Invitation by Various Authors Review

“Four Bestselling Authors Team Up for Thrilling Supernatural Suspense – Gathering four stories from four bestselling author friends, Invitation is the first collection in the ongoing Harbingers series. 

In “The Call” by Bill Myers, four strangers are drawn together to help a student at the mysterious Institute for Advanced Psychic Studies. His gifts are supposedly being honed to assist world leaders . . . but there are some very disturbing strings attached. 

Frank Peretti’s “The Haunted” confronts a supernatural mystery, a case of murder, and an exploration into the darkness of the human heart, all centering around a mysterious house. 

In Angela Hunt’s “The Sentinels,” animals around the world are mysteriously dying. What could it mean? When the tragedy begins to touch Andi’s dreams, she discovers a terrifying theory. 

“The Girl” by Alton Gansky is a gripping tale of a young barefoot girl found holding a scroll in the snowy Oregon mountains. She is sweet, innocent–apparently not of this world–and something wants to kill her.”

   Invitation by various authors (a bit lazy to list them, but you can see their names on the picture) was a solid book that thrives due to its four well-written characters. 
  

  Invitation is a bit unique as it is essentially a collection of four short stories created by four different authors with each story coming from the perspective of each character. In essence, the author’s are writing as if they were that character. It is a bit like an TV episode-like format. It starts on one character, something happens that causes them to join together, etc. As a result, it is a bit formulaic and the plot can be a bit predictable. The TV episode-like format, in my opinion, hurts each of the stories’ plot. It seems that just as things are picking up, the story just ends like a cliffhanger except it happens three times in a row. The only one that felt like it ended was The Girl which was my favorite. The overarching plot of sorts was a bit weak in that besides the firsr story, the other stories did not touch up on it. Although, as I write this review, many TV shows do this. I guess you can look at these four stories as the first four episodes of a TV show. The overarching villain of sorts does seem interesting and I hope to see them expand the villain well in future books. 

   What Invitation does well is developing its four main protagonists. By using this format, each main character is given the chance to shine. My favorite is Tank as he is such a polite and good-natured person that it’s really hard to hate him. Each author does a great job of writing how eacj character would react in certain situations and it feels that they actually are that character. The four authors have their own writing styles and I found all of the stories to be well-written.

   Invitation was a fun little read. While there is not much there yet in terms of plot, the four main characters elevate this book from mediocrity.

Rating: Check it out

Mojo’s Must Reads: Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

“In the year 2044, reality is an ugly place. The only time teenage Wade Watts really feels alive is when he’s jacked into the virtual utopia known as the  OASIS. Wade’s devoted his life to studying the puzzles hidden within this world’s digital confines, puzzles that are based on their creator’s obsession with the pop culture of decades past and that promise massive power and fortune to whoever can unlock them. When Wade stumbles upon the first clue, he finds himself beset by players willing to kill to take this ultimate prize. The race is on, and if Wade’s going to survive, he’ll have to win—and confront the real world he’s always been so desperate to escape.”

    Ready Player One by Ernest Cline is one of my favorite books of all time. No, it’s not a literary masterpiece with beautiful syntax and diction or deep and philosophical novel that challenges society. Frankly, it’s not even a well-written book. But it does one thing so freaking well: it’s just so damn fun.

   Wade Watts is a solid character. He’s not game-changing, but he fulfills his purpose as a likeable protagonist. Artemis was a good supporting character, but Aech was an absolute badass. Each of them go through their respective arcs and Cline handles it well. By the end of the book, you truly care for them. The plot is fairly predictable and the dialogue is pretty cringy too. It’s not even really a well-written book. But damn is it fun. The world Cline creates is fantastic. Everywhere Wade traveled seemed to be filled with adventure and packed with action. I mean a boss fight involving a retro video game called Joust or a full recreation of the movie WarGames starring you as Matthew Broderick’s character. It is just so much fun to read. The world has an interesting lore and of course, pop culture references. The book is well known for its various references to classic video games, movies, and entertainment in general. Those who lived in the 80’s will be filled with nostalgia.

