Monday, August 29, 2016

Witch & Wizard by James Patterson


One of the best selling authors ever takes on the young adult fantasy genre in Witch & Wizard. This series has been super hyped up with lots of praise, adds everywhere, a movie in the works....and here I am thinking this might be a smidge overrated. Sorry.

The story is that of young Whit and Wisty Allgood, a brother and sister whose lives are turned upside down when a demanding and vicious New Order arrests them and tears them away from their parents.  This is apparently because Wisty and Whit are a witch and wizard, unbeknownst to themselves, and are destined to lead the next generation to rise up against the oppressive New Order.

Okay, this one caused me a sufficient amount of eye-rolling. The major problem with this book can be summed up in one word: unsubtle! The lack of subtlety is astounding in this book. From the abbreviation of the New Order being N.O. (don't let the grown-ups tell you what you can't do kiddies) to the groan-inducing last name Allgood (look at us! We're the good guys!) and so on. The attempts at symbolism are just not clever and the message of the book is so obvious it's painful. I could take the book, hit you over the head with it several times while shouting "THE ARTS ARE IMPORTANT!" over and over and you'd get the same result.

Also the plot of this thing just baffles me. Plot holes big enough to fall into are everywhere. How did the New Order just happen overnight? If the parents are such powerful wizards, why didn't they hide their kids beforehand? Plus it feels like it drags on in unimportant places but rushes through ones that are. There's a scene near the end where a character is revealed to be a traitor but all I could think was "Who are you again? Why do we care?" Then I go back and realize I didn't know who that person was because he had one insignificant line of dialogue and two sentences telling us what he looked like and that was it.

There's nothing all that wrong with Whit and Wisty as characters except for the fact that they don't seem to do much. A bunch of stuff happens to them, but mostly they are along for the ride. Wisty in particular uses magic several times, but still manages to accomplish little. The action does pick up, though and there are some good scenes, even pretty heartbreaking moments, but you have to dig through a lot to finally get to them.

The book also has an annoying habit of referencing other books and artist but changing the names. It's here that the lack of subtlety rears its ugly head again. Gee, I wonder The Pitcher In The Wheat is supposed to be or Gary Blotter And The Guild Of Rejects is a reference to? This just makes me want to read those instead of this

Final Verdict
There is some excitement to be found in Witch & Wizard but an unrealistic premise, long stretches of boredom and a desperate lack of creativity leads me to say that, if you still wanna give it a shot, save
your cash and check it out at your local library.

Next time: She'll be back...before midnight

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

The Queen's Poisoner by Jeff Wheeler


This book is one of those rare finds that just has this effortless feel of creativity in all the right places. The Queen's Poisoner is a great take on fantasy, history, and magic that reads so well you you read a hundred pages and it would feel like nothing.

The story takes place in both a magical world that is also a "what if" history universe as well. Basically the political set up is that Richard the III had won the War of the Roses. Instead of England we're in the land of Ceredigion and, instead of Richard, the King's name is Severn. After winning the war, Severn decreed that all of the Lords who didn't take his side are to send hostages to his castle. That is how young Owen Kiskaddon, youngest son of the Duke of Westmarch, ends up at the King's castle where he becomes an a vital pawn in a game of politics between the King, his dead brother's wife the Queen, and Ankarette Tryneowy; the Queen's poisoner.

This book is just a delight. The details of Owen's life turned upside down in a world he barely understands are fast-paced and full of adventure as well as tension. The looming threat of the King's wrath and the endangerment of Owen's family is very real as the story goes on and the weight of many lives falls on the shoulders of such a young boy. Each character is put to great use. Everybody from the King to the kitchen maid are interesting and feel needed.

But probably the best and my favorite detail of this book is the element of The Fountain. This is the source of both magic and religion in this story, blessing a select few with unique powers and abilities.  Those who are Fountain Blessed can control others, as is the case with King Severn, but also have insite into a persons mind or give them prophetic dreams. The scenes with The Fountain are described beautifully, kind of like a mix between Water Bending and the Force. It's just a fantastic concept.

Final Verdict
The story is clever and gripping, the characters are rich and interesting, the plot is full of intrigue and it reads as smoothly as the waters of the Fountain. For these reasons, I have no problem adding this book to the Shelf of  Recommendation! Find it, read it, and experience it for yourself!

Next time: How does an acclaimed crime novel writer take on a young adult fantasy?


Thursday, August 18, 2016

Harmony Black by Craig Schaefer


This is the first book I'm reviewing strictly out of the YA genre. It was recommended on Amazon Prime and is the first in a series about this character, though he's written other books in this universe involving others mentioned within. I knew nothing of this, however, and just picked it up because it sounded cool.

