Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson
Series: Mistborn Trilogy #1
Publisher: Tor Fantasy, Mass Market Paperback, 643 pages

Vin is just your normal street urchin trying to survive another day, but when she catches the eye of someone who would destroy her and someone who is determined to save her, her life will be changed. After all, Vin is joining up with a crew taking on an impossible mission, they’re going to help upend the world.

I’m not sure what there is to say as a synopsis for this book at this point, everything has probably been well covered and with good reason. This book is amazing. I was so engaged, mentally and emotionally the whole time. The last 100 pages or so though took it to another level. The treatment of the Skaa is horrifying, yet there is something so uplifting about the story and the work that the main characters are doing to ultimately empower and eventually improve the lives of the Skaa. It lends a sense of reality to what is otherwise a fantasy story.

I really enjoyed the characters. As much as Kelsier’s behavior could really cause me anxiety at times, his endgame took me by surprise. The rest of the crew, Sazed, Dockson, Breeze, Ham, Marsh, even Spook all have these strong but unique personalities that made them more than just a crew that we’re reading about. And of course, we can’t forget about Vin. I mean… who doesn’t want to see a woman overcome their crappy past to jump into something new and just downright kick ass and take names from day one? Yet, Vin also has this naïvete that I think is quite critical to brining her character to life. I was constantly cheering on these characters.

The other thing I really have to give Brandon Sanderson credit for here is that I don’t think he took the obvious or easy road in all of this. Some of the plot points were just NOT what I was expecting at all. While I know now why things unfolded as they did, the process of getting from A to B definitely kept me on my toes and it was a great time. I also really enjoy the magic system here. First, there is a symmetry to it that is very pleasing to me, but it can also become so complex that it’s beautiful. It’s not like anything I’ve read before and I really did appreciate how he brought the magic to life. That said, there is also this unknown element to the magic that we start discovering along with Vin which I find to be very exciting.

All in all, Mistborn was an amazing book and the only thing I regret is waiting so damn long to read it. 5/5 stars.

The Mistborn Trilogy:
1. Mistborn
2. The Well of Ascension
3. The Hero of Ages
Era Two: 100 Years Later
4. The Alloy of Law
5. Shadows of Self
6. The Bands of Mourning
7. The Lost Metal

Deathcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Deathcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #4
Publisher: HarperTeen, Paperback, 656 pages

Alyssa ana’Raisa is struggling to find her way back home without letting the empress that has taken her know just what she is up to. Her home is at risk, her people need her, and she is determined not to let them down. Meanwhile, political intrigue abounds, both in the northern and the southern kingdoms. The question isn’t if the Gray Wolf line will succeed, but how.

Deathcaster is one hell of a conclusion to this series. There is a lot that happens throughout this book, but overall I think the execution was really well done. In a lot of ways, this series really built up a lot of political intrigue, both within the kingdoms themselves, but also between them. This book brings all of those points together as the details are uncovered in full. There was a lot that needed to happen in Deathcaster, after all there were characters all over the place and we knew they had to find their way back to each other some how. That said, I was impressed at how well the book was paced. I was just a little weary at first, but overall it did not feel rushed and I didn’t feel like there were gaping holes left.

I have to say that I feel like Lyss gets more of the time when it comes to character development than others in this series. And that’s probably fair seeing as in some ways she has the most to overcome of any of the characters in this series. Additionally, I think that in this particular book that extra time is important. She is essentially being made to make a decision that either destroys her freedom, or has the potential to destroy her home if she’s not successful in her planning. We get a lot of the struggle that her character is facing and it just feels so real. However, there are other characters that I would have enjoyed seeing more of as well.

Okay… Dragons. Let’s talk about them because I didn’t actually know when I picked up this series that there would be dragons. The way that the dragons communicate was intriguing in itself, but the way that their personalities were developed was THE BEST. It was so much fun. From watching Cas’s development, because he does develop as his own character from book one, all the way to the babies in book four… You cannot possibly not love them. I am obsessed with those dragons. I would die for those dragons. Is it a little much? Yes. Is it true? Also yes.

