Book Review: Riverkeep, by Martin Stewart.

I seem to be at a perplexing standstill with this book. On the one hand, it is a superbly written and beautifully crafted book, full of wonders and woes, magic and might, and has elements of some great literary pieces in there. On the other hand, I don’t like it. At least, not as much of one as I probably should be, given how much I appreciate the book and Martin Stewart’s writing.
Let’s just get to the review, shall we.

One thing for sure is that Stewart played off many other stories and writers. An obvious one being The Wizard of Oz. Another glaringly obvious one is Moby Dick.
As I pointed out in my last review, on Six of Crows, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. But in this case, I feel like Martin has used other works far too heavily for inspiration and has created something rather unoriginal.
And another thing that bugs me the story is that it seems to have no point to it. Wull, the central protagonist of Riverkeep, goes on this amazing journey full of wondrous people and grand adventures, but it all amounts to nothing. This is possibly the most anti-climactic book I have ever read.

On a more positive note, Martin’s writing is poetic and vivid and paints a great picture of the world he has created, albeit using other people’s worlds to do so.
The language he uses reflects well the dark, gloominess of the story, and he matches his vocabulary perfectly with the time and place in which the book is set.
Having said that, the dialogue he uses is extremely annoying. I get that not all characters are always going to speak in a manner you would want them to, but, damn! The characters’ dialects in this book are the most annoying I have ever had to read. I genuinely nearly put the book down a couple of times because of it.
I also felt that, at times, Martin got a little carried away with his writing, coming off not as smart and well-read, but pretentious and pompous.

I am assuming that Martin wished to leave his book with a sense of mystery about it, ending it how he did, but what he actually did was leave a bunch of loose ends that leave the book incomplete, and the reader (me) feeling unfulfilled with said reading.

Something else that I found with this book, and this may be just me, is that it took me a rather long while, a few chapters or so, maybe more, to even realise what was going on and to recognise where the book was heading. Later in the book, I ended up not paying very much attention to what I was reading, because even though there was a lot going on as the story progressed, I didn’t find any of it compelling.
A lot of what happened seemed unnatural, even for a fantasy book, like a lot of what happened would never actually happen the way it did.
Having said this, I must give points to Martin for creating emotion in me as a reader. For the most part, I was neutral toward the book and all the inhabitants of its pages, but one scene in particular, and one character stood out for me. I won’t say what happened, nor name the character in question, but I will say that I was left very shocked and surprised, in a good way, after the scene; and after what happened with said character, I almost wanted to cry.

I definitely disliked more about this book than what I favored of it, but it did have its good times, and most certainly deserves its merits for Martin’s writing.
All in all, I would say it is a good book, but I personally did not like it. An acquired taste, for sure.

I would recommend this to the older side of the young-adult audience, and fans of classic books, in particular.




Book Review: Six of Crows, by Leigh Bardugo.

Despite my initial thoughts on the book, during the first few chapters, I ended up really enjoying Six of Crows and was rather disappointed when it was over.

I received this book whilst working at Waterstones, along with two other books, which incidentally are the next two books I will be reading and reviewing. I had no idea what this book was about, going in, which meant I read it with a completely open mind.

The amount of character switching in this book would normally drive me crazy. However, Leigh really makes it work and writes so that it is an essential part of the book. The story of the book is actually very small and very short, and while the story is always progressing, not much actually happens. If this book were made into a film, it would have to be extremely short. Because of this, the switching not only fills out the book but allows a number of stories to be told at once, through the eyes of multiple characters. It also helps Leigh keep a bit of tension and mystery all the way throughout.
Also, due to the story having a big lack of action, it is important for Leigh to use empathy as a real for the readers. Most books keep readers hooked through a constant stream of new events, books like J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit, or by using a deep mystery that the reader is able to try and figure out in books like Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes. Because Six of Crows doesn’t have either of those things, it needs something else to keep readers involved, and thus Leigh uses character connection as a substitute.

I really enjoyed the characters in this book, both in the present story and their backstories. I particularly enjoyed Kaz and Inej. On top of that, I was very interested in their romance story, and cannot wait to see where it heads in the next book.
The story and characters were very dark, which is a nice change as a lot of fantasy is very light, which gets very repetitive. Plus, I have always been more of a fan of darker and more twisted things.

The beginning of the book was rather boring but other than that I read through it happily and often didn’t want to put it down. It was an easy read, yet was full of twists and turns, a lot of depth, and Leigh’s writing is complex and intricate and well executed.

I often found myself comparing this book to a book I read a little while ago, The Way of Shadows, by Brent Weeks. The writing, the settings, the style, and the characters all seemed rather familiar. Of course, books are always going to have comparisons to other works because it’s virtually impossible to write something that is one hundred percent original. I’m also not saying it’s a good thing or a bad thing that these two books are similar, simply pointing out a fact.

Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed Six of Crows and cannot wait to read the next book in the series – which I did not know existed until I finished this book, thinking it was a stand-alone book.
I recommend this to a young-adult fantasy audience, particularly those who enjoy a darker story and a bit of action.



