Wednesday, April 25, 2018

TwoSpells by Mark Morrison

TwoSpells is the first book in a middle grade fantasy series that was sent to me by the author. When twins Sarah and Jon are on a trip to visit their grandparents, they learn about a dark and mysterious building called TwoSpells, a library that allows you to enter into different universes through the power of reading. Unbeknownst to the twins, they have magical powers, too. Their exploration of the library and other realms is interrupted by a war, and the dark leaders have their eyes on the twins.

The cover is beautiful and a fair representation of the book. I would love to visit that library! Being able to visit the world of a book would be a dream come true. The imagery was amazing and I truly felt that I was in there with the characters! I also loved the mysterious and creepy setting that kept me on the edge of my seat.

I enjoyed the action scenes and how the chaos was actually reined in and somewhat controlled at the same time. It was interesting to discover the complex family relationship and the mystery of figuring out their ancestry and discovering their enemies' motivations. My only critique is that I was wishing for Sarah and Jon to use more magic and play a little bit of a bigger role in the war.

I cannot wait for more books in the future! It was a clever cliffhanger, and I cannot wait to find out how their powers develop and evolve! I recommend this book!

Title: TwoSpells
Author: Mark Morrison
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform
Pages: 316
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 4 Stars

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Virtual Grunt (Everything League Book 1) by Barnaby Quirk

Virtual Grunt is a middle grade science fiction book that was sent to me by the author. It is the first book in the series called Everything League. In the future, virtual video gaming is the most popular recreational activity that teens and even adults are obsessed with. The Everything League, the company that makes the games, is hosting a 50 million dollar contest.

Bobby is an incredible grunt, the enemy in the game working against the players, challenging them harder and harder. As the competition heats up, he starts to notice that things are not quite right, and one player keeps getting insanely lucky. As Bobby starts to work with one of the programmers of the games, he unknowingly is getting involved in a huge hacking scheme that takes criminality into the real world, too. When Bobby starts climbing the ladder of the best grunts, leading to him playing against the cheater, he is really the only one who can make things fair.

Virtual reality is in our future, and it is quite likely that we could have a championship like this in a few hundred years. The games were quite fun and creative! I would love to play in those games, and being a grunt sounds like a lot of fun! It is also striking to see the obsession with virtual world video games, and I liked the reoccurring theme of spending time in "real life" and outside. I loved the suspense and action inside the games, and I was tremendously intrigued! The imagery inside the world was also really strong.

Cheating in sports is popular, and there are many people who will do illegalities for money. In the future, it is likely that this will actually happen, and I enjoyed the glimpse of the future. Bobby's moral skills are impressive and I liked his determination to make things right and fair. I loved how he did not back down even when things got scary. His journey really evolved his personality, too, and readers can watch him expand his confidence and strength as a person.

I highly recommend this book for all ages. I look forward to more books in this series in the coming future!

Title: Virtual Grunt
Author: Barnaby Quirk
Publisher: Blazing Things LLC
Pages: 294
Series: Yes, Book 1
Rating: 5 Stars

Thursday, April 12, 2018

The Vault of Dreamers by Caragh M. O'Brien

20518838The Vault of Dreamers is the first YA dystopian in the trilogy about dream mining and seeding. The Forge School is the best school for the arts in the world. Every moment of the students' lives are on national television. Every night, the students get 12 hours of medical sleep to "induce creativity." When film student Rosie skips her sleeping pill, she realizes that something is happening during the night at Forge, something that the cameras can't reach. What's worse is that she is hearing a voice in her head and is having dizzy spells. There are little IV marks in her arm she doesn't remember getting, and she sees students getting taken somewhere in the night. She sneaks around, filming the awful things she's witnessing. But in the morning, the footage has been erased. How can she stop this if nobody believes her? Even worse, she's beginning to think she can't trust herself.

This book was a complete thrill! I have never read any book like this, and I hope it never happens. Talk about an invasion of privacy! The 4th amendment completely vanished, and I was fascinated, constantly trying to figure out the motivations of all the characters and why and how the conspiracy unfolded and went unnoticed.

Rosie has possibly the biggest internal conflict of any character ever. As she sinks deeper into the investigation and trying to convince others to investigate too, she ends up questioning her sanity. The more nobody believes her, essentially the whole world, the more she doubts herself and truly wonders if everything really was a nightmare, or maybe she's hallucinating. It really doesn't help that the footage on her camera is gone. When everybody tells you something, it is really hard to stick with knowing that you are right and everybody else is wrong. I can only imagine how frustrating and angering it must have been. If I was a student there, I definitely would have believed her and tried to help.

