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By Jessica Brister On 12 Nov, 2017 At 04:09 PM | Categorized As Books, Editorials, Featured, Opinion, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarWhen looking at epic fantasy series, many times a first book can be a little slow, typically concentrating on a lot of set-up for later books.  Initially, when I heard about The Way of Kings, the first book in Brandon Sanderson’s Stormlight Archive series, the most talked-about feature was the one-thousand plus page length.  When my husband brought home the hard-cover edition, I took one look at that thing and immediately put the title on the back-burner.  I went through Sanderson’s Mistborn series and liked it, but I thought that I was going to have a hard time getting into a first book that long.

I was totally wrong.

 The Way of Kings is one of the best fantasy books that I have ever read.  Actually, it is probably one of the best books I have ever read period, and I don’t say that lightly either.  As a former English teacher, I have many wonderful titles on my list of must-reads.  I have to say, though, The Way of Kings really is a fantastic read.  Here’s why:

Despite the epic length of The Way of Kings, the story is extremely fast-paced.  Sanderson is an expert at dangling little pieces of information at the right points to make the reader want to keep reading, despite the daunting size of the text.  The story revolves around a handful of characters living in the inhospitable land of Roshar, a land of storms and stone.  This book focuses on Kaladin, a former soldier turned slave, as he struggles with his purpose in life and the group of slaves he adopts as his own.  They truly are dealing with horrific conditions as the kingdoms of Roshar battle a mysterious enemy who killed their High King.  But as Kaladin tries to keep his men alive, he begins to realize that they are not much more than cannon fodder, and the righteous war that they were supposed to be fighting is beginning to turn into nothing more than a petty political scheme.

The nobility of the kingdoms in Roshar are obsessed with money, power, and Shardblades and Shardplates—extremely powerful weapons and armor from a different era, one which is lost in the echoes or Roshar’s distant history where the Knights Radiant protected the land from true horrors.  One book that recounts some of the former glory of these guardians is The Way of Kings, a text that Brightlord Dalinar Kholin is obsessed with.  The brother of the slain king, Dalinar believes that the book has some secret meaning that may affect the future of the kingdoms.  Not everyone around him is so sure, since many doubt Dalinar’s sanity.

Meanwhile, in a seemingly irrelevant but extremely important side story, a young woman named Shallan must figure out a way to steal an enormously valuable item from Dalinar’s niece, Jasnah, in order to restore her family’s position in society.  While getting close to Jasnah, Shallan soon discovers that Jasnah’s research may hold the key to the Knights Radiant and the real reason behind the war.

The Way of Kings covers everything from political intrigue to the horrors of war to racism and inherent bias.  There’s something for everyone.  Despite being such a lengthy novel, there’s not any filler.  Everything is important and as the story unfolds, the details masterfully build upon each other.  The story is also beautifully written.  Sanderson is an accomplished writer who creates prose that is truly an art form.  I do not say this about many contemporary authors.

One of the best aspects of The Way of Kings is the setting itself, which has a unique feel from most standard fantasy novels.  Roshar is a weather-beaten land where plants retract in and out of the rocks and most typical animals are crustacean-like beings with tough shells to withstand highstorms, which are fierce hurricane-like tempests that will destroy anyone and anything in their path.  Cities and towns are built specifically with these storms in mind, and travel can be a quite rough.  The lore and history as well as the cultures and people of Roshar are fascinating and add depth to the marvelous world Sanderson has created.

The main characters are memorable and relatable.  I happened to really connect with Kaladin, and I ended up learning a few things about myself through his eyes.  All of the main characters have multiple flaws but also many redeeming qualities, making them believable and realistic.  The reader is drawn in to their plights and is concerned for their well-being, wanting them to succeed.

There are multiple conflicts: some from other characters, some from the war, and some that are internal struggles, which creates a well-rounded story line.  Yes, it might be a hefty read, but everything pulls together so nicely that most readers probably won’t mind.  I certainly didn’t.  In fact, I felt a bit lost after finishing it.  I got that let-down feeling after I finish a book when it is so good that I never want it to end, and when it does end, I get depressed.  The Way of Kings did that to me.  Luckily, I was a little late to the game when I read it, so it didn’t take me very long to get my hands on the second book, Words of Radiance (review coming soon).

