To See A Jaguar is one of the most unique books I’ve read. It’s about the relationship between humans and nature, written by E. Etinger, explorer, adventurer, who went to the rainforests and now describes them in details to the reading audience.
The protagonist, Phillippe, is a tour guide in the rainforests. He has a lot of admiration for nature which shows in just about everything he says. The bok describes the rainforests, plants and nature in great detail, making the reader think they’re actually there, adn can see the scenes for themselves.
This book taught me a lot not just about nature in the Amazon Basin, but also about the tribes, about how humans relate to nature, and the balance between both. It’s a different and unique reading experience and certainly worth trying, especially if you like exotic places and discovering the unknown....more
Monsterland is a theme park filled with monsters – any monster lover’s dream come through. Zombies, vampires, werewolves, you name it, and the park has them. Wyatt Baldwin, high school student, movie buff and monster fan never expected to get invited to the grand opening of Monsterland. But then luck (or destiny, depending on how you look at it) intervenes and they get to visit Monsterland on the grand opening. What could possibly go wrong?
Monsterland focuses on monsters and families, and it basically reads like Jurassic Park, but with monsters. Of course you know something will go wrong the moment Wyatt steps through those doors, but still, it’s an engaging, surprising read. Wyatt and his brother have a new stepdad, so the family dynamics are slightly troublesome. They’re trying to make it work, which is admirable. The family dynamics play an important part of the book, and help sketch the personality of our main character.
The book is filled with adventure, fast-paced escapes, and great writing. A perfect read for horror fans – I didn’t find it that scary, but it was very entertaining nonetheless....more
Unbelievable follows Kevin, or Kev, a young guy who wants to make a change and improve his nation’s agricultural and industrial initiative. Unfortunately life doesn’t always go as planned, and Kev often finds himself lured into bad situations, like getting involved with drugs and the drug trade selling a drug named “Ambrosia”. I don’t want to spoil the book, but a large part of it is about bad choices and learning from one’s mistakes.
Kev is a bit of an ambiguous character – while he tries to do good, he often does the wrong thing. It took a few chapters for me to start liking him, but once I did, I really enjoyed his story and the trials he went through....more
I had some trouble with Snake in the Grass first, because it’s the fourth book in a series, and I hadn’t had time to read the other parts before I started this one. But once I got the hang of things, and figured out who was who, the book turned out to be a pleasant read. I’m sure kids will love it.
The characters are interesting and three-dimensional, in particular Jaycee. She’s very authentic, a good representation of middle school girls, what they care about, what they don’t care about, and what matters to them. Yet at the same time she’s not generic, but special, creative and imaginative, and also quite brave.
I particularly liked the scenes in Mallory, the whole storyline with the missing envoy. The plot worked, in Mallory as well as in the regular world, and you soon feel for these characters, and want them to succeed. The dialogue is spot-on, and sounds very realistic, especially Jaycee’s dialogue. The book also has an appropriate amount of humor, which kids will like too.
It’s an imaginative, well-plotted adventure that I’d recommend to middle graders and young teens. And occassionally, an adult who enjoys middle grade books (like me, for example)....more
Cross Roads brings a whole new meaning to the word fast-paced. This book left me breathless. Shawna is anything but your typical teenager, and this makes her instantly an intriguing, engaging character. She’s an orphan, forced to raise herself on the streets of New York. Luckily she has a best friend who has her back. While different, Shawna’s life is quite uneventful, until one night changes all of it. She becomes the target of Doma, a demonic race that appears human. Shawna barely escapes, but in order to stay alive she has to ally herself with the Acolytes, a secret organizations with as main purpose to fight Doma.
Shawna starts training to become a member of this group, which means moving to a small town and leaving behind her previous life. But her training is cut short when the Doma find out about her whereabouts.
I’m a huge fan of Decker. He had a great personality – always lingering slightly on the edge, dark and mysterious. I loved Mr. Gibbs too, Decker’s personal assistant.
The world-building is appropriate, with just enough background information to make it realistic and intriguing. The characters are three-dimensional, and it’s especially easy to connect with Shawna. The writing is good, and overall, the story just flows from the very first page, keeping the reader engaged....more
I already reviewed two books by Wayne A.D. Kerr, Monsters and Miracles (The X+Y Files #1) and Kristin’s Ghost (The X+Y Files #2). I enjoyed both of these books a lot, so I looked forward to getting started on the third book in the series, Escape from Area 51 (The X+Y Files #3).
We meet up with Xander and Yzzie once again in this third installment. This time area, they get to go on a trip to a top secret military testing base, Area 51. For Xander, who has always been obsessed with UFOs and aliens, the trip is a dream come true, but when he starts hearing an alien voice in his mind, presumably belonging to an alien named I-pod, his dream turns into another adventure. I-pod is one of the most hilarious aliens ever, and he needs Xander and Yzzie’s help to escape Area 51. But the military base is one of the most heavily guarded facilities on earth, and breaking the alien out sounds almost impossible. But if anyone can do it, Xander and Yzzie can.
This book is easily the most fast-paced read of all three books in the series. Xander and Yzzie have grown a lot as characters, and they really shine in this book, each of them with their own strength and weaknesses. I-pod is amazing. Not only is his name hilarious, he knows how to crack a joke as well. I’m sure kids will love I-pod.
The writing is excellent, the story and plot are engaging, and the book has plenty of suspense, and a few unsurprising twists. Kids will love this fast-paced story, and all fans of middle grade books should definitely try this series....more
“The Enemy Within” is the third installment in the “Daughters of the People” series. It follows Indigo Dupree and Bobby Upton, two characters who share a history and struggle now they’re forced to meet again. After fourteen years, Indigo has returned to Tellowee, Georgia. She refuses to spend any more time hiding, or running from the past. But when Bobby shows up again in her life, the boy she fell for all those years ago, and he makes a move for her heart all over again, she might end up getting more than she bargained for.
Bobby is tasked to track down India Furia, Indigo’s twin sister. Indigo herself wants to track down India too, bring her in to atone for her own sins. But of course India has other ideas and she draws her sister and Bobby into a deadly game.
The setting and world-building is brilliant. It’s a magnificent world, with its own customs and rules, and it all makes sense somehow. Bobby’s love for Indigo is surprising, and at the same time, heartwarming. He’s been in love with her for years, and he’s not about to give up now, even though she does everything in her power to stop her own feelings.
I didn’t get everything that was going on, courtesy of not having read the previous books, but it was easy to dive into the story and pick it up, even without prior knowledge. The characters were engaging. I loved India, even though she was bad, and pretty much the exact opposite of Indigo, she offered so much personality and showed that being a villain doesn’t always mean being ‘just evil’. Even real, developed characters can be the bad guys, and do a great job at it.
I would recommend this book to everyone who enjoys a solid paranormal romance series, with great lore and an engaging story....more
In Monsters and Miracles, Xander is being bullied at school after he told his friend he saw a mysterious light one night. Now everyone thinks he’s seeing things, and they’re already calling him names like “Xander the Space Commander”. His parents decide to sent him to the ranch of his aunt and uncle out of town, where he meets his adventurous cousin, Yzzie. When Yzzie goes missing, Xander sets out to find her, a quest takes him to a pitch black labyrinth filled with monsters where he gets help from the most unusual of friends in order to find his cousin, and he finds out he’s much braver than he thought he’d be.
Think “The X Files for kids” and then you’re almost right. Monsters and Miracles offers a story that will appeal to both boys and girls, and middle schoolers as well as an older audience. Even as an adult, I was surprised by the many twists and turns I could find in this gem of a book. The writing started out a little slowly, but quickly found its grounding, and then started moving at a faster pace.
