Review: Lily, the Brave — Katherine Hodges

 

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Title: Lily, the Brave

Author: Katherine Hodges

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 266

Summary: “Lily has a soft spot for helping people, but is it really worth the risk? Her life was already hard enough after the accident. How can she possibly deal with being a superhero too? Seventeen year old Lily Harrison is given an incredible gift. She doesn’t really want it, but she’s stuck with it. Lily’s best friend convinces her it can be used for the good of mankind, but it only seems to bring her trouble and put everyone around her in danger. Using her gift would force her out of her comfort zone and into the realm of top secret assignments, late night stake outs, and constantly looking over her shoulder. All she wants is to be a normal introverted teenager, hang out with her best friend, crush on a gorgeous guy from a distance, and pass algebra at the end of the semester. Lily would give anything for a normal, quiet, life. One thing is for sure, her life will never be the same again.”

Cover Review: Not everyone likes photography on covers, but I think this one was really well done. I LOVE the font of the title, and having some of the thoughts she hears on the cover is a very interesting concept. Overall, I think it’s a beautiful cover.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I’m not exactly sure what made me think that, but I did. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I was proven totally wrong, because I ended up loving this book. The premise was totally unique, and the story was wonderful! I really wish and hope that there will be a second book coming out, because I would LOVE to read more about these characters and their lives!

Characters: So this was pretty crazy…  I wasn’t sure what to think of the characters at first, but I quickly grew to love them! Each of them underwent a huge amount of character development throughout the book, and they were each a good, well-written character in their own right. When reading this book, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were relegated to second class roles like “love interest” or “optimistic best friend”, because even though some of them may have had those traits, they were real people, first. Except, obviously, not, you know… real. 

Plot: Now this was the truly crazy bit. This book was a YA spy thriller with a gifted teenager going on top secret missions. There were times I was screaming at the book, laughing out loud, or gasping in shock. And then there was also that time when I got to one of the huge climactic moments of story and just then — my break was over at work and I had to clock back in. Yeah, that wasn’t fun, because then I spent the rest of my ten hour shift anxiously waiting to figure out what happened next. 

Content Advisory: A girl gets pushed down the stairs and is in a coma, scenes of bullying occur, and there is some kissing in the book. There are some relatively intense scenes of stalking and kidnapping that might be too much for some readers. Gunfights and violence occur, but are generally off screen. Overall, it’s a pretty mild and age-appropriate YA novel. 

To Sum It Up: This book was really awesome. Like, I know people (myself definitely included) way over use that word, but I mean it. This book reminded me of the books I used to go to the library, pick off a shelf at random, and then finish by the next morning, back when I was 13 or 14. It’s just one of those genuinely good quality and enjoyable books. I’m really looking forward to the sequel! highly recommend this book to readers 13 and up. 

Review: Starwarden — by J.A. Dalley

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Starwarden (Almek Manning, #2)

 

Author: J.A. Dalley

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: YA Mil-Sci-Fi / 216

Summary: “Dalton Space Force: Now Hiring!

Almek Manning survived the first part of his military training at the Solar Fleet’s boot camp, and now he must face the rigor of life at the Academy. Meanwhile, the cease-fire between the Solar Fleet and the United Monarchy of Europe is becoming increasingly fragile, and Almek has begun to wonder if he can finish his education quickly enough to help fight the war…

However, Sky Marshal Kitt, Jack Dalton, and High Admiral Numair have plans for the young midshipman, and Almek’s choices may yet decide the outcome of the war.”

Cover Review: It’s pretty. It’s a really nice outer space graphic design cover. I prefer covers with characters on them, but this one’s not bad at all. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book just as much, if not more, than I loved the first book in the series, The Zochtil. This review’s going to be short and sweet, but don’t take that as anything negative about the book. This is definitely one of my favorite books. I really did love every second of it!

The characters are believable and real, the story is unpredictable and heart-wrenching, and the world is insanely well-developed. This is one of those books that I just opened right away and knew that it would be amazing. The writing captivates you immediately, and you quickly get invested in the lives of these insanely cool and well-developed characters.  

Wow. I REALLY loved this book. It is a genuinely GOOD book. Nearly impossible to put down, it’s the kind of book that you wholeheartedly enjoy the entire time. Spectacularly well-written. Honestly, I was a bit afraid that it would seem unrealistic to have a teenager fresh out of the Academy change the course of battles/war, however, it wasn’t that way at all. There was nothing about this book that seemed rushed or unbelievable.

It was a solid novel. Fast paced, but you never got left behind or confused as you do in many of the novels nowadays (Champion, Shadow Throne, etc.). You were NEVER bored, and even though it revolves 100% around the military and interstellar maneuvering, you never get lost in the anagrams, mil slang, or complicated physics.

