Science Fiction

Review: The Hues

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Title: The Hues

Author: Alex Heberling

Genre: Science Fiction/Postapocalyptic

Trigger warnings: None

Summary:

The Hues is about a group of teenage magical girls who discover their powers just a little too late– the Big Bad is already here and they have only a rudimentary grasp of their abilities and what they’re supposed to be doing. It all hinges on hints and clues regarding the mysterious Jouchi, who may have the answers they seek about how to reclaim their home from the aliens.

Review:

I realize this is not my normal fare for reviews and also that I’ve never reviewed a webcomic before in my life, but bear with me.

I discovered this on Tumblr in a masterpost of … I think it was feminist webcomics? Some kind of webcomic list. Either way, the art and short description (exactly what you see above) intrigued me. So I started reading it. And then I couldn’t stop reading it.

So you know how the Big Bad is already there and they have to discover their powers? Well, the plot starts with an alien attack. And then it just goes from there. There is science fiction alien stuff and postapocalyptic elements . There’s the “who the heck is Jouchi and why are the evil aliens looking for him” thing. And the “most of us are not very good at using our powers” thing. And the “what are we actually supposed to do to stop the aliens” thing. It’s not as much fighting aliens as you might expect, but there’s enough that it satisfies my action-loving brain while still giving plenty of opportunities to grow the characters and their relationships.

The characters! The characters are fantastic and they’re so diverse. There are six of them that the story follows, although there’s one main main one and two secondary-ish main ones (because they come in later in the story) and only one of them is a thin white girl (and only one of them is straight). It’s fantastic.

(I’m not going to give away who is what orientation because that’s part of the plot, but there’s a lesbian, a bisexual, a panromantic asexual, and two who haven’t yet been given a queer identity but who did not deny being not straight. And I’m pretty sure two of them are going to become a romantic thing. I hope. They’re adorable together.)

  • Sami, the main main character, is Indian-American and kinda nerdy – she enjoys writing and spends a lot of time on the internet – and generally cute and sweet and adorable.
  • Andy is white, chubby, and outdoorsy and very friendly and social and generally a wonderful people person that I would love to be friends with.
  • Hannah is the token thin white girl – she’s quiet and prickly and not super friendly but mostly it just seems like she’s got something important on her mind.
  • Lauren is fat and badass and snarky as hell. She doesn’t like being told what to do and can handle herself through anything and is just plain epic.
  • Salime is possibly Hispanic or mixed race (definitely not white, either way). She’s one of the two late-comer characters, and she’s more cautious and analytical and likes to learn things.
  • Addy, the other late-comer, is a dark-skinned fat black girl who is sweet and artsy and creative.

And all of them have EPIC powers!

And just look at this artwork! It’s so gorgeous.

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It’s also set in Columbus, Ohio, which I think is really cool because I’ve been there and it’s not far from where I live now. But that’s just me.

The main downside to it is it’s not finished yet. (Yes, I know I’m reviewing it before it’s finished! But it’s so good I just had to share it with you guys.) But I think it’s almost done, and I’m really really really looking forward to reading the rest of it. And also I plan to buy the books of it. Because reasons.

Okay, this is getting really long, so I’m just going to end with: read it. Seriously, it’s fantastic.

You can read it online for free here!!!

Women's Issues/Feminism

Review: Kick Ass Red Lipstick

All right, first post on the “new and improved” Jalyn Reads! 🙂 

Book cover: "Kick Ass Red Lipstick" in red on a black background; underneath that "Rebel Women Unite" in white
Image from Amazon

Title: Kick Ass Red Lipstick: Rebel Women Unite

Author: Cat Cantrill

Genre: Women’s Issues/Feminism

Trigger warnings: Domestic abuse

Back Cover:

What you thought you knew about yourself was wrong, so very, very wrong…

Our world is ready to explode with a the help of this one thing. We have chapters forming all over the country and world. The author went from a trailer park with two kids to the owner of her own burlesque studio.

Women are given the opportunity to make a real difference

You do not have to settle. You do not have to accept someone treating you poorly. If your husband or boyfriend/girlfriend is a jerk, leave them.