The Way of Kings did come out in 2010, so this review may appear to come out at an odd time, but don’t forget that the third book of the series, Oathbringer, will be out November 14, so this is a great time to play catch-up if you haven’t started on this series yet.  I cannot praise these books enough.  They really are the next great fantasy series of our time.

Oh, and those who enjoy listening to their books, the book tape version of The Way of Kings is amazing.  I did one read through and one listen through of the book and cannot say enough about the production of the audio book.

By Jessica Brister On 25 Jul, 2016 At 10:19 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews, Toys and Merchandise | With 0 Comments

No GravatarA lot of geek parents often like to share their various fandoms with their children. Call it the perks of being a totally cool parent and all. I am no exception. I love doing geeky stuff with my daughter. When Disney purchased the Star Wars franchise and the release of The Force Awakens, there have been a lot more novelty items out there for fans to love than there used to be. My daughter received a boxed set of Star Wars Little Golden books for her birthday that follow the first six movies. If you don’t know, Little Golden books are children’s books with a gold-colored binding on them. Many of you may have read them as kids or are currently reading them to your kids. I read Episodes I through III with my daughter, and we moved on to the meat of Star Wars: Oh, yes, it’s time for A New Hope!

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Star Wars: A New Hope (Little Golden Book Edition) was written by Geof Smith and illustrated by Caleb Meurer. It was published in 2015 by Golden Books. I got this particular book in a packaged deal with five other Star Wars episodes as children’s books, but for the purpose of this review, I will only be discussing A New Hope.
The book focuses on the main plot points of the movie. Young Luke Skywalker dreams of bigger and better things when he meets Obi Wan Kenobi, a Jedi who wants to show him the ways of the force. On a desparate mission to deliver a set of stolen plans for a battle station capable of destroying planets, they meet up with a smuggler and a beautiful princess. The rest is history. Of course, I’m assuming that if you are interested in this book, you probably already know the rest, so I’ll spare you the details.
I adored being able to go through the little kid’s version of A New Hope. There is something very special about sharing this story with my daughter. The story itself works really well as a kid’s book. Well, except for the fact that an entire planet is destroyed, but I thought the book did a good job of glossing over that fact and sticking to the characters instead.
The book is aimed at older children and has no rhyming or rhythm to it. It is definitely story-oriented instead of focusing on teaching a concept. The book only comes with regular soft pages with a hard cover, so you may want to watch this book with very young children. They tend to like to destroy things, and this is very much not a board book.
The illustrations were great, though the faces looked a little more mature than some of the previous illustrators in this Little Golden Book series. They really helped further along the story when necessary. There are pictures on every page as well as text, and they kept my daughter’s interest as we read through it.

Overall, this is a cute book as a novelty Star Wars children’s book. It is a fun way to share your love of the franchise with the movie that started it all. I recommend it for any geek parent.

By Jessica Brister On 21 Jul, 2016 At 08:34 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarSharing your favorite geek fandoms as a parent is one of the many awesome things about having little ones. As my daughter has gotten older, I have started to slowly introduce her to some of my favorite geeky things. Now that Disney owns the Star Wars franchise and with the release of The Force Awakens, there are a lot more novelty items out for fans to enjoy. My daughter received a boxed set of Star Wars Little Golden books for her birthday that follow the first six movies. If you are not familiar, Little Golden books are children’s books with a gold-colored binding. You may have read them before as a child. After reading through The Phantom Menace and Attack of the Clones, my daughter and I continued through to Revenge of the Sith.

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Star Wars: Revenge of the Sith (Little Golden Book edition) was written by Geof Smith and illustrated by Patrick Spaziante. It was published in 2015 by Golden Books. I got this particular book in a packaged deal with five other Star Wars episodes as children’s books, but for the purpose of this review, I will only be discussing Revenge of the Sith.

The book focuses on the main points of the movie. Anakin and Padame are secretly married, and she is pregnant. War is continuing to rage against the Republic and the Separatist army. There are a lot of battles and fighting, and then the inevitable descent of Anakin into the dark side. I’m assuming that if you are interested in this book, you probably already know the rest, so I’ll spare you the details.

