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A World without Heroes (Beyonders Book 1)- Review

3.5/5 Stars

The Quick Review:

I liked it. This book felt a little one dimensional and a little predictable, but for some reason it was still fun to read!  Do not expect this book to be as good as Mull’s amazing Fablehaven series; but read it anyway, I think Mull fans will enjoy it nonetheless.

The Long Review:

This story was simpler and a little more predictable than Fablehaven.   The plot did not feel layered or intricate. I felt like reading it was like walking down a straight path with no turns, you pretty much can tell what is ahead of you without much shocking surprise. The story moves from A to B to C all the way to Z in a mostly constant fashion.

However; it was still a really enjoyable book.  Mull wrote a bunch very funny dialogues throughout the book that made me laugh; he creates some unique species of animals, plants, and humanoids that are clever and not what you would normally see in a fiction-fantasy; and writes some entertaining situations that I enjoyed reading, even if the outcomes were a little predictable.

Pros:

Well written, funny dialogue.

Entertaining events.

Creative and unique species.

Cons:

One dimensional.

Predictable story line.

The Story:

(Taken from Goodreads)

Jason Walker has often wished his life could be a bit less predictable–until a routine day at the zoo ends with Jason suddenly transporting from the hippo tank to a place unlike anything he’s ever seen. In the past, the people of Lyrian welcomed visitors from the Beyond, but attitudes have changed since the wizard emperor Maldor rose to power. The brave resistors who opposed the emperor have been bought off or broken, leaving a realm where fear and suspicion prevail.

In his search for a way home, Jason meets Rachel, who was also mysteriously drawn to Lyrian from our world. With the help of a few scattered rebels, Jason and Rachel become entangled in a quest to piece together the word of power that can destroy the emperor, and learn that their best hope to find a way home will be to save this world without heroes.

The Writing: 

Mull’s writing is that of a pro. He writes great comedic dialoged and sets some clever scenarios.  I wish the story played more off of itself, rather than just moving forward in a figurative straight line from start to finish.

The Characters:

Jason Walker- An average kid who plays baseball and works at a zoo. He is witty and has a sarcastic optimism even when faced with grave danger.  I couldn’t help but like his character and his attitude throughout the whole book.

Rachel – More of a predictable “strong female character” type. She is smart, more mature, and a very capable person for her age. I liked her character as well, but she did not stand out from similar types in other stories. She reminds me of a less timid version of Kendra from Fable Haven.

Maldor- Is a tyrannical oppressor that seeks to take over Lyria. I really liked him as the villain. He respects rivals and values the learning experience when one gets the better of him. He offers them freedom from his pursuit and/or a place in his council because he respects a good mid. Aside from the fact that he maims, tortures and kills whoever he needs to, he might not be such a bad guy.

Conclusion:

Give it a try. Get it from the Library. I enjoyed this read despite some shortcomings. I will read the second in the series, I anticipate a stronger story in the next one.

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Ben the Dragonborn by Dianne Astle- Review

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The Quick Review:

Boys between 8 and 12 will absolutely love this book; it is written perfectly for this age group. Ben the Dragonborn is a fun and exciting read that fiction-fantasy fans of any age will be able to get into. The story reads very quickly and is easy to follow.  This is the kind of story you will want your children to read if you want to show them that reading can be fun; and not like all the awful books teachers make you read in grade school.

The Longer Review:

Ben the Dragon born is a great new fantasy series. The book has a recipe of successful concepts and ideas that are familiar to a YA fantasy reader, but in no way does this book seem like a copy. It is unique and original in every way.

Portals to unknown worlds; gifted children chosen for quests; an array of imaginative creatures; and a school that is magical and secretive.  Fans of the 100 Cupboards series, Fablehaven, Percy Jackson, and Harry Potter will find something to love in this book.

The Story:

Ben is a regular student at a not so regular school. He knows the school is different, but he and his friend cannot figure out why.  A meeting with his principle turns into a quest to another world. Ben has to decide if all this is real, and if he really has what it takes to save another world from a disaster that the natives cannot fix themselves.

The Writing: 

Astle’s writing is very easy to read and follow. Her story is not bogged down with too much detail or unnecessary back-story. Ben the Dragon born felt like a fun, bight adventure that is perfectly suited for the “Juvenile Fiction” genre.

The story reads very quickly, and the characters move very fast through the story. My only critique is a budding romance between 2 characters. They go from despising each other to putting up with each other in a few chapters. Then you turn the page and one is saying she loves the other.  This happened over the course of a day, maybe two, in the story. It was just way too fast for those feelings to develop like that. That said it did not detract from or get in the way of the story, and is probably a believable progression of feeling for a very young reader.

The Characters:

The story follows the POV of Ben, a student at Fairhaven. He goes through most of the story with 2 companions around his age, Jared and Charla. Ben and Jared seem very average, no over the top emotions or character flaws. It is nice to see main characters who are normal, rather than super nerdy or over defiant. Charla is over confident and a little arrogant, which plays well into the adventure.

Conclusion:

This is a must read for boys. Books like this are what get you into reading at a young age. I wish I had more stories like this when I was in grade school. It is an exciting story, full of adventure, and easy to read. I look forward to the next one.

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Empress Fallen by Bethan-Ann Scott – Review

4/5 Stars

The Quick Review:

Space-Adventure fans- get ready for you new favorite series!

Empress Fallen is a strong first novel from new author Bethan-Ann Scott.  A dark, high-octane novel that is surprisingly profound. All the action scenes are intensely exciting. This book is filled with an array of exciting ship battles and firefights to rival scenes from Star Wars and Star Trek.

The Longer Review:

Empress fallen takes place far in the future (7000’s AD) long after the destruction of earth.  Spaceships reminiscent of those of Star Trek and a galaxy run by an Empire that feels more oppressive than that of Star Wars.  It has all the excitement of a good Sci-Fi series, yet is darker and exaggerates moral issues present in today’s society. The action scenes are intense and stimulating and very well written.

The first part of the book was mainly set up and back-story.  Scott’s galaxy is very complex, and takes a large amount of set up to understand. A great fantasy world is one that is thorough; one that exists more off the page than on. Scott has created a fantastic realm, and I am excited to read more in it.

This book is most definitely a Space opera. Many of the characters and ideas build around exaggerated feeling and concepts; amplifying emotions and moralities present in today’s culture and politics. This is my first drama (and space drama) read; at times the character personalities felt too over the top for me, but I cannot compare to anything else.

The Story:

A tyrannical empire filled with corruption, a danger that could destroy the entire human race.  Miriam and Aliya find their destinies inexplicably intertwined as they fight to save an empire that they have been brought up to hate. Will they be able to save humanity and destroy the oppressive rule of the empress and still make it out alive? (Well you have to read to find out ;P ) A story filled with war, rebellion, intense ship battles, love, and secrecy. I thoroughly enjoyed this story from start to finish!

The Writing: 

Bethan-Ann Scott writes amazing action and fight scenes. She adds enough visual for your imagination to create the imagery, but does not bog the story down with descriptiveness.

The first half of the story felt more like the intended Space-Opera genre; the second half of the book read more like Space-Adventure. Personally, I though the Space-Adventure portions were more exciting to read and felt more naturally written.  Scott has a natural ability for action and fight scenes; her writing portrays this and is an obvious strength.

Scott writer consists of many short sentences. A good amount of them were one word; either a name or re-emphasized thought. (This maybe a norm in the drama/opera genre, but was not something I was accustomed to.)  This made the beginning chapters and certain scenes feel a little choppy. Once the action kicked in to full throttle (around page 80) it felt like the sentencing smoothed out and the story flowed very naturally.

 

The Characters:

The character cast is very large and they all have uncommon names.  One of the few critiques I have is that a character/place list and maybe a key term list be added to the beginning or end of the book.  I frequently confused support characters with each other through the first half of the book; about halfway through I sorted them all out in my head.

The POV of the story follows 2 main characters; Miriam a ship captain/pilot; and Aliya, a rebellious slave girl. Miriam and Aliya begin as very similar characters; strong females, have lost parents, are from high rank families, and became fugitives. Overall, they are both pessimistic and anger is their dominant emotion. They both have love interests that are more even tempered then they are. They have leadership qualities, are hot-tempered, zone out in thought occasionally, and have major insecurities they do not like to share.

Their characters become more unique, develop well and gain more depth as the story progresses.  I liked Miriam’s development and the well rounded character she became for the second half of the novel.

Aliya consistently made irrational, brash decisions from start to finish. She is very headstrong and emotionally in the moment.  It seems like every decision she makes has the large possibility to kill everyone; and she would be dead in moments if it weren’t for those around her. She walks a fine line between peoples’ champion and death. Although frustrating, creates excitement and action chapter to chapter. She does not fit a stereotypical “main character” role. I am interested to see how she develops moving forward in the second book.

