Review of A Court of Wings and Ruin By Sarah Maas

The Court of Thorns and Roses #3

At almost seven hundred pages, The Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah Maas runs by Sarah Maaslong. Maas’ world building shines, however, as a highlight of her writing style. She describes settings with complex and lavish detail, from clothes to palaces to landscapes. All components pull you into the faerie world she creates.

Written in first person point-of-view, the reader meets characters and sees events through Feyre’s (the High Lady of the the Night Court) eyes. At times the narration has a feel of third person because of the multi-character development. The reader may think the narration is objective in those scenes, although that clearly isn’t the case.

Maas primarily focuses on conflicts between her fairie world characters, however, the plot includes talk of vulnerable humans, who will suffer if those with magic don’t protect humans from the more power-hungry courts. Plenty of plot twists, derived from the elaborate faerie world Maas creates, embellish the story.

Interview with Sarah Maas on YouTube

It’s always fun to get to know the person behind the story and what the author imagines about their characters.  An interview with Vilma Gonzalez from Sept. 2016 on the USA Today website does just that.

If you enjoy the Court of Thorns and Roses series, you may enjoy Leigh Barduga’s Shadow and Bone, although Barduga’s story has some coming-of-age elements in her main character arc.

For those interested in writing:

Maas shines when writing multi-person scenes. Her group scenes replace ‘he said’/’she said’ dialogue markers with nuanced descriptions that give characters personality, while allowing the reader to track who is saying and doing what. This is a special skill in writing worth reading Maas’s work to learn from.

Review of A Court of Wings and Ruin By Sarah MaasA Court of Wings and Ruin (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #3) by Sarah J. Maas
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #3
Published by Bloomsbury Childrens Books on May 2nd 2017
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 699

Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Roses series.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin's manoeuvrings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit – and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords – and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Book Review of Mis-Chi-Mas by Janet Oakley

Book Review by Redd Becker

Janet Oakley chose a fascinating time period of Northwest history for the by Janet Oakleysetting of her novel. Before the US/Canadian border was defined, militaries of England and the USA maintained outposts there. Mix with that a plethora of indigenous tribes and immigrants from Hawaii, and a truly dynamic stew forms.  Oakley taps into it all.

Mist-Chi-Mas tells a love story between an English widow and a white man, Mr. Breed. The romance doesn’t overpower the story, however, it definitely drives it. The story’s focus is on Jeanne Naughton, who must navigate the constrictions of her place in a society that is intolerant of independent women as well as unforgiving of human foibles. Mr. Breed is an honorable man, but prejudices against his indigenous friends taints many of his efforts to do the honorable thing.

Oakley does a great job of introducing varied cultures and the effect they have on each other. Cultural tension between all groups broils beneath everything, whether English or U.S., military or civilian, indigenous or white. Hoodlums lurking in each of those groups spice the intrigue further.

The reader learns about early shipping within Puget Sound to Vancouver Island and Hawaii, small pox and life before the law. In the latter respect the novel contains elements similar the western genre.

Oakley created compelling characters with in-depth personalities in a satisfying story. I enjoyed how she wove history in the plot without  overpowering the story.

Janet Oakley The History Weaver

Oakley has written many historical-fiction novels. Tree Soldier won the Chanticleer Book Reviews Blue Ribbon Award of Grand Prize for Published Novels in 2012. Oakley’s web site highlights her books and awards.

For those Interesting in Writing:

Although characters, plot and rich historical fiction engaged me while reading Mist-Chi-Mas, minor copy errors interrupted the story’s flow. A final proofread is invaluable for all indie authors.

Genres: Historical Fiction

Review of Ask and It is Given, teachings of Abraham

By Esther and Jerry Hicks

Book Review by Redd Becker

Esther Hicks, also known as Abraham Hicks, has published many books under Hay House. This has been my favorite go-to book for years. Besides containing Abraham Hickstwenty-two short chapters that cover various wisdoms, there are twenty-two exercises. The exercises are designed to improve your quality of life on the daily level.

There are many wonderful self-help authors today. Often they provide the same messages, but with different words or from a slightly different angle. For me, Esther Hicks rings true. Her perspective is vital for maintaining joy in a conflicting/contrasting world and on the way to manifesting one’s desires.

