Book Review: The Empty Throne

My rating: 2 out of 5 stars

So, after reading another Xena novel, Prophecy of Darkness by Stella Howard, I was eager to read more. Luckily, I had bought a few others at the same time, and so I dove into this one.

To say I was disappointed was an understatement. These books were so vastly different it was disturbing. Yes, they were written by different authors, so I expected them to be a bit different in the writing style, but where as Howard’s book felt like a written version of an unaired episode, Emerson’s was like a really bad fan fiction.

There was a lot that bothered me about this book. All too often, Xena was referred to as “The warrior”. Okay, fine, she’s technically a warrior, but why use that label more as a name than anything else. Also, Argo, Xena’s trusty palomino mare, was never referred to by her name. In fact, I can’t even recall the author stating that she was a mare. Anytime the horse was mentioned it was much like Xena, only ever being called “the horse”. Only, I can’t recall a single time when the horses color was even mentioned. I realize that is a small detail, but one that any Xena fan would expect to see in the story. I was honestly surprised that Gabriel wasn’t called “the sidekick” throughout the book given how things were going.

Add into the fact that the story line seemed to go no where. I realize that there isn’t always a direct line to the end and that sometimes things have to happen outside of a heroes initial quest in order to full move things along, but ugh what a slog this book was. Even half way through I felt like Xena, or should I say ‘the warrior’, was no closer to getting anything done that at the beginning.

To continue my list of unpleasantries. Let’s talk about Xena’s weapons. She has a sword, sometimes a whip and this thing called a Chakram. Unfortunately, time and time again, the author spelled it Chakra. Close, but not quite. It’s little missteps like that that really dragged the book down. I don’t know is she half-assed her or just never watched an episode of the show, but nothing felt right about this book.

Really the only reason I gave it two stars is because, in the end it is a Xena novel, as bad as it was, and it was mercifully short. If your a Xena fan, you can read this one if you want, but I wouldn’t recommend it. I really hope her other books are better, because I own two more.

Book Review: The Lightning Thief

My rating:  4 out of 5 stars

So way back when in 2010 (wow has it only been 7 years), I watched The Lightning Thief movie, and while I liked it, I told myself I needed to read the book because the books are almost always better than the movie. It took me a couple years to get the series and then a few more years passed before I finally got around to reading this book. Another reason why I waited so long to read the book, is that I wanted to details of the movie to fade from memory, so it was like walking into the book with a clean slate. I had only the most vague of memories of a few things that happened in the movie, so now was the perfect time to read it.

Right from the beginning I was pulled into the story. I like how the book started with a confession from Percy, which really helps to set everything up. It makes you intrigued about why he wouldn’t want to be a half-blood. From then on the story just keeps getting better.

The flow of this story is fantastic. There aren’t any noticeable slow points, sure there are moments where the action has died down but they don’t feel like a lull in the story, more like the calm before the storm. The mix of characters in this story is great as well. Obviously most of them are half-bloods, with a good dose of Greek monsters and Gods mixed in, along with a plentiful dash of mortals to finish it off. I have to say I really liked Annabeth’s character, which they were all great in their own way, but for some reason her character stood out to me the most.

One thing I thought was interesting is how the perspective of mortals changed when viewing half-blood and monsters. For example, a sword fight looks like a gun fight to mortal eyes. They never see what is truly going on, which os course can work both for and against the characters as they make their journey across America to get to their ultimate destination.

Really my only complaint, and it’s a small one, is that we didn’t get to see a lot of the Gods in this book. I get why, the focus isn’t on them, but on their kids. I just wish there had have been more. I’m hoping that as the series progresses that they will have a bigger role and influence in the books.

Overall, I found this to be a really good book and a great start to a series. I am really looking forward to continuing on with their series to see what else the characters must endure throughout their years at Camp Half-Blood and beyond. I also look forward to seeing my son read this book, and hope that he enjoys it as much as I did.

Book Review: War Crimes

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Back when I played World of Warcraft, I developed a very large dislike, perhaps even hatred, of Garrosh. So naturally, when I saw that a book was being released about his trial for all of the crimes he committed, I was immediately interested. The fact that it was written by Christie Golden was another bonus, because I have read and enjoyed several other books written by her in this series.

It took me a while to get into this book, and it never really fully gripped me. It was good, yes, but not great, not like I was hoping it would be. I think the fact that nearly the whole book was a long courtroom trial made it unappealing. Granted, I did think it was sort of interesting how they approached presenting the evidence, as normal word of mouth wasn’t good enough. Instead, they actually showed the events using the device from the Bronze Dragonflight. That part was pretty neat. I mean, how else can you guarantee you are getting an accurate account of events? Memories can fade or alter over time, and even emotions can affect them. So what better way to do it, then to actually pull up the event through time and show it as a mini movie for all to see.

