Book Review: Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

Title: Calamity
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Superheroes
Amazon rating: 4.6 stars

CalamityWhen Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David’s fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy.

David knew Prof’s secret, and kept it even when the Reckoners’ leader struggled to control the effects of his Epic powers. But facing Obliteration in Babilar was too much. Prof has now embraced his Epic destiny. He’s disappeared into those murky shadows of menace Epics are infamous for the world over, and everyone knows there’s no turning back…

But everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics—Megan proved it. They’re not lost. Not completely. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back. Or die trying.

Reviewed by David Wiley

The Review:

I wanted to read this book like a kid wants to eat a giant lollipop. I was excited to read the book just like the kid gets excited about lollipops, but I didn’t want it to end too soon just like the kid who gets the giant lollipop so they can savor the experience a little longer. Yes, this series will be full of  intentionally bad metaphors, and Calamity certainly had some memorable ones in there. The humor that Sanderson laced into this book, as well as the previous books, makes this a fun read while the action and intrigue makes it an entertaining romp through a world where superpowers don’t go to the good guys. Or, rather, it seems that everyone who gets superpowers turns bad, and they are known as Epics.

It is difficult to write a spoiler-free review of the final book in a trilogy like this, but I want this to be a comprehensive review for more than just this one book. I want someone to read this and go pick up the entire trilogy (Steelheart, Firefight, Calamity) plus the short between the first two (Mitosis). The Reckoners are back in action in this finale that certainly lives up to every expectation that it promised. The showdown that has been coming is epic. And Epic.

But that isn’t even the main target for the book. The one complaint that could be voiced is that once this big showdown is over, there isn’t enough time to properly build up for the other final showdown. But the plans of the Reckoners, especially those made by the main character, David, never work out like they should anyway so extra time to plan and scheme would have been prolonging a story longer than it needed to.

More information is learned about the powers that the Epics possess and how they came to get those, and some of those Epics seen in previous books take their powers to the next level in this one. Seriously, it is amazing what Sanderson had them doing with these powers.

One sign of a great trilogy is being able to reflect back, at the end, and see how things not only progressed from Book One to the ending but also to see how things in the early chapters allude to later events or become significant later on down the line. In that respect, Calamity delivers. I will always look back upon the Reckoners trilogy as a fantastic series. Steelheart was the first Sanderson book I ever picked up and I’ve been waiting anxiously ever since Firefight was announced shortly after I finished that book. I could herald this series for being about superpowers, which it certainly has plenty of that, but this series is so much more than a mere superhero series. It is action and excitement, mystery and intrigue, bad kissing and bad metaphors, exaggerated stories and mysterious backgrounds, and just plain fun.

I cannot recommend this book, and this trilogy, enough. Put it on your TBR list right now and you won’t regret it. Allow Steelheart to rope you in and you’ll thank me when you finish Calamity.

Just plain fun. #amreading #bookreview @AuthorDWiley #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: The Lady Astronomer by Katy O’Dowd

Title: The Lady Astronomer
Author: Katy O’Dowd
Genre: Steampunk
Amazon rating: 4.0 stars

The Lady AstronomerLucretia’s quiet life as an astronomer and hat-maker is quickly turned on its head by her brother. He is commanded by the king to build the grandest telescope in the land. Unfortunately for Lucretia, she is introduced to his majesty as her brother’s assistant. Her nights spent on rooftops gazing at the stars are replaced by adventure and danger. In a race to build the Forty-foot telescope on time for the king, her misfortunes take their toll. When Lucretia finds herself held hostage at the Clockwork Court, the innocent country girl doesn’t know who to trust. The lady astronomer finds court life to be more dangerous than she could have ever imagined. Even if her brothers manage to build the telescope on time, she might not live to earn her freedom.

With the help of her brothers, Freddie and Al, and her constant companions Leibniz the Lemur and Orion the Eagle Owl, Lucretia embarks on a journey that could change her life forever. Can she find the strength inside to balance her new life and overcome the obstacles threatening her destiny? Only the stars will tell.