Imaginative and creative, this book is a great start to a brand new middle grade series and manages to catch the right tone for middle graders. I look forward to reading the sequel....more
Just a Curtain is definitely different, and in a good way, if you ask me. I’ll start by saying it probably won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. The book starts out reading like a contemporary novel, but then it quickly switches into scifi bordering on fantasy, with alien races and intergalactic communications.
Main character Dashiel Drummond has been left to fend for himself after his parents have passed away. He works on his parents’ ranch, and builds out an empire. When we first meet him, he’s about sixteen years old. I really liked this part of the book, even if it was a bit slow at times, but it showed an idealistic, charming youth who had plenty of dreams and an entire life to fulfill them. He has a best friend, Reggie, short for Regina, who he hangs out with a lot. He’s actually attracted to her, but they both agree they don’t have time for love in their life now, for it would make everything even more complicated than it already is.
Dash sets out to build a boat, a project he and his mom talked about. There are pictures of the boat in various stages of being finished, included in the book.
Dash goes to university, where he majors in engineering and minors in business. When his aunt and uncle come to visit him and ask him to take on a job, he immediately accepts, and that is the beginning of a rollercoaster adventure for this young entrepreneur. He meets various people, like Becka, who he falls in love with, and Nellie, who becomes his personal assistant and the one person he can always count on.
Part of the book is told from Nellie’s POV – it makes it sound as if Nellie and Dash wrote the book together. However, it’s still mostly centered around Dash.
There’s a lot of business stuff going on as Dash manages to turn his company into a multi-million dollar cooperation. He flies around the world in private jets, sets up humanitarian projects, leads meetings, and does all the other stuff one would expect a boss to do. They work on a mission to send ambassadors to another planet, Rutin, and Nellie and Reggie end up going.
Then the book makes a complicated time jump and suddenly we meet Emma Hammer. It wasn’t clear at first how much time had passed (time indicators are just set in the middle of the text, I’d suggest either starting with them, or putting them in bold or something, so they stand out more) but it turns out it’s about ten years later. Then we’re introduced to Melanie Armitrage, a date analyst who Dash hires for his company. Melanie begins a relationship with Elias, another person who works for Dash, who is actually reduced to secondary character status for this part of the novel.
The time jump was difficult to follow. All of the sudden, Dash is married to a woman from Rutin, whereas I’d half and half expected he’d be married to Nellie or Reggie. No such luck though. The perspective jumps again, this time to Naota, who is actually a Rutatois woman (as in, a woman from the planet Rutin). Then it jumps back to Emma, who will be send off-planet for the first time in her life. The rest of the book involves mostly around Naota and Emma, and Dash only makes a sparse appearance here and there.
The book is written fluently. It didn’t read very literary at the start, but the book seemed to ease into its genre halfway through. The characters were interesting, unique, and almost all of them had enough different personality traits to keep me entertained, even the secondary characters. The book is a tad bit on the longer side though, and it was difficult to keep all the secondary characters apart. There are so many of them that even remembering who is who was difficult.
All in all, an enjoyable, unique read. If you’re in the mood for something different, then give this book a shot....more
Colin McKenzie is back in another adventure that’s filled with dark schemes, extraordinary action scenes, assassination attempts and much more. Colin, Diane and Kelly are three Reploids who have proven their worth while battling a powerful cybernetic weapon named Succubus. But now they’re back on Maseklos Prime, working menial jobs while the Central Intelligence Division keeps a close eye on them.
But then the president, Drennan, is almost killed in a strange assassination attempt. Colin and his team have to uncover whoever’s behind the attack, before they try to attack the President again. While Colin tries to uncover these secrets, finding out more about politics than he ever wanted to, and about Maseklos Prime, the Protectorate, and lots more, he also begins wondering about his dark past as a Vendetta working against the Protectorate. When he begins to have odd dreams, he starts to worry if maybe his old life has a way of catching up on him. With a third generation of Reploids somehow involved, who are specifically designed to be stronger than Colin and his team, this will be their hardest battle yet.
Barry Nelson masterfully crafts present and past into one, combines it with action and intrigue, and characters the reader easily starts to care about. Colin especially is a character one can easily relate to and care for. He tries so hard to blend in with human society, even going as far as attending a reunion to get closer to his family. But the harsh truth of the matter is that he’s different – and always will be. Then there’s his past haunting him. Even more so than in the first book, I really got a feel of him, saw him as a three-dimensional being with emotions and worries, just like everyone else.
Then there’s the vast, creative world the author drags the reader into. With so many groups battling each other, the Protectorate putting its nose where it doesn’t belong, political intrigue, and cybergenetic weapons, the world of Colin McKenzie is complicated, dangerous and highly imaginative.
If you’re a fan of science fiction, you’ll love this book. I for one can’t wait for the third book in the series, and to read more about Colin and his team....more
The Rising Wind is a fantasy novel set in a vast, wonderful, creative fantasy world that both shows an amazing eye for detail and an enormous creativity. Marc, our main character, books passage aboard a merchant ship called the Rising Wind along with his cousin, to visit their family estate. During their journey, a strange fog arises and sets the ship adrift into the haunted waters of the Mennaidran Sea. They end up stranded on an island where soon turns out the monsters they always learned where myths, are very much alive and well, and the creatures of legend roam free. With their lives at stake, the crew has to put aside their differences and work together, or none of them will survive this fateful trip…
On the island, they’re introduced to some bizarre, strange monsters that were highly original and immediately made me more interested into the story. The book is littered with references to mythology, mixing and matching various myths and legends from throughout the world. It was fun trying to recognize some of the myths or monsters – this was probably my favorite part about the book.
Marc starts out as overconfident, boastful, and completely full of himself. Didn’t like him at all. But as the story progresses, and his talents begin to shine instead of his personality, he begins to see things differently, I began to like him. But from the get-go, I was more of a fan of Adrianna and Din. I’m always a fan of mysterious characters, and Din had mystery written all over him.
Action-packed, with excellent writing and enough plot twists to keep me at the edge of the seat, The Rising Wind is fantasy at its finest, and recommended to all fans of the genre....more
Deltan Skies starts out a little slow. We meet the elven mage Quintanelle Fillion on the first page, who’s recently fled from her homeland Teolos to New Delta, a giant metropolis. Without any worthy credentials (New Delta doesn’t accept any of her credentials from her homeland), she has trouble finding a job, until she runs into an ad to work as a private detective. She decides to give it a shot, but the interview is a lot stranger than she thought it would be. A man shows up trying to persuade her to attend another job interview instead, and turns out she’s late for the interview and sent back home. But then, New Delta’s top private detective, Alfonso Deegan, shows up at Quintanelle’s apartment in the middle of the night to offer her the job.
There’s some info-dumping in the first few chapters, which I think wasn’t completely necessary. We get entire passages about New Delta’s history and customs and Quintanelle’s own history. They slow down the pace, and it would’ve been a lot better had the author told us that information later, in a conversation between the characters, or a snippet here and there. However, if you hang in there and get past the first few chapters, until Quintanelle gets kidnapped by the avians, the action really picks up and the story unfolds.
The avians have taken control of the criminal underworld and have created a plan involving everyone from the city’s mayor to a corrupt senator to Alfonso Deegan and even Quintanelle herself. With New Delta on the brink of destruction, Quintanelle may be the only one capable of stoppings its total annihilation.
Once the avians come into play, the plot gets it together, the action picks up and you realize you’re actually reading a well-crafted, sophisticated, intriguing story about a horde of different races trying to work together against all odds. The stakes are extremely high, and by the time Quintanelle’s own father makes an appearance, I was thoroughly immersed into the world and story.