Does the ending of the book, or at least the overarching plot, feel a little convenient? Yes, maybe a little, but I enjoyed reading this series so much that honestly I am willing to overlook that. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed reading the Shattered Realms books and I am absolutely interested in reading Chima’s other works as well. 5/5 Stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

The Reality of Everything by Rebecca Yarros

The Reality of Everything by Rebecca Yarros
Series: Flight & Glory #5
Publisher: Entangled Publishing, Nook E edition, 363 pages

The man Morgan Bartley loves gave his life in service to his country and she has struggled to come to terms with the loss. In an effort to find something else to focus on, she decides to purchase a fixer upper in need of extensive TLC in the Outer Banks. What she doesn’t expect is for her new neighbor to up-end everything she has worked to bury. Meanwhile Jackson Montgomery lives for two things, his daughter and flying rescue missions for the Coast Guard. Getting involved with his complicated new neighbor was never in the plans.

This is a contemporary romance that reads really quickly and was quite enjoyable. I could have done without some of the family drama on Jackson’s side, but other than that I flew through this book and don’t really have many complaints. The main characters were fun, and I can actually really identify with Morgan’s choice to just uproot and lose herself in a new place. It was just so easy to identify with a lot of the choices she was making even if the reasons and circumstances are different.

Where this book surprised me was in its discussion of grief. Having read the synopsis before going into this I knew that Morgan had lost her partner, but I was not expecting a romance novel to delve so deeply into the grieving process. The topic was explored through a lens that we don’t often see outside of the literary fiction umbrella and I think that exploration did a lot for the story and the characters. Importantly, it’s also a reminder that everyone grieves differently and is entitled to their own process, no matter what.

All in all, a quick enjoyable read. I am quite likely to check out more by this author. 4/5 stars.

Flight & Glory Series
1. Full Measures
2. Eyes Turned Skyward
3. Beyond What is Given
4. Hallowed Ground
5. The Reality of Everything

Stormcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Stormcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #3
Publisher: HarperTeen, Paperback, 535 pages
Content Warnings: Instances of self-harm

Evan Strangward learned to be ruthless from a young age and as a result managed to gain control of a major port and the ships that sail it. However, the empress from the north is gaining power and Evan needs to take drastic steps to stop her. Meanwhile Lyss finds herself between a rock and a hard place and needs to figure out how to best save her queendom from the formidable empress.

At this point, it’ll be surprising to hear me say that I really enjoyed this book, but as with the first two, I really enjoyed this book. Evan is a character that we had briefly seen in the previous books and I’d been curious when we would see more of his cards. Stormcaster gave us a lot of insight into his background, but it also provided a lot of development into the events that were occurring when book two ended. This series really is the definition of the saying ‘it’s a small world,’ but thats something that I really love about it. Even some of the characters in these books don’t know for sure that they are on the same side. It really builds this tension that we as the reader don’t necessarily have, but we feel through the characters.

Speaking of tension… Stormcaster is heavy on the intrigue. Every character in this book is planning or plotting something. Everyone has a goal, someone they are trying to save, or an endgame they are trying to achieve. There are even instances that those with the upper hand find that in the end they don’t actually have it. It really is quite a ride. I can also feel that with only one book left things have started to come together. I have a couple of predictions and assumptions for the fourth book, but really I’m just looking forward to reading it.

All in all, Stormcaster was another huge win for me. I can’t really fault much of anything in this series thus far and I am so hyped to see how it’s going to tie up in book four. 5/5 stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Shadowcaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #2
Publisher: HarperTeen, Trade Paperback, 576 pages

Alyssa, Lyss, ana’Raisa has a lot to live up to as the heir to the Gray Wolf throne and she plans to make her mark by doing things differently to change the course of the war efforts. Meanwhile Halston, Hal, Matelon has been assigned a dangerous new assignment that will take his unit into the north where they will fight in their enemies turf. When things take a turn for the worst, Hal learns that what he’s been told to believe about northerners may not be entirely accurate.

