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

AmazonButtonGoodreadsButton

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: The Scorch Trials

review-cover-the scorch trialsTitle: The Scorch Trials [The Maze Runner 2]

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic

Rating: 5 Stars

AmazonButton

GoodreadsButton

Description/Synopsis:

Solving the Maze was supposed to be the end.

Thomas was sure that escape from the Maze would mean freedom for him and the Gladers. But WICKED isn’t done yet. Phase Two has just begun. The Scorch.

There are no rules. There is no help. You either make it or you die.

The Gladers have two weeks to cross through the Scorch—the most burned-out section of the world. And WICKED has made sure to adjust the variables and stack the odds against them.

Friendships will be tested. Loyalties will be broken. All bets are off.

There are others now. Their survival depends on the Gladers’ destruction—and they’re determined to survive.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Another great book by James Dashner. I started the Maze Runner series with my 11 year old some months ago, and we’ve now finished the second book together… and boy what a ride it was.  Like his other books, The Scorch Trails by James Dashner was well written. The writing was clear, easy to follow, flowed at a nice pace, and lacked any obvious errors. Other than the authors predisposition towards using commas without conjunctions, I found no technical errors or blips within the narrative.

Like the first book, the characters were well written—each with his or her own voice and personality, and though few of the characters get as much screen time as the golden few (Thomas, Theresa, Newt, Frypan and Minho), I didn’t feel like they were absent from the story. The world building was well done and I got sucked in easily.

The book was a bit darker than I’d expected, as odd as that may sound. The Maze Runner felt like a mystery adventure with bits of horror thrown in for good measure… but The Scorch Trials seemed to be more dark, more tense, and more gory than its predecessor. The pace was a little slower, and the narrative less humorous, but I think that it fit the book well. Every time I ended a chapter I felt the pull to press on—to discover what lay in store for the Gladers and Group B. I never wanted to put the book down.

There’s a lot I want to say about Theresa, Brenda, Jorge and Aris, but I’m going to keep it to myself. Anyone who enjoyed the previous book should give the second book in the series a look.  It’s a bit less light-hearted than the first book… a bit darker, but it’s still a fantastic read, and I don’t want to spoil it for anyone. I’d happily recommend this to anyone looking for a smart YA Dystopian fiction to pick up. The book is fine for middle-grade readers… other than a few tame kisses, there’s nothing inappropriate… but it may be a bit scary for younger readers who aren’t used to horror. My 11 year old only got creeped out once (Hint: Nose. Vent. Table) but was otherwise unaffected. I loved the book, and I’m excited to move on to the third in the series soon!

Book Review: The Maze Runner

review-cover-the maze runnerTitle: The Maze Runner [The Maze Runner 1]

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Young Adult, Dystopian, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

AmazonButton

GoodreadsButton

Description/Synopsis:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He’s surrounded by strangers–boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It’s the only way out–and no one’s ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

It honestly amazes me how many bad reviews I’ve read about this book. I’ll admit, The Maze Runner by James Dashner appeared on my To-Be-Read list solely because I knew there was a movie coming out for it—and gosh darn it, for once, I was going to read a book before the movie came out… not one week after. Determined to see what all the fuss was about, I dug in, and couldn’t have been more pleasantly surprised.

For being a relatively new Young Adult book (Published within the last decade), The Maze Runner has a remarkably nostalgic feel to the way it’s written. It took me back to the early 90’s when Young Adult books were full of adventure and intelligent teens—not sex-crazed airheads. The characters within this novel were well written, and though the author didn’t delve too deeply into their characterization, I felt that perhaps the lack of complexity to the characters somewhat help bolster the impact of the most important character of all… the maze itself.

The world building in this book was flawless. Between the way the characters spoke, reacted to their environment, and the hints of a much greater backdrop, I was immediately sucked into the insular world of Thomas and the Gladers. Thomas was an intelligent character with the tendency to sit back and soak in his world before making too many judgments, and it was easy to see why he became the sort of pseudo-leader he did to these boys. He wasn’t the type of boy to demand a leadership role, but fell into it naturally. He was happy to sit back and let the other strong characters lead, but when needed, he didn’t back away from stepping up. You could tell that he was always thinking, analyzing the puzzles around him, and though he sometimes let his emotions get the best of him, he was a strong character with an innate sense of right and wrong.

This was by no means a complex edge-of-your-seat type of book, but I think that the messages this book presents to young teens are more important than the action and brutality of what is happening to the kids in the maze. There are ever-present themes of friendship, loyalty, courage, selflessness—helping those in need even if it is easier not to, and a strength of character that tells teens to never give up. Never give in to the fear of what may happen—push on instead. Do what is right despite the nay-sayers.

The narrative itself was a bit slow-paced. Thomas was a bit of an observer. He liked to puzzle out what was happening before jumping in, and this came across in the way the book was paced. The first chapter was exceedingly slow, and if you don’t enjoy slow-paced books, it could throw you off. I implore the readers out there to stick with it. The Maze Runner was such a gem. I would happily read this story again (actually, I am—to my 10 year old), and I’m glad I picked it up in the first place. I’d certainly recommend it to any Young Adult Fiction fans out there. It’d make a great discussion piece for students. I can’t wait to dive into the next book in the series!