The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli Review

 

“Seventeen-year-old Molly Peskin-Suso knows all about unrequited love—she’s lived through it twenty-six times. She crushes hard and crushes often, but always in secret. Because no matter how many times her twin sister, Cassie, tells her to woman up, Molly can’t stomach the idea of rejection. So she’s careful. Fat girls always have to be careful.

Then a cute new girl enters Cassie’s orbit, and for the first time ever, Molly’s cynical twin is a lovesick mess. Meanwhile, Molly’s totally not dying of loneliness—except for the part where she is. Luckily, Cassie’s new girlfriend comes with a cute hipster-boy sidekick. Will is funny and flirtatious and just might be perfect crush material. Maybe more than crush material. And if Molly can win him over, she’ll get her first kiss and she’ll get her twin back.

There’s only one problem: Molly’s coworker Reid. He’s an awkward Tolkien superfan with a season pass to the Ren Faire, and there’s absolutely no way Molly could fall for him. Right?“

I am a dude who likes video games, action movies, etc., but I will admit this is probably the cutest book I have read. The Upside of Unrequited by Becky Albertalli is a cute, emotional, and great young adult novel without being depressing or bleak which was a bit refreshing.

Molly is the narrator for the novel and as such, you see the events unfold through her eyes and hear her thoughts. I do like when an author uses a first-person narrative as it allows the reader to know the character’s thoughts and feelings about events. It really allows the reader to get to know the character at a more personal level. I liked Molly as a character and reading her thoughts and reactions to events in her life was realistic, yet at times a bit annoying. I cannot fault Molly for being annoying at times as reacting and overreacting to events as is what many people do. Her development from a pessimistic and innocent girl to someone who is a bit more matured and a bit more optimistic felt earned. Reading the book from her perspective really helped make the novel feel more personal and as a result, the payoff is satisfying. Her relationship with her sister, Cassie, plays an important part in the novel and was well done. As Cassie gets closer to Mina, Molly finds herself on the outside, something she is not comfortable with considering they are twins. Seeing Molly make mistakes and at times, screw up their relationship was refreshing. People make mistakes and I feel that some books make their protagonist too perfect and this novel highlights Molly’s mistakes.

I felt there would be a love triangle when I began the book, but, fortunately, there really isn’t. It becomes who Molly prefers fairly early on with the love triangle only resulting from Molly’s hesitation and reluctance. The other supporting characters such as Nadine, Olivia, etc. were good, but they are not as developed as Molly, Cassie, and Reid. Speaking of Reid, I found him to be pretty cool and relatable being a fellow nerd like him. His dynamic with Molly was adorable and believable which can be hard to pull off. The plot is fairly predictable, but for a book like this that does not really matter. The characters take center stage with the plot serving as a way to develop the characters.

  The Upside of Unrequited is an adorable young adult novel that is sure to satisfy many readers with relatable and realistic characters, good character development, and pretty cute moments.

Rating: Must Buy

 

Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Caleb Nation Review

“Bran Hambric was found alone in a locked bank vault when he was six years old. He doesn’t have a clue how he got there, or any memory of his past. There’s only one explanation: Magic. But magic is outlawed in the Great and Glorious City of Dunce.

Eight years later, a twisted, hissing creature confronts Bran and his foster father, Sewey, on their rooftop. Sewey believes it’s a gnome, but not Bran. (Sewey isn’t the brightest Duncelander to begin with.) Bran soon discovers that whatever leapt onto his roof is connected to the he never knew…and that Bran himself is the missing link in a plot so secret and evil that those behind it will stop at nothing to hunt him down.

Armed with wands and weapons, Bran’s enemies are about to attack–with all the power of a horrible curse and a terrible crime. Magic won’t be the only law broken in the City of Dunce…”

   Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse by Caleb Nation is a bit of a hidden gem for magic/fantasy readers. I read this a while ago, but found myself wanting to write a review on it upon discovering it in my room and I wanted others to know more about it. It was released around the peak of Harry Potter with the movie series nearing its end. While there are similaritites to the Harry Potter series, it does enough to satisfy and thrill readers.

