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Epic Fantasy: Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes

Hi there!

In preparation for little Colin’s entrance into the world I scheduled a few blog posts ahead of time. Today we’ll be taking a look at my thoughts on Morgan Rhodes’ Falling Kingdoms.

Overview

In the three kingdoms of Mytica, magic has long been forgotten. And while hard-won peace has reignedFalling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes for centuries, a deadly unrest now simmers below the surface. As the rulers of each kingdom grapple for power, the lives of their subjects are brutally transformed… and four key players, royals and rebels alike, find their fates forever intertwined. Cleo, Jonas, Lucia, and Magnus are caught in a dizzying world of treacherous betrayals, shocking murders, secret alliances, and even unforeseen love. The only outcome that’s certain is that kingdoms will fall. Who will emerge triumphant when all they know has collapsed?

Princess: Raised in pampered luxury, Cleo must now embark on a rough and treacherous journey into enemy territory in search of magic long thought extinct. Rebel: Jonas, enraged at injustice, lashes out against the forces of oppression that have kept his country cruelly impoverished. To his shock, he finds himself the leader of a people’s revolution centuries in the making. Sorceress: Lucia, adopted at birth into the royal family, discovers the truth about her past—and the supernatural legacy she is destined to wield. Heir: Bred for aggression and trained to conquer, firstborn son Magnus begins to realize that the heart can be more lethal than the sword.

It’s the eve of war…. Choose your side.

My Thoughts

I feel like Morgan Rhodes wrote this book (and series) for me. But then again, I feel like most fantasy novels were written for me because I can almost always get completely lost in this genre! Falling Kingdoms has all the characteristics I love in a quality fantasy novel. There is secret magic waiting to be reawakened, political intrigue and murder, action, power struggles, romance, and a cast of intriguing characters. There is no doubt that this series is an epic YA fantasy!

With all of those things happening in one story at once, Falling Kingdoms could have been bulky with too many plot layers, especially when shifting between four main characters in a fantasy world as deeply created as Mytica is . However, I feel like Rhodes has really done a fabulous job with keeping the story accessible and just layered enough to be interesting and exciting without being overwhelming and confusing.

Often times when a book shifts between the different characters in each chapter, I can get confused as to who’s perspective I’m reading or I get bored and want to skip ahead to the more interesting characters. Not so with this book! Each character (Jonas, Cleo, Magnus and Lucia) is fascinating in their own way (although I do have my favorites) and their individual chapters all fit into the story in such a way that makes you feel like you can’t miss anything anyone says or does!

If you’re a fan of high fantasy then you should definitely pick up Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes (and the sequels) because I swear it’s so engrossing you won’t want to put it down!

Details

Author: Morgan Rhodes
Publisher: Razorbill (December 11, 2012)
Format: Audiobook (Penguin Audio)
Length: 11 hours and 35 minutes
Series: First in the Falling Kingdom series
YA/MG: YA

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Well Played: The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Welcome back BookTasty friends!

James Dashner is one of my favorite YA authors and his Maze Runner series is always my number one recommendation in my library. So, I was pretty excited to see that he had another book coming out! The Eye of Minds is the first book in the Mortality Doctrine series.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to Eye of Minds by James Dashnertechnology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker. And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

Let me start by saying that The Eye of Minds is not as good as The Maze Runner books, but it is an entertaining adventure that has Dashner’s signature non stop action style!

In typical Dashner fashion, the first scene is so intense that you’re automatically captivated by the story! We quickly learn that, Michael lives in a future where many people get their entertainment in a virtual reality experience, the VirtNet. I like this take on futuristic technology and the idea that there is someone, or something, in this “game” that is hurting people in real life, as well as in the virtual one. It makes for a very menacing and mysterious villain.

One thing about this book I enjoyed was that Micahel isn’t in it alone. He doesn’t leave everyone else behind to achieve his goal. He takes his friends with him because he knows that they all have different strengths and weaknesses. Although the characters fell a tiny bit flat at times, I still really liked Michael and his friends mostly because of the way they interacted together, which is a change from the usual YA “only you can save the world”.

