Book Review: Skyward by Brandon Sanderson (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Skyward (Skyward #1) by Brandon Sanderson

(Five Stars)

“It was awesome!” “You just said you thought you were going to hurl.” “In a good way.” “How do you hurl in a good way?”

Possibly the best story Brandon Sanderson has written. Yes, I know. Better than most of his adult fantasy. Written for young adults, but will engage many readers.

“It’s not your fault you’re a bloodthirsty ball of aggression and destruction.” “I am?” I perked up. “Like, that’s how you see me?” She nodded. Awesome.

Sanderson mostly tells the story from deep inside the head of his protagonist: Spensa. She has a great inner voice. But key scenes include other points of view which increase rather than diminish the conflict.

“I’d always assumed that when I made it–when I finally got here–I’d stop feeling so afraid. But maybe, deep down, I was … worried.”

Your typical Harry Potter/ Top Gun/ Lord of the Rings gathering of misfits, who train, grow and bond, but Continue reading

Book Review: Star Wanderer by Joe Vasicek (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Outworlder (Star Wanderer #1) by Joe Vasicek

(Four Stars)

“’There’s a real live girl with me on this ship.’ Few thoughts had ever filled him with so much terror.”

Reads like a throwback to the Golden Age of science fiction. Short, young-reader innocent, reflecting values of fifty years ago. Well done.

“You sure make better company than the stars.” “Stars.” “Yes, stars. That’s good.”

Peculiar that two intelligent young adults are together for three months with so little Continue reading

Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr. (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Imager: Imager Portfolio #1, by L. E. Modesitt, Jr.

(Three Stars)

“Hope is always an expectation beyond anticipated reality.”

A steampunk Harry Potter for young adult readers. Excellent world building, despite the lazy two-moons trope. Time, money, foods, and geography map steam-age world–a welcome change from the routine medieval realm.

“So you’re saying. Master, that if I want to be impartial, I should not be a protraiturist, but an imager?”

In the obvious comparison with J. K. Rowling’s wizard, Modesitt has better world building, more believable magic and a more human protagonist. He slows his story with Continue reading

Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess (Three Stars)

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Book Review: Above the Timberline by Gregory Manchess

(Three Stars)

“Ancient knowledge is still–more ancient than knowledge.”

Mediocre short story; marvelous illustrations.

“When nothing is easy, everything is possible.”

Steam punk, so presumably a different world. Given the tectonic and polar shifts, everyone should be dead, not just frozen. Yes, the poles may now be at the equator, but the equator–not all of it–cannot be at the poles. Where did Wesley store the fuel for his various machines?

“The quest is worth more than the find.”

Book Review: The Red Wolf by Robert V. S. Redick (Four Stars)

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Book Review: The Red Wolf (The Chathrand Voyage #1) by Robert V. S. Redick

(Four Stars)

“Death is the moment when everything loses value except the truth.”

Competent fantasy series opener. Ensemble cast of introduces themselves by their choices. Engaging people and plot in an adventure road trip by water on the greatest ship in the world. The concept of waking is well-developed, and a fresh way to introduce sentient beings in “lesser” animals.

“No animal, no man, no thousand year old sage is perfectly awake. True waking is … emerging from one cage into a larger, brighter, less lonely cage. It is a task never done.”

Everything that can go wrong does, which is half the fun. Coincidence and good luck Continue reading

Book Review: Brotherhood by A. B. Westrick (Five Stars)

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Book Review: Brotherhood by A. B. Westrick

Five Stars

“The Civil War has ended, but the conflict isn’t over.”

Outstanding treatment of a sensitive and controversial topic: the rise of the Ku Klux Klan in Reconstruction South, specifically Richmond, VA. Appropriately, the protagonist is a white teen boy caught in conflicting currents of loyalties, commitments and aspirations. The reader is swept along with his ambivalence (and occasional stupidity) as he treads this murky maze.

“Those who survive in Richmond reinvent themselves as circumstances dictate.”

Best map (U. S. Army Corps of Engineers Map of Richmond, 1867) in any book ever, including famous fantasy trilogies.  Magnifying-glass-worthy detail. (Yes, maps are a big deal to me.)