This is not just a woo-woo spiritual book from a channel of Abraham teachings. The exercises are hands on tools. A go-to book for those interested in the self-help genre. Although spiritual in nature, the teachings advocate no religion. Doing the exercises need not conflict with anyone’s religious believes.

Abraham on YouTube

The Abraham Hicks official YouTube channel contains lots of information. Esther has also been very generous in allowing parts of her seminars published on YouTube by a plethora of individuals.

Review of Ask and It is Given, teachings of AbrahamAsk and It Is Given: Learning to Manifest Your Desires by Esther Hicks, Jerry Hicks, Wayne W. Dyer
Published by Hay House on October 1st 2004
Genres: Non-fiction, Religious
Pages: 314

State per scoprire come ogni evento, voluto o no, si verifichi grazie alla più potente delle leggi universali, la Legge dell'Attrazione. Una legge che si basa su alcuni principi semplici ed essenziali. Si tratta dell'entusiasmo nel perseguire uno scopo, il sentirsi pronti per un impegno spirituale profondo, lavorare sodo e ogni giorno per ottenere un certo risultato e il ringraziare sempre l'universo sentendo gratitudine nel cuore. Con la prefazione di Wayne W. Dyer.

Review of The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

Redd Becker Book Review

Angie Thomas writes with heart, humor and a keen awareness of by Angie Thomaswhat needs to be said. Her characters are interesting, accessible, believable and painful. Besides containing all the elements I look for in a good read, the plot comes through as one of the most relevant of our day.

A coming-of-age story set in the heart of the ghetto. As Starr and her family negotiate strife between the police, each other, the  King Lords and their community, we gain a heart-wrenching and heart-felt perspective of one aspect of black culture.

Nothing is really black and white, and Thomas brings the nuances of personality, conditions and humanity into full color in her novel. The characters are so real that I felt like I was there, (even though I can not claim to truly understand the circumstances). I laughed. I shuddered, and at times, Thomas had me cringing with embarrassment.

Black culture looms as a vital part of American culture. African Americans have  influenced everything about all of us, from fashion, music, sports, schooling and more; to our guilt, grit and perseverance. So much of ‘who we are’ is influenced by Black culture, and yet only African Americans can truly understand their dynamic subculture. The rest of us must catch a glimpse through story’s such as Angie Thomas’.

All kids in predominantly white schools across our country would benefit from reading The Hate U Give (THUG).

Well Deserved Awards for Angie Thomas

National Book Award Nominee for Young People’s Literature (2017)Boston Globe-Horn Book Award for Fiction (2017)Kirkus Prize Nominee for Young Readers’ Literature (2017)Goodreads Choice Award for Young Adult Fiction & for Debut Goodreads Author (2017)

Few novels boast over 4.5 stars with over 78,000 reviews on Goodreads. Thank you Ms. Thomas for a great read. I look forward to more.

Review of The Hate U Give by Angie ThomasThe Hate U Give by Angie Thomas
Published by Balzer + Bray on February 28th 2017
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Coming of Age
Pages: 444

Sixteen-year-old Starr Carter moves between two worlds: the poor neighborhood where she lives and the fancy suburban prep school she attends. The uneasy balance between these worlds is shattered when Starr witnesses the fatal shooting of her childhood best friend Khalil at the hands of a police officer. Khalil was unarmed.

Soon afterward, his death is a national headline. Some are calling him a thug, maybe even a drug dealer and a gangbanger. Protesters are taking to the streets in Khalil's name. Some cops and the local drug lord try to intimidate Starr and her family. What everyone wants to know is: what really went down that night? And the only person alive who can answer that is Starr.

But what Starr does or does not say could upend her community. It could also endanger her life.

Review of The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler

First in the Kingfountain Series

The Queen’s Poisoner is one of those books that doesn’t fit a specific age range. While written in the style and level of a YA novel, the main protagonist is only eight years old and adults play the focus to the primary plot-line and most subplots.

