Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Reading Challenge Continued: Reviews on Playing for the Commandant, Sublime, The Killing Moon and The Kraken King

So the challenge continues and while I'm attempting to read and write on the side, I'm working on catching up on this site. And look, I'm actually back one week later instead of three months or two years later, like I have been prone to do in the past.

As stupid as it might sound, I'm very proud of myself for returning here so soon. Progress is a wonderful thing to behold.

Now then, let's talk about BOOKS.

As the month of January continued, I thought to myself, let's read ten books a month. It's possible. Just ignore the TV in the background and focus on reading the tiny print in the various books I was reading. So that's what I did and now, technically, I'm trying to catch up on reviews for the month of January. And it just turned May....well, you get the point.

The fifth book I read for my New Year Challenge was Playing for the Commandant by Suzy Zail. I remember hearing about this book when it was called The Wrong Boy, the original title for the book when it was released back in 2012. The title changed when it was released in the U.S., which took me by surprise because I thought I wouldn't get the chance to read this unless I ordered it from another country.

The book is about Hanna Mendel, a young girl who dreamed of becoming a famous concert pianist but ended up in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, alongside her mother and sister, trying to survive. When the chance comes for an audition to play piano for the commandant, she manages to get the position but while there she notices the commandant's son and everything changes as she starts to fall in love with him.

I'll start off by saying this book was short, concise, very well-written and filled with facts that didn't make me feel like I was being hit over the head with the author's research. Zail wrote about harrowing facts with a respect that made the plot of the story move while treating the history it dealt in with a delicacy that was necessary. I thought Hanna managed herself as well as could be expected, I felt that her dedication to her family was to be commended, and when I finished this book, I thought it was a respectable read

Rating: 8 Stars

The sixth book of the Reading Challenge was Sublime by Christina Lauren. This book is about Lucy and Colin, a couple who meet and fall in love at their school, Saint Osanna's Preparatory School. But there's a problem: Lucy is dead. They continue on with their relationship and Colin discovers that if he gets himself into situations that place him at the doors of death, he can have a chance to be with Lucy. And then things progress from there.

I wanted a good ghost story. If that's what you're looking for, steer clear of this book. This is plainly a "romance" book that wasn't all that romantic. And it just happens to have a ghost in it, a very passive ghost, who wanders around unnoticed by students, and who decides to start attending classes because there's nothing else to do, or at least that was my impression of the situation. I wanted to be intrigued by the plot and instead I was left with more questions than answers. I was left wondering how in the world a boy could think it was logical and necessary to put himself in dangerous situations, nearly killing himself to spend physical time with his dead girlfriend. I couldn't get my head around it. My mind refused to look at the situation as romantic in any sense of the word and as a result, I ended up disappointed with this as a read.

Rating: 2 Stars

Seventh book read in the month of January was, drumroll please....The Killing Moon by N. K. Jemisin. I'd wanted to read this for a long time. I'll admit, I saw this book in stores and thought, "Right, need to read that book," and then I'd get something else to read. I borrowed a copy from my library and then didn't start reading it until it was almost due and then eventually returned it unread, thinking I'd try again in the future. And try again I did, and thank goodness too, because this book was phenomenal to me. The plot is about the city-state of Gujaareh, where the peace is kept by Gatherers, priests who harvest magic from dreams which they then use to heal and bring peace to the people of Gujaareh. Specifically, the book follows Ehiru, an experienced Gatherer; Nijiri, his apprentice; and Sunandi, an ambassador from a neighboring country. Ehiru discovers that someone or something is murdering dreamers in the city and with the help of Nijiri and Sunandi, he must discover who is responsible and keep the country from a terrible fate.

I'm so glad I finally got my head in the right place and sat down to read this book. It was easy to follow the characters, to admire Ehiru for his quiet strength and Nijiri for his loyalty and Sunandi for her bravery. I can't go too far into the details of the plot because the point of the book is the mystery behind the murders and the history of the Gatherers and how the country depends on their faith in the Hetawa temple and the goddess of dreams, Hananja. The story was compelling, making me turn pages fast enough to practically blaze through this book and leaving me with a need to acquire the second book as quickly as possible. A wonderful fantasy read that I believe will appeal to a wide range of readers.

Rating: 10 Stars

Last book up for review today, the eighth book of the Reading Challenge, The Kraken King by
Meljean Brook. This is the fourth book in a series called The Iron Seas by Brook. This book specifically follows Ariq, the Kraken King, who rescues Zenobia Fox from an airship that was attacked by marauders. Only Zenobia Fox isn't what she seems. She's the sister of a wild adventurer named Archimedes, who has made a reputation for herself by writing stories based on her brother's life, but has never had a daring adventure of her own. That is until she ends up on the Kraken King's ship, headed for Australia, and trouble comes for them along the way.
I don't read many books of the steampunk genre but I'm grateful I took the chance on this release. The scope of this story is incredible and I plan on reading the rest of this series as soon as possible. The characters were well-developed, the talent was unmistakable in the writing, and the story was intriguing from beginning to end. Best of all, Zenobia was a woman who was willing to fight, she was intelligent and endearing, a character to root for alongside Ariq, the Kraken King, a man willing to fight for the home he built and the people who depend on him for protection. Recommended for readers looking for a book about a fantasy world filled with believable characters, a romance that had a realistic development and multiple adventures in various shapes and forms.

Rating: 8 Stars

That's it for this week. I'm thinking I should move faster on these reviews if I ever expect to catch up on my Reading Challenge reviews. Check back next week for reviews on books 9 through 12.

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