I give you permission to stand up for yourself and do some housekeeping. We, as Kick Ass Red Lipstick, will stand behind you and support you, lipstick ready when you decide that nobody can tell you not to wear lipstick.

There is some adult language in this book. Are you woman enough to deal with that?

Review:

I found this book laying on my boyfriend’s sister’s coffee table over spring break. Any female empowerment message is attractive to me, so I picked it up – and blitzed through it in about 45 minutes, it’s not long.

Overall, the message is good. It’s pretty simple:

  • You don’t have to settle for bad, or even “meh”
  • Follow your passions
  • Take care of yourself – as a priority, not an afterthought

Which is really a message I can get behind, especially since that last point is something I’ve really been getting lately and it’s done wonders for my physical and emotional health.

But anyway.

The only thing that keeps me from giving this book my wholehearted seal of approval is Cat’s approach to empowerment. The book is 50% empowerment and 50% “here’s how you do it, my way is the only way.”

Her biggest thing was the lipstick. Doesn’t matter if you don’t wear makeup at all ever, doesn’t matter if you loathe lipstick with a white-hot passion, you HAVE TO BUY THE LIPSTICK and you HAVE TO WEAR THE LIPSTICK if you’re going to be an empowered woman. Which annoyed me. First of all, part of your message is being true to yourself and if I hate lipstick, forcing me to wear it is the exact opposite of what you’re telling me to do. Secondly, wearing lipstick will have exactly zero effect on anything you’re telling me to do in this book.

*sigh* Okay, rant over.

But besides that, it was a really great book, and it makes a lot of awesome and important points. And if you’re new to the whole empowered woman thing, it’s a good starting point. Just know that Cat’s way is not the only way, no matter how much she thinks it is.

Announcements

Oops! An (Almost) 2-Year Update

Wow, it’s been a long time since I last posted a review! Almost two years, to be precise. I really didn’t mean to let it go this long. But between college and its ridiculous amounts of homework, 2-4 jobs (yes, there was a point where I was working 4 jobs), living on my own, getting a dog, and other adulty things, I just didn’t have the time to read.

Last year, I only read 9 books. (Yes, I am ashamed that I have to write that sentence. But it’s true. Only 9. Less than half of which were fiction and one of which was technically for school.)

The good news

I’ve graduated college (finally!), so I now have time to do things. Like pick up hobbies that I haven’t done in three years. So if you’ve missed me – and even if you haven’t – I’m back!

The changes

You didn’t think I could be gone so long and not make changes when I came back, did you? 🙂 I like to think it’s nothing major, but here’s what’s changing around here.

  1. The book grading system is going to go. It’s too much effort, and honestly it’s nothing I couldn’t put in the review text anyway.
  2. No posting schedule. I don’t need any more stress in my life, and trying to force myself to read and review one book a week is just going to take the enjoyment out of everything. I’ll post a review when I finish a book. (Which will hopefully be around once a week)
  3. More nonfiction. I know in my last changes post (admittedly in 2014) I said reviewing nonfiction was going to be a thing. Well, it’s going to be more of a thing now, since it’s a much larger proportion of what I read now. And self-improvement is going to be a big theme.
  4. Everything is gay and feminist. Because I am 🙂 I’m putting more effort into reading distinctly feminist books (fiction and nonfiction) and novels with queer characters. That’s not to say that I won’t ever read something about The StraightsTM, but I’m prioritizing LGBT+ authors and characters.
  5. Picky, but in different directions. I used to be picky about profanity, sex, homosexuality, and anything that didn’t wholeheartedly support the Christian belief system. Those things don’t really matter to me anymore – now I’m more sensitive to misogyny and sexism, rape and sexual assault, and racism and ableism.

I realize this is a massive change from what Jalyn Reads used to be – but I think I’ve reinvented this blog no less than four times already. Either way, I hope you’ll stick around for the ride.

Science Fiction

Did Not Finish: Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson

Maximum Ride Forever
Image from James Patterson

Title: Maximum Ride Forever (Maximum Ride #9)

Author: James Patterson

Genre: Science fiction

Format: Hardcover

Warning: This book is 9th in a series, so this review will definitely have spoilers. If you haven’t read the previous books, proceed with caution.

