BOOK: A Darker Shade of Magic (2015)

A Darker Shade of MagicYear: 2015Author: V.E. SchwabLength: 694 minutes / 11.57 hours A co-worker of mine suggested I check this book out, and I have now finally gotten around to it. While he gave this series of books a glowing review, I can only hope that the other books in this trilogy fare better than this one. For what it was worth, A Darker Shade of Magic didn’t seem to be original enough for me to care much about what happened in it. It’s filled with so many fantasy and YA tropes that I could almost swear I’d read the same book somewhere else before. Perhaps part of my problem comes with the audiobook production of this story. I generally liked Lila, except when she was particularly annoying. There were quite a few times the narrator made her sound like Audrey Hepburn in the early part of My Fair Lady (1964), and that’s not much of a compliment. Overall, though, I...
Read More

BOOK: Mortal Engines (2001)

Mortal Engines Year: 2001 Author: Philip Reeve Length: 541 minutes / 9.02 hours In yet another case of watching a movie first before reading the books, I finally got around to reading Mortal Engines after absolutely loving the 2018 movie. While I understand middle-grade or Young Adult readers are the intended audiences, it left me wanting in its presentation. Sure, most of the elements that made it into the film were there (with some less-than-necessary parts being cut from the screenplay for obvious reasons), but the way it was written felt a bit too flowery for my tastes. In fact, the engineer in me would have loved a lot more world-building than I got in this short volume. I did still appreciate the post-apocalyptic steampunk world of Mortal Engines—if for no other reason than its ridiculous premise. The idea that whole cities would transform into moving monstrosities that devour lesser towns in a “predator and prey” relationship is such an intriguing notion that I had to give...
Read More

BOOK: The Point (2018)

The Point Year: 2018 Author: John Dixon Length: 320 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM THE PUBLISHER*** With the rise in popularity of the superhero genre, it was only a matter of time before it leaked into other genres. While some genres like steampunk (like in The Esper Files) make for an interesting twist, others like military YA sci-fi are so similar as to be just one other entry in the zeitgeist. The problem with this is that other, more famous handlings of supernatural superpowers bring much more to the table than books like The Point (which doesn’t necessarily add much to either genre on the whole). As far as I could gather, there are only three or four different “types” of mutants in The Point: telekinetic, pyrokinesis, super strength, and “other” (like dream manipulation and energy storage, the latter of which was reasonably original). I suppose franchises like X-Men and One Piece, which give each of their unique characters unique superpowers and rarely (if ever)...
Read More

BOOK: Artemis Fowl (2001)

Artemis Fowl Year: 2001 Author: Eoin Colfer Length: 281 pages With the movie adaptation of this book coming out in a few months, I figured the premise of Artemis Fowl looked interesting enough that I’d want to read it before seeing the film. After all, a child genius going up against fantasy forces sounded like it would be entertaining. Overall, this was true. Granted, this book starts one of those classic Young Adult series that’s actually meant for children, so I can forgive a bit of its bathroom humor—but only to a point. Still, I found the fusion of modern technology and fantasy elements to be the strength of this book. Much in the vein of the science fantasy genre, Artemis Fowl uses scientific principles and concepts to explain the numerous phenomena connected to creatures like fairies, dwarves, and trolls. It only makes sense that these creatures would evolve technologically along with humanity. Being able to explain how these creatures could remain undetected for thousands of years was nearly...
Read More

BOOK: The City of Brass (2017)

The City of Brass Year: 2017 Author: S.A. Chakraborty Length: 533 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** In S.A. Chakraborty’s debut novel, The City of Brass, we find some of the standard tropes that seem to be the foundation of the Young Adult genre. There are snippets of works like Harry Potter and Twilight that seem to leak through, their influences helping to shape the world that the author has created. However, while some of these tropes might be tired in any other setting, they are used to great effect here, as the author has created something grounded in culture and traditions that helps to enhance the fantasy world that lies just beyond our own. While I did enjoy reading this book overall, there were a few weaknesses. The start of the story was action-packed and hooked me right from the get-go, but then the section leading up to the second half of the plot seemed to be bogged down with lots of exposition and world-building. It also...
Read More