The plot and the characters were PERFECT! I really love these characters, and I loved the story ARC of this book. J.A. perfectly crafted a sense of foreboding prior to major plot twists, but you never knew WHAT was going to happen… just that it wasn’t going to be pretty. The timing of the plot and events was PERFECTION.

Did I mention I love the characters? Their interaction is THE BEST. The implants, too. And the psychological damage of war and wartime promotion. And basically just the whole book. This is a book that you come out of feeling satisfied. Wanting to know what happens next, yes, but HAPPY with the book as a whole.

To Sum it Up: I never really thought that I would read and enjoy Young Adult Military Science Fiction (man, that’s quite the mouthful for a genre, isn’t it?), but there’s just something about the writing, characters, and plot of this book that make it unforgettable and impossible to put down. highly recommend this book to readers 11 and up.

 

Review: Edna in the Desert — by Maddy Lederman

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Edna in the Desert

 

Author: Maddy Lederman

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (3.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fiction / 184

Summary: “Can a Beverly Hills teen survive without a smart phone, Internet, and TV? Edna will find out.
Edna is thirteen, a precocious troublemaker wreaking havoc at her Beverly Hills school. Her therapist advocates medication, but her parents come up with an alternative cure: Edna will spend the summer in the desert with her grandparents. Their remote cabin is cut off from cell phone service, Internet and television. Edna’s determined to rebel until she meets an older local boy and falls in love for the first time. How can she get to know him from the edge of nowhere?”

Cover Review: Meh. It tells me nothing about the book, and doesn’t really incline me to pick it up. It’s a low-budget graphic design, nothing more. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. Weird disclaimer, of sorts. I wrote this review three years ago, but forgot to post it to my blog, so here ya go! Short, but sweet :)

So I thoroughly enjoyed this book. 3.5 stars.
I have a bit of mixed feelings on it. I feel that the story and message of the book came across quite well, however I feel that adding the almost sex scene between a 13 year old and a 17 year old, and the 13 year old’s continued thoughts afterwards, was absolutely 100% unnecessary, and for this reason I will not recommend this book to anyone under 16, even though the rest of the book is very lenient age wise.

Content Advisory: The above mentioned scenes of a sexual nature between a 17 year old and a 13 year old. I read this when I was 16, and there was stuff in it that I hadn’t even heard yet. 

BUT, I did love the writing. The best thing? It was a very fluid easy read, that I could hardly put down! I loved the story, and I loved how it was written, and I loved the morals. They were very prominent, but not slap-you-in-the-face. It was a very thought provoking book, and I really loved it! I’m looking forward to hopefully reading more about Edna in months/years to come! I highly recommend this book, but only to readers 16 and up. 

 

 

Review: The Sailweaver’s Son — by Jeff Minerd

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: The Sailweaver’s Son (Sky Riders of Etherium, #1)

Author: Jeff Minerd

Rating:  ★★★★★★ (6 of 5 – One of the best books of all time!)

Genre/Pages: Steampunk Fantasy / 310

Summary: “The Sailweaver’s Son combines traditional fantasy with a dash of steampunk and takes readers to the world of Etherium, where mountains rise like islands above a sea of clouds and adventurers travel the sky in sail-driven airships.

When fifteen-year-old Tak rescues the survivor of an airship destroyed by one of the giant flammable gas bubbles mysteriously appearing in the sky of Etherium, the authorities react like a flock of startled grekks.

Admiral Scud accuses Tak of sabotage and treason. Tak’s father grounds him for reckless airmanship. Rumors spread that the bubbles are weapons devised by the Gublins, a race of loathsome but ingenious underground creatures. The King’s advisors call for war, hoping to win much-needed Gublin coal.

To prove his innocence, solve the mystery, and prevent a misguided war, Tak must do what anyone knows is suicide – visit the Gublins and find out what they’re up to. When the wizard’s adopted daughter, an oddly beautiful and irksomely intelligent girl from the Eastern kingdoms, asks Tak to help her do just that, he can’t say no.

The adventure will take Tak from the deepest underground caves to a desperate battle on Etherium’s highest mountaintop. It will force him to face his worst fears, and to grow up faster than he expected.”

Cover Review: Absolutely beautiful. This is the kind of cover I love to see on a book. The artwork is well-done, the colors are aesthetically pleasing, and the scene actually presents a solid idea of what the book is about. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I don’t give out six star ratings very often. It takes a very special book to receive my highest of ratings, and Sailweaver’s Son was completely worthy of it! This book automatically ranks among Percy Jackson and the Ranger’s Apprentice/Brotherband series’ as one of the single best MG/YA books ever. 

Plot: The world building was exquisite, and unlike any concept I’d ever read before. I also think this book did a beautiful job handling the after effects of war on Tak. Too often I see MG/YA characters carry on as if nothing of importance had happened after they kill their opponents. I think Jeff Minerd portrayed war with realism, while still respecting the age of his readers.  This is a steampunk fantasy world of teenagers flying airships and going on diplomatic missions for the king. This is a story of friendship, of compromise, and of peace talks. This book is more than just a fun adventure world to escape to — it’s a story people (myself definitely included) will be reading to their children for years to come. 

Characters: These were characters worth cosplaying. They were crazy awesome. They were realistically brave, dedicated, and adventurous. They were characters that I would happily read a dozen more books about. These are characters that I continue to think about and wonder about even after I’ve closed the book. Like Gregor the Overlander.  I loved these characters so much, I could hardly put this book down. 

 

Content Advisory: Death and war. Threats of torture. Lots and lots of death, but not horribly graphic… Just heartbreakingly real. 

To Sum It Up: It’s books like these that made me start this blog — books that don’t have a mainstream publishing agency promoting their book, but are a million times better than almost any book mainstream published. These are books that I need to tell the world about, because The Sailweaver’s Son makes it possible for the reader to Escape Reality — One Book at a Time ;) I highly recommend it to readers 10 and up. 

Side note: Jeff Minerd told me that he is currently working on the second book in the series, The Wizard’s Daughter. I’m super excited!

 

Review: Awakening — by Lauren Ashley

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Awakening (Hope Trilogy, #1)

Author: Lauren Ashley

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ (3 of 5 — I liked it!)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 518

Summary: “To everyone, Emma is an ordinary teenager—a forgettable
figure to most. But, little do they know that she
is about to experience an awakening after centuries of
being kept in the dark when fate finally chooses to
call upon her and reveal the secret behind her existence.
A descendent of godlike beings known as the
El-ahren, Emma is both stunned and terrified when she
learns she not only possesses special gifts and extraordinary
powers, but is also destined to save the world.
However, pitted against an evil alliance determined
to destroy her and any good left on this earth, Emma
finds it a struggle just to stay alive. Joined by those
commissioned to protect her, she must search for others
like her in order to fulfill her destiny and prevent
the resurrection of evil.”

Cover Review: This cover is a special kind of bad. It’s not straight-up awful and gross like all the romance novels with half-naked people on them, but this is just a very very low quality cover. The only thing it tells me about the book is that the protagonist is a girl. I get no other information from the cover, and overall it’s not aesthetically pleasing at all. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This one took me a very long time to get around to reading, mostly due to the sheer size of the thing. 518 pages is a lot of pages, and my main complaint about the book is that it could have (and should have) easily been cut in half. At least cut out 1/3rd of it, and the story would flow significantly better. I really enjoyed the premise of the story, and it had some amazing  plot points, but at the end of the day, it was too long for the story it had to tell. My family would see me reading it and say: “Are you still reading that Twilight book? You’re not done with it yet?”. There. Now that I have ranted about the length, I can go on to tell you all the awesome things that I truly did enjoy about this book. 

Characters: Man, these characters were epic. But I suppose hundreds of lifetimes of reincarnation will make a group of friends get pretty close. ;) Each of these characters were so unique that they each bring something completely different and original to the team.  Side note: I love character betrayals that I don’t predict ahead of time, and I never saw any of those betrayals coming! I loved getting into the heads of these characters and learning about their different powers, and how they cope with evil and tragedy. The characters were definitely the high point of the book.

Plot: This is where I had a problem with the book. The author herself compares Awakening to Twilight, and she  lives up to the comparison. So if Twilight isn’t your cup of tea, odds are this book isn’t, either… The premise of the book is something we’ve all read a million times — friends of the “Chosen One” reveal themselves to be her protectors and teach her about her “true self”. With this knowledge, hordes of demons and evil people begin to hunt her down, and she and her friends must go on the run to stay alive. But even though this book uses a simple YA fantasy formula, it’s really the details in this book that make it so great. Child seers, fragile alliances between enemies, epic battles, and so much more are what truly make this book worth reading. It feels kinda like the 39 Clues series all grown up, with some magic thrown in, just for fun.

Content Advisory: Lots of death, some of which was very graphic. Also, some really creepy, awkward, and kinda gross instances of a teenage girl hard-core lusting after a guy. I could have happily lived my whole life without ever having read her thoughts in those instances. 

To Sum It Up: Though the book certainly suffers from too many pages, the story is enjoyable, and the characters feel like your best friends. Reading this book would be a really fun way to spend a few summer days! I enjoyed Awakening, and don’t regret reading it at all.  I recommend this book to readers ages 18 and up. 

Review: The Girl Who Remembered Horses — by Linda Benson

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: The Girl Who Remembered Horses

Author: Linda Benson 

Rating:  ★★★★★ (4.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Dystopian / 214

Summary: “In a world that has forgotten the ancient bond between horses and humans, can one girl’s dreams make people remember?

