Wednesday, March 21, 2018

Audiobook Review: Aftermath - Empire's End By Chuck Wendig

Star Wars: Aftermath: Empire's End By Chuck Wendig
Publisher: Del Ray Books
Release Date: February 21st, 2017
Format: Audiobook Narrated by Marc Thompson
Source: Audible
Summary Via GoodReads

My Rating: ★★

Goodreads ★ Amazon  B&N  TBD
Following Star Wars: Aftermath and Star Wars: Life Debt, Chuck Wendig delivers the exhilarating conclusion to the New York Times bestselling trilogy set in the years between Return of the Jedi and The Force Awakens.


As the final showdown between the New Republic and the Empire draws near, all eyes turn to a once-isolated planet: Jakku.

The Battle of Endor shattered the Empire, scattering its remaining forces across the galaxy. But the months following the Rebellion’s victory have not been easy. The fledgling New Republic has suffered a devastating attack from the Imperial remnant, forcing the new democracy to escalate its hunt for the hidden enemy.

For her role in the deadly ambush, Grand Admiral Rae Sloane is the most wanted Imperial war criminal—and one-time rebel pilot Norra Wexley, back in service at Leia’s urgent request, is leading the hunt. But more than just loyalty to the New Republic drives Norra forward: Her husband was turned into a murderous pawn in Sloane’s assassination plot, and now she wants vengeance as much as justice.

Sloane, too, is on a furious quest: pursuing the treacherous Gallius Rax to the barren planet Jakku. As the true mastermind behind the Empire’s devastating attack, Rax has led the Empire to its defining moment. The cunning strategist has gathered the powerful remnants of the Empire’s war machine, preparing to execute the late Emperor Palpatine’s final plan. As the Imperial fleet orbits Jakku, an armada of Republic fighters closes in to finish what began at Endor. Norra and her crew soar into the heart of an apocalyptic clash that will leave land and sky alike scorched. And the future of the galaxy will finally be decided.
I have to say that the Aftermath Trilogy is not my favorite of the new Star Wars expanded universe stories. I think I would have actually given this book a lower rating if I read it instead of listening to the audiobook. Marc Thompson is an amazing author and I love to listen to Star Wars books because there is a good chance he is the narrator. I think he does an amazing job with all the different voices that he produces in this book. There are quite a few of them and I think he pulls it off really well. There are a few that sound a little too similar, but I was able to forgive it because he's just so good! Thompson's narration is probably why I actually decided to finish this series in the first place, instead of just DNFing the rest of the series after the first one.

This book was okay, but again like the other two books in this story, we get stuck with these useless "interludes". WHY??????? Granted some of these are important to the story because we get Rax's background with The Emperor and I did like the Lando one, but the rest don't really matter to the overall story. The Lando interlude just left me with more questions and I wanted to know what he was doing this whole time. I like the "main" storyline in this book, and I would have liked this one better if these interludes just weren't included at all. They annoyed me so much!

The story is interesting, and I liked that we get to see Mon Mothma just be a straight up cunning politician. I also feel conflicted because it feels like she does some shady stuff in this book. I thought the new republic were supposed to be better, but it just feel like the same stuff different name type of thing.

I do love Noora and her crew. I loved that they all kind of became a family together. My heart wrenched for her in this book. That woman has gone through hell and back, and somehow makes it out alive. Poor Wedge! I felt so bad for him in this book. I like this ragtag of rebels so much, that I think it's why I hung in there to finish this series out.

This book isn't my favorite and at the end of the book I felt like I had more questions that answers. You get The Battle of Jakku in this novel, so you understand why it's the way it is when we see it in The Force Awakens, but there are still a lot of things I need to know. Like, who exactly was Rax? And how does Snoke play into all of this? Also, where the hell is Luke? We know Ben (AKA Kylo Ren) hasn't been born yet, so where does Luke fit into the mythology of what happens between Return of The Jedi and The Force Awakens. I think we are slowly getting trickled down books to explain things, but this trilogy was not enough.

