The 13th Reality Book Review

The 13th Reality Book Review

The Journal of Curious Letters (The 13th Reality Book #1)

By James Dashner

 

I’d give this novel 3.75 Chi’karda drives out of 5. (Read the book and you’ll know what a Chi’karda drive is)

This is a really cute story. It probably reads and feels more middle-grade than any middle-grade novel I’ve ever read (take that to mean what you’d like.) There’s nothing really dark or extreme, so it should really be safe for all ages.

I always get a little apprehensive when a book tries to balance the notions of Science and Magic in the same universe. I’ve never seen it really work, but Dasnher did enough to avoid having it stand out (negatively) in this book. I appreciated that.

The main character of this book, Atticus Higgenbottom, understandably goes by “tick.” He’s so smart, that his family calls him “Professor,” but not so smart or flawless that he becomes unlikable. As a matter of fact, he gets picked on and bullied at school.

One day Tick receives a mysterious letter in the mail. He opens and finds a strange set of instructions that he must decide whether or not to commit to them. If he destroys the letter, then all will be as before; no adventure, no danger, nothing new. But, if he keeps the instructions and follows them, he can expect danger to seek him out, and challenges to thwart him at every turn.

Tick decides to follow the instructions in the letter and to help the people that the letter mentions. He wants to be part of something bigger than himself, and he’s willing to potentially sacrifice himself in the process.

Along the way he meets several other kids that have also received letters. They meet up through message forums and email on the internet. My favorite character is Sofia, the Italian girl that Tick meets first. I love the way the narrator (audiobook version) portrays her and all her fraternal digs at the other guys in the story. She has a good sense of humor, and rounded out all the boy characters.

As the story progresses, the kids communicate with each other about the clues they receive, and help where they can. All this leads up to a final moment where tick and the other kids have to follow a certain set of instructions on a certain day, and in a certain place.

As you can tell by the title of the book, the story deals with multiple realities. It’s a wild ride, and I would recommend it to virtually anyone, but especially young readers. It’s very wholesome, as it were, and a good time.

 

P.S. It’s probably worth noting that a lot of stories for this age group kill off parents, or come up with some other strange approach to getting them out of the way so that the children can be empowered to be the true protagonists of the story. Rather than doing that, Dashner actually had Tick confide in his father, and get power and trust from the adult to move forward the way he wanted to. That was a nice touch.

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes Book Review

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes Book Review

 

Beyonders: A World Without Heroes Book Review

I give this book 4 out of 5 Bubblefruits.

By Brandon Mull

I‘m listening to the end of this book on audio as I begin to write this review. The first book of the Beyonders series is a good story. Brandon Mull certainly has a very creative mind, and that shows through brilliantly in this novel. From a pacing perspective, this book starts slow. I remember trying to listen to the audiobook version before, months ago in fact, and after falling in love with the prologue and getting excited for the rest of the story, I ran into chapter 1. I got so bored that I stopped listening to it. It was all kids, baseball, and look, those girls are cute. I’m not sure what finally brought me back to the book again, but I am glad that I gave it another chance. Once the main character, Jason, gets into the other world, and on with his quest, the book takes off nicely. (Yes, you’ll come to find out that baseball actually matters later.) From a world-building perspective, Brandon Mull leverages his wild imagination to create a fascinating environment with crazy creatures, strange food customs, and shifty characters. This world is devoid of heroes, which is by the villain, Maldor’s design. As the main characters from our world visit that one, Jason and Rachel fumble their way through distraught cities, questionable taverns, and the open road. The plot is fantastic. The world has no heroes, and there is an evil emperor that rules the land through fear, control, and manipulation.  The Emporer also happens to be a wizard, but a wizard with one serious flaw—there is a magic word, that, if spoken will be his instant demise. Jason comes across this information, and the first clue to learning the word. This starts his quest. The one thing I struggle with in Brandon Mull books is his characters’ dialogue. Sometimes it just doesn’t sound right. In some cases it’s related to diction, and in other cases its just the way it flows and how it sounds. I suppose this is a minor thing, but I thought I’d call it out. If you are looking for a fun summertime read that can help you escape reality a little bit. This book can definitely fit the bill. Check it out. It’s a fun read.