Shadowcaster lived up to the expectations that Flamecaster set, without question. This was another total win for me. Once again the writing, the characters, the story all sucked me in. There is some overlap in the timeline with book one, however the main characters in Shadowcaster are different than Flamecaster so we are seeing some different perspectives in this one. Though we do revisit some perspectives from the first book.

What I really liked about this book is that it stood on its own even though we already knew about some of the things that happened throughout the story. We are getting more information about these events, what led up to them, and what the consequences were. There are also new kinds of magic and more about the political minefield that is being traversed which kept my attention all the way through. Some of the pieces of the overarching story line are revealed here as well, though I still have some questions about what the last two books will bring.

Admittedly, there were a couple of things that were predictable in Shadowcaster as well, but again I was too busy enjoying the story to be bothered by the predictable bits. This was a great second installment in the Shattered Realms series and I look forward to reading on. 5/5 stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima

Flamecaster by Cinda Williams Chima
Series: Shattered Realms #1
Publisher: HarperTeen, Trade Paperback, 560 pages

Adrian, Ash, sul’Han is a wizard with a gift for healing and his only goal is to talk his mother into letting him go to school to study early. When a rival kingdom takes to murdering people in his queendom, Ash finds himself choosing between taking lives and saving them. Meanwhile Jenna Bandelow has been told that the mark on the back of her neck will make her a target, but she’s pretty sure her role as a saboteur is more to blame. When Ash and Jenna’s path’s cross they find there is more to the world than they realized.

Flamecaster was a hell of a book. While I don’t read much YA/teen fiction these days, I have to give credit where it’s due. This book was SO good. The first 50 or so pages where a punch in the stomach, but I was so here for it. The characters, the writing, the plot, I loved all of it. What I didn’t know going into this book is that there is a series that takes place in the same world ahead of these books. That said, I fell right into this world without any trouble and having not read the prior series.

Ash and Jenna were great main characters and I found myself cheering them on, but the way this is written I also found myself cheering on some of the secondary characters as well. They have such personality and overcome such triumph that it’s hard not to support them (or cheer when the villains get what’s coming to them).

There were a couple of things that were a bit predictable throughout this book, but honestly I did not even care because I was too busy enjoying the story and the characters. There is magic, and political intrigue, and rebels…. I mean, what’s not to love? There was even a little surprise I wasn’t expecting towards the end.

Overall, this was a major win for me. The biggest compliment I can pay this book is that when I finished it, I was at the bookstore buying book two less than an hour later so I could read on. 5/5 stars.

Shattered Realms Series:
1. Flamecaster
2. Shadowcaster
3. Stormcaster
4. Deathcaster

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan

The Dragon Reborn by Robert Jordan
Series: The Wheel of Time #3
Publisher: Tor, Mass Market Paperback, 690 Pages

The Dragon Reborn picks up with Rand struggling to come to terms with what he needs to do and live up to, while Perrin is doing his best to support him. Meanwhile, Nynaeve and Egwene are desperate to get Mat to Tar Valon in time to save his life. They just weren’t expecting the challenges that greeted them back at the white tower.

I have to admit, I am quite intrigued by this series and I’m committed to reading through at this point, but there are some positives and some negatives to it. My primary complaint is with Rand’s character. I don’t know if he just has a lot of growing up to do or what, but there are times where I just want to shake him. Yes, there is a lot riding on him, but truly… deal with it buddy! The back and forth we get with his character is frustrating and it feels like immaturity, not a consequence of his circumstances. Other than that, I’m pretty much loving it.

