Tuesday, April 28, 2015

New Year and Reading Challenges: Reviews on The Nethergrim, Compulsion, Gretel and the Dark and Vicious

The new year came and went and with it my sanity almost disappeared. At least everyone is recovering nicely, so there's that.

But with the start of the new year came the suggestion of a reading challenge. I've thought about the number of books I read every year and started to wonder if I could actually set a goal, mark down a number and set my mind to finishing that many books over the course of one year.

So that's exactly what I did. What number did I decide on, you ask?

100 books.

To some people it might seem a bit small, to others the number might be a little too lofty of a goal. I hope to make it to 100 books before the end of the year, maybe make it to October and already be done with my challenge. Then maybe next year I can make the number 150, then 200 and so on, you get my drift. But if I'm going to read 100 books, maybe it would be a good idea to come back to my little blog and write about the books I've read.

Sound good? Great, let's begin.

First off, in order to catch up on my reading challenge, it's necessary to write some more compact reviews and post several of them together at once. I won't go into complete detail on these books. I'll write about what I remember, what stuck out the most, just little things like that. Then, once I catch up, I'll start writing my more detailed reviews again, at least for the books I really liked. So far, I've finished 36 books for my reading challenge. I'm currently reading at least 15 other books. So, basically I have a lot of work to do.

The first book of the New Year Book Challenge was The Nethergrim by Matthew Jobin. I really wanted to love this book. The story is about a village that has a legend attached to it. The story goes that a long time ago, a brave knight named Tristan and a wizard, Vithric, defeated the Nethergrim. All goes well, years pass, and the legend along with its heroes are still celebrated. But in the village of Moorvale, animals start disappearing. Then the danger escalates when children begin to disappear, making everyone believe that the Nethergrim has returned. Edmund, Katherine and Tom decide to follow after the missing children in the hopes of rescuing them and defeating the Nethergrim, this time for good.
This has all the makings of a great book. I found the characters interesting and the writing worked really well with the point of view, the detail and the flow of the plot. The story was darker than I expected it to be, which I can definitely respect as this book was released for the 10-12 years age group. It dealt with real issues between kids and the struggles they have to get out from beneath expectations that have been placed on their shoulders. For some reason though, I couldn't completely connect with the book. I wanted to love it so much but there were a few things with the characters and their situations that I didn't agree with. In the end it's probably just me being nit-picky but those sore points were enough to make me only just like this book, not love it, not adore it. If there's a sequel though, I will put my name down for it at the library and give it a go then.

Rating: 7 Stars

The second book of the New Year Book Challenge was Compulsion by Martina Boone. This one kind of pained me to read. It has nothing to do with the talent behind the work. Boone is a good writer, she knows what she's doing and there is genuine interest in this book from other readers. For me though, it felt like every other Young Adult release out there. This book feels like it falls somewhere smack in the middle of Twilight and Beautiful Creatures. I wanted to read something new, something that could catch my attention and hold it for a few hours. That's not what I got here. I'm sorry to say that I most likely will not be continuing with this series unless it's through my library. That's not to say that I won't look up this author and see what future works they come up with. I've seen other authors make it big with a series that hits all the same Young Adult notes and then suddenly turn things around with a new book that has a completely fresh idea. So in conclusion, I will wait and see when it comes to this series and it's author.

Rating: 3 Stars

The third book of my New Year Book Challenge was Gretel and the Dark by Eliza Granville. I have no idea how I heard of this book. I must have seen it on some blog or another, somewhere, and it had to have caught my eye because I requested it from my library and started reading it as soon as I picked it up. The story has two main plots, the first following a psychoanalyst named Josef Breuer who takes in a new patient, a young woman who claims she is a machine. The second plot follows a young girl named Krysta, who lives with her father in Nazi Germany, and who contents herself with fairy tales and making up stories, a talent she uses to make her world easier as things fall to pieces around her.
This was the first book of my reading challenge that when I finished it, I felt that I'd just read a great book. I didn't exactly LOVE it but I enjoyed it enough to feel not only intrigued but interested in the storyline long after I returned the book to the library. I'll admit, I wasn't too keen on the psychoanalyst's plot but little Krysta's story kept me hooked. I started out almost hating the little girl, she was selfish and spoiled, but as the story shifted I found myself needing to see what happened to her. I wanted her to reach her "fairytale ending", so to speak. I would definitely recommend this book to readers looking for an intriguing historical fiction read.

Rating: 8 Stars

I'll finish off this post with the fourth book of my Book Challenge, Vicious by V. E. Schwab. I've read nearly everything by this author, who also publishes books under the name Victoria Schwab. Vicious is about a pair of college roommates, Victor and Eli, who take it into their heads to research their interest in EOs (Extra-Ordinaries), near-death experiences and supernatural abilities. The story takes place in two different times, showing what Victor and Eli did in school ten years ago, and then picking up in present time with Victor as an escaped convict on the hunt for his former roommate. Both men have an agenda, both have people on their sides with different abilities, and both are determined to come out the winner.
I loved this book. There is no masking it. I finished this book in less than a day. I went to a doctor's appointment with this book in hand and when a nurse asked me about what I was reading, I launched into this long discussion about it. The good thing about my little outburst is that when she walked away, she did not think I was crazy. Also, she made a note of the title to check it out for herself. My sister is supposed to start reading this book soon and considering that she's graduating soon, she doesn't have an excuse not to finish it anymore.

Back to the book now. Schwab is just one of those writers who knows what she's doing. She has a hold on what makes a good story into a great story, she knows how to develop her characters, how to advance her plot and how to make her readers invested in her book. Her characters are interesting, her plots are unique, and somehow she manages to make each new release better than her last. Her characters, Victor and Eli, each have their faults, their beliefs, their morals and instincts, that make them compelling, that make them both the hero and the villain at different turns in different ways, leaving the reader with a need to get to the end and see who wins. Each of her secondary characters gets their time to shine, to grow, to make changes that feel natural to the story and to their development. The switching timelines might put readers off, and the motivations behind some of the villainy will make some readers dissatisfied, but for me, my interest was in the development of Victor, and Schwab delivered a book that makes me hope there's a sequel on its way.

Rating: 10 Stars

One last note: Currently on my reading list, A Darker Shade of Magic, Schwab's latest release, which already has a sequel announced for February 2016.

Check back soon for the next post on books 5 through 8 of my New Year Book Challenge.

1 comment: