Book Review: Fantasy & Science Fiction

Book Review: Twelve Tales of Christmas by Cathleen Townsend

Posted on

Book Review: Twelve Tales of Christmas by Cathleen Townsend

Twelve Tales of Christmas cover copy copy

Why This Book 
The author and I connected via our WordPress blogs, which led to us developing an e-friendship. As it progressed, I realized how prolific she’s been, which made me curious to read a few pieces of her work. Given she writes in the fantasy realm, it was an opportunity for me to read more in this genre, as I normally don’t, as well as enjoy something by an author I’ve chatted with many times. I was also very interested as the holiday season is arriving and there are 12 short stories, so I could read it in small amounts without worrying about getting too overwhelmed by a new genre (but that didn’t work out, as it was so good, I read it ALL in one sitting)!

Approach & Style 
I read this collection on my iPad through Kindle Reader. It has 126 pages spread across 12 individual and separate short stories, some of which are a few pages, while others are about 25 pages long. It took me about 90 minutes to read the entire collection, stopping only once to make a cup of hot cocoa. It’s that kind of book!

Key Thoughts 
As a collection, this is fantastic and charming in its individuality and its entirety. The focus runs the gamut of angels, dragons, Santa, magic, romance, spirits, family traditions, elves, and much more. The imagination and inspiration within each of the stories are plentiful, especially in the way Cathleen Townsend weaves traditional with modern values. In the first story called The Gift, you are treated to a beautiful gesture based on something that happened in real-life (and she’ll reveal that connection in an upcoming post!). In another story, a father working as a mall Santa, is hoping to find enough money and time to buy presents for his children, as no one else is around to help. In a third, a treetop angel is dying and needs someone to help her maintain her tree — the family who she lives with is no picnic at first! The beauty in the basic elements of the story, the language and words crafted along the path, and the message readers take away is breathtaking on multiple levels.

Generally when you read 12 different stories, there will be a few you love, a few you think are okay and a few you don’t particularly care for. That’s not the case here; you will love or like them all. For the most part, I really enjoyed the shorter ones, as they had a bit less fantasy and a stronger message that connected with my own emotions or views on life. These are the types of stories you could read on a bus/train ride to work, at the coffee shop, waiting in a doctor’s office or standing in a line at a cash register — all the while improving your mood and giving you something fun and enjoyable to do. Or you could read them allowed as a family, maybe at a hospital to children around the holidays… so many options and types of content that will appeal to a variety of masses.

My two favorites: The Gift and Department Store Santa

Summary 
Cathleen is a remarkable author and blogger. I’m very glad to meet her and would recommend her collection of short stories to most any reader. You’ll walk away inspired and energized about humanity, and some of the characters aren’t all that nice! Please stop by my blog on Fri 12/22/17 for an author spotlight I’m doing specifically on her. You’ll be able to read one of her stories for free, as well as find out how buy/download her books in time for the holiday for free as well right now!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.
Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Advertisements

Book Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

Posted on

Why This Book 
I run a poll each month on my blog called the “Book Bucket List” where followers choose one book each month for me to read. November’s winner was A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas — and I’m quite glad it was! You can vote in December’s poll at https://thisismytruthnow.com; there are 12 books to choose from and I will read it mid-December.

court

Plot, Characters & Setting 
Feyre is a 19-year old girl trying to support her sisters and father, living by poor means in a very small hovel, as one character puts it, near the forest. The book opens with her attempting to kill a doe that could feed her family, but a wolf steps in her way. She considers the wolf might be a faerie, a creature she’s not allowed to kill, but ultimately reasons it is not. That’s the beginning of her mistake, as she kills the wolf, then takes both animals to feed and clothe her family. From there, the story evolves into a fantasy where she is captured by the High Fae and brought to a distant world to make amends. Everything she knew to be true about the faeries is not actually true. She falls in love with her captor, along the lines of a Beauty & the Beast re-telling, but the book is so much more. I can’t wait to read the second one as there is family drama, bonds of friendship, danger, love and morality.

Approach & Style 
This is the first book in the ‘A Court of Thorns and Roses’ series. I read this 420-page young adult fantasy novel on iPad through Kindle Reader. It took me about 5 hours over the course of 3 days to finish it. It’s told in first-person POV with a focus on Feyre, the main character.

Strengths & Suggestions 
I remember when one of the later books came out in the series earlier this year, seeing people going a bit nutty over the release. Some complaining how awful the books are, others loving them. I avoid fantasy under most conditions, but since this was the winner, I had to read it. I wasn’t thrilled with the first two chapters, but once Feyre leaves her land and goes back with the faeries, it’s an absolutely beautiful tale. I read for 3 hours non-stop, turning pages quickly, loving the words, the style, the setting and the character. It truly has a great deal to praise and I love the morality and lessons each character learns. It’s a great series with very few concerns. At times, it was a bit wordy (but so am I in my own books, I acknowledge that). It has a few open plot holes, but they might be resolved in a future book, so no complaints here. Overall, it’s a definite 4+ for me right now. I can’t wait to read the next one, probably in 2018 after I clear a few ARCs off my plate and finish my second novel. All I can say is for someone who isn’t always fond of fantasy, this was a fantastic book. Thank you to those who picked this book as my November read!