Back cover:

THE NINTH AND ULTIMATE MAXIMUM RIDE STORY IS HERE! Legions of Max fans won’t be disappointed by this encore episode in the beloved series about the incredible adventures of a teenage girl who can fly. As Maximum Ride boldly navigates a post-apocalyptic world, she and her broken flock are roaming the earth, searching for answers to what happened. All will be revealed in this last spectacular “ride”- a brand-new grand finale featuring all of the nonstop action, twists and turns that readers can rely on in a blockbuster Patterson page-turner!

Read to: Page 26 (chapter 6)

Reason for Stopping: Not caring about plot or characters, character death

Review:

This book is described as an “encore,” which explains why I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it at the library. I thought Nevermore was the end of the series. The Maximum Ride series had honestly gone downhill after Max (Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports was the last of the fantastic Maximum Ride books), and I hated Nevermore. I picked up Maximum Ride Forever for two reasons – 1, I felt I owed it to my childhood favorite series to at least try to finish it, and 2, I wanted to give it a chance to redeem itself after the fiasco of book 8.

I made it through 26 pages before I totally gave up.

Admittedly, part of that is probably me. It’s been about two years since I last read a Maximum Ride book, so I didn’t remember much. Also I’m way older than the upper middle grade target audience. But I had hoped.

This book is best read in quick succession with Nevermore, because it jumps right into the action and emotion. And I was just too distant from these characters (who all suddenly seemed really freaking young) to get into it.

Yet another part of me not liking this book was also that I hated the ending of Nevermore, and Maximum Ride Forever is just a continuation of that. But I don’t really want to see my favorite winged bird kids in a post-apocalyptic world, I wanted to see them keep navigating the normal world as oddly-skilled mutants.

But the last straw for me was a death. The only people left alive in the world (as far as we can tell) are our bird kids, and killing one of them off was the last straw. That one was probably my least favorite, but still. Just no.

I was quite disappointed in this book, but I really don’t think I can blame the book. All my problems with the book (perhaps with the exception of killing a character) were 100% me. I think this is just final proof that I’m officially done with my favorite childhood series.

The Maximum Ride series:

  1. The Angel Experiment
  2. School’s Out–Forever
  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
  4. The Final Warning
  5. Max
  6. Fang
  7. Angel
  8. Nevermore
  9. Maximum Ride Forever

Report Card

I’m not even bothering with a report card on this one because I read about 20 pages.

High Fantasy

Review: The Well of Ascension by Brandon Sanderson

The Well of Ascension
Image from Brandon Sanderson

Title: The Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Hardcover

Warning: This book is second in a series, so this review probably has spoilers of book one. If you haven’t read Mistborn, proceed with caution.

Back cover:

Evil has been defeated. The war has just begun.

They did the impossible, deposing the godlike being whose brutal rule had lasted a thousand years. Now Vin, the street urchin who has grown into the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and Elend Venture, the idealistic young nobleman who loves her, must build a new society in the ashes of an empire.

They have barely begun when three separate armies attack. As the siege tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one knows where to find the Well of Ascension or what manner of power it bestows.

It may just be that killing the Lord Ruler was the easy part. Surviving the aftermath of his fall is going to be the real challenge.

Review:

After how awesome Mistborn was, even as a reread, I jumped at this book (minus a small break to read Waistcoats and Weaponry). I barely bothered to read the back cover, I was so excited to get started.

I will confess, though, it took me a little bit to get into it. Mistborn wrapped up so well that there really were no open ends to explore in a beginning, and it almost felt like starting a brand-new book, plot-wise – it was 95% set-up. But it wasn’t long until I got absorbed again.

Almost all of the characters in The Well of Ascension were the same as Mistborn, but had different roles. Kelsier’s team has much smaller roles; Elend was a main character (and got a freaking lot of development, which I loved). Zane, Straff Venture’s Mistborn, was an insane (literally) but interesting addition to the cast. And kandra OreSeur had a much more prominent role, which made things interesting.

This book was a lot more character-centric than I expected. Half of the plot was the characters’ emotional response to problems. And because the characters felt real and human and full of confusing and contradicting feelings, it was awesome. It would probably be less awesome if you don’t like the characters, but I loved them, so no issue there.

