Spring 2017 Books

The Fate of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #3)The Fate of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved the first book of this trilogy, then I had to fan my flagging enthusiasm for the second. This last book does a better job of focusing on characters that we actually care about, and spins conflict in a natural, fatally human way.

Some may balk at the twist ending, and it does seem like a non sequitur, but I can live with it because ultimately the heroine sacrifices greatly for the sake of others. It completes her epic, virtuous character arc.

Oddly though, I feel like this book stripped the villains of all their menace. So much of their danger in the first and second books is that we didn't understand their motive, and knew nothing of their past. This book reveals all of that, and so there were no twist counterattacks or bends in the plot.

And, I'll be honest, I still don't really understand how the heroine's magic (her sapphires) work. Johansen went into detail about their origin, but it didn't click.

Overall, a fairly satisfying conclusion to a unique and well-defined world. One thing Johansen does well is suck you in. Looking forward to reading more of her stories.
Rise of the Dragons (Kings and Sorcerers, #1)Rise of the Dragons by Morgan Rice
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

DNF. So much telling, exposition. Warrior heroine longing to be taken seriously, latent magical powers, and half a dozen grizzled men who dote on her? Nope. Those tropes aren't enough to make me sympathize with the MC.

Too bad, because I love the covers on this series, and the author seems to have had success with it.
Back to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional SkillsBack to Basics: A Complete Guide to Traditional Skills by Abigail R. Gehring
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Good in concept, but sadly outdated. The illustrations are from decades past, as is much of the advice and stories. I'm all for reviving the old arts, but I don't see how this is a 3rd edition from 2007. Disappointing. Will perhaps try something a little more recent. Don't bother reading unless you want to feel like you're reading advice that's 40 years stale.
A Cast of Stones (The Staff and the Sword, #1)A Cast of Stones by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Excellent! A bit elementary in storytelling showmanship, but the complex world building and very approachable MC more than makes up for it. Very interested to read more in the series and find out what happens to young staff-wielding Errol Stone! Let's be honest, I'd enjoy any book involving a quarter staff.
The Hero's Lot (The Staff and the Sword #2)The Hero's Lot by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Quite good. I devoured this second book in the series. Impressive world building, as the majority of the plot is in "quest mode", campaigning through various realms.

Other cultures are not wrong, just different. Loyalty is relative, depending where you stand. What do you choose to live for, if you know you're going to die?
A Draw of Kings (The Staff and the Sword #3)A Draw of Kings by Patrick W. Carr
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Satisfying conclusion for this riveting trilogy. This author has done a remarkable job of creating vulnerable, relatable, extraordinary characters through multiple POVs. Go find these 3 books and start reading!

I had hoped that the end threads would twist in a satisfying "aha" way, but alas I saw the reveals coming.

Few authors I have read portray religion and faith in such a kind, truth-seeking light. Generally, the trend is to throw in the default corrupt church, influencing state in teeth-gritting condescension. But this treatment was a refreshing surprise. Yes, religion is corruptible, as humanity is, but there are some--such as Martin and Luis and Errol--who engage and wrestle with their beliefs in order to find meaning. That's powerful.
The White Mare (Dalriada, #1)The White Mare by Jules Watson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This one probably deserves a more thorough read, as I skimmed a lot of the tactics and political manoeuvrings. The ice princess and flawed hero tropes were done well here, and the Druid first century culture reminded me of The Mists of Avalon.

Some lovely description and world building, and an intimate portrayal of a male-hating, marriage-dreading rape victim. Monstrous to think how prevalent violence against women was in those days.
The HelpThe Help by Kathryn Stockett
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Funny. Hard. So well done. For those who enjoyed the film, you will be pleased to hear that it is nearly identical to the book. That being said, it's still worth reading.

Just like the parables, reading this book shouldn't make us wonder what kind of villains we put up with. WE are the villains. We are the Miss Taylors; so caught up in our own heads we can't see our own flaws. We are the Miss Celias, desperate to be liked and creating our own prisons of fear. We are the Miss Hillys, condescending and manipulative. We are the Miss Skeeters, thinking we are salt and light but in truth naive and complicit.

The question is, will we change?
Little BeeLittle Bee by Chris Cleave
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book raised interesting questions on morality. We can be SO right about certain aspects, and entirely blind/selfish/hypocritical about others. But who are we in the hard moments? Do we choose to save others, or save ourselves? The two heroines show their mettle in the extraordinary circumstances, and in the ordinary--and those two realities look very different.

As far as lit fic goes, not my fave, and not enthralling, but I suspect lit fic isn't my best jam. Would give 3.5 stars if I could, but I would recommend reading because it provokes a lot of interesting questions.