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll find the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge – words and humor. You can also find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin.

Book Review: Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo

Posted on

Book Review: I run a monthly poll on my daily blog where voters choose a book I read each month from my Book Bucket List. Last month, voters chose Six of Crows by Leigh Bardugo.

crows

Before I get into the review, a few housekeeping items… I do not normally read fantasy or young adult books as a regular part of my reading genres. I tend to prefer historical, contemporary, thriller or mystery fiction; however, I try to branch out each month and read something out of my ‘comfort zone.’ I love Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, The Book Thief, The Hunger Games, and many more, so I do often find myself with top ratings for books in fantasy and young adult. Before I opened Six of Crows, I had been warned the first 50 to 75 pages would be difficult until I was absorbed into the story, given all the background on the fantasy world and the new terms / descriptions; however, I was not warned it was almost 500 pages long. I probably should have put something smaller on the list that voters could have chosen! Let’s get into the review…

The plot, characters, setting, themes and perspectives are intense and beautiful. I could easily see the story unfolding before my eyes as I immersed myself into the new world. It feels like this could grow as popular as some of the other fantasy tomes I’ve read (see above) among various reader groups. It hits all the sweet spots for transferring your mind from the monotonous and ordinary to an explosively and wildly imaginative universe. The way character back stories are woven together, the order in how events unfold and the dynamics between so many of the major and supporting characters is well thought out, planned and developed. Kudos to the author for building such an amazing playground for readers to frolic in.

All that said, I struggled through the book – not because it wasn’t a good one – because it was so different from what I normally read and enjoy. I need clarity on a world when I read about it mostly because I like to figure out the connections and history of what’s going on. I wasn’t sure of the boundaries and parameters here because it could literally have gone anywhere (then again, that’s the point of fantasy, so it seems like an obvious statement). If I put my analytical cap on, I think had I watched this as a film to gain the broader perspective of all the components of the world and the character profiles, I might have had a strong enough baseline to let myself become completely absorbed in the book while reading it afterwards. Unfortunately, that isn’t possible at the moment, so I read it first.

One of the key things I believe in life – especially as a book reviewer and a writer – is to be honest and fair, but to also look at a situation from all perspectives. This is a tremendously good book with a huge and wide appeal for its audience. It wasn’t an ideal match for me as a reader, perhaps right now, or perhaps given its genre. That said, rating it is tough. Ratings are personal and reflect how a reader feels about a book, but as an author, I would hate for someone to rate my book poorly because it wasn’t a good match for them; because a reader doesn’t like it doesn’t mean it isn’t a fantastic book. It is in that tenuous space that I try to come up with a rating that is fair given all the circumstances. If I loved fantasy and this type of novel, it would hands-down be a 5-star rating. Because this is not something that normally appeals to me with great significance, it’s probably a 3-star rating. To be fair, I think the book deserves a middle-ground to represent the best of both worlds – my personal opinion and that of a critical reader and author.

4-stars to this book… while some may applaud my effort to be fair, others might yell at me for misunderstanding the book or not being creative enough. Either way, I would recommend this to anyone who loves this genre or even wants to explore the genre more. If you’re not a fan of this type of work, don’t start here. You won’t be able to absorb what is probably the true greatness of this book and its appeal until you’ve had a bit more experience in the fantasy world.

Kudos to the author… and hopefully people reading my review see that I did not follow my normal review style in this book, rather I took a step back to find the best approach for me to review it. Thank you to the voters in my poll. I’m definitely open to more fantasy, but perhaps I should start a bit lighter to grow into this genre. I think you voted A Crown of Thorns and Roses for November… here I go!

For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

About Me 
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I’m Jay, an author who lives in NYC. My debut novel, Watching Glass Shatter, can be purchased on Amazon @ http://mybook.to/WGS. I write A LOT. I read A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Book Review: The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden

Posted on Updated on

3 out of 5 stars to The Bear and the Nightingale by Katherine Arden, the first in a fantasy and historical fiction series about Russian fairy tales.

bear

Why This Book
I ordered this online many months ago based on the description I’d read in Goodreads. Then a friend of mine, Valerie, was planning to read it. We decided to do a buddy read together earlier this month.

Plot, Characters & Setting
A Russian girl loses her mother and her place in a family. She meets strange creatures who no one else can see. Her father remarries to provide her with a mother figure, then has more children. Something happens in the background where there is a war between religions, people and culture. It’s a battle to maintain your village and your family, but also to connect the past with the future.

Approach & Style
I read the paperback version over a two-week period. It’s 312 pages or 28 chapters long. Chapters are about 10 to 12 pages, told in third person.

Strengths
It had absolutely beautiful imagery and lyrical prose. You truly feel transported to a new world full of complex characters, interesting plots and high imagination.

There is a lot of great history and views on religion, politics and royalty. You believe you are in Russia dealing with true occurrences and fantastic situations.

Concerns
The language was too confusing for me, often leaving me wonder what was real and what was fantasy. I’m not normally a fantasy reader, so it might have been partially my fault.

