Book Review: The Passage at Moose Beach

reviewcover-the passage at moose beachTitle: The Passage At Moose Beach

Author: Michael Foster

Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy Adventure

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

In the wilds of Idaho, an adventurous young girl stumbles into an alternate dimension that’s plagued by a tyrannical creature and faces a life-threatening curse as she struggles to find her way home. Eleven-year-old Alicia encounters unusual, surprising friends and terrifying enemies as she embarks on an unexpected and magical journey in nature.

The story takes the reader to a land not so far from home, yet farther than imagined, perhaps another realm, that looks much like what we see around us on earth today, but nothing is what it seems. Alicia sets out on a difficult journey to discover a way home, finding compassion and friendship along the way. She meets a squirrel named Mickey, a jay named Briar, and Fiona, the enigmatic deer, who help her fight terrible foes and comes face to face with Bristleback, the fearsome mountain troll. Though Alicia and her friends help each other overcome crippling fear, can they find a way to stop “The Drying” which threatens them all?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I wish I could say I enjoyed The Passage at Moose Beach by Michael Foster – The cover was cute, what I read of the synopsis sounded fun… but I’ll be honest, I was underwhelmed. The problem for me wasn’t the story or the plot itself, but rather the way the book was written.

Frankly, I found the prologue of the book to be useless in the context of the story – there wasn’t any information or particular scene there that was necessary to the whole of the book – it was more of a short synopsis of the setting than anything else. I thought, surely, the story will start in chapter one then… but after six pages of description of the setting – down to the weather patterns from month to month… I gave up. I did not finish this book. I was bored, and honestly, I can’t see a middle-grade reader sitting through that many pages of setting description without anything actually happening. I certainly can’t imagine the entire book being written this way without becoming a slog.

In the end, I set the book aside. The writing didn’t draw me in. A good editor might be able to shave this down into a more concise and engaging story, but I don’t think it’s there yet.

Book Review: The Forever Sea

reviewcover-the forever seaTitle: The Forever Sea [The Forever Sea 1]

Author: Joshua Phillip Johnson

Genre: Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

On the never-ending, miles-high expanse of prairie grasses known as the Forever Sea, Kindred Greyreach, hearthfire keeper and sailor aboard harvesting vessel The Errant, is just beginning to fit in with the crew of her new ship when she receives devastating news. Her grandmother–The Marchess, legendary captain and hearthfire keeper–has stepped from her vessel and disappeared into the sea.

But the note she leaves Kindred suggests this was not an act of suicide. Something waits in the depths, and the Marchess has set out to find it.

To follow in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kindred must embroil herself in conflicts bigger than she could imagine: a water war simmering below the surface of two cultures; the politics of a mythic pirate city floating beyond the edges of safe seas; battles against beasts of the deep, driven to the brink of madness; and the elusive promise of a world below the waves.

Kindred finds that she will sacrifice almost everything–ship, crew, and a life sailing in the sun–to discover the truth of the darkness that waits below the Forever Sea.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I read a lot of books within a year, often more than a hundred, and I can honestly say that The Forever Sea by Joshua Phillip Johnson is easily the best book I’ve read this year. The world of The Forever Sea is masterfully crafted and comes to life through the quick flow of the narrative and vibrant description through the eyes of the protagonist, Kindred. The world-building is full of fantastical settings, people, and magic – and the plot is full of adventure, mystery, and just a sliver of romance. There are pirates, great leviathans, the endless grass sea, the magic of bones, flame, and song. Birds that speak secrets, and the endless fathoms of the dark unknown.

I loved everything about this book, and I can guarantee, if you like fantasy, you’ll also love this book. I refuse to spoil this story for anyone, but seriously, give it a read. You won’t regret it. I am so excited to read further into this series.

Book Review: Cinders & Sparrows

reviewcover-cinders and sparrowsTitle: Cinders & Sparrows

Author: Stefan Bachmann

Genre: Middle-Grade, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

When a scarecrow climbs over the garden wall, delivering twelve-year-old orphan Zita Brydgeborn a letter saying she has inherited a distant castle, she jumps at the chance of adventure. But little does she know that she is about to be thrust into a centuries-old battle between good and evil. Blackbird Castle was once home to a powerful dynasty of witches, all of them now dead under mysterious circumstances. Zita is the last of her line. And Zita, unfortunately, doesn’t know the first thing about being a witch.