The Eye of Minds reminded me of a giant game of Mouse Trap, in that each chapter is action packed with hurdles and challenges for Michael and his friends to overcome (they reminded me a little of Doctor Who episodes sometimes). However, there is a sense of predictability in the overall plot. Until you get to the twist of course! I remember standing in my kitchen cooking dinner while listening to the audiobook and having to relisten to the final chapter because I was so stunned and surprised by what had happened! Well played Mr. Dashner. Well played.

Although this is not the first Dasher title I’d recommend to people, I think that those who are fans of his writing will ultimately enjoy The Eye of Minds. It’s not as strong as I would’ve liked, but it was still a fun and exciting read.

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Listening Library (October 8, 2013)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 8 hours and 36 minutes

Narrator(s): Erik Davies

Series: First in the Mortality Doctrine series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book:

 

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The Much Dreaded Curse: The Runaway King by Jennifer A. Nielsen

Hola!

Books about kingdoms and royalty are kinda up my ally. Duh. I love them! So, it’s no surprise that I’m a fan of Jennifer A. Nielsen’s Ascendance trilogy!  Today we’re focusing book two, The Runaway King.

Just weeks after Jaron has taken the throne, an assassination attempt forces him into a deadly Runaway King by Jennifer A. Neilsensituation. Rumors of a coming war are winding their way between the castle walls, and Jaron feels the pressure quietly mounting within Carthya. Soon, it becomes clear that deserting the kingdom may be his only hope of saving it. But the further Jaron is forced to run from his identity, the more he wonders if it is possible to go too far. Will he ever be able to return home again? Or will he have to sacrifice his own life in order to save his kingdom?

The Runaway King is the second book in the Ascendance Trilogy and although still a fun read, it’s pretty clear that this installment has fallen slightly into the much dreaded “second book curse”. Did it live up to the first book? No. Was it still fun? Yes!

I think a huge part of the weakness of this book is in Jaron’s character himself and the lack of world building. Jaron/Sage is so awesomely awesome in book one – he is this snarky, secretive, competitive, stubborn and loyal boy who’s daring sarcasm kept me entertained the whole time.  In The Runaway King, it seems a little like Jaron is a bit overshadowed by the plot. There is so much going on that it’s like Jaron has forgotten to be his witty self…or, rather, Nielsen forgot to write him that way. It is almost like she wrote him so well in The False Prince, that she felt like she could take a break. Jaron is there, but he’s kind of like a much dimmer, more muted version of himself.

Since most of this story takes place out in Jaron’s kingdom of Carthya and the surrounding areas, I was really hoping to explore the region in more detail. I wanted more information about the culture of his people and how the kingdom looked. Expect for a few tiny details, there really wasn’t much to sink your teeth into. Nothing to truly make you care about Carthya. Honestly, Carthya could be any random fictional kingdom – it just doesn’t seem to have a personality of its own.

Okay, so I did say the story was still fun and it really was. All of my favorite characters were back. Yes, Imogen, Mott, Amarinda, Tobias are all back by Jaron’s side and we even see those I dislike…such as Conner for example.  It’s interesting that while Jaron’s personality seems to fade into the background a little, his supporting characters all glow a little brighter in this book, especially Imogen and Amarinda. Plus, we’re introduced to pirates! Pirates are always cool!  Also we have a lot of buildup to a cliffhanger ending, which of course always makes you crave the next book no matter what!

So, while I was slightly disappointed in The Runaway King, I did still enjoy it in the end and you might too.

Author: Jennifer Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (March 1, 2013)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 331 pages

Series: Second in The Ascendance trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: The Runaway King: Book 2 of the Ascendance Trilogy

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Won’t Let You Down: The False Prince by Jennifer A Nielsen

Welcome back friends!

Sometimes I read a book, love it, and go on with my life only later realizing that I never reviewed it! What?! How can this be?! Especially when it’s a book I truly enjoyed. I have to admit that The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen accidentally fell between the cracks of my review schedule. OOPS!

The False Prince by Jennifer A NielsenIn a discontent kingdom, civil war is brewing. To unify the divided people, Conner, a nobleman of the court, devises a cunning plan to find an impersonator of the king’s long-lost son and install him as a puppet prince. Four orphans are recruited to compete for the role, including a defiant boy named Sage. Sage knows that Conner’s motives are more than questionable, yet his life balances on a sword’s point — he must be chosen to play the prince or he will certainly be killed. But Sage’s rivals have their own agendas as well.

