Book Review: Ender’s Game

Ender’s Game
by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 2 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi

This book was a rough ride for me, and I’m not sure I can write an adequate review. It has long been a book my husband has really liked, but I’d never read it and not had much desire to read it. And for the first few chapters, I did not care for it at all. As my husband promised, it did pick up after that, though I still struggled with a lot of the content. I did somewhat anticipate the “big reveal,” though to be honest, I thought there’d be another twist coming after that. 

I had a really hard time following and caring about all of the politics, both on earth and at Battle School. The chapter and later sections about Peter & Valentine frankly went over my head and bored me, and I didn’t understand the point of them. I know that some of this is delved into a lot more in other books, but it’s really not something that interests me, so it detracted from the book for me. And while the end was mostly good, the last chapter felt like a tack-on, and I could have done without it.

What really turned me off in the beginning, while I was waiting for things to really get going, was Card’s writing style. I do not care for it. It bugged me so much that the narrative and characters would reference things off-hand as if they’d already been explained to us and then expand on those thoughts, and I was left mentally sputtering as I tried to keep up. I think that, in the end, this kind of writing just does not mesh with my way of thinking, my personality, my preference in reading…whatever the case may be, it frustrated me, where most seem to be fine with it.

I’m surprised to say that I was not actually put off by Ender’s tendency to be the best at everything. I mean, that was kind of the point. He was genetically bred to be that way (though to be honest, I barely picked that up from the book itself, but the synopsis does state that). I couldn’t imagine him as a 6-year-old, though, and had to just think pre-teen from the start. My daughter is 9, so I couldn’t get past how ridiculously unrealistic it was, but I’m not saying it didn’t make sense for the story…it just didn’t make sense in my head.

Overall, I don’t fully get why it’s such a classic. I get why people like it, but do not understand the fanatical draw. This was my second Orson Scott Card book (the first being Lost and Found). I didn’t particularly care for the other, either, and it’s interesting to note that they were published decades apart. I kinda think that maybe Card’s writing just isn’t for me.

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

TBR Book Tag

I saw this tag over on A Rambling Reviewer and quickly decided I wanted to play along. Since starting to post reviews on my blog back in July and soon after starting to build an official TBR list, I actually take a lot of joy in organizing it. So answering questions about it and the books on it, was right up my alley. Diving right in:

How do you keep track of your TBR pile?
For starters, I keep a list on Goodreads. I feel a little weird sharing this, but I actually go a step further and have a spreadsheet with my TBR as well. This is so that I can manipulate it a lot more than I can on Goodreads–make notes about how I can get ahold of the book (library, borrow from someone, I own it, etc.), who recommended the book to me, keep track of series I’m in the middle of, things like that.

Is your TBR mostly print or e-books?
I generally read print books when I can, and the majority of the books on my TBR will be borrowed from the library as print books.

A book that’s been on your TBR list the longest?
Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card – I put this on 4 years ago when I first joined Goodreads, but back then, I wasn’t reading regularly. My husband has been recommending it for a long time, and I’m finally planning to read it within the next month.

A book you recently added to your TBR?
What You Wish For by Katherine Center – Releasing in July, I was recently invited to read the ARC for this book because I had read and enjoyed her previous book, Things You Save in a Fire.

A book in your TBR strictly because of its beautiful cover?
The Shadow of the Wind by Carlos Ruiz Zafón – The synopsis is interesting enough, but it was an impulse-add because of the cover.

A book on your TBR that you never plan on reading?
There are no books on my TBR that I don’t plan to ever read. Some I know will be there a while, but to avoid anxiety over feeling like I’ll never read all the books I want to, I don’t add a book if I’m not sure, at least at the time, that I want to read it. If I realize later that I don’t really care about it anymore, I’ll remove it.

An unpublished book on your TBR that you’re excited for?
Paris Never Leaves You by Ellen Feldman – This book releases in June, and I’m part of the blog tour for it at that time. It’ll be the first time I’ve done something like that, which is fun!

A book on your TBR that basically everyone’s read but you?
Harry Potter books – I’ve actually finished the first 4 books now, so I have 3 more to go now. Before last July, I hadn’t read or watched any Harry Potter, even though it’s…everywhere even now. (And by the way, now that I have some context, it is impossible to avoid spoilers. They’re everywhere!)

A book on your TBR that everyone recommends to you?
I don’t get a lot of direct recommendations, though my mom and sister have been very excited about some they’ve recommended. However, I think one that fits this bill better would be The Silent Patient by Alex Michaelides. After I put it on my TBR, it won the Goodreads Choice Award in the mystery & thriller category, which presumably means that a lot of readers recommend it.