Revenge of the Sith was definitely the best of the prequels. However, it did not translate over very well into a children’s book. Even though the author did the best that he could with making the plot a little more kid-friendly, reading it to my daughter was kind of depressing. I thought that the pacing was right for a children’s story, but the story itself just did not fit well. This is not a knock at the author. I’m not sure what else he could have possibly done.

The book is aimed at older children and has no rhyming or rhythm to it. It is more story-oriented instead of focusing on teaching a concept. The book only comes with regular soft pages with a hard cover, so you may want to watch this with very young children if you decide to purchase it. Since it is not a board book, your very little one might tear it up.

The illustrations were well-done and at least tried to make the book a little more child-friendly. It was a tough story to draw, based on everything that happened. There are illustrations on every page with text, and the pictures did a good job of furthering the narration when needed.

Overall, I really liked this book as a novelty children’s book. However, I would caution any parent with the content of the story. It’s a little down. Actually, it’s kind of depressing. You may want to skip this one until your kids are a bit older, but that is one hundred percent your call as a geek parent.

By Jessica Brister On 19 Jul, 2016 At 06:10 PM | Categorized As Reviews | With 0 Comments

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As a geek, I love Star Wars.  As a former English teacher, I love Shakespeare.  When you combine the two, I am in heaven.  That is exactly what has happened with the William Shakespeare’s Star Wars series.  Someone has gone through and re-written the classic Star Wars movies into Shakespearean plays.  I received Episodes IV through VI as a set and think they are an absolute blast to read.  I have already done a review for A New Hope and will be concentrating only on The Empire Striketh Back for the purposes of this review.
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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: The Empire Striketh Back was written by Ian Doescher and was published in 2014 by Quirk Books.  At this time, the first six Star Wars movies have been published in this series so that nerds like me can collect them all.  I found out that the author decided to write these books because George Lucas purposely put archetypal characters in Star Wars, and Shakespeare is the master of archetypes.  This was definitely an interesting and creative idea of rewriting different Star Wars movies into the form of a Shakespeare play.

The Empire Striketh Back is essentially Star Wars: The Empire Strikes back in iambic pentameter with stage direction, like it is a true Shakespearean play.  The plot has stayed the same, but the dialogue has been greatly changed.  It was extremely fun to read, though it will probably not be for everyone.  It definitely fits a niche group of readers.  I’m assuming that if you are interested in this book, you are already familiar with the story and will focus more on some of the key differences.

Though most of the book was as expected: The Empire Strikes Back turned into Shakespeare, there was one interesting twist that I want to discuss and that is the diction and style of Yoda, which was quite interesting.  Yoda speaks with the characteristic and very memorable dialect, which is inverted.  There are also many, many Shakespeare lines which are inverted as well because that was the dialect at the time.  So what was the author to do? Invert the dialogue again so that Yoda spoke normally?  Keep Yoda doing the same thing?  Just quote the lines of Yoda from the movie and be done with it (He sounds Shakespearean enough, doesn’t he?)

Well, the author chose a completely different way, which I admire, since this was a difficult issue…because you know how Star Wars fans are and all…When I say that, I mean crazy and all.  Because they totally are.  Instead of what you might expect, Yoda spoke in haiku.  It was beautiful and all.  It was unique.  I thought it was great given the difficulty of mastering a character who has already existed in cannon for a long time in a language that is archaic.  For those who have an issue…do you have your own deal for Star Wars in Shakespearean language?  No?  Okay then.

There were also some issues with Boba Fett, but then again, when aren’t there issues with Boba Fett?  Seriously, if you have been following the Star Wars universe as much as I have over the last couple of decades, Boba Fett has been a  crazy topic to try and mess with, which is why I won’t.  Have fun and all.  In the meantime, I thought that his character was done as best as could be done.

The book was a great rendition of Star Wars plus Shakespeare.  This book is not for everyone, but for the small sub-set of people who love geeky things and classic literature.