As Sage moves from a rundown orphanage to Conner’s sumptuous palace, layer upon layer of treachery and deceit unfold, until finally, a truth is revealed that, in the end, may very well prove more dangerous than all of the lies taken together.

There is nothing about this book I didn’t like. It has everything readers are looking for in a quality read. A snarky main character, a kingdom on the bring of civil war, deception, political intrigue, romance and a plot twist that is so awesome it makes you freak out!

ExcitedLet’s start with that snarky main character. Sage is hilarious and just fall for his defiant, witty, street urchin persona right off the bat! Sage is definitely not a romantic hero, in my opinion anyway. Instead he’s kind of like the little brother who keeps on doing annoying things but you just have to love him anyway. You want him to stick around because he just keeps things interesting.

When we meet Sage, we discover, as he does, that the kingdom of Carthya is on the brink of civil war. Multiple kingdoms are threatening to take over and it seems that there isn’t anyone who truly wants what is best for the people of Carthya. But that’s just it, with the royal family poisoned, who will take over the throne?  Political intrigue and deception abound! Nielsen just writes this so well that you never really seem to know who to trust.

Plus there is romance brewing between a quiet, pretty housemaid and our beloved street urchin. The friendship and romance that comes here is just so innocent and sweet. It is definitely not a super steamy romance with Sage as the teen heartthrob because…guys…remember this is a middle grades novel! This romance is so perfectly endearing and full of friendship that it just makes you smile warmly on the inside.

Okay, so I mentioned the awesome plot twist. And that’s all I’m going to mention. Because we no like spoilers! But just know if you’re looking for a fun middle grades read that will appeal to both boy and girl readers than The False Prince is a strong pick that will not let you down!

Author: Jennifer A. Nielsen

Publisher: Scholastic Press (April 1, 2012)

Format: Hardcover

Length: 342 pages

Series: First book in the Ascendance Trilogy

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The False Prince: Book 1 of the Ascendance Trilogy

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Plain and Simple: Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

PorchWell hi there!

The weather is beautiful today in South Carolina! So, I’m writing this review from my front porch basking in the late afternoon light. Le sigh…Fridays are great!

Okay, so today’s review is all about Dark Triumph (His Fair Assassin #2) by Robin LaFevers, which is anything but “plain and simple”.

When Sybella arrived at the doorstep of St Mortain half mad with grief and despair the convent were only too happy to offer her refuge – but at a price. The sisters of this convent serve Death, and with Sybella naturally skilled in both the arts of death and seduction, she could become one of their most dangerous weapons.

But her assassin’s skills are little comfort when the convent returns her to the life that nearly drove her mad. Her father’s rage and brutality are terrifying, and her brother’s love is equally monstrous. But when Sybella discovers an unexpected ally she discovers that a daughter of Death may find something other than vengeance to live for.

This whole historical fantasy thing that LaFevers has going on is right up my alley. Sybella lives in Dark Triumph by Robin LaFeversmedieval Brittany in the middle of a resistance to French rule and is loyal to the twelve year old Duchess Anne who has recently been forced into rule due to the death of her father. Mixed in with this historical narrative, LaFevers mixes in a bit of the supernatural focused mostly on the convent on St.  Mortain, the god of death, and his method of communicating with his assassins. I have always been a bit of a history buff and adore the fantasy genre, so swirling the two together makes me happy!

Sybella isn’t as likable or sympathetic a character as Ismae is in book one, Grave Mercy and I wavered over whether I liked her story or not because of this part of her character. As you spend more and more time with her however, you begin to see the pieces of humanity within Sybella that she herself has shut away and is blind to. She has this strength to her that one can only get from tangling with harsh realities. I grew to like her more and more.

As you might expect in a story about “assassin nuns” Dark Triumph is full of action, suspense, and intrigue. Life inside Sybella’s father’s court is full of your usual gossip and social climbing but amidst those things there are much darker forces at play and Sybella is an incredibly experienced spy, assassin, and courtier who knows how to play the game to survive. Because Sybella will do whatever it takes to survive you know that she has little trouble using poisons, garrotes, or knives to complete a necessary task and you never know who will show up next on Sybella’s “hit list”.  Basically, Sybella is a bad@$$! Plain and simple.