I also want to talk about Rae Sloane. I am very conflicted by her, because I don't really like her, but I also don't really hate her. I don't like The Empire, but I think a lot of that stems from knowing that Palpatine was straight up evil. Sloane believes in the stability of The Empire and believes it is something "good." She is one of the Imperials that really wants to promote peace, but she believes that the way The Empire does it is the right way. There's a part in the novel where The Empire does something really backhanded and she is used as a distraction, and this horrifies her. Sloane wants to do everything by the books, but she also thinks the rebels are terrorists. I have to admire her for wanting to fight for what she believes in. I also don't know if either The Empire or The Rebellion are "right", I think it's a little more complicated than that.

I'm not thrilled with this Trilogy, but I think if you want to know what happens directly after Return of The Jedi they are a good place to start. Also if you want to read about The Battle of Jakku.

Have you read the Aftermath trilogy? What did you think?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, March 19, 2018

Bookish Thoughts: Reflecting on Blogging for Books Closing

Today on Bookish Thoughts I wanted to talk about Blogging For Books and how after ten years they are shutting down the program! I've been participating in this program for a long time, and I started it early on in my book blogging career. So I wanted to just reflect on my experience, and how I feel about them shutting down.

So Blogging for Books has been a cool experience. It was the first time I was ever offered books from a publisher, so I definitely think participating in this has opened up some doors for me. This was before I started requested ebooks on Netgalley. I have to say that I have been turning to Netgalley more, so I don't think BFB shutting down is going to effect me that much. I have to admit their selection hasn't been that great, so I always felt "stuck" with making my choices. I ended up choosing things that I wouldn't necessary want to read. I basically tried to read stuff out of comfort zone and usually it was a bad time.

It's hasn't been all bad, I have found some really cool books that I don't think I would have discovered on my own!

Some of my favorite books that I got to review because of this program are all of the Divine Cities books by Robert Jackson Bennett. When I read City of Stairs I had NEVER heard of this author, and I loved this series. I was so glad I was able to read City of Blades and the conclusion City of Miracles. Another book I got from BFB was Arena by Holly Jennings. I had heard of this book before, but when I saw it on BFB I jumped at the chance and read it immediately. I also discovered The Martian from this program, which was one of the first books I read from this program.

I feel like I grew as a reviewer with BFB. I took a look back at some of my older reviews, and I think I was incredibly generous with my ratings. I think if I read some of those now I might have had some more 2- or 1-star reviews.

It's sad to see BFB closing down, and I am thankful for all the opportunities they have given to me to read new stories!

Did you participate in the Blogging for Books program? What did you like about the program? What were some of your pet peeves?

Happy Reads Everyone!

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Review: Book of Esther By Emily Barton

Book of Esther By Emily Barton
Publisher: Tim Duggan Books
Release Date: August 22nd, 2017
Format: Paperback, 448 pages
Source: Blogging For Books*
Summary Via GoodReads

My Rating: ★★

Goodreads ★ Amazon  B&N  TBD
Eastern Europe, August 1942. The Khazar kaganate, an isolated nation of Turkic warrior Jews, lies between the Pontus Euxinus (the Black Sea) and the Khazar Sea (the Caspian). It also happens to lie between a belligerent nation to the west that the Khazars call Germania—and a city the rest of the world calls Stalingrad.

After years of Jewish refugees streaming across the border from Europa, fleeing the war, Germania launches its siege of Khazaria. Only Esther, the daughter of the nation’s chief policy adviser, sees the ominous implications of Germania’s disregard for Jewish lives. Only she realizes that this isn’t just another war but an existential threat. After witnessing the enemy warplanes’ first foray into sovereign Khazar territory, Esther knows she must fight for her country. But as the elder daughter in a traditional home, her urgent question is how.

Before daybreak one fateful morning, she embarks on a perilous journey across the open steppe. She seeks a fabled village of Kabbalists who may hold the key to her destiny: their rumored ability to change her into a man so that she may convince her entire nation to join in the fight for its very existence against an enemy like none Khazaria has ever faced before.

The Book of Esther is a profound saga of war, technology, mysticism, power, and faith.
I wanted to like this book way more than I did. I actually had this one since October, but every time I picked it up,I just wasn't interested in it. I really tried, but I just could not get into this one. I think this book was an interesting coming of age story about a teenage girl that thinks she alone can save her people, but unfortunately it just didn't click with me. I don't think it's a terrible book, it just didn't work for me.

