Skyborn by David Dalglish Review

“The last remnants of humanity live on six islands floating high above the Endless Ocean, fighting a brutal civil war in the skies. The Seraphim, elite soldiers trained for aerial combat, battle one another while wielding elements of ice, fire and lightning.

The lives of their parents claimed in combat, twins Kael and Breanna Skyborn enter the Seraphim Academy to follow in their footsteps. There they will learn to harness the elements as weapons and fight at break-neck speeds while soaring high above the waters. But they must learn quickly, for a nearby island has set its hungry eyes upon their home. When the invasion comes, the twins must don their wings and ready their blades to save those they love from annihilation.”

     Skyborn by David Dalglish was one of my favorite books from last year. While the main characters were not that well developed, the awesome world and visceral combat was certainly engaging.

Not every book has to be a masterpiece, sometimes I just want to be entertained. And for that reason, I loved Skyborn. Breanna and Kael were serviceable main characters. I found Breanna to be a badass, but she was not given much depth other than that. She just ended up being a Katniss-like character once again. Kael, on the other hand, was a bit whiny, but often keeps her sister under control providing a nice foil to Breanna. She’s hot-headed and impulsive, he’s calm and cautious. Still, they form a formidable pair and provide some nice brother-sister moments throughout. I wish Dalglish established him as a bit more stronger character and gives him more to do. The supporting characters were likeable in their own ways. Brad provides some laughs as the comic relief and you can’t help but just cheer him on. However, he is nothing remarkable. Saul is the typical rival, but by the end of the novel, he becomes one of the stronger characters in the book. Clara is a solid supporting character as the daughter of the archeon, but she seems to only be there as a love interest for Kael which does have its moments. The romance aspect of this novel is executed better than most young adult novels and it definitely has its moments.

The main reason I loved this book was the world Dalglish creates. This fantasy novel has some very interesting lore and provides a sweet backdrop as the novel takes place on fictional islands hovering over the Endless Ocean. They are several factions that vie for control over the islands. The aerial battles are just plain awesome! They are brutal and extremely visceral. Easily, one of the best parts of the books. I do wish Dalglish explored the history of the islands a bit more and the elements as well. The plot is a bit predictable and fairly standard, but it is executed fairly well and culminates in an amazing climax. It does take some time for the book to progress. While this is marketed is a fantasy novel, it leans a bit more towards the young adult-side, just an FYI.

Skyborn is not a masterpiece by any means. But it is definitely an entertaining book. The solid characters, fantastic world, and even better combat make it a joy to read.

Rating: Must Buy

*This is my 50th post. I can’t believe it went by so fast.

Lemons by Melissa Savage Review

image

“What do you do when you lose everything that means anything?

Nine-year old Lemonade Liberty Witt doesn’t know the answer to that question, except what her mom taught her. When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. But what if those lemons are so big that you forget how?

How do you make lemonade out of having to leave everything you know in San Francisco to move to the small town of Willow Creek, California and live with a grandfather you’ve never even met? In a town that smells like grass and mud and bugs. With tall pines instead of skyscrapers and dirt instead of sidewalks. Not to mention one woolly beast lurking in the woods.

That’s right, Bigfoot.

A ginormous wooden statue of the ugly thing stands right at the center of town like he’s someone real important, like the mayor or something. And the people here actually believe he’s real and hiding somewhere out in the pine filled forests.

How can anyone possibly be expected to make lemonade out those rotten lemons?

Everything is different and Lem just wants to go back home. And then she meets Tobin Sky, the CEO of Bigfoot Detectives, Inc. and sole investigator for the town. He invites her to be his Assistant for the summer and she reluctantly agrees. At least until she can figure out her escape plan.

Together, Lem and Tobin try to capture a shot of the elusive beast on film and end up finding more than they ever could have even imagined.”

Lemons by Melissa Savage provides a surprisingly mature and emotional book with a heart that more than matches up the urban legend the kids are chasing.

Being a book meant for a much younger audience than me, I went into it with low expectations. I thought it would be nothing more than an average adventure book with some nice lesson of letting go at the end of the novel. But I was pleasantly surprised at how mature the novel was considering at the younger target audience. Honestly, there are some really good lessons here about loss and friendship that even adults can empathize with. Lemonade Liberty Witt, or Lem, was a charming protagonist. Savage did a good job of portraying her struggles with her mother’s death, not casting it off to the side until the very end when the novel calls for a lesson. You see her inner struggle as the novel goes on and how it affects her life in Willow Creek. Tobin is more of a comic relief and I was a bit annoyed by him at the beginning of the novel. However, as the book progresses he becomes a more developed character and complements Lemonade well. The supporting characters include the townspeople of Willow Creek. The main supporting character is Grandpa Charlie. He was a very sweet and caring character who often supports Lemonade as she struggles with her loss. The other townspeople were serviceable, but they were not given as much time to develop.