All these characters were freaking smart. That’s most of what made the plot so gripping. The obvious answer is never the answer because the characters are too smart for that. Everything was hidden under two or more layers of deception. They were smarter than me, actually – I could never guess the right answer.

There is a lot of politics in this book. Elend and company are trying to create a whole new government – a semblance of a constitutional monarchy after a thousand years of dictatorship. Normally I don’t like politics, but I was actually kind of interested in these. Part of that was there was so much other stuff intertwined with it that it didn’t feel much like politics, and part of that was I loved the characters.

The two main parts of this plot are politics and emotions. It was fascinating watching idealistic Elend try to put together his dream government with former slaves and position-less nobles, and deal with it when it didn’t work the way he hoped. And then there was Vin. She had a lot of stuff to deal with, from her and the man she loves being (she thinks irreconcilably) different to her main skill being killing things. It had the potential to get boring and overdone, but since there were so many things, it didn’t for me.

I don’t want to say too much because 1, I don’t want to spoil it, and 2, there’s no possible way I could cover all the brilliant little details. So I guess I’ll just say the plot (once it got started) was the kind of plot that makes you want to devour a 600+ page book in a day.

Again, the Mistborn world is AMAZING. And in this book, we get to learn a lot more about this world. And not just the “so this is how that works” stuff – it was mostly mind-blown, “holy crap I did not see that coming” stuff. Even the characters got surprised by a lot of the stuff. Brandon Sanderson is great at writing a lot of things, but world-building has to be his best.

It’s really hard to discuss the individual elements of this book because everything is intertwined. Characters influence plot, world influences politics, and everything has an effect on everything else. But even though that makes it hard for me to review, I love it – because those kinds of books are the best ones, the ones that feel real.

My final verdict in three words: NEED BOOK THREE! Not only was The Well of Ascension fabulous (I might even go as far as to say better than Mistborn), it ended on a cliffhanger. So I definitely need to get my hands on The Hero of Ages ASAP.

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn (sometimes subtitled “The Final Empire”)
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Wax and Wayne Mistborn series:
(a companion series with Mistborn magic in the early 1900s)

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self (October 6, 2015)
  3. The Bands of Mourning (January 2016)
  4. The Lost Metal (tentative title)

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

The Well of Ascension scored a 3.3 (A-) and a final verdict of "Read"

Steampunk

Review: Waistcoats and Weaponry by Gail Carriger

(For those of you who were expecting the next Mistborn book today, I’m sorry – but I finally found this at the library and just had to read it first. Also Mistborn books are really long.)

WAISTCOATS AND WEAPONRY
Image from Gail Carriger

Title: Waistcoats and Weaponry (Finishing School #3)

Author: Gail Carriger

Genre: Steampunk

Format: Hardcover

Warning: This book is third in a series, so this review will probably have spoilers of the previous books. This series is too good to spoil, so if you haven’t read the first two Finishing School books, I recommend not reading this review. (Also, go read them right now.)

Back cover:

Sophronia continues finishing school in style – with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapons comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey hijack a suspiciously empty train to return their chum Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. But when Sophronia discovers they are being trailed by a dirigible of Picklemen and flywaymen, she unearths a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos. With her friends in mortal danger, Sophronia must sacrifice what she holds most dear – her freedom.

Review:

I love the Finishing School series. I knew that as soon as I finished Etiquette and Espionage, and devoured Curtsies and Conspiracies as soon as I could get my hands on it. But it took me a long time (over a year) to read this one – mainly because it was never in at the library. Apparently everybody else wanted to read it, too.

We’ll start with Sophronia, who is getting even more epic with training. She now has an awesome signature weapon (I totally want one), some very creative tricks up her sleeve, and a reputation. She is good – really, really good – at the whole spying-while-being-polite-and-fashionable thing. And it is awesome.

There’s quite a few other characters playing main parts here. Lord Felix Mersey shows up, Soap actually has a pretty large role, and Sidheag actually shows emotion. The relationships are a mess sometimes, but it’s a mess that’s fun to read about.

