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Tag: "adventure"

Review: Meritropolis by Joel Ohman

[ 0 ] January 23, 2015

meritropolis book coverReviewed by Jessa Larsen

After the “Event”, the surviving humans have worked together to build a new life within the the walls of Meritropolis. Unfortunately, the population of 50,000 lives in fear of a brutal system that assigns each citizen a merit score that determines whether they get to live or die. Most of the population have accepted this as simply how life works now and are content with the trade off of being allowed to live from day to day. But for one high scoring individual, conforming is not an option. Charley is seventeen years old and has an agenda. He wants to bring the system down in the name of his brother, who was unjustly put outside the gates to die.

Charley soon finds out that he has bit off more than he can chew and that brute force may not be enough to get the job done. As he teams up with other young adults, unhappy with the current rule of thumb, things aren’t exactly what they seem and there maybe a darker force at work.

Futuristic post-apocalyptic books are all the rage these days and Meritropolis jumped on that train. It is a fresh take on the current “everything is a fight for your life, let’s let the children battle” genre and I was impressed with that fact. Charley lives in a small city type area and each week is uncertain because you need a certain score, a merit, to stay safe. If your score isn’t high enough, you risk being put outside the gates, fresh meat for whatever malicious wildlife may come for you first. And these aren’t run of the mill animals, these are random combination creatures that were created either by nuclear fallout or even worse, mankind with ill will in mind.

Meritropolis is a series in progress and it definitely comes out feeling unfinished. It’s always tricky business trying to make a series that keeps you wistful for more whilst making sure you wrap it up at the end of each book. I wish Joel Ohman had waited and just kept it all as one book rather than trying to split it up into a series. I was definitely left with a half-finished piece and not in a good way. I’m still trying to decide if I dare bother when the next book in the series is eventually published…

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, two kids, two small chihuahuas, and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She balances her work as a website admin with her hobbies of watching anime and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Joel Ohman. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: How to Navigate Zombie Cave and Defeat Pirate Pete by Mick Bogerman

[ 2 ] December 27, 2014


With a pitchfork, mining helmet, and a treasure map, Mick Bogerman has just finished tying up his little brother (for safety of course) and is ready to hunt for treasure in the mysterious Zombie Cave. If you’re worried about the brother being tied up, no need, Mick knows what he’s doing and obviously a zombie cave is no place for little brothers.

Unfortunately, Mike probably could have used the extra help, younger brother or not; he is soon to be sludging through zombie goop in the chase to retrieve the coveted pirate treasure before the tide comes in and drowns him. Of course, drowning may be the least of his problems once he finds the worst monster of them all, the infamous Pirate Pete!

How to Navigate Zombie Cave and Defeat Pirate Pete is a delightful story that is perfect for the young male reader who loves adventure as well as monsters and their associated guts. The author and main character are one and the same and this book tells about their run in with some zombies in a quest to get the gold from their zombie pirate leader. Inevitably, whatever can go wrong, will, and little brothers get in the way as usual, but Mick knows his stuff and never gives up.

I would assume this book is meant for boys ages 8-12, but it also has the approval of my 5 and 7 year old sons, with the oldest reading it himself and my youngest insisting I read him a few pages each night before bed. They were delighted with the main character Mick and his younger brother Finley. And of course, the zombies. Who doesn’t love pirate zombies?

As the first book in the collection, I would have liked this to either be the first time Mick encountered monsters in his town, or to have a prologue of sorts that gave a bit of a backstory for the reader. As is, we get an abrupt introduction insinuating that Mick and his brother have had prior run-ins with mythical creatures. We are then thrown straight into the current zombie hunt.

The storytelling was quick, without too many frills, and easy to understand without sounding like the author was dumbing it down for younger readers. I enjoyed sharing this tale with my kids and am looking forward to the next book in the series.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jessa lives in Utah with her husband, 2 sons, 2 dogs and a cat called Number One Boots Kitten. She is a full time mom and enjoys writing short stories in her spare time. She also likes watching anime, reading books, and playing video games.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Slug Pie Stories, LLC. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Santa Rita Stories by Andrew J. Rodriguez

[ 2 ] October 18, 2014

book cover of santa rita storiesReviewed by Alisha Churbe

Santa Rita Stories is a novel (not a short story collection as I had anticipated) about the stories of Santa Rita, Cuba as told to the reader by a young narrator, Carlos, who is hearing the stories told by Pedro, a character who resides in the town.  Pedro is an older, seasoned man, homeless, a bit eccentric and lives in squalor near the wharf of the small fishing village. He smokes discarded cigar butts, swigs cheap rum and reads anything he can get his hands on. He seems to live in this way by choice, not by circumstance, though there are parts of his past that could explain how he ended up in his current situation.