By Jessica Brister On 13 Jul, 2016 At 01:31 AM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews, Toys and Merchandise | With 0 Comments

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Did you know that someone put all of those Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim books into a set of physical, hard-bound books? No? Well, neither did I, until I shockingly received one for my birthday. And then I totally fell in love with the novelty of it all.
23308496The Skyrim Library Volume 1: The Histories was (obviously) written by the talented people at Bethesda. However, it was published in a physical edition in 2015 by Titan Books. What you get is a fairly nice hard-bound book with the Skyrim logo indented on the front and back covers, plus the name of the book done the same way on the front.
The contents includes all of the history books from the game, some Skyrim books, as well as Morrowind and dragon books. It’s a pretty nice collection for those who love everything Elder Scrolls, especially Skyrim. There is nothing new here, however. It’s just a reprint of the virtual books in the game.
The real treasure in this book are the illustrations, which are gorgeously done. They are not on every page. Some are done half pages. Others are complete pages. But they are beautiful. From Skyrim landscapes to characters to weapons, this is a beautiful edition to any collector. All of the pages are tinted to a beige huge with a “worn” look on them, so this is not an average printing.
A word of caution: This is a novelty book. Plain and simple. If you love Skyrim so much that you would want this on your bookshelf, then guarantee that you will love this book. If you casually love Skyrim, then it’s probably not going to spark your interest. If you have no idea what I’m talking about, just move along.
By Jessica Brister On 15 May, 2016 At 04:03 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarThe geek in me loves Star Wars. The English teacher in me loves Shakespeare. So why not combine the two and make people just like me extremely happy? Well, this actually is a thing. Someone has gone through an re-written the classic Star Wars movies into Shakespearean plays. I received Episodes IV through VI as a set and think they are an absolute blast to read. For the purposes of this review, I will only be concentrating on A New Hope, or as it has been so aptly renamed: Verily, A New Hope.

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William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope was written by Ian Doescher and was published in 2013 by Quirk Books. At this time, the first six Star Wars movies have been published in this series so that nerds like me can collect them all. Doescher decided to write these books because George Lucas purposely put archetypal characters in Star Wars, and Shakespeare pretty much is the king of archetypes. It was pretty much a match made in heaven to rewrite the stories in the form of a Shakespearean play.

Verily, a New Hope is essentially Star Wars: A New Hope in iambic pentameter with stage directions. The plot has stayed the same, but the dialogue has been greatly changed. It was definitely a fun way to read a story that I’ve watched and read so many times before. I’m assuming that you are familiar with the basic plot of the story if you are reading this, so I will focus more on how this version differs from the original.

Besides the traditional Shakespearean format and rhythm and rhyme, the book is written from the perspective that the reader already knows the plot twists in The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi. There are several asides that let a couple cats out of the bag. There is also an added scene that I thought was interesting where Luke, after the trash compactor seen, holds up the storm trooper’s helmet he had been wearing and does an aside like Hamlet did with the skull.

It was interesting to see how different parts of a story set in space would work on a stage. Sometimes, instead of seeing the action, a character will just go ahead and tell you what just happened. The big battle at the end was done as characters just standing on the stage, representing that they were in a ship. Honestly, it’s probably the best that could be done as a play.

One thing that got to me—and this isn’t an actual issue with the book—was some of the iconic Star Wars lines had to be replaced by something that sounded Shakespearean. The Han Solo scene on the Death Star on the detention block with the com speaker was just…not as good for me. It’s really nothing wrong with the book itself. That’s just me being crazy about certain Star Wars things. It can’t be helped.

I loved that the story was separated into a traditional five act play and split up into scenes. The story was divided perfectly to demonstrate the rising action and climax. It’s actually interesting how well A New Hope fit as a Shakespearean play. It felt natural. It didn’t feel forced at all.

Overall, this was an excellent addition to my collection of Star Wars literature. It obviously caters to a very small niche of people, so it is definitely not for everyone. Regardless, I really enjoyed it, and I think that any literary/Star Wars geek will love it.

By Jessica Brister On 14 May, 2016 At 11:43 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarMany geek parents often like to share their various fandoms with their children. I am no exception. I love doing geeky stuff with my daughter. With Disney’s purchase of the Star Wars franchise and the release of The Force Awakens, there have been a lot more novelty items available. One of the cuter items that I have seen is Little Golden Book editions of all of the Star Wars movies. If you don’t know, Little Golden books are children’s books with a gold-colored binding. Many of you may have read them when you were kids. Well, I read the Phantom Menace version with my daughter and thought that it was a cute way to share Star Wars with her.

