Review of “The Dragon Reborn” by Robert Jordan

Title: The Dragon Reborn
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: Wheel of Time #3
Narrator: Michael Kramer and Kate Reading
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 24 hours 51 minutes
Published: 2004, MacMillan Audio (originally published 1991)
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Dragon Reborn—the leader long prophesied who will save the world, but in the saving destroy it; the savior who will run mad and kill all those dearest to him—is on the run from his destiny.

Able to touch the One Power, but unable to control it, and with no one to teach him how—for no man has done it in three thousand years—Rand al’Thor knows only that he must face the Dark One. But how?

Winter has stopped the war—almost—yet men are dying, calling out for the Dragon. But where is he?

Perrin Aybara is in pursuit with Moiraine Sedai, her Warder Lan, and Loial the Ogier. Bedeviled by dreams, Perrin is grappling with another deadly problem—how is he to escape the loss of his own humanity?

Egwene, Elayne and Nynaeve are approaching Tar Valon, where Mat will be healed—if he lives until they arrive. But who will tell the Amyrlin their news—that the Black Ajah, long thought only a hideous rumor, is all too real? They cannot know that in Tar Valon far worse awaits…

Ahead, for all of them, in the Heart of the Stone, lies the next great test of the Dragon reborn….

 

MY REVIEW

The third book in the Wheel of Time felt like an in-between-story while listening. But now, after finishing it and thinking back on everything the characters went through, it was full of action. What was funny though, was that the title felt off. The Dragon was lost and there was only a handful of chapters following him. Although, I guess it was all about him in the end anyway with everyone trying to find him.

I have to admit, that listening to all of these books back to back makes me unable to tell them apart. The stories flows into each other gracefully and after three books and 80 hours now, I definitely see the charm in the series. It’s the world building. It feels so real and even if it is a fantasy world full of magic and so on, it feels plausible. Many fantasy books are unrealistic in the sense that the hero is unaware of their power in the beginning but then masters it in a matter of minutes and becomes the most powerful ever. That’s fun and all, but this is another type of fantasy. Definitely a more adult type of fantasy. And I like the contrasts to what I usually read.

I enjoyed following Egwene, Nyneave, and Elaine in their pursuit of the black Ajah and it was great to see Mat from another perspective than half-dead (sorry for the small spoiler).

I’m mostly listening while I ride my bike or going somewhere and it feels like this world of Robert Jordan’s is where I spend my traveling time. It’s there in the background and I don’t really focus on it too much. I enjoy spending my time riding my bike to practice in this world, but I can’t really say it’s the best I’ve ever read, probably because of not actively reading. Maybe I will physically read it one day. The Dragon Reborn gets a solid 4 because of the immense and realistic world building.

Review of “The Great Hunt” by Robert Jordan

Title: The Great Hunt
Author: Robert Jordan
Series: Wheel of Time #2
Narrator: Michael Kramer and Kate Reading
Genre: Fantasy
Length: 26 hours 34 minutes
Published: 2003, MacMillan Audio (originally published 1990)
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Wheel of Time turns and Ages come and go, leaving memories that become legend. Legend fades to myth, and even myth is long forgotten when the Age that gave it birth returns again. In the Third Age, an Age of Prophecy, the World and Time themselves hang in the balance. What was, what will be, and what is, may yet fall under the Shadow.

For centuries, gleemen have told the tales of The Great Hunt of the Horn. So many tales about each of th Hunters, and so many Hunters to tell of…Now the Horn itself is found: the Horn of Valere long thought only legend, the Horn which will raise the dead heroes of the ages. And it is stolen.

 

MY REVIEW

I’ve now seen the whole first season of the TV series which contains most of book 1 and some from book 2 and 3. I think I do understand why they mixed the TV series up a bit. Like with The Eye of the World, Robert Jordan really took his time to tell the vivid story that is Wheel of Time. 26 hours went by pretty fast this time when I had really gotten used to the narrators. But when I think about the story now, after finishing it, what happened really? Yes, the great hunt. But that’s it. It was a long journey. Exciting and things kept happening, but I can’t really say exactly what.

