Book Review: Red Seas Under Red Skies by Scott Lynch

The land won’t have you and the sea won’t claim you. You’ve fled, like us, to wood and canvas. This deck’s your firmament; these sails are your heavens. This is all the world you get This is all the world you need.

After the events of the first book, our protagonists find themselves in the lively city of Tal Verrar, once again already executing a heist. However things aren’t easy as it seems as they’ve caught the attention of The Archon of Tal Verrar, who puts a halt to their plans and decides to use the two as a tool to gain advantage over his enemies.

After reading The Lies of Locke Lamora, I was excited to read Red Seas Under Red Skies. The book starts off with an intriguing scenario between Locke and Jean. Glad to say this intrigue carries out through most of the first act of the book, in return makes it easy to follow and it sets up the book nicely.

Unfortunately the momentum couldn’t follow through as the book loses direction around the second act. Important plot points are abandoned and our characters becomes less interesting. Though Locke is still as fascinating as ever, the opposite can be said about Jean as he is more subdued this time around and is written like a glorified body guard.

There are a lot of new characters and they all have interesting personalities, however none of them have the presence of previous characters, and with very little back story it’s difficult to care for them.

The story becomes incredibly convoluted around the third act with plenty of events that happens with no clear follow ups. That said, the book’s climax was exciting to read but overall this was a disappointing follow up. The book wraps it well enough and it encourages the fans to read the third installment of the Gentlemen Bastards, one can only hope the third book won’t be as directionless as this one.

Rating: 2.7/5

Book Review: Spook’s The Dark Army by Joseph Delaney

Spook’s The Dark Army is the second book in the Starblade Chronicles Trilogy. It’s been 3 years since the first book went out and with it having a cliffhanger ending, I was itching to read the follow up.

Tom Ward died in his battle against an assassin at the ending of A New Darkness. Though upon his burial, a mysterious creature appeared resurrecting Tom from his death. Grimalkin, on the other hand took this opportunity to use Tom as a beacon of hope in fighting The Dark Army.

As a person who loved the initial series, The Wardstone Chronicles, I was looking forward to this new series. Unfortunately this my least favorite book out of all the books. The story is all over the place, our main protagonist, Tom Ward really doesn’t do anything, he’s mainly being used as a puppet and he has no authority whatsoever, which makes it difficult to root for, this time around.

Grimalkin is extremely one-dimensional and even the newcomer Jenny Calder has nothing to contribute to helping their cause. Some older characters return and even they don’t have major to contribute maybe except for one. It felt as if the author ran out of ideas for the story of this book and just added every old character in the mix because he can do so. This, unfortunately is the book’s major flaw.

As a book trying to separate itself from the amazing initial series, this book referenced a lot of events and characters from the older books making it feel as if you’ve missed so much. For a fan, this might not be a problem at all, however for people who are reading for the first time or who haven’t read the Wardstone Chronicles Series, that might be problematic.

There are some exciting moments in the book, during the second act there is a huge battle sequence which ultimately felt like a third act despite it being in the middle was still fun to read. The third act however goes into a screeching halt as it slows down tremendously and leaves for an extremely unsatisfying climax.

Overall this is the weakest book out of all The Spook’s book. For older fans they can follow through this book without giving much thought however, I highly doubt newer readers would be invested in this story.

Rating 2.2/5

Book Review: The Lies of Locke Lamora by Scott Lynch

Someday, Locke Lamora… someday you’re going to f*** up so magnificently, so ambitiously, so overwhelmingly that the sky will light up and the moons will spin and the gods themselves will s*** comets with glee. And I just hope I’m around to see it

I’ve heard a lot of praise heading into this book, there has been countless positive reviews and likewise on the top of many best of list. I was excited to read it and I kept expectations to a minimum. I didn’t know what to expect, but what I’ve read is a masterpiece.

Locke Lamora is an orphaned child in the City of Camorr. Without any guidance to follow he was left without a choice but to join the Thiefmaker’s guild on Shades Hill. However, having shown tremendous talent on thievery at an incredibly young age. The Thiefmaker himself could not handle Locke as he is sent to train under tutelage of The Eyeless Priest otherwise known as Father Chains. Along with other trainees, Locke and his peers grow up to be known as The Gentlemen Bastards.

There’s not much plot here as the story forms as we read through the book. We follow the story of Locke Lamora and his rise to being the smartest and most elusive thief in all of Camorr. His writing is magnetic, and we root for him. He’s written as an underdog, as a person of short stature compared to his peers, also not a very skilled fighter. But what he does have is his impressive wit and ability to plan clever schemes that most of the time work. That’s where his charisma comes in and it makes for a great protagonist.

There are also other characters here with strong personalities. Capa Barsavi is written as Camorr’s underground king and he is terrifying. Though not quite the villain of the book, however his intimidating presence makes his role very exciting. There’s also the Grey King who’s very mysterious and yet has an equally strong presence in the book. A lot of the characters are written incredibly well and they’re all very interesting.