I like that this book has a focus on religion, because I don't read a lot of book that actively have religious practices effect the overall plot. In this book being Jewish is a huge part of Esther's life and it also deals with a lot of the conflicts in the novel. Later on in the book it gets into debate on who can be considered a "Jew" and there is a debate about if Golems are allowed to believe in the practices because they aren't human. While this was all very interesting, I was sold that this book would be more about the war and less about them spending an entire book walking to get an army and then walking back to go to the front. 

I think part of what turned me off on this book was that I was bored for half of it, so when it got to the interesting parts I had already checked out. I don't think the writing was bad, just the pacing of the plot made me uninterested. Esther spends a lot of time just traveling to the Kabbalists and then she spends a lot of time traveling back to her home. I don't know how it could have been tightened up, but it really just made the novel drag on and I was so bored. 

I was also starting to get annoyed with Esther thinking she was the only one that could solve this problem for her people. Like, why is she the only one, not the people in charge that have experience with battles? I think this is a YA book trope that is really starting to annoy me. We don't really get any of this answered either because the book ends kinda on a cliffhanger. It made me feel like there wasn't a huge payout for finishing this book. I was pretty annoyed with the ending, and I might have throw it across the room.

I just didn't enjoy this book, and there were key things that just made me not get into. I think these might be things specific to my own reading preferences, so I wouldn't want to tell someone not to read this book. If you can handle a slower paced plot-line and you are interested in a book seeped in Juddasism culture, then I say you give this one a try.

*I received this book from Blogging for Books in exchange for my honest review.

Happy Reads Everyone!

Monday, March 12, 2018

ARC Review: Chaotic Good By Whitney Gardner

Chaotic Good By Whitney Gardner
Publisher: Knopf
Release Date: March 13, 2018
Format: Egalley, 256 pages
Source: Netgalley*
My Rating: 

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD

Cameron's cosplay--dressing like a fictional character--is finally starting to earn her attention--attention she hopes to use to get into the CalTech costume department for college. But when she wins a major competition, she inadvertently sets off a firestorm of angry comments from male fans.

When Cameron's family moves the summer before her senior year, she hopes to complete her costume portfolio in peace and quiet away from the abuse. Unfortunately, the only comic shop in town--her main destination for character reference--is staffed by a dudebro owner who challenges every woman who comes into the shop.

At her twin brother's suggestion, Cameron borrows a set of his clothes and uses her costuming expertise to waltz into the shop as Boy Cameron, where she's shocked at how easily she's accepted into the nerd inner sanctum. Soon, Cameron finds herself drafted into a D&D campaign alongside the jerky shop-owner Brody, friendly (almost flirtatiously so) clerk Wyatt, handsome Lincoln, and her bro Cooper, dragged along for good measure.

But as her "secret identity" gets more and more entrenched, Cameron's portfolio falls by the wayside--and her feelings for Lincoln threaten to make a complicated situation even more precarious.

Man, this book hooked me from start to finish, and never let me go. I saw another blogger review this book, and I thought it was so very "me". So I requested it on Netgalley not really thinking they would give it to me, but I was granted it last week and I ate it up! I absolutely loved this book. It's the kind of book that I wish I didn't read, because I just want to re-experience what it was like to read this book the first time around again. 

This book is about an awesomely creative girl named Cam that is really into Cosplay. Cam is incredibly talented, but because she's not necessarily into the medium that she makes her costumes from she's getting a lot of hate online from a bunch of knuckle-dragging douche-canoes that think she is a "fake geek girl." I hate this phrase so much! It makes me so mad! Gate-keeping is wack! After having a bad experience at her local comic book store because she is girl, she starts dressing as a guy to see if she's treated differently, which she is, and she ends up entangled in a Dungeons and Dragons campaign with the boys thinking she is one of them! It's all the right type of shenanigans I want from a book. It also really made me want to play D & D! 

This book discusses a lot about what girls deal with when they like anything to do with geek culture. I honestly think the hostility and gatekeeping that happens in these tribes is probably why some girls just walk away from it. I don't think anyone has a right to tell someone what they like is wrong, or how they consume something is wrong. In the beginning of the novel Cam basically is given the "girl geek quiz" which is complete bullshit! I personally think a lot of these attitudes are changing, but there are definitely people in male-dominated circles that think girls need to "prove" that they are "worthy" of liking a thing.

