Fantasy Book Review: The Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy

The Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull

Synopsis:
Jason and Rachel were not born in Lyrian. They did not grow up in Lyrian. But after all of the battles and losses, the triumphs and adventures, and most of all, the friendships forged in this fantastical world, Lyrian has become home to them in a way they never could have imagined.

And so, armed now with the prophecy of a dying oracle, they have gone on their separate quests—each surrounded by brave and powerful allies—knowing that the chance for success is slim. But Jason and Rachel are ready at last to become the heroes Lyrian needs, no matter the cost.

Review:
After a prophecy foretold that the only way to defeat the evil emperor was to embark on separate quests, Jason and Rachel and their friends are divided once again. Their quests seem insurmountable, yet everyone is willing to sacrifice everything to make Lyrian free again.

This is the final installment in the Beyonders trilogy. Their adventures this time are quite a bit darker and somber. There is still some humor, thanks to Jason’s personality. And the sense of wonder and excitement is just as intense and full of suspenseful. This epic fantasy saga concludes in a satisfying way as the events build to a big show down. Readers of all ages should enjoy this eventful, and often surprising, trilogy. And each installment is better than the one before. Mull is one of my top favorite children’s book authors – from the exceptional Fablehaven series to the Candy Shop Wars, his stories are always a must-read for me.

Fantasy Book Review: The Menagerie

The Menagerie by Tui T Sutherland and Kari Sutherland

Synopsis:
Logan Wilde is accidentally drawn into the mysterious, dangerous world of the Menagerie when he discovers a griffin hiding under his bed . . . and it leads him straight to the weirdest girl in seventh grade, Zoe Kahn.

Zoe is panicking. Her family has been guarding the Menagerie for centuries. If they don’t get the cubs back fast, the whole place will be shut down. To save the griffins’ lives, she’s willing to break all the rules, even if it means letting an outsider like Logan help. But the real mystery remains: Is someone trying to sabotage the Menagerie? Who let the griffins out . . .and why?

Review:
Logan loves animals, so when he is introduced to the Menagerie full of mythical creatures, he jumps at the chance to help Zoe track down the missing griffin cubs. Plus, Logan has a special ability that makes him the best person for the job. The Sutherland sisters’ Menagerie is a fun and vibrant place of familiar creatures from myth with unique and colorful personalities.

This is the first in a fantasy series geared towards middle readers, but with enough humor and adventure that all ages should enjoy. Fast-paced and full of suspense, The Menagerie is entirely fun and engaging. Fans of Fablehaven should definitely check out this one out. I couldn’t get enough of the characters, creatures, and mystery of the Menagerie, and look forward to the next installment in this promising series.

SciFi Book Review and Interview: Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Synopsis:
Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered-her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right wrist-a black oval with five marks on either side-that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she’s right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem-the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone-and on the wrong side of the wall . . .

Review:
Fiona has no memory of the past several years. We learn along with Fiona what has been happening recently and why. There are terrifying beast-like humans who only seem to want to kill. There are humans living underground, only biding their time before they turn into the beasts. The militia waits along the wall, protects those inside from the horrors of the outside. But the raiders who are even more terrifying than the infected are the ones who Fiona really wants to stay away from. After Fiona is captured by the guard, her markings show her to be the most dangerous of the infected. But she’s far from the mindless beasts that they’re used to. And an old classmate begins to form a relationship with Fiona, while keeping watch over her.

This post-apocalyptic dystopia is a dark, intense story. With engaging characters and an exciting, emotional journey, Stung is a fast-paced adventure that is impossible to put down. Teens and adults alike with enjoy this science fiction thriller. With several twists along the way, the suspense builds to a climactic and satisfying finale. A sequel is scheduled for release in 2014, and I’ll certainly be adding it to my watch list.

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Bethany Wiggins Interview:

Can you tell us a bit about Stung in your own words?

Stung is the dystopian book that can happen tomorrow. It’s about a girl who is from our normal every-day world, who finds herself thrust into a vastly different, violent, terrifying world, and has to try and survive.

Where did the idea of linking a pandemic to honeybees come from?

A few years ago, I got a Discovery Magazine that talked about the decline of bees. At the same time, the swine flu scare was running rampant through the USA. I watched these crazy people on the news who were swarming health departments, frantic to the point of violent to get the swine flu vaccine for their kids, and it made me wonder, “What if the government told us there is this huge flu to scare us into taking a vaccine that is really going to harm us? And what if it was linked to the honeybee decline?” And that’s how a major part of the plot was hatched.

Can you talk about the mutation that develops?

Sure. The bees are genetically modified to withstand all their natural predators, to withstand pesticides, to be stronger, and to have a more lethal sting. This combination is a little too lethal, and they mutate into an insect with a sting that causes flu-like symptoms in stung humans that eventually lead to death.

Will there be a sequel or series for Stung?

Yes there will. It is called CURED and it comes out next year.

What’s next for you, besides your Stung novels? Any other stories on the horizon?

I always have a story or two brewing in my mind, but currently I am not writing anything.

Tell us a bit about yourself and your experience in writing.

I’m a mom, a wife, and didn’t know what I wanted to be “when I grew up” until I was about 29 years old. That’s when I was dared by my sister to try writing a book in a year. I discovered I loved to create my own stories even more than I liked reading other people’s and worked really hard until I got published several years later.

Who are some of your favorite authors? What books do you love?

Robert Jordan, Patricia McKillip’s The Changeling Sea, Robin McKinley’s Hero and the Crown and The Blue Sword, Frank Herbert’s Dune, Catherine Paterson’s Jacob Have I Loved, Pride and Prejudice, and Janette Rallison (I love anything she writes).

Thanks for your time! Is there anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you for having me on here!

Received in March

The following are the books, DVDs, and Blu-Rays I received in March for review and/or giveaways:

Blu-Ray / DVD:
Star Trek: Enterprise Season One Blu-ray
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Blu-ray

DC / Vertigo Comics:
Time Warp #1 One-Shot

Ace:
The Lost Fleet: Beyond the Frontier: Guardian by Jack Campbell
Red Planet Blues by Robert J. Sawyer
Of Shadow Born by Dianne Sylvan
A Matter of Blood by Sarah Pinborough

Amazon / 47North:
The Garden of Stones by Mark Barnes

Bloomsbury / Walker:
Stung by Bethany Wiggins

Candlewick Press:
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

Daw:
Elisha Barber by E.C. Ambrose

Harper Teen:
Delirium Stories: Hana, Annabel, and Raven by Lauren Oliver
Requiem by Lauren Oliver
Spellcaster by Claudia Gray
City of a Thousand Dolls by Miriam Forster
Jinx by Sage Blackwood
September Girls by Bennett Madison
Parallel by Lauren Miller
Arclight by Josin L. McQuein
Dead Silence by Kimberly Derting
The Shadow Girl by Jennifer Archer
Taken by Erin Bowman
Rise by Anna Carey

Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children’s:
Infatuate by Aimee Agresti
What We Become by Jesse Karp

KTeen:
Moonglow by Michael Griffo

Macmillan Audio:
Fox Forever by Mary E. Pearson

Marshall Cavendish:
Crystal Bones by C. Aubrey Hall

NAL (New American Library):
The Dark Tower Companion: A Guide to Stephen King’s Epic Fantasy by Bev Vincent

Open Road Media:
Tarzan: The Greystoke Legacy by Andy Briggs
Tarzan: The Jungle Warrior by Andy Briggs

Orbit Books:
Rebellion by Ian Irvine

Penguin Teen / Dial:
Obsidian Mirror by Catherine Fisher

Pocket Books:
Deadly Sting by Jennifer Estep
Gears of War: The Slab by Karen Traviss

Pyr:
Nebula Awards Showcase 2013 by Catherine Asaro
The Devil’s Looking Glass by Mark Chadbourn
In Thunder Forged by Ari Marmell

Roc:
Generation V by M.L. Brennan
The Havoc Machine by Steven Harper
Shadows of Falling Night by S. M. Stirling
River of Stars by Guy Gavriel Kay
Storm Surge by Taylor Anderson
Casino Infernale by Simon R. Green
Appalachian Overthrow by E.E. Knight
The Thousand Names by Django Wexler
Sharp: A Mindspace Investigations Novel by Alex Hughes
Blood Trade by Faith Hunter
Iron Kin by M.J. Scott

Scholastic / Point:
Can You See What I See?: Out of This World by Walter Wick
The Last Academy by Anne Applegate
The Fire Ascending by Chris D’Lacey
Children of the Lamp #7: The Grave Robbers of Genghis Khan by P.B. Kerr
Infestation by Timothy J. Bradley
Gorgeous by Paul Rudnick
Midnight for Charlie Bone by Jenny Nimmo

Simon Teen / McElderry Books:
Ghoulish Song by William Alexander
The Beyonders: Chasing the Prophecy by Brandon Mull

Smart Pop Books:
Ender’s World: Fresh Perspectives on the SF Classic Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

Tor:
Trinity Rising by Elspeth Cooper
The Gate Thief by Orson Scott Card
The Shape Stealer by Lee Carroll
Shattered Pillars by Elizabeth Bear
Pandemonium by Warren Fahy
Queen Victoria’s Book of Spells by Ellen Datlow
Thieves’ Quarry by D. B. Jackson
Kitty Rocks the House by Carrie Vaughn
Virus Thirteen by Joshua Alan Parry
Rebel Angels by Michele Lang

Fantasy Book Review: Infatuate

Infatuate by Aimee Agresti

Synopsis:
Haven Terra is still recovering from an internship that brought her literally to the brink of hell when a trip to New Orleans leads to more trouble. There, while taking part in a student volunteer program, Haven and her friends Dante and Lance run across an enclave of devils known as the Krewe. These shape-shifting devils are more reckless and vicious than any Haven, Lance, and Dante have encountered. Yet the friends soon discover that their French Quarter housemates are also angels in training, and together they must face off with the Krewe in their quest for wings.

But Haven’s resolve is tested when Lucian, the repentant devil with whom she was infatuated, resurfaces and asks her for help escaping the underworld. Can he be trusted? Or will aiding him cost Haven her angel wings—and her life?

Review:
Haven, Lance, and Dante fully recovered from their last encounter with the dark devils that tried to steal their souls. And now they’re up against another group with even more powers. And even though they know what they’re facing, and suspect everyone, Haven and Lance are still taken and tempted with a new kind of trial – infatuation. But this time, they’re not alone. And even Lucian returns to help in exchange for freeing his soul. There are a couple love triangles that complicate Haven and Lance’s relationship. And, unfortunately, the spark that was there in the last installment fizzles out quite a bit with all the strain in this story.

Infatuate is a beautiful, fantasy tale of good versus evil. I enjoyed this sequel just as much as the first. There are complex characters, even more mystery, and plenty of surprises along the way. Dark, intense, and dramatic – the author steps up the suspense in this installment. Events build to an exciting climax, and leave off with a cliffhanger ending that will leave readers eager for the third and final novel in this fantastic trilogy.

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