Reviewed by Stacy Overby

The Review:

The Lady Astronomer by Katy O’Dowd is a steampunk tale of a young woman – Lucretia – and her two brothers.  One brother is almost a recluse, and the other is a bit of a troublemaker.  Lucretia is fascinated by astronomy and tries to focus her life around that.  Not much luck when one brother pesters the king enough to get the king to pay for building an enormous telescope.  When things go wrong, Lucretia ends up in hot water over it.

Likes:

I must say, this is my first foray into steampunk and I had fun.  I’ve always meant to find some, but just had not gotten there yet.  Overall, this is a quick, but enjoyable read.  The overall storyline was fun.  The pacing felt good.  The events lined up and made sense even as they continued to feel a bit off the wall, which worked for me in the context of the story.

I loved Lucretia’s personality.  She came off as a good mix of intelligent and feisty woman, yet a little naïve and uncertain of herself at times.  Lucretia made a good foil for her two brothers.  I also loved that she had a pet owl and a pet lemur, whom she scolded and treated like her children and it felt believable to me.

Finally, I enjoyed the balance of detail and action.  O’Dowd did a nice job of adding in just enough detail to create the world and give it that Victorian/technological vibe while making sure the action was not sacrificed in the process.

Dislikes:

The one thing that bothered me about Lucretia at times was that it felt like most of the story happened to her, rather than Lucretia acting to move the story along.  While I get that happens at times, it felt like Lucretia had some opportunities to change things, but did not.  She seemed a little too passive to me at times.

The other thing I struggled some with was the king and his behaviors.  He had been played up as this somewhat crazy Willy Wonka type character.  Then, toward the end of the book, his behavior changes quite a bit.  I didn’t see anything to have spurred that change, so it ended up feeling a little jarring to me.

Overall, I enjoyed the book.  For my first foray into the steampunk world, I think this gave me a good introduction.  And I love the fact there was a pet lemur in the story.  A solid 4-star book.  Check it out!

A quick, but enjoyable read! #amreading #bookreview @dontpanic2011 #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

Title: Maze Runner
Author: James Dashner
Genre: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Amazon rating: 4.4 stars

The Maze Runner

If you ain’t scared, you ain’t human.

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers—boys whose memories are also gone.

Nice to meet ya, shank. Welcome to the Glade.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out—and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Everything is going to change.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

Remember. Survive. Run.

Reviewed by Stephanie Ayers

The Review:

This story starts off with a bang and doesn’t quit until the very last period. Dashner carries you along without telling you where you are going, yet putting you right in the scene, letting you experience everything as Thomas does. He moves through time effortlessly and keeps the reader in a trance. It was really hard to put this book down to sleep!

Why I didn’t give it 5 stars? I really like descriptions, a new spin on an old cliche, and there aren’t a whole lot in it. This doesn’t distract from the richness and enjoyment of the story, just something I noticed a lack of. There’s no shortage of action, however, and these are well written.

This is a story along the Hunger Games and Divergent lines. It is nothing like those stories, however, it is in the same class. Unlike the other two, where you can almost tell where the story is going, in The Maze Runner, as soon as you think you know what is happening, the story changes and leaves you guessing again, bringing you deeper and deeper into the Maze.

Keeps the reader in a trance. #amreading #bookreview @theauthorSAM #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: Hot & Heavy by Sandra Hill

Title: Hot & Heavy
Author: Sandra Hill
Genre: Romance
Amazon rating: 4.3 stars

Hot & HeavyMadrene Olgadottir, an 11th-century granddaughter of a once-powerful Norseman, finds herself transported to the 21st century in Hill’s playful follow-up to Wet & Wild. Lt. Ian MacLean and his team of navy SEALs are hot on the trail of Jamal ben Hassan and his nest of terrorists in northern Iraq when they come upon Maddie, stinking of camel spit and who knows what else. Believing Maddie to be Jamal’s mistress, Ian takes her into custody. Cleaned up, Maddie turns out to be a babe, one that Ian (and his “dangly parts”) finds irresistible, so he isn’t too put out when he’s tricked into marrying her to facilitate the government’s cockeyed plan to ferret out terrorists in the U.S. using Maddie as bait. Though one would expect Maddie to be frightened by the high-tech world she’s been dropped into, she views this new world simply as an advanced civilization and takes it all in stride. Few authors can fuse erotica and drop-dead humor like Hill.

