Philosophy for Heroes: Part I Knowledge

Clemens Lode

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this novel from the author and publisher.

Lode writes an accessible and engaging introduction to his series on living a “heroic” life. The book is written like a conversation, which makes it easy to pick up the themes and theories included in this book. It is written for anyone to pick up and read. If you are a philosophy student the first chapter of the novel is a bit difficult to get through as Lode introduces basic concepts and definitions in excruciating detail. Once you have endured this chapter, the conversation picks up. (If you are new to philosophy, this chapter may be difficult to understand, but Lode does an incredible job breaking down the jargon and ideas that you will need to continue your philosophical journey.)

I do think this book will be the weakest of his series because it is the beginning. The author seems to have a very clear path ahead with topics that will be far more intriguing. If you are acquainted with philosophy, you may skip this book and jump to the second without much loss.

-A Bookish Girl

Red Queen

Victoria Aveyard

The Red Queen is not a good story if you are looking for a strong heroine lead in a fantasy series. If you are looking for a series like The Hunger Games, a tale about a female (Mary Sue) becoming the leader of a revolution, then this series and this novel will be great for you. If you enjoyed the love triangle and push-pull romance in the Hunger Games, the romance in the novels will be enjoyable for you.

If you can stomach a perfect character for whom all the main male characters fall in love, has a rare and powerful ability, and is as emotionally mature as a middle schooler, the background characters are interesting and the story about the revolt is intriguing. It does require reading the entire series and suffering through the point of view of the main character before this part of the story is resolved.

I enjoyed this novel because I enjoy stories. I wanted Maven to be a twisted, psychopath and finishing the book let me know if I was correct. I wanted to see if Cal was a kind-hearted character as I suspected. I wanted to see if the Reds would rise against the Silvers. To resolve these background tales and inquiries, I pushed on from the otherwise obnoxious point of view.

To be fair, I am about 100 pages into the second book and the character seems to have grown a bit. Yet, the growth seems very focused on vengeance and still lacking any emotional depth.

I guess I learned that you can enjoy a novel while disliking the main character and their point of view simultaneously.

-A Bookish Girl

Asylum

Madeleine Roux

I was given this young adult novel from my mum out of the blue, so I was rather excited to read it. As a gift, I did not do my typical days of research and deliberation before purchasing the book. Thus when I started reading, I had no idea what it was about, how it was rated, etc. I just read from a blank sheet.

The story is engrossing, creative, and creepy enough to make you want the lights on when you go to bed. The writing is straightforward and fast-paced so the story can be devoured in one sitting. The novel makes the reader feel like the narrator; at times angry, paranoid, and just a bit lost.

At times, the story feels like an insight into a mind slowly going crazy, told by an unreliable narrator. Indeed, this would have made the book incredible and unique. I would have loved the final twist to have been an unexplained statement of the unreliability of reality. But, I did not write it, and my preferences are just that, preferences. Roux gives us a haunting thriller that can be devoured quickly and stay with you in dreams and dark, stormy nights. Worth the read during the next stormy night that you find yourself alone.

-A Bookish Girl

Shades of Magic Trilogy

V.E. Schwab

I kept a reading journal of my first experience with this series, available here. What is clear throughout that log is my adoration and connection with Schwab’s characters. I fangirled like the preteenager I was well over a decade ago. I failed to continue the series only because I knew the final instalment would be published in late February. I preordered a signed copy of the third book (because I wanted to spoil myself a bit for a successful end of another semester) and set the series aside to return when the last book was released.

I preordered a signed copy of the third book (because I wanted to spoil myself a bit for a successful end of another semester) and set the series aside to return when the last book was released. Two months passed and I got the email the final book had shipped. I ran into my library (a sitting room covered in books and shelves, nothing fancy) and grabbed A Gathering of Shadows. I wondered if, in the two months that had passed, my connection to the characters would still hold, I worried I would no longer find the world as enchanting, I feared the charm would be gone. Carefully and loaded with these concerns, I stepped into Schwab’s world on that afternoon. I emerged breathlessly and even more enamoured with the characters, the world, and the story than I was previously. The 24 hours between finishing the 2nd book and the arrival of the 3rd book were agonising.

