than advanced military tech like Atriya. Gribbles the Tokage lizard added a little bit of quirk, and that scene with Gribbles and Atriya was completely unexpected but enjoyable to read nonetheless. I’ve seen documentaries about dolphins and orcas lifestyles and intelligence, which really fascinated me, so a particular scene with the dolphins was quite endearing.

Intriguing as Verus was, the highlights of this book, though, were definitely Atriya’s scenes. From him sleeping in such a horrible apartment to his epic battle in the Wastes with his Exo, I was with him in both slow scenes and intense scenes. I was genuinely full of dread when I came across the term Enhancile (what? again?? now???), and was internally screaming for him to stop boosting when he kept doing so (have you not learned from Cityscape 87?!). The world-building continues to be excellent and the way Atriya navigates it is thought-provoking. The sci-fi elements and military jargon are so cool to read as well and I especially like the terms Judge, Jury, Enhanciles, Enforcers, Crusaders, Specters, Harvesters, Orbital, Ascension, Regent, Dissident, Kaia, “approaching shatter”, and how they are used within this world (“Wraiths” not so much, but we’ll see). The epilogue in the hospital was especially heartbreaking because I know a lot of people are suffering that way in the real world.

It’s so ironic that Verus considers Atriya as someone incredibly important, while Atriya himself is questioning his own purpose and survival.

(Some things I didn’t like were when the narration gives descriptions of specific real-world things which are not part of the current timeline of Echo because it takes me out of the story and reminds me that I’m reading a book where apparently the author is a fan of this and that. It makes me think of the author rather than the story, and therefore takes me out of the story. Like maybe describe a pose as something cool or majestic rather than saying she looks like a samurai; or describe the music as something empowering or energizing rather than saying it came from Pacific Rim, “an Old Earth classic”. Basically I’m not fond of these Old Earth references, although I do like that Atriya is old-fashioned, with his revolver and such. Note that I love Pacific Rim and the soundtrack, but some of my friends did not, and it didn’t do as well as it should have in the box office so I don’t think it will be a “classic”… see? I’m thinking these things when I really didn’t need to when reading this story. Good thing there were no references to Evangelion or Gundam or anything like that, then my mind will go to emo fifteen-year-olds piloting mech LOL. This also goes for directly naming the specific martial arts styles that Verus uses as the fight is still ongoing. It is impressive indeed but you can’t be thinking of the specific name of the fighting style your friend is using while you are in a life-and-death situation. That only happens in anime! But then, I’ve never been in a life-and-death situation so what do I know? The phrase “spooky action at a distance” also took me out of it because that’s what Einstein called quantum entanglement, and I felt that it wouldn’t take me so much out of it if the narration had just mentioned “quantum entanglement” instead. My brain got interrupted in the middle of the story because it reminded me that Einstein was wrong about quantum entanglement. I can’t be thinking about Einstein while reading a book that had nothing to do with Einstein. But anyway, this is just me. Other readers might love all these references. And with that, I’ll end my nitpicking. Also, sorry for nitpicking.)

Overall, definitely a compelling read. On to the next one!

Review originally posted on Amazon.

Quick Review – Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes

Echo Volume 2: The Taste of Ashes by Kent Wayne

51t2xvzk2bcl._sy346_Most of us change gradually—over the course of decades. For Crusader Atriya, it will happen in a single, agonizing day. On the edge of a decaying cityscape, Atriya struggles to hold onto his identity as he faces death from both enemies and allies alike. In the process, his old self is torn away, and he catches a glimpse of what he may one day become.

Twelve hundred years ago, humanity left Earth to settle on Echo. Despite hopes for a golden age, an era of darkness fell. Government and corporations merged into the Regime. The military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement. Over half the planet is covered by crumbling cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in Atriya, but before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

 

REVIEW: A thrill to read! | ★★★★★

Whew! I actually finished this right after reading the first book (Echo Volume I: Approaching Shatter) and it actually felt like a complete package like that. In any case, this entire second book is action packed and such a thrill to read, from start to finish. Can’t wait to read the next installment! Hang in there, Atriya!

Review originally posted on Amazon.

 

Quick Review – Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter

Echo Volume 1: Approaching Shatter by Kent Wayne

26308563In the late 21st century, humanity left Earth due to multiple resource shortcomings aggravated by an acceleration in climate change. They settled Echo, a planet that was nearly a carbon copy of Earth except for being devoid of all but the most basic life forms. Fast forward 1200 years later. Echo has endured over a thousand years of dark age. Corporations and government merged early on, becoming the oppressive authority known as the Regime. Military and police merged into the Department of Enforcement, their only mission to crush the huge network of rebels known as the Dissidents. Over half the planet is covered by decaying cityscapes and the elite live high above, removed and remote from the greater populace on the moon-city of Ascension. Hope lies in one man, a former Enforcer named Atriya. But before he can break the cycle of darkness and ignorance on Echo, he has to do it within himself.

 

REVIEW: Intriguing but unresolved | ★★★☆☆

The story in this novel is unresolved which caught me off-guard. I’m glad the author included the first three chapters of the next book because this one ended where it was getting more intriguing. I bought the next book immediately.

I do like the world-building, but I wish there were more showing than telling because the first half of the book was too much descriptions and background that it couldn’t hold my interest and several times I had to put it down.

I was very much engaged during the second half, though – Atriya being a character I enjoyed following, and the author’s writing style to my liking – that by the time the novel ended, I was ready to dive into the next book.

Atriya has a lot to overcome, both physical danger and mental distress, and from what I’ve read from the next book, it seems like it’s gonna be a thrill ride and I can’t wait.

Review originally posted on Amazon.