New people were introduced, and once again, I won’t give you the satisfaction of trying to spell the names that I now can pronounce, and it took me a while to understand what they were and what role they played in the story.

The ending was wow! And I can’t wait to pick up the next one, but I still kind of feel like this is still just the beginning. Which is amazing, big things have already happened, but what else is there still? I like the character development. They feel real and not everyone behaves strong and heroic like fantasy heroes usually does.

The Great Hunt receives a 4, it’s either because it actually steps up a notch, or it’s because I’m more familiar with the world, not sure. A great listen in whichever case.

Review of “To Sleep in a Sea of Stars” by Christopher Paolini

Title: To Sleep in a Sea of Stars
Author: Christopher Paolini
Narrator: Jennifer Hale
Genre: Science Fiction
Length: 32 hours 28 minutes
Published: 2020, Tor
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Kira Navárez dreamed of life on new worlds. Now she’s awakened a nightmare. During a routine survey mission on an uncolonized planet, Kira finds an alien relic. At first she’s delighted, but elation turns to terror when the ancient dust around her begins to move.

As war erupts among the stars, Kira is launched into a galaxy-spanning odyssey of discovery and transformation. First contact isn’t at all what she imagined, and events push her to the very limits of what it means to be human.

While Kira faces her own horrors, Earth and its colonies stand upon the brink of annihilation. Now, Kira might be humanity’s greatest and final hope…

 

MY REVIEW

I’m really glad I listened to this book rather than worked my muscles out while holding this brick of a book for countless of hours. I’m not sure how I would have perceived the story, had Jennifer Hale not narrated it. She was brilliant with her many different voices for all the characters. They really came alive.

But of course, she’s not the only one who needs to get credit for this incredible story. I have to admit that I haven’t read too many science fiction books yet, but this one felt original. And it felt legit. Paolini’s take on futuristic science felt realistic, he addressed the question of speeds faster than light and how that didn’t mean you could travel in time. Like with any magic system, he put the limitations on science and did it really well. I really enjoyed that nothing seemed exaggerated. It just was.

The book contained so many characters and they were all interesting and contributed to the story. I felt sympathy for all of them because they all felt real. They had their backstories and stayed true to their goals.

Even if Jennifer Hale was a very good narrator, I sometimes had difficulties following. But I think that has more to do with the fact that I’m not very used to listening to fiction. Last summer, when I started listening to books, I only listened to facts, mostly science but some economic and psychology books. I hope I get used to it soon. I really enjoy listening to someone tell me the story. Also, I just got a bike and can’t really read a physical book while riding, haha!

It was a long book, and maybe it could have been a bit shorter, but I can’t really say which scenes felt unnecessary. But my overall impression was good. And listening to Paolini himself read the after words, I could really feel his relief after the struggles that were this novel. It was inspiring. I wouldn’t put it among my favorites, but it was definitely a four out of five.

Review of “House of Earth and Blood” by Sarah J. Maas

Title: House of Earth and Blood
Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Crescent City #1
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 803
Published: 2020, Bloomsbury Publishing
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Bryce Quinlan had the perfect life—working hard all day and partying all night—until a demon murdered her closest friends, leaving her bereft, wounded, and alone. When the accused is behind bars but the crimes start up again, Bryce finds herself at the heart of the investigation. She’ll do whatever it takes to avenge their deaths.

Hunt Athalar is a notorious Fallen angel, now enslaved to the Archangels he once attempted to overthrow. His brutal skills and incredible strength have been set to one purpose—to assassinate his boss’s enemies, no questions asked. But with a demon wreaking havoc in the city, he’s offered an irresistible deal: help Bryce find the murderer, and his freedom will be within reach.

As Bryce and Hunt dig deep into Crescent City’s underbelly, they discover a dark power that threatens everything and everyone they hold dear, and they find, in each other, a blazing passion—one that could set them both free, if they’d only let it.

 

MY REVIEW

One of my favorite authors have started a third series, Crescent City. I was super excited after loving both Throne of Glass and A Court of Thorns and Roses. I had no expectations, and had honestly barely even read what it was about when I picked it up. I trusted Maas enough to pre-order this one signed as well (I’ve lost count on how many signed copies I have of her books by now, haha).