Cam's creativity and all the insanely hard work she puts into making her costumes was so interesting to read about. I am 100% not that talented. Like I don't think my writing is as talented as Cam's costume-making. I have some mad love for cosplayers and what they do. They are putting their blood, sweat, and tears into their costumes and they deserve all the credit. Cam is definitely a character that has ambitions, but I also like that we see her very human flaws. She never asks for help when she needs it, and she doesn't exactly know where she is supposed to fit. I think it's something that as a teen I always felt, still do at times, so I could really relate to her plight. Thankfully, I have never gone through internet harassment like she does, but I know that for a lot of kids that have grown up in the digital age this is a common issue they face. I had a cousin that went through an extreme amount of cyberbully when AIM was a new thing, and I think it's the reason she's not really on any social media at all! 

I do have one bone to pick about this novel---THAT ENDING! What! It can't leave me with a cliffhanger like that! But also at the same time, I do really like that Gardner lets us decide for ourselves what the outcome is. 

This book was so good, if you loved Ashley Poston's Geekerella I think you would also really enjoy this book. The cover is amazing and absolutely perfect for this novel. Not sure who designed it or came up with the concept art, but I think they knocked it out of the park! Get your hands on this book now!

*I received a free egalley copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.
Happy Reads Everyone!

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Audiobook Review: The Magician King By Lev Grossman

The Magician King By Lev Grossman
Publisher: Books on Tape
Release Date: August 9, 2011
Format: Audiobook narrated by Mark Bramhall
Source: Library via Libby App
My Rating: ★1/2

Goodreads ★ Amazon ★ B&N ★ TBD

Quentin Coldwater should be happy. He escaped a miserable Brooklyn childhood, matriculated at a secret college for magic, and graduated to discover that Fillory—a fictional utopia—was actually real. But even as a Fillorian king, Quentin finds little peace. His old restlessness returns, and he longs for the thrills a heroic quest can bring. 

Accompanied by his oldest friend, Julia, Quentin sets off—only to somehow wind up back in the real world and not in Fillory, as they'd hoped. As the pair struggle to find their way back to their lost kingdom, Quentin is forced to rely on Julia's illicitly-learned sorcery as they face a sinister threat in a world very far from the beloved fantasy novels of their youth. 

When I read the first book in this series, The Magicians, I gave this series the benefit of the doubt. I thought I was going to like the sequel a lot more because it starts out in Fillory. However, that didn't really matter because it seems like our "hero" Quentin has had zero personal growth. It feels like he has learned absolutely nothing from the events of the first novel. It really annoyed me, because I thought maybe he would have been a more interesting character in his novel. Not the case! He's all, "Oh, woe is me, I get to be a king of Fillory, but I haven't had any adventures!" STOPPPPP!!!!

I was so not here for Quentin and his bullshit in this sequel. The novel was structured weird because it kept flipping back and forth between the present day and Julia's past. We see at the end of the first novel that Julia ends up with the group as a Queen of Fillory, but we don't know how she learned magic or why she is not "all together there." I was interested in Julia's journey, and honestly the book might have been more engaging if it focused on her entirely, and left out Quentin. *The reason that Julia is the way she is, is because she has gone through the truama of sexual assault. I really did not like this, because it felt like there was zero reason why there needed to be a rape scene in this novel about magic. I also feel like it was written off as a joke, there is a line that says, "This wasn't his first rodeo." WTF! That really pissed me off, and I think it was completely unnecessary to the story. The story tried to explain it by this is how Julia has become something not human, but I call bullshit. I think the author just wanted to get away with a rape scene in a book that 100% DID NOT NEED IT.

I also really found myself annoyed with the audiobook narrator in this one. I don't think it irritated me as much in the first book, but in this one it really started to grate on me. He pronounces the word "white" so weird, and since in Fillory they live in Castle Whitespire, I had to hear it all the time. He also pronounced the Egyptian god Anubis super weird! Is it just me? I just couldn't stand him, and I don't think I can stomach another audiobook done by this narrator.

I felt like this book was just entirely too long. It just also became apparent just how derivate of C.S. Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia this story really is. I'm really put off by this novel, and I don't think I'm going to be continuing with this series. I think there is only one more book in the series, but I can't stand another book about whinny Quentin Coldwater.

What do you think about this series? Am I being too harsh?

Happy Reads Everyone!