Perrin is by far my favorite character of the series. He’s got a lot going on and I feel like once he embraces his gift he’s really going to be unstoppable. I love reading from his perspective and seeing what he’s going to do next and trying to determine the impact that his actions are going to have down the line, for instance his interactions with the Aielman Gaul. There was enough time spent there that I feel that we’ll be circling back and I can’t wait. All that said, I’m also very intrigued by what’s going on with Nynaeve, Egwene, and Elayne. I was surprised by some of the decisions made regarding their paths, given their recent introduction to the true source. At the same time, it’s also making the story more interesting because it doesn’t just fall into place all sensibly and neatly (at least from where I sit). I’m very curious to see how their mission is going to turn out and what they will end up learning in the course of their journeys.

This is only book three of fourteen, but I’ve started to find myself making predictions about things I think will happen over the course of the series. We have all these clues, but there is also so much time for things to change and unravel into a completely different direction which is making this reading journey so exciting for me. That said, I definitely still have questions. There are people who are not who they say they are, though they haven’t been officially revealed yet. There are all these threads that are related, but we can’t quite determine the meanings of those threads. We are also finally being introduced to more people and groups outside of the initial band of characters and I’m interested to see what role they will end up playing throughout the whole of the series. For example, we really get to interact with the Aiel for the first time in this book which I was SO excited for and we meet one of the hunters.

The pacing of this book is very familiar to the first two, so I’m thinking this is how the whole series will be formatted. There is a lot of build up with smaller events that lead to one big event at the end of the story. While the ending of The Dragon Reborn is probably the most action we’ve seen in the series so far, I’m having to remind myself that we still have quite a ways to go.

Overall, I’m very much enjoying the series – if not every story line equally – and I am very much looking forward to reading on. These are just fun fantasy tales to sink my teeth into. 4/5 stars.

The World of Time Series:
1. The Eye of the World
2. The Great Hunt
3. The Dragon Reborn
4. The Shadow Rising
5. The Fires of Heaven
6. Lord of Chaos
7. A Crown of Swords
8. The Path of Daggers
9. Winter’s Heart
10. Crossroads of Twilight
11. Knife of Dreams
12. The Gathering Storm
13. Towers of Midnight
14. A Memory of Light

King of Midnight by Lara Adrian

King of Midnight by Lara Adrian
Series: Midnight Breed #18
Publisher: Self-published, Kindle Edition, 299 pages

The Order is desperate to put a stop to the terror caused everyday by their enemies, but now they have an even greater challenge to face and it will take the combined efforts of two species that have been enemies for centuries to survive.

Reading this book was bittersweet. It is book 18 and the final book of the Midnight Breed series, something I started reading back in 2010 and a lot has happened along the way. I also feel like there is a lot that had to happen in this book and that 299 pages isn’t really enough to do justice to everything. I’m so torn. I really want to love this one, but I just would have liked more out of it.

I guess part of it is that we get these hints of the Atlantean queen in the books leading up to this one, but then the real development of her character in this book is so rushed. Also, a 20-something Breed male is just gonna up and charm an immortal queen who’s been alive for how many thousand years? Also, the big battle, RUSHED. There were other things that were just so conveniently tied up with a bow too.

Everything just felt so rushed and convenient. Maybe this is my own problem since I’ve been reading a goodly amount of fantasy that is very descriptive and takes it’s time, but I really felt we could have used longer with some of the events and characters of this book to really get into it. Especially seeing as, this was it.

Overall, sadly I’m a bit disappointed in this one. I’m committed to the characters at this point, but I feel like the execution of the story itself needed something more. 3/5 stars.

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik

The Last Graduate by Naomi Novik
Series: The Scholomance #2
Publisher: Del Rey Books, Hardcover, 388 pages

Galadriel is used to the Scholomance having it out for her, but in her senior year it’s worse than ever. She can’t seem to get through a single day without something trying to kill her. It’s really making her plans to buckle down and figure out how to survive through graduation pretty difficult to achieve. Maybe the answer lies in going a completely unexpected route…

I still love this series, so so much. This book was very enjoyable to read and I just love to see what is coming next. I knew that something crazy was going to happen, but I did not quite expect this to take the turn it ended up taking and I am so curious to see if there is going to be some fallout from that in the next one, or what… where are we going from here?

