Keeper of the Lost Cities – Book Review

Keeper of the Lost Cities Illustrated & Annotated Edition by Shannon Messenger

Synopsis:
Twelve-year-old Sophie has never quite fit into her life. She’s skipped multiple grades and doesn’t really connect with the older kids at school, but she’s not comfortable with her family, either. The reason? Sophie’s a Telepath, someone who can read minds. No one knows her secret—at least, that’s what she thinks…

But the day Sophie meets Fitz, a mysterious (and adorable) boy, she learns she’s not alone. He’s a Telepath too, and it turns out the reason she has never felt at home is that, well…she isn’t. Fitz opens Sophie’s eyes to a shocking truth, and she is forced to leave behind her family for a new life in a place that is vastly different from what she has ever known.

But Sophie still has secrets, and they’re buried deep in her memory for good reason: The answers are dangerous and in high-demand. What is her true identity, and why was she hidden among humans? The truth could mean life or death—and time is running out.

Review:
Sophie is an extremely intelligent preteen who also has the ability to read people’s minds – something she has hid from everyone. But when she meets a boy with similar abilities, he whisks her away and opens her eyes to a whole new world.

This edition of Keeper of the Lost Cities is illustrated and annotated by the author. There are 16 black and white illustrations throughout the novel that help depict certain scenes in a great way. I actually didn’t care too much for the annotations, as the were very sporadic and didn’t add to the actual story. The notes are definitely for young children, who are already fans and have read the book already.

I enjoyed this start to a fun, middle grade fantasy series. The story is complex and full of suspense, intrigue, and drama. And there are several memorable character with bold personalities. I haven’t read the rest of the series yet, but I’m hoping the fantasy world is fleshed out more, as there is quite a bit left to be explored. And while there is a bit of nice resolution to this first installment, there is still a lot of mystery unresolved.

Amari and the Night Brothers – Book Review

Amari and the Night Brothers by B. B. Alston

Synopsis:
Amari Peters has never stopped believing her missing brother, Quinton, is alive. Not even when the police told her otherwise, or when she got in trouble for standing up to bullies who said he was gone for good.

So when she finds a ticking briefcase in his closet, containing a nomination for a summer tryout at the Bureau of Supernatural Affairs, she’s certain the secretive organization holds the key to locating Quinton—if only she can wrap her head around the idea of magicians, fairies, aliens, and other supernatural creatures all being real.

Now she must compete for a spot against kids who’ve known about magic their whole lives. No matter how hard she tries, Amari can’t seem to escape their intense doubt and scrutiny—especially once her supernaturally enhanced talent is deemed “illegal.” With an evil magician threatening the supernatural world, and her own classmates thinking she’s an enemy, Amari has never felt more alone. But if she doesn’t stick it out and pass the tryouts, she may never find out what happened to Quinton.

Review:
Amari joins a secret, magical school to search for her missing brother. She is a brave and loyal girl who happens to have a dangerous and forbidden ability. While trying to navigate a school where half of the people seem to want her to fail, Amari hunts for clues to what happened to her brother.

This is the first in a middle grade fantasy series. With vibrant and engaging characters and a complex, captivating story – I was hooked from the start. The school and magical world are fun and memorable. The plot is full of suspense, drama, and intrigue. There are several surprises along the way. This is a clever debut that left me excited for the next in this new series.

Received in January

The following are the books, movies, television shows, etc. I received last month for review and/or giveaways:

Bu-Ray/DVDs:
Doom Patrol – The Complete Second Season Blu-Ray
Snowpiercer – The Complete First Season Blu-Ray

Disney / Hyperion:
Star Wars The High Republic: Into the Dark by Claudia Gray
The Last Fallen Star by Graci Kim

HMH:
The Unfinished Land by Greg Bear

Insight Editions / DC Comics:
Exploring Gotham City by Matthew Manning

Macmillan Teen / Imprint:
All the Tides of Fate by Adalyn Grace

Simon Pulse:
Salvation by Caryn Lix

Subterranean Press:
The Best of Harry Turtledove
The Cretaceous Past by Cixin Liu

Tor:
Into the Light by David Weber and Chris Kennedy

The Children of D’Hara by Terry Goodkind – Book Excerpt and Giveaway!

The Children of D’Hara by Terry Goodkind excerpt posted with permission from Head of Zeus.
Keep scrolling to enter giveaway!
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Chapter 1 Excerpt

“I have come to accept your surrender.” Richard’s brow drew down as he leaned an elbow on the padded leather arm of the massive chair he was in. He was more perplexed than troubled.
The rotund man was wearing formal white robes ornately embroidered in gold designs that added an air of dignity to his pear shape. He stood patiently at the head of a line of supplicants stretching back into the distance of the enormous, vaulted room. Windows high up to the side let in streamers of hazy afternoon light that gave the vast room an almost spiritual quality. Fat black marble columns, variegated with red and gold veins, rose up in a tight row to each side of the long room. Gilded capitals atop the columns supported balconies where large crowds watched the proceedings along with the people on the main floor in the shadows behind the columns.

At the head of the room, behind Richard and Kahlan sitting in stately chairs at a heavy table on a raised platform, a ring of leaded- glass windows surrounded a two-story-high, carved white marble medallion depicting the long lineage of the House of Rahl. It was an impressive seat of power. Growing up in the woods of Hartland, Richard could never have imagined such a place, much less imagined himself sitting at the head of it.

Nearby, palace officials and their aides stood ready to assist with anything needed. Heavily armed men of the First File, between Richard and Kahlan and the rest of the roomful of people, did their best to remain inconspicuous, mostly staying out of the way toward the sides. Behind Richard and Kahlan, in front of the massive marble medallion, six Mord-Sith stood at ease.

Five of the Mord-Sith wore their white leather outfits. One, Vika, was wearing red. Richard had requested that they all wear white for the occasion so as to appear less menacing, it being a time of peace, after all. Vika had said that she was there to protect the Lord Rahl and if she looked menacing, all the better. Richard had long ago learned that life was easier if he let Mord-Sith have their way with petty issues. He knew that if it was vital, they would follow his orders. To the death if need be.

The people to each side on the main floor and up in the balconies, everyone from farmers to nobility, all fell silent as they waited to hear what the Lord Rahl would say in response to such an outlandish demand. The heavyset man in gold-embroidered white robes waited as well.

Beneath an elaborate white cloak pushed open in front by his substantial girth, silver chains around his neck just below the folds of false chins held a variety of small ornaments that reminded Richard of symbols of rank that army officers wore on their uniforms for formal occasions.

Richard remembered seeing similarly dressed people in an open tent down in the market at the base of the enormous plateau that supported the sprawling People’s Palace. The people down in the market and tent city had been gathering for weeks to have a chance to witness the kind of event that had never taken place in their life- times—or to profit from it.

“My surrender,” Richard repeated in a quiet voice into the hushed air. “My surrender of what?”

“Your world.”

Some of the nearby soldiers and court attendants chuckled. When they did, many of the people watching joined in to giggle with them. Or, at least they did until they saw that Richard was not amused.

His gaze flicked to Kahlan, seated beside him behind the table where supplicants could place maps, contracts, and other documents for their review. Besides the white dress of the Mother Confessor, he saw Kahlan was wearing her Confessor face. Her long hair gleamed in the light coming from the ring of windows behind them. He couldn’t imagine a good spirit looking any more striking.

Her beautiful features revealed nothing of what she might be thinking. Despite how unreadable and dispassionate she may have appeared to others, Richard could read the fire in that calm expression. Were she a wolf, her ruff would be standing up.

Richard leaned toward her, wanting to know why she seemed to be seething. She finally broke eye contact with the man and leaned toward Richard to speak in a confidential tone.

“This man is from Estoria. The medals and awards around his neck mark him as the consul general.” She stole a brief look at the man. “I think I may have met him once or twice, long ago when he was less important.”

“What’s Estoria?”

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Ready Player Two – Book Review

Ready Player Two by Ernest Cline

Synopsis:
Days after winning OASIS founder James Halliday’s contest, Wade Watts makes a discovery that changes everything. Hidden within Halliday’s vaults, waiting for his heir to find, lies a technological advancement that will once again change the world and make the OASIS a thousand times more wondrous—and addictive—than even Wade dreamed possible. With it comes a new riddle, and a new quest—a last Easter egg from Halliday, hinting at a mysterious prize.

And an unexpected, impossibly powerful, and dangerous new rival awaits, one who’ll kill millions to get what he wants. Wade’s life and the future of the OASIS are again at stake, but this time the fate of humanity also hangs in the balance.

Review:
Ready Player One was just a contest with a clear winner. Ready Player Two has a similar feel, but in this latest quest, most of humanity is at stake in their race against the clock. Wade and his friends must once again use clues that lead them on an exciting 80s-themed adventure.

I enjoyed the previous novel, but this sequel is even more exciting as there is a greater sense of urgency this time around. Even if you didn’t read the last book but did watch the movie, it’s easy enough to pick this up and have no problem following. As an 80s kid, of course my favorite part of this series is the 80s nostalgia – the games, movies, and music. Wade and his friends are fun characters as well; and it was great to revisit their lives after they won the contest. It’s the sequel I didn’t know I needed, as the last didn’t exactly leave off on a cliffhanger. But more about OASIS and it’s founders are revealed as well as a previously unknown danger. This action-packed, science fiction novel was non-stop suspense until the climactic and surprising finale.

Spider-Man: Miles Morales: Wings of Fury – Book Review

Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales – Wings of Fury by Brittney Morris

Synopsis:
The official prequel to Marvel’s Spider-Man: Miles Morales from Marvel and Insomniac Games, with an exclusive adventure that leads directly into the game itself.

MILES MORALES has a lot going on, what with moving to a new neighborhood, dealing with the loss of his father, and the whole gaining super-powers thing. After a misunderstanding with the law, Miles questions what it means to be a hero when people are ready to believe the worst in you. Tempted by the power and freedom of his new abilities, Miles must decide what kind of Spider-Man he wants to be.

When Vulture starts wreaking havoc across the city with his new accomplice Starling, Miles can’t just sit back and watch. Teamed up with Peter Parker, the two Spider-Men must stop the winged duo before they can unleash experimental tech across the whole city. With lives at risk, can Miles step up and be a hero?

Review:
While I won’t be playing the game, I am a Spider-Man fan – both Peter Parker and Miles Morales. And this is a fantastic standalone story in the Spider-Man universe. In this iteration, Miles has recently lost his father; and he and his mother have moved in with his grandmother. And his best friend Ganke doesn’t yet know about his secret. Both Miles and Peter team up against the Vulture and his new apprentice Starling as they try to spread a grotesque virus on the city.

This is a great Spider-Man story from middle-grade to adult. And I love that the author delves into a hard, but necessary real-life scenario when Miles gets mistaken for a thief, just because of the color of his skin and that he’s wearing a hoodie. It’s raw, emotional, and frustrating scene for a person of any color to read. The story itself is very fast-paced and action-packed. Full of suspense, drama, and humor – I thoroughly enjoyed this novel. I’d love to read more Miles Morales stories from this wonderful author who can meld important themes for today into a fun, comic book adaptation.

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