   I love Ready Player One. The book is such a delight to read that I could see past its glaring flaws. It shows that you don’t need to write some deep, philosophical book to be noticed or praised as a writer. It’s ridiculous, exciting, and above all, fun. Ready Player One shows that you don’t have to be the next Ernest Hemingway or Kurt Vonnegut to be successful, just write about what you love.

Homeland by Cory Doctorow Review

Official Summary:

“In Cory Doctorow’s wildly successful Little Brother, young Marcus Yallow was arbitrarily detained and brutalized by the government in the wake of a terrorist attack on San Francisco―an experience that led him to become a leader of the whole movement of technologically clued-in teenagers, fighting back against the tyrannical security state.

A few years later, California’s economy collapses, but Marcus’s hacktivist past lands him a job as webmaster for a crusading politician who promises reform. Soon his former nemesis Masha emerges from the political underground to gift him with a thumbdrive containing a Wikileaks-style cable-dump of hard evidence of corporate and governmental perfidy. It’s incendiary stuff―and if Masha goes missing, Marcus is supposed to release it to the world. Then Marcus sees Masha being kidnapped by the same government agents who detained and tortured Marcus years earlier.

Marcus can leak the archive Masha gave him―but he can’t admit to being the leaker, because that will cost his employer the election. He’s surrounded by friends who remember what he did a few years ago and regard him as a hacker hero. He can’t even attend a demonstration without being dragged onstage and handed a mike. He’s not at all sure that just dumping the archive onto the Internet, before he’s gone through its millions of words, is the right thing to do.

Meanwhile, people are beginning to shadow him, people who look like they’re used to inflicting pain until they get the answers they want.”

   Little Brother X by Cory Doctorow was a thrilling and exciting novel that I loved. Honeland further develops Marcus and opts for a more suspenseful and slower pace that produces a more mature and evenly paced novel that effectively captures the excitement of the first book.

   It has been a few years since Marcus became a hacking hero, exposing the DHS. I found Marcus to be a much smarter and mature character. His previous experience has changed him to be a much wiser person than his 17 year old self. That’s not to say he is without his faults, yet those flaws make him a better character, in my opinion. As the book progresses, Marcus’ development was well done and felt organic. Some characters from the first book return such as Angela and Jolu. Angela took a back seat which was a bit dissappointing as she provided a nice complement to Marcus. Jolu was a surprisingly big part of the novel and I found him to be a witty and charming character. I do wish Doctorow included Van and Darryl, a bit more than a nice little part in the second half of the book. I think the weakest part of the novel is the villain. The main antagonist returns from the first book and she was more mentioned, than actually shown. She was an intimidating and vicious villain in the first novel, but she is relegated to the shadows in this novel.

   The plot was slower and more evenly paced. While it could have been negatively affected the book, the slower pace gave way to some great character development for Marcus and allowed some of the other supporting characters to shine. The book certainly still has the big and action packed pieces that were more common in the first book, although there is a much slower buildup leading up to it. The book tackles some heavy subjects and what’s scary is that the events of the book is very much a possibility today. Similar to the first book, it never felt as if Doctorow was preaching that technology and the government would lead to our doom, while it was certainly obvious what he was trying to state, it never got in the way of the book. Again, like the first book, there is an immense amount of technological vocabulary, but Doctorow does a good job of explaining it.

   In conclusion, Homeland was a fantastic follow up to Little Brother X. A slower and more evenly paced plot opts for a slow and more suspenseful build up, but allows Marcus and others to shine and develop as characters. 

Rating: A Must Buy

The Quick Fix by Jack D. Ferraiolo Review

“In this much-anticipated sequel to The Big Splash, junior high detective Matt Stevens is back on the case, bringing us another hilarious middle school noir.