One of my favorite parts of book one was seeing the friendship between El, Aadhya, and Liu develop throughout the story, and we get a lot more of that in book two along with the addition of Chloe into their friend group. Seeing these girls learn from each other and work together as they try to figure out the best way to survive was wonderful, and quite humorous at times. Additionally, we also get some information about tensions among different wizard enclaves throughout the world that give us a better idea of why things happened the way they did in this book, but I think it will also be important in the next one. Plus the school… it’s basically a character in its own right. How the students interact with the school and vice versa becomes really intriguing in this book.

Admittedly, I don’t think this was quite as amazing as book one across the board, but there is more of that sarcastic, dark academia feel as the first book had. The writing also kept me wanting to pick this book up and read which did keep me entertained and interested in the world, story, and characters. I really appreciate the way that everything seems to be coming together in the world as a whole. I cannot wait for book three to come out (and I can’t wait to reread these first two ahead of that release!). 5/5 stars.

The Scholomance Series:
1. A Deadly Education
2. The Last Graduate
3. The Golden Enclaves (Expected publication 9/27/22)

The Radium Girls by Kate Moore

The Radium Girls: The Dark Story of America’s Shining Women by Kate Moore
Publisher: Sourcebooks, Paperback, 477 pages

The year is 1917 and The Great War rages on. Meanwhile, in Orange, NJ, USA young women are thrilled to gain employment painting watch and clock faces as well as aeronautical equipment with luminescent paint. There was money to be made, good money and for women in 1917 with their whole lives ahead of them, what could better? What the women in Orange, NJ and later Waterbury, CT and Ottawa, IL, and New York City didn’t know was that the paint, which was made with radium, was probably going to kill them.

This is one of the most important books I have ever read. I knew a little bit about the story having heard about this book when I listened to the Radiation episode of This Podcast Will Kill You, but that barely scratched the surface of what these women endured. It also didn’t prepare me. I knew going into this book that it was going to be tough, but there were parts of this book that are fucking difficult to read. And really, that’s how it should be, because many of these women were victimized and then re-victimized and blamed over and over and over for something that they couldn’t have stopped because they didn’t know. In fact, they were outright lied to.

It’s difficult to put a lot of my thoughts about this book into review form, especially since a fair number of my review notes are along the lines of “wtf, wtf, wtf” and “fuck these old rich white guys who think they can do whatever they want.” That said, the author does an amazing job of bringing to light how strong these women are and how important their sacrifices are. Because these women fought the system, new industrial safety standards were created, research on the effects of radioactivity on the bodies of these women told us more about the potential dangers of exposure than we could have ever known otherwise. This is all in the face of men and corporations that fought to discredit their every word, even given the fact that many of the women were literally disintegrating in front of them.

For a book that handles such a difficult topic it was very easy to read. The way that Moore wrote this, it’s compelling. I knew I was going to end up getting teary eyed, but I still wanted to pick it up to find out what happened next. This isn’t just some dry rehashing of the legal cases the women fought, this book is about their lives. About the impact that their work painting with radium paints and using the lip-pointing techniques they were taught had on their lives, on their ability to be wives and mothers, and productive members of their society. It’s also candid. These women struggled and Moore does not sugarcoat that struggle. The words that detail their pain, fear, even hopelessness hit your insides with all the force they ought to. I felt every word I read in this book.

The Radium Girls tells a very important story, but it does more than that. This book is the definition of why science communication and literacy is SO important, even today. If you have the knowledge to make better, safer decisions a multitude of pain and suffering can be prevented. We can learn lots of lessons here. We NEED to learn lots of these lessons as a whole. This is truly inspiring, and honestly, I don’t think I will ever do anything as important in my life as these women did in theirs.

All in all, this is an important story that needed to be told and was told in a respectful, but compelling way. 100% worth a read. 5/5 stars.