Reviewed by: A.L. Mabry

The Review:

I love a good time travel romance so this book was right up my alley. While the story was a little predictable, the humor was not. I found myself laughing out loud page after page. The star couple, Ian and Maddie, had an opposites attract thing going on and their spats kept me on my toes. With a well-developed cast of characters, complete with nicknames and backgrounds such as Esquire underwear model, priest, race car driver, linguist/college professor, and a genius who received his doctorate at the age of eighteen, as I felt as if I was among friends, chapter by chapter.

Maddie’s antics had me wanting to shake her at some times and nodding in solidarity in others as she fought between her heart and her honor. Her misunderstanding of common words and phrases was very funny, and at times ingenious!

Ian’s group of well-meaning friends and his overbearing have an uncanny knack for irritating him as they do their best to see him happy once and for all.

Maddie meets life’s challenge head on until she realizes she’s in over her head. Will Ian come to her rescue or will he decide the little Viking is more trouble than she’s worth?

This is the 5th book in Sandra Hill’s Viking series, yet it read extremely well as a stand-alone novel. I look forward to reading the others and more of Sandra.

Laughing out loud page after page! #amreading #bookreview @ScorpioScribes #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: I Am Princess X by Cherie Priest

Title: I Am Princess X
Author: Cherie Priest
Genre: Mystery, YA
Amazon rating: 4.4 stars

I Am Princess XOnce upon a time, two best friends created a princess together. Libby drew the pictures, May wrote the tales, and their heroine, Princess X, slayed all the dragons and scaled all the mountains their imaginations could conjure.

Once upon a few years later, Libby was in the car with her mom, driving across the Ballard Bridge on a rainy night. When the car went over the side, Libby passed away, and Princess X died with her.
Once upon a now: May is sixteen and lonely, wandering the streets of Seattle, when she sees a sticker slapped in a corner window.

Princess X?

When May looks around, she sees the Princess everywhere: Stickers. Patches. Graffiti. There’s an entire underground culture, focused around a webcomic at IAmPrincessX.com. The more May explores the webcomic, the more she sees disturbing similarities between Libby’s story and Princess X online. And that means that only one person could have started this phenomenon — her best friend, Libby, who lives.

Reviewed by: David Wiley

The Review:

It has taken me the better part of a week to put my thoughts together enough to form a cohesive and honest review for this book. I will start by admitting that this was a rare time where I judged a book solely by its cover. I grabbed it from the library after seeing a princess wielding a sword because I felt that had to be an awesome book to read. After all, who wouldn’t want to read about a sword-wielding princess that fights her own battles against some enemies? Heck, I still want to read that book. This was not that book. And if I had read the back of the book, I would have known and understood that before checking this out.

All of that being said, this was still a really good book. Not the book I expected to read nor the one I wanted to read, but also not one I regret reading. It is hard to discuss this book, given that there are many mysteries that even discussing the first chapter or two could potentially lead to a spoiler or two, so rather than discussing the book (it is good) or the plot (it is riveting and intriguing!) I will instead focus on what worked well in this book as a complete package. Forgive me for being vague where I need to, but I really would hate to spoil anything for a new reader, and hope that you will be that new reader who picks this one up.

I absolutely loved the integration of the comic book elements into the book. I found them to be fitting with the story and the timing of some provided foreshadowing while others helped to show some of what the main character is reading as she is trying to uncover the mysteries being presented. I am certain that, if I reread the book, I would find a lot of subtle hints hidden in those comic strips that I missed the first time through, which is pretty awesome to think about as well. It was a nice addition to the story and it worked really well for me.

The level of realism that permeates through the plot and the characters is another thing that impressed me. I had a clear sense of who all of the characters were, and even the antagonist (when revealed) made sense and was scary in a “this could really actually happen” sort of way that I can appreciate upon reflection. In fact, the whole plot and the web of mysteries, the twists and turns along the way that pull you along through the story, were all excellent because of the ability to see it being a real situation that could happen. That, more than anything, is where this story succeeds. You bond with the characters, you share in the excitement and the mystery, and you recoil at the proper times because you believe it is possible. Some moments might be a stretch, but it never shifts into the realm where you have to suspend disbelief in order to keep going.