The story is enthralling from start to finish, the first act being mainly a heist story which is cleverly written to the second and third act which becomes a revenge story that draws you in. The story pacing is perfect, as character backstory alternates with present day story and it flows well as the backstory provides insights to the upcoming chapters.

The only complaint and it’s incredibly minor, some of the dialogues are written with a certain accent and sometimes it makes it hard to comprehend what the characters are talking about. Though you will get used it, it may be problem for some and would cause them to lose interest in the story or the book itself.

Overall The Lies of Locke Lamora, is an epic fantasy worthy of it’s achievements. Scott Lynch has created a world filled with suspense, excitement and intrigue not to mention clever humor and extremely likable characters. The protagonists are charismatic and the antagonists are villainous but both sides have an interesting story to tell and it’s a story worth reading. Easily one of the best books I’ve read.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Suicide Forest by Jeremy Bates

“The Perfect Place To Die” The longer I was in Aokigahara, the more I believed this statement to be true. Despite the pervasive atmosphere of death and struggle and sadness, you felt cocooned here, isolated from the outside world.

-Jeremey Bates, Suicide Forest

I’ve always wanted to read or watch a documentary on The Suicide Forest. Ever since I heard of the place, it fascinated me. It’s a mysterious place, yet as eerie as it is, people are still drawn to it and reading Jeremy Bates’ Suicide Forest, I expected him to shed some light on the mysteries of the place. Unfortunately that was not the case with this book.

A group of friends led by Ethan, set out a hiking trip on Mt Fuji. Due to weather conditions their trip was postponed to the day after. The group then meet a couple who’s trip was also postponed and upon talking to them, they were told of a place called The Suicide Forest, with nothing else to do, the group joined the couple and ventured into the Suicide Forest.

I really wanted to like this book, I wanted to root for it even after reading several negative reviews. To my disappointment the book was terrible. The characters were one dimensional and flat out annoying. Ethan, the main protagonist, is a jealous guy who makes bad decisions throughout the whole book, he’s a difficult character to get behind to. The rest of the group are mostly stereotypes and there’s very little character development between them.

The first two acts were boring and it was filled with monologues that you couldn’t care about. There were a lot of unnecessary information given out and you just wish the book would just get straight into the killing or at least do something scary. At some points the book didn’t know the direction it was taking, was it going to be a supernatural ghost story or should it have a physical killer? You can call it unpredictable but by the time you realize what’s happening you couldn’t care less because you are not invested in the characters.

The only good thing about the book is the third act, which was exciting, it gave me the same feeling when I watched the remake of The Hills Have Eyes, which I liked. Overall this plays out like a bad horror movie. You have a scary place, flat characters and they’re just there for the killing. It had very little to do with the fact that it’s set on The Suicide Forest in which at times it felt like it could’ve been any forest in the world.

I really wanted for this book to do great and I was expecting a great horror story about The Suicide Forest, however this is not that book but if you’re someone who doesn’t mind a short, badly written horror story then this is for you.

Rating 2.2/5

Book Review: The Girl on the Train By Paula Hawkins

“Hollowness: that I understand. I’m starting to believe that there isn’t anything you can do to fix it. That’s what I’ve taken from the therapy sessions: the holes in your life are permanent. You have to grow around them, like tree roots around concrete; you mold yourself through the gaps”

-Paula Hawkins

Rachel Watson is your typical commuter, taking the 8:04 train in the morning heading to work and the 5:56 train heading back home. It takes her train 54 minutes to get to work and an hour and one minute to head back home. For Rachel, this has been a typical routine of her daily life, though one thing that keeps her intrigued is a couple living in a certain house which she can see from the train. Each time the train passes, Rachel gets a quick glimpse of the couple’s lives. Fascinated by the couple, Rachel imagines what names or jobs they might have or simply what lovely life they’ve been living. Till one fateful day where Rachel sees the girl with another man, and was reported missing the next day. Baffled by the recent occurrences, Rachel decides to seek explanation on the girl’s disappearance as she is thrown into a world full of deceit, manipulation and lies.

There are good things to love about this book, the story is intriguing, the pacing is just right and the writing is easy to follow hence making it an easier read. The book starts out just right it’s not overbearing neither is it underwhelming it gives you a simple format, though repetitive there’s enough intrigue to keep going. In the process, you learn about the characters, on who they are, what are they all about and it’s all very interesting at first. Once the disappearance occurs, it becomes a game of whodunnit as everyone’s a suspect and this is where the book’s unpredictability comes into play and it is fun. The mystery kept me hooked and it kept me wanting to read all the way to the end.