And let’s not forget the romance. If I had the ability to add emojis into my blog posts (is this possible?!) I totally would be giving the little “thumbs up” one right now. Yes. The romance is good.

If you’re searching for your next read and you want to be completely riveted to the story you need to check out the His Fair Assassin series by Robin LaFevers. Don’t read Dark Triumph (because it’s book 2, silly!) until after you’ve read Grave Mercy, but you should totally read them both! I actually listened to them on audio, so if you’re into audiobooks or want to get started these books are quality introductions!

Author: Robin LaFevers

Publisher: Recorded Books (April 19, 2013)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 13 hours and 36 minutes

Narrator(s): Angela Goethals

Series: Second in the “His Fair Assassin” series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book:

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Doesn’t Get Any Better Than This: The Matt Cruise Trilogy by Kenneth Oppel

Guys!

Do you ever just love a book so much you rip through the entire series in no time at all?

That’s exactly what happened with me and the Matt Cruise trilogy by Kenneth Oppel. Because I read all three books (Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber) so quickly I thought I’d just review them all as a group.

So as not to give anything away I’ll only share the summary for Airborn, which is book one.

Matt Cruse is a cabin boy on the Aurora, a huge airship that sails hundreds of feet above the ocean, Airborn by Kenneth Oppelferrying wealthy passengers from city to city. It is the life Matt’s always wanted; convinced he’s lighter than air, he imagines himself as buoyant as the hydrium gas that powers his ship. One night he meets a dying balloonist who speaks of beautiful creatures drifting through the skies. It is only after Matt meets the balloonist’s granddaughter that he realizes that the man’s ravings may, in fact, have been true, and that the creatures are completely real and utterly mysterious.

In a swashbuckling adventure reminiscent of Jules Verne and Robert Louis Stevenson, Kenneth Oppel, author of the best-selling Silverwing trilogy, creates an imagined world in which the air is populated by transcontinental voyagers, pirates, and beings never before dreamed of by the humans who sail the skies.

I was immediately in love with these books from the very beginning. Oppel’s writing has a smart mix of suspense and wit to just keep you turning the pages and his characters are the kind you just fall in love with.

Let’s take our main character, Matt Cruise for example. Matt is the kind of character you miss once the Skybreaker by Kenneth Oppellseries is finished. Sure, Matt is humble, kind and hard working, but he also struggles with jealousy, can be overly sensitive, and is pretty darn stubborn at times. He is an all around regular, nice guy who you’d love to be friends with. Matt Cruise simply, put is a normal guy who ends up getting involved with abnormal situations. Most of these abnormal situations tend to come because of his friendship/romance with the adventurous, heiress Kate de Vries. Despite Kate’s stubborn single-mindedness and annoying tendency towards being haughty, you can’t help but love her.

Oppel’s world building skills are unbelievable. In this series he has created this alternate world that is very much like our own, however it’s just different enough to be interesting and make you questions things. For example, the Pacific Ocean is called the Pacificus and there are references to historical events that are similar to those in our history (the ill-fated airship Titanticus). The world Matt Cruise lives in is pretty much steampunk and the main form of international transportation is by transoceanic dirigible. TStarclimber by Kenneth Oppelhere is so much detail that you just completely believe that this world truly does exist somewhere out there.  Additionally, these three books are 100% page turners. Almost every chapter is full of action and suspense whether it be pirate attack or an airship falling out of the sky!

So, if you’re in the mood for some quality YA action and adventure, you need to read Airborn, Skybreaker, and Starclimber right away! I honestly think that YA just doesn’t get any better than this!

Author: Kenneth Oppel

Publisher: Airborn, Harper Collins (May 25, 2005)

Skybreaker, Harper Collins (November 29, 2005)

Starclimber, Harper Collins (February 24, 2009)

Format: Audiobook

Length: Airborn (10 hrs and 46 mins), Skybreaker (11 hrs and 26 mins), Starclimber (11 hrs and 44 mins)

Narrator(s): Full Cast Audio, David Kelly

Series: The Matt Cruise Trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Airborn Skybreaker Starclimber

 

 

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My Husband Likes YA: Legend and Prodigy by Marie Lu

Hi!