Ender’s Game – Book Review

Ender’s Game – Book Review

enders game

Ender’s Game Book Cover – Movie Edition

Ender’s Game – Book Review

I give this book 4.5 buggers out of 5.

By Orson Scott Card 

If you are a science fiction fan, and haven’t heard of this book, or this movie, I guess I don’t know where you’ve been. Don’t be offended, I know you’ve likely had your head in the Dune series, or the Foundation series, or most likely the Song of Ice and Fire books. My point is, you’ve probably heard of this book. While the novel was originally written in 1985, it has gone on to reinvent itself in comic form, movies, and various other formats. That’s a lot of success for a book that originally started out as a short story published in Analog Magazine in August of 1977. Ender’s Game starts out in an interesting way, really, defying conventional writing wisdom. The whole first part of Chapter 1 is dialogue. “I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.” The reason that is a powerful introduction is because it makes the reader feel like he’s eavesdropping on an interesting conversation. It’s sneaky,  and that’s fun, isn’t it, when we get away with it?

Formic Wars Silent Strike – One of the Ender’s Game Comics

Orson Scott Card sets up a futuristic world in which the human race, while still scarred, has survived an invasion from the intergalactic Formics, also known as the Buggers. The bug-like alien race that surprised us, and  tried to end us. As a result, the International Fleet (IF) was formed, and given great power. Fundamentally, the IF was tasked with not only protecting the planet, but finding our savior, the next Mazer Rackham. Mazer was the one that saved us from the Buggers last time. He was a brilliant warrior, and a rare breed. When the IF finds good candidates, it ships them off to Battle School somewhere out in space. This is a zero gravity training ground for young children. They grow up at the Battle Station until they “ice out,” or are otherwise removed. The book starts out following Andrew Wiggins, nicknamed “Ender,” a boy with a “monitor” installed in the back of his neck. This is the primary method that the IF uses to monitor potential candidates for Battle School. (This is also what was implied in that first bit of dialogue early in the article. This is how they watched him.) Ender learns that his monitor has to be removed, a sure sign that he is no longer in consideration for Battle School. He would be considered a washout, just like his brother and sister. This is a personal, and social disappointment. Moreover, Ender is concerned that he will no longer be under the watchful eye of the IF from a personal safety perspective. There’s a group of boys at school that would love to hurt him. As the story progresses, so does this eventual conflict. Ender ends up defending himself against these boys, and he takes out their leader, known as Stilson. Only later is it revealed how extensive his injuries were. This is the inciting incident for the IF to reach out to Ender and his parents. Apparently, there were still monitoring Ender, without the “monitor.”

[pullquote]”I’ve watched through his eyes, I’ve listened through his ears, and I tell you he’s the one. Or at least as close as we’re going to get.”[/pullquote]

They ask him a series of psychologically probing questions. They analyzed him. Why would Ender fight so hard, and kept going after Stilson once he was down? Why not just run away? The answer to these questions would be his ticket into Battle School. To this point, I haven’t mentioned Ender’s relationship with his sister Valentine, or his brother Peter. But that isn’t to indicate a lack of importance. Their relationship, and how Orson Scott Card juxtaposes their extremely contrasting personalities is a key plot thread throughout the story. While they are all supremely intelligent, Valentine is the docile, yet clever one, and Peter, the conniving one, has violent tendencies. Ender is somewhere between, and this too was a factor in his acceptance to Battle School. Once at Battle School Ender begins a process of self-discovery. He has ups and downs, and amazing experiences. Card does a great job of adding tension to one part of the story, while alleviating it on another. All of this leads up to a great twist ending that, no doubt, has contributed to this book’s popularity.  This has spawned into multiple series of books that I count at over 11 at the time of this writing. That doesn’t include the comics or other channels Card has explored with the universe he’s created–which fans affectionately all the Enderverse. If you like sci-fi and you haven’t given this series a shot. You’ll likely enjoy it. Millions of other readers have.          

