Vivian L. (samuraibunny) - , - Reviews

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The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, Bk 2)
The Awakened Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, Bk 2)
Author: Karen Miller
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 130
Review Date: 9/14/2011


WARNING: This review will contain spoilers for the first book in the series, The Innocent Mage. If you haven't read it yet, why are you even reading a review for the second book??

Let's talk about feelings first. It's hard to rate a book that leaves you satisfied, but strangely emotionally detached. Perhaps it was because of the way the story was structured. I read the last half of the book in one day, not an easy feat for a slow reader like me, but throughout that section of the book, my heart was pounding with suspense. I wanted to, no needed, to read what was going to happen next, when Asher was going to save the day.

Speaking of good and evil, the line between them is not as clear cut as it may sound in the novel. Sure, there is Morg, the absolute evil, and Barl, the supposed goddess. Sure, she saved a bunch of Doranen by migrating to and settling Lur, but she practically subjugated the already present Olken in the process. It stinks of the early English colonists and their quest for Native American lands... But I digress. Perhaps Miller wanted us to see that, perhaps not.

On to the storyline. If you enjoyed the way the first book centered around politics, then you will be happy to know that this book will have much of the same. Getting to see what Morg is scheming just makes the slow downfall that much more unbearable and dreadful. Morg just plays on human faults and expands upon them, it was somewhat frightening to watch it helplessly unfold.

All in all, it was an interesting series. I will be looking forward to putting my hands on the other books in the same universe, hoping against hope that they will contain more magic for my liking. It was an entertaining read, but it fell a little short for me. I don't regret reading it, but I'm glad to have satiated my curiosity and get it out of the way.

Hey, if I sound a little meh about this book, remember that I rated this 4 stars! That means it had something going for it that made this book good but not great.


Beat the Reaper
Beat the Reaper
Author: Josh Bazell
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.8/5 Stars.
 37
Review Date: 7/24/2011


This is probably the first non-school fiction that I've ever read that has footnotes. The footnotes are sometimes informative and always humorous. Just like the rest of the book, may I add. The book is split between the past and the present. I thought it was a little weird that it alternated, but it turned out to work well, especially in the beginning, when I was more interested in Pietro's action filled past, as opposed to his seemingly half-a$$ed attempt at being a doctor.

A warning to the squeamish (or not so, because I was quite disturbed as well), there is one VERY disturbing scene in this book. It should not deter you from reading this book, however, just a word of caution.


The Brethren
The Brethren
Author: John Grisham
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 354
Review Date: 8/22/2013


My first Grisham book and I have to say, it was alright. Nothing spectacular. It was sufficiently interesting to be read at a decent pace.

Surprisingly, at least to me, was the fact that the book followed more than the judges in prison. It offered a nice change of pace. After all, how much can be written about the days of inmates in a boring jail?

The ending was amusing, although I thought for certain that something else was going to happen.

There is enough legal mumbo-jumbo and politics to be classified as a political thriller, but I wouldn't call it a thriller. It's just fiction. Not thrilling in the least.


Cadman's Gambit: Book 1 of the SHADER series (Volume 1)
Cadman's Gambit: Book 1 of the SHADER series (Volume 1)
Author: D P Prior
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 6/29/2012


I'm not sure why I didn't particularly like this book. Perhaps it is because it is only one of two books that I have read as an ebook on the small screen (phone). It took me a while for me to finish reading this book because I would only read little snippets when I had free time in between doing something. But anyways.

I wanted to like it, I really did. It has dry humor, which is either a hit or miss for me. In this case, it was a strike. There were various aspects of the story that I was unclear of, whether that was a lack of concentration on my part or the writing I can't say. But that is the result, either way.

In terms of characters, there are a few that stuck with me, for better or worse. The eccentric Cadman, who has been around for quite a while, the ever righteous Shader, the assassin Shadrak, and the love interest, Rhiannon. The story jumps around to cover everyone (there are a few other ones, the names of which are escaping me at the moment). That is probably one of the reasons that I was so confused, it was hard to keep track of so many people. And I have to say, Shader and Shadrak are pretty similar.

