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

 

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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

Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black Review

Centuries of war with aliens threaten the future of human civilization on earth in this gripping, epic science fiction debut…

We never saw them coming.

Entire cities disappeared in the blink of an eye, leaving nothing but dust and rubble. When an alien race came to make Earth theirs, they brought with them a weapon we had no way to fight, a universe-altering force known as thelemity. It seemed nothing could stop it—until we discovered we could wield the power too.

Five hundred years later, the Earth is locked in a grinding war of attrition. The talented few capable of bending thelemity to their will are trained in elite military academies, destined for the front lines. Those who refused to support the war have been exiled to the wilds of a ruined Earth.

But the enemy’s tactics are changing, and Earth’s defenders are about to discover this centuries-old war has only just begun. As a terrible new onslaught looms, heroes will rise from unlikely quarters, and fight back.”

  Ninth City Burning by J. Patrick Black is a solid sci-fi novel that does enough to shake the familiar sci-fi novel. With some solid characters and an extremely detailed world, Ninth City Burning should satisfy any sci-fi fan.

There are a lot of major characters in this novel and several POV’s that switch throughout the book. It kind of reminds of those big disaster movies like 2012 or Independence Day where it focuses on several different people in order to make the movie much bigger and increase the stakes. For the most part, it succeeds in that retrospect. Each POV depicts a perspective of the war from different parts of society from the workers to the front lines. In my opinion, there were way too many POV’s. As a result, some characters such as Imway or Kizabel (who I felt was just there to spout exposition and explain the technicalities of the technology) feel underdeveloped, which is a shame considering all the main characters were quite fun to read. It was nice to see how the war affected all of the people rather than just saying it. If Black cut some of the POV’s, I would have felt more attached to the other main characters. That’s not to say they were bad, in fact, it’s the opposite. The other main characters were well done and evolve throughout the book, but, as I said before, I was not as attached to them as I thought I would.

Now the world Black creates is fantastic. He goes above and beyond in terms of world building. He puts great detail into this world, often expanding on the world and its lore. Unfortunately, it suffers from telling and not showing. There is too much exposition at times in the book mainly from the main character Kizabel. It seems as if she is only there to explain how things and certain technology works. The plot of the novel seems to be standard, but Black takes it into some nice places that make it stand out from other sci-fi novels. The action was well done, but the final battle felt a bit anticlimactic.

Overall, with some solid characters, a nice plot, and a detailed, fantastic world, Ninth City Burning stands out from the sci-fi crowd.

Rating: Must Buy on sale (Must Buy for sci-fi fans)

 

Shadow on the Mountain by Margi Preus Review

Shadow on the Mountain recounts the adventures of a 14-year-old Norwegian boy named Espen during World War II. After Nazi Germany invades and occupies Norway, Espen and his friends are swept up in the Norwegian resistance movement. Espen gets his start by delivering illegal newspapers, then graduates to the role of courier and finally becomes a spy, dodging the Gestapo along the way. During five years under the Nazi regime, he gains—and loses—friends, falls in love, and makes one small mistake that threatens to catch up with him as he sets out to escape on skis over the mountains to Sweden.

Shadow on the Mountain was a solid historical YA novel that shines due to its characters and interesting location, but hampered by the short book length and constant time jumps.

Espen was a protagonist that you really learn to cheer for. While I felt the time jumps hurt his character development, the daily interactions he has with his friends and members of the resistance were solid. The best parts of the books are when life is mundance for Espen. His conversations with his friends talking about the Nazi Regime and planning to do whatever they can to get them out were well done. Preus’  attention to detail for the culture and daily life during Norway at that time only serves to strengthen Espen as a character and really gets you to cheer for him more. While the supporting characters were not well developed besides a few, they still provided some depth and authenticity of the time period. Unfortunately, the weakest character in the book is the villain. I did enjoy reading from his view point, but he was predictable and had no character development at all. This weak villain results in a weak climax with an ending that also feels unsatisfying.

The plot itself was somewhat predictable, but the historical aspect of the novel did aid In keeping parts of the plot from feeling familiar. I do understand why Preus used time jumps as she wanted to depict the life of Espen during different times of World War II, but I felt the overall short book length hampered Espen’s character development. You don’t really see his maturity and progression as much as I hoped.  I felt that the best part of the novel is the authenticity of Norway. Preus did a phenomenal job of depicting the daily lives of those who lived there during that time period even including photos of the person Espen is based off of and documents during that time which I really enjoyed (I love it when author’s do these little things in order to immerse the reader). The ending of the novel felt unsatisfying to me and abrupt, but it did not sour my experience as a whole.

For someone who is a not a big fan of historical novels, Shadow on the Mountain was a good novel with a good main character and an even better, realistic world that the characters inhabit.

Rating:  Must Buy on sale

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak Review

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A dazzling debut novel—at once a charming romance and a moving coming-of-age story—about what happens when a fourteen-year old boy pretends to seduce a girl to steal a copy of Playboy but then discovers she is his computer-loving soulmate.

Billy Marvin’s first love was a computer. Then he met Mary Zelinsky.

Do you remember your first love?

The Impossible Fortress begins with a magazine…The year is 1987 and Playboy has just published scandalous photographs of Vanna White, from the popular TV game show Wheel of Fortune. For three teenage boys—Billy, Alf, and Clark—who are desperately uneducated in the ways of women, the magazine is somewhat of a Holy Grail: priceless beyond measure and impossible to attain. So, they hatch a plan to steal it.

The heist will be fraught with peril: a locked building, intrepid police officers, rusty fire escapes, leaps across rooftops, electronic alarm systems, and a hyperactive Shih Tzu named Arnold Schwarzenegger. Failed attempt after failed attempt leads them to a genius master plan—they’ll swipe the security code to Zelinsky’s convenience store by seducing the owner’s daughter, Mary Zelinsky. It becomes Billy’s mission to befriend her and get the information by any means necessary. But Mary isn’t your average teenage girl. She’s a computer loving, expert coder, already strides ahead of Billy in ability, with a wry sense of humor and a hidden, big heart. But what starts as a game to win Mary’s affection leaves Billy with a gut-wrenching choice: deceive the girl who may well be his first love or break a promise to his best friends.”

The Impossible Fortress by Jason Rekulak is a weird case. When I first read the book, I loved it. The Ready Player One-esque vibe, nerdy references, and solid character all made for a very good book. But as the days went on and I chewed on it more, there’s not much more to it. It’s predictable and the supporting characters such as Alf and Clark are one-dimensional characters who stay exactly the same throughout the book. However, the book nails the naivety of being a teenager and the need to appease others combined with a solid romance.

Billy was a solid main character. He is the typical slacker who spends his time programming rather than going off to school. At the same time, he is likeable and you understand just what he is doing. I’m sure at some point in our lives, we felt as if we needed everyone to like us and we may even to whatever it takes to do so. That naivety and single-minded thinking is very much of a teenager and Rekulak does a good job of illustrating that without making him stupid or a terrible person. His relationship with his mom was well done providing some nice emotional moments. Of course, his love interest is Mary. An attractive, albeit a bit overweight girl who just like him loves to program. Their romance was solid, as well (I think there is a pattern developing here). It is very much a first love and Rekulak does a good job of portraying the uncertainty and confusion as their relationship progresses and draws them closer. She does not develop as much as I hoped, but still well done. Unfortunately, besides those 3 characters, the supporting characters are flat and one-dimensional. Mary’s dad is the typical grumpy overprotective dad who warms up to Billy, Alf and Clark are the best friends, etc.

The actual plot of the book revolves around a game called the, you guessed it, the impossible fortress. Taking place in the 1980’s, there are numerous pop culture references and it feels all very Ready Player One (which is not a bad thing mind you). But the plot is very predictable and besides a plot twist-ish, there’s not much depth beneath it. Although, I still found the book itself to be a very good representation of being a teenager and that is what the author primarily sets out to do.

All in all, The Impossible Fortress has a predictable plot and weak supporting characters yet, the solid main character and romance with a very good representation of being a teenager culminates in a solid and charming novel.

Rating: Must Buy on sale