Wednesday, July 9, 2008

More Book Reviews! (SBT and SRT2008)

It's hard to be a book reviewer. I mean, there are huge sacrifices involved. I have to give up lame summer TV and read great books instead. You think that's easy? But I did it and now I have three more books to review. (Check here and here for my first sets of reviews and my reading list here).

I liked Elantris so well when my brother made me read it, I stole Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson from him next. Kind of a funny move for a girl who doesn't voluntarily read much fantasy. But Mistborn is a great read. I dug the character of Vin. She grew believably and had a well-paced arc to the development of her powers. The characters were really well developed; each showed a realistic balance of flaws and strengths. Their personalities were so distinct that it really made the book for me. A strong plot didn't hurt, either! Once again, the evil achieved a level of creepiness that sent a shiver down my spine but never became so dark that the story was uncomfortable for me. (Except I did make my husband get up in the middle of the night to turn the light on for me because I was scared.) Although it's the first book of a trilogy, I still wish it had a stronger resolution so it could have stood by itself as well as first in a series. The ending was a bit unsatisfying. But since I had every intention of reading the sequel anyway, it didn't really matter.

I stole Mistborn from my brother but when he couldn't figure out where he put Well of Ascension, I actually went out and bought it. A fantasy book. Me. But I had to find out what happened next. I wish I had been smart enough to check whether all the books in the trilogy were already available but I wasn't and now I'm stuck waiting to read the last book until October for my sins. Grr. Well of Ascension was really good too but while the majority of the book was even better than the first one, I don't think it quite held together at the end. It made me go back and question some elements of the story and it didn't work, exactly. I can't explain why without a bit of a spoiler and I hate spoilers so I won't say anything other than that the whole thing on balance was once again so well written that I would gladly read book three to see if Sanderson makes the new conflict at the end of Ascension work. As far as the rest of the book goes, I enjoyed the development of Elend's character. I think Sanderson has a gift for showing the growth in people in a truly human way. I was surprised (in a good way) by the direction Sanderson took the relationship between Elend and Vin. Most of authors would have opted for an easy route to story complications that while conventional and standard for most readers, aren't necessarily the way it would actually go in real life. (Granted, I'm not sure real life parallels apply to fantasy critiques.) I especially liked getting to know Sazed's character more. He's such an interesting and complicated individual. The battle at the end of the story was truly epic and fraught with peril and grief, but also nobility and heroism. All in all, a very satisfying read.

My sister liked this book. I read that Michele Ashman Bell is following this up with Jocelyn's story next and I think that's a good move. Hers had the most intriguing mystery around it. With the other characters I feel like I could probably already figure out what their stories would be but I couldn't figure out what was up with Jocelyn and I'm kind of curious to find out.

Beyond Perfection by Erin McBride and Juli Caldwell is, in their own words, a "shameless" knock off of Jane Austen. I was excited to read this book because I was interested to see how their attempt to apply Austen's sly social satire to LDS culture would work. I think there's a danger in openly aping a literary giant's writing style; it inevitably invites comparison to the original and unless you're the original, you're going to fall a little short. The main thing I saw with this debut novel was that it suffered from a lack of editing, primarily for style corrections. There were just little things that jarred me, like a reluctance to use contractions that made the dialogue sound stilted. Then at the other end of the spectrum, the emails between the sisters were too sparkly and polished. Despite all these complaints, I saw a lot of potential in this novel but it needed a firmer hand guiding the story development. There were some truly hilarious situations and although the main character Lizzie needed to be a little more consistent, she was likable and endearing.


Annette Lyon said...

That's exactly what I thought of Well of Ascension--I loved it right up til the end and then felt a bit cheated. I'm hoping for a good resolution to that twist in #3. Great reviews.

Karlene said...

Elantris is on my list too, but I haven't gotten to it yet. SOme of the others look good too. Thanks for the reviews.