In any case, this book wasn't for me, but that doesn't mean it's a bad book by any means. With all of the five star reviews, mine is the odd one out. You can only try it for yourself and see.


Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Bk 2)
Catching Fire (Hunger Games, Bk 2)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.5/5 Stars.
 1629
Review Date: 4/22/2014


Not bad. I've heard a lot of bad things about this book and I don't think it deserves all that.

It is definitely an easy read, I breezed through a good 40-50 pages per sitting without noticing the time pass. For me personally, I don't care about Katniss's dilemma between Gale and Peeta as much as the action during the Games, so the first half was a bit boring. It picks up during the second half though, so I was glad about that. A lot of interesting characters to root for and follow, as well as the puzzles from the arena itself.

Whereas the first book had a definitive ending to it, this one definitely leaves off at a cliffhanger that will make you want to pick up the third book at once.

I'd rate Catching Fire below the first book, but only slightly. Here's hoping that the third book will have a satisfying action-packed read throughout its entirety.


Cloud Atlas
Cloud Atlas
Author: David Mitchell
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.9/5 Stars.
 171
Review Date: 9/7/2014
Helpful Score: 2


Here is a blasphemous admission: I liked the movie better than the book.

To be fair, I probably did not read as much into the book as I did when watching the movie. But the book simply did not give me the profoundness that the movie did at its conclusion.

As other reviewers have mentioned, each section of the book contains a very distinct style of prose and some of them are far more enjoyable than the others. Yet, all six stories are worth reading until the very end; the best parts come at the second halves, so keep chugging along!

In all honesty, I believe I've gotten a little more insight and appreciation into the book after reading other reviews. Would I have appreciated the book more if I read it first? I doubt it.

In any case, since the book lays the foundation of the movie adaptation, I would encourage all of its movie fans to experience the story as it was intended, in book form. Yet, keep expectations low and you won't be disappointed.


Cloud Nine
Cloud Nine
Author: Luanne Rice
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 25
Review Date: 7/25/2011


Typical 'escape from societal restraints and recover amidst nature' romance, yet it manages to connect its characters to me. There are characters that make you want to blame for everything that is wrong, but you can't, because they try their best to make things work.

Truly an emotional and touching book. I read it in one sitting. Death is always lurking in the future, but knowing and accepting it as the inevitable is what allows us to appreciate life, and everything that it brings, that much more.


The Club Dumas
The Club Dumas
Author: Arturo Perez-Reverte, Sonia Soto (Translator)
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.6/5 Stars.
 68
Review Date: 8/7/2013


I had a strange experience with this one. I thought I would enjoy this one, but I didn't.

It was intriguing for a bit of the story, but that was about it. Weird narration right from the start, jumped from first person to third person, which was confusing (perhaps it was meant to be that way? I don't know).

Either way, not much to say here. There are lots of quotes from classics, so if you've read those, it could be interesting to catch those.

The main character Corso wasn't too likable. There are a few attempts to go into his history, but not terribly moving.

There is one character I'm intrigued by that, by the end of the book, still has a shroud of mystery hanging around her. I wish she was fleshed out further, but again, she may have been intentionally characterized as such.

Definitely a mystery with a bit of literature trivia. Not much of a thriller though, which is what I had originally thought it to be. Oh well.


The Colors of Malent: Book One
The Colors of Malent: Book One
Author: Tim Adams, Sam Inzerillo
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4/5 Stars.
 1
Review Date: 9/6/2011


To start off, half of the book (probably less than that) is set in a foreign land, Malent. The other half is in the real (and boring) world. With that, I can say, as an avid fantasy reader, I definitely enjoyed reading about Malent much more than I did about the other things set in the real world.

I understand that this is a YA novel, but it still irks me to no end the way Alara acts throughout the book. She does some crazy, potentially dangerous things that no sane girl would do (or at least, I hope they won't). And her attitude was very annoying (I feel sorry for her parents).

