Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Cress by Marissa Meyer

To read my reviews of other books in this series, click here: Cinder and Scarlet.


Title: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian/Steam Punk/Fairytale Retelling/Sci-Fi
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence
Premise: "Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they're plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth. Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who's only ever had her netscreens as company" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Brilliant. Absolutely stinkin' brilliant. The end.Okay, well not exactly the end. I mean the series isn't finished after all. Once again I listened to this on CD while on a long drive to visit family in St. George. Just ask my husband. I was laughing out loud. I was yelling at the car stereo. And I hated to stop for gas because I'd have to pause the story.

In this third installment of the Lunar Chronicles series we are treated to the retelling of Rapunzel in the form of Crescent Moon (a.k.a. Cress) who is a shell--a lunar without bio-electrical manipulation abilities. And yet, Cress is my favorite character by far. In fact this whole book is my favorite of the series (which is saying a lot). She is spunky. She is naive. She is brilliant. She is funny. And she is out to help Cinder save the universe, if only she could ever leave the satellite that Mistress Cybil (the lunar queen's right-hand woman) has confined her to for the last seven years.

The way that Marissa Meyers interweaves these fairy-tale re-tellings in a new and creative light is brilliant. She ties the characters together with plot twists and character arcs that leave the mind whirling, but she's laid the foundation so smoothly that I buy it. I am SO loving being on this crazy journey with the whole menagerie of twistedly awesome characters that I cannot wait to listen/read the next book, Winter.  I seriously would tell you more about what I love about Cress, but as River Song (insert Doctor Who reference) would say---SPOILERS!!!!

Sunday, July 3, 2016

Numbers Ignite by Rebecca Rode

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Numbers Games.


Title: Numbers Ignite (Numbers Game #2)
Author: Rebecca Rode

Reviewer:  Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence associated with hostile takeovers
Premise: "Treena and Vance think they’ve pulled out of the numbers game forever. They’re wrong.

After Treena’s disastrous attempt to unite the nation, she has the deaths of hundreds haunting her dreams. Now, with hatred and accusations following her past the border, she’s determined to leave that horrible day behind and find a peaceful, uneventful life with Vance and the settlers. But when she starts seeing mysterious figures hiding in the abandoned cities at night and uncovers a strange desert population, she realizes there’s a danger much greater than NORA to worry about—and she just abandoned her people to their fate.

Vance is a prisoner. Being rejected by the girl he loves and put on trial for betraying his clan are bad enough, but now he’s been framed for a crime he never committed. Their less-than-perfect refuge has become the political game of a madman, and Vance is the only one who can stop it—if he can keep from being executed first.

Treena and Vance are still very much in the game, and this time it will take everything they have to save those they love" (GoodReads.com).

Opinions: I liked Numbers Ignite more than the original Numbers Game.  Sequels tend to lose some of the initial intrigue and spunk that the reader gains in the first book. In fact, Treena feels more real to me now--the struggles and decisions she faces and the choices she has to make. Even Vance feels more three-dimensional to me, which is impressive because I loved Vance from the first story. Both characters endure a personal journey that gives them growth, tenacity, and more strength. The expansion of secondary characters is intriguing and I love where its going. The story development still fascinates me and Rebecca Rode does a great job of placing me in her world to the point I can visualize everything.  I still want to punch Dresden in his pretty Bike Boy face, but that just means that Rode did a great job of making me care about the characters. Overall, if you are into YA and/or Dystopian, then you should most definitely read this series.

