Adventure

A Study in Charlotte

Five Stars

Title: A Study in Charlotte
Author: Brittany Cavallaro
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Length: 336 Pages
Synopsis:

The first book in a witty, suspenseful new trilogy about a brilliant new crime-solving duo: the teen descendants of Sherlock Holmes and John Watson. This clever page-turner will appeal to fans of Maureen Johnson and Ally Carter.

Jamie Watson has always been intrigued by Charlotte Holmes; after all, their great-great-great-grandfathers are one of the most infamous pairs in history. But the Holmes family has always been odd, and Charlotte is no exception. She’s inherited Sherlock’s volatility and some of his vices—and when Jamie and Charlotte end up at the same Connecticut boarding school, Charlotte makes it clear she’s not looking for friends.

But when a student they both have a history with dies under suspicious circumstances, ripped straight from the most terrifying of the Sherlock Holmes stories, Jamie can no longer afford to keep his distance. Danger is mounting and nowhere is safe—and the only people they can trust are each other.

Overall Review:

I LOVE mystery novels. Love them. And there’s no better mystery story than Sherlock Holmes. This was a fun read for me because it plays off the original series, but puts it into a teenage/modern setting. The awesome thing is the personas of the characters stay in tact. Charlotte is a perfect descendant of Sherlock Holmes, and Jamie makes her perfect John Watson. The characters were also fresh- they’re obviously unique, but the balance is fantastic.

The story is charming and nostalgic, but even more than that it had a fun plot and pretty great conflict. The mystery is developed nicely, and the way the author teams the two of them together works well to offset any cheesy correlation to the old Holmes/Watson duo. It advances as the book goes on, and it becomes quite complex and fun. I can tell it was well planned and well researched. I’m excited this is a two-part series. I can’t wait for book two to come out!

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The Girl of Ink and Stars

 

Five Stars

Title: The Girl of Ink and Stars

Author: Kiran Millwood Hargrave

Publisher: Chicken House UK

Length: 288 Pages

Synopsis:

Forbidden to leave her island, Isabella Riosse dreams of the faraway lands her father once mapped.

When her closest friend disappears into the island’s Forgotten Territories, she volunteers to guide the search. As a cartographer’s daughter, she’s equipped with elaborate ink maps and knowledge of the stars, and is eager to navigate the island’s forgotten heart.

But the world beyond the walls is a monster-filled wasteland – and beneath the dry rivers and smoking mountains, a legendary fire demon is stirring from its sleep. Soon, following her map, her heart and an ancient myth, Isabella discovers the true end of her journey: to save the island itself.

Overall Review:

I’ve been hearing a lot about The Girl of Ink and Stars ever since it was released in May, so I knew it was a must-read for me. I was drawn to it initially because I really like maps- and a cartographer’s daughter seemed like such a unique character to write. I was so happy I put this on my to-read list. It was such a pleasant story- so charming and uplifting and refreshing. Not to mention the book itself was beautifully designed. The cover is flawless and the internal pages are so pretty. It’s a quick read- I finished it in about half a day.

The two things I loved the most was the world the author designed and the characters she created. Joya was so awesome! It was magical and surrounded by myths- my favorite kind of island! The way it was written was so tangible, and I had no problems getting immediately immersed in Isabella’s world. Speaking of Isabella, her character and her relationships were lovely to read…and I don’t throw the word lovely around lightly. I felt such a connection to her…and the author used that to further the plot along nicely. I also loved how friendship and love were at the center of everything.

The story unfolded slowly and at a perfect pace. It did a great job conveying its themes: friendship and love and loyalty and dreams. It had adventure and magic and friendship and family…and the writing was seriously great. I definitely recommend this book. I think it’s marketing for middle grade and early YA readers, but I think it’s one of those rare stories that anyone of any age would enjoy.