The story is thus. Harmony Black is an FBI agent working with a group called Vigilant Lock, an off-the-books group that seeks and destroys paranormal threats. Harmony, herself, is a witch who'd been taught by her mother after the murder of her father and tragic disappearance of her younger sister. When it seems like the creature that took her sister is back, Harmony goes back to her hometown of Talbot Cove accompanied by a small task force including a tech-savvy nerd and a foul-mouthed, though enjoyable, partner named Jessie.

Harmony Black is very much a crime drama that just happens to include the paranormal. The way in which things like witches and demons and Boogeymen are handled is very matter-of-fact. This is just another case for Harmony, though it is more personal than normal. Harmony herself is likable and easy to follow into a story, taking you along for the ride and making it interesting without being overly complicated. The character of Jessie is also a ton of fun. Her sassy attitude calls for absolutely no crap and she puts up a very strong don't-get-in-my-way persona. Despite this, she and Harmony do form a strong friendship and work very well together.

The story itself is compelling and the mystery is pretty gripping. Personally, I get really invested in crime stories where the victims are children and will go hang on to every word hoping the child in question is alright. There is a looming threat in this story, high-stakes if the case isn't solved soon. There are a few of those instances where it does make the same cliches, such as the unhelpful political figure, nosy reporter, old friend from past returns to be potential romantic interest, etc. I won't spoil the mystery for you, naturally, but let's just say that, when I read it, I wasn't exactly picking my jaw up off the floor when the big reveal came around. Still, it's about the journey and not the destination in Harmony Black and the journey is a good one. There is a fair share of downtime in this book, but the high points are thrilling, and the characters are interesting enough that you do want to see anyone okay.

Final Verdict:
Harmony Black is as good a crime novel as you can find and the added bonus of a paranormal twist takes it up a level. If crime novels are your thing, I'd say that this book is totally worth your money at your local bookstore. Look for it on a shelf near you.

Next Time: Watch what you eat.....

Tuesday, August 16, 2016

Splintered by A.G. Howard


Just when you thought the paranormal romance YA genre was dead. Do not be deceived by the pretty cover or the purple print meant to lure you in to this teeth-grinding "love" story or its promise of an interesting spin on Alice in Wonderland.

The story is of Alyssa Gardener, who is descended from Alice Liddle, the girl who inspired Lewis Carrol's famous works. This, however, is a serious problem for young Alyssa since she seems to have inherited some kind of curse which causes the women in her family to hear the voices of animals and insects and slowly drive them mad. The curse can only be broken by traveling back to Wonderland and fixing all the problems Alice left behind in her adventures while dealing with (you guessed it) two hot guys who have a crush on her.

Where do I begin? Well, good things out of the way first, because there are some. There is some imagination and promise in this book. The designs of Wonderland itself and some of the inhabitants is creative, such as a faceless Mad Hatter whose head changes so he can fit hats perfectly to the heads of his customers. And that's it. Seriously. That's the only thing I can say for this book. That's the only redeeming quality, that it is sometimes imaginative. Oh boy.

First off, forget Wonderland, it's the "real" world that is bizarre. Alyssa's mother has been committed to a mental institution that still uses padded cells and straight jackets and  nurses carrying around loaded syringes in their pockets. And yes, this is supposed to take place in our current century! Also, high schoolers pick on Alyssa mercilessly for her heritage, using phrases like "Mad Hatter's love slave" (who talks like this?). Yeah, Alyssa has a mother in an asylum and they pick on her for having a famous ancestor. 'Cause that's so how it works in real life.

Also, the way this thing is written is just irritating. Once again from that annoying first person perspective that novels of this kind just love doing, but it seems the author just wants to talk about what the characters are wearing as opposed to advancing the story. There are whole paragraphs describing the clothes, even the conversation get interrupted because the characters are describing each others clothes, and it is just eye roll inducing. It feels less like it's adding to the whimsical world of Wonderland and more like a promotion for a fashion line.

But the real problem lies in the "characters" of this thing. Alyssa is so passive and boring and so stereotypically "misunderstood" and "tortured" that I've seen deflated balloons with more personality. You also have your token best friend who disappears for the interesting parts and never hear about again and the even more token mean girl who hates the main character for no reason.