Monday, May 30, 2016

Percy Jackson's Greek Gods by Rick Riordan


Title: Percy Jackson's Greek Gods
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Myths/Fiction
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: High Violence, Bad Behavior, and lots of High Gross Out Moments
Premise: "Percy Jackson, a modern-day demigod, tells the origin stories of the gods of Olympus and provides an insider's point of view - with plenty of attitude - in this illustrated collection"-- Provided by publisher. "A publisher in New York asked me to write down what I know about the Greek gods, and I was like, Can we do this anonymously? Because I don't need the Olympians mad at me again. But if it helps you to know your Greek gods, and survive an encounter with them if they ever show up in your face, then I guess writing all this down will be my good deed for the week. So begins Percy Jackson's Greek Gods, in which the son of Poseidon adds his own magic--and sarcastic asides--to the classics. He explains how the world was created, then gives readers his personal take on a who's who of ancients, from Apollo to Zeus. Percy does not hold back. "If you like horror shows, blood baths, lying, stealing, backstabbing, and cannibalism, then read on, because it definitely was a Golden Age for all that." Dramatic full-color illustrations throughout by Caldecott Honoree John Rocco make this volume--a must for home, library, and classroom shelves--as stunning as it is entertaining"-- Provided by publisher. 
Opinions: If you want to learn about the Greek myths, but some of the more traditional tellings are way too daunting, then this is book is your solution. I love studying mythologies and was fascinated with Riordan's ability to bring them to life in new and intriguing manner (and besides, I am a huge Percy Jackson fan--the books, not the movie). In this particular book you learn all about the history of the titans, Greek gods, and other mythological beings with the modern day humor only teenagers can master. The stories are fascinating and frequently gory (as many mythos are), and yet Riordan faces them head on in a manner that makes them still pg-13 (which is an impressive feat) and all told from Percy Jackson's viewpoint.

Note: Keep in mind, the Greek Gods are not known for being moral compasses. They often had affairs, committed murder and other heinous acts, that might not be appropriate for your particular teen. So I recommend that parents either read this book first, or read it with their kids so that you can have any necessary discussions. I mean, I'm an adult (half the time) and even I cringed at some of the stories, even after they were cleaned up. So be prepared.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Cinder.


Title: Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian/Steam Punk/Fairytale Retelling/Sci-Fi
Rating: Adore
Alerts/Warnings: Moderate Violence
Premise: "Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison--even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive. Half way around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner" (King County Library System).
Opinions: In Scarlet the point of views switch between Scarlet (a new vision of Red Riding Hood) and Cinder (Cinderella) from book one. The concepts and twists in this book are amazing and a breath of fresh air. I love the interplay between characters. I admire the creativity in Meyer's world building. I actually LOVE the men more in this book than the women--wolf and Captain Thorne leaped of the page (or well audio system) for me. While Scarlet's character was fascinating, her mood swings were a bit much for me at times, and yet they were completely and utterly understandable. I actually listened to this book on cd while in the car, and the voice actor did a beautiful job making each character stand out well in the story.  The struggles both Cinder and Scarlet faced were three-dimensional and the way Meyer's interwove their stories beautiful. The violence was a bit gory at times for my taste, but did fit with the overall stories. I'm very intrigued to see where the next book in the series, Cress, goes.

Thursday, May 26, 2016

The Sword of Summer by Rick Riordan


Title: The Sword of Summer (Magnus Chase and the Gods of Asgard #1)
Author: Rick Riordan
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: Mythic battles in modern settings maybe slightly much for younger readers
Premise: "Magnus Chase has always been a troubled kid. Since his mother's mysterious death, he's lived alone on the streets of Boston, surviving by his wits, keeping one step ahead of the police and the truant officers. One day, he is tracked down by a man he's never met -- a man his mother claimed was dangerous. The man tells him an impossible secret: Magnus is the son of a Norse god. The Viking myths are true. The gods of Asgard are preparing for war. Trolls, giants, and worse monsters are stirring for doomsday. To prevent Ragnarok, Magnus must search the Nine Worlds for a weapon that has been lost for thousands of years. When an attack by fire giants forces him to choose between his own safety and the lives of hundreds of innocents, Magnus makes a fatal decision" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book is EPIC!!!!  I have always loved Norse mythology. Now Rick Riordan brings it to life in modern times with absolute brilliance and humor. Even better is that he does awesome tie-ins to the Percy Jackson series by mocking the stories he wrote. Then, to top it off, he makes references to Doctor Who. Seriously, Rick Riordan's writing just keeps getting better and better. The first line of every chapter was spot on brilliant, and the last line of each chapter jaw-dropping. The characters are well developed, diverse, and intriguing. Trying to keep all the Gods and their history straight was a bit overwhelming at times. Plus, like most mythologies, some aspects are violent and gross, but Riordan does a fabulous job keeping it all teenager approved.  I cannot wait to read the next book in this series.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Dealing With Dragons by Patricia C. Wrede


Title: Dealing With Dragons (Enchanted Forest Chronicles #1)
Author: Patricia C. Wrede
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  None
Premise: "Cimorene is everything a princess is not supposed to be: headstrong, tomboyish, smart - and bored. So bored that she runs away to live with a dragon - and finds the family and excitement she's been looking for" (GoodReads.com).
Opinions: This book was awesome. If you ever feel like the black sheep of the family and like everyone expects something of your life that you don't want, then you will find a soul sister in Cimorene. At first I thought she was just being strong-willed, like her parents assumed. I was wrong. She has an inner strength that I would love to have. I loved that she was willing to learn, willing to listen. She is full of spunk and personality, but is willing to seek advice when she doesn't understand something. I loved that she had a healthy respect for dragons and treated them with honor, as it was the smart thing to do, especially when ticking one off might cause death by flaming. The variety in personality/characteristics of the dragons was impressive and helped make the story come alive. Kazul was a very logical and realistic dragon and was a great match for Princess Cimorene. They're friendship strengthened each other. The humor or the story was fantastic. I admired the creativity of the world, the variety of mystical creatures, and environments. I highly recommend this book for all readers, young/old, male/female. I don't care who you are, this is a fun read and I'm excited to move into book two, Searching for Dragons.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Insurgent by Veronica Roth

To read my review of the first book in this series, click here: Divergent


Title: Insurgent (Divergent #2)
Author: Veronica Roth
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Dystopian
Rating: Like
Alerts/Warnings: High Violence, Swearing, Intense Moments
Premise: "As war surges in the dystopian society around her, sixteen-year-old Divergent Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves--and herself--while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love" (King County Library System).
Opinions: I had mixed feelings about this story. Once I read the first book, I of course wanted to know what happened next. I was pleased to see that the plot was fascinating. At first I wasn't fond of where Tris' character arch was going, but I was glad to see her grow and how she chose to honor her parents.  I would recommend that parents read this book first to ensure that their particular children can handle the content. I was pleased to see a new level of connection between Tris & Four and that their relationship didn't automatically come easy. I liked Christine's return and the things she overcomes throughout Insurgent.

I did have serious difficulties with some of the more violent scenes, especially when Tris is given a Terror serum. It was more than I can handle, though I am sensitive and have an active imagination. Also, keep in mind I was listening to the story on CD in my car with young children in the back seat. I immediately turned it off, until I could finish it without them around. I was fascinated enough by the ending that I'm debating weather or not go ahead and find out the ending in Allegiant, or to call it at watching the movie. The jury is still out.

Monday, April 18, 2016

Calamity by Brandon Sanderson

 To read my reviews of the other books in the The Reckoners series, click here: Steelheart and Firefight.


Title: Calamity (The Reckoners #3)
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Post Apocalyptic Fantasy?
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings:  Moderate Violence, Moderate Fake Swearing
Premise: "David prepares for a confrontation against the High Epic to help his friend, Prof, achieve redemption and embrace his destiny. When Calamity lit up the sky, the Epics were born. David's fate has been tied to their villainy ever since that historic night. Steelheart killed his father. Firefight stole his heart. And now Regalia has turned his closest ally into a dangerous enemy. Once the Reckoners’ leader, Prof has struggled to control his Epic powers, but has now embraced his Epic destiny. Everyone knows there’s no turning back... but everyone is wrong. Redemption is possible for Epics. And David is just about crazy enough to face down the most powerful High Epic of all to get his friend back... or die trying" (King County Library System).
Opinions: This book, the whole series: FREAKIN' FANTSTIC. Brandon Sanderson is one of my favorite authors, but he takes the cake with the completion of his The Reckoners series. To the end I loved David's ability to use and abuse bad metaphors. They, and his poor ability to drive anything, made him stand out as a very real person to me, and one of my all time favorite characters. I loved the growth of each character. The decisions they faced where incredibly difficult and yet The Reckoners put their faith in David and his in-depth research into the Epics, their abilities, their faults, and their downfalls. I was impressed by Megan to no end and her strength and courage as she worked to overcome her past. Plus, Sanderson's ability to weave a imaginative, colorful, and wholly believable post-Apocalyptic Earth was astounding; I could see it with every word on the page.  And better yet, the ending was highly satisfying in every way. If you want to read a series that covers faith, forgiveness, trust, growth, humor and evil Superheroes than you MUST read Calamity.