I cannot imagine how it felt for those who read the second book immediately upon its publication.

The final book, A Conjuring of Light, was somehow just more. The entire series is devourable, magical, interesting. Somehow, Schwab gives you more in this novel than she had in the two books prior. (And, she was not holding back in the first two. This one is just that much more.) Everything you have hoped would happen in the series begins to happen, and yet she still surprises you. These novels really were amazing products of a wonderful storyteller.

HOWEVER. Yes, there are glaring and obviously problems with this entire series. (I still love and adore it!) The main female character is strong, independent woman who fails the Bechdel Test and is basically an archetype. It pains me to say that because I adore Lila. Yet, she is a female in a male-dominated world with one female relationship (in which they discuss the love interest), with powers and abilities that are above or equal with everyone around her, with a major flaw (stubbornness) which makes her more attractive (Kell adores and is frustrated with her fierce will). She is saved from her fear of intimacy by the intervention of the love interest. While here, the love interest does not have much depth either. He is a partially-developed character who embodies loyalty (to pair with Lila’s weakness) and who worries and thinks about either Lila or his loyalty. The lack of depth in this character forces the reader to fill in his depth or accept him as a love-interest and move forward. Again, I hate to say it because the Kell I created while reading was pretty amazing. So, character development is a bit of a weak spot throughout the entire series. The last book helps fill a bit of depth through flashbacks, but I think the characters remain a bit two-dimensional and idealistic, rather than realistic.

Otherwise, I adored the series. The worldbuilding, the adventures, the magic, and the ideas Schwab played with are incredible. I loved the characters despite their impossibility. (Perhaps because Schwab spoke to the optimistic, kind of shallow, preteen that never really leaves us.) I know I will reread this series and keep it close to my heart because even with these criticisms, I love it. I devoured it. I want to spend time in a Red London pub drinking with Kell, Lila, Rhy, and Alucard hearing their stories after the series ended.

-A Bookish Girl

The Wingfeather Saga

Andrew Peterson

My first impression of the series was a whimsical family tale. Peterson’s writing was lighthearted and pleasant. As the series and conflict progressed, the humour slipped away from the writing. However, this occurs after you have bonded with the characters so their story becomes something you, as a good friend, must witness. The last book is phenomenal. I am not typically a repeat reader – there are so many books out there and stories to be told that I enjoy a story and read a new one. Yet, as I read these books, I knew I would read them again and again.

I typically read dark fantasy like Abercrombie and Lynch, so it was a bit of a culture shock to read a novel where the main characters continuously escape and survive impossible situations consistently. I stopped worrying about the characters because I knew they would be fine. Instead, I began to picture it as a grandchild listening to tales of her grandparents’ youth in awe and with the assured knowledge they would be okay because here they were telling you the story. The last novel in the series felt more mature as if the children had become more aware of the conflict in the world. In this shift, moments of lightness shine all the brighter.

There are moments of beautiful, profound depth that stay with you, encouraging and filling you with hope when storms threaten to fill you with despair in your own life. The family dynamic is one of the most authentic I have read in a fantasy series. And at the end of the series, when the author leaves you, and the last word is written, the story is finished internally, and you will be surprised to find your conclusion is hopefully, optimistic, and as whimsical as the first novel.

-A Bookish Girl

The Magicians

Lev Grossman

I read this novel because it has been pushed as an adult Harry Potter. Yet, I feel that is incredibly inaccurate. (And not merely because Harry Potter is an adult novel as much as it is a children’s book.) The Magicians is not a comparable book to the Harry Potter series at all. I am not sure why this comparison is even being made.

I liked a couple key aspects of this story: the idea that actually living out the stories and adventures read and enjoyed by fantasy readers of all sorts would be disappointing in actuality; the realisation that magic does not fix everything, magic will not make you happy if you want to be miserable.

My verdict of this novel is that I nothing it. I did not dislike it, but I did not enjoy it.

I really have nothing more to say. I might pick up the series later, but I am off now to a series I know I will enjoy.