Every once in a while I suggest that my husband and I listen to a YA audiobook together. We’ve done the Harry Potter series, The Hunger Games trilogy and The Maze Runner series before and we both had fun listening to them together. He usually enjoys the titles I’ve picked, but I do have to choose the right book to get him interested, which is why I was excited when I read the summary for Legend by Marie Lu.

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with iLegend by Marie Luts neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

In October, the Husband and I were driving back to Florida for my brother’s wedding.  It was a six hour drive so we knew we needed an audiobook. We chose Legend and loved it! When we got back to South Carolina we snagged the second book, Prodigy from the library too.

One thing that was special about this audiobook is that there are two narrators; one for Day and one for June.  It makes sense because the chapters alternate between Day and June’s point of view. I think I Prodigy by Marie Luprefer listening to books with multiple points of view on audio rather than reading them because the voices help me remember who is speaking. Even when the two characters’ voices are very different from each other, I still end up getting a bit confused so it helps having literally two different voices!

Speaking of June and Day I liked the combination of the two personalities and backgrounds coming together to help each other. June is very much a tom-boy, incredibly analytical, and often doesn’t realize how much her sheltered and privileged background shapes her world view.  This, mixed with the chip Day has on his shoulder from having been born to a life that is the complete and total opposite of June’s. The two don’t trust one another at first and it’s interesting to see just how they learn to do so.

The dystopian world Day and June live in is hinted at in Legend and the reader (or in our case, listeners) get even more of it in book two, Prodigy. We learn more and more about this futuristic version of the United States as June does. There are characteristics about this dystopian US that are believable (natural disasters taking a toll), but other aspects that seem a fall a little short (where is the rest of the world while the US is dealing with this stuff?!).  I was incredibly intrigued by the whole skills testing teens undergo to get placed (or tracked) into specific careers or…other things. As an educator I see creepy similarities to our focus on testing.

Although both books are incredibly fast paced with pretty much non stop action the entire time, I preferred Prodigy to Legend. It’s not uncommon for me to prefer the second book in a series to the first though, because I tend to get really excited when the characters’ world opens up and we learn about deeper layers of the story and new characters are introduced.

This series is pretty fun and totally accessible to middle grade readers, older young adult readers and up and the audiobooks are highly recommend by me and the Husband (we’re currently trying to get our hands on book three, Champion!) So, if you’re a fan of dystopian YA, or are simply trying to lure your significant other in the world of YA,  Legend and Prodigy are good additions to your TBR stack!

Author: Marie Lu

Publisher: Penguin Audio (Nov. 29, 2011) & (Jan. 29, 2013)

Format: Audiobooks

Length: Legend (7 hours and 48 minutes), Prodigy (10 hours and 10 minutes)

Narrator(s): Steven Kaplan, Mariel Stern

Series: Books 1 & 2 in the Legend series

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: Legend    Prodigy: A Legend Novel

 

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TraumaBonds and The Kill Order by James Dashner

Hi there BookTasty friends!

I’m  glad that it’s Friday and I get to bring you another book review…although today is my official last Friday of freedom before the school year starts as next week is all preplanning. I do love my job (so much!) but I also love my summer vacations so it’s definitely a mix of excitement and lament!

Well, let’s talk books! Today’s review is for James Dashner’s The Kill Order.

The Kill Order by James DashnerBefore WICKED was formed, before the Glade was built, before Thomas entered the Maze, sun flares hit the earth and mankind fell to disease.

Mark and Trina were there when it happened, and they survived. But surviving the sun flares was easy compared to what came next. Now a disease of rage and lunacy races across the eastern United States, and there’s something suspicious about its origin. Worse yet, it’s mutating, and all evidence suggests that it will bring humanity to its knees. Mark and Trina are convinced there’s a way to save those left living from descending into madness. And they’re determined to find it—if they can stay alive. Because in this new, devastated world, every life has a price. And to some, you’re worth more dead than alive.