Friday, April 15, 2016

One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology


Title: One Horn to Rule Them All: A Purple Unicorn Anthology
Author: Various (edited by Lisa Mangum)
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Fantasy/Sci-Fi
Rating: Love
Alerts/Warnings:  Mild Violence
Premise: "Unicorns, with their single ivory horn, are elusive and magical creatures of myth. Yet even more elusive are the purple unicorns. First sighted at the Superstars Writing Seminar, their legend has grown year after year until it could only be contained in this anthology. Nineteen storytellers, including Peter S. Beagle, Todd McCaffrey, and Jody Lynn Nye, as well as new and rising authors, invite us into worlds both near and far, across a desert oasis, a pet shop, a Comic-Con exhibition floor, and more, and show us the many variations of purple unicorns, from the imaginary to the actual—and one very memorable half-unicorn, half-potato. One Horn to Rule Them All is an unforgettable collection of imagination and creativity. So, saddle up, and take a ride beyond the rainbow" (GoodReads).
Opinions: Wow. If you want to see dragons in a whole new light from a variety of talented writers, then this book is perfect. This book has everything from a discussion at a bus station between two people wondering what the graffiti purple unicorn means, to a human detective solving mystical crimes with the feel of The Godfather, and even a rampaging purple unicorn turned into a potato. The imagination and creativity in this book is remarkable and showcases brilliant new authors on a shining stage. Then the book throws in stories by Todd McCaffrey (Dragons of Pern series), Peter S. Beagle (The Last Unicorn) and Jody Lynn Nye (Mythology 101, Imperium, etc), editing by Lisa Mangum (the Hourglass Door series), and artwork by James A. Owen (Chronicles of the Imaginarium Geographica). It's perfect to read while waiting for your bus or at the doctors' office, or whenever you can sneak a peak.  Fair warning, The Last Dregs of Winter left me sobbing. . . and I was in the waiting room of a doctor's office. ;-)  So YES, I most definitely recommend this anthology. And, to top it off, the proceeds from its sales go to fund scholarships for other writers to learn the business side of writing.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

45 Master Characters by Victoria Lynn Schmidt


Title: 45 Master Characters: Mythic Models For Creating Original Characters
Author: Victoria Lynn Schmidt
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Adult Non-Fiction, Writing Tips
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: References to some movies/books with more adult content or behavior
Premise: "Create unforgettable characters your readers will love!Want to make your characters and their stories more compelling, complex, and original than ever before? "45 Master Characters" is here to help you explore the most common male and female archetypes--the mythic, cross-cultural models from which all characters originate" (GoodReads.com).
Opinions: I purchased this book on the recommendation of another author. Best decision ever. This book has catapulted the complexity and quality of my writing by cavernous measures. I love the detailed explanation of why each of the Greek Gods' characters resonates with readers and what makes them so memorable. But what I found to be the greatest asset in this book is the comparison for each segment of the character's growth to well-known and loved books and movies that I would never have originally connected to someone from Greek mythology. I am a very visual learner, and to have the examples of how gender differences, or the hero/villainous aspects of a character's nature played out in stories I well know was beyond enlightening.  I also loved the ideas the author provided of how secondary characters can impact the main character changing their story line or growth. Now I have hundreds of ideas how to take my writing to the next level. If you are a storyteller in any way, shape or form, then I recommend you read this book and take copious notes.