But the biggest offense, the main event, the literary embodiment of everything wrong with this book and this genre can be summed up in one name: Jeb! Oh my gosh, this guy is horrendous! I've rarely come across a character so abusive, so cruel, so demanding, and so plain despicable....that I'm supposed to like! Jeb is sad because he doesn't want to be an abusive pig like his father but he's an abusive pig too! Every time Alyssa tries to do something against his wishes, he fights her to the point where he even picks her up and pins her to the wall to force her to stay put. Every time the magical third member of the triangle, this book's version of the Caterpillar named Morpheus (subtle), Jeb gets physically violent with him. Always grabbing, shoving, pushing and threatening, but the way Alyssa's exhausting inner monologues go, you'd think he was a the most perfectly perfect guy in the history of perfect. The whole thing is enough to make feel sick. Girls, if your boyfriends ever behave this way: GET OUT!

Final Verdict
Splintered was a pain to get through, plain and simple. The story was unoriginal. The characters were either boring tokens or unbearable pieces of human waste (Jeb!) and I have no problem placing this story right where it belongs in the Waist Bin of Despair! No need to pick this one up, people. You don't need this kind of negativity in your life.

Next time: Now for something a little different. Supernatural and the FBI, anyone?

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

The School for Good and Evil by Soman Chainani


In this day and age, there are a plethora of school-based fantasy novels out there. To stand out among the crowd is a challenge that anyone wishing to concur this idea has to endure. Luckily, Mr. Chainani had done it brilliantly here in this clever, insightful story that spin fairy tales on their heads and redefine what it means to be good or evil.

The story takes place in a small village called Gavaldon, where two children are kidnapped every few years and taken to the mysterious School for Good and Evil. At the school for Good, the children are taught among the sons and daughters of famous fairy tale characters to learn to become the heroes of their own stories. In the School for Evil, however, they learn to become evil witches and monsters. When two best friends, beautiful Sophie and black-clad Agatha, are kidnapped, it seems like everything is as it should be. You can imagine, then, their surprise as much as anyone's when it is Agatha who is dropped off at the school for Good and Sophie is sent to the school for Evil!

The School for Good and Evil is just a ton of fun. Every character in this book feels alive and full of personality. The writing is very witty and comedic even with the tiniest details, such as Sophie's extensive beauty treatments or Agatha's sarcastic responses to her regal classmates. The school itself is alive with vast and beautifully detailed structure and brimming with magic. It's not all fun and games at the School, however. There's a dark side to this school that doesn't just belong to the Evil half. The punishments at the school include being locked in a glass coffin at best and sent to the Doom Room (torture chamber) at worst. There's also the uncomfortable fact of just what happens to students who don't quite live up to their potential, and what awaits them should they dare to fail their classes.

This book runs the gambit of being both light and dark at the same time, much like the school itself. It's a place that you both want to visit and really don't want to visit at the same time. That's the brilliance of this book. It makes you care about everyone. Even with a wide variety of characters, you want to see everyone turn out okay. The pace is fast and it's an easy read, perfect for breezing through on a weekend and having fun along the way.

Final Verdict: The School for Good and Evil is fun, exciting, entertaining and well deserving of a spot on the Shelf of Recommendation! Pick it up and experience it yourself.

Next Time: I've been reading a lot of good books lately. Maybe it's time to....OW!

Monday, August 8, 2016

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige



Thought you knew everything there was to know about Oz, did you? In this book, Danielle Paige brings to life a fast-paced "what if" story of what becomes of the classic characters upon Dorothy's return and the horrors she brings upon the once wonderful world of Oz.

The story is that of a young, modern-day Kansas girl named Amy Gumm. Abandoned by her father, neglected by her mother, and bullied at school, Amy would love nothing more than to get out of dusty Kansas and escape from her life. Her chance comes when a tornado blows through the trailer park where she lives and drops her straight into Oz. Once she's there, Amy learns that Oz has been taken over by none other than Dorothy Gale herself and is slowly robbing the land of its magic so as to keep herself beautiful and powerful forever. Dorothy is not thrilled at the idea that another Kansas girl is dropped town, but Amy is soon recruited by a coven of witches, whose goal it is to turn Amy into an assassin who will bring an end to Dorothy's reign of terror once and for all.

Dorothy Must Die is a ton of fun to read. There's something about seeing all these classic characters turned evil and just what that evil does to them is fascinating...morbidly so, perhaps, but fascinating nonetheless. It's also quite the bag of feels. When a character gets hurt or dies, there's no glimmer of hope that they'll return. They stay gone. It adds to the bleak outlook as to what Oz has become and makes you long all the more for Amy to succeed in her task.

My only real gripe about this book is probably Amy herself. She has a tendency for being very whiny and "woe-is-me", "why me?", and "everything sucks" at times. These get fewer and further in between the deeper into the story, which suggests real growth to Amy's character, which is a good thing but the whining parts are just a slog to get through. Other than that, there's a lot of colorful characters and the world at large is vast and full of detail and it's a great journey all around.