I must applaud the author for his world-building skills. The world of New Delta is vast and intriguing, and it offers a myriad of different races, a lot of them non-human. The author describes them all in great detail whenever they appear, and shows creativity by coming up with entirely new creatures. New Delta definitely isn’t limited to the typical ‘epic fantasy four’: dwarves, elves, humans, and dark elves / gnomes / goblins / insert evil creature here. There’s a lot more variety, and that makes this book very interesting.
Quintanelle is a great example of character development. She starts out lacking self-confidence, without a job or direction in her life, bordering on the verge of timid. But throughout the book she grows into a confident, self-reliant, strong, capable young woman who doesn’t back down from a little responsibility.
Alfonso goes through less character development, as do the other secondary characters, but he still changes by the end of the book. The changes are so subtle that the reader barely notices them until the end.
With an exciting, fast-paced plot, intriguing characters and an eclectic fantasy world, Deltan Skies is definitely worth reading and recommended to all fantasy fans. Just hang on through those first chapters, and prepare for an enjoyable, action-packed story....more
I had a bit of trouble getting into this book at first. I always have that with science-fiction though. Since most of these books are set in the distant future, thousands of years have passed and the world has completely changed.In The McKenzie Files, it’s no different. A lot has changed for earth and humanity. Earth was taken over by a virus named Pandora Simplex that greatly diminished its population, and the survivors were forced to turn to a deep space development program that could possibly save the human race. The surviving population embarked on a journey to find a new home. They founded the United Protectorate, a colony in outer space, one of the last remnants of human civilization. On one of the planets in the United Protectorate lives Colin Mckenzie, the main character of this series. Colin is a soldier fighting against the Brelac, but he’s not exactly human. He’s a second-generation Reploid with powerful abilities and an undying desire to kill Brelac.
But things are more complicated than they seem at first. Colin is captured and re-programmed to serve the Brelacs, instead of destroying them. A powerful weapon is forged in an unforeseen alliance, and the future of the United Protectorate is at stake.
Set in this science-fiction world, Colin is actually a very complicated character. He goes through a myriad of ever-changing emotions. He’s a clone, a Reploid, but he’s unaware of that, at least at first. I liked his personality. He’s a natural-born leader but that doesn’t mean he doesn’t doubt himself sometimes. He’s intelligent and strong and just the right amount of stubborn.
What really impressed me though was the setting. The futuristic world author Barry Nelson has created, is simply amazing. It’s so complicated, with so many parties at play, from the Protectorate to the Brelac to the Vendetta, and the main characters all stuck in the middle of that. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to know the world better, reading more about the colonies, space ships and the alien races, clones and weapons.
I enjoyed The McKenzie Files. The story was a bit confusing at first with the switching POVs, but I quickly got the hang of it. I liked the characters, the setting and of course, the action. This book is nothing if not suspenseful. It actually reads pretty much like a movie. Some of the descriptions are so vivid that I could picture the scenes happening right in front of me....more
Nate Rocks The World is one of two stand-alone MG novels written by author Karen Pokras Toz. The other novel, Nate Rocks The Boat, features the same mNate Rocks The World is one of two stand-alone MG novels written by author Karen Pokras Toz. The other novel, Nate Rocks The Boat, features the same main character, but each can be read seperately, although connected.
When I first began reading Nate Rocks The World, I didn’t know what to expect. This is the first ever self-published MG novel I’ve ever read. It certainly didn’t dissapoint – instead it was a new and rewaring experience. What I loved the most about this book, is Nate’s creativity. He can’t stay focused. Give him a pencil, a marker, or whatever you want, and he starts drawing comics in which he acts as the hero and solves mysteries. Unfortunately for Nate, real life isn’t a comic book. While he would like nothing more than to go see the latest captain Asteroid movie with his best friends, he’s forced to stay at home to work on a project for school with a girl he can stand, who tells her Mom everything, and whose Mom tells all of that to Nate’s Mom, because they happen to best friends. Nate is often teased by his older sister Abby, he daydreams in school and gets caught doing so, and although his parents mean well, they always tend to embarass him. Basically, he’s suffering from the same things every fourth grader suffers from, with this exception – if it all gets too much, he starts drawing comics and escapes to his fantasy world.
I really enjoyed Nate’s adventures, and his enormous amount of humor and creativity. I can only imagine how much ten-year-olds will enjoy this as well. The book is written more for boys than for girls, but I think a girl would be able to relate to Nate as well. He’s a nice kid, and the events happening to him are easily relatable. For instance, when it’s Halloween, his Mom doesn’t see why she should purchase a halloween outfit for him. Instead she sets off to make one herself. The consequences are disastrous, because as it turns out, Mom can’t even make a proper cape! When Nate’s sister Abby manages to embarrass him even more on Halloween, Nate and his buddies decide it’s payback time. And Abby’s birthday sounds like the best place and location to get even.
The humor in this book is amazing, the characters are believable and relatable for parents and childrens alike, and the events are close to home, but Nate’s way to deal with them is original, fun and very enjoyable. A must-read for all MG book fans. I’m looking forward to getting started on the next book in this series. Nate Rocks The World deserves a spot in your book closet right now....more
Nate Rocks The Boat is another book in the MG Series “Nate Rocks”. I reviewed the other book in the series, Nate Rocks The World yesterday and very muNate Rocks The Boat is another book in the MG Series “Nate Rocks”. I reviewed the other book in the series, Nate Rocks The World yesterday and very much enjoyed reading and reviewing it. In this new adventure, Nate is back for some fun, hilarious situations in a new setting – namely, summer camp.
Nate is your regular, average ten-year-old except than whenever he starts daydreaming, or gets stuck in some peculiar situations, he begins draw comic books in which he doubles as Nate Rocks, a brave and intelligent superhero. Nate’s ideal summer holiday meant hanging out with his best friend Tommy and doing absolutely nothing, chilling out and relaxing all summer long. Unfortunately, his Mom has other plans. She’s convinced Nate should go with his sister Abby to overnight camp. Although that’s the last thing Nate wants, when his buddy Tommy shows up as well, he realizes overnight camp may not be as terrible as he first envisioned. Plus, at least summer camp means he won’t have to eat his Mom’s terrible food for six weeks.
Summer camp has never been this exciting before. Imaginative and creative Nate ends up from one hilarious, sometimes even dangerous situation into another. Canoeing, scavenger hunts and kickball turns from ordinary sports into true adventures as Nate Rocks saves the camp from a flood, he saves another kid from being bitten by a rattler, and a lot more! Even camp bullies aren’t safe from Nate Rocks. Like the title of the book suggests, the water often proves to be the source of the danger Nate has to overcome, and every time he does, he does so in typical Nate Rocks fashion.
This is a must-read book for all kids, especially boys, of around age ten. The Nate Rocks series shows how young reagers can use the imagination of their brain while still knowing it’s imagination – not real. The adventures happening to Nate are close to home for a lot of kids, and they’ll easily recognize themselves in the characters. I very much enjoyed reading this book, and am keeping my fingers crossed author Karen Pokras Toz decides to write more books in the Nate Rocks series....more
Shadow on the Wall is perhaps my favorite book of the entire year. Why? It offers diversity, strong and likeable characters with distinct backgroundsShadow on the Wall is perhaps my favorite book of the entire year. Why? It offers diversity, strong and likeable characters with distinct backgrounds and voices, a view into a culture we not so often see as the focus of a fantasy story, great storystelling and a lot more.