The Name of the Wind – Book Review

The Name of the Wind – Book Review

The Name of the Wind Book Review

by Patrick Rothfuss I give this great book 4.5 lutes out of 5.

 

 

 

No matter how I write this review, it will fail the book in some way. Patrick Rothfuss has written a wonderful adventure, epic in scope, and eloquent in its delivery. I don’t just mean the prose, but the story’s voice and setting too. And world building. Yeah, that was fabulous as well. The Name of the Wind is one of those novels that delivers everything to you subtly. It’s one of those books that you have to read more than once just to make sure you caught everything, or to validate that you connected things correctly. There are hints, and twists, and turns salt and peppered throughout the book. Some are more obvious than others. This story is really the beginning of a chronicle regarding a young, red-headed and green- eyed prodigy that we first meet as a tired innkeeper, hiding behind his bar from his adventurous past and the enemies he made.  In his glory days, he was the stuff of legend. He went by many names: Kvothe the Kingkiller, Kvothe The Bloodless, and Kvothe the Arcane, among many others. Some of the titles were accurate, and others were a mere shadow of the truth. It’s the notion of Kvothe’s legend that brings dark forces to Kote’s neck of the woods. Kote is the name Kvothe goes by at this time in the story, his time as the innkeeper, as he would rather remain inconspicuous.  Unsurprisingly, however, the evil from his past finds him anyway. Strange, spider-like creatures, metallic and demonic, we come to know as Scraels began to turn up in the land. Kote set out on a mini-adventure at the beginning of the book, and slayed a score of them. In this process he saved a traveler known as Chronicler, who had been known to travel the four corners of civilization to log the legends and stories of his day. This is when the book really takes off, and takes its true form. Chronicler,  an accomplished scrivener, convinced Kote to share the legend of Kvothe, and to awaken those powerful memories from his past. He wanted the true story. Kote finally agreed. He sat down with Bast, his closest servant and friend, and Chronicler to tell the tale. Kvothe started near the beginning, and Chronicler jotted down his words. As a youth, Kvothe belonged to a talented traveling group called the Edema Rue. They were artists — storytellers, singers, and entertainers. They shared their talents and spun their tales as they laughed and sang, and captivated the locals with whom they came into contact. Their songs were powerful stories that caused grown men to weep, and young women to swoon. As the story progresses, an old sage type character joined the band of travelers, and he took note of Kvothe, and became his mentor. At one point, he expressed to Kvothe’s parents, also part of the group, that he was naturally gifted, and had great potential. Eventually this man, Abenthy (or Ben, as Kvothe called him,) offered to sponsor him as an Arcanist. This would enable Kvothe to realize his future dreams, and study at the university learning the principles of magic and other forces. Looking back, this was to be the lull before the storm, of course. Things were light hearted, and whimsical. Things were going well. Kvothe’s father was hard at work on a highly anticipated song. Everyone wanted to hear it, but he wouldn’t share any of it until it was ready. Kvothe’s father was a master of the craft, and he had a reputation to upohld. His songs told powerful stories full of meaning and history, and musical artistry. Finally, the pressure builds to a tipping point, and Kvothe’s father shared what he had of the song. It was beautiful. Kvothe’s father sang of the mystical people, the Chandrien, noted by their blue fire, among other things.  People swooned and begged for more. All was wonderful. But the Chandrien were real, and powerful, and controlling. One day Kvothe returned to the Edema Rue camp after having been away a bit, only to find them all dead—murdered. His parents, his friends, his travel mates – all killed. He saw blue fire. It was the Chandrien. When they had heard of the singing, the story of the Chandrien, the mouthpiece, and all that heard it had to be dealth with. Apparently they played a strong part in their legend. I won’t summarize the rest of the story for you. The is just the beginning, and the rest is great. If you want to learn more, you’ll have to go out and read it. But, suffice it to say that this is a powerful moment in Kvothe’s life, and a motivator. Not his sole motivator, but a driving force. He takes his last possession, his father’s lute, and tries to survive on his own. He begs and steals, and does what he has to. Eventually he makes his way to the university and has a very different set of experiences that all lead up to a very sneaky, and sinister twist at the end of the book. I didn’t see it coming at all, and I enjoyed it immensely. Did I mention it was sinister? It was my favorite set of scenes in the book.  If you like high fantasy, and you enjoy beautiful descriptions and a LONG story, this is one worth trying. It’s super-popular, and so you’ll have no problem finding a slew of reviews to help you decide whether or not to read The Name of the Wind.  If you read it, and enjoy it, there are a ton of forums and threads on the internet that dive into the lore and speculate on ever detail’s meaning.            

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Book Review

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Book Review

What a grand cover they put together for the anniversary edition of The Sorcerer’s Stone. The cover really capturesthe majesty and wonder Rowling’s world created for each of us.

 

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone Book Review

by J.K. ROWLING I’d give this one 4.5 snitches out of 5. To some people, this is the book series that should not be named, and that’s sad. It’s been credited for starting a reading revolution, and if you judge a book by its sales, it most certainly has. It also brought the middle grade and the young adult demographic into the light, and caused a flurry of authors to flock there. And it’s been awesome. There are a lot of great middle grade and young adult books out there now. I started reading these books to my children when I started my MBA program at the local university almost ten years ago. There was something magical about Rowling’s world of Griffendors, Ravenclaws, Hufflepuffs, and Slitherins. My children loved the books, but it also awakened something in me. I had always enjoyed writing and storytelling. I suppose I had forgotten that at the time. These books reminded me that I  wanted to write. I wanted to tell stories. So it was that, shortly after taking on the commitment to get an MBA, that I decided to write a book, too. Crazy, I know. That’s how powerful the story was, for me, I suppose. Well, on to the review. The Sorcerer’s Stone follows a little abandoned baby named Harry Potter. The first few chaptered are shrouded with plenty of mystery regarding the characters and the circumstances bringing them all together. An abandoned baby marked with a lightning scar on his head shows up on the porch of, and is taken in by a shabby family at a odd time when strange folk in weird clothing wandering the streets. There is a whole other world, a wizard world, that is celebrating the defeat of the greatest dark wizard of all time–at little Harry’s hand, so to speak. Everyone seems to know about it, except him. Fast forward to him being a young boy. He’s still being mistreated by a family that begrudgingly took him in. All seems horrible, and lost until one day Harry receives a cryptic letter. His aunt and uncle try to keep it from him, but someone is determined to get him the letter. Several magical manifestations later, and Harry ends up discovering the letter from Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry. Later, he learns that he is a wizard, even though he doesn’t know it. Harry gets off to school on a magical train, the Hogwarts Express, and meets a handful of folks that end up being his close friends, particularly a humble, yet funny boy named Ron Weasley, and a know-it-all girl named Hermione Granger. This trio ends up being the nucleus of friendship for Harry throughout the series of Harry Potter books. As they arrive at school, Harry realizes that not everything is chocolate frogs, and butter beer.  While Hogwarts is a fascinating place, and he should be safe to learn magic there, multiple houses exist that a magical sorting hat places them in. These houses represent groupings of magic users with similar talents or attributes. Griffendors are courageous, for example, while Siltherins are ambitious. These houses introduce another layer of conflict, and competition amongst the wizards.