A boy goes to court as a hostage to insure his parent’s loyalty to a cruel king. The parents have already failed the King’s tests of loyalty, however, which places the boy at risk of being killed. Old Queen's Poisonerpalace alliances come together–some in efforts to save the child, while others hope to get rid of him. The previous Queen’s Poisoner appears as the boys best hope for survival. With magical powers imparted to her from the Fountain, she plots to trick the king into pledging his allegiance to the child, instead of killing him. The obstacles are many, while the boy’s life remains in the balance.

Although the king holds Owen’s life in his hands, Owen realizes that he is not entirely bad. The king appears selfish and cruel to most people, however, Owen begins to understand that loneliness and issues of trust can impact even the greatest of kings.

Owen develops allies in the Queen’s Poisoner and the king’s spy. An unexpected friendship with another child, Elyzabeth Victoria Mortimer also comes into play. The antics of the two children add comic relief throughout the story. Hurrah for the humane humor Wheeler incorporates. Always welcome in a story.

The Queen’s Poisoner Leaves You Wanting More

By the end of the book we wonder how Owen will use the magical powers he develops in future escapades with Elyzabeth Victoria Mortimer. If you enjoy this story, as I did, you won’t be disappointed that Wheeler followed up with five additional books in the series.

Why do I like this book better than many YA stories of palace intrigue? Wheeler includes enough conflicting motives and plot twists to keep the reader guessing, some funny, some intriguing. I also liked that action, intrigue and complex character motivations didn’t overpower underlying philosophical themes.

Wheeler’s Religious Bent Adds Depth

It was not surprising to find that Jeff Wheeler claims that his religion  and membership in LDS  (Latter-day Saints) are his highest priority. Although Wheeler doesn’t preach his religion, the values he brings from his believes provide depth to the palace intrigue of his stories.

He incorporates an understanding of basic life issues and includes many life lessons in the The Queen’s Poisoner. Love of family and loyalty serves as the thread that holds Owen together. That and the friendship he forges.

Wheeler challenges Owen with lessons in loneliness, his own, as well as the king’s. And through Owen we learn the value of keeping secrets and that we can’t believe everything we hear, especially about other people.

Chapter 1 Analysis

The first chapter of The Queen’s Poisoner introduces Lady Eleanor, and Owen, her youngest child. Lord Kiskaddon soon arrives, anxious because he has betrayed the king in a pivotal battle in which their eldest son died. Now, another child must go to the king as hostage for Lord Kiskaddon’s loyalty.

The chapter ends with a plethora of questions. The primary question however being which of Lady Eleanor’s children will be sent as the hostage.

Chapter 1 presents Lady Eleanor’s point-of-view (POV). Her perspective clearly establishes the bond between her and her son, Owen. Her POV in this chapter however breaks continuity with the rest of the book in which we read from Owen’s POV.

There’s lots of telling rather than showing in the novel, but plenty of amusing action in scenes keep the pace flowing. Long paragraphs often define details of the world and one line paragraphs interspersed periodically provide needed visual and literary relief.

Excerpts by Dominic, a spy in the court, opens most chapters, including the first. The journal entries are written in first person as a diary from the 10,000 foot level. By putting these snippets at the beginning of chapters readers acquire knowledge unavailable to Owen.

Review of The Queen’s Poisoner by Jeff WheelerThe Queen's Poisoner (Kingfountain, #1) by Jeff Wheeler
Series: The Kingfountain series #1
Published by 47North on April 1st 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Religious, Young Adult
Pages: 334

King Severn Argentine’s fearsome reputation precedes him: usurper of the throne, killer of rightful heirs, ruthless punisher of traitors. Attempting to depose him, the Duke of Kiskaddon gambles…and loses. Now the duke must atone by handing over his young son, Owen, as the king’s hostage. And should his loyalty falter again, the boy will pay with his life.

Seeking allies and eluding Severn’s spies, Owen learns to survive in the court of Kingfountain. But when new evidence of his father’s betrayal threatens to seal his fate, Owen must win the vengeful king’s favor by proving his worth—through extraordinary means. And only one person can aid his desperate cause: a mysterious woman, dwelling in secrecy, who truly wields power over life, death, and destiny.

