Category Archives: Book Reviews

SciFi Book Review: The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious

The Unbeatable Squirrel Girl: 2 Fuzzy, 2 Furious by Shannon Hale and Dean Hale

Synopsis:
Doreen Green, age fourteen, is a little too busy wiping out crime in her suburban New Jersey neighborhood to focus on her overdue homework. That’s because she also happens to be Squirrel Girl, a bushy-tailed, squirrel-powered Super Hero! After foiling the nefarious plot of an amateur Super Villain, Squirrel Girl is finally finding her groove–and group texting with the Avengers, like, all the time. Doreen, on the other hand, is still trying to navigate friendships, evil teachers, and all the pitfalls that come with middle school. (Seriously, it’s complicated.)

An announcement goes out that sends waves of excitement through the community: There’s a new mall opening on the border of Shady Oaks and neighboring town Listless Pines, and they all get to vote on the mall’s mascot! Everyone goes wild over the election . . . a little too wild, if you ask Squirrel Girl and her BHFF (Best Human Friend Forever), Ana Sofia. Soon the two towns are at war–even the trusty Squirrel Scouts are going berserk. Is there something sinister at work in Shady Oaks? Something that has less to do with quality shopping choices and more to do with world domination? And will Squirrel Girl be able to unleash the furry paws of justice in time to save the day?

Review:
Doreen, AKA Squirrel Girl, picks up not long after the last novel – she now has a best friend and even groupies. But she has a teacher who seems to hate her for some reason. And the new mall coming in seems nefarious. It even has a logo that looks suspiciously like a hydra.

This latest Squirrel Girl story is just as fun and exciting as before. The story is told from multiple points of view – Squirrel Girl, Ana Sofia, and even Tippy Toe the squirrel. The highlight is always the conversations that Squirrel Girl has with the Avengers via text and also the random chatroom rants. Squirrel Girl is incredibly powerful, but she’s also the sweetest and most innocent superhero. This story is full of humor, mystery, adventure, and crazy characters. I love the quirky, Squirrel Girl comics, and these novels make for a perfect series for middle readers on up.

SciFi Book Review: The Final Six

The Final Six by Alexandra Monir

Synopsis:
When Leo and Naomi are drafted, along with twenty-two of the world’s brightest teenagers, into the International Space Training Camp, their lives are forever changed. Overnight, they become global celebrities in contention for one of the six slots to travel to Europa—Jupiter’s moon—and establish a new colony, leaving their planet forever. With Earth irreparably damaged, the future of the human race rests on their shoulders.

For Leo, an Italian championship swimmer, this kind of purpose is a reason to go on after losing his family. But Naomi, an Iranian-American science genius, is suspicious of the ISTC and the fact that a similar mission failed under mysterious circumstances, killing the astronauts onboard. She fears something equally sinister awaiting the Final Six beneath Europa’s surface.

Review:
Leo is alone in the world after the death of his family. In fact, he has nothing else to live for, when suddenly he is chosen to compete for a chance at heading to the stars. Meanwhile, Naomi has a wonderful family that doesn’t want to leave, especially with what she knows about the chances of the Final Six who will be chosen.

The Final Six is an exciting, science fiction novel for young adults. The story is told from both Leo and Naomi’s view points, alternating chapters. The characters are well-developed and the pacing is solid. The majority of the story is the competition at NASA to narrow down the young adults to the best choices to represent humanity – with thrilling challenges a possible psychopath bent on sabotage. I thoroughly enjoyed this novel – with plenty of intrigue, danger, suspense, and a bit of romance. Events build to a surprising finale and a big cliffhanger as the kids head to space. This sequel can’t come soon enough. And it’s no wonder that it’s been optioned for film already.

SciFi Book Review: Thunderhead

Thunderhead by Neal Shusterman

Synopsis:
The Thunderhead cannot interfere in the affairs of the Scythedom. All it can do is observe—it does not like what it sees.

A year has passed since Rowan had gone off grid. Since then, he has become an urban legend, a vigilante snuffing out corrupt scythes in a trial by fire. His story is told in whispers across the continent.

As Scythe Anastasia, Citra gleans with compassion and openly challenges the ideals of the “new order.” But when her life is threatened and her methods questioned, it becomes clear that not everyone is open to the change.

