Thoughts on books, family, and life in one impressive package.

I hate starting the new year with outstanding reviews to write. Twenty reviews. Four days. It’s crunch time, and it’s going to get ugly. And short. These are not going to be award-winning reviews.

Here are the next five.

The Untold Story by Genevieve Cogman
Genevieve Cogman says that The Untold Story is not the end of the series, just the end of the “current season.” All I know is that I consider it a great ending to a beloved series. All the answers, resolutions to ongoing conflicts, and satisfying conclusions to every pre-existing and new plotline. Ms. Cogman is fair to all of the characters and the Library. I hope this is not the end because I am going to miss Irene and her friends.

Dune by Frank Herbert
I first read Dune by Frank Herbert several years ago. I know I loved it and thought it was an amazing book, but I’ll be damned if I could remember any details of it. Before I watched the new movie though, I wanted to revisit the story because I wanted fresh details as I watched the latest film interpretation. Since stories tend to stick when I listen to them, I chose to experience Dune via a full cast audiobook this time around. The story is still great, but it does not make for the best audiobook experience. Herbert tends to shift POV from one sentence to another, and the sudden change in the narrator comes across as very confusing or jarring. Another confusing element of the audio is just how the producers utilize the “full cast.” It is by no means consistent. Sometimes, the narrator speaks Paul’s parts. Sometimes, someone else does. And then that same voice actor will go on to voice another person’s part later in the story. It’s not the greatest. And, according to the Audible reviews, it appears that what I listened to isn’t even the unabridged version even though it says it is. I’m glad I listened to it if only because I now remember the story a bit more, but I don’t know if I will continue the series.

King of Scars by Leigh Bardugo
After reading all about the Crows in the previous duology, I cannot say I am a fan of Leigh Bardugo’s King of Scars. I found the entire book very repetitive and slow. Once I finished, I had to take a moment to question just what happened to warrant the 545 pages. The answer is not much. Also, I wasn’t happy to see Nina once again become a major player in the novel as she already had more than enough presence in the previous duology. I’m not certain what her part brings to the overarching story. I’ll finish the duology because that is what I do, but I think this is my least favorite of all of Bardugo’s Grishaverse books to date.

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys
I know I am late to the party when it comes to reading anything by Ruta Sepetys, but Between Shades of Gray truly is an amazing book. Not only is it well-written, but also the details behind the story are fascinating. I love learning new historical facts, so this satisfied that particular itch. Ms. Sepetys does a marvelous job of letting readers know what happened without being overly graphic. I think the matter-of-fact tone Lina adopts for most of the more horrifying scenes makes them much more impactful than any description of the actual violence or gore could. Also, I think Between Shades of Gray would make a great addition to any middle-grade teacher’s history curriculum as I find Lina to be much more relatable and her voice more current than Anne Frank’s. Shame on me for waiting so long to read it.

The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi
The Bronzed Beasts by Roshani Chokshi is a lovely series finale. There is nothing very shocking or twisty about it; the few plot twists it does have are obvious and therefore not surprising at all. The ending is satisfying. Everyone gets a well-deserved conclusion to their story. Mostly, I found it to be a sweet reminder of the importance of family and love versus power.

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