This book’s plot was a little … different. It almost felt like an interim plot until the actual plot got started (I’m assuming there’s something big for the next book). But it seemed a tiny bit unfocused – I can’t even remember what it was in the beginning, besides a slight mystery around what’s happening with Sidheag, and then some relationship problems (I’ll get to those more in a minute), and trying to get Sidheag home, and then they got distracted by technology and Picklemen and a whole host of other stuff. I think that’s the best way to describe the plot: it kept getting sidetracked. Which wasn’t a bad thing and I still enjoyed it, but it was a little different than expected.

There were a few things I found disappointing about this book – number one being the love triangle. I have yet to see a love triangle done well (i.e. doesn’t annoy me. But that could just be me). It was handled nicely (there’s only so much romance a non-engaged couple can have in Victorian England), but I found it annoyingly obvious which guy Sophronia would pick. And it seemed to be more of a plot device than character development.

My other disappointment was the school, or lack thereof. I’ve mentioned in previous books that Mademoiselle Geraldine’s is my favorite part of this series. And Sophronia and company didn’t spend a lot of time at the school in this book. Admittedly, their adventures were just as fun, but I kind of missed the epic dirigible school.

Will I still read book four? Absolutely. Those few disappointing bits were not nearly enough to dissuade me (and besides, I think the love triangle is mostly wrapped up). The good still far outweighs the bad, and I am really looking forward to getting my hands on Manners and Mutiny.

The Finishing School series:

  1. Etiquette and Espionage
  2. Curtsies and Conspiracies
  3. Waistcoats and Weaponry
  4. Manners and Mutiny

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

 WAISTCOATS AND WEAPONRY scored a 3.7 (A) and a final verdict of "read"

High Fantasy

Review: Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson

MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson, reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Delicious Reads

Title: Mistborn (Mistborn #1)

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: High Fantasy

Format: Paperback

Back cover:

For a thousand years, the world has been a wasteland of ash and mist ruled by the immortal Lord Ruler.  Every revolt against his cruel reign has failed.  But hope survives – and he bears the scars of the inescapable Pits.  A new kind of uprising being planned, this one built abound the ultimate caper, one that depends on the cunning of a brilliant criminal mastermind…and the determination of a street urchin who must learn to harness the power of a Mistborn.

Review:

I read Mistborn three years ago, and my final verdict was “it’s a really good book, but I’m not interested in sequels.” But Brandon Sanderson is my boyfriend’s favorite author and Mistborn is his favorite series, so he’s been “encouraging” me to finish the series for as long as we’ve been dating. And since I found myself with a lot of spare time to read during a family road trip, I figured I might as well reread the whole series.

Vin is skaa (basically peasant/slave), using her supernatural Luck to survive as part of a thief band in the brutal slums of Luthadel. She grew up with the promise that everyone would abandon her eventually, and spent her life perfecting the art of being unnoticeable. So when the story starts, she’s independent, smart, courageous, and very distrustful. Her character development is great, though, and as she slowly makes friends, she slowly becomes a better and better character to read about.

Kelsier, survivor of the Pits and orchestrater of rebellions, was awesome. Mainly because he was nuts. Sometimes he made me laugh from the sheer insanity of his audacious stunts. But his devil-may-care attitude contrasted with his intense devotion to the people he cared about, and his careless audacity hides a sad past. He is quite possibly my favorite fantasy character ever.

This review is going to be really long anyway, so I’m not going to mention any other characters. But all of them were great. Even the ones that seemed minor turned out to be important in some way. And they all have unique and different personalities.

As far as plot goes, it actually had a classic “hero’s journey” plot. To shamelessly paraphrase a fabulous Goodreads review:

[Kid with weird name] is only a [unimportant social standing], but suddenly discovers they [have weird and/or cool power or calling]. They are the only one who can [epic world-changing quest]. Luckily, even though they are totally new at this, they quickly become better than anyone else at [weird power or skill].

That’s not to say the plot wasn’t good, though. There’s a reason that plot is a classic – it works! Especially with Sanderson writing it. Watching Vin go from skaa thief to Mistborn and join Kelsier’s quest to overthrow the Lord Ruler was quite enjoyable (especially with Kelsier’s crazy antics), and I enjoyed watching Vin learn and grow. But quite honestly, the main reason this (I hate to say it, but somewhat uncreative) plot works is because of three things: Kelsier’s practically insane plans, the world, and the magic.