Final Verdict
Bottom line, Dorothy Must Die is thrilling and at some points heartbreaking. While it has a flawed main character the rest of the characters and the story at large make up for it. I'd say that this book was totally Worth your Money At The Local Bookstore! If it sounds like a fun ride, buy it and bring the fun home.

Next Time: This ain't no Hogwarts....

Thursday, August 4, 2016

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor

The Looking Glass Wars by Frank Beddor



First off, may I just ask why this isn't more of a thing!? This book was recommended to me on Amazon and I was automatically interested. Once I actually sat down and read the thing, I could barely put it down. I've always had a soft spot for re-imagined classics and fairy tales (and if you stick around here, you'll probably see a lot of them). But few have I seen that are so captivating, action-packed, and so darn creative as this.

Let's start off with a little summary, shall we? The Looking Glass Wars takes place in Wonderland, but it's nothing like what we imagine it. It's a diverse world filled with magic crystals, a wasteland covered with plains of black rock and harsh ice known as the Chessboard Desert, and a thriving city filled with Royal Card families, chessmen soldiers, and Imaginationists, who use their creative skills to inspire not only their own world, but ours as well. Now, in Wonderland, Imagination is pretty much magic. If you can think it up, it's there. But few are better practitioners of magic than young Alyss Heart, future Queen of Wonderland. Just as Alyss celebrates her seventh birthday, her evil aunt Redd arrives and takes over the queendom, murdering her parents. Alyss is forced to flee for her life with her loyal bodyguard, Hatter Madigan, to the only place where Redd can't get to her: our world. As Alyss and Hatter wander our ordinary realm, Redd wreaks havoc upon Wonderland and chaos rules until it's true Queen returns to her throne.

As I said before, this book has no shortage of creativity. Beddor takes classic characters and puts the most amazing twists on them. The Cheshire Cat is now a deadly assassin with nine lives, the Tweedle brothers are now a single General Doppleganger who can split himself in two, and steampunk style card soldiers with a deadly array of weapons. Easily my favorite re-imagined character, though, has to be that of Hatter Madigan. This character is so cool, so strong, and so friggin' BA that, if this were a movie, he'd be played by Jason Statham (Hollywood, I'm handing you this idea on a silver platter!).

The Looking Glass Wars manages to find a delicate balance of being complex without being difficult to read. The weapons and contraptions are intricate and well described and the battle sequences are fast-paced and easy to picture. The focus of the story does switch often from character to character, often starting with one person but leaving them of to switch over to someone else for a bit. While this does give a grander view of the world at large and all the aspects of the story coming together, it can get a little hard to follow, not to mention nail biting when a favorite character is left in a dire situation and you don't find out what happens to them for the next three chapters. The chapters are short though, so the book doesn't take too long to read overall.

Final Verdict:
The Looking Glass Wars is face-paced, wonder-filled adventure with amazing characters, a brilliant world, a heart-pounding plot, and has earned a well deserved place on the Shelf Of Recommendation! Buy it for yourself, give it a read, and witness the wonder for yourself!

Next Time: Assassins and Witches and Tyrants, Oh My!

Monday, August 1, 2016

Introduction

Well, hello World!
I am but a humble Night Shift worker, like many out there. I love working the night shift at my job, but at times it can get a little...quiet. So I decided to turn to my old friends who never let me down: Books. I love books! They are the gateways to other worlds and experiences. On my breaks, while the world is at its most silent in the dead of night, I pop open a book to keep my mind racing and give me the energy to finish the shift.
Unfortunately, I haven't really had the time to talk about the books I read to anyone. The trouble with the night shift is that chances to socialize tend to slip away. I'm awake when people are asleep, I'm asleep when people are awake, when I'm not working, they are, etc. That's when I decided that this might be the best way for me to talk about the worlds I discover. Through this blog, I will discuss the books I've read and share my own personal opinions. For the most part, I read fantasy, young adult novels, but I'm looking to expanding on those horizons. I'm open to suggestions, and please bare in mind that anything I say about anything is strictly opinion-based.
At the end of every review I give each book one of these ratings as my Final Verdict:

Admittance to the Shelf of Recommendation-This is the highest ranking for books with little to no problems that I would suggest anyone and everyone look in to.

Worth the Money at your Local Bookstore-For good books that should be read and enjoyed, even if they aren't perfect

Worth checking out at your Local Library-For books that are fun, but flawed and don't necessarily need a place in your home.

Admittance to the Waste Bin Of Despair-The lowest ranking for books that you don't need and shouldn't bother being read.

That's what I have so far. I hope to see you guys all along for the ride.