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Book Review: Children of Exile

Children of Exile by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Synopsis:
For the past twelve years, adults called “Freds” have raised Rosi, her younger brother Bobo, and the other children of their town, saying it is too dangerous for them to stay with their parents, but now they are all being sent back. Since Rosi is the oldest, all the younger kids are looking to her with questions she doesn’t have the answers to. She’d always trusted the Freds completely, but now she’s not so sure.

And their home is nothing like she’d expected, like nothing the Freds had prepared them for. Will Rosi and the other kids be able to adjust to their new reality?

Review:
Rosi and all of the kids in Fredtown have been raised by loving, nurturing adults. But now they have to go back to their parents and the real world. And they are completely unprepared for the reality of their biological families and what life will be like going forward.

Children of Exile is the first in a science fiction trilogy for middle readers. Rosi is a sweet, likable girl who has been taught only good things from the Freds. However, since the kids were so sheltered, life is culture shock for them back in their real home – full of secrets and danger. I thoroughly enjoyed the suspenseful pacing and surprising final reveal. Though, there is plenty left unanswered. It feels like we’ve barely scratched the surface of the dark, intense world. And it’s a quick, easy read. Fans of post-apocalyptic series should check out this unique series debut.

Fantasy Review: The Trials of Apollo: The Burning Maze

The Trials of Apollo: Book Three: The Burning Maze by Rick Riordan

Synopsis:
The formerly glorious god Apollo, cast down to earth in punishment by Zeus, is now an awkward mortal teenager named Lester Papadopoulos. In order to regain his place on Mount Olympus, Lester must restore five Oracles that have gone dark. But he has to achieve this impossible task without having any godly powers and while being duty-bound to a confounding young daughter of Demeter named Meg. Thanks a lot, Dad.

With the help of some demigod friends, Lester managed to survive his first two trials, one at Camp Half-Blood, and one in Indianapolis, where Meg received the Dark Prophecy. The words she uttered while seated on the Throne of Memory revealed that an evil triumvirate of Roman emperors plans to attack Camp Jupiter. While Leo flies ahead on Festus to warn the Roman camp, Lester and Meg must go through the Labyrinth to find the third emperor–and an Oracle who speaks in word puzzles–somewhere in the American Southwest. There is one glimmer of hope in the gloom-filled prophecy: The cloven guide alone the way does know. They will have a satyr companion, and Meg knows just who to call upon.

Review:
Apollo (currently in the mortal body of Lester) and Meg team up with more familiar characters in this third installment in the Trials of Apollo series. Apollo has to brave the Labyrinth and discovers the 3rd evil emperor – who happens to want to steal his godly powers as well.

This latest installment had plenty of humor, adventure, drama, and heart. The story dragged a bit in the middle – it felt like it was purposefully made to stretch to a certain book length. There’s something to be said that my favorite books were the original Percy Jackson stories that were half of this length with all of the action and adventure, but a tighter (and more memorable) story. That being said, I love this incarnation of Apollo. He’s become humble, but still a bit of a coward, expecting others to fight for him. I still love the mystery, adventure, suspense, heartbreak, and humor. I look forward to the next in this inspired series.

ARC Book Giveaway: The Darkest Legacy

Courtesy of Disney-Hyperion, I have an extra early review copy of The Darkest Legacy by Alexandra Bracken 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 July 13. I’ll draw a name on July 14, and notify winner via email.

ENTER DAILY TO INCREASE YOUR CHANCE OF WINNING!

Good luck!

Continue reading ARC Book Giveaway: The Darkest Legacy

Fantasy Book Review: Potion Masters

Potion Masters: The Eternity Elixir by Frank L. Cole

Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Gordy Stitser is one of the few people who knows the truth about the secret society of potion masters, because not only is Gordy’s mom on the Board of Ruling Elixirists Worldwide (B.R.E.W.), but she has also been training Gordy in the art of potion-making.

Gordy is a natural, and every day he sneaks down to the basement lab to invent new potions using exotic ingredients like fire ant eggs, porcupine quills, and Bosnian tickling juice.

One afternoon, Gordy receives a mysterious package containing an extremely rare potion known as ”The Eternity Elixir.” In the right hands, the Elixir continues to protect society. But in the wrong hands, it could destroy the world as we know it.

Now, sinister potion masters are on the hunt to steal the Eternity Elixir. It’s up to Gordy, his parents, and his best friends, Max and Adeline, to prevent an all-out potion war.

Review:
Gordy is an apprentice of potion-making. He’s fascinated with his mother’s work. So, when he received a package meant for his mother when she’s out of town, Gordy decides to do his own experiments. But the Elixer is very dangerous. And his mother has been keeping secrets.

The Eternity Elixir is first in a new middle reader, fantasy series. The story is fast-paced and full of mystery, suspense, and humor. The characters are engaging and kept me guessing – from Gordy’s mother’s side of the family to his friends. And I loved the unique idea and clever use of magic through potions and the backstory of B.R.E.W. Events build to an exiting finale that doesn’t disappoint. I thoroughly enjoyed this one and look forward to the next installment.

Fantasy Book Review: The Stone Girl’s Story

The Stone Girl’s Story by Sarah Beth Durst

Synopsis:
Mayka and her stone family were brought to life by the stories etched into their bodies. Now time is eroding these vital marks, and Mayka must find a stonemason to recarve them. But the search is more complex than she had imagined, and Mayka uncovers a scheme endangering all stone creatures. Only someone who casts stories into stone can help—but whom can Mayka trust? Where is the stonemason who will save them?

Review:
The Stone Girl’s Story is a sweet story with the feel of a fairy tale. Mayka and her friends are living stone creations. Their creator has long passed, and now the stone creations need fixing to go on living. So, Mayka and her friends go on a quest to find a gifted stonemason. The characters are likable and engaging. And while a bit predictable, the story has plenty of adventure, suspense, humor, and heart. This coming-of-age, middle reader novel is fun for all ages. Durst’s novels are always unique and must-reads for me. And this novel is one of her more feel-good, light-hearted stories.

Fantasy Book Review: Ink, Iron, and Glass

Ink, Iron, and Glass by Gwendolyn Clare

Synopsis:
A certain pen, a certain book, and a certain person can craft entirely new worlds through a branch of science called scriptology. Elsa comes from one such world that was written into creation, where her mother―a noted scriptologist―constantly alters and expands their reality.

But when her home is attacked and her mother kidnapped, Elsa is forced to cross into the real world and use her own scriptology gifts to find her. In an alternative Victorian Italy, Elsa finds a secret society of young scientists with a gift for mechanics, alchemy, or scriptology―and meets Leo, a gorgeous mechanist with a smart mouth and tragic past. She recruits the help of these fellow geniuses just as an assassin arrives on their doorstep.

In this thrilling debut, worlds collide as Elsa unveils a deep political conspiracy seeking to unlock the most dangerous weapon ever created―and only she can stop it.

Review:
Elsa is a scriptologist, like her mother. So when her mother is taken, Elsa is the best person to fix the damaged world books and find her mother.

Ink, Iron, and Glass is the first in a unique, steampunk duology for young adults. The worldbuilding is impressive with alchemists, mechanics, and notably scriptologists who can create worlds from books. I would love to see it fleshed out even more. I would’ve liked to see some more character development. However, this debut was very enjoyable. It’s a fun, fast-paced adventure with exciting twists.

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.