Rodriguez’s narration fits the subject matter perfectly.  He sits the reader down and spins tales. As the stories progress and the town comes into clearer view, we at the same time get to see the narrator, Carlos, grow up. Carlos begins quite young and we see some of his adventures through his teenage years and ending with his departure for school in Havana. Carlos’ journey is threaded through Pedro’s accounts of the town that would be considered legends. The reader is shown the city from a unique character (Pedro), who happens to see and hear things because many people treat him as if he’s invisible due to his social status and way that he chooses to live. Many of the stories Pedro tells Carlos read like legends of the town, but also have a fable-like quality and something to be learned.

Rodriguez’s story is worth the read.  Some of the writing is too loose for my taste and could benefit from some tightening. The main characters (Pedro and Carlos) are well-defined, but some of the ancillary characters are flat and hard to distinguish from each other. Rodriguez does a fair job of transporting the reader to Santa Rita. The words are usually reserved for the characters and dialogue and skip over the sensory details of the town. All in all, the novel is readable. The stories of Santa Rita and Pedro are interesting.

Rating: ★★★☆☆ 

Part-time fiction writer, Alisha Churbe lives in Portland, Oregon. In the rare instances when you can pry her away from books, Alisha can be found travelling in foreign countries, cooking, or hiking with her husband Michael and dog Euro.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Andrew J. Rodriguez. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Surrounded by Sharks by Michael Northrop

[ 2 ] September 20, 2014

51wBXoWn7qL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Reviewed by Carrie Ardoin

Surrounded By Sharks is the first book I’ve ever read that had anything to do with frightening sea creatures, but upon reading the synopsis of this book I was excited to give it a shot. Sharks have become a well-known symbol in pop culture, with the culmination of the much anticipated Shark Week series that the Discovery Channel showcases every year.

In Surrounded by Sharks, by young adult author Michael Northrop, the main character is indeed in the middle of a number of the predators. But to me, the more immediate danger would have been not the animals, but any number of other things that could have killed the boy: exposure, exhaustion, thirst, and above all, drowning. Whatever antagonism Davey experiences, Surrounded by Sharks is a thrilling novel that is sure to keep teenagers engaged with its danger and suspense.

The book starts off a bit slowly, but once the main character disappears, everything moves quickly. Davey is a thirteen-year-old boy on vacation with his family on a tiny private island resort in Florida. A smart and deeply private boy, he is less than thrilled that he has to share one room with his little brother and parents. On the first day of their vacation, Davey wakes up early and decides to take a walk around the resort to try to find a quiet reading spot. He finds that spot in a hidden beach cove, but he decides to ignore the “No Swimming” sign and wades into the ocean a little anyway. Before he can do anything, he is swept away by the waves and ends up drifting more than two miles away from shore.

Davey’s younger brother Brandon had noticed he was gone from the hotel room not long after he left, but he didn’t inform his parents of this immediately.

Probably the main thing that irritated me about the plot of the book is that there were so many mix ups, mistakes, and missed opportunities that I felt like Davey could have been rescued much sooner. I understand that this writing technique is a plot device to make younger readers feel more of a sense of danger and urgency, but for an adult who can put this book away in just a couple of hours, it’s more annoying than anything.

As I said before, the sharks are present in the book, but for myself I didn’t feel like they were as menacing as the author intended them to be. Up until the last couple of chapters  the sharks just swim in circles below Davey. It seems they are nothing but curious about him; however, readers know it is highly unlikely that any person could survive surrounded by sharks for a long period of time.  To a thirteen-year-old kid lost in the vast sea, though, the motivation of the sharks is meaningless—the child just wants to survive the ordeal.

I think middle grade readers will enjoy this read; it is split up into short, easy–to-read chapters and often the chapters end on a menacing note. I also believe it might make the kids who read it think twice about the consequences before they break any rules!

