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The Glass Magician

The Glass Magician Book Cover The Glass Magician
The Paper Magician, Book 2
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction
47North
2014-11-04
211

Now well into her apprenticeship with magician Emery Thane, twenty-year-old Ceony Twill is continuing to discover the joy of paper magic. She adores bringing her spells to life in surprising ways, from learning the power of distortion to creating a beloved paper dog. And she secretly hopes that the romance she foresaw blossoming between her and the peculiar yet strikingly handsome Emery finally becomes real. But when one magician with a penchant for deadly scheming believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony, and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, she knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wicked hands. The delightful sequel to Charlie N. Holmberg's The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician will charm listeners young and old alike.

 

Review:

I enjoyed “The Glass Magician”, by Charlie N. Holmberg, far more than I did its predecessor, “The Paper Magician”.

The plot flows extremely well and is engaging from the first chapter, bringing more spark to the world established in the first of the series.  I found myself fascinated with the inner workings of the magical world, all the way from the apprentices to the villains.  All of them are intriguing, and I am looking forward to learning more of their stories in the next book.  There is a surprise point of view changed for one chapter that I loved reading, as well.

The various forms of magic are clever and fun to read about, and much like choosing which house you should be in if you were to attend Hogwarts, I dare you not to give a good bit of thought to which material you would like to bond.  The mix of the steampunk, fantasy, romance, and history works well together to make a world I think many readers would like to visit.

Highly recommended.  Also, if you do not love Emery Thane, I do not think we can ever be friends.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Brief Language, Brief and Mild Sexual Situations, Violence

The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician Book Cover The Paper Magician
The Paper Magician, Book 1
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction
47North
2014-09-01
214

Under the tutelage of magician Emery Thane, Ceony Twill discovers the wonders of paper magic, but when her teacher's life is threatened, she must face the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic to save him.

 

Review:

“The Paper Magician”, by Charlie N. Holmberg, is a fun fantasy novel with some steampunk leanings mixed in for good measure.

The story itself, about a young magician’s apprentice named Ceony training under, well, a paper magician, is imaginative and a new take on magic.  I, for one, would never have considered paper to be used as a form of magic, but with the parallels to the art of origami explored within the novel, it all comes alive.

The world is complex and whimsical, with just the right touch of evil lurking in the shadows.  The characters are well-developed, and their histories are revealed in what has to be the most unique way I have ever read.  Which, while being a high point of the novel, is unfortunately also its biggest flaw.

In the revelation, which is most of the second half of the story, it becomes muddled and bogged down, leading to a sluggish read.  A bit of editing and clarification here and there would have done wonders for the flow.  As it stands, what could have been wonderful became somewhat mediocre by the stilted narrative often throwing me out of the story altogether.

That being said, the ending left me wanting to read the next book in the series, and I am hoping the issues in “The Paper Magician” do not reoccur, as it really does hold the promise of a fun and engaging series that can be read by middle readers on up through adults.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Mild Language, Violence, Brief Sexual Situations

 

The Book of Ivy

The Book of Ivy Book Cover The Book of Ivy
Amy Engel
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
2014-11-11
304

What would you kill for? After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. This year, it is my turn. My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and return the Westfall family to power. But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy. Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

 

Review:

“The Book of Ivy”, by Amy Engel, is one of the best and most engaging YA dystopian novels I have ever read.  It manages to combine a heavy dose of romance with excellent world building and heavy situations.

From the first paragraph, the character of Ivy and her life is a complex mystery that grabs you and leaves you wanting to know more.  As the world slowly develops and unfolds, so does Ivy’s past.  It’s extremely well-paced, careful to reveal just enough to keep with flowing without making the ending predictable.

There are some very heavy subjects dealt with in an unflinching manner, but none of them are gratuitous.  The bad behavior is just that – bad, with no excuses or justification.  To counter it, there are many examples of respecting the wishes of others, treating those of the opposite sex with the respect they deserve, and standing up for what you believe is right.

The mix of romance, intrigue, and action makes “The Book of Ivy” a wonderful read for almost anyone who enjoys young adult literature, as well as many adults who just need to pick up a novel like it to realize they will enjoy it, too.  While there are dark subjects, I have no trouble recommending it for readers in their teens due to the responsible nature in which it is all handled.

In short, five stars, two thumbs up, and a high recommendation.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Rape, Abuse

The Walled City

The Walled City Book Cover The Walled City
Ryan Graudin
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-11-04
448

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out. DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible.... JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister.... MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window..... In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

 

Review:

I am not sure what I expected when I first began to read “The Walled City”, by Ryan Graudin, but it was certainly not what I got.  It is gritty, violent, and faces the most unpleasant of subjects head-on, weaving through three different points of view, with totally different lives, to create what eventually becomes a satisfying whole.