The story starts with Recai Osman, owner of a multi-million dollar corporation in the style of Bruce Wayne. What’s special about Recai is that he doesn’t live in the middle of New York city, Manhatten or even the English country side. He lives in Turkey. Not a lot of novels take place in the Arabian world, or in Turkey, and that along added something original and intriguing to the book. I was eager to read more about the culture, habits and people living in Turkey and the surrounding countries.
Unfortunately Recai’s life takes a turn for the worst when he finds himself thrown into the desert and left to die. He’s saved by Hasad, who hides Recai out of fear that the communist regime, the RTK, could be looking for him. You can see the RTK as a radical police force, who punishes people severely whenever they break the law, but who often break the law themselves.
After an assault on Hasad’s daughter, Recai swears he will avenge her. When he finally returns to his home and becomes a victim of the RTK himself, he decides that enough is enough. In true superhero style, he takes on a secret name “The Sandstorm” and starts to fight injustice.
What I really liked about the book is its focus on women’s right. We all know that in the middle east and Turkey, women tends to have less rights than men. They can’t divorce someone when they want to, they’re not allowed to take care of their children when the husband divorces them, and a lot more. These are sometimes very controversial topics, mostly because these aren’t just laws – they’re religious laws. I liked how the author touched these topics in the book. There were some violent and even cruel things done to women that were mentioned in this book, and I have to applaud the author for her bravery for talking about this.
Pavarti Tyler has made her very own Batman: Recai Osman, a man who fights against tyranny and violence. But not only has she made her very own superhero, set in a world where not everyone is equal, she has also made him an interesting and intriguing person, with doubts as much as everyone else. The way Recai grows throughout the novel is amazing. He starts out a bit naive, focusing mostly on his work, but he quickly changes and sees the world for what it truly is.
If you’re interested in reading something new and exciting, something that will keep you reading until the very end, then Shadow on the Wall is an excellent choice. It’s not for the faint of hard, but the fact that it touches controversial topics without exaggerated and with an extraordinary integrity makes it all the more worthy to read. You will not be disappointed....more
Wrapped provides a mixture of Regency fiction, Egyptology and a suspense novel. Since I love the Regency period – doesn’t everyone? – and I absolutelyWrapped provides a mixture of Regency fiction, Egyptology and a suspense novel. Since I love the Regency period – doesn’t everyone? – and I absolutely adore Egypt (mummies, ancient curses, pyramids, need I say more?), and I occasionally enjoy a nice suspense novel, I was pretty certain that Wrapped would be a perfect source of entertainment for me. I have to admit that although it wasn’t exactly what I suspected it to be – I had anticipated more paranormal stuff, and an actual curse for one – it does turn out an amusing and entertaining read.
Agnes Wilkins is a young debutante in London’s society in the early 19th century. But unlike other debutantes, she isn’t interested in parties, meeting a suitable husband or what dress she’s going to wear, and she’s not really looking forward to Lord Showalter’s party. When the party opens with the unwrapping of an Egyptian mummy, Agnes actually feels bad for disrupting the latter’s millenia-long sleep. She retrieves an object from the mummy and fails to put it back later on when they discover they are in fact unwrapping the wrong mummy. Afterwards, strange things start to happen. A mysterious guy follows Agnes in the gardens and is later found falling of a carriage and breaking his neck. Various party attendants get a visit from burglars, and even Agnes’ own home isn’t safe from intriduers. Obviously the mummy’s curse is either real, or someone is looking for something that was attached to the money. It doesn’t take long before Agnes realizes the object she possesses might very well be what the culprit is looking for. She travels to the British Museum and asks the help of Caedmon, a newbie Egyptologist who also happens to be working on Rosetta’s Stone. The object she retrieved from the mummy holds a special message, and it’s not one related to a mummy curse. It’s actually one that could be very helpful for the French general, Napoleon, and one that cannot fall in the wrong hands. Agnes and Caedmon must find the object the French are looking for, before they find it. Because that could very well mean the end of the British Empire…
The storyline isn’t really that original, but it was fun nevertheless. It reminded me of those books like National Treasure, and a bit like Dan Brown for middlegraders or something. It was amusing though. I really had no idea that in 19th century London people actually held mummy unwrappings at parties. I was aware of their obsession with the occult and supernatural, but I didn’t think they’d take it that far. I love it when I learn something new from a book. Also, the general fear in the public for the great French general Napoleon, was something I never even stopped to think about. Naturally, by practically resurrecting from the dead (not literally though) not once, but twice Napoleon certainly was a worthy and fearsome opponent. I can imagine that the superstitious lot living in the era would see him as either working for the devil, the devil in disguise, or a practically mythological figure who proved to be undefeatable.
Agnes is a very intriguing heroine. She is courageous with her heart in the right spot, straight-forward (especially for those days) and very intelligent. She can solve riddles without much hassle, and she has an interest in all things historical and/or mysterious. I really liked the fact that she doesn’t regard some things like other people do. For instance, the mummies in the museum, or the pieces of century-old temples displayed there. Agnes’ opinion is that they should have remained where they belonged, and where they have been for all those years. Naturally, she’d like to see a mummy once or twice, but preferably while travelling to Egypt and visiting the pyramids, not in some dusty museum in the middle of London.
I also really liked Caedmon’s personality. He is a struggling beginner in the field of Egyoptology, forced to dust off ancient mummies on a daily basis while he would probably prefer working on deciphering Rosetta’s Stone. Although he knows his place, and that he certainly isn’t the appropriate match for a girl like Agnes, he cannot help but fall in love with her. And I can’t blame him – she is an amazing person. I loved how Caedmon was so passionate about his work, and how he was actually quite courageous and brave as well. He ended up being one of my all-time favorite love interests for book heroines. I might be a bit biased because I’m a big fan of Egypt as well, and I would love to work at the British Museum, trying to figure out the mystery of the Rosetta Stone, or basically just dusting off ancient mummies. Sounds like the perfect profession for me.
Wrapped was full of suspense and mystery. My heartbeat trippled halfway the novel when I was getting really anxious on whether or not Agnes and Caedmon would be able to escape from the people searching them. It reads a bit like Agatha Christie for middlegraders, without the occasional murder that needs solving of course. Although it isn’t highly original, I did really enjoy reading this book, and I found Agnes to be a very loveable character. As a sucker for romance, I was most pleased with the way things turned out. The only downside is that some parts of the book were rather predictable – I knew who the villain was all along – but since it’s aimed at YA/MG, younger teenagers might not figure it out that easily.
Also, I would like to congratulate the illustrators on doing a marvellous job with this book. I really love the design of the cover. It’s a beautiful illustration, and it really fits with the general light-hearted and aimed at middlegraders style of the book.
If you like a good suspenseful novel with a fast-pace, interesting characters and a humorous undertone, then Wrapped definetely is a great choice. It’s a light and fast read, but it will pull you through a rollercoaster of events from a mummy unwrapping to a century-old mystery to a French general who needs to be defeated at all cost. And did I mention the occasional sparks between two of the most likeable heroes out there?...more
I was contacted about Random Magic a couple of weeks ago, and I was quite excited to be part of the tour. It was only when I visited the RMT Tour – PiI was contacted about Random Magic a couple of weeks ago, and I was quite excited to be part of the tour. It was only when I visited the RMT Tour – Pirates! website that I realized the author has been touring with Random Magic on and off for the last year. It must have really taken a lot of time and effort, and I find it pretty amazing and wonderful that someone goes through all that trouble to promote their book. It shows that the author really loves his work, and is still as passionate about it as in the beginning. After I signed up for the tour, I got an entire package in my mailbox approximately a week later. In the package there was the book (of course!), but much more as well. Naturally, I didn’t get the references at first, but it became clear enough when I read the book. There was a rubber ducky, a garland with hearts, a pirate card, a beautiful red feather, a wonderful bookmark and much more. It was quite the surprise, and I felt very happy with it. Not every author puts together an entire box full of goodies referencing to their book. It was highly original, and it raised my expectation for the book.
