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Tag: "adventure"

Review: Starlighter by Bryan Davis

[ 1 ] February 15, 2015

starlighter book coverReviewed by Jennifer Jensen

Jason has grown up hearing the myths about a planet of dragons whose inhabitants kidnap humans and enslave them, but he never believed in those tales until now. After Jason’s brother, a believer, goes missing and leaves behind a cryptic note, Jason must open his mind to the possibility that the stories are true. As he searches for the fabled portal that leads from the dragon’s realm to his own, Jason becomes the scapegoat in a political assassination. In the depths of the dungeons, Jason reconnects with his childhood friend Elyssa, who was thought to have been taken and mauled by hostile bears. Elyssa has powers of her own that are a threat to the current government. With Elyssa and Tibalt, another prisoner who has ties to the dragon realm known as Starlight, Jason will enter the portal in search of his missing kin. Jason finds horrors greater than any he could have imagined, and must race against time to prevent a dark prophecy from coming true.

Koren, a human enslaved on Darksphere, vaguely remembers a world where humans were free. Though a slave, Koren’s assignment is much more comfortable than that of most of the humans in her realm. Koren has a gift, a powerfully persuasive ability to enchant her captors with stories, that will either be the salvation of her people or their ultimate demise. Koren and Jason must work together to set the Lost Ones free and bring them back home to Darksphere. A prophecy surrounding the mysterious black egg which contains the unborn dragon prince threatens to thwart their efforts of overthrowing the dragons. With the help of an unlikely ally, there is still an inkling of hope for Jason and Koren.

In Starlighter, Bryan Davis creates a vividly haunting alternate universe where dragons have enslaved humans. Magic is generously used to further the plot and develop some of the main characters and their purposes, making for an epic fantasy adventure. Many characters are introduced in this first installment of a four book series, and sometimes I found it difficult to keep the characters and their strengths and weaknesses straight. Overall, they are well-developed with strong personalities of their very own, and room for growth in future books. The most fascinating character to me was Arxad, Koren’s dragon master. He is loyal to his own people, but risks his own scales to assist Koren and Jason in their mission.

Starlighter is more than just a young adult fantasy, however. Throughout the novel there are subtle religious messages, but I did not find them to be preachy in any way. Readers who are just interested in a magical tale will not be disappointed, and those looking for more meaning behind the words will also discover what they are looking for. I’d recommend Starlighter for any church youth group to read and discuss with one another.

Rating: ★★★★☆ 

Jennifer graduated from the University of Utah with a BA in English. She occasionally dabbles with her own fiction writing, particularly with the Young Adult and Paranormal genres. She currently resides in Utah with her husband and daughter.

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

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Review: Mitosis by Brandon Sanderson

[ 2 ] January 30, 2015

mitosis book coverReviewed by Caleb Shadis

Mitosis is a novelette sequel to Steelheart (which is sitting on my shelf waiting to be read!). I think the narrator of the audiobook, Macleod Andrews, did a great job reading. If you have never read any of Brandon Sanderson’s work, you could do much worse than give this a listen. If you already like what he writes (and I certainly do!), I’d recommend starting with Steelheart before setting  your sights on this one.

Mitosis is about a world of super powered people. Unfortunately, all of them seem to already be or to turn insanely evil. It’s a planet with supervillains devoid of any superheroes. So it took a few regular people to become regular heroes and stand up to them. This story takes place after the first successful revolt of the regulars.

It is still too early for the vast majority living in the city to feel confident that they are free of the super. On top of that many are afraid another one is going to show up any day and lay claim to the ‘abandoned’ city for themselves. The fledgling government has tried to think of ways to deal with such a situation by putting into place a few emergency measures.

It’s a good thing they started planning right away, because they do have a problem. Mitosis has just snuck into town and he is a load of trouble. His special power allows him to duplicate himself so he can be his own spy network, or maybe army. He’s come to town looking for the man who claims to have killed Steelheart. He plans to show it was a sham, partly to keep the non-supers down and partly to bolster his own sense of god-hood. It doesn’t look good for our little hero.

Brandon Sanderson is an excellent writer; he has a very wide range of ideas that he has thankfully turned into books. I have almost all of his books, with only a couple left that I haven’t had a chance to read and I’ve enjoyed every single one. Many might have trouble with the young adult series Alcatraz and the Evil Librarians (though I thought it was hilarious) but I recommend this author very highly nonetheless!

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 No monetary or any other form of compensation was received.

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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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