The Kill Order is Dashner’s prequel to the amazing Maze Runner trilogy, which my husband and I read together and loved. Because we loved the original Maze Runner books we were both excited to read this prequel…although I was also a little hesitant as well.  To be honest, I wasn’t sure if I’d enjoy it…especially when I realized none of the previous Maze Runner characters I loved were in it (which makes sense since it’s a prequel duh!). It quickly became clear that although this book had no Thomas, Newt, Minho, or Brenda in it, that didn’t even matter. The new characters, Mark, Trina and Alec were just as interesting and the story was action packed with intensity the whole way through!

One thing you need to know about James Dashner’s books is that whenever the characters start to feel even the smallest ounce of security and safety it is violently ripped from them! Seriously, he’s done this from book one and it’s only magnified in The Kill Order; the craziness just doesn’t let up. The events of Mark and Trina’s story go from bad to worse quickly and just keep getting worse. It is relentless…but in a thrilling page-turner way. Even the ending (which I’m not spoiling) isn’t necessarily a victory because we already know what happens in the rest of the Maze Runner series.
So, Mark and Trina. How did they stack up to my beloved Gladers? They were just as likable and interesting. Mark and Trina have this relationship that feels like the only fresh and positive thing that either one of them has. Their friendship is long-standing, starting even before the sun-flares, and now it is blossoming into something deeper and more romantic than either of them is sure of. Similarly is the relationship between Mark and the gruff Alec. They have this whole father/son thing going on, but there is also a certain level of respect and equality between them, especially as the story progresses. Dashner’s characters form these strong bonds fast. It’s kind of like relationships formed at summer camp…only with demented “people” hunting you….(gosh I hope that makes sense). My husband calls them “TraumaBonds”.

If you haven’t read any of The Maze Runner books they are absolutely fantastic reads.  Once you’ve read all three of the original books, go and read The Kill Order. They’re all fast-paced dystopian, creepy thrillers that are great for both guy and girl readers. I also highly recommend the audiobooks of all the titles in this series; the narrator is talented and does a great job with all the voices. If you needed anymore motivation to read them just know that they’re currently filming The Maze Runner movie and it’s scheduled to release in February 2014!

Author: James Dashner

Publisher: Listening Library (August 14, 2012)

Format: audiobook

Length: 10 hours and 2 mins

Narrator(s): Mark Deakins

Series: Prequel to The Maze Runner trilogy

YA/MG: MG/YA

Buy the Book: The Kill Order (Maze Runner Prequel) (Maze Runner Trilogy)

 

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Men in Black? The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

Happy summer everyone!

The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson is the first Florida Sunshine State book (of fifteen) that I’ve finished so far this summer. I haven’t ready any of James Patterson’s adult fiction, but am familiar with his Maximum Ride series’s, so I was excited to dig into The Dangerous Days of Daniel X. Also, I listened to the audiobook as part of the 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge!The Dangerous Days of Daniel X by James Patterson

The greatest superpower of all isn’t to be part spider, part man, or to cast magic spells–the greatest power is the power to create. Daniel X has that power. Daniel’s secret abilities – like being able to manipulate objects and animals with his mind or to recreate himself in any shape he chooses – have helped him survive. But Daniel doesn’t have a normal life. He is the protector of the earth, the Alien Hunter, with a mission beyond anyone’s imagining.
From the day that his parents were brutally murdered before his very eyes, Daniel has used his unique gifts to hunt down their assassin. Finally, with the help of The List, bequeathed to him in his parents’ dying breath, he is closing in on the killer. Now, on his own, he vows to take on his father’s mission – and to take vengeance in the process.

So, I know for a fact my boys at school are going to love this book. It’s like a teenage Men in Black as Daniel is pretty much an alien hunter. This is a fun, quick read that will appeal to my reluctant readers because the chapters are super short. In fact they were so short and choppy that I had to check my iPod multiple times to ensure that the tracks weren’t out-of-order (sometimes the tracks aren’t titled correctly so they skip around in iTunes.).

Every single chapter is jam-packed full of action as Daniel X follows the trail of the aliens across the country. Now, like I said this is a fast paced sci-fi thriller that is a fun read. However, because it’s so action packed Patterson doesn’t leave enough room for actual substance. I didn’t really feel for Daniel’s plight (his pain from being orphaned at the hands of alien super power, The Prayer). I mean I knew he was attempting to avenge his parent’s murder, but there wasn’t much depth to Daniel’s character.