Harry gets sorted into the Griffendor house, not surprisingly, along with Ron and Hermione. Their friendship evolves, and their personalities come out even more. We also get to see how other people view each of these characters. Ron is berated for being poor, Hermione for being a know-it-all, and Harry for having celebrity that he didn’t earn. Harry is basically the most popular person in a world he’s absolutely ignorant about. As the year goes on, Harry and team start to learn a little bit about the dark wizard, Voldemort, and how he was responsible for Harry’s parent’s deaths. He learns that Snape, the potions master, doesn’t like him at all. They discover a three headed dog, a troll, and many other things that eventually lead them to inquire about the sorcerer’s stone, and Nicolas Flamel’s pursuit of immortality and why the dark lord would be interested in it. I won’t spoil the whole book, but The Sorcerer’s Stone is a fantastic adventure full of magic, wonder, interesting characters, and perhaps one of the best developed worlds in any fiction I’ve ever read. If you love Fantasy, especially Urban Fantasy in the YA genre, and you happen to have avoided the Harry Potter series somehow, it might be time you check it out. The Sorcerer’s Stone a fantastic debut novel from J.K. Rowling, and a wondering start to one of the most famous series of books of all time.

Nightrise (The Gatekeepers #3) Book Review

Nightrise (The Gatekeepers #3) Book Review

Nightrise(The Gatekeepers Book #3) Book Review 

by Anthony Horowitz I’d give this one 3.5 stars out of 5. Anthony Horowitz is one of my favorite modern writers. His greatest strength, or, what resonates with me most, is when he is writing something slightly creepy, mysterious, and ominous. He is VERY good at that, and I can’t get enough of it. That is what originally drew me into this series. In book one, Raven’s Gate, he really created a haunting ambiance to surround his wonderfully creepy-cult-characters. Unfortunately, since the first book, we only get bits and pieces of that. But, when we do get them, they are really good pits and pieces. Don’t get me wrong. This is a very good series. Each book introduces us to another one (or more than one) of “The Five.” “The Five” consists of five teenagers that are destined to protect the world against The Old Ones – a race of creatures that are the stuff of ancient myth, and legends. Book 3, Nightrise, follows two of “The Five,” in Jamie and Scott Tyler, twin brothers that share a special connection with each other, and the power to strongly influence others. Book three’s story begins with the brothers performing on stage during a magic act. As the stars of the show, they perform fantastic tricks. For example, one brother seeing something on one side of the room, and the brother other telling him and the crowd what he sees without seeing that something himself. It is this moment when we start to understand how Jamie and Scott are connected, but only on the surface. They can, in fact, do much more. This won’t be revealed until later in the story. It is, at this same performance, that several men have come to validate the claim they’ve heard – that Jamie and Scott Tyler have special, unexplained powers. We learn, during one of the audience ticks – one brother seeing a business card in the audience, and the other brother saying what he sees from the stage – that these men represent the Nightrise corporation. Later we learn that its a company that is aware of The Old Ones, and collects children with special gifts. Once convinced of their power, these two men meet up with Jamie and Scott’s guardian, the man who produces the show. We also learn that he called Nightrise, and that he’s willing to sell his boys for around a few hundred thousand dollars. After the inciting incicent, we follow the boys as they are captured, then get away, and then separated. We learn more about them, and their destiny as they do. For me, this was the book that started to try to link all the separate storilines together. There not only is some mention of Matt and Pedro (two other boys of “The Five,”) but there is a whole sequence of dreamworld battle that I found to be quite a bit confusing at first. This might be partially because I was listening to the audiobook version of the book, but the story seemed just kind of jump storilines. Once I realized what was going on, it was helpful to put everything in context across multiple books, multiple characters, and multiple universes(?) While I’ve shared some of the early plot points, I won’t reveal any of the key plot points to this book, or some of the critical information that connects the books across the series. I will say specific to book 3 that there is definately a vein similar to Stephen King’s, The Dead Zone – at least in a reverse, round about sort of way. For more on that, you’ll have to pick up the books 🙂 All in all, this is a good book and a very good series. If you like action, suspense, with an occasional bit of creepy ambiance, this book would be worth checking out. If you’ve read Nightrise, let me know what you think in the comments!  

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