A book on your TBR that you’re dying to read?
It’s strange to look for a book for this question in my TBR, because logically I think that if I was dying to read it, I’ve already have read it. But realistically, I have all sorts of reasons to hold off on even books I’m really excited about. So I’ll go with North and South by Elizabeth Gaskell. I’ve seen the mini-series several times and love it, so I have a feeling I will get swept up in the book.

How many books are on your Goodreads shelf?
It depends on which one you mean, so I’ll just say I have 66 books on my TBR, with 22 in my “maybe add later” list on my spreadsheet, which includes books that my library doesn’t have and I’m not ready to buy, or just books that I’m not 100% sold on (so I guess I sort of have books I don’t intend to read, but not on the official TBR, and I’m not certain I won’t read them).

How does your TBR look? Answer these questions on your own blog and feel free to link your post in the comments!

Top Ten Tuesday: Books I’d Title Differently

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic this week was “Books I’d Give Different Titles To.” For this list, I definitely had to stick with books that I had read or that were on my TBR, because otherwise, I can imagine being sucked into a black hole of book titles and blurbs. I was only able to come up with 7, with 5 that I’ve read and 2 that I plan to read someday. There was an additional suggestion to give alternative titles, but that’s one of my weakest areas in my own writing, so I am going to skip that suggestion. Without further ado:

1. Stealthy Steps by Vikki Kestell
I get the book’s name–the main character is invisible during half of it. But I think it’s very weak and otherwise makes little sense. The series is titled Nanostealth, and all of the books have the word “Stealth” in their titles. I don’t know about the rest of the series titles yet, but this one I think could have been better. (See my review for this book.)

2. The Inquisition by Taran Matharu
This is the middle book in the Summoner trilogy, and the other two are aptly named. This one, however, is not. The Inquisition it mentions is such a small part of the entire book, we get past it to much more exciting things early on. I would have liked to see the title reflect more of the full story. (See my review for this book.)

3. Lost and Found by Orson Scott Card
To be honest, I have a more difficult time explaining my issue with this title. I think it might be because of the way the main character’s micro power of finding things is so analyzed to death, it’s almost like they talk their way out of the title making sense. (See my review for this book.)

4. Smoke Screen by Terri Blackstock
I know this title was meant to at least partially reference one of the main characters’ profession as a smoke jumper. I assume it had a double meaning, referring to the secrets and mystery there to be uncovered. However, since that mystery angle didn’t really fill as much of the book as I expected, the title falls flat for me. (See my review for this book.)

5. On the Edge of the Dark Sea of Darkness by Andrew Peterson
I haven’t read this yet, though it’s on my short list, so I can only go by the blurb. But no matter what the book is about, the title has a silly redundancy to it. It is a book for a younger audience, but it has enough seriousness to it that the title seems weird. I am open to the possibility that reading the book will shed light on the title though.

6. Between Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys
I know that my reasoning for including this book is not fair to it, but the first few times I saw this book, I assumed it was related to Fifty Shades of Grey. It’s not, not even remotely, and is actually about a Soviet work camp in the 1940s. As far as I can tell, this book came out a couple months before Fifty Shades, and I wonder how many other people over the years have thought it was related. I’m glad I discovered it wasn’t, and hope to have a chance to read it someday.

7. The Yellow Lantern by Angie Dicken
The book is part of a series called True Colors, and all of the books (written by different authors) have a color in the title. In the case of this book, though, it was a pretty good stretch to be able to get that color in the title. The book involves a band of grave robbers, and the titular lantern provides light for these nocturnal activities. However, the grave robbing was such a minor (and muddled) aspect of the book, the lantern really had a tiny role, and the title just doesn’t work for me. I actually have the ARC for another book in this series on my list to read soon (The Gray Chamber by Grace Hitchcock), and I’ll be very interested to see if the colorful title holds up for that one.  (See my review for this book.)

Have you read any of these? What would you add to the list?

Book Review: Lost and Found

Lost and Found
by Orson Scott Card

My rating: 2.5 / 5
Genre: YA speculative fiction

I was pretty excited when I was approved to read an advance copy of this book, since Orson Scott Card is a big name author. I haven’t read anything else by him (though Ender’s Game is on my TBR short list), but fortunately, I’ve read other reviews that say this isn’t like his other, especially earlier, work. Because this could have turned me off to his writing otherwise. I struggled a lot with various aspects of this book.

My biggest issue was the dialog. Not just the dialog itself, but the way it was framed. I’m a huge dialog person, both in my reading and my writing. And this book was something like 75% dialog. Because outside of the actual events that occurred surrounding the lost girl (and even during that), it felt like the characters were always either standing around or sitting around talking. And there was very little in the way of action happening during the talking, but while this worked in Lock In, it just didn’t work the same in this book. I’m not sure if I can explain why though. Maybe because the MC in Lock In is more of a mind at work, then a physical person? Maybe because it wasn’t 75% of the book?

But then, it might be because of the actual content of the dialog. There was so much snark and snappiness, it was just overwhelming. Almost like it was trying too hard to be witty and intelligent. Most of the characters talked nearly identically, even the minor ones, so it was really difficult to get a sense of who was talking. The only thing that really led me to understand that Ezekiel was particularly smart was that the detective said as much to him. But sometimes, the detective talked just like him, except without the constant need to correct people, so I guess that’s what made Ezekiel smarter? Some dialog scenes actually read as if the characters were doing nothing but one-up’ing each other in being more and more correct about what they were trying to say. And I really didn’t buy either Ezekiel or Beth as early teens due to their dialog.

Ezekiel’s micropower is analyzed to death, right up until the end of the book. On the other hand, a few certain elements (that I won’t detail for the sake of spoilers) were left completely unexplained. And there were certain things that happened in this book that reminded me of my 10-year-old self writing about a girl who got her best friend adopted alongside her simply because she was plucky enough to ask. It just felt a bit too unlikely in several spots (including what would likely be allowed in police work). But maybe Card has done some research and knows some things I don’t (I am definitely not an expert).

As far as the plot goes, it got off to a bit of a slow start, and then started to get interesting. And then went a surprising direction right at about the halfway point, and then became too predictable because of that. I know this is vague, but I don’t want to spoil anything. And a warning: it’s fairly dark and gritty for a YA book, dealing with things like (spoilers) kidnapping of young children, child pornography, parent death, and even one death scene (not a parent) described a bit graphically.

Now, the positives. Because I did give this book some stars. Ezekiel’s dad. I really like seeing a parent portrayed in such a great light, especially a father, because let’s face it, they’re pretty beat up in fiction of various mediums these days. I also liked the way the detective treated Ezekiel, for the most part, outside of the unlikely things. I really did like the premise, and even the plot, for the first half of the book. Then it felt like a rinse and repeat for the second half.

I struggled with how many stars to give this book. While I was reading it, I was hovering around 3-3.5. But by the end, I couldn’t figure out what I was seeing that gave it even that much redeeming value. I hate writing a review like this, and I will sum up by saying that a lot of this is personal preference. But it really didn’t suit my preference. I think there are plenty of people who would enjoy the quick, snarky dialog though, considering that the writing actually reminded me of a few people I know. So for those who enjoy that type of writing, it’s probably worth a read.

Thank you to Netgalley and Blackstone Publishing for providing me a copy of this book to review.

Find out more about Lost and Found
Publication date: September 10, 2019

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!

Book Review: The Inquisition

The Inquisition
Summoner
Trilogy #2
by Taran Matharu

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA Fantasy

The Inquisition

Spoiler notice: The following review will contain some spoilers for the first book in the trilogy, The Novice.

The Inquisition picks up a year after the previous story’s end, finding Fletcher in jail, where he’s been the entire year. Some life-changing events are tied up in the trial, and before we know it, Fletcher is being sent to the jungles to help lead a covert mission of rescue and destroy (not necessarily in that order). Fletcher has to work with his friends and enemies, and keep his wits about him when things aren’t what they seem.

I enjoyed this book at least as much as the first book. Fletcher’s abilities were established, and in fact had grown between books. Old friendships and rivalries came back into play, as well as some new characters to love. The species & class warfare are still involved, and in the case of species warfare, even more so.

I wasn’t super excited about the beginning of the book, knowing that Fletcher would be in jail, and that the people with all the power would make it very difficult for him to prove himself innocent. They did that and then some. Of course, I knew he’d either be exonerated or escape, because otherwise, there’d be no rest of the book. And with the end of his prison time came a big turn-around for his life.

The rest of the book, which was preparation for and executing of the covert mission into orc territory, was interesting and, at times, exciting. A few things happened that led me to notice that Fletcher, in both books, has a tendency to fall into a trope where good things happen to him simply because he’s a nice guy. Learning important information, chance encounters, unlikely allies, things like that. I am not trying to say this is a bad trope–it never bothered me when it happened, but it was a trend I noticed.

There were a few things that happened near the end that are a twist of some kind. One of them I figured out early. One I kept speculating on, and turned out to be wrong. And one, the way the book ends, in fact, I did not see coming at all. Unlike the cliffhanger from book 1 to book 2, I’m very excited to see how book 3 picks up from where this one left off.

Find out more about The Inquisition

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If you’ve read this book, or read it in the future, feel free to let me know what you think!