As she begins her lessons in charms and spells with her guardian, Mrs. Cantanker, Zita makes new allies—a crow, a talking marble head, two castle servants just her age named Bram and Minnifer, and the silent ghost of a green-eyed girl. But who is friend and who is foe? Zita must race to untangle her past and find the magic to save the home she’s always hoped for. Because whatever claimed the souls of her family is now after her.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Cinders & Sparrows by Stefan Bachmann was a fantastic Middle-Grade Fantasy Adventure, full of magic, deception, the dead, and an adorable little ghost puppy. What more could a reader ask for? I sincerely enjoyed every moment of this fantastic tale.

The characters were endearing or in the case of a certain wanna-be-witch whom I shall not name… at least interesting. The setting was gloriously rich and full of fantastical creatures and magical nonsense to delight and enthrall any reader. The narrative was well-written, well-edited, and sucked me into the story from the very beginning until the very end.

I ended up reading through this little gem in one sitting and would heartily recommend it to any middle-grade reader (or older). Don’t let the fact that the main character is only 12 keep you from enjoying this book. You won’t regret it.

Book Review: Dino Crisis

review-cover-dino crisisTitle: Dino Crisis [Stranded 1]

Author: Chris Liberty

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

A group of researchers led by Dr. Emmanuel Hernandez gains a permit to visit the quarantined Ilha da Morte to prove either the truth or the fallacy of the whispered rumors of a giant lizard that lurks within the dark, unexplored jungles.

One problem after another plagues their mission, starting with their boat sinking during the landing, followed immediately by the loss of their satellite phone and the death of a team member. The expedition, now cut off from the world, takes a more dangerous turn when hooting and roaring in the night reveals not only that the animal they seek is real, but that there’s more than one.

And they come closer each night.

The creatures soon prove to be the least of the team’s problems after encountering another group intent on keeping the island–and everything on it–secret from the rest of the world, even if they have to kill to accomplish it.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I desperately wanted to like this book. You simply can’t understand how much I love dinosaurs… but at 4% into Dino Crisis by Chris Liberty, I was ready to give up.

To be fair, I can’t judge this book on its plot, characters, or a myriad of other important factors. What I can, and will judge this book on, is the writing itself.

It was awful.

The narrative was dripping with over-done description that made it seem overly dramatic. Each sentence was complex to the point of making it seem as if the author was trying their best to fit as many descriptors as possible into each line. It wasn’t subtle. The absolute worst of which, was the character introductions, which floundered in during an actin-packed escape from a sinking boat, ruining the pace. The author dragged the reader through introduction after introduction, each complete with name, occupation, a description of their hair (which seemed to always include how said hair defied the weather in some manner) and then a litany of physical description. It was so tedious and obvious that it was physically painful to read.

So, I gave up. I wish I could say more about this book – but I simply couldn’t get past the rudimentary writing. This book is badly in need of an editor. Maybe the story is fantastic, maybe the characters are full of depth and well-spoken… but if your writing makes it impossible to sink into the story and get to those things, something is wrong, and it needs to be addressed.

Book Review: Lost Girl

cover-review-lost girlTitle: Lost Girl [The Neverwood Chronicles 1]

Author: Chanda Hahn

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Thriller, Adventure, Science Fiction, Paranormal

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Wendy doesn’t remember anything about Neverland—or the experiments done on her there as a child. Seven years later, all she wants is a normal life, but shape-shifting shadows plague her dreams and turn her life into a waking nightmare. When the shadows attack at a football game and a boy disappears right in front of her, she realizes these wraith-like shadows are real. They’re not just haunting—they’re hunting.