BOOK: Gaia (2017)

Gaia Year: 2017 Author: J.A. Darmanin Length: 296 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, it’s one of those basic Young Adult stories, replete with the clichés like the “normal girl who finds out she’s super-special” and “main character is the only one who can save the world.” However, it also didn’t have the obscenity, violence, and sexuality that as seemed to permeate most YA books of late. Similarly, I found the main characters to be incredibly annoying, but then they were also written as teenage girls . . . so I guess there’s an amount of realism there. While there are certainly polished elements to this book, including the cover and some of the formatting, there are a few amateur mistakes that reveal that this is the author’s first book. The biggest problem I had was the variety of plot holes present throughout the book. Sure, there were a few moments that came...
Read More

BOOK: Zenith (2018)

Zenith Year: 2018 Authors: Sasha Alsberg & Lindsay Cummings Length: 512 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Every once in a while, I'll read a book which is basically the equivalent of literary "candy." It hits all the tropes of its genre, most of its twists are predictable, and the whole thing is purely entertainment for entertainment's sake. Zenith, the first book in the Androma Saga, is just such a book. This book has been described as an all-female Guardians of the Galaxy, and I would tend to agree with that assessment. Overall, it's a fun book, but there's not too much substance to it aside from the typical space opera Young Adult romance. If anything, it proves why the tropes of its genres work the way they do. The writing itself in this book is easy to read, which helped me crank through its 500 pages in just my lunch breaks and time at the gym. Even if I wasn't paying too...
Read More

BOOK: The Death Cure (2011)

The Death Cure Year: 2011 Author: James Dashner Length: 535 minutes / 8.91 hours If ever there was proof that not every book should have a trilogy, it’s The Death Cure. Sure, The Maze Runner was an interesting concept, but it brought up a lot of questions. None of these questions were answered by the end of the series since most of the focus was on random action sequences rarely driven by the main characters’ actions. If action wasn’t the focus, then the loose and unbelievable “love triangle” certainly was. In the end, I had no connection to the characters, which was why I was mostly unaffected by some of their deaths. The real problem with The Death Cure (as well as its predecessor, The Scorch Trials), is how much “fluff” is in the story. The Maze Runner worked because there was a concrete objective: escape the maze. In the two books that followed, what was the goal? Was it to defeat WICKED? If it...
Read More

BOOK: The Scorch Trials (2010)

The Scorch Trials Year: 2010 Author: James Dashner Length: 623 minutes / 10.38 hours As I read The Maze Runner, I couldn’t help but shake the feeling that the story was meant for a video game instead of a novel. The Scorch Trials merely confirms my suspicions. I mean, who in their right mind would acronym their organization with WICKED? While the first book in this series had a pretty straightforward goal (escape the maze), the sequel made no sense whatsoever. OK, these kids escaped the maze, but then what? The idea of traveling to the “safe haven” seemed to come so late in the plot that it almost felt like an afterthought. Concerning the characters, the main ones are still there, but so many of the ancillary minor characters are so forgettable as to be practically useless. Brenda was added into the mix merely to elicit a “love triangle” between the two love interests of the first book, but it just felt forced . . . like everything...
Read More

BOOK: The Maze Runner (2009)

The Maze Runner Year: 2009 Author: James Dashner Length: 650 minutes / 10.83 hours Partly due to the success of The Hunger Games, the Young Adult genre swerved into the survival/sci-fi/dystopian genres that also allowed The Maze Runner to have a ready and willing audience. With this being the case, I’d almost say The Maze Runner has more utopian sensibilities since the narrative encourages teamwork for survival, instead of a “winner take all” emphasis presented in The Hunger Games that valued selfish ambitions over communistic altruism. Plus, if you put 50 teenage boys in a box with no adult supervision, I think the logical conclusion would be more along the lines of Lord of the Flies instead of solving a deadly maze. While the premise was interesting and allowed for a constant and steady pacing of inciting events, I felt there was not enough explanation in this first part of the trilogy, with very few questions being answered by the end and a lot of hand-waving to push the characters forward to a conclusion....
Read More

