MatthewSean Reviews

Book reviews, movie reviews, and other writing

Book Review – Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson — September 6, 2017

Book Review – Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

Book Review – Mistborn – Brandon Sanderson

mistborn

Facts:

Book: Mistborn
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Year of Release: 2006
Read 647-page paperback edition in August 2017.

Book Description:

In this first novel of the Mistborn series, author Brandon Sanderson introduces us to a struggling world. The Final Empire controls the population, the majority of which is enslaved and serving the ruling nobility class. The Lord Ruler, alive for millennia, controls the population by forcing them to bow to his wishes and his religion, while also controlling the key powerful mineral on the planet.

However, some are beginning to fight back. X has been living in difficult circumstances her entire life, being mistreated by a thieving gang who needs her to get jobs done. However, Kelsier finds her and saves her from this group, seeing potential mist born qualities in her. When he shows her how her talents work, that she can use metal to enhance her abilities, she is opened up to a new world, including fighting against the Lord Ruler. Kelsier gathers together a crew of believers to try and stop the evil Lord Ruler and release the world from perpetual prison.

Book Review:

This was definitely the first novel of what was to become a strong series for well-known author Brandon Sanderson. The advantage is the ability to be very creative and engage in some fun and unique world building, which occurred here. The disadvantage which often happens, and which happened here, is that the world building did in some instances creative a lengthy novel that didn’t always have a quick pace to it, particularly in the first 2/3 of the story. Although the world building is necessary for later novels in the series, the disadvantage fr the first novel is that the plot is somewhat slowed down as things are described and set up.

In terms of characters, Sanderson does do a nice job of creating some memorable, complex characters, including main female protagonist, X, who has grown up fast but who we also see come to terms with becoming an adult in this novel. There are some nice character development plot points covered with X. Kelsier and his brother also have a complex and interesting relationship, that is shown in a variety of fits and starts, including some surprises later in the novel.

In terms of writing style, a negative feature for the novel was the fact that many words and scenes felt constantly repeated, to the point of distraction. For example, there were several scenes at “balls” which were held by the nobility class to build and learn about political alliances across Houses.  However, some of the scenes became rather repetitive after awhile, and furthermore when going and leaving these balls, there were often paragraphs where the word “ball” was used numerous times, over and over again. It made the language feel quite clunky and almost annoying to read at times. Although this might be a minor complaint, it was a noticeable distraction for the reader which serves to pull them out of the story itself, which is not a good thing.

Overall, although this novel had some interesting plot points and characters, there were several issues with it in clear view. There are definitely other fantasy series out there…

Overall: 2.5 stars out of 5 stars

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Book Review – By Gaslight – Steven Price —

Book Review – By Gaslight – Steven Price

Book Review – By Gaslight – Steven Price

by_gaslight

Facts:

Book: By Gaslight
Author: Steven Price
Genre: Mystery / Historical Fiction
Year of Release: 2016
Read 735-page hardcover edition in July 2017.

Book Description:

In this historical fiction, we go back to the late 1800s London, where detectives and criminals operate by gaslight, in the mists and shadows of night. There has been a ghastly murder, and the London detectives investigating the case are being assisted by famous American private investigator William Pinkerton. However, Pinkerton is assisting because the murdered woman has a connection to a suspicious and mysterious man his father had long been searching for: Adam Foole. Pinkerton and Foole circle each other in London, realizing they may have to work together for a time, while watching out for one to double-cross the other.

Book Review:

This was an enjoyable and descriptive novel by Canadian author Steven Price. The author has done a great job in describing an evocative setting, and making us feel like we really are in the mists and gaslights of London. Price is at his best when he is describing setting and having his characters walk through the workhouses, streets, and alleyways of  the London of this time period.

The storyline and plot was also an interesting one, with two strong protagonists that both have their strong suits, their points of mystery about them, but also their drawbacks. Price has created great conflict between the two characters and has added enough confusion and doubt that it leaves the reader wondering who is on the moral high ground, if anyone.

There are several scenes that take place in the past, that allow us to learn more about the backgrounds and motivations behind the two main protagonists. Although this was useful and provided good information, a few of these sections felt a little too drawn out, and probably could have been edited for length, given the size of this novel.

On that note, although the novel was enjoyable overall, the length of the book was in some ways unnecessary, and some additional editing probably could have helped speed up the pacing and increase the tension for the reader.

That being said however, this was a great mystery based in a great late 1800s London, a perfect setting well-described by Price.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars

Book Review – In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi —

Book Review – In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi

Book Review – In the Darkroom – Susan Faludi

darkroom

Facts:

Book: In the Darkroom
Author: Susan Faludi
Genre: Memoir
Year of Release: 2016
Read 463-page paperback edition in July 2017.

Book Description:

In this intriguing and thoughtful memoir, journalist Susan Faludi recounts her childhood with a very difficult, angry, and emotional father. Faludi had long been estranged from her mysterious father, an immigrant from Hungary to America, who had taken on many roles including mountaineer, photographer, adventurer, film-maker, and family man. However, when she receives a message from her long-last father, now back in Hungary, that he is coming out as a woman, and has already undergone surgery, she launches into a long investigation to uncover the truth behind who Stefi really was, and is.

Book Review:

This memoir was a fascinating look not just at a family, but also at many other topics, including Hungarian culture and history, immigration, photography, WWII, and transgender identities. Faludi has succeeded in using journalistic and research skills to not only tell an emotional story, but also to bring a lot of education to readers on the above topics. It was a surprise and a treat to have this memoir spread its storyline and cover a lot of ground that I was not expecting. Faludi does a good job of weaving it all together through the lens of her complicated father.

The memoir also succeeds in terms of telling a very unique tale. Of course all lives are unique, but often it is easy for one to think of a minority group like the transgender community as a group of people that all thinks and acts the same way. Faludi describes her conversations and meetings not only with her father Stefi but also with others from the community, and through these descriptions and interactions, we see a very diverse community indeed, who do not all think or act the same way. This knowledge is helpful and true.

Faludi also does a great job by painting a very real picture of her father. It is not all good or all bad. There are some very noble and good things to say, and some frightening stories of Susan growing up as a child. She puts it all on the table, and we get a very complex and multi-faceted character sketch of her parent.

One challenge with the memoir was that even though there were many topics and characters referenced, at times it didn’t all weave together perfectly. Certain key characters, like Faludi’s brother, were briefly mentioned but never spoken with or described in any length, and no reason for this (even if there was a legitimate one), was provided.

Overall however, this was a fascinating glimpse into a long life of a complex person, and the relationship over time of a daughter and her parent.

Overall: 4 stars out of 5 stars