Really outside of that, the book felt a bit flat. There was a decent amount of tension in this book, what else do you expect when Alliance and Horse are put in the same room for extended periods of time, but it just felt off. Sure, the Pandaren made it impossible to use any magic in the area, and the temple where the trial was held had a calming affect on everyone, but I felt like it needed something else. Something to make it more enjoyable to read, to really show the true nature of everyone present.

The few parts that weren’t directly tied to the trial were short and added very little to the story overall. And when the ending happened, I was a bit disappointed.

Overall, I liked the book, but I didn’t love it. It had some good moments, but it was a book that just read slow and took a bit too long to get to anything other than boring trial business. I am still glad that I read this book and look forward to continuing the series. Those who enjoy World of Warcraft will likely enjoy this novel, and the others in this series.

Book Review: Water For Elephants

My rating: 4.5 out of 5 stars

For a number years now I had been debating about whether I would read this book or not. It seemed to be front and center every time I went to a book store, then when the movie was coming out, it’s popularity came back and everyone was raving about it again. But that was the problem for me, I tend to avoid super popular books, especially when they are slated to become a movie, because I find that rarely stand up to the hype. Plus it didn’t help that the trailer for the movie made it look like one of those cheesy girly romance movies that I would hate. So I decided that I would not read the book.

Flash forward a few years later and I found myself in possession of a copy of this book and the debate on whether to read it or not returned. So, I decided I would give it a try, and if I didn’t like it, I would set it aside and forgot that I ever set eyes on it. I had no clue I was in for a treat.

To say I was immediately pulled into the story was an understatement. I surfaced momentarily for dinner and then dove right back in. The next thing you know, I was three quarters done already. I might have even finished it in one sitting had it not been for the fact that it was pushing 3am and I was dead tired. When I woke a few hours later, I went to the book and didn’t do anything else until it was done.

The first paragraph of this book had me smiling. It’s so simple yet spoke volumes. It was as if I was told “I don’t remember how old I am, but sit down and I will tell you one hell of a story” and of course I obliged because who can say no that? And you know what, it was one hell of a story.

While I’m normally not a huge fan of stories written in first person, I felt that it worked perfectly for this book. It really gave us the best look at Jacob’s life, both in the past and present, and put us squarely in the same events. I don’t think I would have enjoyed this one as much if it had have been written in third person. Having the story shift from present day to the past, really helped to convey everything. While the focus is on Jacob’s past, namely the time he worked at the circus, getting to see him as an older gentleman struggling with memories and feeling lost added another layer to the story. In a way, it sort of reminded me of the book Fried Green Tomatoes, in that the story shifts from present to past, to help facilitate the story as a whole.

I really enjoyed the mix of characters in this book. Sure they were pretty much all circus goers, but that doesn’t mean they all are the same. I especially liked Walter. His attitude at the beginning was great, since I tend to love characters like that, but seeing him warm up to Jacob along the way was also nice. I do wish that we could have gotten to learn a bit more about some of the characters, but since this was a story about Jacob’s life, then I’m not too concerned about it.

It was clear that a lot of research went into the novel. Not just about the depression but about circuses during that time as well. The author did a wonderful job of blending fact with fiction to make a solid and highly enjoyable story.

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. My only regret is that I didn’t read it earlier, but now I am happy to have done so. If you haven’t read this book, I would highly recommend that you make time to do so. I would definitely read more books by this author, as her writing is truly beautiful.

Book Review: Marley & Me

My rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Back in 2009, I ended up watching the movie Marley & Me. I had intended to read the book first, but that didn’t happen. I enjoyed the movie quite a yet, yet still had the desire to read the book to get the full story. Flash forward to 2017, when I finally got a chance to read the book.

This was a enjoyable and fairly quick read. Getting to read all about Marley’s escapades, from his rambunctious puppy days, to when he was an old, yet still very determined, dog was fun. I honestly could not imagine what it would be like to deal with a dog such as this. I’ve seen bad dogs, and read about them, but have had very little personal experience with them. Of course, if I did end up with a bad dog, I would probably stick with him/her, because that’s what a good dog owner does. Sure it would be a challenge, but hey if they can put up with Marley, then I could do the same with an equally bad dog.

This book certainly puts the challenges of dog ownership into the spotlight. Anyone can handle a good dog, but what about those that are high strung and a challenge to control? Marley was a good example of the ups and downs of owning a challenging dog. I could not imagine having to worry about how much of my house was destroyed each time a thunder storm happened. Or barely being able to control my dog while walking him around the city.  And to have a heavy duty metal crate destroyed in a panic? Well, that’s one crazy dog.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I’ll admit, that the last few chapters, leading up to Marley’s death, were very hard to read. As a dog owner and lover, I don’t want to read about a dogs health declining and about making the call on when enough suffering is enough. And yet, it’s all a part of being a responsible dog owners.