Despite any shortcoming The Dangerous Days of Daniel X had I still feel strongly that my students are really, really going to enjoy this sci-fi thriller! Patterson’s goal was to write a book for teen readers and I think he succeeded! So, if you’re a middle grade reader in the mood for a fast adventure read, check out this book!

Author: James Patterson

Publisher: Hachette Audio (July 21, 2008)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 4 hrs and 30 mins

Narrator(s): Milo Ventimiglia

Series: First in the Daniel X series

YA/MG: MG

Buy the Book: The Dangerous Days of Daniel X

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Action Packed With Action: Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Well hello there! Welcome back!

Today, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on Veronica Roth’s Insurgent, the sequel to the awesome Divergent (you can read my review here).  I read Divergent this past fall and have been anxiously awaiting the sequel ever since (like pretty much everyone else!).  It was one of my most anticipated books of 2012 for sure!

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Insurgent by Veronica RothTris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Let me say, that sequels can, unfortunately, sometimes be disappointing.  However, its rare that I’m completely turned off by the series because of a lack luster sequel.  If I love the story and characters enough I’ll usually stick around until the end of the series.  Long story short, I was hoping for the best and was not disappointed.

One of the things I loved about Divergent was that the story was so fast paced and exciting the whole way through I didn’t want to put it down. It was the same thing with Insurgent- it’s so action packed with…action!! From the get-go, the story is moving and it doesn’t slow down at all.  Actually, Roth does almost no re-capping of the story, and this book runs from the start so quickly that I thought I had missed something.  If you need a refresher on the main plot points in the first book before jumping into the second, check out Roth’s recap here.

Speaking of traveling to the other faction headquarters, I really loved how Roth expands Tris’ world and lets us see more and learn more about each faction.  I enjoyed the descriptions of each faction headquarters because you could really see the values of each group displayed in their day-to-day life and culture.  For example I love the way in which the Amity faction embraces nature and its’ beauty, and how that is emphasized in their use of natural wood in their architecture, whereas the academic Erudite’s headquarters is known for its sterile design.  I think getting to learn more about the different factions, was one of my favorite parts about Insurgent.

What about Tris?  Well, I actually felt mild annoyance toward her at times, although I love her dearly as one of my favorite YA heroines.  Maybe that was intended, but I couldn’t help but be frustrated by her sometimes irrational behavior and that fact that she wouldn’t share her thoughts and feelings with Four.  In Tris’ defense the immense guilt she feels for actions she took at the end of the first book, so this does explain her irrational behavior and her hesitance to talk to Four.  Throughout the entirety of the story, Tris is struggling to accept the consequences of her actions and to move beyond the guilt and pain.    Because of Tris’ actions and behavior, though,  there is some tension between Tris and Four, especially towards the end (which I won’t spoil, don’t worry!).

I listened to the Insurgent audiobook, thanks to the wonderful people at Harper Audio (Harper Collins THANK YOU!) and I really, really enjoyed it.  The narrator, Emma Galvin who also read Divergent, did a fabulous job again.  She is consistent with voices from start to finish, which is super important to me!  This audiobook counts toward my 2012 YA Audiobook Challenge.  I think that makes number thirteen.  Which actually means I’ll be aiming for the challenge’s  Head Bang’n level in which I have to listen  to 36+ audiobooks, and review at least 24 of them.  I got this.

Overall, dystopian fans and those who loved the first book will find Insurgent a riveting sequel.  Like Divergent, Insurgent is intended for the older teen readers.  Also, there is some violence, so if you’re squeamish, this series might not be your cup of tea.  But you should really give it a try because I think you’ll be impressed with Roth’s creativity and this series’ (and it’s heroine’s) awesomeness!

Author: Veronica Roth

Publisher: Harper Audio (May 1, 2012)

Format: Audiobook

Length: 11 hrs 22 mins.

Narrator(s): Emma Galvin

Series: Second in The Divergent series

YA/MG: YA

Buy the Book: Insurgent (Divergent)