Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Book Review: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms

Title: "The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms"

Author: N.K. Jemisin

Synopsis: Yeine Darr is an outcast from the barbarian north. But when her mother dies under mysterious circumstances, she is summoned to the majestic city of Sky. There, to her shock, Yeine is named an heiress to the king. But the throne of the Hundred Thousand Kingdoms is not easily won, and Yeine is thrust into a vicious power struggle with cousins she never knew she had. As she fights for her life, she draws ever closer to the secrets of her mother's death and her family's bloody history.

With the fate of the world hanging in the balance, Yeine will learn how perilous it can be when love and hate - and gods and mortals - are bound inseparably together. (From Goodreads)

Why I picked it up: This has been in my "to read" pile for a while, so I'm not really sure I remember. I think I read a glowing review of it somewhere and decided I needed to pick it up. Honestly, when I picked it up out of the stack, I couldn't remember what it was about or why I wanted it in the first place. (But I'm glad I did!)

General thoughts: At first I felt a little lost as to exactly what was going on as I got acclimated to this new fantasy world, but by about the second chapter when the gods are introduced, I was hooked. The last book I'd read (which I have not reviewed), I had felt like I was forcing myself to read to the end of the book, so it was really nice to find myself immersed in a book that I couldn't wait to pick up again. (I went to bed much later than I should have for several nights in a row.)

Mythology: The mythology of the three main gods was very interesting and felt like a real myth. Then the author made the supernatural events in the Gods War and the fact that gods were now being controlled by mankind seem plausible.

Characters: I thought the main character, Yeine, was a great heroine. She's suddenly found herself caught up in the crazy, cut-throat world of politics and has to scramble to keep her head above water. She has to learn quickly to play the game or lose her life.

I also enjoyed how the gods actually seem otherworldly, not just humans with superpowers. The dark god Nahadoth was one of my favorites. I felt like Yeine was frequently only still alive because she had said the right thing to him at the right time. He really felt dangerous, not just a "bad boy." The child-god Sieh was also a favorite of mine. I pretty much spent the whole book wanting to hug him.

Writing: I thoroughly enjoyed the writing. At first I was thrown off by the parts of the book where Yeine is suddenly talking in first person and someone unknown is responding to her. But after we get deeper into the plot and I figured out who she was talking to and what those parts were all about, I thought it was an interesting narrative choice that I really liked.

Recommend?: If you enjoy gods, political scheming and fantasy worlds, I'd say definitely give this one a try. I really enjoyed it and am planning on picking up the sequel, "The Broken Kingdoms" as soon as my budget allows (and I can get away with buying yet another book without glares from my husband. lol). I think I have an idea of the direction the next book will be going in, and I can't wait to see what happens next.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Book Review: What Lies Beneath

Title: "What Lies Beneath"

Author: Anne Greenwood Brown

Synopsis: Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters must prey on humans and absorb their positive energy. Usually they select their victims at random, but this time around the underwater clan chooses its target for a reason: revenge. They want to kill Jason Hancock, the man they blame for their mother's death.

It's going to take the whole White family to lure the aquaphobic Hancock onto the water. Calder's job is to gain Hancock's trust by getting close to his family. Relying on his irresistible good looks and charm, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter Lily. Easy enough, but Calder screws everything up by falling in love — just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined, and just as the mermaids threaten to take matters into their own hands, forcing Calder to choose between family and the girl he loves. One thing's for sure, whatever Calder decides, the outcome won't be pretty. (From NetGalley)

Why I picked it up: Like pretty much every other little girl who watched "The Little Mermaid" a million times as a child, I spent all my time at the pool pretending I was a
mermaid. A novel about a merman sounded interesting.

General thoughts: Though I probably should have known from the description, "What Lies Beneath" focuses heavily on the romance between Calder and Lily. I'm usually not a fan of purely relationship stories (I like it to be a side-plot, not the main plot of the novel). I think that's why I was a little bored at first, when Calder is pretty much stalking Lily and trying to make her like him.

Their relationship itself doesn't seem to form very naturally either. Lily is creeped out by Calder at first (good for her!), and Calder seems to "fall in love" with Lily after a few meetings. And then it seems Lily is all of a sudden in love with him, too. After that, though, I was more interested as the pair had to struggle to keep Calder's sisters from finding out about their relationship and also keep the girls from killing Lily's family.

Mythology: The story had hints of interesting mythology about the merpeople, but I wish there had been more. It seems like Calder and his sisters spend the majority of the book on land, when the whole reason I picked up the book in the first place was that I wanted a story about merpeople. The part I most enjoyed was the struggle at the end, where Calder is fighting under water.

Characters: I didn't particularly love any of the characters more than the others, but I didn't hate anybody either. I did like that the sisters, the "villains" of the story, were not completely evil and that they had reasons for what they were doing.

Writing: The writing itself I thought was good. There were a few spots here and there where I had to read a sentence over again because I didn't quite understand it -- the worst case being toward the end when someone was killed and I'm still not sure I understand exactly how it happened. But overall I had no major problems with the writing.
I also enjoyed the surprise "this is what was really going on" reveal at the end. I hadn't expected it, since the book had seemed mostly relationship fluff between the two main characters up until that point.

Recommend?: I'd recommend the book to anyone looking for a fast, fun read, with merpeople who are not happy creatures dancing with fish like in the Disney version.
I will probably read the planned sequel, "Water Lily," because the reveal at the end of the book piqued my interest. Here's hoping the second book will rely more heavily on interesting plot developments like that one and less on the romantic relationship aspect.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Brain Vacation

I wrote the first draft of my novel for National Novel Writing Month back in November of 2010, and, aside from December 2010 when I took a month off to recuperate, I've pretty much been working on it non-stop since then. The good news is that half of that time has been spent creating my world and the rules in it, as well as crafting a general synopsis for what's going to happen in the three books that follow. So, hopefully, writing the next books will not take me quite as long.

Bad news is, though I'm pretty close to having a finished product, I'm still not there yet. And I've gotten to the point where every time I open up my manuscript, I start off okay, but then run into a bit that needs editing and then realize that I'm going to have to go back in my story and change something else to make things flow right and then once I'm there I see that I forgot to mention that Character A's hair is up in a bun instead of down and then suddenly I'm all, "OMG, I TOTALLY SUCK AT THIS NOVEL-WRITING THING." And then when I think about trying to fix it all, I look like this:

Source: OlanRogers

I've decided that's really not a good look for me. So, I've given myself permission to not write a single novel-related thing this whole week. The thought is terrifying and awesome at the same time. I'll get to do normal person stuff like laundry and dishes and vacuuming. Guys, I might even actually see my floor by the end of the week!

I'm going to get to read the stack of books I've got piled up. I'll probably also read a few of my writing books to refresh me on stuff I probably used to know but forgot in the midst of all the flailing about me being the worst writer ever. I'm going to give my brain a chance to relax and not feel guilty when it's 10 p.m. and I still haven't worked on my novel yet.

Because I think sometimes you need to give yourself permission to chill out. And hopefully, something beautiful will come as a result.

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