Review of The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

Book Review by Redd Becker

Although I’m not a fan of horror, I took the opportunity to dive into Rick Yancey’s novel, because it received the Printz Honor Book award. The gruesome is definitely forefront. Each chapter contains monsters by Rick Yanceyand blood and gore and horror. The story is so well written, however, that I understood the American Library Associations choice.

Written in first person, as a sort of diary by Will Henry, we learn about an underground world we only imagine in nightmares. From chapter one, when Will and his mentor receive the bodies of a dead girl and a headless monster who has half eaten her, the story does not let up. The monstrumologist, Dr. Warthrop, sets to work dissecting the dead bodies. The looming issue, however, remains How many  more monsters remain? The unlikely pair contact help and make plans to search out the rest of the clan of Anthropophagus monsters.

There are few monstrumologists and few of them are equipped to help in the pursuit. As a new species to the country that immigrated to New England, they quickly adapt to their circumstances and threaten to eat the entire village. Will Henry and the doctor are on a quest to exterminate the pod of Anthropophagus before the species feed on the entire village and continue to spread.

If you’re squeamish about blood and gore, Rick Yancey’s book isn’t for you, because gore predominates in every chapter.  Written with personality and quick-clipped voicings, the reader stays engaged with the twelve years old protagonist. Will is young for what he’s doing, but reality isn’t a concern as we go with the story anyway.

Rick Yancey Receives Printz Honor

Yancey writes with finesse. Undoubtedly that’s why the American Library Association granted him the Michael Printz Honor for Excellence in Young Adult Literature. The story wouldn’t convince me to read more horror, but I enjoyed Yancey’s interpretation. For those who enjoy horror, I’m sure it would hit the mark.

The Michael L. Printz Award is an award for a book that exemplifies literary excellence in young adult literature. It is named for a Topeka, Kansas school librarian who was a long-time active member of the Young Adult Library Services Association. For more award winners check out the lists on their web site.

Review of The Monstrumologist by Rick YanceyThe Monstrumologist (The Monstrumologist, #1) by Rick Yancey
Series: The Monstrumologist #1
Published by Simon Schuster Books for Young Readers on July 20th 2010
Genres: Alternate History, Horror, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 434

These are the secrets I have kept. This is the trust I never betrayed. But he is dead now and has been for more than forty years, the one who gave me his trust, the one for whom I kept these secrets. The one who saved me . . . and the one who cursed me.

So starts the diary of Will Henry, orphaned assistant to Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, a man with a most unusual specialty: monstrumology, the study of monsters. In his time with the doctor, Will has met many a mysterious late-night visitor, and seen things he never imagined were real. But when a grave robber comes calling in the middle of the night with a gruesome find, he brings with him their most deadly case yet.

A gothic tour de force that explores the darkest heart of man and monster and asks the question: When does man become the very thing he hunts?

Review of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly Barnhill

by Kelly Barnhill

Kelly Barnhill reminds us that updated fairy tales still have a place in Kelly Barnhillyoung adult literature.  She incorporates a plethora of iconic images and arctypes in forming the story. Stars, the moon, a  dragon, a tower prison, a witch in the forest who eats children, orphans, nuns, a mad women and helpless babies. Even a cloud of doom covering the village harkens back to fairytale imagery. A slight tweek to the iconography was a delightful dragon that didn’t grow up.

As with any good fairy tale or fable sprinkled within the story are words of wisdom such as forgiveness, fear of what others tell you, overprotecting those we love and the power of hope.  “It’s awfull to be cut off from your own memories.” “The answer is too easy, my friend. Look deeper.” I found Barhill’s messages about orphans and adoption, however, somewhat idealized.

Barhill sets the story between a village covered in the cloud of doom around a large bog and a forest. Her travels walking in Costa Rica influenced her choice of location and descriptions.

Kelly Barnhill Wins the 2017 John Newberry Medal

Review of The Girl Who Drank the Moon, Kelly BarnhillThe Girl Who Drank the Moon by Kelly Barnhill
on August 9th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Middle Grade, Magical Realism
Pages: 388

Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and delivers them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. 

One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule -- but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her -- even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known.

The acclaimed author of The Witch’s Boy has created another epic coming-of-age fairy tale destined to become a modern classic.