Just a warning ahead, I promised that I would do a dual language review for this book, as a special bonus feature for the Pirates Tour. This is a one-time occassion though, and I’m not going to write dual language reviews for every book I read from now on. One time occassion, people, so enjoy it while it lasts ;) My English review will be first, and then I will add my review in Flemish/Dutch below. There’s also an additional bonus feature, which is an extremely cool Pirate’s Game! I made an extra post for the bonus feature. Aye, matey! Which reminds me of how very suitable this is, a pirate-theme post, right in the release week of Pirates of the Carribean 4: On Stranger Tides. On another note, go see that movie. It’s amazing. And now, on to the review. English Review
I had trouble deciding whether Random Magic was actually, as the title suggests, completely random, or, as I have been inclined to believe after reading the book, utterly brilliant. I vote for random brilliance. And I must admit that this is one of the most difficult reviews I’ve had to write in like, ever. It’s hard trying to put my thoughts into words, because in all honesty, my thoughts about the book are probably just as random as the book itself.
First, there’s a reference to haunted houses, which doesn’t really make all that much sense, but is hilarious all the same. Next, we see that the family sollicitor has been called because Henry Witherspoon has been missing for three weeks. While his friends worry about his whereabouts, a young girl comes strolling in, a girl who looks exactly like Alice from Lewis Carroll’s Alice In Wonderland. She tells Henry’s friends not to worry, because he is exactly where he should be, in a place where he has been before, and where he always wanted to return. It’s pretty clear by now that Alice loves to talk in riddles, or that she has a very awkward way of explaining herself. She then confides them with the story of how Henry first travelled to Edgeland, a land between the pages of a book, because Professor Random – who is everything his name suggests him to be – was stupid enough to put Alice back in the wrong book. Unfortunately, the professor puts Henry in the wrong book as well, Myths and Legends rather than Alice in Wonderland. And Henry, who probably thinks his luck must have run up a long time ago, ends up in the middle of the mob scene, the mob’s target Winnie Flapjack, a self-proclaimed doodle witch. What Henry doesn’t know is that he probably ran into the person most capable of helping him find his way in this strange, mystical world. Because if someone can take Henry to find Alice back, then it’s probably Winnie Flapjack.
After escaping the raging mob, solving riddles to cross a chasm, riding on the back of a whatwolf, visiting the castle of the notorious De Morgue’s family and having a rendez-vous with none other than the Muses, they are only half-way in their adventures. They still have to cross the Peculiar Sea, get rid of a bunch of annoying Pirates, find the house of the Baba Yaga, escape a floating city where people turn into hideous monsters, defeat the Red Queen in a chess match…and that all before tea time.
The creativity of Sascha Soren knows no boundaries. She finds inspiration in Greek mythology (the muses for instance, but more about them later), today’s urban legends (vampire, the De Morgue family), Alice in Wonderland itself (the riddles, the Red Queen), folklore (Baba Yaga) and her own imagination. How much more funnier and interesting can it get? This by far the most original novel I have ever read. It would not surprise me if teachers were talking about it in their literature classes ten years for now, and call it something like the “random genre”. I know that there’s currently this movement in poetry, of poets slapping random words together to make a poem, and I can well imagine Random Magic being the first prose work in the “random genre”. It fits with the 21st century style of wanting everything and getting nothing, our lives itself being a mismatch of all different things. No one is “something” anymore, we are all several “somethings”, randomly put together in constructions that miraculously work. Random Magic works a bit like this as well. It’s mostly dialogue-driven, and at first it seems utterly random and hard to make something out of it, but then it all clicks together and you realize you’re looking at a piece of utmost brilliance.
Sascha Soren takes Lewis Carroll’s sparkling, bright and imaginative story of Alice in Wonderland, and practically puts the lightbulb on. We see a world that’s even more crazy, even more random, even more unreal, and all the more fun than the world we have grown accostumed to. Just take a second to imagine it: rubber duckies changing into actual submarines, a real-life chess game with actual people as the pawns that can only be compared to the chess game Harry Potter was submitted to in one of the first books in the series, the muses actually come to life, a strange and peculiar family that reminds you instantly of the Adams Family. As soon as you open Random Magic, you’re in for a rollercoaster of events, all equally bizarre and yet strangely familiar. Searching for the references to classic works of literature or more modern things like TV shows and popular book series of nowadays, is basically a sport on its own. The humor is amazing, and I had a smile on my face from page one till the very end. Of course, it’s completely and utterly random – but that’s the fun of it.
Winnie Flapjack is a cheerful, determined and intelligent character. I instantly liked her, with her quirky attitude and light-hearted humor. And she’s a doodle witch. Is there anything remotely more interesting than a doodle witch? I don’t think even Baba Yaga can beat that in terms of coolness. Henry on the other hand, is of course unfamiliar with the strange world he has been trapped in, and is constantly wondering “why this” “why that”, while he should probably just shut up already and let Winnie do the talking. They’re an odd pair by definition, equally random as their surroundings, and their friendship turning into love seems a random event as well. I was glad to see Henry finally becoming more independent towards the end of the book – it was about time! Their adventures are hilarious, their interactions ranging between “kill Henry now” and “aawww, so cute”, and they fit the rest of the theme of the book. Random.
I must admit that there were two scenes I enjoyed the most in this book. The first being the scene at the house of the muses. May I introduce you to H.P. (Lovecraft, for the non-litterate amongst us), Shakes (Shakespeare), Bauds (Baudelaire), Poe (Edgar Allen Poe), a bunch of gloomy Russian poets, quite a few Georges, and other notables, who hang around the House of the Nine Muses. Also, all of the muses have nicknames, some of which are so random, they will make you crack up with laughter. Note also that H.P.’s comment on just about everything is “ghastly”, and Bauds actually says “zut alors” occasionally. The second of my favorite scenes was the scene at the home of the DeMorgue family. I’ve always loved the Addams family, and the DeMorgue’s made me think back about how much fun it used to be to watch an episode of the Addams family. That said, the DeMorgues are probably even more ghastly and gaunt.
There’s an additional chapter added at the end of the book describing how Lady DeMorgue got into the state she is now. I really enjoyed reading that chapter, and although it’s several tones darker than the light-heartedness of the rest of the book, I found it highly amusing and extremely original as well. How many times can one cheat death, or challenge someone as terrifiyng as Death itself or the God of the Underworld? Anyway, I must agree with the author’s and editor’s decision that adding that chapter in the book would have made the pace slow down significantly, but it was a nice bonus at the end.
Now, there’s a reason why I gave this book four stars rather than five. I felt like I couldn’t get an actual grasp of the characters because they were a bit too random. As their surroundings, they’re a mismatch of feelings and emotions, and it was hard to actually understand some of their actions. I also felt like sometimes the plotline was lacking (it’s all about the journey here, not the destination) and there were too many secondary characters to keep track off. Also, the cover really doesn’t fit the book. It’s too normal, too ordinary for that. Not that I’d make any book lose points because their cover isn’t great, but it’s just a note I would like to add.