Even with no expectations, more than she being the author, I have to admit that I was almost ready to put it down at first. It honestly took me half of the book before I actually started to get into it and understand and sympathize with the characters and here’s why.

Maas is an amazing worldbuilder, I would love to pick her brains to find out where she gets all of her ideas from. It’s the same with House of Earth and Blood. She has a little bit of a different approach this time though. At first I hated it, but after reading the whole thing, I think I like it. She introduces the world and all its politics and hierarchies and characters and races in a very natural way. You never feel like she is explaining something, but everything comes naturally in the story. But, this is a whole new world, new races, a lot of characters, and I couldn’t keep up and felt frustrated when I didn’t understand anything at all the first half. I still feel unsure about some things honestly. This is the main reason why I had such a hard time reading this in the beginning.

I think it’s supposed to be adult fantasy, but with the exception of quite a bit of swearing, I don’t really see it. It’s still very similar to her other young adult works. Nothing bad, in my opinion, just something I thought about while reading.

And since it was supposed to be an adult fantasy, and in her latest books had included a lot of sex, I was expecting the worst. But honestly, not a single sex scene. Lots of plays on it though, but nothing that I really thought about. Except that scene when Hunt jerks off in the shower and comes so hard that he sees stars. I actually laughed out loud at that, like wtf?

What was so great about it at the end then? Well, I really liked the mix between science and fantasy. It took place in a modern world but where there was also magic. I really liked the balance she had created there.

The characters’ development were also amazing! All of them were hopeless in the beginning, they all had such attitudes that I just thought it was ridiculous. But it was on purpose and fitted the story and how everything developed at the end.

Also, at the end, so much action. So much was happening! I couldn’t put it down!

The end was an end, but there will be two more and I will obviously read them, but it was a satisfactory ending.

I feel like grading this book is hard. My general feeling now that I have finished it, is that it was a great book! I loved it! But it shouldn’t take 50% into the book to start caring for it. A three is too low, a five (considering the first half) is too much. So I guess a 4 is fair? If you enjoyed her other series, I’m super confident you’ll like this one as well. And if you haven’t read any of Maas’ books previously, start with Throne of Glass.

Review of “Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen” by Tove Jansson

Title: Småtrollen och den stora översvämningen (~The Moomins and the Great Flood)
Author: Tove Jansson
Series: Mumintrollen #1 (~The Moomins)
Narrator: Mark Levengood
Genre: Fantasy, Children’s
Length: 59 minutes
Published: 2007, Bonnier Audio (first published 1945)
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

The Moomins and the Great Flood was the original Moomin story, published in Finland in 1945. Moomin and his mother is searching for the lost father and experience dangers before the family happily reunites. Finally they come across a valley that is more beautiful than anything they had ever seen before.

MY REVIEW

This was an easy listen. Moomins originates from Finland and having Mark Levengood, Swedish-speaking Finn narrate this hour-long book was perfect. But I think it would have been better to actually read it myself to see the illustrations made by the author herself. It’s been so long since I saw any movies or TV-shows or whatever it was when I was a kid that I didn’t really remember how all the creatures looked like.

The story was short, fast-paced, and cute. A perfect listen while doing chores. But why did the Moomintroll’s father leave in the first place? Why did the Moomintroll’s mother not expect the dad to have built a house for the whole family? Questions perhaps a kid doesn’t even think about.

It was a cute story and it gets a four.

Review of “Seeking Shadows” by E. A. Cartwright

Title: Seeking Shadows
Author: E. A. Cartwright
Series: Chrionicles of the Balance #1
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 416
Published: 2021, EC Editorial
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Death can be a curse, but also a blessing. For aeons, the reapers have been the keepers of the Balance, maintaining the universal order of life and death in the human realm. And as a High Reaper, it will one day fall on Branwen to guide the flock… should she be crowned, that is. For she is not the only one eligible to take the throne, and with a tarnished reputation, Branwen has long since accepted she will remain a pawn of her lifelong rival, Taren. For why would the Balance crown her, the reaper disfigured with a power to embarrass all of her kind?