Friday, January 29, 2016

The Forgotten Sisters by Shannon Hale

To read our reviews of the other books in the Princess Academy trilogy click here: Princess Academy and Palace of Stone.


Title: The Forgotten Sisters (Princess Academy#3)
Author: Shannon Hale
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: YA Fantasy
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Miri's eager to return to her beloved Mount Eskel after a year at the capital, but the king and queen ask her to first journey to a distant swamp and start her own miniature princess academy for three royal cousins, but once there she must solve a mystery before she can return home" (King County Library System).
Opinions: Shannon Hale is on my top ten list of incredible authors. If it has her name on the cover then there is a 98% chance that I'm going to LOVE that book. Once again, she did not fail. Even though The Book of A Thousand Days is my all time favorite book of Shannon's, the Princess Academy series is my favorite series. She does a fabulous job of taking the struggles of young women that apply to today and put them in a fantastical realm that lets the reader's imagination sore. When I read this conclusion to the Princess Academy series I was down with a cold. This may be cheating, but I'm going to share what I posted on Facebook: "Today I have had the luxury of recovering from a cold while reading Shannon Hale's Princess Academy: Forgotten Sisters and I rolled over and looked out my bedroom window. The clouds were so low that I could no longer see the mountains just outside and suddenly I felt like Miri, missing MY mountains."

I love that Miri is one again handed a twisted goal that she must deal with in the hopes of bettering the lives of Mount Eskelites. She takes the challenge head on and then realizes that not all is as she was promised. I love the continuation of Miri & Pedre's relationship to see how it grows from a distance. I love Miri's growth and how she finds a greater strength inside herself. I love the strength of women portrayed in the book, even if they falter, once they realize the truth each and every woman stands strong in her own way. This entire series is one that I long to and will be proud to read to my daughter.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

Sorry for the absence. I took the month of December off to recover from NaNoWriMo, help sick kids, and spend time with family. So be prepared for a load of updates over the next week as I finally type up the reviews on the page-turning books I read over the holidays.


Title: Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove #1)
Author: J. Scott Savage
Reviewer: Karen
Genre: Mid-Grade Steampunk
Rating: Fabulous
Alerts/Warnings: None
Premise: "Trenton Colman is a creative thirteen-year-old boy with a knack for all things mechanical. But his talents are viewed with suspicion in Cove, a steam-powered city built inside a mountain. In Cove, creativity is a crime, and invention is a curse word. Kallista Babbage is a repair technician and daughter of the notorious Leo Babbage, who died in an explosion--an event the leaders of Cove point to as an example of the dangers of creativity. Working together, Trenton and Kallista learn that Leo Babbage was developing a secret project before he perished. Following clues he left behind, they begin to assemble a strange machine that is unlike anything they've ever seen before. They soon discover that what they are building may threaten every truth their city is founded on--and quite possibly their very lives" (King County Library System).

Opinions: Steampunk Dragon. Need I say more. Well, yes, I probably do. J. Scott Savage has created a multi-level society living inside a mountain.  From page one I was drawn into the world by the laws the citizens of Cove lived by. I wanted to know why, and Trenton Colman was the perfect vessel to help reveal the details. Savage is a master at creating three dimensional characters that the reader can relate to. For example, Trenton is a skilled teen mechanic in a world where invention is considered evil. When he is beaten up by a girl then assigned to working on the farming level, Trenton is pretty sure is world is over. And yet, his world suddenly is filled with secret excursions to out of bound areas, budding relationships, and major character growth.

Trenton wasn't the only one who felt real to me, who I could connect with. I love his parents. There was true love that motivated each of the actions. Even if, at times, the presented a roadblock to Trenton's growth I could understand the whys and the love behind their actions. Then you get to Kallista. An girl orphan dressed as a boy, shunned by society, kick-butt steampunk gear and outfits, and has an incredibly sick secret workshop filled with brilliant tools and walls of books in a society where stories are forbidden. What isn't fascinating about that combo?

So basically: the characters were well developed and real, the plot was complex and intriguing, and the world...steampunk magical awesomeness. This is definitely a must read for kids, teens, young adults and adults. I, personally, cannot wait to read more.