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Mini Reviews: Fan Favorites That Fell Flat for Me ⇉ Rebel of the Sands & Steelheart

Monday, February 26, 2018
Have you ever read a book that everyone seemed to be raving about, but you just didn't enjoy it as much as you thought you would?

Rebel of the Sands and Steelheart are books that I've seen a lot of rave reviews for. While I enjoyed them, I didn't love them. Following are the reasons why.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mythical beasts still roam the wild and remote areas, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinn still perform their magic. For humans, it’s an unforgiving place, especially if you’re poor, orphaned, or female.

Amani Al’Hiza is all three. She’s a gifted gunslinger with perfect aim, but she can’t shoot her way out of Dustwalk, the back-country town where she’s destined to wind up wed or dead.

Then she meets Jin, a rakish foreigner, in a shooting contest, and sees him as the perfect escape route. But though she’s spent years dreaming of leaving Dustwalk, she never imagined she’d gallop away on mythical horse—or that it would take a foreign fugitive to show her the heart of the desert she thought she knew.

What was most interesting to me was how this book touches on the subject of what it means to be human. There was a lot of potential to explore this topic with the conflict brewing in Miraji and with the existence of the djinn (and their relationships with mortals). There are also elements of religion in the book, but there is a strong leaning towards atheistic themes, irreverence towards the country's gods, and the empowerment of humans. While it does reflect a growing trend in literature, it does get old, especially if that's the only perspective given. I would have liked to see more complexity in the world building. (For the most part, we only get the main characters' perspective).

The plot was predictable, no real surprises. The MC also shows inconsistencies in character that suggest that, while she is largely independent, she's easily influenced by her emotions, which is particularly noticeable when she's in love. I would have liked to see more development of the character and why she is the person that she is at the time of this novel, but the inconsistencies in character didn't detract too much from the read.

While it's not a particularly memorable read for me, it stays true to what it is: a YA fantasy with a good dose of romance. If you're looking for an easy read with a straightforward plot, I would recommend this book. Though the world is still underdeveloped (hopefully, more complexity is added with the later books), it is an interesting world to visit. That said, I don't anticipate reading book two anytime soon.


Publication Info
  • Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton
  • Published by Viking
  • On March 8, 2016
  • Genres: Fantasy
  • Pages: 316 Pages
  • Format: Hardback
    1. Rebel of the Sands
    2. Traitor to the Throne
    3. Hero at the Fall
        • Kissing
        • Violence

        Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics. But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his will.

        Nobody fights the Epics...nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

        And David wants in. He wants Steelheart — the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning — and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

        He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

        Recently, I found out about Brandon Sanderon's Mistborn and Stormlight Archive series. At heart, I'm a fantasy lover and have been looking for books to return to my (reading) roots. I've purchased The Way of Kings off Amazon and, while waiting for its arrival, decided to read Steelheart (since it was available for digital loan from my local library).

        Since Steelheart is a YA novel, I understand that the characters and world building won't be as intricately developed as Sanderson's longer fantasy works. However, the characters were static. While we learn more about them as the novel progresses, I didn't see much character growth. Events were predictable for the most part and didn't flow into one another smoothly, though the time skips are understandable given all the waiting that must happen. What kept me turning the pages was my desire to learn why Steelheart bled and how the MC will get him to bleed again.

        Overall, Sanderson has created an interesting world that explores the effects of possessing ultimate power: what it does to an individual's personality, moral code, and attitude towards others. And how their treatment of others will influence the world. I'm not in a hurry to read book two, but I do expect to read it one day in anticipation of how the Reckoners will change the world.


        Publication Info
        • Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
        • Published by Delacorte BFYR
        • On September 24, 2013
        • Genres: Science Fiction
        • Pages: 384 Pages
        • Format: Ebook
          Series: Reckoners
          1. Steelheart
          2. Firefight
          3. Calamity
              • Violence

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              What are books that you've heard rave reviews about but didn't enjoy?