Having owned a few dogs over the years, I count myself lucky that none of them were as bad as Marley was. Of course, I also know of one dog, that I feel could challenge Marley for the Worst Dog title.

I would recommend this book, and the movie, to dog lovers and those looking for a humorous story. This is also a great cautionary tale for future dog owners, so they know that not every dog is perfect, but what they add to your life is worth it in the end.

Book Review: The Bookshop On The Corner

My rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars

Several months ago, I kept seeing this book on various book sites and blogs, and was a bit intrigued. All I knew about it, was that it was about a librarian who loses her job and opens a bookstore. I didn’t know it was set in the UK until I started reading it, and I also didn’t know that the bookshop was in a van. Yes, that shows that I didn’t even read the blurb on the back of the book, but that’s okay, because sometimes going blindly into books turns out for the best. Plus the appeal of reading a book whose main character not only loved books, but ran a bookshop was appeal enough for me to pick it up.

I have to say that I felt an almost instant connection to Nina’s character, and not just because she loved books. It was her quiet, insecurities that really made her stand out to me. I definitely understood her aversion to groups, people, loud noises and everything else that doesn’t involve hiding in a book. It was nice to have a character that closely reflected my own life in a number of ways.

I found the flow of the story to be quite good. It never really felt slow, outside of perhaps the first chapter, but I can forgive it for it’s slower pace. The descriptions in this book of the Scottish country side were quiet vivid and made me want to go there just to see the rolling green hills. The mix of other characters really helped to move the story along, although most of the focus was still on Nina and her quest to open her bookshop.

While it was odd to see a town that was so obsessed with reading, it was also something quite refreshing. As a reader, I have experienced people who just don’t understand why people read, especially when it is not demanded of them – like while in school. So to get to experience a whole small town rejoice that books have returned to their life was really something special.

Some of the books mentioned within this story sounded really interesting. However, I found out after finishing that book that many of them were made up by the author, which is both exciting and disappointing, because I would honestly love to have read some of them.

One issue I did find was that sometimes information was given out a bit too often. There were a number of times that author made a point and stating that the sun didn’t set until very, very late at night. I get mentioning it the first time, but after the fifteenth time it felt extremely redundant. I also had an issue with parts where someone was talking and it was followed with ‘This was a long speech from (character)’. It’s like if they said more than a few words at a time, the author had to make an example of it and state that it was a long speech.

Another small thing that happened in sometimes I would come across sentences that felt really off to me. I would read them multiple times, yet I still couldn’t put my finger on what made them stand out. In fact, at one point I made my husband read one of these sentences and his response was “Yes, that is oddly written.” I don’t know if it was something in the terminology or something else, but those sentences really broke up the flow the story because I had to stop and try to figure out exactly what I was reading.

I was slightly disappointing in the last hundred or so pages of this book, when the focus seemed to shift almost completely away from the bookshop and focus solely on Nina’s love life. I get that it couldn’t all be about the bookshop, but I felt that it being dropped in the interest of her sex life, was a bit of a let down. Yes, there are things in peoples life outside of their work, but work doesn’t just disappear because you have caught someones interest.

Overall, I enjoyed this book and I would certainly read more books by this author in the future. I think this book would appear to a variety of readers, so if you haven’t read this one yet, I would recommend that you do at some point.

Book Review: Sisterhood of The Traveling Pants

My rating: 3 out of 5 stars

I can’t even tell you why I originally bought this book. But considering it has a price sticker from a used book store on it, I’m assuming that I saw it during a book shopping trip and thought “Why not, it could be interesting” and so I bought it.

Though the first chapter felt a little off, the rest of this book flew by. I managed to get through it in just a few hours and while most of it slipped away almost immediately upon finishing it, I’m glad I gave it a chance.

The one thing that I had an issue with was how quickly the story jumped between the four friends. Even at the half way point I still couldn’t keep track of who was who, which made it difficult to feel any connection to any of the characters. So by the end of the book I was left thinking, wait what happened with that girl again? It’s strange to have the contents of a book fade away so quickly. In fact, I wrote this review immediately after finishing the book and I’m seriously grabbing at straws here to put anything down, that’s how much of it I remember. But I know the few details I do remember will inevitably fade more and I will be left with nothing to write.

Overall, this was a quick read, but since it didn’t stick with me, I can’t really say much else about it. I was just one of those okay books. I know there are people out there who have really enjoyed this book, so if you are curious about the story, I would recommend checking it out.