So overall this was a good book and I am glad I read it. This wasn’t a mystery on the same level of greatness as a Sherlock Holmes story, but few are capable of achieving that height. The story surpassed all of my expectations (once they were adjusted to fit what the story actually was rather than what I mistakenly thought it should be) and I can confidently recommend this to anyone who is looking to pick up a short and interesting mystery. The fact that it is a Young Adult mystery makes it a fast read, and the comics interspersed throughout also aid to that. It is definitely the sort of book you could pick up and read in a day, or at least a weekend, and I highly recommend that you do so. It’ll be a more rewarding investment of time and money than going to a movie.

Riveting and intriguing! #amreading #bookreview @AuthorDWiley #ourwriteside Click To Tweet

Book Review: The Butterfly Crest by Eva Vanrell

Title: The Butterfly Crest (The Protogenoi Series #1)
Author: Eva Vanrell
Genre: Fantasy & Magic
Amazon rating: 4.3 stars

The Butterfly CrestBetween the shadows of the human world, a war as old as time is being fought. Ageless pantheons scheme to obtain or keep control, provoked by the weight of human belief which has altered the realm of the divine.

An ancient prophecy speaks of a human woman who will alter the course of this divine war, a descendant of a Great House mired in misfortune and blood, whose history was shaped by the cruelty of the gods.

On a day as unremarkable as any other, Elena Vicens, a young woman living a seemingly ordinary life, receives a letter about a deposit box belonging to her mother, nineteen years after her mother’s death. When this letter sends her on a journey halfway across the world from New Orleans to Japan, Elena unknowingly comes into possession of a cursed inheritance. She is suddenly thrust into a world of myths and legends, where the intangible and the strange are the fabric of everyday life, and deathless gods vie for victory at any cost.

As allies converge to help Elena fulfill the prophecy, one of whom is struggling with his own inheritance, Elena must choose for herself the measure of her own destiny.

Reviewed by: Katheryn J. Avila

The Review:

The Butterfly Crest is a great read. Beautifully written with exquisite imagery and attention to detail, it sucks you right in until the very end, immersing you into a world both familiar and strange. I’ll admit, I had some trouble with it at first, but that’s just personal preference for brevity. The author’s description of the scenery and creatures really puts you right into the scene with Elena, and that’s not a quality many authors have. A few times she ran the risk of over-description (if that’s a thing), but she always balanced the scenery with witty banter or internal dialogue. I can’t get enough of Elena’s conversations with the strange beings around her – most of all the antagonistically friendly gods that help her (I’m looking at you, Galen and Bryce) – and all the dialog really does come across as natural, going a long way in the character development department for me.

Elena is a great protagonist: well-developed, strong, and yet vulnerable and capable of asking for help. Eiry is the perfect leading man: caring, protective, but willing to concede to Elena and not falling to the “Edward Cullen” type of male character. Not only are the two main characters very well-written and developed, but the entire supporting cast – from the most minor demon to the larger gods – were well-researched, developed, and given personalities. Eva Vanrell does an incredible job of juggling a large number of characters without letting any of them feel flat. A few examples: Bryce, Galen, and Gavin. Without risking spoilers, they’re on the peripheral for most of the story, not extremely central characters, and yet their personalities come through in every gesture, every word, so that, while not as expounded upon as the two main characters, they feel just as real. The same can be said for any of the other minor characters. From their descriptions to their dialogue – they are supremely vivid and alive.

Just like the characters, the plot was complex, intricate, and compelling. The deeper the author drew me into the story and the world around Elena, the more questions popped into my head, mirroring Elena’s own thought process and experience as she did her best to navigate what was now her life. The mythology behind Elena’s situation is creative and inventive – completely inspired! Every twist and turn, while unexpected, made complete sense, and as the story went on, everything fell in place like puzzle pieces. It’s such a great story, I really cannot wait until the sequel! And, although I already own a digital copy, I might be investing in a paperback – just because I can.

Conclusion: I highly recommend this book to anyone who’s into any kind of mythology. It’s an epic fantasy that reads and feels like a mix between the epic poems of old (Iliad, Odyssey) and some current globe-trotter novels (The Da Vinci Code). I can’t wait to see what’s in store next for Elena!

Beautifully written with exquisite imagery! #amreading #bookreview @katheryn_avila #ourwriteside Click To Tweet
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