But Branwen is forced to confront her insecurities when Taren does the unthinkable. Jealous and impatient, he allies himself with a pompous businessman hungry for invincibility, transforming the world of Kana into a deathtrap as humans unite under a common goal: no more reapers, no more death.

While starving reapers grow weaker and humans feel the consequences of a life with no end, it falls on Branwen to navigate a world of technology to bring Taren to justice and restore the natural order. But an unlikely friend leads her to a discovery that there is more to the humans’ unified behaviour than meets the eye, and saving the worlds may no longer be so straightforward.

The problem is locked inside an old clocktower, and the solution could tear the worlds apart.

 

MY REVIEW

The idea of reapers and angels taking and giving life is intriguing and Seeking Shadows is the first book I’m reading on the topic. And I loved it!

Cartwright is writing in first person perspective from all the three main characters and she does it really well. I like that you feel the characters more this way if you write it correctly and she really did. I’m thinking a lot about the writing style while I myself am writing in first perspective and I wish that I will reach the varied and interesting yet still easy way of writing that she does. The story flows so easily.

One thing I thought about in the beginning of the book was how I got the feeling that when she is writing, she really lets the characters decide where conversations are going. I recognize it since I myself end up there pretty much every single time I’m writing dialogue. I have an initial thought but then the characters keep on talking and discuss other things than what I had had in mind.

One thing I didn’t quite understand though was the consumption of the reapers. The Shadows have different professions, some are reapers, some are readers for example. I assume that the reapers are the only ones who go to the world of Kana to reap the souls who area ready and that’s how they gain their energy, by consuming souls. But how do the readers consume? I didn’t quite understand it when Ina, a reader, consumed a soul and felt sick at first when it was trapped. Other than that, her world-building totally made sense.

It is definitely a fast-paced first book. Things are always happening and you as a reader don’t know at all where the story is going. At the end it was easier to guess, but that’s how it’s supposed to be if you wrote the story the right way, I guess?

I loved the ending! It was an end, but at the same time definitely not and I really hope that she will write her butt off so I can continue the story.

I received this as an e-ARC copy in exchange for my honest review in time for the release on February 6th this year. Life came in between and I am now posting this a couple of weeks too late. I don’t like stressing out a book and this way I can enjoy it more. Which I did. It gets a 4 out of 5 and I cross my fingers she will release the follow-up soon!

Review of “Sapiens” by Yuval Noah Harari

Title: Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Author: Yuval Noah Harari
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 15 hours 17 minutes
Published: 2017, HarperAudio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

100,000 years ago, at least six human species inhabited the earth. Today there is just one. Us. Homo sapiens.

How did our species succeed in the battle for dominance? Why did our foraging ancestors come together to create cities and kingdoms? How did we come to believe in gods, nations and human rights; to trust money, books and laws; and to be enslaved by bureaucracy, timetables and consumerism? And what will our world be like in the millennia to come?

In Sapiens, Dr Yuval Noah Harari spans the whole of human history, from the very first humans to walk the earth to the radical – and sometimes devastating – breakthroughs of the Cognitive, Agricultural and Scientific Revolutions. Drawing on insights from biology, anthropology, paleontology and economics, he explores how the currents of history have shaped our human societies, the animals and plants around us, and even our personalities. Have we become happier as history has unfolded? Can we ever free our behaviour from the heritage of our ancestors? And what, if anything, can we do to influence the course of the centuries to come?

Bold, wide-ranging and provocative, Sapiens challenges everything we thought we knew about being human: our thoughts, our actions, our power … and our future.

 

MY REVIEW

When I was younger, history was not something that always appealed to me. I understood that we had to know the past to not make the same mistakes again and all of that. All I wanted (and perhaps still want?) is to leave reality and explore other worlds. But I’ve come to realize that the past is another world. And that is now super clear to me after listening to this book by Yuval Noah Harari.

I’ve heard people talking about Sapiens and the follow-up Homo Deus and at least this first one, did not disappoint. The title really gives the content justice, it is a brief summary, but I also feel like it covered so much. There’s a lot of information an author can squeeze into 15 hours of audiobook. And I guess that I learned more about our history than most people who are interested in history did. It was interesting.