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Song of Locke: The Dark Empyrean

Five Stars

Title: Song of Locke: The Dark Empyrean

Author: J Washburn

Publisher: Lost Boys Ink

Length: 440 Pages

Synopsis:

Locke loves stories—they fill him with a longing he can never quite describe—but he’s not the sort of kid who actually lives adventures himself. That is, until a bloodthirsty band of marauders passes near his home and Picke, a musical sylfe, dares him to follow. In hopes of fulfilling his longing, Locke accepts the dare. This leads him on a quest where he must face snarling wolves, wield a magic blade, and risk his life to rescue a Goddess—a girl he hardly knows but who he can’t stop thinking about. In the spirit of Legend of Zelda and Peter Pan, SONG OF LOCKE portrays a detailed fantasy world, somewhat grittier than its forebears and drenched in human emotion. The tale has sword fights, witty banter, crushes, and even some subtle philosophy smuggled in. It’s an epic for everyone who loves good stories—for anyone who has longed for something that seemed forever out of reach. SONG OF LOCKE is also an artisan book—written, illustrated, and typeset by the author, a masterpiece handcrafted from beginning to end. The first 50k-word draft was written for NaNoWriMo in 2013. In November 2014, a crowd of Kickstarter backers provided the initial funding for publication (see kickstarter.jwashburn.com). It was published 4 August 2015.

Overall Review:

A friend of mine from college wrote Song of Locke, and I had the opportunity to help in the editing process. It was such a pleasure to read this book- not only is it fun, but being able to see close up some of the process of writing was a really awesome thing for me.

Song of Locke is a fan fiction work that throws back to the Legend of Zelda. I’m not a hardcore Zelda fan, but I definitely recognized some of the references and deeply enjoyed this book.

Song of Locke is a fantasy- and Washburn does a fantastic job of setting up the world where the story takes place. The characters were well-developed and complex- with clear moral dilemmas happening as the story progresses. I love it when characters have internal moral battles- and it was nice to see growth as the book went on.

The writing was spot on. Nothing dull- and it was full of showing instead of telling, which is unfortunately common in a lot of the books hitting the market today. He defines elements of his world piece by piece, so as a reader you feel like you’re organically getting to know the environment instead of getting a ton of information thrown at you.

What Washburn did with the main character Locke was really cool- it was more a duo than a single person. Every Elfe has a personal fairy-type creature, and Locke’s is one named Picke. Each part of the whole are definitely separate and distinctive, but they create a fantastic single character full of conflict, flaws, and many redeeming qualities.

I would have liked to see a little more character development on the villain and potentially some of the other side characters. That definitely doesn’t take away from what is otherwise an awesome book.

The book had a great plot with unexpected twists to keep things interesting. The themes were relatable, the foremost one that I took away was the main character trying to establish who he was and what moral beliefs he would abide by. It’s a fun read full of mystery and questions and awesome characters. I definitely recommend it!

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Adventurers Wanted, Book Two

Four Stars

Title: Adventurers Wanted, Book Two: The Horn of Moran

Author: M.L. Forman

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Length: 384 Pages

Synopsis:

The land of Alusia is on the brink of war as two men have each claimed the throne. Only the true king can sound the Horn of Moran and prove his nobility. But the Horn has been lost for years. If it is not found and soon it could mean the destruction of an entire nation. Young Alexander Taylor joins a band of seasoned adventurers who have been called up to retrieve the legendary Horn of Moran. Their journey to the mysterious Tower of the Moon will take them through an enchanted forest, into battle against a goblin army, past the watchful eyes of griffin guards, and face-to-face with a sphinx and her deadly riddles. With his sword, Moon Slayer, and the wise counsel from his wizard mentor, Whalen Vankin, Alex must use all his wizard and warrior skills to slay a darkness that may consume them all.

Overall Review:

I found Adventurers Wanted Book Two was as equally enjoyable as the first one. I found this second installment in the Adventurers Wanted series to be a little more creative than the first one. It is a decent stand-alone book- but it also plays nicely in with the first one and the environment the author created. He does a great job of bringing some of the same characters back, as well as introducing some new ones, as well. The new characters add a lot of interest and mystery to the story and are great additions. Alex continues to grow and become more knowledgeable as the series continues, which I really appreciated. I love it when the main character improves over time- it’s only natural!

I feel like this book does a good job at creating questions and further setting up the rest of the series. It also does a good job of better fleshing out the culture of the series- honor, doing the right thing, and the fun magical elements that are throughout the story. The plot formula is very similar to the first book- and it was very easy and fun to read.