The one big major flaw of the book are its characters. As everyone seem to have something nasty to hide, it made the characters unlikable and as a reader made me unsympathetic. I understood that everyone’s got inner demons to face, however none of them have redeeming values making it difficult to relate to anyone. And for a book comprised with mainly female characters, none of them showed admirable characteristics to the point where it felt like the writing of the women was borderline misogynistic. Though there are moments where the book drew out emotions out of me, it wasn’t enough to make me like someone and root for them. There are even moments where a character’s subplot becomes uninteresting mainly because it was difficult to care for them.

Overall this is still a good mystery story, it is well paced and the story itself is intriguing and even if the characters are unlikable the mystery is enough to drive this book on it’s own. Highly recommended for people who love a simple mystery or thriller.

Rating: 3.5/5

Book Review: The Martian by Andy Weir

“If a hiker gets lost in the mountains, people will coordinate a search. If a train crashes, people will line up to give blood. If an earthquake levels a city, people all over the world will send emergency supplies. This is so fundamentally human that it’s found in every culture without exception. Yes, there are assholes who just don’t care, but they’re massively outnumbered by the people who do.”

-Andy Weir, The Martian

It’s Sol 5 on Mars and the Ares 3 Mission Crew are preparing to head to the MAV (Mars Ascent Vehicle) in hopes to leave Mars before they are hit with an extremely dangerous dust storm. Unfortunately on the way to the MAV, Astronaut Mark Watney, was hit by a flying wreckage sending him away. With very little option Commander Lewis had to abort her search for Watney as the crew shoots off to space. Fortunately for Watney he’s alive, unfortunately he’s stuck on Mars.

First off, WOW!, this was an amazing book, filled with likable characters an incredible story and not to mention hilarious dialogues. The writing on Mark Watney is believable, he’s someone people can easily relate with. Even with his impressive scientific knowledge, he comes off as a total geek but charismatic and because of that I found myself rooting for him all they way.

Another great thing about the book is the science, whether it’s pseudo-science or factual. The book sells it well, from the chemistry, biology to the physics and math. It’s amazingly detailed and believable. Though I’m certain there are inaccuracies but it’s written so well it’s not worth the effort to check. As for the other characters they all have important roles to fill, it almost felt like there are no side characters and calling them side characters doesn’t do them justice as they are also well-written and you can see that they care for Mark Watney and seeing the compassion from them will definitely draw some emotions out of you.

A surprising part of the book is the humor, my goodness this book is funny. For a book filled with scientific explanations and mathematical calculations, the humor is laugh out loud it complements the book really well and it makes the book a whole lot easier to read.

Overall this is an extremely well-written book, it’s funny and educational there’s suspense, drama and every time something horrific happens to Mark Watney, and a lot of bad shit happens, you care, you root for him from the start and from start to finish there’s never a dull moment. The Martian is without a doubt one of the best, sci-fi book out there and I highly recommend it to everyone.

Rating: 5/5

Book Review: Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer

“There are certain kinds of deaths that one should not be expected to relieve, certain kinds of connections so deep that when they are broken you feel the snap of the link inside you”

-Jeff VanderMeer, Annihilation

It’s the twelfth expedition into Area X and this time only four people were sent in, a biologist, an anthropologist, a surveyor and a psychologist. The expedition seems to be going well when the team discovered a tunnel of some sort or a tower as the biologist would call it. However this tunnel raised some questions as it was not marked on their maps as well as it is embedded into the earth. As the team try to unravel the mystery behind the tunnel they too discover secrets among themselves.

This book is a bit of a hit and miss, sometimes it’s great and really absorbing, sometimes you just can’t help but roll your eyes. That said, it’s still an interesting read. The book starts off with the biologist narrating the story. It is written in first person and I’ve always liked first person narratives so I thought it would be an engaging book. The team is composed of four women, and as mentioned before they have their own respective roles. Unfortunately the writing on them is mediocre as they are one dimensional, except for the biologist as we read through her narrative. But their personalities are bounded by their roles and we never see any character development among them.

The story is sometimes difficult to follow as a lot of it is made up of the biologist’s metaphors and internal monologues, where once it goes back to the story you might have forgotten where you left of. Another complaint is the use of words on the book, a lot of the words are hard to comprehend. For example

“why others had followed suit until it had become as inexorable as a long-ingrained ritual. By what impulse, what shared fatalism?

Unfortunately there are a lot of these phrases within the book and it does take you out of it.

The story though is intriguing there are a lot of mysteries in this book and a lot of them are unanswered, hoping the sequels will answer them, but they are exciting and it makes you want to read on. Area X is fascinating and you do want to figure out what is up with this place. A lot of the book deals with a person’s psyche as well as the horrors of hypnotism and they are played out well within the book. There are times where you are completely absorbed into a monologue or into an event only to be taken out by an unnecessary flashback.

Overall Annihilation is OK for a first book on a trilogy. It sets events up for the sequels and it leaves enough to keep you wondering what else is there. For 200 pages the book is fairly short, however with irregular pacing and confusing words the book proved to be a challenging read. Recommended for people who are into psychological thrillers.

Rating: 2.5/5