Rating: ★★★½☆ 

Carrie runs the blog Sweet Southern Home, and is a stay at home wife and mom to one little boy. When she’s not reading, she’s usually watching Netflix with her husband, playing outside with her son, or baking. Her family would describe her as sometimes annoyingly sarcastic, but mostly lovable. 

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Scholastic Press. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: The Heist by Daniel Silva

[ 2 ] September 14, 2014

51LEPFYYjRLReviewed by Caleb Shadis

The Heist is the 14th Gabriel Allon book and I enjoyed this one even more than the last couple I’ve read.  Some of the books, especially the ones with Ivan, can get a bit on the gruesome side with very detailed accounts of all the nasty things people can do to each other. This one skips over most of the gore and it’s much more an international spy thriller–James Bond meets Mission Impossible.

Gabriel has been collecting a large list of ‘friends’ whose sense of right and wrong and what laws to abide by vary greatly. This time around he gets them all to help him pull off the worlds biggest heist. He started it all because his friend Isherwood happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Julian Isherwood went to a villa in Italy to discuss the sale of some artwork and what he found was artwork of a different kind. The man he went to see had been beaten to death by professionals. This put Julian in a bad spot and it was used to get Gabriel to look into the matter. Apparently the dead man was a fence for priceless stolen paintings, and the rumors were he was selling a very sought after piece, which might have had something to do with his demise. Someone has been buying up all the stolen artwork they can lay their hands on and this is a common way for the rich to hide money for safekeeping.

Gabriel gets all the criminals he has had associations with together to put on a sting like none other. The first order of business is to try and identify this mysterious buyer.  To do so, Gabriel needs a very tempting piece of artwork and the easiest way to get a stolen painting to sell is to steal one.

While I like all of the Gabriel Allon books I have read, this is one I’ve enjoyed reading the most.  I don’t mind the dark ones, with the gruesome details of death and torture, but this one proves Gabriel doesn’t need it. I do like how each book in the series targets people and places to showcase the terrible things governments and other groups do to people because they can. Silva is trying and I believe succeeding in bringing to light many atrocities that have and continue to happen around the globe.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Harper. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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Review: Sniper’s Honor by Bob Lee Swagger

[ 0 ] August 31, 2014

18668498Reviewed by Caleb Shadis

I found Sniper’s Honor to be a very good read. I do tend to enjoy a book that tells a story of the past and the present in tandem. Here we have Bob Lee Swagger, a rather famous contemporary sniper who learns about Milli Petrova, a WWII Russian sniper who killed Nazis and then disappeared. We get the two stories in parallel–Bob trying to find out what happened to Milli and Milli’s story.

Swagger’s friend Kathy Reilly, a reporter for the Washington Post, sent him an email asking about an old Russian sniper rifle. It peaks Bob’s interest, especially when she mentions it’s in relation to a Russian sniper who disappeared from all the records. A beautiful woman sniper.

Swagger decides to hop a plane and go help his friend do a little snooping to see if between them they can find out what happened to Milli. After they meet up and start poking around, Bob is surprised when a car almost runs him and Kathy down in the road. That’s when he starts wondering if someone was still trying to hide whatever it was that happened to Sergeant Petrova.

What we learn is that she was betrayed by someone in her own government to the Nazis. Stalin sent her to assassinate a man that a high ranking Nazi spy couldn’t afford to have killed. So he betrayed her and did his best to erase her from the record books. This makes Bob and Kathy’s job much more difficult.

I really enjoyed reading this book. There was a lot of good information about snipers in general as well as Russian WWII snipers in particular. I also enjoyed learning about some of the battles that happened on the Russian side against the Germans. Most history classes I’ve had focus on the Western European battles. They leave the Russian side as mostly throwing lots of troops at the Germans to win by extremely superior numbers, like trying to breach a wall of a fortified city. I liked the story on both ends, and I thought it was very well written. It was certainly very engaging and I plan to be reading more Bob Lee Swagger books in the future!

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Caleb is a software engineer and amateur woodworker living in southern Minnesota. He has more hobbies than he has time or money for, and enjoys his quiet time reading.

Review copy was provided free of any obligation by Simon & Schuster. No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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