If you’re tired of literature the way it’s always been, and you’re up for something so completely random, so completely hilarious and so completely mind-blowing that it’s going to change your perspective on books forever, then Random Magic definetely is the rigth book for you. It offers everything from an imaginative plot to hilarious characters to brilliant dialogues and references to popular authors, musicians, myths and legends. I would recommend it to everyone who’s not afraid of something new and shiny, and isn’t wary of the peculiar and the strange....more
The thing that lured me into reading this novel was the cover. Don’t you just love it? It has this cartoony, childlike feel to it that reminded me a bThe thing that lured me into reading this novel was the cover. Don’t you just love it? It has this cartoony, childlike feel to it that reminded me a bit of The Sword in The Stone, the Disney movie about King Arthur and Merlin (especially the scene where Merlin made the tea cups and dishes float in the air, and then made them bounce and dance) and instantly made me want to read this book. I’m glad I did, because I thoroughly enjoyed Kat, Incorrigible.
Kat is a twelve-year old girl with a nice sense of humor but an unfortunate habit of always getting into trouble. With her two older sisters breathing down her neck, and her stepmother always poking her nose where it doesn’t belong, Kat often finds herself being lectured by either her siblings, or the aforementioned stepmother. Things aren’t looking up for Kat’s family, especially not since her oldest sister, Elissa, is to be married to a horrible man who supposedly killed his first wife. On top of that, her other sister Angelina, is messing with magic she doesn’t understand by practicing spells from her mother’s old spell books. Like that isn’t bad enough, Kat herself gets dragged down into a magic world during a nightly excursion, and barely escapes. But she does find some useful information: she is a Guardian, a talented magician. Now she must use her new-found powers to help her sisters, which leads to a lot of dreadful but hilarious situations.
I can’t remember the last time I had so much FUN reading a book. Kat, Incorrigible really is a hilarious book, but it also has a lot of action, adventures and interesting characters. While aimed at middle graders, I thoroughly enjoyed the humor and the storyline in this novel as well, and I’m pretty sure it will appeal to young adults and adults as well. Although the storyline is pretty balanced, with “the good guys” and “the bad guys” and it might be a bit predictable here and there, this is still one of the best MG fantasy books I’ve ever come across.
Although Kat herself encounters no love interests whatsoever in this book (which is a big yay for me, considering she’s only twelve, and not every heroine has to find herself a proper suitor), there was plenty of romance between Kat’s older sisters and their love interests. Kat was pretty much spending half her time playing matchmaker, and the other half trying to save both of her sisters from a horrible future. I liked these themes, and the cute and giggly undertone of the novel as Kat hopped from matchmaker duties to Guardian duties and sisterly affairs.
I also liked the fact that this book isn’t set entirely in some mystical made-up world, but actually is situated in our very own Regency England. Although there might be some time inconsistencies, and the way the characters talked wasn’t really what one would expect from proper ladies in Regency England, this didn’t bother me at all, especially not considering the fact it is a MG book, and that not everything has to be spot-on or historically correct to make a novel entertaining and amusing.
It surprised me a lot to see that practically all the characters in this book, even Charles, Kat’s always-absent but often-mentioned brother, have interesting and distinct personalities. I loved how Kat’s older sister, Elissa, seems like she just stepped out of a Jane Austen novel. A lot of the characters seemed like mismatched, or cynically-addressed Regency novels archetypes, and I had all the more fun reading about the madly in love student, or the mischevious highwayman who acted out of love. Of course, Kat was my favorite character. Wicked, clever, funny and witty, headstrong, stubborn and undeniably intelligent, she is a heroine I would like to see more of. She totally charmed me over, and if I had a kid sister anything like Kat, I would be terribly proud – and probably, terribly annoyed as well! She is exactly the kind of character ever reader has to root for, whether they want to, or not.
Stephanie Burgis’ writing style was very impressive, especially considering this is her debut novel. She describes places and scenes beautifully, but doesn’t spend too much time on the details, so there’s enough action to keep you turning page after page after page. The plot is full of twists, unexpected happenings and some more predictable occurences. It would be nearly impossible to get bored while reading this novel, because the storyline is so fast-paced, original and hilarious.
Picture a lighthearted, cheery and hilarious fantasy novel set in Regency England. Add sinister villains, doublecrossing magicians, love-struck older sisters, a stepmother deadset on climbing the society ladder and a total improper 12 year old girl with impressive magical powers, and you’ll get a nice idea of what Kat, Incorrigible is all about. Please come back soon, Kat, and entertain me some more with your hilarious adventures and your heartwarming and utterly charming attitude.
Tara used to work for The Little Shop of Horrors, a Special Projects division of Homeland Security in the USA. She quit the job after an incident wherTara used to work for The Little Shop of Horrors, a Special Projects division of Homeland Security in the USA. She quit the job after an incident where she herself became the target of a psycho killer called The Gardener. A survivor of the attack, but badly scarred both outside and inside, Tara says goodbye to her job in an effort to lead a less dangerous life. Although there is a reason why Tara’s life can never be fully without danger: apart from being a former agent, she is also an oracle. A cartomancer to be more precise, a person who can predict the future by using tarot cards. Plus, then there’s also Harry Li. Her former love interest and agent of the Little Shop of Horrors himself, Harry must ask for Tara’s help in a case neither his office nor any other office knows what to do with. Former cold war spies, all linked to one project called Rogue Angel, have vanished off the face of the earth, leaving behind all their clothes, wallets and personal belongings. It’s almost like they just seized to exist. Following the trail of a possible serial killer or even a terrorist, Tara and Harry must do whatever it takes to capture the person responsible for the abductions. Even if that means taking a leap of faith, and trusting in the power of intuition.
I always have a lot more trouble writing a review for a novel I thoroughly enjoyed than for a novel I thought was mediocre. Rogue Oracle definitely belongs in the first category. This is fantasy the way it should be. Original, fast-paced, suspenseful and very surprising. First of all, the setting isn’t some fantasy world still stuck in the Middle Ages, or Earth fifty years from now when all demons roam free. No, the setting is the world as we all know it: with the economy crashing, terrorist attacks, radiation poisonings, nuclear bombs. Take all of that and throw in the one aspect that makes this novel so original: Oracles. Now I can safely say I’ve read my fair share of fantasy novels, but never before have I come across a novel that both focuses on Oracles, and uses the present time as a time frame. It was a refreshing change for once, one that was warmly welcomed after reading perhaps a bit too many fantasy novels focusing on vampires, demons and the likes.
Rogue Oracle doesn’t read like a fantasy novel though; it reads more like a thriller, a suspense story, and literally keeps you on the edge of your seat the entire time. I loved the character of Tara – her strong and stubborn personality, her intuition and the way she relies on it, and her nearly unconditional love for Harry and Cassie. She is the sort of heroine who keeps reappearing in your mind, even after you’re long done reading the novel. The kind of person you can’t help but admire, because she finds strength even in her own weaknesses. On the other hand, the villain of this novel, Galen, received a lot of my sympathy as well. Rather than an “official bad guy” whose only purpose is to inflict evil upon other people, Galen really is a tragic figure. Made what he is today by a series of traumatic events in his past, sabotaged by humanity itself, he is left all alone in the world. A monstrosity. A creature that shouldn’t mean to exist – yet human error caused him to exist anyway. The way the author reveals Galen’s background story, piece by piece, and makes him seem so fragile and so very human when doing so, made me not regard him as an actual villain, but more like a person who got a terrible fate thrown upon him, without his own consent or even knowing, and is now tortured so much by the faults of others than he has practically no choice but to be who he is – a person out for revenge, driven by the need for vengeance and retribution. One of the most memorable villains I’ve ever come across.
I loved how Alayna Williams included the drama at Chernobyl in this novel, and carefully crafted a story around that. I was born four years after Chernobyl, and I can say firsthand that we hardly pay any attention to what happened there anymore, although we should. In high school, we are taught about World War II and the terrible tragedy caused by people looking the other way rather than facing what’s right in front of them, and we are warned that humanity should never make that mistake again. Even though so, we stay ignorant for other devastating catastrophes caused by humans, like the tragedy of Chernobyl. I can safely say that, although not an uneducated person, I hardly know anything about what happened on that faithful day. No one ever mentions it anymore, and on the rare occasion that they do, it is simply overlooked. But Chernobyl, more than anything, is another prime example of human ignorance – we basically choose to ignore what happened there, even today. Not because we don’t know what happened, but simply because we focus on other things, and disregard the fact that something like that might happen again someday. Rogue Oracle pointed that out in so many different ways, that it actually was very touching. The novel focused on the tragedy that occurred there, and placed it in a spotlight it hasn’t been in for a very long time now. At some point during the novel, Tara goes to look at photographs taken after the tragedy, and that scene nearly made me cry. It’s important to realize that things that happened in the past – even if already 25 years ago – can still have effects on the world today. That message is beautifully woven in the story of Rogue Oracle.
The storyline itself is fast-paced, with some carefully crafted cliffhangers along the way, and it doesn’t lose it appeal once in those 300 and so pages. It was also a welcome change from the fantasy novels I’m used to read: the theme was original, as was the world-building. I thought the explanation of the Tarot Cards and their use in Rogue Oracle was very interesting; I’ve never been one for fortunetelling, but it does make an intriguing addition to the story.
Perhaps the only thing I wasn’t particularly fond of, was the character Cassie. I don’t know why exactly, but every time the story focused on her I just wanted to skip those pages and go right back to the “real” action with Tara and Harry. I just couldn’t relate that much to her, I guess.
If you’re tired of reading the same fantasy novels over and over again but in different format and with other titles, or you rather stake a vampire than read another love story with vamps in the lead role and you feel like declaring war on both hell and heaven so you could just kill every demon and angel alive, then Rogue Oracle really is the novel you are waiting for. A fast read, entertaining, original, and it doesn’t let you go until the end – and even then, you’ll have some trouble getting away from it. Even if you’re still a huge fan of vampire love stories and demons still hold a special place in your heart, you’ll enjoy Rogue Oracle nevertheless. Because it’s really everything fantasy should be like, but all too often isn’t.
Beyonders: A World Without Heroes is the first in a trilogy of novels set in the magical world of Lyrian. This world is truly without heroes, for everBeyonders: A World Without Heroes is the first in a trilogy of novels set in the magical world of Lyrian. This world is truly without heroes, for everyone who tries to oppose The Emperor, Maldor, is either dead, too scared to speak or locked away by choice in his Eternal Feast. The latter could be compared with a drink-and-eat-all-you-can fest, leaving the former heroes to either get addiction to something as vicious as hunger berries, or become so fat they can no longer leave their bed. A young boy called Jason is thrown into this world by accident or by calling, through the mouth of a hippopetamus. It might not be the most fashionable way to go, but at least he’s original. When Jason first sets foot in the world of Lyrian, he stumbles upon a group of musicians, The Giddy Nine, who are willing to sacrifice their lives in a feeble attempt to summon a hero. Because of his interference, the ritual goes horribly wrong, upon which Jason flees. Eventually, he discovers a cabin in the woods which is inhabited by no other than the Loremaster. It’s been years since anyone stumbled upon the enchanted cabin, and by a chance of good fortune, Jason walks right into the man who can probably tell him more about this strange new world than anyone else on the planet.
But what the loremaster tells him, and what Jason discovers by account of his own wit and curiousity, is highly disturbing. The Emperor, Maldor, rules the land quite unfairly, like a tyrant even. However, no one dares to rebel them, for there was only ever one who succeeded, and even he is now known as The Blind King. A weak excuse for the man he once was. But curiousity killed the cat, and it killed Jason as well: because now he knows one of the syllables of the Word that can destroy the evil monarch. The only downside is that The Emperor is aware of Jason’s knowledge as well, and will now do everything in his power to fight and destroy the young man. Aided by The Blind King, his new-found friend and fellow-Beyonder Rachel, a surviving musician of The Giddy Nine named Tark, a displacer called Feddrin and a lot of other interesting creatures, Jason goes on a quest of his own: to find all syllables of the Word, to destroy Maldor, and to free the kingdom. If he, by some magical fortune or insane amount of luck, survives, that is.
I must say that I haven’t read a lot of epic fantasy aimed at a young adult audience yet, so this novel was a nice change to that. Brandon Mull really brings his characters to life on the very pages of this book, and the world he creates may sound very foreign and strange, but at the same time it sounds oddly familiar. Because in the make-believe fantasy world created by this author, people hold the same fears and perils as they do in our every-day world. It was nice to see ordinary people in a fantasy world once, because some of those world are just overpopulated by heroes, and that gets boring too after a while. The fears that the inhabitants of Lyrian held towards their tyrant Emperor were very real, raw and honest, and practically pulsing from the pages. I was intrigued. Very intrigued.
Let me start by the only two small things I thought were a bit off in this novel, and the two reasons why I didn’t rate it a 5. First of all, the writing style seemed a bit odd to me at first, as if sometimes the author was jumping from sentence to sentence, without actually interlinking it. I got used to this at about page fifty, but it was hard to keep reading at first when I didn’t really enjoy the writing. Truthfully, I enjoyed it more and more towards the middle and end part of the novel, and maybe it was just something I had to get used to. Secondly, this novel very much reads like the old, standard ‘youngsters go on a quest, meet different people, there are perils everywhere which they must face, and then move on’ kind of epic fantasy novel. For instance: after Jason arrives in Lyrian, the first place he comes across is The Loremaster’s House, in which he must find the lock to open a secret door that leads him to a book made of human skin. A book that holds the first syllable of the Word. Later on, Jason learns that he must find the remaining syllables: one of them is hidden in a cave under the sea, another on an island in the middle of an enchanted lake, yet another is on the inside of the vault of the Chancellor, then there’s one that’s hidden in a cursed swamp, and the latter can be found on a guy named Kimp. To find and discover each of these syllables, Jason and his friends must travel somewhere, perform some hideous task – like jumping off a cliff, slaying a giant crab, or running over an enchanted lake – before they can get the syllable. And then it’s hit the road again. Entertaining, but a bit obvious.
It was hard to remember all the names in this book – there are just so many. Each and every person we meet has a name, and some randomly dissapear for 100 pages only to resurface later in the novel. That’s fine, of course, if it weren’t for the fact that when Tark showed up again later on, I had to go back to where our heroes first met Tark to actually remember who exactly he was. At first, I thought he was one of the bad guys, which didn’t make sense, and I only remembered he was the surviving musician when I reread that part of the novel. So the names might be a bit tacky to recoil, and the questline might be a bit straight-forward and predictable, but don’t let this hold you back to read Beyonders: A World Without Heroes, because the characters and the imagination of Brandon Mull make up for a lot of that.
For starters, Lyrian really is an interesting world. It’s inhabited by the strangest of creatures, ranging from Displacers (whose body parts tend to be all over the place) to Manglers, Corrupters and frogs the size of an adult man. The descriptions the author gives of the small towns, underground caves, swamps and other peculiar places visited by our protagonists are truly mesmerizing, and I often felt like I was in the middle of the action as well. Brandon Mull’s imagination really knows no boundaries, as he makes up things as the story goes along, and lets his reader meet up with creatures that sound stranger and stranger. And when he isn’t busy incorporating a giant crab that likes to attack people, or a lake that heats up as you walk over it in this novel, than the author is introducing the reader to places that are equally original. This story is so packed with action, adventure, new places to visit and new friends or enemies to encounter, that it’s incredibly hard to put down.
I liked the characters, although they presented some flaws at first. Their development is incredible. Jason grows from a young man with little self-confidence into a trustworthy and loyal hero of sorts, whereas his fellow Beyonder Rachel starts out as a stubborn, somewhat egocentric and self-absorbed girl, but then develops several qualities that equal Jasons. I only wish we saw more of Rachel in this story, because it gets clear somewhat half-way that this novel is focused on Jason in particular, and we see less and less of Rachel, which I thought was a shame, since I did like her, and I would have liked to see her friendship with Jason evolve – hopefully into something more. I also really like Feddrin, the displacer Jason and Rachel run into on one of their quests. He had a very open, outgoing and social personality, which made it especially easy for me to like him. I wasn’t too fond of Jasher, and I thought it was actually somewhat silly to introduce him, for the few chapters he appeared. It was hard for me to accept yet another person come to rescue our heroes, and the way they trusted him so easily, especially after what happened in the past, I found peculiar and highly unlikely. It just didn’t strike me as a very believable way to act.
The passages I loved most were the ones concerning the syllable in the vault, and Jason who had to outsmart the Chancellor. I thought these chapters were very well-written, tense, suspenseful and very original. Then again, with an author like Brandon Mull, originality and imagination, really isn’t a problem. Beyonders: A World Without Heroes has more twist and turns than a mountain road, more entertaining creatures to come across than even in Alice in Wonderland, and a more fact-pased, original and enjoyable storyline than you can even think possible. If you’re a fan of Young Adult novels, or Epic Fantasy in general, or just want to read a trully enjoyable, breathtakingly exciting and highly adventurous novel, then this book definately is the way to go.
SPOILER ALERT I must admit that I loved the ending. Throughout the novel, I had often sighed and although releived for my heroes, was somewhat dissapointed that they didn’t fail in at least one quest. However, when the most was at stake, and the Word failed…that was golden. It was a plot twist I had not dreamed to anticipate, and it was novel-crafting at its best.
I’m really looking forward to read the next book in this series now, although I’ll have to wait till Spring 2012.
The Witches Lottery starts of with the main character, Sophia, who is having a terrible nightmare about her parent’s accident, and who tells the readeThe Witches Lottery starts of with the main character, Sophia, who is having a terrible nightmare about her parent’s accident, and who tells the reader about how people look at her and her brother now their parents are dead. I thought this first chapter was really touching, and it immediately made me feel sympathetic towards Sophia and her brother Drew. Then the two siblings are shipped off to live with their aunt Celeste, who they have never seen before in their life. Like things couldn’t get any worse, Sophia starts having strange visions and headaches. On top of all that, it isn’t their aunt who picks them up from the airport, but a stranger who introduces himself as Falen and claims to live on the island with their aunt. Although he and Sophie don’t get along too well at first (he finds everything she does amusing, which obviously annoys her), there is some obvious attraction between them. But the island aunt Celeste lives on isn’t just any normal island, and it hides an ancient and dangerous secret. It’s up to Sophia to find out what exactly that secret is – before it’s too late.
Being a debut novel, The Witches Lottery really appeared to me as striking, original and well-written. The characters are balanced, with interesting and rich personalities, and the storyline is fast-paced, with a few unexpected twists here and there that kept me on the edge of my seat while reading. This is really a novel that demands to be read during one single reading session – it’s just too exciting to suddenly stop halfway, and even when I tried, it was like it kept calling me to get back to my computer and continue reading. It’s a nice bonus when a novel does that; when it makes you feel for the characters and the storyline so much that you just need to know what happens to them next.
My favorite character by far was Sophia. I couldn’t help but like her: she’s determined, intelligent, independent, strong – but with a touch of insecurity and weakness that makes her all the more human. I would have liked to learn more about the other cast members: Falen, Mitch, Daphne and especially Gianna. My guess is that the other novels in the series will focus on the other characters, however I would have liked to learn a bit more about them already. I couldn’t help but feel like there’s a lot more to Gianna than meets the eye, and considering her late arrival in the novel, it made me very curious to know more about her. The only character I wasn’t completely fond of was Celeste: her personality seemed a bit flat, and I feel as though she should have played a larger role throughout the novel.
Personally, when I read fantasy novels, witches aren’t exactly my favorite subject. I like witches sure enough, but I prefer vampires, demons, angels, etc. However, The Witches Lottery made me decide to give witches-related fiction another chance, which shows how good this novel really is. If you’re looking for a nice, relaxing read, but one that will also keep you glued to your chair eagerly anticipating whatever is going to happen next, then The Witches Lottery is an excellent choice.
Typically me to be ages behind with the best books of 2010, and only discover this gorgeous novel early january. On the bright side however, I now getTypically me to be ages behind with the best books of 2010, and only discover this gorgeous novel early january. On the bright side however, I now get to read the entire trilogy in one row – that is, when I find the budget to purchase the other novels, Catching Fire and Mockingjay. Now I know everyone and their pet chihuahuas has already read this novel and voted it the best thing since the invention of the wheel, but I thought I’d give my two cents anyway.
For starters, The Hunger Games really is amazing. It grabs you, puts you in your seat, eyes fixed on the novel, and the world around you starts to dissapear. It’s like some time machine thing. Then when you’re done reading and the world reappears, you somewhat expect that you’re in a TV show with your life at stake and you have to kill everyone else in order to survive. Thank God I didn’t respond to those feelings right away. No, but seriously: The Hunger Games doesn’t let you go, until you’ve finished reading it. And even then, it’s hard to put those thoughts aside about what will happen next, why “insert random person” had to die, etc. It’s been a while since I’ve read a novel as enthralling and surprising at this one.
The story focuses on Katniss, a young but independent girl who tries to take care of her family – her mother and younger sister Prim – by hunting rabbits and other small animals in the forest, accompanied by her best friend Gabe. Now although life in district 12, where Katniss lives, is difficult, and a lot of people die from starvation or working too much; the worst is yet to come. Because every year, two children, one boy and one girl, from each district are chosen to participate in The Hunger Games, a way for the Capitol to show they still hold power over the people they have supressed. Against all odds, Katniss’ younger sister Prim is chosen. However, unable to let her innocent kid sister participate in an event that might very well cause her to die, Katniss offers to participate instead of Prim. The other chosen one is a young boy called Peeta and whom Katniss is somewhat familiar with. Then, The Games have begun and it’s time again for the greatest hypocrysy thinkable, as The Almighty Capitol lets children murder other children.
How disgusting The Capitol may seem, it does make for a brilliant, well-written, fast-paced, exciting and highly original storyline. The characters are equally enthralling as the story, and not only did I start to feel for Katniss and the continuous trials she has to put up with, but for Peeta – who is so much braver than I at first anticipated – as well. Slowly but most definately I was starting to feel utter disgust towards the corrupted beings who choose to let innocent children murder each other for the entertainment of the public – not that most of the public is entertained, mind you. Most people hate The Hunger Games, which isn’t curious considering it might as well be them or one of their beloved who has to fight there one day. As the novel continues, the feeling of rebellion and revolution becomes very heavy, in the little acts commited, the little gestures done, both by the main characters and by the public. It adds a new sense of tension to the novel that I very much appreciated.
Well, what else can I say? The characters are wonderful, with a lot of good qualities, and their fair share of bad ones. Katniss and Peeta are so honest and loveable in every thing they do; I could not help but keep wishing they wouldn’t die. And as I already mentioned, The Hunger Games grabs you and pulls you in, and it doesn’t let you go, not even after you’ve finished the novel. It’s my best reading experience of the year (that includes 2010), and I would advise everyone: go grab a copy, and enjoy this amazing story that will keep you coming back for more....more