Names on the characters change a bit too often, which made it slightly difficult for me to recall who each person was.

Final Thoughts
I had been in a reading slump and was working on the final chapters of my own book. I might have been distracted while reading this one. I wanted to love it, but I didn’t. I think it’s a strong book, and for that, I settled on a 3 rating. It is good, just not the right match for me.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

Review: The Return of the King

Posted on Updated on

The Return of the King Book Review
4 of 5 stars to The Return of the King, the third book in the “Lord of the Rings” trilogy, written in 1955, by J.R.R. Tolkien. After reading the first two books in this series, how can you not finish it with this one? I knocked them back between 9th and 10th grades, loving every minute of the imagination and struggle between good and evil. When I got this this final one, I already knew I’d be sad to say goodbye to all the characters I’d fallen hardcore for over the 1500 pages between the volumes. But when the movies came out, I had a chance to re-live the intensity of this drama… as taking on such large books with everything else I had on my reading plate, did not make sense. Watching them in film form tho lived up to many expectations. Of course, I loved the books more, but I still enjoyed the films and will watch them if I am skimming the channels and find one in play.

The flaws in each of the characters, as well as their journey, are immense but real. When you find out some of the changes in this book (no spoilers!) and people you thought were long-forgotten, it is brilliant. And seeing the evil forces fight the good forces… it’s just a version of the reality we face every day. All over a ring that provides power. But power is at the center of it all. And it’s one of the few books where I found myself happy with the ending.

I could talk about these forever, but I won’t bore you. I am not a big fan of fantasy, and have only read a handful of books and authors in this genre. These are a favorite across all genres for me, and it’s because of the creativity in Tolkien’s mind that I consider reading more in this genre. Before Harry Potter, we had a family of hobbits… who stole our hearts and taught us many lessons. Ones I still think of today whenever I need to weight the options before me. Please give them a chance! But start with #1…. you have to read them in order!

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by.

View all my reviews

Review: The Well of Lost Plots

Posted on Updated on

The Well of Lost PlotsBook Review
3 of 5 stars to The Well of Lost Plots, the third thriller and mystery book in the “Thursday Next” series written in 2003 by Jasper Fforde. For those new to the series, it’s a detective story where crimes occur inside books, and real-life people can jump inside the book to fix the problem or solve the crime. In book 3, things take a bit of a turn… Thursday, the main investigator, needs some down time, and goes to the “Well of Lost Plots,” where unpublished books go to die. But crimes and murders start happening there too… and it’s confusing poor Thursday because she doesn’t understand who would care about a book that hasn’t been published yet having its story changed! (Not sure how I feel about that as a writer myself…) But then she’s trapped inside a story she doesn’t know much about. That can be scary. The series is complex, full of fantasy and drama you never quite understand. The concept of the well of lost plots is delicious, but it made things even more complicated. It was here that I decided to stop reading the series as it started going over my head a little bit. I felt silly and inept! I may go back soon to pick it up again, as I’ve never read another series of books like it… and this one takes the cake of all 3 I’ve read to date.

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews

Review: The Two Towers

Posted on Updated on

The Two TowersBook Review
For as long as I can remember, I have loved serial fiction and saga stories. The Lord of the Rings trilogy and associated books by J.R.R. Tolkien are a treasure. I first found the books when I was 14 and had to re-read again when the movies came out in the last decade or so. The second book, The Two Towers, was a worth follow-up, enhancing every original love I had with the story. I’m generally not a fan of the fantasy genre, and have only read perhaps 20 books in total, less than 3% of my entire reading history. But something about these books absolutely stands out among to me as a truly amazing series. I liken it to Star Wars as a movie and film phenomena, when it comes to the saga story. But this one started out as a set of books, which makes it even more fantastic. My rating: 4+ of 5 stars

For me, although I loved all three in the series, the middle one was the least favorite, but they were all still 4+. The first one introduces everything and sets the stage. The last one is the epic battle. The middle one… pure awesome storytelling… but it’s the middle. Full of history, secrets, revelations, explanations… you learn the most here. But you also get a little overwhelmed with the sheet amount to remember. But I like that about it too. And to tell the story of dark versus light. To see people you love fall to their death. To think so much will change for the worse. It’s a challenge to decide which part of the story to love most.

If you’ve not read the series, it’s probably 2000 pages in its entirety. I still think you should read it… but start with book 1 of course. You can’t read out of order. Then let’s chat again! 🙂

About Me
For those new to me or my reviews… here’s the scoop: I read A LOT. I write A LOT. And now I blog A LOT. First the book review goes on Goodreads, and then I send it on over to my WordPress blog at https://thisismytruthnow.com, where you’ll also find TV & Film reviews, the revealing and introspective 365 Daily Challenge and lots of blogging about places I’ve visited all over the world. And you can find all my social media profiles to get the details on the who/what/when/where and my pictures. Leave a comment and let me know what you think. Vote in the poll and ratings. Thanks for stopping by. Note: All written content is my original creation and copyrighted to me, but the graphics and images were linked from other sites and belong to them. Many thanks to their original creators.

View all my reviews