Books

Book Review: A Myth to the Night by Cora Choi

I received a copy of the entire novel (it was released in parts) for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

I have had incredible luck with my ARCs. Until now, I have enjoyed every one of them. Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end, and I find myself writing my first negative review for this blog. Thank goodness there doesn’t seem to be a streak going on, as I am quite enjoying my next novel “The Younger Gods” by Michael R. Underwood.

Sometimes it feels like when authors choose to write a young adult book, they underestimate their readers. They simplify the language. They remove the details of their world. They keep descriptions to a minimum and let dialogue carry the story. They forget that children and teenagers are a lot more intelligent than adults give them credit for, and that a good young adult book is simply a book with young characters. I feel like “A Myth to the Night” falls into this trap.

Unfortunately, I could not finish it. The lovely cover drew me in, as did the synopsis. It opened with such promise, but about 20% in I decided I could read no more. This is a little fairy tale that needed more. It needed more world building. It needed more character development. It needed more editing. I wanted to love this story, I wanted to be drawn into it, but it just left me hanging.

A good fantasy novel is dependent on its world. The world in “A Myth to the Night” made no sense. I was treated to a society complete with cars, the internet, movies, television, and popular actors and actresses (names we have come to know and love). Yet, the government, run by a vicious ruling faction “The Order of the Shrike”, and history of the world did not resemble our own. If it was an alternate reality version of our world, where did it split? How did the factions come to be? Why did they hate each other? How can a ruling faction who lacks imagination (since they do not believe in telling stories of bravery) invent our modern technologies? How can they have movies and television without storytelling and mythology? None of these questions were answered and it just left me feeling muddled and confused. I crave information when I am learning a new fantasy world. I need to know how it works so I can imagine the characters living in it. Throw some one dimensional characters speaking in forced dialogue and some poorly edited text into this world and it creates a perfect storm of “I don’t care” and “I am totally done with this”.

 a myth to the night cora choi

Book Review: The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

I received a copy of this novel for free in exchange for an honest review. This has in no way affected my opinion.

Murder, political intrigue, science, mathematics, airships, and time machines. “The Time Roads” by Beth Bernobich is a smorgasbord of delicious steampunk and mystery elements. When I switched on my Galley of “The Time Roads”, I was not expecting a political thriller. Truthfully, I expected yet another steampunk story where the plot and characters are second to the quest to add as many fantastical elements to the world as possible. The mention of mathematics in the summary goaded me into requesting the novel, and I am glad I did. What I found was a mature and nuanced tale set in a believable alternate story.

The story opens and closes in the first person point of view of Aine, queen of Erie, in an alternative history where Ireland, not England, is head of the great western empire at the turn of the century. There is no East India Company here, but there are plots. Aine is not safe from those who wish to take or change her empire, all complicated by the work of mathmeticians and scientists that are striving to conquer time itself. In the beginning, Aine is young and scared. The books starts off feeling like it could belong to the new adult scene, but as the pages turn, the story evolves. The reader grows with Aine. I found myself wrapped up in her story. I wanted to follow her to the end.

As Aine and the other main characters, Siomon and Aidrean, delve into and face the consequences of time travel, we switch into the third person point of view. Each of the four intertwined stories , each with a different character behind the lens felt a bit disjointed at first. The switch between them was disconcerting and confusing. Rather than being put off by it, I was drawn in even more. Time travel is full of, to quote The Doctor, “Wibbley Wobbly Timey Wimey,” stuff. It is enough to make your head spin. The characters were confused by the twists and turns of the Time Roads. They were lost without a map, remembering events that didn’t seem to have happened, and seeing shadows of other timelines. I felt like my confusion mirrored theirs. I was a part of their world, facing it right alongside them.

I can see the separate points of view and stories within the story confusing some readers and putting them off of the story. Not many books attempt to confound the traditional linear structure of a story. It can be trying for those who are unaccustomed to it. The mathematical theorems might also confuse. I was lucky enough to have a math professor who had taught English previously regale us with stories of Pythagoras and other famous mathematicians. That knowledge definitely enhanced my reading experience.

This title is an excellent choice for adult steampunk fans who are looking for something a bit more mature than the usual offerings. I also recommend it for alternate history and murder mystery fans who may not have yet attempted steampunk before. I have not read anything quite like it before, and I think it will appeal to many different readers. Please let me know what you think if you decide to pick this title up!

The Time Roads by Beth Bernobich

Book Review: The Mystery of Dragon Bridge by Ann Howard

I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. That has not in any way influenced my opinion.