Another thing that threw me off a bit was that Alara, along with her buddies, is only 14 years old. She is young! Only a freshman in high school. But some of her day-to-day routines make it seem as if she is older, like makeup and boyfriends. Maybe it's just me, but even if all of that is accurate, I can't help but think of the ideas this book may plant into kids' heads after reading this.

But even as annoyed as I am with the mundane reality portion of the book, I can't help but be pulled into the fantasy portion, which is why I still gave this book four stars. The glimpses into the world of Malent genuinely piqued my interest. The characters, through which Malent is revealed, were definitely intriguing and I am sorely disappointed that the authors did not give them a little more attention.

Right to the end, I was stumped as to who is the "bad guy" in the book (That's a plus!). There's one side saying one thing, and then another side saying the total opposite.

In the end, I can't say how I feel about the book. On one hand, I don't really like Alara, although I have some sympathy for her. But on the other hand, I am interested in how the story will unfold and what happens to the secondary characters that only appeared once or twice in the novel. I guess I can say, if somewhat reluctantly, that I will read the next book when it comes out.

(If there is a request I can put through to the writers, please! I hope Alara can mature as quickly as possible!)

I received a copy of the book via Goodreads Giveaway.


Confidential Confessions, Vol. 5
Confidential Confessions, Vol. 5
Author: Reiko Momochi
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 7
Review Date: 8/4/2011


Book 5 tackles the specific topics of rape and HIV/AIDS. I have only read book 5 of this series, but I am glad that author drew out the situations into manga format, therefore allowing more young adults to understand these perhaps taboo or misunderstood... things.

This manga has reinforced my beliefs that anime and manga are not only for little kids. It isn't always about a kid saving the world with superpowers or a flowery romance story about a couple in high school; there are series that tackle the dark, taboo issues of today's society. Thank you Reiko Momochi-san, for opening my eyes.


Culture Shock! Japan: A Survival Guide to Customs and Etiquette (Culture Shock! Guides)
Review Date: 8/18/2011


This provides a very insightful glance into life in Japan, as told by a 'gaijin' (foreigner) who has grown accustomed in the ways. Whether you are looking to travel to Japan for a vacation or plan to stay for an extensive time, this guide will inform you of the ins and outs of social interactions. The author's humor certainly makes this guide an interesting read. If you are interested in Japanese culture at all, then this is the book for you!


The Dogs of War: The Courage, Love, and Loyalty of Military Working Dogs
Review Date: 7/17/2013


The book was definitely well-researched, as made obvious by the numerous citations found throughout the book. It was a good read; very informative.

Perhaps a little too informative at times. I was expecting the chapters to focus solely on stories of particular dogs, but it read more like a brochure than a fictional passage.

One gripe that I have (however unreasonable it may be) is the length of everyone's titles and names of the bases. Not even half way through the book, I just started skimming the names and such to get to the relevant information. I understand everyone has to be properly named and titled, but it really disrupts the flow of content.

I do like the short blurbs and bios of a few dogs that make it onto a few specially separated pages from the rest of the narration, those where more of what I was looking for in this book.

All in all, it's a great book to learn more about military working dogs, while at the same time, not being too bored out of your mind with all of the information. Little anecdotes of numerous handler-dog teams are sprinkled generously throughout the book to provide a break from the info.

3.5/5 stars

Book provided by Goodreads First Reads.


Domestic Violets (P.S.)
Domestic Violets (P.S.)
Author: Matthew Norman
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 3.4/5 Stars.
 8
Review Date: 12/16/2011


If there's ever anything I like in life, it's humor. Whether it's dry, moist, or any varying degree in between. Perhaps that's why I found Domestic Violets to be so refreshingly plainspoken.

This book is a satire. From the very first page, it was obvious. It is a satire about everything. Life. Relationships. The boring, daily job. It also includes snippets of almost current events. If you enjoy satires as much as I do, then this book is a definite must.

