This week on the blog:
- Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson – A YA dystopian with superheroes! – 4 stars
- Discussion: Struggling with Reviews – What do you do when you have review-writer’s block?
- Magic Slays (Kate Daniels #5) by Ilona Andrews
- The first few books in this series were good, but these last two were phenomenal. It keeps getting better and better!
- Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn
- To sum up my full Goodreads review: “The brilliance is in the way she builds up hope, only to dash it to pieces. Flynn manages to manipulate her readers just as the characters manipulate each other, and it’s through that process that we come to understand them.”
Still working on:
- Summer Knight (Dresden Files #4) by Jim Butcher
- I did not get into this HBO series when it first started, but on Sunday I got sucked into a marathon before the Season 3 premiere and got hooked. I still have a lot of issues with it, but as often as I want to strangle Hannah, I also find her somewhat endearing.
- andhim – “The Wizard of Us”
- I have always been a fan of electronic music, but recently I’ve decided to more actively try to discover new electronic artists. I used to rely on the BPM channel on Sirius/XM, but now that we’ve gotten rid of that service, I need to be more proactive. This duo is performing tonight in Chicago, and if I can keep my 30-something self awake that long, I plan to try and go catch them live. But honestly, I can’t even remember the last time I was out after 1am.
What have you been up to this week?
I’ve been away from blogging for a little while, and at least partially because of my constant struggle to write what I deem to be adequate reviews. Does this sound familiar? You finish a book, and sit down to write a review, but you can’t think of anything to say. Maybe you beat your head against the wall, maybe you flip through the book again to see if anything comes to you, or maybe you just give up and don’t write anything.
Here’s my process:
- Finish book, swim around in all the feels. Isn’t this glorious? Let’s just stay here forever, you and I, my little booky-wook.
- Jump on Goodreads, give it a snap judgment star rating. You’re welcome, book.
- Wait two weeks, so that you read at least a few more books that will muddle your memory of the book you need to review. Book cries a little.
- Get calendar reminder email that you need to post your review. Experience a bolt of fear normally reserved for seeing a spider in your bed. Book feels the residual shock and flips you the middle finger.
- Fire up the computer, crack knuckles, and enter all the book info. You’re on a roll! This is going to be a piece of cake! Book says it’s sorry and gives you a hug.
- Stare blankly at the screen, wondering where to start. The cursor blinks incessantly, and book just stares at you.
- Type a couple of lame sentences summarizing the plot. Hooray! We’re getting somewhere!
- Decide you hate those sentences, since the plot is summarized already in the synopsis. Delete them and stare some more.
- Re-write the summary sentences, since people probably won’t read the synopsis anyway, or they already know what the book is about, in which case why would either of those groups of people want to read a review anyway? This is stupid. I hate you, book. Book sticks its tongue out at you.
- Think of the three nitpicky things you briefly thought of while reading the book and write those down, stringing it together with awkward transitions (making heavy use of headers), and getting frustrated with your stiff phrasing. Why can’t you loosen up already? It’s probably book’s fault. You give book the evil eye, and book collapses in a puddle of shame tears.
And who wants that? Nobody, that’s who. Especially poor, sad book.
Of course if there was an easy answer for how to write reviews easily, there’d probably be an app for that. (And if I’m mistaken, and there is already an app for that, please point me to it immediately.) I realize that I have personal faults that directly contribute to some of the above teeth-gnashing and hand-wringing, like waiting too long before actually writing the review, and not taking notes. But I have a hard time taking notes while reading, and sometimes I like to let a book breathe after finishing, so I don’t jump to too many conclusions right away.
So what’s a girl to do?
Seriously. I’m asking.
Are notes and speedy reviews the only answers? What do you do when you struggle to write a review?
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Reckoners #1
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Release date: September 24, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Fantasy, Young Adult
Amazon • Goodreads
Summary from Goodreads:
There are no heroes.
Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.
But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.
Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.
And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.
He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.
Let’s talk about that boy…
All praise Brandon Sanderson for giving us one of the best male narrators in YA fiction. David is a breath of fresh air in a sea of Katniss and Tris wannabes. Maybe it’s just that I’ve become tired of the dystopian girl who has to meet a cute boy to help her cope with her depressing world, but it was nice to have a main character who took it upon himself to try and make his world better.
In the prologue, we meet David as a young boy, who goes through a harrowing experience while at the bank with his father. Two of the Epics – humans with superpowers that developed after an event called Calamity – get into a brawl with disastrous consequences. David spends the next ten years studying Epics in search of a way to defeat them, taking notes and forming theories.
So about those Reckoners…
David is not the only one who wants to take down the Epics. Imagine if people started developing limitless powers, and couldn’t handle the God complex that followed from that? This is David’s world, where Epics rule with iron fists while the rest of the country falls into chaos and poverty.
The Reckoners are a guerrilla group that work to secretly eliminate Epics. They have no real presence – they don’t publicize their efforts, and they haven’t been able to take down any of the really powerful Epics that would draw much attention. David wants to join up with them to share his research and bring down the Epic that took everything from him.
The mystery of Steelheart…
The problem is that although David knows that Steelheart can be hurt, he doesn’t know how. In the bank, as a boy, he witnessed one bullet that managed to make Steelheart bleed. When David joins the Reckoners they set out to try and figure out what was special about that bullet, that gun, or that moment that made him vulnerable.
And one of my favorite aspects of the book was that I could never quite figure it out. Most of the main characters have a different theory about Steelheart’s weakness, and they all feel convincing. The deeper they get in their plot to try and overthrow him, the higher the stakes become for getting the answer right. If they can’t find the answer before the showdown they are setting up, they’ll all be killed. This is a win or die scenario, and it was completely gripping to read.
If you want action…
…then this is the book for you. If they don’t make this into a movie, then the world is majorly missing out. The action scenes are crazy intense – chase sequences, guns, and explosions galore. The Reckoners have to meet with seedy black market weapons traders and sneak into heavily guarded buildings. Their headquarters are in a forgotten layer of underground tunnels, and the final showdown happens in one of the most iconic buildings in Chicago (or Newcago, as it’s known in David’s world).
It was the breakneck pace of the action that kept me turning the pages as fast as possible. I tore through this book and found it unbelievably hard to put down. Unfortunately, the pacing didn’t leave much room for explanation of the world. I felt there were a lot of pieces of information that we didn’t get which would have been helpful to understand how Newcago operates or how the world got to this point. No one seems to understand Calamity or how it led to the Epics, and even though it has only been ten years, I expected just a bit more information.
I’m hoping that information comes in with the next book in this exciting and promising new series. I adored David and can’t wait to see what’s in store for him and the rest of the Reckoners.
Rating: 4/5 stars