(Side note: The first time I read Mistborn, I complained that Vin spent too much time going to balls. I had no such complaints this time around – I thought it was a good balance. Although that could be because the balls were where the faint hint of romance happened, and I’ve become much more accepting of romance subplots as I’ve gotten older.)

The magic and world were FANTASTIC. Admittedly, I’ve only read five of Sanderson’s many works, but he is awesome at creating magic systems and building worlds. The whole world in this story, from the glittering balls of the nobility to the filthy slums to a landscape so bleak the idea of green plants seems strange, is brilliantly imagined and vividly described without including a lot of description. And the magic of Allomancy – metals-based and full of limitations, with powers ranging from amazing to almost useless-seeming – is amazingly original. If it sounds like I’m being vague, I am, because watching all the pieces fall into place for the first time is so much fun.

I actually liked this book more the second time around. The awesome magic and world were incredibly detailed, which I loved, but with something as unique as Mistborn, it’s easy to get lost. Even by the time I finished it the first time, I had a hard time keeping things straight. Rereading it three years later actually made it better, because I had forgotten enough that it was fun to discover again, but I remembered enough that I wasn’t totally lost and I could pick up on the nuances I missed the first time.

One thing I feel is important to mention – this is an adult book, but it’s not an adult book. It’s remarkably clean for adult high fantasy (see my grade card below) and even the word choices read more like young adult. (Plus Vin is only 16, so that certainly gives it a more YA feel.)

Mistborn was good the first time, but it was even better as a reread, mostly because I understood all the wonderful complexities better. This time, I actually am interested in reading the rest of the series – and not just because my boyfriend says I should. I would love to spend another book with these characters (but mostly that world…).

The Mistborn series:

  1. Mistborn (sometimes subtitled “The Final Empire”)
  2. The Well of Ascension
  3. The Hero of Ages

The Wax and Wayne Mistborn series:
(a companion series with Mistborn magic in the early 1900s)

  1. The Alloy of Law
  2. Shadows of Self (October 6, 2015)
  3. The Bands of Mourning (January 2016)
  4. The Lost Metal (tentative title)

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

MISTBORN by Brandon Sanderson scored a 3.7 (A)  and a final verdict of

New Adult, Science Fiction

Review: The Never Hero by T. Ellery Hodges

THE NEVER HERO by T. Ellery Hodges reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from T. Ellery Hodges

Title: The Never Hero (Chronicles of Jonathan Tibbs #1)

Author: T. Ellery Hodges

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Ebook

Back Cover:

When Jonathan Tibbs awoke in a pool of his own blood, there wasn’t a scratch on him to explain why. In the days that followed, a violent and merciless otherworldly enemy came from nowhere. It killed in the streets, all the while calling out for its challenger, but only Jonathan understood the trespasser’s words. That was the night he discovered he had been drafted into an ongoing conflict, a war outside the grasp of mankind’s memory. Now, the man Jonathan had seen himself becoming is not the man who can endure his future.

The first installment in this mind-bending action adventure series, The Never Hero is a gritty and honest look at the psychological journey of a man forced to forge himself into a weapon. Abandoned with little guidance, and finding himself at the mercy of a bargain struck far beyond his reach, Jonathan races to unlock the means to surmount the odds. All the while, fighting to understand the mystery behind a war between two species, raging outside of time and memory.

Confronted with the knowledge that, should he die, no one will ever know he was all that once stood between mankind and the enemy; Jonathan must decide who he is willing to become to save a planet that can never know of his sacrifice.

Review:

The whole concept of The Never Hero intrigued me – a mysterious attack quickly followed by a monster, a war nobody knows is happening, and of course, the classic “only the main character can do anything about it.” It was too good to pass up.

Jonathan was an interesting character. An average college student victim of a really, really weird attack and suddenly required to fight for his life at random intervals with no explanation as to why. A surprisingly large amount of the story was him dealing with his emotions – fear, frustration, anger, and other not-so-nice stuff. He got progressively darker as the story went on. And while I can’t say I particularly liked him as a person, I really enjoyed reading about him as a character.