The book covered a lot, from the agricultural revolution, to the introduction of the stock market, slavery, wars, exploration, colonies, capitalism, religion, and at the end he discussed happiness and a small introduction to our future (which Homo Deus covers). I haven’t finished the Science of Well-Being class yet, but I recognized everything he had to say on the matter and it was a good ending to the book. Are people today more happy than the peasants in the middle ages?

There was so much said in this book that I can’t get into details. It feels like I’m just rambling. The narrator was great! The book was great. It was provocative and made me agree with the author: we have gone in the wrong direction. I kind of feel bad for being a human, even if I specifically am not to be held accountable by all the horrible things our kind has done to bring us to where we are now. Sapiens gets a strong 4, I highly recommend it.

One last thing that I think everyone should take to heart, is something he says in the beginning of the book. Per definition, anything that is possible is natural. Biology enables, culture forbids.

Review of “Cosmos” by Carl Sagan

Title: Cosmos – A Personal Voyage
Author: Carl Sagan
Genre: Science, Nonfiction
Length: 14 hours 31 minutes
Published: 2017, Brilliance Audio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

Cosmos has 13 heavily illustrated chapters, corresponding to the 13 episodes of the Cosmos television series. In the book, Sagan explores 15 billion years of cosmic evolution and the development of science and civilization. Cosmos traces the origins of knowledge and the scientific method, mixing science and philosophy, and speculates to the future of science. The book also discusses the underlying premises of science by providing biographical anecdotes about many prominent scientists throughout history, placing their contributions into the broader context of the development of modern science.

The book covers a broad range of topics, comprising Sagan’s reflections on anthropological, cosmological, biological, historical, and astronomical matters from antiquity to contemporary times. Sagan reiterates his position on extraterrestrial life—that the magnitude of the universe permits the existence of thousands of alien civilizations, but no credible evidence exists to demonstrate that such life has ever visited earth.

 

MY REVIEW

Sometimes I regret listening to books on astrophysics because that means I miss out on all the pictures. And I do feel that I’m not always following so I’m sure I missed a lot of good points made in this book.

First published in 1980, this book still feels very up-to-date, 40 years later. It is funny listening to Sagan talking about the US and USSR though, haha! But when it comes to the cosmos, not much changes except new discoveries. The ancient history is the same and always will be the same.

I haven’t seen the TV show, but I will now that I’ve finished the book. I think a lot of things will make more sense and it will make me remember hearing things that I probably unconsciously soaked in.

What surprised me a bit was that this was not a book strictly about planets, galaxies, and astrophysics. There was so much history in it, about communication, war, human nature. History that we need to understand in order to move forward. How will we be able to understand a possible message from an alien civilization? Who will speak for Earth when that happens? Us humans who have mass destruction weapon and kill each other for nothing?

Sagan stir up many questions. Much like Stephen Hawking does in his books. Both authors almost feel philosophical sometimes. Maybe they are? In the ancient times, the scholars were everything apparently.

After reading this, I am starting to feel the lust to listen to history books. I’m certain I would enjoy them as much!

It was a rather long book, but interesting and it makes me want to know more. I love that all of these authors that I’ve listened to lately have spurred my scientific interest again. It’s been dormant for many years. No more. Cosmos gets a strong four.

Review of “The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes” by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #0,5
Genre: Fantasy
Pages: 825
Published: 2020, Scholastic Press
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION

It is the morning of the reaping that will kick off the tenth annual Hunger Games. In the Capitol, eighteen-year-old Coriolanus Snow is preparing for his one shot at glory as a mentor in the Games. The once-mighty house of Snow has fallen on hard times, its fate hanging on the slender chance that Coriolanus will be able to outcharm, outwit, and outmaneuver his fellow students to mentor the winning tribute.

The odds are against him. He’s been given the humiliating assignment of mentoring the female tribute from District 12, the lowest of the low. Their fates are now completely intertwined—every choice Coriolanus makes could lead to favor or failure, triumph or ruin. Inside the arena, it will be a fight to the death. Outside the arena, Coriolanus starts to feel for his doomed tribute . . . and must weigh his need to follow the rules against his desire to survive no matter what it takes.