The plot, as I expected, was predictable as it is a book meant for a younger audience than me. Still, it was effective and developed at a nice place. There are some subplots that felt a bit abrupt, in terms of its conclusion. I will commend Savage for making the town of Willow Creek, a character of its own. The world feels fleshed out and takes on its own charm as the book progresses. The emotional moments were well done and felt organic considering Lemonade is an 11-year old girl.

In conclusion, Lemons provides an emotional and surprisingly mature novel for the young audience while also satisfying adults. Its likeable protagonist, solid supporting characters, and charming world allow the novel to stand out among its peers.

Rating: Must Buy (for younger readers or parents)

 

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith Review

32048554Let luck find you.

Alice doesn’t believe in luck—at least, not the good kind. But she does believe in love, and for some time now, she’s been pining for her best friend, Teddy. On his eighteenth birthday—just when it seems they might be on the brink of something—she buys him a lottery ticket on a lark. To their astonishment, he wins $140 million, and in an instant, everything changes.

At first, it seems like a dream come true, especially since the two of them are no strangers to misfortune. As a kid, Alice won the worst kind of lottery possible when her parents died just over a year apart from each other. And Teddy’s father abandoned his family not long after that, leaving them to grapple with his gambling debts. Through it all, Teddy and Alice have leaned on each other. But now, as they negotiate the ripple effects of Teddy’s newfound wealth, a gulf opens between them. And soon, the money starts to feel like more of a curse than a windfall.

As they try to find their way back to each other, Alice learns more about herself than she ever could have imagined…and about the unexpected ways in which luck and love sometimes intersect.”

Windfall by Jennifer E. Smith was a solid and satisfying novel, although it does nothing new to the genre.  While the novel has solid lead characters and nice, sweet moments throughout the book, the overly predictable and generic feel of the book keep the novel from standing out.

I am not a big fan of romance novels, so take my review with a grain of salt. Teddy and Alice were solid lead characters. Smith did a good job of establishing them as separate characters. Alice is a kind soul, yet struggles to cope with her parents’ deaths. Her inner turmoil was well done and you genuinely care for her. Teddy was a bit generic and at times, he can be a bit annoying, but for the most part, he is tolerable and competent as the love interest. Max was a solid supporting character, although, again, he was a bit generic as the gay best friend. Now, the actual romance between Alice and Teddy was ok. I had no problems with their romance, but it was not as developed or as believable as I hoped it would be. It definitely has its moments, but as Alice chases Teddy, it feels all the same.

The plot of the book was extremely predictable. It is probably the most generic and predictable book I have read all year. I knew what would happen, almost the entire time I was reading. It’s as if Smith was checking a checklist of romance tropes. Read the summary and hypothesize how the book will play out. Chances are you are right. It’s ok to be predictable, but not painfully predictable. To top it off, some of the subplots don’t really get developed. Sawyer, a guy who develops a crush on Alice, is painfully underdeveloped. Alice even admits that she might even like him, but that he will never be Teddy. After several pages scattered throughout the middle of the book, he is gone. Only mentioned briefly near the end of the book. While they did go on a date, it just proved to be another “Oh, he’s cool, but he will never be so and so.” That being said, there are some genuinely cute moments throughout the book and some emotional ones as well, but that does not excuse the plot and underdeveloped subplots.

Windfall does nothing new to the genre. It has some solid characters and some nice moments throughout, but the predictable plot is painfully predictable. Those who like this genre will be satisfied with this novel and those who don’t will not find anything that will convince them to look at this genre in a new light.

Rating: Check it out if you like the genre

 

Prodigy by Marie Lu Review

Prodigy

Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots – a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots – a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?”

   

   Prodigy by Marie Lu serves as an emotional and exciting follow up to Legend. Lu opts to separate the two leads from one another, spending most of the book apart, and it pays off with good character development allowing them to come into their own and other characters to shine. Couple that with some surprisingly effective emotional moments and exciting action and Prodigy is a great sequel to the first novel.