Review:
Rowan has become a vigilante, ending Scythes who are corrupt and abuse their power. Whereas Scythe Anastasia (formerly Citra) has become a force for good from within the Scythedom. But someone is not happy with her ideals and sympathetic ways. The Thunderhead, the almost-omniscient AI, knows about the danger threatening Scythe Anastasia, but since it can’t directly interfere – it must become creative.

Thunderhead is the second installment in the Arc of a Scythe series. Once again, the strengths of this story is the incredible characters and fantastic worldbuilding. The different points of view paired with intense suspense, pulls the reader right into the story. This sequel is a much different story, yet just as dramatic and exciting. It’s unpredictable and builds to a cliffhanger ending this time. These novels have impressed me so much that I’m definitely going to read more from this author. And the next in this series can’t come soon enough.

Fantasy Book Review: Wizard for Hire

Wizard for Hire by Obert Skye

Synopsis:
Fourteen-year-old Ozzy lives near Portland, Oregon, and is desperate for help. His scientist parents have been kidnapped after discovering a formula that enables mind control. Their work was so top secret Ozzy is afraid to go to the police, but without help, he fears he’ll never find his parents. Then he stumbles across a classified ad in the local newspaper that says “Wizard for Hire. Call 555-SPEL.” Ozzy has read about wizards in books like Harry Potter, but wizards couldn’t actually exist today, could they? After Ozzy meets the wizard Labyrinth–aka Rin–he’s even more skeptical.

Sure, Rin dresses like a wizard, but the short robe and high-top tennis shoes seem unorthodox, as does Rin’s habit of writing notes on his shoes and eating breakfast for every meal. Plus, Rin doesn’t even cast any magic spells, which means that the unexplained coincidences that start happening around Ozzy are just that–coincidences.

With the help of a robotic-talking raven invented by Ozzy’s father, a kind and curious girl at school who decides to help Ozzy, and, of course, a self-proclaimed wizard who may or may not have a magical wand, Ozzy begins an unforgettable quest that will lead him closer to the answers he desperately seeks about his missing parents.

Review:
Ozzy has lived alone in his home in the woods for years, after his parents were kidnapped. When he sees and ad for a Wizard for Hire, Ozzy seeks the wizard’s help in finding what happened to his parents. Rin doesn’t act or look like the wizards Ozzy has read about, but he’s the one person Ozzy can trust.

Wizard for Hire isn’t exactly a fantasy story, as there isn’t really any magic – other than an intelligent, mechanical bird. This middle grade novel has some wonderfully, colorful characters. While the story starts out a bit slow, as Ozzy grows up on his own and tries to go to school, there is a lot of fantastic character development. And there is still plenty of humor, mystery, adventure, and suspense as the story continues. I thoroughly enjoyed this start to a new series. And I appreciated that there wasn’t a cliffhanger ending and that the story seemed mostly wrapped up. But these characters are a lot of fun, which readers will love to read more about.

SciFi Book Review: Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition

Star Wars: The Last Jedi: Expanded Edition by Jason Fry

Synopsis:
From the ashes of the Empire has arisen another threat to the galaxy’s freedom: the ruthless First Order. Fortunately, new heroes have emerged to take up arms—and perhaps lay down their lives—for the cause. Rey, the orphan strong in the Force; Finn, the ex-stormtrooper who stands against his former masters; and Poe Dameron, the fearless X-wing pilot, have been drawn together to fight side-by-side with General Leia Organa and the Resistance. But the First Order’s Supreme Leader Snoke and his merciless enforcer Kylo Ren are adversaries with superior numbers and devastating firepower at their command. Against this enemy, the champions of light may finally be facing their extinction. Their only hope rests with a lost legend: Jedi Master Luke Skywalker.

Review:
Ren has gone to bring Luke back to help the Resistance. But he doesn’t want to go. Meanwhile, the First Order is closing in on the Resistance. And they have the ability to track them through hyperspace, as the Resistance tries to escape and survive.

The Last Jedi is a fun adventure wrought with suspense, betrayal, heartbreak, humor, and intrigue. I saw the film in the theater twice, so I’m very familiar with the story. But when I heard this novel would have additional content, I had to check it out. There is one (opening scene) of a vision Luke has of an alternate, what-if scenario that really has no bearing on the story but fuels Luke’s sadness. There are also minor differences to dialog, extended scenes, and brief additional inner dialog from characters – such as Maz Katana – which was very enjoyable. This novelization flowed well and felt like I was watching the movie for the third time. Fans will love the extra content and experiencing the story in another format. It certainly made me excited for the release of the film on Blu-Ray tomorrow.

SciFi Book Review: Star Trek Voyager: Architects of Infinity

Star Trek Voyager: Architects of Infinity by Kirsten Beyer

Synopsis:
As the Federation Starship Voyager continues to lead the Full Circle Fleet in its exploration of the Delta Quadrant, Admiral Kathryn Janeway remains concerned about the Krenim Imperium and its ability to rewrite time to suit its whims. At Captain Chakotay’s suggestion, however, she orders the fleet to focus its attention on a unique planet in a binary system, where a new element has been discovered. Several biospheres exist on this otherwise uninhabitable world, each containing different atmospheres and features that argue other sentient beings once resided on the surface. Janeway hopes that digging into an old-fashioned scientific mystery will lift the crews’ morale, but she soon realizes that the secrets buried on this world may be part of a much larger puzzle—one that points to the existence of a species whose power to reshape the galaxy might dwarf that of the Krenim.

Meanwhile, Lieutenants Nancy Conlon and Harry Kim continue to struggle with the choices related to Conlon’s degenerative condition. Full Circle’s medical staff discovers a potential solution, but complications will force a fellow officer to confront her people’s troubled past and her own future in ways she never imagined.

Review:
Admiral Janeway and Voyager (along with the remaining ships in the Full Circle Fleet) are back in the Delta Quadrant, but this time as explorers. When they discover a new element on a mysterious planet, they decide to investigate while giving the rest of the crew some down-time on the planet. But the mystery of the planet and the new element soon turns into a fight for their lives.

I may have missed some of the Voyager relaunch novels, as some of details of their current situate didn’t sound familiar. But Architects of Infinity is easy to jump into. There is plenty of character development with the newer characters. The story is complex with various subplots, but they are all easy to follow and eventually tie-in. There is plenty of suspense, drama, humor, and mystery. Though we’re missing some of the original crew, it still feels like a Voyager story. I really enjoyed this one and am excited about the direction of this series. And there is a surprising, cliffhanger ending that will hook fans for the next installment.

Fantasy Book Review: Through a Dark Glass

Through a Dark Glass by Barb Hendee

Synopsis:
On her seventeenth birthday, Megan of Chaumont discovers she’ll be sold as a bride to the brutish Volodane family-within hours. Her father grants only that she may choose which one of the ruthless, grasping lord’s three sons she weds:
Rolf, the eldest: stern, ambitious, and loyal?
Sebastian, the second son: sympathetic, sly, and rebellious?
Or Kai, the youngest: bitter, brooding, and proud?

As shy, horrified Megan flees the welcome dinner for her in-laws-to-be, she finds an enchanted mirror that will display how her life unrolls with each man, as if she were living it out in a breath. But there is no smooth “happily ever after” in her choices.

Deaths and honors, joys and agonies, intrigues and escapes await her in a remote, ramshackle keep, where these rough but complex men reveal one side and then another of their jagged characters-and bring forth new aspects of Megan, too. But the decisions of one teenaged marriage-pawn reverberate much farther than any of them have guessed.

Review:
Megan is given the choice to marry one of three brothers. A magic mirror shows her what her life would be like and the consequences of each decision. But the choice isn’t easy, as each choice leads to a domino effect of different outcomes.

Through a Dark Glass is an unique fantasy with the feel of a dark, fairy tale. The first choice of suitors was so vivid and in-depth, I had forgotten that it was only one of 3 stories. So, I was surprised when the next one came along. I was afraid it’d be a bit like Groundhog Day; but it was fantastic storytelling with vivid characters. Each of Megan’s decisions affected the next decision she made. So, while there were similarities, the outcomes were very different at times. It was like a Choose Your Own Adventure book, where each choice leads to a different path. It was captivating and led to a wide range of emotions and surprises. I’m a fan of Barb Hendee’s novels, and this is no exception. I look forward to the next in this exciting series.

Book Giveaway: Awakened

Courtesy of Harper Voyager, I have an extra early copy of Awakened, by James S Murray for one lucky winner!

Contest is open to US residents only. No PO Boxes please. To enter, just fill out the form below. Contest ends April 13. I’ll draw a name on April 14, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading Book Giveaway: Awakened