              A Valentine's Read on Love as an Action ⇉ Review of With Love, From Me to You by Mary Manz Simon

              Tuesday, February 6, 2018
              A day meant to celebrate those we love, Valentine's Day all too often becomes about the number of candies and flowers that we receive (or give). In With Love, From Me to You, Mary Manz Simon reminds us that love is, at heart, an action. Through a series of encounters by different animals, Simon portrays different ways we can show others that we love them. She ends with a reminder of the source of our love and the need to love others year round, not just on Valentine's Day.

              WHAT I LIKED

              Cute Illustrations
              From front to back cover, this book is filled with full-color illustrations. The overall ambiance created is light and airy. That and the board-like pages suggest that this book is intended to be enjoyed with beginning readers.

              Textured Cover
              The cover is textured with the title and hearts intended and covered in red shiny material that adds to the Valentine theme of love. Young readers will enjoy feeling the texture of the title letters and hearts.

              Fantastic Message
              What drew me most to this book is the theme of love as an action. I love how the book reminds us that love is not all about how many candies and flowers we give or receive but about showing others through our words and actions that we care about them—and that we should do this every day of the year, not just on Valentine's Day.

              Furthermore, this book reminds young readers that we love not for our own benefits or because we prefer someone over others. Rather, we love because God's love is giving, and we feel it when we love others.

              WHAT I DISLIKED

              Complex Ideas (for the target audience)
              For a book that is only nine pages, With Love, From Me to You is very wordy. The style and format/layout of the book seems to target beginning readers, but the complexity of the language and ideas is more appropriate for an older audience (and is more at a beginning chapter book level). I wouldn't read this book with young children, but the style and layout of the book seems young for grade schoolers.

              Small Print
              Each stanza is squeezed onto a single page of the book. As a result, the font size is small for a picture book. The font size as well as the book itself is small for a picture book. I wish that the book were larger and that the stanzas were spread out over at least two different pages. (Even four or more to add variations.)

              Zero Character Development
              Though the cover features a cast of characters, the characters are silent and show no character development throughout the book. They are merely there to illustrate the ideas that are expressed in the book. While this would be fine to illustrate a point in a Sunday School lesson with older children, the lack of character interaction isn't as good with a book that seems to target a younger audience.

              Rather than trying to make a theological statement, this book would have been better off portraying the lesson through a story about a cast of characters. This would help the message stick in the readers' minds. After all, we learn best through stories.

              FINAL THOUGHTS

              While I love the message, the book fell flat for me because of the lack of story line. Rather than a story, this felt more like a Sunday School lesson wrapped in the guise of a children's storybook. It becomes quickly apparent from the first pages, however, that there is no narrative to this book. With the theological message of the book presented clearly in the final pages of the book, this book make a clear argument for God's love as the basis for our personal responsibility to love others in turn. It did not present any challenges to my faith.

              I would recommend this book to parents who want to teach their children about the theological reasons for love. Because this book tries to pack a lot of information in so few pages, however, parents should prepare supporting material to expand on the ideas presented in this book. Among these materials, I would include narrative stories that allows children to explore the act of love in the characters' stories.


              With Love, From Me to You is a board book for little ones that will remind them how important it is to love and be loved. With adorable illustrations and sweet, rhyming text by bestselling author Dr. Mary Manz Simon, this book shows children how important their actions and words are in expressing God’s great love with one another. Parents will enjoy reading this book on Valentine’s Day or any day of the year to encourage their children to remember that love is more than gifts and candy; it’s about doing for others and sending love to everyone who’s near.

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              What's one action you take to show others that you love them?

              Publication Info
              • With Love, From Me to You by Mary Manz Simon, illustrated by Corinna Ice
              • Published by Zonderkidz
              • On December 26, 2017
              • Genres: Children's Book
              • Pages: 9 Pages
              • Format: Board Book
              • N/A
              • N/A