As I said in the opening, Lu chooses to separate June and Day. While that could cause problems, Lu handles it well. June and Day each get their respective time to develop as characters and come into their own without having to rely on one another to be effective. June’s internal struggle between helping Day and acting on her own instincts was a executed well and eventually leads to some of the more emotional moments of the book. To continue, the supporting characters are given their own time to shine especially Kaede who is an absolute badass. Although,  I felt Tess was a bit whiny and became relegated as a love interest only for the sake of conflict. I was quite surprised at how effective the emotional moments were in this book. They felt organic and placed at the right times throughout the book.

The plot was a bit predictable, but I attribute that to many young adult/dystopia novels copying this trilogy’s formula and it was still well executed. The book moves at a quicker pace than the first novel and it creates some tense and exciting moments throughout the book. Lu continues to expand on the cool world she has established adding some information about the country’s hierarchy and background which I enjoyed reading.

Overall, Prodigy was a worthy follow up to Legend. The good character development with some great supporting characters, surprising emotional moments, and even more world building creates an exciting and thrilling sequel.

Rating: Must Buy

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentmer Review

51zE2A3zS0L._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

“What if you could spend one last day with someone you lost?

One day Carver Briggs had it all—three best friends, a supportive family, and a reputation as a talented writer at his high school, Nashville Academy for the Arts.

The next day he lost it all when he sent a simple text to his friend Mars, right before Mars, Eli, and Blake were killed in a car crash.

Now Carver can’t stop blaming himself for the accident, and he’s not the only one. Eli’s twin sister is trying to freeze him out of school with her death-ray stare. And Mars’s father, a powerful judge, is pressuring the district attorney to open a criminal investigation into Carver’s actions.

Luckily, Carver has some unexpected allies: Eli’s girlfriend, the only person to stand by him at school; Dr. Mendez, his new therapist; and Blake’s grandmother, who asks Carver to spend a Goodbye Day with her to share their memories and say a proper goodbye to his friend.

Soon the other families are asking for a Goodbye Day with Carver, but he’s unsure of their motives. Will they all be able to make peace with their losses, or will these Goodbye Days bring Carver one step closer to a complete breakdown or—even worse—prison?”

   Goodbye Days is, honestly, one of the best books I have read all year. It tackles a relevant and tough subject with sincerity and the brutal truth without ever sacrificing its story and characters for the sake of an emotional moment (although there are some really nice ones).

   Carver is an extremely vulnerable and sympathetic protagonist. Zentmer fantastically paints the inner struggle and guilt he feels for unintentionally causing his friend’s deaths. It is truly gut-wrenching to see the world through Carver’s eyes and how the people treat him. Zentmer is not afraid to put Carver through some tough, yet understandable situations. While hard to swallow, the behavior each person displays to Carver especially some of the parent’s is absolutely understandable except for Mars’ dad ( it was Mars’ choice to read it). It is difficult to imagine what goes through a parent’s mind when they hear their child has died and I hope I never have to. Jesmyn provides a nice companion to Carver as they tackle the loss together. Georgia provided some happiness and joy to a book filled with emotional moments. Who doesn’t want a sibling like her? 

   The plot moved in a kind of predictable way, however the characters more than made up for it. The emotional moments in the book feel so genuine and sincere, it never felt forced for the sake of having an emotional moment. Zentmer handles the tough subject with respect, but is never afraid to show the repercussions of the accident. At heart, the book is not only a book of grief and acceptance, but friendship. Jesmyn and Carver’s friendship was a joy to read and sweet to see them support one another through this tough time. 

   Goodbye Days was a fantastic and moving book that tackles its subject with respect and sincerity. The characters elevate this book from other young adult novels and their experiences and interaction with one another was beautifully done. Just read this book.

Rating: Must Buy

BZRK by Michael Grant Review

“Set in the near future, BZRK is the story of a war for control of the human mind.  Charles and Benjamin Armstrong, conjoined twins and owners of the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation, have a goal:  to turn the world into their vision of utopia.  No wars, no conflict, no hunger.  And no free will.  Opposing them is a guerrilla group of teens, code name BZRK, who are fighting to protect the right to be messed up, to be human.  This is no ordinary war, though.  Weapons are deployed on the nano-level. The battleground is the human brain.  And there are no stalemates here:  It’s victory . . . or madness.
 
BZRK unfolds with hurricane force around core themes of conspiracy and mystery, insanity and changing realities, engagement and empowerment, and the larger impact of personal choice. Which side would you choose?  How far would you go to win?”