When the star of the basketball team is blackmailed, it’s up to Matt, the lone voice for justice in a morass of middle school corruption, to figure out who’s behind the scheme. Is it eighth-grade crime lord Vinny “Mr. Biggs” Biggio, who has made his name peddling forged hall passes and leading a crew of social assassins who send enemies to the Outs with a humiliating squirt-gun blast below the belt? Or is it his lieutenant and Matt’s former best friend, Kevin? Or a pair of scheming twins who sell Pixy Stix to sugar-addicted classmates? One thing’s for sure: There won’t be a quick fix for the trouble at this middle school.”

The Quick Fix is a great follow-up to The Big Splash. Ferraiolo expands on the world he had established from the first book, while further developing the characters. The plot is fairly straightforward and can be predictable, but it is still written well and entertaining.

Matthew is still a likeable character. Often sarcastic and witty, he proves to be a good detective and Ferraiolo further develops his character. His interactions with Liz were sweet and felt natural as their undefined relationship made things awkward between the pair. The new characters provided some interesting quirks, but I found them to be a bit standard. Still, they were still well-written and added some depth to the book. The other returning characters get some character development, although I wish more time was spent on them. But, again, the real star of the book is the world Ferraiolo creates. Like the first book, Franklin Middle School is similar to something of a noir setting. Although in this case, the sugar stix is essentially the drugs of this world and the twins are the drug dealers (A bit weird). Ferraiolo continued to add to an already fantastic world and added some interesting new characters as well. 

The plot was predictable and nothing new until the ending. Now, while the ending was nice and teases a third book(which looks like it won’t happen as it’s been several years since the book’s release) the events leading up to the ending got a bit confusing. Ferraiolo added a nice twist, but it seemed like he was just setting up for upcoming books and it got a bit out of hand. 

Still, The Big Splash is a great sequel and is sure to entertain. 

Rating: A Must Buy

Little Brother X by Cory Doctorow Review

Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems.

But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days.

When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: “M1k3y” will take down the DHS himself.”

   Little Brother X was a very entertaining book that focuses on a topic that is even more important nowadays. It follows Marcus Yallow, a genius hacker, who, along with his friends, gets kidnapped by the DHS during a terrorist attack in his hometown of San Francisco. When he is finally released and the city turned into a police state, he decides to take on the government.

   It has a very cool premise that it does deliver on. Marcus is a likeable main character. You get his motivations, you get why he is doing what he is doing. He is not the deepest character ever, but he is very relatable. His internal struggles of doing what was right vs what others wanted him to do provided a nice use if internal conflict. The supporting characters were well developed and a bit charming. Angela is the main supporting character and she provides a nice complement to Marcus and I found their relationship well done, never sacrificing plot for some relationship drama which some books do. 

   The book is non-stop, always keeping the plot moving.  I liked how the author included a lot of hacker vocabulary and explains them. It does drag the book down a bit, but it is still a nice touch and clears up much of the confusion. The book touches on a topic that is at the fore front today which is how much the government controls and watches over us. I see the book as a bit of a modern version of 1984. And that’s pretty good. It’s not afraid to ask a big question and gets you thinking. I surely found myself asking questions throughout the book. Although, it does get too caught up in its message at times becoming a bit too preachy but it does not drag the story down.  The book also touches on some mature subjects which surprised me in a young adult book. Sex, doing what’s right vs what other people want you to do, etc. the book has some mature topics

   Overall, Little Brothers X was a very entertaining and powerful book. It really delivers on its cool premise and causes you to think about the world we live in today.

Rating: A Must Buy

A Great Antagonist

   Villain, Final Boss, The Antagonist. For every Batman, there’s a Joker, for every Mario, there’s a Bowser, for every…you get the point. Books are no exception, antagonists are a vital part of the novel as in most cases, they are the main source of conflict in the book. A weak villain can turn a great book into something less so and a great villain can turn a great book into something one-of-a-kind. While we all love our heroes, there’s something satisfying about being a villain. The chaos, the arrogance, the feeling of being one step ahead of the hero. I normally organise my thoughts into major points, but I feel like just writing it all out into paragraphs (pardon my bit of laziness).