While it reads as a dystopia, The Walled City is actually based upon an actual place that once existed in Hong Kong.  Once you finish the book, I highly recommend reading a bit about Kowloon.  It is equal parts horrifying and fascinating, and it will give a real appreciation of how much research the author did to recreate the unimaginable living conditions in her novel.  It’s a history buff’s dream.

All of the characters are well-developed, and all three plot lines are intriguing and filled with detail.  The reader can almost feel the desperation faced by the residents of The Walled City themselves.  There is good flow and almost seamless transitions from one point of view to the next.  The reason I gave it four stars, instead of five, is that some of the relationship dynamics seemed a bit forced, but otherwise it is a good, solid read.

I recommend “The Walled City” for those in high school and above, or very advanced older middle school readers, due to the intensity of some of the subject matter.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution, Heavy Drug Usage

Undivided

UnDivided Book Cover UnDivided
Unwind Dystology, Book 4
Neal Shusterman
Juvenile Fiction
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2014-10-14
384

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

 

Review:

“Undivided”, the last book in the Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman, is everything a final book in a series should be.  It is sheer perfection from beginning to end.

All of the characters introduced previously are developed even more, and their stories manage to come full-circle.  All of the plot is consistent with the previous books, without one single detail out of line with what has already been established.  In fact, even small details from the first book, “Unwind”, are brought back in “Undivided”.  I am looking forward to reading all four books in a row so I can fully appreciate all of the details that were sprinkled throughout.

It’s difficult to say much without spoiling everything.  “Undivided” is a deeply disturbing novel, as it should be, and unflinching in the various topics explored, ranging from human rights to abortion.  It will make you question your own beliefs and search your soul.  It may even change you in ways you never expected.

Thank you, Mr. Shusterman, for such an excellent series.  It will always remain one of my favorites.

Five stars.  I wish I could give it more.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Disturbing Imagery

Endgame: The Calling

Endgame: The Calling Book Cover Endgame: The Calling
Endgame, Book 1
James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton,
Juvenile Fiction
HarperCollins
2014-10-07
480

Twelve ancient cultures were chosen millennia ago to represent humanity in Endgame, a global game that will decide the fate of humankind. Endgame has always been a possibility, but never a reality…until now. Twelve meteorites have just struck Earth, each meteorite containing a message for a Player who has been trained for this moment. At stake for the Players: saving their bloodline, as well as the fate of the world. And only one can win. Endgame is real. Endgame is now. Endgame has begun. Google Niantic is building a mobile location-based augmented reality videogame inextricably tied to the books and mythology, a major prize will be tied to a puzzle in each book, and Twentieth Century Fox has bought the movie rights. Read the Books. Find the Clues. Solve the Puzzle. Who will Win?

 

Review:

“Endgame: The Calling” is a very unique take on the apocalyptic genre, merging both a story and a puzzle.  The first to solve the puzzle will win a hefty amount, and the gold is actually on display at Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas.

My review is based on the story itself.  I intend to reread it and try to solve the puzzle at some point.

The story was somewhat slow in the beginning, with so many characters that it was difficult to follow difficult to follow.  Mixed in with a large amount of information clearly meant to be used solely in solving the puzzle, and a very slow revelation of the nature of the story, and I became disenchanted with it.  Having a review copy, I continued to read,  and I really am glad that I did.

The story slowly comes together to make a remarkable and unique plot.  All of the characters take on a life of their own, with complex feelings and backstories, leaving you feeling like you are a part of the “game” they are playing.  Without realizing it, I was emotionally invested in every character’s story.  The ending was a perfect gateway into the sequel, which I very much look forward to.

I recommend this to those who enjoy apocalyptic thrillers, do not mind violence in what they read, and who are willing to play along with the puzzle.  I wish I had from the very beginning, as that would have made it more enjoyable and less difficult to get into.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Heavy Violence

The Silence of Six

The Silence of Six Book Cover The Silence of Six
E.C. Meyers
Adaptive Books
November 5, 2014
Ebook
274

“WHAT IS THE SILENCE OF SIX, AND WHAT ARE YOU GOING TO DO ABOUT IT?”

These are the last words uttered by 17-year-old Max Stein’s best friend Evan just moments before he kills himself after hacking into the live-streaming Presidential debate at their high school.

Haunted by the unforgettable image of Evan’s death, Max’s entire world is upended as he suddenly finds himself the target of a corporate-government witch-hunt. Fearing for his life and fighting for his own innocence, Max goes on the run with no one to trust and too many unanswered questions.

 

Review:

“The Silence of Six” is an exciting page turner that begs you not to put it down until you know how it all will end.  Built around the world of computer hacking, compromised security, and government overstepping its bounds, in this day and age it could almost be described as a horror story.  I know it has left me a bit on the paranoid side.

The characters are well-developed, the plot picks up its quick pace from the very beginning, and the plot is unpredictable, which is exactly how any good thriller should be.  The hacker world is also rather extensively explored, which can be both a good and a bad thing.  For those with computer knowledge, it adds to the fun.  For those who are able to gloss over details they do not understand and go with the flow, it does not take away from the excitement.  However, for those who can get lost in details, it may be overwhelming.  It is for that reason that I would not recommend “The Silence of Six” for reluctant school-aged readers.