As much as I like this book, it was a little slow in the beginning. I feel that a good portion of the book was dedicated to establishing the setting. When I say good, it isn't in a good way either (bad writing there, but oh well, who reads these anyways?). But when the book picks up steam, it doesn't let up until you read to the back cover.

[Insert witty, closing line here]

*Thanks Goodreads First Reads Giveaway for a copy of this book, it will have an honorary place on my bookshelf*


The Fairy Godmother (Five Hundred Kingdoms, Bk 1)
The Fairy Godmother (Five Hundred Kingdoms, Bk 1)
Author: Mercedes Lackey
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 4.2/5 Stars.
 41
Review Date: 12/25/2011
Helpful Score: 1


Ever since I read Enchantment by Orson Scott Card, I've been on the lookout for other fairy tales told with a twist to them. And Mercedes Lackey definitely exceeded my expectations in this book.

First of all, I've had the pleasure of enjoying some of Lackey's other books, and it is a pleasant surprise to see the vastly different writing styles between her epic fantasy series and... well, this. Although, it is a change that is well-suited to this genre.

Going into it from just the synopsis, I was expecting more of a "challenge a day" type story, which is not the case here. Perhaps I should have expected it, but the story is more of a romantic story than an empowered woman story. (Get it? Romantic? *Slaps a knee*)

Although an entertaining story, character development was a bit undermined. There are static characters throughout the novel. Those who have changed can usually attribute their miraculous improvement to magic.

Still, an interesting and thought provoking novel that poses the questions, what if there are such things as destiny and fate? Is any decision that we make of our free will, or is there a higher power prodding us along?


A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Bk 1)
A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Bk 1)
Author: George R. R. Martin
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 769
Review Date: 3/25/2014


Perhaps it is because I have seen the show first, but I didn't find the book as intriguing and thrilling as I thought I would. One thing I do like about it over the show is the insight into the characters' thoughts and minds.

That said though, the world that Martin sets up in the first book is vast and there are plenty of characters and plots to follow, if there is a character that you don't like, I'm going to come out and say it, Sansa. She is the most annoying, self-righteous girl in the book. I hope she changes in the next few books because I dread reading her part every time.

I like the realistic touch that Martin adds by making it so that no one is safe from death's reach. It is sad to see characters go, but such is life. I am not looking forward to more character deaths, but I am looking forward to the lives of those who yet live and how they overcome their grief.


Heresy (Giordano Bruno, Bk 1)
Heresy (Giordano Bruno, Bk 1)
Author: S. J. Parris
Book Type: Hardcover
  • Currently 3.7/5 Stars.
 15
Review Date: 8/18/2011
Helpful Score: 1


Finally, a book that I can say that I was genuinely intrigued by! I started this book believing it to be about the war between science and faith, but it turns out that it is faith versus faith. Still, the question of whodunit brings Bruno (and the reader) on a thrilling chase to an unexpected conclusion (at least for me). It brings about the question, what is right and wrong? Who can answer that with certainty? Is the truth sometimes better left unsaid?


Home Front
Home Front
Author: Kristin Hannah
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.4/5 Stars.
 49
Review Date: 6/15/2013
Helpful Score: 1


If this book is not a tear jerker, I don't know what is. I read this book in five hours in one sitting, and cried my eyes out for at least 4 of those hours.

First of all, I like that this book breaks the traditional roles of men and women by having the woman of the family being the soldier out in battle. Kristin Hannah definitely handled that well and their conflicts are entirely believable.

Another thing I wanted to point out is that Kristin Hannah does a really great job writing about long-lasting friendships and how those bonds can help people make it through tough times. Another excellent book of hers is Firefly Lane, which, if you haven't read it, is about one such friendship and how it is affected throughout the years.