   Villains are cunning, intelligent, strong, etc. Most of them are excel in many attributes that the hero does not possess. It gives this underdog feeling for the hero as they train to get better and eventually, defeat the villain. My point is a great antagonist should make the hero seem like he/she is nothing, at least at first. I gues what I’m trying to say, is that they should be powerful. They should be intimidating, they should make the hero, or even the reader, fear their every move. What makes the antagonist powerful? Well, they are exceptional at attacking the hero’s weaknesses. The greater the struggle, the better and more compelling story. When you begin to pressure the protagonist, it forces them to make choices. These choices causes the protagonist to change and develop as a character. 

   Have you ever seen those medieval movies where an enemy invades the protagonist’s village or castle and absolutely destroy everything. Yeah, that’s what they should do. No, it doesn’t have to be physically or even that large of a scale, but their actions should affect the protagonist in some way shape or form. It doesn’t have to instantly affect the hero, but maybe down the line like creating a weapon that will destroy the world. That will certainly affect them. I think the most important part of creating a great antagonist is that they change the hero, essentially, the hero develops as a result of them. The Dark Knight is my favorite movie of all time and Heath Ledger’s Joker is the best performance I have seen in all of my life. But the Joker is not only a great villain because of Ledger’s performance, but the writing behind the character as well.  The Joker constantly attacks Batman’s weaknesses including his main one: Batman’s unwillingness to kill. And when you attack a person’s weaknesses, you force them to adapt, to make choices that affect them, and shows their true character. When Batman goes to save Rachel, it shows his limit, the only thing that he is not willing to sacrifice. Above all the Joker causes Batman to grow wiser. He shows Batman that he does have a limit, but to overcome those limits he needs the help of others. In a way, the Joker wins in The Dark Knight. Joker shows that even the best of them, in this case Harvey Dent, can become corrupt. 

   A great antagonist is poweful, attacking the hero’s weaknesses causing them to make decision that will change them as a character. Above all, a great antagonist not only impacts the story, but affects the protagonist. They cause the protagonist to grow as a character.

The Magic Shopp by Justin Swapp Review

 “Action and adventure await you in The Magic Shop! Come and claim it in book one of the Shadow Magic series. See why fans have compared this page-turner to Harry Potter, Fablehaven, and Percy Jackson. 

Marcus Fith doesn’t believe in magic. And why should he? Marcus and his twin sister, Ellie, live in the loft above their grandparents magic shop, and he’s all too familiar with the hand buzzers, card tricks, and fake vomit kits. So, imagine his shock when he stumbles upon his grandfather hiding something in a secret room in the magic shop — the one that all the rumors are about.

Join Marcus and Ellie as they unravel a laundry list of family secrets, and are thrown into a world they never knew existed. Not only is the family business is a front, but Marcus has to develop his powers before the Dun-Bahr find him and assimilate the magic he was born to protect.

Will they survive? 

Will they find their parents? 

First Marcus and Ellie must discover the secret their grandparents have been keeping from them all these years. It all comes down to what’s hidden at the Magic Shop.”

   The Magic Shop was a fantastic and magical(get it?) adventure that is sure to thrill younger audiences and even older ones as well. 

   I had a great time following Marcus and Elle’s adventures as they uncovered a world hidden away and abilities they didn’t know they had. Marcus and Elle were likeable and charming protagonists that made some mistakes as the book progresses and I found their growth as they realized what they had just done to be well done. The supporting characters each had their own charm and quirks and the narrator in the audiobook did a great job of giving each one a unique voice. But the real star of the book is the creative world that Swapp creates. As Marcus and Elle discover the new world, you feel immersed in the world Swapp creates. While it does borrow some elements from other books, I felt that it did enough to differentiate itself from other books and also immerse you in the world. The plot does take a bit to pick up, in my opinion, but once it does it does not stop. It has a fast and frenetic pace that continues to up the ante as the book progresses. The book has some twists that keep the plot from becoming predictable and I was surprised by some of the dark secrets that awaited. 

   In conclusion, The Magic Shop was a ton of fun. The likeable protagonists, enchanting world, and twisting plot separate the book from other books of this genre.

I was given a free audiobook by the author in exchange for a review.

Rating: A Must Buy