BZRK by Michael Grant provided a solid science fiction novel with some badass characters and a brutal world that could eventually become a reality.

Noah and Sadie were solid characters who are thrust into the war between BZRK and the Armstrong Fancy Gifts Corporation. Their reactions were fairly realistic as the brutal world of BZRK becomes their lives. I just wished they could have been developed a bit better. Other than squirming and reacting to their umm….unique training, they don’t really get too much development. Obviously, they become better operatives and get used to their jobs, but they never develop any more characteristics. The main problem between the two of them is their interaction with one another. On their own, their dialogue is fine, but when they speak to one another it’s as if another author took over. It’s stilted, clunky, forced, and a bit cringey. Their romance takes a nice slow start, but is suddenly thrust into the limelight. Although, I could see why Grant took this route besides the dialogue. They are confused and really have no one else besides each other. Attraction is bound to happen at some point. The other characters were pretty badass. I found myself more intrigued between Vincent and the Bug Man and their rivalry against one another. Their Nano fights with one another were exciting and a test of their intelligence. The other BZRK members such as Nijinsky and Wilson were badass in their own rights and get their time to shine. The villains of this novel, the Armstrong Twins, were interesting in terms of appearances, but they never quite match that twisted and disturbing vibes that their appearances gave off of.

The world of BZRK was fantastic and the best part of this novel. The Nano warfare presented in the book could eventually become a reality. And when they fight, it gets brutal. Blood, guts, and body parts go flying throughout this novel and if you do not like that, stay away from this book. The brutal world presented a breath of fresh air from me as I have been reading too many happy-go-lucky books (except for Goodbye Days, which I will review soon.) and have been looking for a bit more mature book. The plot of the book was fairly interesting and executed well except for the lackluster climax. It just never felt interesting and ended quite abruptly. The ending did leave me intrigued for the second book.

Overall, BZRK was a solid, sci-fi novel that thrives due to its brutal world and badass characters only hampered by little character development from Noah and Sadie and terrible dialogue between Noah and Sadie as well.

Rating: Check it out

 

 

Return of the King (LeBron James) by Brian Windhorst Review

“The inside story of LeBron James’s return and ultimate triumph in Cleveland.

What really happened when LeBron James stunned the NBA by leaving a potential dynasty in Miami to come home to play with the Cleveland Cavaliers? How did the Cavs use secret meetings to put together the deal to add star Kevin Love? Who really made the controversial decision to fire coach David Blatt when the team was in first place? Where did the greatest comeback in NBA history truly begin-and end?

RETURN OF THE KING takes you onto the private planes, inside the locker-room conversations, and into the middle of the intense huddles where one of the greatest stories in basketball history took place, resulting in the Cavs winning the 2016 NBA title after trailing the Golden State Warriors three games to one. 

You’ll hear from all the characters involved: the players, the executives, the agents, and the owners as they reveal stories never before told. Get the background on all the controversies, the rivalries, and the bad blood from two reporters who were there for every day, plot twist, and social media snafu as they take you through the fascinating ride that culminated in a heart-stopping Game Seven.”

   I normally don’t read sports or biographies of sorts, but I love basketball and my favorite player is LeBron James so I just had to buy this book. I did get the audiobook version though and Windhorst did a great job of narrating it. The review will be a lot simpler compared to other books since it doesn’t take place in a magical land with fictional characters, rather gives people insight to the greatest sports comeback I have ever seen.

   Windhorst delivers a very entertaining and interesting novel. While sports fans were exposed to the general information of the Cavaliers’s season from when LeBron returned in 2014 to the 3-1 comeback in the finals, Windhorst provides great insight into the behind the scenes of everything from Tristan Thompson’s contract extension holdout to Kyrie Irving’s breakup with Kehlani. It was awesome to relieve the unlikely comeback all over again as a Cavs fan. I often watch ESPN and Windhorst often comes on various shows, still I never saw him as a writer. However, while he has a simplistic style, the novel is quite organized and progresses at a nice pace that hooked me. I think the best thing I can say about the novel is that it informed me of information I would never have known and kept me wanting to read. Biographies should inform the reader, while also being entertaining. It doesn’t need to be a masterpiece of prose, just inform the reader and keep them engaged. 

   I had a fantastic time reading this novel and it provided me with a lot of information I would have never known. The rating will be tweaked as I feel these types of books cater to a certain audience.

Rating: Must Buy for basketball, sports, and NBA fans. For everyone else, check it out.