There was a surprisingly large cast of secondary characters, too – Jonathan’s three roommates, Collin, Hayden, and Paige; Paige’s boyfriend; his new neighbor and her brother; Heyer, Jonathan’s mentor-ish figure who knows about the monster attacks; and many more. At some points it was hard to keep track of the really minor ones, but the more important ones all had distinct personalities and made for a good group of characters.

There’s so many plots all weaving together that I don’t even know where to begin. There’s the whole thing with the monsters (what they’re doing there and why), which doesn’t hardly get touched on until the end. Then there’s Jonathan’s emotional struggles, which were surprisingly deep and brilliant in many places; his struggles with relating to people post-attack, both his roommates and the pretty girl next door; his attempts to balance a normal-seeming life with the dangerous parts; and even several chapters of people who are working against him (some of whom even surprised me). This book did an amazing job of weaving so many things together into one great and complicated story.

I had two main problems with this book. One was punctuation – The Never Hero really needed a good copy editor. The other was length. In the middle, the story covered Jonathan’s training and his struggle with his emotions repetitively with nothing new happening, and it really dragged on a little too much.

While it’s not a perfect book (but honestly, what book is?), The Never Hero was even better than I expected – a well-executed brilliant concept woven into a tapestry of plots and characters that made for a fantastic read.

The Chronicles of Jonathan Tibbs

  1. The Never Hero

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

THE NEVER HERO scored a 3.2 (A0-) and a final verdict of "read"

Disclaimer: I received a free review copy of The Never Hero in exchange for a review. This generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Paranormal

Review: The Hobbymen by Tim Owens

THE HOBBYMEN by Tim Owens
Image from Tim Owens; used by permission

Title: The Hobbymen

Author: Tim Owens

Genre: Paranormal

Format: Paperback

Back Cover:

Sister Liliana has not been having the best of days. Between running away from the convent and then being thrown into a desolate prison, she has started to lose hope of having a fun Wednesday. That is until she meets two strange men with a rather peculiar hobby: Amateur Monster Biology. From ancient monsters to urban legends, Geoff and Book are out to separate truth from fairytale, no matter how bizarre or ridiculous that truth may be. And as they have found, there is truth in everything.

Soon Liliana is caught in a whirlwind of adventure as they show her a side of the world she never thought existed, filled with fantastic creatures hiding in plain sight. But just as it seems her life is finally turning around, the group get a foreboding message from an unexpected, sinister source. Are the three of them in over their heads this time?

Yes…the answer is yes.

Review:

This is one of those books where I can’t put my finger on exactly why I picked it up. Maybe because it sounded like a unique concept, or maybe it just sounded a little off-the-wall and fun. Either way, when the offer landed in my inbox, I said yes.

And when I got the book, Tim Owens had doodled inside the front cover:

100_1347Which was really cute and thoughtful and just made me that much more excited to read it.

The characters were fun. There was Liliana, the failed nun with an interesting past; the research-obsessed, bookish Book; and the hyper-optimistic, gregarious Geoff. At first, the characters seemed like they were going to be pretty flat – but as the book continued, there was a pleasantly surprising amount of development and back story.

The mythology was a little wonky. I expected a combination of mythology from different lore, considering the finiding-the-truths-behind-legends research of the Hobbymen. What I didn’t expect was the biblical stuff. (I think the idea of behemoth  from Job 40:15-24 was wrong, but that’s my personal interpretation.) I thought the idea of the evil deities/forces of other religions being Satan by different names was an interesting concept – and perhaps not wrong. Anyway, that’s definitely something worth further consideration.

The basic plot was pretty much laid out for you on the back cover. But there were so many other little things. A huge part of it is Liliana trying to come to terms with her past. And another is goofy Geoff and serious Book’s relationship. And another is Liliana trying to get used to the Hobbymen’s everyday craziness. Despite the deadly threat hanging over their heads, the entire book was just … fun.

This was clearly a self-published book – the formatting was a little wonky and it was in need of a good copy editor. The missing commas drove me crazy. But they weren’t extremely glaring errors, and it only detracted a little from my enjoyment of the book.

