Category Archives: Book Reviews

Fantasy Book Review: The Darkdeep

The Darkdeep by Ally Condie and Brendan Reichs

Synopsis:
Everyone in Timbers knows Still Cove is off-limits, with its creepy Beast sightings and equally terrifying legends. But when a bullying incident sends twelve-year-old Nico Holland over a cliff and into Still Cove’s icy waters, friends Tyler and Emma–and even Opal Walsh, who usually runs with the popular kids–rush to his rescue . . . and discover a mysterious island hiding in the murky, swirling mists below.

Though the island appears uninhabited, the kids can’t shake a feeling that something about it is definitely not right. Their suspicions grow when they stumble upon an abandoned houseboat filled with all sorts of curiosities: odd-looking weapons, unnerving portraits, maps to unknown places, and a glass jar containing something completely unidentifiable. And in its lowest depths churns a dark, deep secret.

As the group delves deeper into this mysterious new clubhouse, their lives begin to intertwine in weird and dangerous ways. For something ancient has awakened . . . and it can detect not only their wishes and dreams, but also their darkest, most terrible imaginings. Do they have what it takes to face the shadowy secrets lurking within their own hearts?

Review:
When his new drone crashes into the cove, Nico goes after it, despite the danger. His friends follow, and they stumble upon an abandon cabin on an island. Here, they find the Darkdeep that brings their darkest fears to life for a time. At first, it’s a novelty. But then, something begins to change.

The Darkdeep is a dark fantasy for middle readers. It’s narrated from alternating characters, which helps the reader feel what they feel. Nico feels bullied and betrayed. And Opal has a good heart, but is a bit naive when it comes to her friends. People have compared this to Stranger Things, and I can see it – the dark, creepy feel and group of kids who are in over their heads. But this is definitely not scary. It’s more silly, though still deals with drama, friendship, and bullying. There is plenty of suspense and mystery. And readers are left with more questions than answers by the end – hopefully to be resolved in a sequel before too long.

Fantasy Book Review: Adventurers Guild: Twilight of the Elves

Adventurers Guild: Twilight of the Elves by Zack Loran Clark and Nick Eliopulos

Synopsis:
Zed, Brock, and their friends may have saved Freestone from destruction, but the fight against the Dangers is far from over. No one knows what to expect next from the dark power that forced the elves to abandon their city. And the influx of elf refugees in Freestone strains resources and brews resentment among the townspeople. Things have shifted between best friends Zed and Brock, as well, with their friendship crumbling under the weight of the secrets they’re keeping from each other.

When tensions reach an all-time high, Queen Me’Shala, leader of the elves, approaches the Adventurers Guild with a mission. She wants a small group of adventurers to go behind the king’s back on a covert mission to save her city, and Zed, Brock, Liza, Jett, Micah, and their elven friend Fel join the quest. To face a powerful form of magic thought to be extinct, the adventurers will have to learn how to rely on each other and fight harder than ever before.

Review:
Zed and Brock’s friendship becomes strained as they keep secrets from each other. Brock feels like a traitor. And Zed has a secret magic that he can’t explain. Meanwhile, they join a quest to help the elves reclaim their city, as they have been mistreated in Freestone.

Twilight of the Elves is the second installment in the Adventurers Guild trilogy. This fantasy for middle readers on up is inspired and fantastic. I really enjoy this magical world straight out of a RPG with colorful characters and intense suspense. This quest takes them on a journey of adventure, mystery, and magic. I didn’t want this one to end. I wish this series would last longer than just the 3 books planned, as there is so much potential here. There is plenty of heart and drama and humor with the friendship between Zed and Brock. And the vast fantasy world has plenty of stories to tell.

SciFi Book Review: Stars Uncharted

Stars Uncharted by SK Dunstall

Synopsis:
Captain Hammond Roystan is a simple cargo runner who has stumbled across the find of a lifetime: the Hassim, a disabled exploration ship–and its valuable record of unexplored worlds.

His junior engineer, Josune Arriola, said her last assignment was in the uncharted rim. But she is decked out in high-level bioware that belies her humble backstory.

A renowned body-modification artist, Nika Rik Terri has run afoul of clients who will not take no for an answer. She has to flee off-world, and she is dragging along a rookie modder, who seems all too experienced in weapons and war.

Together this mismatched crew will end up on one ship, hurtling through the lawless reaches of deep space with Roystan at the helm. Trailed by nefarious company men, they will race to find the most famous lost world of all–and riches beyond their wildest dreams.

Review:
When the ship Hassim arrives, Captain Roystan and his crew salvage what they can – most importantly the record of her route. But there are many who will stop at nothing to get that information. Meanwhile, Nika Rik Terri has to flee after being attacked by a powerful client. And everyone seems to have secrets in their past.

Stars Uncharted is an exceptional, science fiction novel. This space opera is full of colorful characters and heart-pounding suspense. I thoroughly enjoyed this inspired universe where body modifications have surpassed general surgery and companies control the galaxy. There is plenty of adventure and humor. And the intensity builds to a surprising finale. I heard that a sequel could be in the works, so I have my fingers crossed!

Fantasy Book Review: Let Sleeping Dragons Lie

Let Sleeping Dragons Lie by Garth Nix and Sean Williams

Synopsis:
Odo and Eleanor are excited to be knights. Only . . . nobody’s asking them to go on a quest. So they’re stuck at home, using their trusty and talkative swords to defend their village when there’s cause for defense. But mostly it’s just . . . waiting for something bigger to come along.

That “something bigger” comes to them in the form of an old man named Edga, a warrior named Hundred, and an ancient chant:
Dragon, dragon,
heed our call . . .
Come to aid us,
one and all.

Odo, Eleanor, and their swords, Biter and Runnel, are plunged into a quest that will take them (as all good quests must) to unfamiliar lands, where they will fight unseen enemies and unlock unbelievable secrets in order to prevent an unbearable impostor from taking the crown.

Also, they will need to keep an eye out for dragons.

Review:
Let Sleeping Dragons Lie is the second installment in the Have Sword, Will Travel series. Odo and Eleanor are young knights with talking swords. The children are eager for adventure, when a new quest finally sends them against magical beasts and an unfit king. As before, the characters are fantastic – especially the swords and their unique personalities. And this sequel is full of excitement, suspense, and humor. Though a bit predictable, it’s still a lot of fun. Fantasy fans of all ages should pick up this exceptional series.

SciFi Book Review: Star Trek: Discovery: The Way to the Stars

Star Trek: Discovery: The Way to the Stars by Una McCormack

Synopsis:
Despite being an inexperienced Starfleet cadet, Sylvia Tilly became essential to the U.S.S. Discovery finding its way back home from the Mirror Universe. But how did she find that courage? From where did she get that steel? Who nurtured that spark of brilliance? The Way to the Stars recounts for fans everywhere the untold story of Tilly’s past.

It’s not easy being sixteen, especially when everyone expects great things from Tilly. It’s even harder when her mother and father are Federation luminaries, not to mention pressing her to attend one of the best schools that the Federation has to offer. Tilly wants to achieve great things—even though she hasn’t quite worked out how to do that or what it is she wants to do. But this year, everything will change for Tilly, as she about to embark upon the adventure of a lifetime—an adventure that will take her ever closer to the stars….

Review:
Tilly is a very friendly, if awkward, Starfleet officer. The Way to the Stars is a story of Tilly at sixteen, learning her place in the world and making decisions that will shape her future.

This is story of Tilly’s early life. She’s a character that’s easy to love, but with an ensemble cast on a new show with too-few episodes, we’ve barely scratched the surface. Tilly’s mother assumes that she’ll follow in her footsteps and become a diplomat. Tilly prefers math and science, but can’t seem to stand up to her mother’s forceful will. This was engrossing story of growth and self-discovery. It was hard to put down. And while not action-packed, this standalone novel was dramatic and heartfelt, with a bit of adventure. This was a great way to tide me over until the next episode of Discovery airs.

Fantasy Book Review: Potion Masters: The Transparency Tonic

Potion Masters: The Transparency Tonic by Frank Cole

Synopsis:
It has been nine months since Gordy and his friends, Max and Adilene, stopped Esmerelda from destroying B.R.E.W. and the Vessel. Gordy is starting the eighth grade, where he meets another Dram, Sasha Brexil, whose mother is the new President of B.R.E.W. Gordy has also been practicing new brewing techniques, and has even taken some of his potions to school—something expressly forbidden—but when he starts zoning out during practice, he knows something is wrong.

Strange things are also happening at B.R.E.W., because after Wanda confronts the dark Elixirists, she is unexpectedly fired by Mrs. Brexil. And in Greenland, Mezzarix is offered a chance to escape by an old friend, who is working for the mysterious Ms. Bimini. The woman reveals that she needs Mezzarix to replicate an unusual solution known as “Silt.” Mezzarix agrees on one condition: that Ms. Bimini uses the power of Silt to destroy B.R.E.W. forever.

Both B.R.E.W and the Vessel are in danger, and with the potion world in chaos, it’s up to Gordy, Max, and Adeline to rally the remaining Potion Masters before it’s too late.

Review:
Gordy has a new principal this year. And his daughter, Sasha, happens to be a Dram as well, studying to be an Elixirist. But Sasha’s mother takes over as the new president of B.R.E.W. and is particularly ruthless. Meanwhile, Adilene meets a new, mysterious, young friend as well who acts very strange. And a new force helps Mezzarix escape with a new endgame in mind.

The Transparency Tonic is the second installment in the Potion Masters series. This clever fantasy series is just as fun as the previous book – with plenty of adventure and suspense. B.R.E.W. is under attack again, but this time from a mysterious outsider. And Gordy’s new “friend” is extremely annoying and obnoxious. But the other characters were engaging – even the villainous ones. This story builds to a surprising conclusion and a bit open-ended. I look forward to the next in this exciting middle grade series that can’t come soon enough.

SciFi Book Review: Children of Jubilee

Children of Jubilee by Margaret Peterson Haddix

Synopsis:
Since the Enforcers raided Refuge City, Rosi, Edwy, and the others are captured and forced to work as slave labor on an alien planet, digging up strange pearls. Weak and hungry, none of them are certain they will make it out of this alive.

But Edwy’s tech-savvy sister, Kiandra, has always been the one with all the answers, and so they turn to her. But Kiandra realizes that she can’t find her way out of this one on her own, and they all might need to rely on young Cana and her alien friend if they are going to survive.

Review:
When trying to prove the cruelty of the Enforcers, the children are captured and taken to an off-world prison. Each are forced to work in a mine in a seemingly hopeless situation. Until one little girl makes a strange friend.

Children of Jubilee is the third and final installment in this post-apocalyptic scifi series for middle readers. Rosi and Edwy and the rest of the kids that escaped are all together again. But their adventures have just begun. This final chapter is the most suspenseful and exciting yet. It was extremely hard to put down. And I loved the climactic ending with plenty of surprises along the way. I only wish this series would continue past the first 3 novels. These are great characters and a fun, unique setting. I definitely recommend this well-written and engaging series.

Book Review: Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds

Legion: The Many Lives of Stephen Leeds by Brandon Sanderson

Synopsis:
Stephen Leeds is perfectly sane. It’s his hallucinations who are mad.

A genius of unrivaled aptitude, Stephen can learn any new skill, vocation, or art in a matter of hours. However, to contain all of this, his mind creates hallucinatory people―Stephen calls them aspects―to hold and manifest the information. Wherever he goes, he is joined by a team of imaginary experts to give advice, interpretation, and explanation. He uses them to solve problems . . . for a price.

His brain is getting a little crowded and the aspects have a tendency of taking on lives of their own. When a company hires him to recover stolen property―a camera that can allegedly take pictures of the past―Stephen finds himself in an adventure crossing oceans and fighting terrorists. What he discovers may upend the foundation of three major world religions―and, perhaps, give him a vital clue into the true nature of his aspects.

Review:

Stephen has a legion of hallucinations – each with their own distinct personality. And each hallucination has their own special talent or aptitude. So, Stephen is able to assist with a variety of cases as a unique detective. 

This book includes 3 novellas: Legion, Legion: Skin Deep, and Lies of the Beholder. The last novella is newly published and serves as a conclusion to the series. Each is a captivating story with humor, suspense, and drama. I don’t read a lot of short stories, but I thoroughly enjoyed this set. Stephen Leeds and his hallucinations are fantastic characters. I really wish there were more stories in this series.