Conclusion:

Empress Fallen is definitely worth the read, especially for Sci-Fi fans.  It might not  appeal to you, depending on the level of drama you are accustomed to, but try it out. Bethan-Ann Scott is a very young and talented writer, so give Empress fallen a read and jump on her “fan” bandwagon early!

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Interview with Emma Silver- Author of Blackbrooke

BlackbrookeRecently, I had the pleasure of reading Emma Silvers debut horror Blackbrooke. A thrilling tale of monsters and mysteries, Blackbrooke is a refreshing new series proving that not all monster sparkle in the light and fall in love with humans. I encourage Ya Fiction fans and Horror fans of all ages to check out Emma Silver’s Blackbrooke

Stop by Emma Silvers blog. Then get to reading Blackbrooke. The third book of the trilogy is coming out sometime this year!

I asked Emma a few questions about her and her first series. Be sure to come back for reviews of the rest of her series and more interview with Emma!

 

What Books and Authors shaped your reading and writing styles?

Stephen King was the main one for sure. I started reading horror books very young and devoured the Goosebumps and Point Horror series’ very quickly, so I needed someone more. I was about nine when I started reading King and I loved the ideas and the suspense. The Shining and IT were my favorites as a child and I wanted to try and frighten readers just like he did. 

 

Who would you choose as an author to be your mentor?

Haha! It has to be Stephen King, although I’m really into Joe Hill too. The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree with that one; although I do think the writing style is very different, but equally as good. I had the pleasure of meeting Joe Hill recently and he’s just the most delightful ball of energy who clearly has fun, not only writing, but meeting his readers. He’s an inspiration. 

 

What do you find most challenging about your writing process?

Author Emma Silver

 Editing. The ideas and the first draft is always great but then the editing…well, let’s just say

it takes its toll. It’s very difficult to take a step back and declare a piece of work as ‘done’. I could happily tinker with my work until the day I die but you have to learn to let it go and be proud of the finished product. 

 

For how long was Blackbrooke just an “idea?”

 Not long. I thought about a town that had to live by a set of rules and started writing it the following day. 

 

What inspired you to write Blackbrooke?

 I really wanted to buck the trend of paranormal romance which seemed to monopolize the YA book market up until a few years ago. I wanted to create monsters that were monsters and not something for the heroine to fall in love with. The humans are humans in Blackbrooke – no special powers lurking underneath. That was important to me. 

 

How long did it take you to write Blackbrooke?

The first draft was done and dusted within about six weeks but I made a fair few changes to it during the editing process. I think all in all it took around four months to have it completed and ready to send to the publisher. 

Are any scenes written from experiences you had?

A few of the school scenes are based on conversations I’ve had or ones I’ve overheard during my time as a pupil. I created the character of Gemma as the girl I always wished I was at the time. I was a bit of state in school so would have loved to be one of the pretty, popular girls. However, it’s only as an adult you realize they weren’t all they’re cracked up to be. I wrote Gemma with the flaws you only notice when you’re an adult. She isn’t the most pleasant to those who aren’t her friends but fiercely loyal to the select few she lets into her circle. Characters such as Denzil and Marie are based on people I know, which were lovely to write. 

 

Is there a character that is most similar to you? 

 When people who knew me read the book they said Liberty reminded them of me. I think they’re just being polite though! I couldn’t cope with the huge amount of crap she’s had to deal with! I’m certainly as goofy as Denzil but that’s as close as it gets. 

 

Could you give us some insight into how you came up with some of your ideas?

 Just from the things that used to scare me when I was a child. I remember waking up in the night when I was very young and swearing I saw red eyes in my room that slowly faded. I was terrified and put the duvet over my head. It was something that has always stayed with me and my imagination would run riot thinking about what the creature with the red eyes looked like. I hate vultures so that’s why the Crits have long necks too. The Crits are basically a Frankenstein’s monster of all of the things that scare me. 

Thats all folks. Check out the original review if you are still not convinced.  Then go read Blackbrooke II: The Guardian

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The Dragon’s tooth (Ashtown Burials: Book1) – Review

The Dragon’s tooth (Ashtown Burials #1)

N.D. Wilson

 

The short:

A very strong beginning to another great trilogy. N.D. Wilson creates a secret society on earth that is original and believable.  Rowling and Riordan fans cannot go wrong with this book!  Ashtown feels magical and historic. I wish I could go there myself.

 This novel is entertaining for all ages. It is packed with adventure from start to finish and at no point loses pace.  This book is very suspenseful. Readers will enjoy the amount of suspense as Cyrus and Antigone figure out what the heck has just happened to them.

The Long:

This series reads very differently than what I expected. The dragon’s tooth felt like a suspense-adventure. Wilson 100 cupboard series started similarly, with mysterious happening mixed with new adventures.  This new series has more action in the first installment than the 100 cupboards.  I felt like I was Cyrus and experiencing the same question that he had throughout the entire story.

Wilson does an amazing job painting a scene with words. His characters experience a number of events and witness so much in Ashtown.  Every item, character, and event feels very original and unique if you are trying to compare them to other series.

Wilson’s characters are creative and feel very natural. They are a blend of real and crazy that does not push them to the extreme. The society is a great mix of the past with the future; giving Ashtown the feel of a walk through live action role play history book, while walking through a museum (kind of like night at the museum.) I wish I could find this place and fight others in hot air balloons games and ride a shark and use quick water.

Pros:

Spectacular Imagery

Nonstop suspense and action

Very original concept

Cons:

The second book wasn’t out right after I read the first.

The Story:

(Taken from Goodreads)

For two years, Cyrus and Antigone Smith have run a sagging roadside motel with their older brother, Daniel. Nothing ever seems to happen. Then a strange old man with bone tattoos arrives, demanding a specific room.

Less than 24 hours later, the old man is dead. The motel has burned, and Daniel is missing. And Cyrus and Antigone are kneeling in a crowded hall, swearing an oath to an order of explorers who have long served as caretakers of the world’s secrets, keepers of powerful relics from lost civilizations, and jailers to unkillable criminals who have terrorized the world for millennia.

The Writing: 

N.D. Wilson writes this story mostly from the point of Cyrus. He does very little background of what going on to Cyrus as you is read through the story. Some readers found this to be a negative; I found it to be a strong aspect of the writing and tone of this book.  Wilson wrote this novel in third person POV, but I felt like I was reading a first person point of view. I was confused about what was going on because Cyrus was confused about what was going on. When in life to you enter a new situation, and somebody standing behind you is telling you what’s happening and why; never, that’s when. Cyrus is plunged into a mysterious society and life very quickly. He had to figure out what was going on as it happened, just like the reader had to. I loved this style of reading.

The Characters:

I will leave most of the characters out for this review so you can be introduced to them like I was. Wilson’s characters are fresh and original and often surprising as the book unfolds.  Every character involved with the society is quirky, has unique skills, and the right amount of back-story for you to really understand all of them.

Cyrus Smith- Cyrus is an impatient youth. His life has come onto some hardships. His father is dead, his mother in a coma, and he lives in a rundown motel now owned by his older brother.  He seems a little fed up with most of the world, and going to a secret society filled with pretentious people doesn’t make him any happier. He rises to the challenge set forth in a way I would expect a boy his age too. He was challenged and no one thought he could do it; that got his competitive edge going to prove them wrong.

Antigone Smith- The strong willed sister of Cyrus. She is the brains to Cy’s athleticism.  She and Cy both enter the secret society and become members together. She is a strong female character and an extra POV that rounds out the POV of Cyrus very well.

Conclusion:

Definitely read this one. This series will be one for the bookshelf. Wilson really improved from his last series, The 100 cupboards, which I thoroughly enjoyed.  If you are a fan of N.D. Wilson, you will love it. If you were disappointed with the 100 Cupboards series, this one makes N.D. Wilson’s writing worth another try.

I loved this book and can’t wait to read the second in the series. If you are a fan of Hogwarts or Camp Half-Blood; you must read this book and become a fan of Ashtown!

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Blackbrooke: Book I of the Trilogy – Review

Emma Silver, Author of Blackbrooke, will be doing an interview with me soon. The Q&A is soon to come!

Zero2Fiction

Blackbrooke

4.5 Stars

The short:

Blackbrooke had me on the edge of my seat and kept my heart racing.  Emma Silver filled Blackbrooke with vivid emotion and suspense. I found myself surprised at every turn as the plot did not do what I anticipated or expected. Emma Silver writes emotions so well they explode off the page and into your heart.

As a male reader, I half expected something along the lines of Twilight and City of Bones- This was a very wrong assumption. Blackbrooke is a very suspenseful horror.  It has a great blend of thrills, mystery, gruesomeness, love, and excitement.

A read that will appeal most to 13-18 year old girls, but an exciting read for anyone who loves fiction and suspense.  I think some male readers will not connect with the story, especially in the beginning. My advice is to read it; you will not want to put…

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