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Star Wars: The Phantom Menace (Little Golden Book edition) was written by Courtney Carbone and illustrated by Heather Martinez. It was published in 2015 by Golden Books. The book that I received was actually a packaged deal with five other Star Wars episodes as children’s books, but for the purpose of this review, I will only be discussing The Phantom Menace.

The book obviously follows the main highlights of the movie. As much as I really disliked it as a movie, it’s kind of cute as a children’s book. Qui-Gon Jinn and Obi-Wan Kenobi try to help out with the blockade of the planet Naboo by the Trade Federation. They end up escaping with Padame and meeting a young force-talented boy. The rest is history. It’s kind of funny because of how convaluted the politics were with the movie, but in a children’s book, it sticks with the main plot and makes it sort of enjoyable. Don’t get me wrong, I still think that The Phantom Menace is an abomination. However, it’s a little more bearable when you are reading it to a child.

It is really for older children, so there is no rhyme scheme to it. The book is not for very young children who like to tear at pages, since it is not a board book and is more focused on telling a story than teaching.

The illustrations were quite cute and very child-friendly. Even characters who could be considered “scary” for a young child like Darth Maul or Darth Sidious were a little more friendlier-looking for the younger audience. There are illustrations on every page with text as well as a few pages that are full illustrations. The pictures did a great job of furthering the narration when needed.

Overall, I would rate the book highly since it does its job as a novelty children’s book: tells a tale full of action and adventure, where good wins over evil. Obviously, it’s still The Phantom Menace, so I was cringing at bit at some of the parts. However, I felt that it was well suited for kids and was actually quite cute.

By Jessica Brister On 14 May, 2016 At 10:33 PM | Categorized As Featured, Reviews | With 0 Comments

No GravatarI will have to admit that as a geek parent, I often purchase items for my daughter that are for nostalgic purposes or are just plain geeky gimmicks. When I saw the children’s book Goodnight Darth Vader, I knew that I just had to have it because…why not? (I ended up putting it on her wish list, and my sister got it for my daughter as a birthday present.) I think it’s cute that there are so many geek novelty items out there that I can share with my daughter. This particular Star Wars-themed children’s books is particularly adorable in all of the right ways. It brings back a lot of nostalgia for adults, and is fairly cute for the kids.

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Goodnight Darth Vader is a children’s book written and illustrated by Jeffrey Brown. It was published in 2014 by Chronicle Books. Brown has written previous Star Wars-themed children’s books such as Darth Vader an Son (2012) and Vader’s Littler Princess (2013). Goodnight Darth Vader continues the tradition of combining the rhythm and repetition of children’s books with cute pictures and Star Wars content. It parodies the classic children’s book, Goodnight Moon.

The premise of the book is that Darth Vader needs to get his children, Luke and Leia to bed, as if they were a somewhat normal family. The rest of the book goes through saying “goodnight” to all of the familiar Star Wars characters from the original trilogy to the prequels. It’s definitely a nostalgia trip for the adult reading the book, though I’m not quite sure if the young child will appreciate it as much.

The “good nights” go (mostly) in chronological order from The Phantom Menace to Return of the Jedi. Every two pages rhyme, so when you open the book, each set of pages go together. Some of the rhyming doesn’t flow as nicely as other sets, but for the most part, it’s an enjoyable book to read aloud to a child.

The artwork is definitely the best part of the book. It fits the tone and feel of the book quite well. Each page has a fairly full color comic-like drawing of a particular Star Wars scene. Sure, it’s cutesy, but it is a children’s book after all.

Though the book is very enjoyable, I wish that there was the option of getting it as a board book so that it is a little more toddler-proof. I could only find it as either an e-book or as a hard cover with soft pages. Overall, though, I think this is a great buy for Star Wars fans who would like to share their fandom with the younger generation.  Yes, it’s a bit of a gimmick, but I don’t think most adults who are considering purchasing this book will mind.