Sahara travels with her clan in a future, barren environment where recyclables are bartered for sustenance, and few remember horses or their connection to humans. But Sahara has recurring dreams of riding astride on magnificent animals that run like the wind. At the Gardener’s Camp, she discovers a valuable book and learns that her visions are real. But how can she persuade others of the ancient bond between horses and humans, when she is labeled just a foolish girl?

When Sahara discovers a helpless young horse, she must use both her courage and inborn knowledge to keep the animal safe, convince others of the true worth of horses, and learn the secret of her real identity.”

Cover Review: It’s pretty, but I wish it was artwork. It’s a very nice picture, though. I dislike the fact that it’s so completely unrelated to the book. The horse doesn’t look like the horse in the book (if I’m remembering right) and overall, the cover gives a contemporary feel to the novel. I really think this book could benefit from having a cover that actually portrayed the dystopian nature of this book.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. If memory serves, I actually requested this book from the author, because the premise fascinated me so much. I’ve read plenty of equestrian fiction over the years, but equestrian dystopian? That’s completely new to me. It was a really fun book!

Characters: The characters were possibly my favorite thing about this story. The main cast of characters was good-sized, but they were all very well-developed and fascinating. They were flawed and independent and believable. I especially loved the character’s dynamics and interactions with each other — that, I think, is really where Linda Benson’s skill in writing shines the brightest. I loved each and every one of these characters, even the not-so-lovable ones, and that can be a very difficult thing for a lot of books to achieve. But The Girl Who Remembered Horses had a cast of characters that makes me desperately wish to return to the world in a sequel to learn more about them. I especially loved Sahara, who was worthy of an entire set of American Girl Doll books and merch.

Plot: The plot was really moving and emotional. It kinda felt like a Dystopian Little House on the Prairie, if that makes any sense. Thinking back on what I said about Sahara being like an AG doll, my feelings towards this book make a lot more sense. That’s exactly what this book felt like! It was a story of heart, of love, and of determination. Sahara is the American Girl Doll of the dystopian future, and her action-packed and heartwarming story illustrates that beautifully.

Content Advisory: Talk of death and butchering animals. An elderly person dies in sleep.

To Sum It Up: This is the perfect book to read with your pre-teen and teenage daughters. Who am I kidding? It’s perfect for all ages — middle grade to adult! This was a really fun and worthwhile book. It’s one of those books that I want to read to my own children one day. I highly recommend this book for readers ages 7 and up.

Review: Sage Carrington, Eighth Grade Science Sleuth — By Justin Scott Parr

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: Sage Carrington, Eighth Grade Science Sleuth

Author: Justin Scott Parr

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (3.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: MG fiction / 216

Summary: Every 12-year-old’s two favorite words: Summer vacation. No cold weather. No school. Just months of free time ahead.

Best friends Sage Carrington and Isabel Flores are making the most of their summer break when they discover an antique treasure map near the Washington Monument. But when faced with difficult clues and a bully in the form of Edwin Hooser, the tween girls must use every bit of imagination, drive, and intellect to outsmart Edwin and decipher the map.

Join Sage and Isabel on a journey through the nation’s capital as they try to solve the puzzle and recover a priceless bounty.”

Cover Review: I adore this cover! Every little thing on it comes straight out of the book, and the artwork is amazing! Fabulous attention to detail. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. As a nineteen year old, I’m not exactly the target audience for this book, but I read it to my little sister, who enjoyed it. I really have nothing against MG books, and I’ve read and enjoyed many of them, even as an adult, but this one just wasn’t really my style. I’d say it’s aimed more at 6-10, then it is at the typical MG age range of 8-12. Even though the protagonist is a 12 year old, I think the book just seems a bit younger than that.

Characters: The characters were well developed, and fun to read. I especially appreciated the real and hard issues that these characters deal with — bullying, divorce, failure, and cancer, to name a few. However, these issues are dealt with in such a way that they aren’t too intense for a middle grade audience. I think this book actually does a fabulous job of showing young children cope with these issues, and perhaps helping readers to find ways to cope with these or similar issues. The camaraderie and friendship between the two leads is beautiful and reminds me of my own childhood best friends.

Plot: The plot felt a bit all over the place at times, but overall, I think it was fast-paced enough to keep little kid’s attention, even if they can’t quite keep track of all the different things going on. Kids will for sure enjoy following Sage as she goes on her treasure hunt and various science-y adventures. 

Content Advisory: It’s a MG novel. A girl almost drowns in a pool, and a girl also gets in a crash during a soapbox car race.  Deals with topics like divorce, cancer, and bullying.

To Sum It Up: I think as an adult, this book is best read with a young child, rather than just alone. Reading it to a child helps you to enjoy and appreciate it for what it is — a fun story of adventure, friendship, and determination aimed at young children. I recommend this book to readers aged 5-10.