Highlights:

  • Great foreshadowing
  • Easy to read
  • Fun and exciting action
  • Clean and non-violent
  • Great character development for ALL characters
  • Narration was spot on
  • World building aspects were amazing- well described and easy to imagine

Lowlights:

  • Unequal weighting of time- some paragraphs cover months and others a few hours/days
  • Still a lot of “telling” and not as much “showing” as I would have liked.
  • Still had a few issues with conflict- everything seemed way too easy

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Peter and the Starcatchers

Five Stars

Title: Peter and the Starcatchers

Author: Dave Barry and Ridley Pearson

Publisher: Disney-Hyperion

Length: 452 Pages

Synopsis:

Don’t even think of starting this book unless you’re sitting in a comfortable chair and have lots of time. A fast-paced, impossible-to-put-down adventure awaits as the young orphan Peter and his mates are dispatched to an island ruled by the evil King Zarboff. They set sail aboard the Never Land, a ship carrying a precious and mysterious trunk in its cargo hold, and the journey quickly becomes fraught with excitement and danger.
Discover richly developed characters in the sweet but sophisticated Molly, the scary but familiar Black Stache, and the fearless Peter. Treacherous battles with pirates, foreboding thunderstorms at sea, and evocative writing immerses the reader in a story that slowly and finally reveals the secrets and mysteries of the beloved Peter Pan.

Overall Review:

I adore Peter Pan. It’s one of the stories from my childhood that I love the most. Besides- pirates and magic and flying boys and never growing up? How can you not love that?

I liked this book because it was a fun adventure behind the story of the eternal dilemma between staying young and embracing growing older. It gives a unique perspective on how Peter got his magical abilities (starstuff- I want some!), as well as the backstory of the Lost Boys, Tinkerbell, and Neverland. It’s a fun and easy mystery that’s packed with humor and the stubborn characters we all love from the classic story of the boy who never grows old.

The authors do a great job of playing to the emotions of the inner children in all of us. I got outraged in all the right places and softened in others. The relationships are realistic and fun- and it was just a fun book to read. I highly recommend this book.

Highlights:

  • Great character development
  • Easy to read
  • Fun and exciting action
  • Great back story and unique angle on Peter Pan
  • Clean and non-violent
  • Full of “showing” instead of “telling”
  • World building aspects were amazing- Neverland has never been more fun to experience

Lowlights:

  • Not a lot of weighty conflict- the resolutions were easy to come by

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Adventurers Wanted, Book One

Four Stars

Title: Adventurers Wanted, Book One: Slathbog’s Gold

Author: M.L. Forman

Publisher: Shadow Mountain

Length: 400 Pages

Synopsis:

The sign is small, tucked into the corner of Mr. Clutter s bookshop window: Adventurers Wanted. Apply Within. No one but fifteen-year-old Alex Taylor even seems to notice it is there. And for Alex, who has wished for a change in his life, it is an irresistible invitation. Upon entering Mr. Clutter s shop, Alex is swept away to a faraway land filled with heroic warriors, mysterious elves, and hard-working dwarves. Alex becomes the eighth man in a band of adventurers seeking the lair of Slathbog the Red an evil dragon with a legendary treasure. Along the way, Alex and his new friends must battle dangerous trolls and bandits, face undead wraiths, and seek the wisdom of the Oracle in her White Tower. Alex s adventure takes him to distant and exotic lands where he learns about courage, integrity, honor, and, most important, friendship.

Overall Review:

I really enjoyed reading Adventurers Wanted Book One. I thought it was a fresh approach to the fantasy world, and one that makes it very YA appropriate. I liked Alex for the most part, although there were some issues in how he was developed. I especially liked how he grew throughout the story- I think a lot of books are lacking this, and the author did a great job at moving the main character through experiences and trials that helped him become better. The story was engaging, easy to read, and a lot of fun to get into. It was exciting. The ending set the characters up for future adventures, so I’m looking forward to reading more about Alex and his friends.

Highlights:

  • Clever and refreshing approach to fantasy
  • Easy to read
  • Fun and exciting action
  • Good morals
  • Great character development for the main character Alex
  • Good ending with a fun, unexpected twist
  • Narration painted a perfect picture of the events going on
  • Didn’t carry on or become boring- moved right to action points

Lowlights:

  • Light on the background of the main character
  • The secondary characters weren’t developed as much as I would have liked
  • Not enough conflict or interpersonal issues like jealousy or major fights- everything was a little too easy
  • Main character never seemed to make any mistakes
  • A little repetitive
  • The author did more “telling” than “showing” in several places
  • Feels a little like wish fulfillment

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