Categotry Archives: Reviews

The Maze Runner

The Maze Runner Book Cover The Maze Runner
The Maze Runner, Book 1
James Dashner
Juvenile Fiction
Delacorte Books for Young Readers

Sixteen-year-old Thomas wakes up with no memory in the middle of a maze and realizes he must work with the community in which he finds himself if he is to escape.



This book is difficult to put down from the first page.  Thomas arrives with no memory of anything aside from what happens from when he opens his eyes forward.  As readers, even though it is written in the third person, we are left to discover things exactly as Thomas does, leaving us to feel his fear and confusion as though it is our own.

The plot has quite a bit of action, but also some moments where things go slowly.  That could create a problem for the reader were it not for the ever-present questions slowly being answered.  While most are resolved, it does leave some unanswered, and brings up new ones.  It’s a real cliff-hanger.

This is a good book for reluctant readers while still being sophisticated enough for adults.  I recommend it for grade 6 and up.


Content Warning:


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children Book Cover Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
Miss Peregrine's Peculiar Children, Book 1
Ransom Riggs
Juvenile Fiction
Quirk Books

After a family tragedy, Jacob feels compelled to explore an abandoned orphanage on an island off the coast of Wales, discovering disturbing facts about the children who were kept there.



I’m not sure what I expected judging by the cover and the blurb, but this was most certainly not it.  It exceeded any expectations I could ever have for it.

Young Jacob grows up listening to his Grandfather’s fantastical tales, never believing they were true after he hit school age.  Then he makes a discovery that will change his life forever, and one that can be compared to a Lemony Snicket type of tale for a slightly older age group.

However, it is much more than that.  This is one of the rare books that weaves a unique and new fairytale.  It isn’t happy, and it isn’t sad.  Great challenges are faced.  Children are in peril.  It’s everything the Brothers Grimm tales were before we somehow decided our children needed things to not be too scary or dangerous.

The world is incredibly rich and full of surprises.  Each child has a story, and none of it is revealed too early.  It leaves us as confused and wanting more as Jacob himself does.  The imagery is amazing, and the use of actual vintage photographs is a brilliant storytelling tactic that also leaves you wondering what happened to those children along with their fictional counterparts.  I would recommend the book for the photos alone.

Well-written, no plot holes, and a desire for more make this one worthy of a five-star rating seldom seen from me.  The world needs more fairytale and adventure.  I have little doubt that this one will endure for generations to come.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Animal Death


Ashfall Book Cover Ashfall
Ashfall Trilogy, Book 1
Mike Mullin
Juvenile Fiction
Tanglewood Press

After the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano destroys his city and its surroundings, Alex must journey from Cedar Falls, Iowa, to Illinois to find his parents and sister, trying to survive in a new society.



I absolutely love this book, and the only reason for four stars instead of five is that I felt the beginning dragged a bit.  Once the action got going I literally could not put it down.  No joke, I carried it into the grocery store with me.

Mr. Mullin’s novel is most certainly not for the faint of heart.  It pulls no punches in the gore and general lack of morality that would surely accompany a catastrophic event the size of the Yellowstone super volcano.  It’s all there in stark reality:  death, greed, abandonment, hopelessness.  People can lose their minds in those types of situations.

The characters are excellently written, and Alex has an amazing and believable character arc that flows as though Mr. Mullin actually observed someone being forced to grow up too quickly in a time of crisis.  He’s still a child, but we get to see him slowly turn the corner toward becoming a man.

Now on to possibly my favorite female protagonist in the history of young adult (maybe even adult) literature:  Darla.  She is both entertaining and tough as nails.  I have no doubt that she would not only take out Katniss at the beginning of the Hunger Games, but also every other tribute.  This girl has everything.  If for no other reason, read this book to meet her.  Excellent character.

Very few things please me more than an author who is not afraid to write teenagers as they actually are, as opposed to the more sanitized versions preferred by adults.  This author is one of the best at that.  Sure, they may die, but Alex is still a boy.  What boy his age doesn’t think about sex?  I have seen some call it unrealistic, but the instinct of humans is actually to become more sexually active when they feel their species is being threatened.  This is the same throughout the animal kingdom.  So we have a teenager, hormones, and a primal instinct to protect the species.  If sex didn’t come up the novel would be ignoring the obvious.  Bravo!

Highly recommended read, and to be honest, I now have a strong urge to stock up on condoms and Chapstick.  The disaster and fallout are written so vividly that suddenly doomsday preppers don’t look so strange after all.  When a road melted in Yellowstone, I was quite ready to leave the country.  That’s a good book.


Content Warning:

Strong Language, Violence, Gore, Animal Death, Strong Sexual Situations

Article 5

Article 5 Book Cover Article 5
Article 5, Book 1
Kristen Simmons
Juvenile Fiction
Tor Teen

New York, Los Angeles, and Washington, D.C., have been abandoned. The Bill of Rights has been revoked and replaced with the Moral Statutes. There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don't come back. Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. That life in the United States used to be different. Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow. That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings…the only boy Ember has ever loved.



“Article 5” is a dystopian novel that is set in a world where a super-charged version of the moral majority has taken over in a civil war.  Ember is forcibly removed from her home for committing the “crime” of being born out-of-wedlock.  When she is arrested by the former boyfriend who was drafted into the military, her entire world seems to fall apart.

This was a terrifying book for me and a good cautionary tale against becoming overzealous with ruling by morality alone.  What I would have liked to see more of was the backstory of how the war started and why they ended up in such a dire governmental system.  The book would have been much more enjoyable had those explanations been present, but I am holding out hope that it is covered in the next installment.

Ember is a character about whom I have mixed feelings.  On the one hand, she has led a sheltered life in one very small section of a city, only to be suddenly yanked into a very terrifying world.  On the other, she seems hellbent on not trusting Chase, who can reasonably expect to be changed due to traumatic circumstances.  The problem is that she does not bother to ask, or believe a word or action from him, and it became frustrating to me.  She is an intelligent girl, so writing her with such a slow ability to adapt in some areas while adapting quickly in others was very out of character.

The action is what makes me want more.  It was fast-paced and intense.  Lots of questions are unanswered, but the end of the book and change in character awareness make me want to know more.  I have high hopes that the next book will build on the improvements found at the end of this one.  The writing is solid and obviously from a talented author who has the potential for great storytelling.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations

Dorothy Must Die

Dorothy Must Die
Dorothy Must Die, Book 1
Danielle Paige
Juvenile Fiction



Amy is a girl with a less than stellar life in her little Dusty Acres trailer park in Kansas.  That is, until a tornado picks up her and her mother’s pet rat and unceremoniously deposits them in Oz.  Of course, every girl from Kansas knows the story of Oz, and Amy is more than a little shocked to discover that it is nothing like the beloved movie of her childhood.

Believe me, this book is the last thing you want to pick up if you’re looking for a feel-good story featuring Dorothy and Toto.  This is a brutal story with violence that will churn your stomach and quite possibly give you nightmares.  And yet, it is intensely enjoyable and loyal to the lore of Oz created by Frank L. Baum.  Purists may or may not like it depending on their stomach constitution.

For my part, I loved it.  Amy and Knox are excellent characters you want to know more about, though in this first book of the series, Knox remains for the most part a mystery.  While there is some romance, the author has chosen to make us wait for it to be more than a feeling in the background.  Along with Knox, there is a cast of other fascinating characters who play into the current political climate of Oz and leave you wanting more.

Unfortunately, we all have to wait for that more.  This was a good set-up to the series, giving us a background without any resolution whatsoever.  It left us with nothing but questions and the suspicion that nothing is what it seems.  I recommend it for those who like their Oz mixed with some horror and gore.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Gore


Top Secret Twenty-One

Top Secret Twenty-One Book Cover Top Secret Twenty-One
Stephanie Plum, Book 21
Janet Evanovich
Bantam Dell Publishing Group

Stephanie Plum is back in an all-new adventure from #1 bestselling author Janet Evanovich. This time Stephanie's in deep. To get to the bottom of the mess, she's going to have to keep things Top Secret.



I read Janet Evanovich’s novels for the same reason I read the late Lillian Jackson Braun’s:  They are comforting and easy, much like sitting down with an old friend once a year for coffee to catch up on each other’s lives.  We share a history, and no matter what the next book brings, I am too attached to stop now.

All of the old cast is back, and as always, they bring with them quite a few laughs along with the somewhat formulaic plot.  I feel like there needs to be no spoiler warnings when I say that we always know her car will meet a demise, Lula will want some Cluck-in-a-Bucket, and there will be some happening at the funeral home.  It wouldn’t be Stephanie Plum without them.

I’m very happy to see Ranger and his feelings being more fleshed out in this and the previous book.  It feels like it’s been a long time coming.  Readers always knew there was more to him, but it’s nice to finally have it acknowledged.

Unfortunately, that brings me to my main complaint.  There is not enough focus on him.  Morelli has become somewhat boring and Stephanie herself has been acknowledging this.  It seems like either their relationship needs to move forward or Ranger needs to get his chance.  The formula for them is getting old and needs some shaking up.

I’ll still never quit you Stephanie, no matter how predictable you become.

Paper Towns

Paper Towns Book Cover Paper Towns
John Green
Juvenile Fiction

One month before graduating from his Central Florida high school, Quentin "Q" Jacobsen basks in the predictable boringness of his life until the beautiful and exciting Margo Roth Spiegelman, Q's neighbor and classmate, takes him on a midnight adventure and then mysteriously disappears. An ALA Best Book for Young Adults. Reprint.



I love John Green.  No other author can turn a phrase quite like him, and I greatly respect his refusal to create novels that assume teenagers are not capable of reading about real issues they face in a frank manner, even if that includes sex and questionable language.  I expect excellent work from him, and he did not disappoint me with “Paper Towns”.

Part of the brilliance of this novel is that a teenager can read it and get an entirely different story from it than an adult who reads it.  Neither are inferior to the other, it’s simply that some of it is viewed differently when time removes you further from the days of high school.  I literally cried from the overwhelming sense of nostalgia it created.

Quentin Jacobsen is the “every man” of high school.  He is not popular, nor is he quite on the bottom rung of the social ladder.  In short, he is smart, but average.  Then there is Margo Roth Spiegelmen, the girl who was larger than life in Quentin’s mind.  The girl on the pedestal. Haven’t we all had that person in our lives at one point or another?   Of course, eventually we learn that they are just as human and average as the rest of us, and that is the point of the story.

The lessons to be learned in “Paper Towns” are good for teens and adults.  People are not always who they present to the world.  Some are better than they let on and some are worse.  The best memories aren’t what you think they will be.  Everything has a beginning and an end.  All of this is woven into a thoroughly entertaining story that is filled with humor and tenderness.  I highly recommend it for those who like Green’s style of writing.


Content Warning:

Language, Brief Sexual Content

The Registry

The Registry Book Cover The Registry
The Registry, Book 1
Shannon Stoker
William Morrow Paperbacks

Welcome to a safe and secure new world, where beauty is bought and sold, and freedom is the ultimate crime The Registry saved the country from collapse, but stability has come at a price. In this patriotic new America, girls are raised to be brides, sold at auction to the highest bidder. Boys are raised to be soldiers, trained to fight and never question orders. Nearly eighteen, beautiful Mia Morrissey excitedly awaits the beginning of her auction year. But a warning from her married older sister raises dangerous questions. Now, instead of going up on the block, Mia is going to escape to Mexico—and the promise of freedom. All Mia wants is to control her own destiny—a brave and daring choice that will transform her into an enemy of the state, pursued by powerful government agents, ruthless bounty hunters, and a cunning man determined to own her . . . a man who will stop at nothing to get her back.



I am being somewhat generous with the three stars, but do hold out some hope for the series.  The idea is a good one, with there being handbooks and guides to marriage and military service that are controlled by the government.  Women are bought, and while men ultimately end up in control, as boys they are all but abandoned due to not having a monetary value to their fathers.

The world is interesting, but there is a problem with how it is presented.  The problem being that we have very little explanation about why it came to be that way.  There is something offered, but it doesn’t explain anything, even though I believe the author meant it to.  It made what could have been a straightforward plot a bit of a mess and distracts from some issues raised that are more than worthy of in-depth exploration.

The writing is stilted, but that may be on purpose, as Mia has been protected her entire life from most knowledge and education.  It’s difficult to tell at this point in the series.  There are also quite a few typos that can easily be fixed and can be frustrating to see.

I’m not certain whether or not to continue on with the series, as I have been burned in the past by novels with promising plots but technical problems.


Content Warning:


Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky Book Cover Under the Never Sky
Under the Never Sky, Book 1
Veronica Rossi
Juvenile Fiction
Harpercollins Childrens Books

When Aria is exiled from the enclosed city of Reverie, she forms an unlikely alliance with an Outsider named Perry, who could be her only chance of survival providing they can overcome their prejudices.



Before I begin the review, I have an embarrassing confession about a misconception I formed at the beginning of the book.  Between the cover and the multiple mentions of Perry being shirtless and in leather pants, it became set in my mind that I was somehow reading a Harlequin Romance fantasy.  Obviously, this was wrong, but nevertheless I breathed a sigh of relief once he finally put on a shirt and things got going in earnest.

The reason for the three instead of four stars in my rating is the fact that it took me a full third of the book to really get into it.  Being a fan of how the worlds are built in dystopian novels, I found this one lacking.  There was very little to go on at the beginning, and while this may be intentional, it made me apathetic to what happened to them one way or the other.

That being said, once the two main characters were together, things picked up quickly.  The world and characters become more than one-dimensional and I began to care what happened to them and everyone else.  Perry and Aria are both very interesting and complex, and the ultimate love story evolved beautifully.  It was nice to see a book lacking a love triangle and keeping the complications to what they were going through, as opposed to which boy Aria should kiss.

In the end, I was so drawn into their world that I immediately ordered the next in the series and expect I will not have the difficulty getting into it that I had with this one.  If you find yourself wanting to give up at the beginning, I encourage you stick with it.  It’s worth it.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations

The Darkest Minds Never Fade

The Darkest Minds Never Fade Book Cover The Darkest Minds Never Fade
The Darkest Minds, Book 2
Alexandra Bracken
Juvenile Fiction

"In the second installment of The Darkest Minds trilogy, Ruby joins forces with the revolutionary Children's League to find critical information about the epidemic that has torn both her life and America apart"--



Ruby and friends are back, with the book picking up only a few months after the first one left off.  The sacrifices she made at the end of “The Darkest Minds” become immediately clear as far more than even she thought they would be.  It jumps right into the action and never really stops.  In other words, this book is intense, so be prepared.

Typically second books in trilogies are the weakest link.  I was prepared for that to be the case with this one, because it really did seem impossible to make it on par with the first.  In my opinion, this one was even better, though I was disappointed in seeing so little of my favorite character, Liam.  That is bias on my part though and was necessary to the plot.  When he does come back, the result is perfectly believable and flows well with how he left off at the end of the first book.

We are introduced to quite a few new characters, and just like in “The Darkest Minds”, they are fleshed out with complete and compelling backstories gradually revealed over the course of the book.  Alexandra Bracken is a genius when it comes to character development.  All of their actions fit with their backstory.

One of my favorite things about this novel is the fact that teenagers actually speak and act like teenagers.  Vida is the most shining example of this.  Her language is vulgar, she is full of attitude, and can be volatile with her moods.  I think we’ve all known at least one Vida growing up.  All too often authors shy away from the way teenagers actually speak, and the fact that Bracken is not afraid to go there speaks of both her talent and her respect for her readers that are of that age.

The world is expanded in a wonderful way.  We get to see the inner workings of the mysterious Children’s League as well as learn more about how the government is currently functioning.  It adds a perfect balance to what we learned in the first of the series of how the children are living and gives us a much more complete view of the world Ruby lives in.  All of it sets up for what is sure to be an exciting conclusion.

As with “The Darkest Minds”, “Never Fade” has become one of my favorite books of all-time.  The world and characters are so well-developed that I feel like Alexandra Bracken needs to teach a class in creative writing.  She is a true natural talent.  Again, if I were wealthy I would buy everyone a copy.

My only question is how am I supposed to wait until October 28th?  I feel like I may go into withdrawal and need some sort of rehab.


Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations