July 28, 2012

What stars mean in my reviews

In March, I began reviewing books. My intention was never to become a full time book reviewer, but I wanted to share some of the books I read. So far, I've only reviewed books that I thought warranted 4 or 5 stars. This is because there seems to be a stigma against 3 star reviews (or God forbid, 2 and 1 star reviews). From what I've been reading in forums and on blogs, some authors freak out when someone gives their book a 3 star review. It's as if 3 stars means the book is horrible. Not so! To me, three stars means it's OK, not bad.

This is the way I rate books:
  • 5 stars: The book was great! I'd recommend it anyone. I'd read the book again. Everyone, go buy this book now!
  • 4 stars: The book was really good. I'd recommend it to my friends who enjoy books in the genre. If I had time, I wouldn't mind reading the book again. At the right price, you should buy this book.
  • 3 stars: The book was OK. If you really like the author or are looking for something to read, I'd probably recommend it. It was worth my while to read the book, but I probably won't read it again.
  • 2 stars: The book wasn't good. I wouldn't recommend it, and I feel like the time I spent reading this book could have been better spent.
  • 1 star: The book was awful. Don't read it. I shouldn't have.
The fact that I only post 4 on 5 star reviews on this blog means that every book I review is one that I would recommend to someone!

July 21, 2012

Book review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

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Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.

Rating: 4 stars (out of 5)

Imagine an orphan who grew up living a hard life. Then one day, the child discovers that he/she has magical powers and is whisked off to a place where others with magical powers live. There, he/she learns to harness those powers and that he/she is the object of an old prophecy. Sounds like Harry Potter, doesn't it? But it also describes the plot of Shadow and Bone.

I'm not saying that Shadow and Bone is a Harry Potter ripoff, but there were certainly elements that reminded me of Harry Potter. However, Leigh Bardugo's novel is entertaining in its own right. The story is interesting and fast-moving for the most part, and Alina was a character that I grew to like. You can say that Shadow and Bone is for fans of Harry Potter after they become older.

On the positive side, I found the book to be entertaining. It was definitely worth my time and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys the genre. However, I found the story to be somewhat shallow and predictable. Nothing came as a surprise to me and I found myself waiting to get to the part where such-and-such happens because I knew it would.

A solid four stars for the entertainment value but not great enough to warrant five.

July 14, 2012


I've read four zombie books so far this year, and they are all among my favorite reads of 2012. I'm no longer in denial about liking zombies.

I'm not sure why I like zombies so much. Is it just because the books I happened to read were really well written? They all have high ratings on Amazon (averaging 4.3 to 4.6 stars out of 5), so that's a possibility. Or maybe zombies are the kinds of monsters I like. I don't care for vampires or werewolves, but I blame that on the popularity of Twilight, which turned vampires and werewolves into objects of romance rather than monsters to be feared. Not so with zombies. And the zombie stories I've read don't have much romance in them. Maybe that's the key.

If there's one thing that I'd like to see in the zombie books, it's to have a consistent set of rules. For example, I wish there were ground rules for:

  • The cause for the rise of the living dead - Did zombies come about because of a virus? Something from outer space?
  • How do ordinary people turn into zombies - Do you have to be bitten? Do you have to die first to re-animate as a zombie?
  • What can zombies do - Can they think? Can they run?

Not having consistent rules won't ruin the books for me, but they make things a bit confusing when I start reading a new book. ("What do you mean the zombies are running? Zombies are supposed to be slow!")

Now that I know I like zombies, I'm going to look for more books in the genre to read. I hope they are as enjoyable as the ones I've read so far.

July 7, 2012

Edits and more edits

I finished my third round of edits on the 4th of July. (Yes, that's how authors who have full time jobs spend their holidays.) It felt like I revised about ten percent of the book. Most of it was minor, especially compared to the big changes I made the first and second times I went through the manuscript. I just started editing it for the fourth time. I'm pretty sure that after this round, I'll send it to some proofreaders to review because I'll need another pair of eyes to see the mistakes that my eyes are becoming blind to.

As I've mentioned before, I don't like the editing process. I'd much rather be writing something new than to comb through something I've already written for the umpteenth time. But I know that editing is necessary if I have pride in my work. I don't want to publish a sloppy story because I wasn't willing to work on making it better. That wouldn't be fair to my readers.So I'll keep going, probably for another two or three months, until I feel that the story is about as good as I can make it.

July 1, 2012

Book review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

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Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That's fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba's world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she's a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Rating: 5 stars (out of 5)

This book was recommended to me by GoodReads, and I'm glad it did. I loved it. It's one of the top three books I've read this year. If I could use only one word to describe how Blood Red Road was written, it would be fluid. The prose just flows, as does the action. At no point in reading the book do I remember being bored. Moira Young wrote the book from Saba's point of view, and while her dialect and lack of proper punctuation threw me at first, once I got used to reading it, the rest of the book went quickly.

Without giving away too much of the plot, I enjoyed how each scene in the story led to the next. The characters were also engaging for the most part. I felt sympathy for Saba, her sister, and Jack. Even the Free Hawks. In some ways, Blood Red Road reminded me of the Chaos Walking trilogy, but better. It's what I hoped the Chaos Walking books could have been.

As with many books in this genre, there is an element of romance in Blood Red Road. However, unlike some other books, the relationship between Saba and Jack seemed to happen naturally. As a reader, I knew there would be sparks, but it felt like their bond made sense to the plot. It wasn't forced, and it didn't make you think the author put it there because there had to be romance.

The only unfavorable thing I can say about this book is the dialect it was written in. For me, it took a while to get used to. At the beginning of the book, I kept pausing to understand what was written, but once I got the hang of it, I think the dialect actually made the story flow better.

I highly recommend Blood Red Road. There's a sequel coming out in October, and I can't wait to read it.