Something I liked was the Dean's character. The whole book I was constantly guessing whether he was good or evil. I like characters that are not obvious, and the conspiracy surrounding him was very clever and well-written. The idea of the art school being on television and popularity rankings and eliminations is interesting by itself, let alone the secrets. I loved more than just the dystopian element, I loved the relationships and the classes and competition.

I highly recommend this book! I am very glad I bought this book, and I cannot wait to read the next one, The Rule of Mirrors!

Title: The Vault of Dreamers
Author: Caragh M. O'Brien
Publisher: Roaring Brook Press
Pages: 418
Series: Yes, Book 1 of 3
Rating: 5 Stars

Friday, April 6, 2018

Out of Darkness by Ashley Hope Pérez

Out of Darkness is a YA historical fiction book telling a story of love, racial tension, and tragedy in a backdrop of the New London School Explosion in 1937, the deadliest school disaster in American history. In East Texas, there are three rules on every sign in every store; No Negroes, Mexicans, or Dogs. Naomi Vargas is MexicanWash Fuller is African American.

An unlikely relationship blossoms between them. Their plans to be with each other and escape to Mexico are interrupted by the school explosion and Naomi's racist step-father who wants her all to himself. Soon in the face of tragedy again, Beto, Naomi's little brother, will take to the world and tell the true story of what really happened in all those fateful weeks, not the fake version the newspapers and white people created.

This is historical fiction, and while the characters' specific story may not be true, it is based on the truth. The author took an awful event and made it even sadder by bringing attention to the controversy and racism surrounding it. Tragedies like the ones that happened in this book we all know that in some form, they did happen in that time period. And we as a species still deal with racism and prejudice today. Out of the Darkness is a strong wake-up call to the darkness inside humanity and makes us reflect on who we are and the choices we make every day. The racial prejudice was true and strong, and this book pays tribute to those who could not speak their minds or tell the truth based on society. And we all sadly know that this fate was true somewhere, sometime in the world.

The book is also just beautiful. I cannot think of a single other word to describe the way the words flowed and carried the spirit, the love between the characters, the aura around them. The story was a beautiful, romantic tragedy. The ending made me cry, and I was also angry, but at the same time appreciative and grateful for reading this type of story. Out of Darkness will be the saddest book you have ever read. But the story is so sad that it must be told. I highly, highly recommend this book.

Note: This book should be advised for only older readers given certain scenes of violence and mature actions, especially near the end of the book.

Title: Out of Darkness
Author: Ashley Hope Pérez
Publisher: Carolrhoda Books
Pages: 402
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

Monday, April 2, 2018

Jake, Lucid Dreamer by David J. Naiman

Jake, Lucid Dreamer is an inspirational middle grade realistic fiction book about love and loss. This was sent to me by the author, and will be released on May 4, 2018.

Jake is 12 years old, a seventh-grader. His mom died when he was eight, and while his dad and sister can move on and enjoy life, Jake cannot find a hint of happiness. To make things worse, he is bullied at school. Jake barely gets through the days, his anger, sadness, and grief consuming him. Jake is also a lucid dreamer, meaning he can think clearly in his dreams. The issues of his day come up in his dreams at night, prompting him to reflect on himself and eventually face his biggest fear.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book! Jake's emotional struggle can connect to readers far and wide. I know that I was personally touched with the deepness of his rage and internal conflict. Even if one has not felt the loss of a family member, everyone deals with intense emotions at times and difficult conflicts that can be looked at in a different angle. Jake, Lucid Dreamer teaches common behaviors that we do and don't notice, and teaches techniques and types of healing after tragedy. This book is inspirational to all because everyone deals with obstacles that seem impossible.

His middle school experience is quite common, and I enjoyed how he uses his intelligence to outwit his bullies. Jake teaches valuable techniques of how to handle tough situations and can help many kids in similar situations in viewing a different perspective and staying confident.

I enjoyed the juxtaposition of his dreams verses the reality and the symbolism of the basement, clouds, GPS, kangaroos, and much more I probably did not even catch. This would be really good for required reading in school because of the vast analytical essay opportunities. The imagery of the dreams was also really good, and I liked how they were crazy and fantastical, but at the same time expected and relevant.

I highly recommend this book!

Title: Jake, Lucid Dreamer
Author: David J. Nailman
Publisher: Kwill Books
Pages: 156
Series: No
Rating: 5 Stars

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