MY REVIEW

This book really made me miss The Hunger Games. I remember one of my hostkids in California 2013, when I was an au pair, who forced me to read them while I was there. One of the best recommendations I’ve ever gotten. We had so much to talk about after I had finished all three of them. It was nostalgic reading this prequel and I feel like I want to reread the trilogy (but who has the time?).

It was easy to recognize Collins’ writing, I was once again in Panem but this time at the time of the tenth Hunger Games instead of 74th. The games are not yet developed into the dramatic event it is in the trilogy, we get to see how it changed and that President Snow had a big part in it.

In The Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes, Coriolanus Snow (the awful president) is the protagonist and it’s amazing that you start to sympathize with him. Everyone knows how horrible he is, yet you root for him in this book. That’s excellent writing!

The book led me to think that he would actually turn out fine in the end, although I knew that he would turn into the monster that he is in The Hunger Games. But it wasn’t until the very last chapter that it all turned. I was always on edge, hoping that the historical events would change and Snow would finally get his girl. Sadly, no. Still unhappy ending.

Well worth a read! If you love the Hunger Games, you’ll definitely love this book too! 4 out of 5.

Review of “Omgiven av Motgångar” by Thomas Erikson

Title: Omgiven av Motgångar (Surrounded by Setbacks)
Author: Thomas Erikson
Series: –
Genre: Nonfiction
Length: 9 hours 36 minutes
Published: 2020, Bonnier Audio
My Grade: 4 out of 5

GOODREADS’ DESCRIPTION (translated to English by me)

The successfull author Thomas Erikson has previously dealt with idiots, psychopaths, couch potatoes and bad bosses. This time, he takes on a holistic approach on setbacks in all of its forms: problems at work, in the family, economic issues, trouble in paradise, crazy neighbors, consuming relationships… When life feels like one major uphill. As usual, Thomas uses examples that all of us recognize ourselves in. With a slight bit of humor, he guides us towards the light at the end of the tunnel and points to solutions both within and outside ourselves.

 

MY REVIEW

Compared to his other books that I recently read, Surrounded by Idiots and Surrounded by Psychopaths, this book is solely based on his own experiences and that made me a bit skeptical when I started listening to this book. But after finishing it, I’m glad I spent those ten hours doing it. I don’t think these kinds of things needs to be backed up by science and trials, it’s honestly just sense and logic. What I needed was to hear it so that I could be more aware of it. In my world, what he says makes sense and in contradiction to my blue personality, I don’t feel the need to have all of his claims to be backed up by data and science.

As with his previous books, he describes how the different colors of the disc-system, that is described in Surrounded by Psychopaths, think of setbacks and success. Even if he shortly describes the colors even here, I suggest you read Idiots first to have a greater understanding.

He gives us examples of situations, what the people thought they had to do in order to be successful and why or why not they didn’t succeed. He gives us an eight point list with things we need to have in order to be successful. But the most important thing is that success and setbacks are different for all of us. Each of us need to define what we see as a success and that’s hard when we’re surrounded by all social media and commercials and other people. I thought it was great that he mentioned Hjärnstark (The Real Happy Pill) by Anders Hansen. I love that all of the books I’ve read lately, and the class I’m taking, The Science of Well-Being, all fit together and claim the same things. It makes me feel safe somehow. And more secure in myself.

As usual, I didn’t take the exercises that he gave us. But I’ve been thinking about it, and even if I can’t say right now what success is for me, I am successful. And have been for quite some time. We all face setbacks, and I’ve definitely had my share, but I think what’s had me going is my attitude that I can make things better if I want. Sometimes I don’t want, sometimes I want to be in “Later-ville”, but as long as I don’t get stuck there and keep on going toward “winning-ville”, that’s fine.

This might not have been a science book with acclaimed facts and data, but it was definitely a go-get-it book with lots of inspiration and motivation to make me want to become a better and a happier person. If you need that, it’s definitely a good read. It therefore gets a 4 out of 5.