The book is split into two parts, and both parts are very emotional, albeit, tugging at different emotions. I can't go into much detail here without spoilers, but the character growth is astounding, but believable as well. The two main characters are Michael and Jolene (or Jo from now on). Jolene is the soldier, the mom, the wife. Michael is her other half. Jolene is the strong one, I liked her character from beginning to end. She goes through changes, but in the end, emerges stronger than ever.

Michael on the other hand, is a weakling in the beginning. I can honestly say that I hated him, he was whiny, self-centered, and gave little to no attention to his family at all. His reasons were understandable, but I just couldn't bring myself to like such a character. Thankfully, the his growth as a character throughout the book really gives him a 180 and by the end, he becomes a likable person.

One last thing I want to mention is that this book is about war. War affects everyone; the soldier, their families and friends, and those tragedies and horrors should be more apparent and known to the rest of society. This book does that, one reader at a time. No matter what you think of the politics behind a war, always support the men and women who lay down their lives to protect those of us at home.

I'm glad I read this book, it really opened my eyes and made me appreciate the dedication our servicemen and women have.


The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Author: Rebecca Skloot
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.1/5 Stars.
 462
Review Date: 4/11/2012
Helpful Score: 1


This book was a required reading for one of my classes, but it was also recommended to me by a family member long before the class assignment. As such, I didn't approach this book with the same apprehension I approach other class required readings. For the record, I haven't read many nonfiction books that I really enjoyed... Until I read this book.

Even though this is a well-researched nonfiction book, it reads like fiction. The great part about this book is that the abundant information about such complex and technical topics, like cancer and genetics, is presented in a way that isn't too overwhelming for the average reader to understand.

So, if you wish to read an interesting and informative book, I can't point to a better book.


The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, Bk 1)
The Innocent Mage (Kingmaker, Kingbreaker, Bk 1)
Author: Karen Miller
Book Type: Mass Market Paperback
  • Currently 3.5/5 Stars.
 139
Review Date: 8/25/2011


With a title like this one and the blurb that it has, I was expecting a tad more magic to be involved. But that does not negatively affect the book's performance. There is certainly plenty of political intrigue involved, for those who enjoy it (I certainly do).

I think this book does a great deal of justice to the development of the "minor" (or shall I say, "less major") characters. I found it hard to hate some of the characters, even though everything they have done have warranted that feeling. Although, of course, there are some exceptions whom we can channel our strong feelings toward without feeling the slightest remorse.

At the end of the day, the difference between a five stars rating and a four stars rating is my own personal bias. There is one "plot mechanism" (I'm not sure what else to call it) that I really dislike, but by no means does that make the book bad.

One warning though, make sure to have the second book on hand before finishing this book, it will make you want to read more!

In short, great book! I would recommend it to people who like political intrigue and fantasy readers who like magically based worlds.


Kushiel's Avatar (Kushiel's Legacy, Bk 3)
Kushiel's Avatar (Kushiel's Legacy, Bk 3)
Author: Jacqueline Carey
Book Type: Paperback
  • Currently 4.3/5 Stars.
 246
Review Date: 6/15/2013


As the last book in the trilogy, Kushiel's Avatar starts off with catching you up in the time that's passed, then it jumps right into the meat of the book.

I would say that there are two main plot lines in this book; one is obvious from the get-go, the other one will become obvious after the first few chapters. Surprisingly, it's the latter plot line that takes up the majority of the book. That one is also the more interesting of the two. This book kept me riveted to it for a good week, right before my finals. That should give you an inkling as to how interesting it is.

Joscelin and Phedre have both matured greatly from the previous book to this one, and it really shows in their interactions with each other. Phedre herself points out the differences too, on occasion.

As usual, they go on a journey that spans the very borders of the world, going where few venture. I'd like to mention that time is a very abstract concept in this book. I realize that a journey of such caliber will take a long time, but sometimes it doesn't sink in until the author explicitly mentions how long it's been since they were last in the city (or somewhere).

Kushiel's Avatar provided a fitting ending to Phedre's story, and I look forward to the next book in the series. If you have any doubts whether you should read this book, just read it. It won't disappoint.


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