Book review: The Rest of Us Just Live Here, by Patrick Ness.

I have been waiting for years to read this book, and having at last read it I can honestly say, it was well worth the wait.

 This is one of the best books I have read in a long time. The premise of it is absolutely inspired. Very original and very well executed.
Not only does the message resonate with me, and likely all other young-adult readers, but almost all of the smaller factors and themes do, too.

It reminded me a lot of Stephen Chbosky’s Perks of Being A Wallflower, in quite a few ways. Mostly through the characters, but also through the very essence of the book. In spite of this, the book itself was very unique.

Patrick Ness proves with this book that he is an innovative and beautiful writer, capable of turning the ordinary into the extraordinary.
He not only tackles many important issues relevant to modern society but also works through the smaller, day-to-day struggles of adolescence that almost everyone can relate to. And he does it so poetically.

Patrick’s writing is nothing short of astounding. It had me in stitches from laughter, it had me puzzled and curious, at times, it made me feel great empathy for the characters. Also, with the range of characters in the book, there is someone for almost everyone to relate to and or bond with.
His writing keeps to the story in a direct and economical way. His writing wasn’t overly flamboyant but was definitely not boring. It had a nice flow to it, and the story moved along at a good pace.
One thing I believed to be a flaw whilst reading the book was the predictability of it. However, what I thought I had solved, is actually pointed out toward the end of the book to have been known by everyone in the book bar the central protagonist. It was simply a classic case of the main character not noticing because he was too close to the puzzle to see the picture that was forming.
The writing is relatively simple, but not basic. I.e. it is easy to read but includes a lot of good literature. This works especially well, given the book’s target demographic.

Something else I enjoyed about this book is that, while it included romance, it did not overpower the story. It was also more romance being looked at, rather than romance happening.

As I have said, I thoroughly enjoyed this book and would definitely recommend it. Specifically to young-adult readers, as is intended, but also to anyone who wants a secondhand view on the struggles of adolescence or wants something to relate to or something to help them.
Very hard to fault.



Book review: Grey, by E.L. James.

A book entirely about one of my all-time favourite characters, obviously I have a lot to say. Unfortunately, not many of those things are positive.

Like with the other Fifty Shades books, E.L. James’s writing is nothing short of awful. Everything: the style, the flow, the structure – it is all terrible. And, because the writing does not at all suit the character of Christian Grey, the foundation of this book seems rather flawed.
Not only does she write the entire book by spoon feeding every piece of information to us, exactly as it happens, leaving nothing for the reader to imagine or think about, she also drags out her descriptions with pretentious words and phrases, repeats the same lines over and over throughout the book,  and uses an uncountable amount of clichés.
On another note, which could be considered both good and bad, is the simplicity of her writing. On the one hand, it makes the book very easy to read. On the other hand, it is less appealing to a more mature readership, which would be perfectly okay, if it were not for the mature themes and obvious adult target demographic.

James does redeem herself with the actual content of her writing, as opposed to the writing itself.
Her stories and characters, minus the parts played purposefully with clichè, are original and captivating, and bring a lot of new things to a lot of readers. I personally feel the love story, while unconventional, is indeed a good love story. Although, it is often what is different that which we find most exciting.
The story is more complex and creative than so many people give it credit for. I feel there is great progression throughout this book, and all the others, for the characters involved. Grey emphasizes upon this by showing us Christian’s point of view.
The character of Christian Grey is one I strongly identify with, and allowing me a deeper look into him is very interesting to me.
However, one factor regarding the book’s content that let itself down is that Grey only shows Christian’s views on the first book. Whether or not James plans on bringing out another two follow-up books, I do not know. However, currently, I feel a bit cheated by this book.
A second thing that let the content down is, as I have said, the version of Christian we get in this book is not the same as the one we read about in Fifty Shades of Grey.

There is little-to-no empathy to feel with this book. Whether that is because it is basically rereading Fifty Shades of Grey or James has simply made worse work of this one, I actually teared up whilst reading the original book, but with this one, I barely felt anything. I was not sad, I was not happy, I was not laughing. Nothing.
What makes this seem even worse on the author’s part is that because Christian is one of my favourite characters and I feel rather strongly about him, the fact that an entire book about him did not make me emotional definitely makes a statement.

As disappointing as it is for me to admit, this book is quite a failure. Even without all of the negative points I have already given, the books essential purpose is not reached. The goal with Grey was to give us a deeper look into Christian Grey’s mind and character. Instead, it basically just recounted Fifty Shades of Grey with a switched view. We did not learn anything new about Christian, and it did not give us anything new to think about in regards to him.

I honestly feel the only reason I enjoyed this book as much I did is because I love the Fifty Shades series and Christian Grey. Although the book seems like it is written for eight-year-olds, it is clearly for a more mature demographic. However, given how bad the book is, from an objective point of view, I feel only people who really enjoyed the other Fifty Shades books should read this.

From a subjective point of view, I love the book in spite of all of its flaws.