I was asked to review “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” by a good friend of mine, and son of the author. We were sharing a meal of homemade and thoroughly Americanized bibimbap and chatting the night away while my son played around us when he asked, sheepishly, if I reviewed children’s books. I happily said yes and a couple of weeks later had my copy in hand, knowing how incredibly awkward things could get should I not enjoy the book. Thankfully, we were spared the discomfort because I found everything about “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” to be utterly charming from the author’s authentic voice to the brilliantly detailed illustrations that graced the pages. “The Mystery of Dragon” bridge is the fulfillment of a lifelong dream to write and illustrate a children’s book and Ann Howard’s passion and dedication shows through on every page.

Illustrations are the heart of a good children’s book. Kids are visual creatures and fickle beasts. They lack the vocabulary and attention spans needed to digest massive blocks of text until they are well into their school years. The first thing I noticed about “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” were the striking paintings within, sometimes taking up an entire two page spread. The illustrations, reminiscent of old Chinese paintings, are colorful and imaginative, setting a perfect stage for the story.

The prose flow over the pages in a style that reminds me of oral storytelling. I can imagine myself hearing the tale from an elder in front of the fire, surrounded by eagerly listening children. It has the quality of a story passed down through generation after generation.

The entire story is steeped in the richness of Chinese culture. With simplified Chinese text right alongside the English text, it is a perfect fit for bilingual families and classrooms. It also invites a conversation about cultural diversity and identification in a classroom of students who do not speak Chinese. “The Mystery of Dragon Bridge” touches on and opens up the discussion to issues of environmental responsibility, community, and the importance of keeping promises and traditions. It is a great story to practice reading with, and would be a good addition to both classrooms and home libraries.

I would recommend this book for older readers if they are reading solo, perhaps second grade and above as there are several pages that only have text. I tried to read it to my three-year-old nephew and my one-year old son. The former was not very interested, and the latter attempted to eat the book when we reached a page with no pictures. My five-year-old nephew would definitely have been interested as he could interact with the mystery and take guesses as to where the bridge had gone.

My friend tells me that his mother will eventually tour in our neck of the woods (Powell’s Books). I have not met her yet, but I am eager to. It is wonderful to know that a mother has followed her dreams and created something so stunning. I look forward to collecting future books for my son to read.

The Mystery of Dragon Bridge by Ann Howard

Books in Transit Tuesday: Week 4

Last week I found it nearly impossible to spot the titles on book covers. This week more than made up for it. Unfortunately, I think I neglected to note a few, but there is quite a variety below. It was a good week for Jim Butcher with two ‘Dresden Files’ books popping up. I also spotting some pretty popular movie/book titles.

Here is what Portland commuters are reading this week:

 

 

Interested in one of these titles? You can find them at Powell’s.

Please note that the above link is an affiliated link.

Weekly Reading and Review Update- September 10th, 2014

Wow! It has been a few days since I last posted. A posting schedule like that just won’t do. Since I currently have several irons in the fire and none of them are quite ready to be pulled out, I figured why not let everyone know what is coming up?

Currently Reading During Commute

nest_esther_ehrlichNest by Esther Ehrlich

(Middle Grade)

I was invited to review this by the publisher through Netgalley. It is a beautiful story that I am savoring slowly because so much about the narrator’s life reminds me of the pains and triumphs of my transition into teenager from child.

Currently Reading Before Bed

the_book_of_life_deborah_harkness

The Book of Life (All Souls Trilogy Book 3) by Deborah Harkness

(Adult Fiction)

I could wax poetic about my love for this series and the author, Deborah Harkness. She is intelligent, funny, and has a way of telling a story that makes it come to life. The final book in the All Souls Trilogy series is not a disappointment. It is hard to put this one down when it is time to sleep.

Currently Listening To

off_to_be_the_wizard_scott_meyer

Off to Be the Wizard by Scott Meyer

(Adult Fiction)

I must admit, the 8-Bit cover drew me to this book. I haven’t had a lot of time to listen at work since things have been kind of crazy, but when I do have time, I drop into this one. It is a tongue in cheek play on the traditional “thrown into a fantasy world” idea. I find it thoroughly entertaining.

Upcoming Reviews

the_stone_of_valhalla_by_mikey_brooks

The Stone of Valhalla by Mikey Brooks

(Middle Grade)

4 Out of 5 Stars

the_mystery_of_dragon_bridge_ann_howard

The Mystery of Dragon Bridge by Ann Howard

(Young Readers)

5 Out of 5 Stars

Books in Transit Tuesday – Week 3

Last week’s commute turned up some highly rated books. I have only read the Giver off of this list, though there are a couple I would like to delve into. Has anyone else read “We Need to Talk About Kevin?” I am not sure if I could emotionally handle it without snuggling my son the entire time I was reading (something he would not exactly enjoy), though there is a part of me that really wants to pick it up.

Please note that the above links are affiliated links.

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