   Bran Hambric was a solid protagonist who has to come to terms with his newfound powers. His journey from beginning to end is a bit generic, but is fairly effective. There will be comparisons with him to Harry Potter (newfound powers, siblings who hate him, etc.), but he does enough to stand out as his own character. His struggle to accept himself and his past was well done and the main driving force of the character. The other supporting do well although I found Astara to be one of the better ones. She becomes Bran’s friend and helps him throughout his journey. The rest are fine and do what they are supposed to do, but they do not really stand out.

   The plot is fairly standard for a fantasy novel and does take some time to pick up.  Although, I attribute it to world building. It does get a bit heavy in the second half in terms of plot and characters which can lose you. The world Nation creates is pretty awesome. It does have the standard goblins and monsters with some gnomes mixed in, but the history behind it, as Bran continues to uncover secrets of Dunce, is fairly interesting and stands out from other magical novels. It is a fairly well written book considering the book was started by Nation at 14 and continued throughout his teen years which is pretty impressive. 

   Bran Hambric: The Farfield Curse is a solid and well done magic novel. There will be comparisons to the Harry Potter series and I admit there are similarities to it, but Nation does enough to make this novel stand out in the crowded genre.

Rating: Must Buy for Magic/ Harry Potter lovers. 

For everyone else, Check It Out


Off To Be The Wizard by Scott Meyer Review

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“Martin Banks is just a normal guy who has made an abnormal discovery: he can manipulate reality, thanks to reality being nothing more than a computer program. With every use of this ability, though, Martin finds his little “tweaks” have not escaped notice. Rather than face prosecution, he decides instead to travel back in time to the Middle Ages and pose as a wizard.

What could possibly go wrong?

An American hacker in King Arthur’s court, Martin must now train to become a full-fledged master of his powers, discover the truth behind the ancient wizard Merlin… and not, y’know, die or anything.”

Sometimes you just need to read (or in my case listen) to something fun, something akin to a popcorn movie and Off To Be The Wizard by Scott Meyer is just that. It’s funny, entertaining, and above all, fun. It’s a book where you turn your brain off and just enjoy the ride.

Martin was a solid protagonist who discovers something wonderful. While he does discover a file that alters the world, he is by no means a genius and that does make him quite relatable. He is not some genius, he is a normal guy who just happens to have stumbled on quite a discovery. His journey from an average joe to a good wizard was fairly effective even if expected. Philip serves as the mentor to Martin and I found their interactions and conversations to be quite hilarious. The book really starts to pick up when they meet one another and seeing their relationship grow was quite nice. The other supporting characters such as Gary provided their own funny moments and lines. Merlin or Jimmy serves as Philip’s main rival and their rivalry provides some of the funniest moments in the book. While I did like the characters, they are not the most complex or layered characters and they should not be for a book like this. They have their own quirks and traits that make the likeable and entertaining, but they are not ground breaking. This is not a con, just a heads up for those looking for deep characters. I listened to the audiobook and found the narrator to be pretty good. His variety of accents and unique voices really helped elevate the book, so I do recommend the audiobook.

The plot is fairly predictable and some decisions make you scratch your head, but it does enough to keep you going. It does take some time to pick up, notably when Philip and Martin meet which is where the actual magic begins. Now I do appreciate the creativity of the world that Meyers creates. The magic itself was quite different from most fantasy books. It is a bit more sci-fi that fantasy in that regard. The magic requires manipulation of the file and the wizards can even create macros to help them cast more complex magic which is quite unique and a bit refreshing. The humor in this book clicked for me, yet it can be quite silly. What people find funny is different from one another and others may find it silly and at times, crass.

I have been reading some pretty heavy books recently and reading Who Let The Gods Out? and Off To Be The Wizard was a good change of pace. Off To Be The Wizard is not going to win any awards for literature excellence, but not every book should be. It’s fun, funny, and extremely entertaining.

Rating: Must Buy (I can’t believe I forgot the rating)

Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans Review

Elliot’s mum is ill and his home is under threat, but a shooting star crashes to earth and changes his life forever. The star is Virgo – a young Zodiac goddess on a mission. But the pair accidentally release Thanatos, a wicked death daemon imprisoned beneath Stonehenge, and must then turn to the old Olympian gods for help. After centuries of cushy retirement on earth, are Zeus and his crew up to the task of saving the world – and solving Elliot’s problems too?

  Who Let The Gods Out? by Maz Evans presents a genuinely funny and adventurous book that satisfies kids and adults. I just had a blast reading this novel and laughed frequently.

Elliot was a very likeable protagonist. His determination to take care of his ill mom will resonate with many people and his wit is sure to make people laugh. He is pretty much the link between the audience and the book. Virgo was a fairly solid protagonist who serves as the fish out of water. It was fairly entertaining and funny to see her interact with people and the world we mortals live in. I do feel she takes a bit of a backseat in the second half of the book, but still served a sizeable role in the novel overall. The supporting characters are mostly gods and goddesses from Greek mythology. Zeus, Athena, Aphrodite, etc. were very funny and a good chunk of the funny moments came from them. Thanatos serves as the main villain and he was fine. He had some funny moments, but other than that he did what he was supposed to do. I liked how Evans modernized the gods. They were accustomed to living in our world and even had their own phones called the iGod.

The novel’s plot is fairly basic with the “we have to find these items before the villains does,” but it was still fairly effective.  It is Percy Jackson-esque with the gods and goddesses and mythical powers and prophecies, but other than that it is fairly different. I was surprised at some of the adult jokes in this novel, but there were still funny and for kids, it provides some good replay value if they decide to read it in the future. There were some nice action sequences including a weird, yet awesome sequence involving the queen of England. While the books was fairly funny, I felt it went for the joke too much at times and the climax was a bit unsatisfying.

Who Let The Gods Out? was a funny and entertaining novel that kept me laughing throughout and engaged with its likeable characters and modernized take on the greek gods. It was genuinely a blast to read.

Rating: Must Buy

 

Magyk by Angie Sage Review

The seventh son of the seventh son, aptly named Septimus Heap, is stolen the night he is born by a midwife who pronounces him dead. That same night, the baby’s father, Silas Heap, comes across a bundle in the snow containing a new born girl with violet eyes. The Heaps take this helpless newborn into their home, name her Jenna, and raise her as their own. But who is this mysterious baby girl, and what really happened to their beloved son Septimus?

The first book in this enthralling new series by Angie Sage leads readers on a fantastic journey filled with quirky characters and magykal charms, potions, and spells. Magyk is an original story of lost and rediscovered identities, rich with humor and heart.”

There’s nothing wrong with reading a solid book from time to time. It may not do anything new, but it provides some entertainment. For better or for worse, Magyk by Angie Sage is exactly that. Solid, but unspectacular.

While I do feel there are some good characters, such as Boy 412 and Aunt Zelda, there are way too many characters. There are some characters, such as Stanley the messenger rat, who show up, get some time, then do not show up for the rest of the novel. It’s fine if there are characters that only show up for a purpose, but when you begin to give them time and then never show up again, it feels underdeveloped and unnecessary. Boy 412 was my favorite character and his character arc from a quiet soldier boy to a magyk user was fairly well done, yet familiar. Aunt Zelda was a cool character with some interesting history that I wanted to know more of and this applies to Marcia as well. The villain was your standard evil villain, fear me type. The other characters such as Jenna and Nicko were fine, but I did not really find them all that interesting.

The plot is pretty standard for a fantasy novel and this book does get comparisons to the Harry Potter series (which happens for every magic series, it seems) which is mostly right, as it does borrow some elements from it. There is a bit of a twist by the end with a red herring in the middle, but it becomes quite obvious once it is when a certain character is introduced. The actual magic parts of the book was cool and I thought it was a bit of a nice touch to highlight the magic words (I can’t think of a word to describe it) and were the most entertaining parts of the book.

Overall, Magyk is a solid, yet unspectacular book that provides some nice magic moments and a few solid characters.

Rating: Read if you like the genre

Champion by Marie Lu Review

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He is a Legend.

She is a Prodigy.

Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.”

With every beginning, there is an end and Champion completes the Legend trilogy with an exciting and fast-paced novel that keeps you reading until the end.

It was extremely satisfying to see June and Day go through their respective arcs and for the most part, it pays off. It was quite refreshing to see June in a more political mindset and as a result, becomes a much more mature person that realizes there is more than one point of view to every situation and also be the badass heroine she is by the end. Day goes through a lot throughout the entire trilogy and probably loses the most. And it shows by this novel. He is battered, bruised, and beaten and it was nice to see him broken down, yet still continue to be the symbol he is to the people. To see him tortured and quite protective of Eden was also quite relatable to those who have a brother or a sibling. I did feel the “thing” that he has hindered his character arc a bit as it feels a bit unnecessary, really serving as a way to serve up drama when the plot needs it to be. I really liked Anden throughout this novel. His struggle to become the leader that he expects himself to be and others want him to be was well done. Tess was not in the novel very much, but she is much better in this novel compared to Prodigy where I felt she did not do much except cause more drama. I found Pascao to be a fun and entertaining character whenever he was included in the scene and complemented Day well.

The plot of the novel is predictable, but still effective. The pace this novel moves at is fantastic. It moves at a fast enough rate to where you cannot stop reading, yet the plot moves along with it. It never feels like there is any filler and every scene serves a purpose which was refreshing and quite interesting even when there is no action happening.  Now let’s talk about the ending. The ending to a series can make or break the entire trilogy and could render previous novels useless. I have heard mixed things about the ending, but I quite liked it. It was nice to see Lu be a bit bold with the ending which I felt wrapped the trilogy quite nicely.

In conclusion, Champion wraps up the Legend trilogy with an exciting and nicely paced novel that leaves fans feeling satisfied.

Rating: Must Buy (For the entire series as well)

The Serpent King by Jeff Zentner Review

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“Dill has had to wrestle with vipers his whole life at home, as the only son of a Pentecostal minister who urges him to handle poisonous rattlesnakes, and at school, where he faces down bullies who target him for his father’s extreme faith and very public fall from grace.

The only antidote to all this venom is his friendship with fellow outcasts Travis and Lydia. But as they are starting their senior year, Dill feels the coils of his future tightening around him. Dill’s only escapes are his music and his secret feelings for Lydia, neither of which he is brave enough to share. Graduation feels more like an ending to Dill than a beginning. But even before then, he must cope with another ending- one that will rock his life to the core.”

After reading the fantastic Goodbye Days, I decided to go back and read Zentner’s debut, The Serpent King. While I believe the former to be the better novel, The Serpent King presents an emotional and brutal coming of age novel.

I felt all three of the main characters to be quite well done, but I did not connect with one of them as much as I had hoped. Of the three, Dill gets the majority of attention and I found his character arc to be the best of the three. Travis had his own charm and it was awesome to see someone embrace their quirky nature amidst his hostile household. I do wish he had appeared more in the book, but his character arc was nicely done and provides some of the most brutal moments in the book. Lydia felt a bit off and I can’t really put my finger on it. Don’t get me wrong, I still liked her character and she had her moments, but I just couldn’t connect with her. Maybe it was because her character arc felt a bit underdeveloped and the payoff to be sudden or maybe it was because she felt a bit like a plot device or to cause drama. The supporting characters consist mainly of the kids’ parents and were really only there when the plot called for them (except for Mr. Blankenship who provided a nice contrast to the dark portrayal of the other parents). The overly religious family and the father who hates his son for being different have been done before, but I do respect Zentner for portraying them in such a more visceral and unhinged way that I could not help but feel uncomfortable.

The plot was a bit predictable especially with the bleak nature of the book, but much of the emotional moments felt organic just like Goodbye Days. Be warned, I found this book to be quite bleak and even depressing compared to Goodbye Days which had just a bit more hopeful vibe throughout the book which at times can become too much. While I do believe there are people in the world that got through those experiences, the common occurrence of it in the novel sort of saturated it for me making each one punch just a bit less than the last one. Nonetheless, the emotional moments still hit hard and felt organic. I still could not believe just how some of these parents treated their kids and unfortunately, there are people who do this to their children. I am not a religious guy. I do believe in God and I do read the bible. I believe we do have a sort of path in our lives, but we are still free to make our own choices. But sometimes faith is not enough, sometimes you have to do it yourself. Surprisingly, I loved the small town nature of the book and it only helped to make the book more realistic. I have never been to a southern town, but from what I have read and seen, it seems to be quite on point.

The Serpent King proves to be an emotional and even bleaker book than Goodbye Days, but it does not quite surpass the latter. While I did not connect with one of the main characters and the emotional moments can become a bit too much, The Serpent King remains a great coming of age novel containing some great characters, gut-punching emotional moments, and a surprising small town feel.

Rating: Must Buy