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

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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: Bad Apple

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Title: Bad Apple [The Warner Grimoire 1]

Author: Clay Held

Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Fantasy, Paranormal, Adventure, Middle-Grade

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Simon Warner isn’t having a very good October. To start with, he drowned, and then the real trouble started. Next thing he knows, he’s back among the living, there’s a ghostly voice rattling around in his head, and a nasty ghoul has burned down his home and kidnapped his adoptive father.

But even that is just the beginning. A mysterious stranger draws Simon deep into the hidden world of the supernatural: a dangerous place full of vicious monsters, cunning madmen, and unbelievable magic. There Simon finds not only loyal friends, but powerful enemies lurking around every corner, and a dangerous legacy that’s been waiting for him. Cheating death has also revealed a terrible secret: Simon is a warlock by birth, and with powers like his, he is destined to embrace evil.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ll admit, this book was a bit of a push for me. When I first picked up Bad Apple by Clay Held months ago, I didn’t enjoy it. A handful of pages in, I was ready to toss out the book. There were a few small typos—nothing too jarring—but mainly… the opening sequence just didn’t interest me. The narrative was wordy, awkwardly phrased, and it was hard to follow what was going on. In fact, other than providing Simon with a fear of water, the whole opening sequence didn’t seem to have any impact on the story as a whole. It was a bit like a needless prologue, and it bored me.

Months passed, and determined not to let this book become lost in the depths of my TBR pile, I picked it back up… desperately hoping that the second chapter would be better. To my surprise, it was. A lot better. The story quickly developed into a gripping, magic-filled adventure for 14 year old Simon Warner, and was filled with colorful characters. I’ll admit, I got sucked in.

I loved the character of Nathan—he was probably my favorite—and he reminded me of a character out of a comical wild-west drama. I mean, how do you not love a man who walks brazenly into a room and introduces himself as: “Nathan Alan Tamerlane, born in a summer storm, raised in the rain.” Likewise, I’ll admit some affection towards Penny, Luke, and the adorable Malik. Were all the characters as entertaining? No. There was a fair share of one-off characters that showed up, introduced themselves, and were never mentioned again. This includes Molly and Zoey, the two women in Simon’s life. They show up in the first couple of chapters of the book, and don’t reappear until the very last chapter. Frankly, by the time their names were mentioned again, I’d forgotten who they were.

For the most part, the story was well written. It kept a decent pace, the characters were interesting, and the world building was well fleshed out. Unfortunately, the book wasn’t all rainbows and puppies in that department. There was a lot to this book that wasn’t explained or resolved. In the end, the plot didn’t feel resolved, and it didn’t feel like Simon and his friends had actually accomplished anything. Other than rescuing Sam…. everything was left open. It was a bit of a disappointment in that regard. I really wish more had been explained or resolved in a way that made the ending feel more complete. I understand the need to leave the plot open for future books in the series—but the book felt like a bit of a goose chase. Simon’s adventure had him running around all over the place, learning new things and meeting new people, but he didn’t accomplish anything. He eventually returned home and things went back to normal. It wasn’t satisfying.

Overall, I liked the book. It wasn’t the best YA fantasy book I’ve ever read—in fact, it’s probably better suited to the middle-grade crowd. Simon wasn’t a super intelligent character, and he had a tendency to bumble along through the story, not understanding what was going on or listening to what anyone told him. This certainly wasn’t what I’d call an intellectual read. The novel had some definite flaws, but I did enjoy the adventure. Would I read it again? Maybe. I’ll admit, there were some times when I got lost and began to skim, and another read-through might give me a more solid opinion of the story. Would I recommend it? Yes. I think so. The series holds a lot of promise, and it has some really great characters.  I’d suggest this story for anyone who enjoys middle-grade fantasy adventures. It won’t be for everyone, but it is an entertaining read.

Book Review: Dealing With Dragons [Enchanted Forest Chronicles 1]

 

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Title: Dealing With Dragons [Enchanted Forest Chronicles 1]

Author: Patricia C. Wrede

Genre: Middle-Grade, Children’s, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Take one bored princess. Maker her the seventh daughter in a very proper royal family. Have her run away.


Add one powerful, fascinating, dangerous dragon.

Princess Cimorene has never met anyone (or anything) like the dragon Kazul. But then, she’s never met a witch, a jinn, a death-dealing talking bird, or a stone prince either.

Princess Cimorene ran away to find some excitement.

She’s found plenty.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I’ve done something I haven’t done in a very long time. I read a middle-grade book. More importantly: I thoroughly enjoyed a middle-grade book. I first stumbled upon this series about 18 years ago, when I was 12. It was one of the first fantasy books I ever picked up in middle-school, and it left enough of an impression that many years later, as an adult, I was willing to pick it back up. Surprisingly, I had loved the book so much all those years ago, that I still remembered almost the entire plot.

Dealing with Dragons at it’s heart is a story about the Princess Cimorene. She’s the youngest of seven daughters, and the only one who detests being a princess. She’d like nothing more than to do something exciting with her life—and she tries. She takes fencing lessons, cooking lessons, even learns foreign languages for fun, but her plans are always put to a stop by her over-bearing parents, and when they start to arrange her marriage for her, she decides enough is enough. Cimorene runs away and throws everything to the wind, giving up her life of riches and nobility to become a dragon’s maid.

What ensues is a hilarious romp through Middle-grade fantasy with an empowered princess who isn’t going to let anyone tell her what to do with her life anymore. In the process she makes friends like the dragon Kazul, Alianora the neighboring captured princess, a stone prince,  and Morwen the witch. She fights a dastardly wizard, fends off enamored knights and princes intent on “rescuing her”, and has the adventure of her life.

This book is a hilarious twist on your usual fairytale, and I’d highly recommend it to anyone—children and adults alike. Get the entire box set, you won’t regret it.  I’d personally recommend it for anyone 3rd grade and up.