“Of course, he’d have asked, but while the girls were standing in front of him, he’d been too flustered to think.”

Excellent use of inner voice and vocabulary to establish both the age and view point of the protagonist, Shad. That he has dyslexia is revealed without using the modern term.

“If the world had ended at that very moment with Shad singing “Glory, hallelujah” in a shed full of coloreds, he’d have gone to his maker with a smile on his face.”

There were southern whites–rich and poor– who opposed slavery. Likewise Reconstruction hardened many whites’ prejudice against blacks. Westrick explores both. Even better, she plumbs Continue reading

Book Review: Hunter by Mercedes Lackey Three Stars

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Book Review: Hunter (Hunter #1) by Mercedes Lackey

Three Stars

“This wasn’t a job you picked, it’s a job that picks you.”

Lost a star in the last fifty pages. Great setup. Great storytelling. Good world building, wonderful voice and emerging character for the narrator, then shifted focus to an artificial “test” and a fake ending, obviously expecting readers to rush to buy the next volume. Note to writers: you have to deliver the goods–at least some goods–in the first book or no one will buy the rest.

“Guilt and self-loathing tend to make you cranky.”

The premise: what if all the evil spirits of all world traditions were real. And what if Continue reading

Book Review: Chains by Laurie Halse Anderson (Four Stars)

 

Book Review: Chains (Seeds of America #1) by Laurie Halse Anderson

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“She cannot chain my soul.”

Award-winning young reader account of the plight of slaves in colonial North America. Being in Rhode Island or New York was no protection in 1776. Isabel was probably more articulate in her feelings, but those emotions ring true. Honest look at the errors and hypocrisy of both sides.

“It mattered not. My bones were hollow and my brainpan empty.”

Anderson skillfully wove historic facts–battles, destruction of the king’s statue, the fire, Hessians–into plausible descriptions of the life and observations of a young enslaved girl. The whole has a readable, authentic feel.

“Both sides say one thing and do the other.”

Minor chronological errors, but closer to fact than many popular Revolutionary War dramas.

“I was chained between nations.”

The Seeds of America series continues with Forged, previously reviewed.

Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson (Four Stars)

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Book Review: Forge by Laurie Halse Anderson

Four Stars

“All because he stole something that should have been his to start with.”

This is historical fiction as it ought to be written: a vivid portrait of the times woven from many factual threads as well as period appropriate people and ideas. But this is no history, rather an engaging, enjoyable fiction. Each chapter opens with an epigram from some primary source draw from letters or journals of that time. The story also explores the lot of the common soldier encamped at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania that brutal winter of 1777-8.

“My humors fell out of balance, and I became tetchy and sour-minded.”

The voice of the protagonist, a young black male fleeing from slavery and joining the fight for American independence, sound authentic. Written to simultaneously capture the attention and persuade young readers.

“Even from his grave, Father could be an annoying fellow.”

A fictional treatment of American slavery risks either sugar coating what was an awful reality or demonizing everyone and everything involved. Anderson draws a clear line against slavery while exploring the varying attitudes and justifications of that day.

“The land which we have watered with our tears and blood is now our mother country.”

A good, standalone read, even though it is the sequel to Chains.

“If our luck does not turn for the good on its own,” she said, “we’ll make it turn.”

Book Review: 15 Minutes by Jill Cooper (Four Stars)

Book Review: 15 Minutes (Rewind Agency #1) by Jill Cooper

Four Stars out of Five

Think: The Matrix meets The Time Machine with a more likable protagonist than either.

Ahha! Cooper demonstrates that young adult novels can be engaging without substituting childish or adult behavior. The first person, present tense point of view not only works, but keeps the reader tightly engaged with this time travel “thriller.”

Lara is a believable person thrown into unbelievable circumstances, and we’re dragged along. She responds with intelligence, even as she suffers confusion and doubt. The romantic interactions and depicted violence are age appropriate. Her determination and self-sacrifice more than offset her missteps. The plot is necessarily convoluted, though (spoiler: the purple-haired woman’s identity was readily apparent. Telling you that much is a spoiler).

A quick, enjoyable read. Perhaps not four stars on any absolute scale of literature, but compared to similar young adult offerings.