However, should you fit one of the first two categories listed above and enjoy cyber thrillers, “The Silence of Six” is one fun and exciting read that is not to be missed.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Intense Situations

Etiquette and Espionage

Etiquette & Espionage Book Cover Etiquette & Espionage
Finishing School, Book 1
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2013-10-08
336

It's one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It's quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners--and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine's, young ladies learn to finish...everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage--in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year's education. Set in the same world as the Parasol Protectorate, this YA series debut is filled with all the saucy adventure and droll humor Gail's legions of fans have come to adore.

 

Review:

“Etiquette and Espionage” is a wonderful and whimsical introduction into the world of historical steampunk fiction for the middle reader.

Based around a floating finishing school that also trains young women to become spies in the Victorian era, the subject is rich before a single word was written.  The attention to detail in describing the machines and general steampunk ideas is amazing and inspires the imagination.

Added into the plot is a great history lesson about the customs of the era mixed with a great deal of satire concerning the way a “proper lady” should dress and behave.  I found myself laughing at several points in the adventure at the sheer ridiculousness of it all.  To counter the customs of the day, the author presents a host of very strong female characters and how they are, in fact, equal to men.

There is fantasy type violence, though none graphic, and questionable morality that is presented in a tongue-in-cheek-manner that no reader after fifth grade will see as an example of appropriate behavior, making it a great read for those making the leap from children’s books to young adult.  My only caveat is that the language is a bit difficult to get used to, so it is not a good choice for the more reluctant readers.

But don’t let the children have all of the fun.  “Etiquette and Espionage” is a fun read for adults who are children at heart.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence

Meritropolis

Meritropolis Book Cover Meritropolis
Meritropolis, Book 1
Joel Ohman
Young Adult Fiction
CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
September 9, 2014
Paperback
226

The year is AE3, 3 years after the Event. Within the walls of Meritropolis, 50,000 inhabitants live in fear, ruled by the brutal System that assigns each citizen a merit score that dictates whether they live or die. Those with the highest scores thrive, while those with the lowest are subject to the most unforgiving punishment--to be thrust outside the city gates, thrown to the terrifying hybrid creatures that exist beyond.

 

Review:

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided in exchange for an honest review.

“Meritropolis”, by Joel Ohman, was a wonderful surprise when it comes to the sometimes predictable world of young-adult dystopian literature.  The action is non-stop, and while the story has great depth and backstory, it is presented in a way which is not bogged down and unnecessarily complicated.  It’s a very easy to understand premise.

What I found to be the major selling point is that it is a very attractive story for advanced middle reader males, a market which is surprisingly sparse.  As the primary purchaser of books for a twelve-year-old male bookworm, it becomes frustrating to find a story that’s full of adventure, intelligent, and a bit light on the romance.  “Meritropolis” fits the bill perfectly, and I would like to thank Mr. Ohman personally for writing it.

I wish 4 1/2 stars were possible, because the only reason I did not give it the full five is because the paragraphs were long, with lots of description.  While not necessarily a bad thing, it may be off-putting for more reluctant readers.

I highly recommend “Meritropolis” for lovers of dystopian novels, both old and young alike.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Adult Themes, Animal Death

 

Heart of Dread: Frozen

Frozen Book Cover Frozen
Heart of Dread, Book 1
Melissa De la Cruz, Michael Anthony Johnston,
Juvenile Fiction
Putnam Publishing Group
2013-09-17
336

More than a century after a catastrophic disaster wiped out most of humanity and covered much of the earth with ice, fifteen-year-old Cass yields to the voice in her head urging her to embark on a dangerous journey across a poisoned sea to the mythical land, Blue.

 

Review:

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by Hatchette Children’s Books in exchange for an honest review.

When I began “Heart of Dread: Frozen”, I thought I was going to be reading a somewhat typical dystopian novel.  Boy, was I ever wrong.  It is impossible to place it in one, or even two, categories.  Finally, I decided to go with dystopian, apocalyptic, and fantasy.  There is an even amount of all of them.

This novel is a wild ride right from the start, alternating between third person points of view focusing on two flawed, mysterious, and very different individuals. We have Wes, the mercenary, and Nat, the girl with a secret.  Their backstories are revealed very slowly, and combined with the action, it makes it difficult to put down.

If I describe any of the plot that is not already included in the synopsis above, I run the risk of spoiling a surprise, and that would take away from the fun. And if nothing else, this is one fun book.  Anything that could possibly be included in it is, and the ending was a cliffhanger that has me upset that I need to wait a few months for the next.

I normally try to avoid fandom-speak in my reviews, but my thoughts can be summed up by this:  “I didn’t mean to ship it this hard.”

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Animal Death, Some Sexual Talk