BOOK: Shadowguard (2015)

Shadowguard Year: 2015 Author: Gama Ray Martinez Length: 228 pages I picked this book up for free on my Kindle recently, probably due to some promotion to heighten awareness of the latest book in the Pharim War series. As the first book in this series, Shadowguard doesn’t waste any time getting down into the action of the story. Somewhat light on exposition and description, the world created here is still vibrant and fascinating, regardless. The story's characters and setting immediately immersed me in the world, and that's not even mentioning the interesting magic system Gama Ray Martinez has created. It fell in line with the fantasy genre without being too derivative of it. Some may say a series of books about a magical boy learning magic at an illustrious school sounds a lot like the Harry Potter series. The fact that the Pharim War series has a fantasy world setting, and isn't just a hidden part of our real world, makes it distinctly different from J.K....
Read More

BOOK: The Rook Crew (2017)

The Rook Crew Year: 2017 Author: Mirella Muffarotto Length: 488 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** Usually, when I enter a Goodreads Giveaway, I have an expectation for what the book is about via the title and the cover. With The Rook Crew, my expectations were way off. With the cover, I was expecting a shoujo (a Japanese term signifying an audience comprised of female teenagers) light novel. I didn’t know what to think about the title, but I honestly can’t say it has anything to do with this book. “The Rook Café” is a location in this book that’s visited maybe a half-dozen times, with no indication of why it’s significant or unique. Likewise, the “crew” that visits The Rook Café regularly was never fleshed out beyond the main characters and one or two minor ones. If it were me, I’d title the book something like Soccer Sweetheart, which would accurately convey the sports/romance aspects of the book. I will admit that the pacing is...
Read More

BOOK: Opaque (2016)

Opaque Year: 2016 Author: Calix Leigh-Reign Length: 254 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** While I eventually liked this book, it took a little getting used to. When you start a story with a deplorable main character, it makes you not want to continue reading. Honestly, I think the plot probably could have started closer to the halfway part, and reveal everything important after the fact or merely hint at it. You know, via a “show don’t tell” method. There’s a lot of “telling” in the first half of this book. Despite this, there is plenty of excellent character development in the second half to redeem the first half. What strikes me odd about this book is its classification as “Young Adult.” I usually consider early teens to be this genre's demographic, given the main characters are generally in that age range. Considering the graphic violence, excessive swearing, and questionable sexual content in the first section of this book, I wouldn’t let teenagers read...
Read More

BOOK: Echo of the Boom (2014)

Echo of the Boom Year: 2014 Author: Maxwell Neely-Cohen Length: 478 pages ***THIS BOOK WAS RECEIVED FROM A GOODREADS GIVEAWAY*** From the title of this book, I would have expected it to be about the aftermath of an apocalypse-inducing event. If anything Echo of the Boom is a misnomer and the book should be titled Prelude of the Boom. The cover also doesn’t give much into what it’s about, other than the four different points of view which are followed throughout the narrative. While I did eventually like the book, it took too long to get there (some of the occasional typos didn’t help me get into it either). With the characters’ motivations unclear from the start, it becomes obvious about 150 pages in that nothing is really going to happen in this book. Instead of having any driving force propelling the characters forward, it’s more accurate to describe this book as a nearly 500 page rap battle. Each character has their own track, living their...
Read More

MOVIE: Divergent (2014)

Divergent Year: 2014 Rating: PG-13 Length: 139 minutes / 2.31 hours While The Hunger Games really cornered the market in the "young adult dystopian future" category, many authors jumped on the bandwagon to cash in on this phenomenon. I'll admit that many of these series that got movie adaptations I had never heard of before and likely will not see/read. The Divergent series, though did stand out as the top of "the rest". It can be difficult to create a dystopian world, especially one that's at least somewhat set in our current one. The CGI-modified Chicago looks pretty good for a city that's been through what it has, but where the computer imagery really comes to shine is in the dream sequences. I would have liked them to be a little more obvious so the audience isn't always guessing if it's a dream or not, but that's part of the charm, I suppose. Having since read the book this was based on, I do have to say that the director...
Read More