The Hobbymen had its faults (the poor-punctuation-hating part of me wished it had been copy edited better and a few of the jokes fell a little flat), but it also had a lot of things going for it. It was lighthearted and fun, had surprisingly great characters, and was even thought-provoking in spots. I would definitely recommend it.

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.
THE HOBBYMEN scored a 4.0 (A)

Disclosure: I received a free review copy of The Hobbymen from the author. His generosity in no way influenced, or sought to influence, this review.

Science Fiction

Review: Terminal by Kathy Reichs

TERMINAL by Kathy Reichs, reviewed at JalynEly.com
Image from Kathy Reichs

Title: Terminal (Virals #5)

Author: Kathy Reichs/Brendan Reichs

Genre: Science Fiction

Format: Hardcover

Warning: This book is fifth in a series, so this review will have spoilers of the previous books. If you haven’t read the other Virals books, I recommend avoiding this review.

Back cover:

The Virals are back. But this time, they’ve got company. A rogue band of newborn Virals is stalking the streets of Charleston, intent on challenging Tory Brennan and the Morris Island gang for domination of the city. Calling themselves the Trinity, these powerful rivals have been infected by an altered strain of supervirus created by Tory’s nemesis and sometimes-crush Chance Claybourne, who has caught the bug himself. Hiding in plain sight, striking without warning, the slippery new adversaries have no intention of playing nice.

As Tory and her companions delve deeper into the mysterious experiment that scrambled their DNA, the world begins to close in around them. The Trinity will stop at nothing to bring the Virals down. A shadowy government agency is working to uncover the secret to their powers. Medical tests reveal shocking truths about their cellular evolution. All while unfamiliar emotions roil the deepest corners of Tory’s heart.

The noose is tightening from every angle, and there’s nowhere safe to hide. In the riveting conclusion to the Virals series, Tory and the pack are nearing an impossible choice – and the ultimate showdown.

Review:

After I devoured Expsure – and was left with that mind-blowing ending – I immediately picked up this book. I sat down and read the first half (over 200 pages) in an hour.

Since you’re reading this review, I assume you’ve already read the first four books (or at least my reviews of them – but hopefully the books). So if you want to hear about the characters, check out one of my previous reviews – the characters don’t change much in Terminal.

The main character difference was Chance became a much bigger player. I simultaneously felt bad for him and got annoyed with him. Yeah, he was an outcast who just wanted to fit in, but he also kept so many secrets – and he would have been accepted a lot better (and faster) if he’d just been up front about everything. And that annoyed me.

There were lots of parts of the plot. The standard Virals kick-butt, solve-the-problem action, plus another, separate group of Virals who have it in for the Morris Island gang, plus romance, plus friendship drama, plus possibly-trustworthy-possibly-enemy Chance, plus new revelations about the virus that made them Virals…there’s a lot. It moves really freaking fast. And I loved it.

If you’ve read Code and Exposure, you won’t be surprised when I say there’s a romance in Terminal. It’s even a love triangle. Normally, I find love triangles excessively irritating, but this one was shoved between action scenes and kept getting pushed aside for secrets and superpowers, so I actually didn’t mind so much. It was there, but it was minor.

My main problem with the plot was I guessed the big shocking reveal at the end. Admittedly, I did that last book and was fine with it, but somehow the execution of this twist just made me think, “yep, I knew it. Disappointing.”

As I finished the book, I went, “No! That’s a horrible ending! They can’t do that to my Virals!” And then I read the epilogue and went, “Yes, that’s perfect.” It left options open for more books if there really, really had to be, but it also makes a pretty satisfying conclusion on its own.

Even though I’m sad (really, really sad) that this series is over, Terminal was a pretty fabulous ending. I would not object to another book with these characters (and their Viral powers), but for now, there are three Virals short stories to go through. I’ll have to be happy with that – because I’m not ready to let go of this fabulous series just yet.

The Virals series:

  1. Virals
  2. Seizure
  3. Code
  4. Exposure
  5. Terminal

Extra short stories:

  • Shock
  • Shift
  • Swipe

Report Card

For more on my grading system, check out this page.

TERMINAL scored a 3.6 (A) and a final verdict of "read"