-A Bookish Girl

A Darker Shade of Magic

V.E. Schwab

I started this account to help me remember how books and stories affected me as I read them. I thought I would do something different with this book. (I am out of graduate school for the semester and have time to do things I enjoy.) So, I am writing my impression of the story as I read it.

19-Dec-2016

Something about this book feels comfortable. I am less than 50 pages into the novel and already adore the main characters. As I realise that perhaps these characters are a little too perfect, I wonder why I am not annoyed by the flawless nature of the main characters. There is something about the entire story that feels so fantastical that the wonderful main characters are enchanting and lovely, rather than like two terrible Mary Sue characters. Maybe I am so enthralled by the unique premise of the novel that I am too swept away to be concerned about the flawlessness of the characters.

20-Dec-2016

I planned to update after 50 additional pages. Yet, I read 150 pages more before realising that I hadn’t written any reaction to the story. I have the compulsion to finish this tale NOW. Sadly, the series isn’t completed. However, I did pause to buy the next book with rush delivery for Friday. I have decided Kell and Lila would be my friends if they were real. They enjoy living life to the fullest and understand we have ONE life. So much of the thought and philosophy in this story makes nod and cheer, “Yes! This thought exactly! Yes!”

There is a touch of romance just sprinkled throughout the tale. Nothing obnoxious, just a bit sweet and touching. For once, it doesn’t feel like the author is going to save the heroine through her newfound relationship. But, there is that well-earned fear that Schwab will cop out and after the adventure, the couple will be together. And with these two characters, nothing would be worse or more of a let down.

21-Dec-2016

I am afraid to pick up the book before doing chores and eating. Somehow, I am over halfway through with the novel, and the next one doesn’t arrive until Friday. I feel so torn. I need to know everything about the fourth London, and also I don’t want to have to wait to continue the story. To stall a bit longer, I have added the third book to my wishlist. It won’t be published until February. I really should pace myself better.

I love, love this book. I devoured it and now feel so lost. Kell and Lila are a some of the most loveable characters ever penned, the story is clever and unique, and the writing is clear and straightforward. The story unravels naturally as if the characters whispered it to her over drinks and Schwab frantically wrote it down.

The romance aspect, which is typically the weak point in a fantasy novel, was handled brilliantly. The author stayed true to her characters throughout the story. I adore these two and think they make each other better, stronger, more courageous. Yet, they are young and independent with a lot of life and growth to do on their own. I like that Schwab stayed true to the story and her characters. It gave the story additional authenticity.

To appear less bias, I feel I should add a disclaimer. This story is wonderful, charming, and thrilling. The author does not ask the reader to work very hard in this novel. The reader is gripped to finish the tale because they adore the characters, want to see how the adventure unravels, or simply enjoy a great story. The author is sparse on any additional commentary. You know these characters, on a superficial level. You know these Londons, superficially. If you are a reader who enjoys an author that makes you work and drops you into their world like Erikson, you may feel this story is a little black and white for you.

22-Dec-2016

I wish I could beg and ARC of the third novel from the author. I still feel the story gripping my mind, distracting me from reading anything else. Is it too soon to reread A Dark Shade of Magic?

-A Bookish Girl

Cuckoo Song

Frances Hardinge

This novel is enchanting, creepy, and wonderful. It feels like Neverwhere mixed with a fairy story. I was surprised and delighted throughout the entire story.

I discovered Frances Hardinge earlier this year with Fly by Night (published on my Mum’s birthday in 2005) and Twilight Robbery. I was captivated by her enchanting descriptions, weaving mysteries, and action-packed stories. After finishing the series, I lengthened my ever growing Amazon wish-list to include every Hardinge book published to-date. She is a brilliant storyteller.

Unlike many other children authors, Hardinge doesn’t foreshadow and give away the story, she doesn’t shy away from important subjects and includes strong, courageous, believable heroines. I am aware her novels are classified children’s books. However, these books are great for weekend reads for adults. (Or perhaps it is a fun read for the young girl trapped in this ‘adult’ person.)

-A Bookish Girl