A mysterious boy named Peter, his foul-mouthed sidekick, and a band of misfit boys intervene before Wendy faces a similar fate. But can they trust Wendy enough to take her to Neverwood Academy and reveal all of their hidden secrets when she’s hiding a secret of her own, or will the dreaded Red Skulls find her and drag her back to Neverland?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Lost Girl by Chanda Hahn was a familiar story with a science fiction twist that was both delightful and fast paced. The author did an excellent job of taking the well-known children’s story of Peter Pan and twisting it into a face-paced YA Thriller/Romance. There were themes of genetic manipulation, human testing, super-powers, and even a taste of the supernatural.

Technically speaking, the book was well written. At times the repetitive use of character names could come off as a bit overdone, but it was easy to understand why the author chose to do it. The style of the book was easy to follow and understand for teen readers without dumbing it down too much or over-hinting at any of the story twists. There were some surprising twists and turns to the story, and I found the characters complex enough to hold my interest despite their familiarity. The romance was expected, but intriguing once the unfamiliar character of Jax was introduced.

Overall, I enjoyed the story and would certainly consider moving on in the series. I’ll be interested in seeing how this series pans out.

Book Review : Feel Me Fall

review-cover-feel me fallTitle: Feel Me Fall

Author: James Morris

Genre: Young Adult, Thriller, Survival, Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Emily Duran is the sole survivor of a plane crash that left her and her teenage friends stranded and alone in the jungles of the Amazon. Lost and losing hope, they struggle against the elements, and each other. With their familiar pecking order no longer in place, a new order emerges, filled with power struggles, betrayals, secrets and lies. Emily must explain why she’s the last left alive.

But can she carry the burden of the past?

Discover the gripping new adventure novel that explores who we are when no one is watching, and how far we’ll go in order to survive.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Feel Me Fall by James Morris is perhaps one of the best books I’ve read yet this year. Part adventure, part thriller, I was sucked into the vivid narrative voice.

The book was flawlessly written as far as the technical aspect goes; it flowed at a steady pace, it was easy to read and held just enough description to make the story come to life without feeling bogged down. The characters were full of depth, and even if I didn’t like all of them, they were at least interesting. I found the struggle of survival for the teens both disturbing and realistic. Combined with a few twists and turns to the plot here and there, and it proved to be a gripping story.

Honestly, I have nothing bad to say about this book. If you’re looking for a somewhat realistic story of survival and adventure, I’d definitely recommend you pick this up. I’m excited to pick up more from this author in the future!

Book Review: As We Know It

review-cover-as we know itTitle: As We Know It

Author: Carrie Butler

Genre: Romance, Survival, Adventure, Natural Disaster

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Deep beneath the ocean, stretching hundreds of miles alongside the Pacific Northwest coastline, lies the Cascadia subduction zone—a fault on the verge of unleashing a catastrophic earthquake, thirty times more powerful than the San Andreas. Unfortunately, like most tourists, Elena Cordova is oblivious.

She’s got her own pent-up stress to deal with, a humiliating breakup that’s driven her to end her tenure as a human doormat once and for all. So, when a pickpocket makes off with the last remnant of her relationship, she takes action—only to get trapped with him when disaster strikes.

Now, if either one hopes to survive, they’ll have to get past their initial impressions and work together . . . because in fifteen minutes, half the town will be underwater.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a fantastic read. Honestly. I’ll admit, I was a little thrown off by how this book began. I opened it up, and for a few short minutes, I sank into what felt every bit to be a contemporary romance. I forgot for a moment that the cover looked apocalyptic, and then BOOM, everything changed—much like, I imagine, it changed for Elena and Vincent.

As We Know It by Carrie Butler was a gripping survival tale that I felt, portrayed a natural disaster situation in a reasonably accurate light. The situation felt not only real, but plausible every step of the way, and I was sucked into the harrowing world of Elena and Vincent for a few hours. The book was wonderfully well written. I only found a couple of typos, and nothing jarring enough to pull me out of the story. The characters were complex and imperfect, but genuine. The romance was surprisingly sweet, and the banter between the two lead characters was compelling and dynamic.

I honestly don’t have anything to complain about with this book. I absolutely adored it. It was tense, gritty, believable, and heartwarming all at once. If you’re looking for a gripping adventure story, look no further.

Book Review: A Threat From The Past

 

review-cover-a threat from the pastTitle: Bentwhistle the Dragon: A Threat From The Past

Author: Paul Cude

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Adventure

Rating: 1 Star (DNF)

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Description/Synopsis:

Bentwhistle the Dragon in A Threat from the Part is an adventure story children and adults alike will love, about the present day world in which dragons disguised as humans have infiltrated the human race at almost every level, to guide and protect them.Three young dragons in their human guises become caught up in an evil plot to steal a precious commodity, vital to the dragon community. How will the reluctant hero and his friends fare against an enemy of his race from far in the past?Fascinating insights into the dragon world are interspersed throughout the book. Ever wondered how dragons travel below ground at almost the speed of sound? Or how they use magical mantras to transform their giant bodies into convincing human shapes? In an action packed adventure that features both human and dragon sports, you’ll get a dragon-like perspective on human social issues and insight into what to do if you meet a giant spider grinning at you when you’re wearing nothing but your smile You’d be flamin’ mad to miss it.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I tried to get into this book. It sat on my TBR list for two years while I picked it up, set it aside, picked it up again, set it aside… again. I just couldn’t get into it. I’m not a huge fan of high fantasy, to begin with, but it was clear from the outset that I was going to have a problem mostly with the way the book was written. To be honest, the writing was weak. There was a lot of the author telling his readers what was happening, without putting any effort into showing them the world so they could come to their own conclusions. The narrative was written in an extremely passive manner and was littered with cliché phrases.

In spite of its size the dragon was clearly agitated, roaring occasionally, scraping the large claws on its feet along the top of the rubble on either side of it, and banging its tail into the ground intermittently.

Why “in spite of its size”? That has nothing to do with the fact that it was agitated. Why are you telling us that it’s agitated, to begin with? Why not show us with the roaring and the scraping and let it speak for itself?

As the apparently inevitable drew closer, the sprinting knight managed to find a little more speed and at the spit second before hitting the tip of the flame, dived headlong towards the cobbles.

Why “apparently inevitable”? There were so many instances of “apparently” and “seemingly” just in the first chapter that I grew frustrated with each new reiteration.

“For all intents and purposes, yes,” said the knight.

Why not just say “Yes.”?

“I require no reward. I’m sorry for the loss of life and damage to your city,” the knight replied in a heartfelt manner. “I have companions who as we speak are making their way there with great haste to assist with what has happened this day, among them healers and engineers. I ask that they are allowed to help out as best they can, and also that you not address me as Sir, as I have not yet earned that title, but by my name: George.”

The lack of appropriate punctuation aside, the dialogue was heavily crafted and monologue-esque. It didn’t feel real. I kept pushing, but by the end of the first chapter, it was clear that the entire book was going to be written in this way, and I just couldn’t push myself to keep reading. When I start a story, I want to be gripped by it. I want to be pulled in and several hours later find myself staring blankly at the last word of the story wondering how I got there so quickly and why it had to end. I didn’t have that with this. There may be a reader out there somewhere (probably a middle-grade reader) that will absolutely love this story, but It isn’t for me. I’m setting it aside and moving on to something a little more thoughtfully crafted.

Book Review: The Journal of Curious Letters

review-cover-the journal of curious lettersTitle: The Journal of Curious Letters [The 13th Reality 1]

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

What if every choice you made created an alternate reality? InThe Journal of Curious Letters, Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is an average thirteen-year-old boy until the day he receives a strange letter informing him that dangerous— perhaps even deadly—events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. Tick will be sent twelve riddles that, when solved, will reveal the time and place of an extraordinary happening. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues and discover the life he was meant to live? Tick’s journey continues in The Hunt for Dark Infinity! Mistress Jane and the Chi’karda are back. Tick and Mistress Jane race to find the deadly Dark Infinity weapon. But who will destroy it—and who will become its master?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a gem! I picked up this book for my 12-year-old daughter and we ended up reading it together. I’m glad to say that I honestly found this to be a joy to read.

The book was exceptionally well written and full of colorful characters. There were funny, heartwarming, action-filled, and even creepy moments throughout the book as Tick worked to solve the mystery of the 13 clues he received from one very odd Master George and his companions, Rutger and Mothball (who was definitely one of our favorite characters).

One of my favorite aspects of the book as a parent, though, was the relationship Tick had with his father. Where most children’s books seem to either omit the parents, or fall into the trope of having the parents not believe their children, James Dashner crafted The Journal of Curious Letters in such a way that not only did Tick turn to his father with his worries, but Tick’s father believed his son—and helped him! It was a great moment to witness in a children’s book, and I and my daughter had a great talk about how important it was for kids to talk to their parents about their worries, and for parents to listen to them and take them seriously.

Overall, we found loved the book. It was exciting, funny, and full of interesting characters. It’s a bit of a long book, but I’m not complaining—we never wanted to put it down, and often read 5-10  chapters together a night until it was finished.

Book Review: Out of the Ashes

Pageflex Persona [document: PRS0000037_00037]Title: Out of the Ashes [The Ending 3]

Author: Lindsey Fairleigh, Lindsey Pogue

Genre: Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, Post-Apocalyptic, Romance, Adventure

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Hope brought them together, but it’s now fear that drives them…and threatens to tear them apart.
Zoe and her companions succeeded in rescuing Dani from the Colony. But not without sacrifice. Beaten and broken, they head west, determined to leave behind the torment and horrors they experienced in Colorado.

As Dani and Zoe make the perilous trek home to Bodega Bay, they learn that danger can take many forms–other survivors, their friends, even themselves–and that things are rarely what they seem. Zoe is desperate to become the woman she sees in others’ memories, while Dani struggles to conceal damaging secrets, risking losing herself–her humanity–completely. Together, they must rediscover the true meaning of friendship, love, and trust, and learn just how hard they’re willing to fight for what remains of their shattered world.

As relationships are put to the test, second chances are given, and new life emerges, death lurks in the most unlikely of places. To survive, Dani and Zoe must accept that sometimes hope alone isn’t enough.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Let me preface this review by saying that I adore this series as a whole–I’ve been following it from the moment I was sent the ARC of the first book–but this installment to the series wasn’t my favorite. It’s been more than a year since I read the second book in The Ending series, so going into Out of the Ashes by Lindsey Fairleigh and Lindsey Pogue, I had a bit of a hard time sinking in. Like Zoe, one of the main characters of the series, I felt like I had a form of amnesia. I couldn’t remember what had happened previously in the series, particularly near the ending of the second book, and so being dropped into the fast-paced and somewhat alarming beginning of the third book, I was rightfully confused. It took me a while to sort out what was happening and to remind myself of previous plot points… and in that way, I felt very close to Zoe in her struggle with trying to remember her past. It was an unexpected and strange sisterhood between us throughout the book.

Technically speaking, the book was exceedingly well written. I didn’t run into any grammatical errors, typos, or punctuation problems. The characters were all distinct, easy to love or hate respectively, and the story moved along at a steady pace. The setting was rich with detail but not so much as to bog down the narrative, and overall, I enjoyed the book as a whole.

There was only one problem.

I slogged through the book. It was odd how slowly I moved through the story–and it took me till nearly the end of the book to figure out why. There were no big battles or dramatic plot points. The majority of the book was spent delving into the character’s emotional states and the relationships between the members of their group… but very little was spent in any sort of action scene or on any sort of big battle with a nemesis. It was all very interesting–don’t get me wrong.. but by the end of the book, I was left feeling that nothing had happened. As much as I enjoyed spending time with the characters, by the end I was glad to finally be done and to set the book aside and move on. I’m even a little hesitant now to pick up the fourth book, though I will be doing so shortly… this installment just wasn’t as tension filled as I’d come to expect–although, thank goodness, there was a lot more of the romance present that had been missing from the second book in the series.

If you like post-apocalyptic stories filled with special abilities and great characters, I highly recommend this series, even if this wasn’t my favorite out of the bunch.