Saturday, August 9, 2014

Hero Worship by Christopher E. Long

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: January 2014
Pages: 233
Stars: (4/5)

It's easy to root for a winner, but it takes integrity to root for someone who's outgunned yet stays in the game to the bitter end.
-Marvin's Father

Marvin Maywood lives in a corrupted world where only the Core, a group of the greatest super heroes, is a shining light through the darkness.  It's Marvin's deepest desire to join the Core, but this is impossible. After Marvin discovers that he is an IWP (Individual With Powers), he goes to get tested, a government requested action that must be exercised if a one begins to manifest powers.  His results come back with a devastating end result telling him that he's a "dirty."  It turns out that his powers are fueled by others' fears.  This means that, like all other dirties, he may not use his powers to gain a profit.  This privilege is only an option for the "clean," those who are allowed to use their powers for monetary purposes.  If they are caught illegally using their powers, the authorities are allowed to take them into custody.  For this reason, Marvin refuses to usitlize his gifts.

Years after this horrible news, Marvin's a runaway who lives with two other dirties, Yvonne and Kent.  Still refraining to use his abilities, he takes up a normal occupation that includes working at the Midtown Cafe under a strange yet comforting man named Gus. Yvonne and Kent have no problem using their dirty powers for money and exercise them daily so that they can live without picking up an honest job.  Marvin still longs to be a member of the Core and dreams of joining them in their never ending battle of good against evil.

One night, Marvin finds a family in trouble on his stroll home from work.  While the attackers are armed and vicious, Marvin is determined to help these innocent people.  No matter what others say, no one should stand by, clean or dirty, while helpless people are being wronged.  Powering up from the surrounding fear, he saves the parents and their little boy.  Soon after, his story is all over the news, an unfortunate kickback after his heroic endeavors.  It's then that someone by the name of Eliza comes by the cafe soon after.  She claims to be one of the Core's very own super heroes, Roisin.  She promises that she is going to give Marvin the opportunity to try out for the Core.  This unexpected happenstance leaves Marvin reeling.  He finally has the opportunity and means to fulfill his utmost desire, but can this be real?  He has been labeled "dirty" after all.  Deciding to take Eliza up on her offer, Marvin starts to do all that she tells him, losing and distancing himself from the rest of his world, including his friends, job, and sense of right and wrong.  After finding out more about the inner workings of the Core, Marvin believes that they might not be the heroes he loved to worship.  Something dark and sinister is going on within it.  Will the secrets suffocate him, locking him up inside the insane web of deception, or will Marvin rise above it all and be the true hero that he always thought he could be?

Marvin Maywood is such an interesting character.  He's driven by his past mistakes and regrets, a trait that various people can easily connect with.  He's also the type of guy who has a strong sense of justice and a need to practice what he preaches.  It's not hard to observe that Marvin has a strong connection with this friends, even to the extent in which he challenges and changes their own habits and ideals.  It's evident that his desire for good rubs off on both Yvonne and Kent in such a remarkable way.  Maywood's inner struggle to figure out the correct paths to take when Roisin shows up and yanks him by the collar is a true and honest battle that is described like a true war that we humans encounter countless times over and over again.  Sure, Marvin sometimes fell short of himself and staggered towards becoming a different person entirely, but he was a real fighter, a true hero.  He knew who he was, who he is, and who he wanted to be.  Nothing could get in the way of that.  This is definitely a plus on Long's writing style and character building.

In some cases, writing a book with super heroes is difficult.  Do they live in a world like ours or is it different?  What's the extent of which someone's powers can reach?  Are there rules to their powers?  I can only imagine the extensive building it takes to create something like that, and really, this applies to all books.  I think that Mr. Long did a great job doing that in his book.  The action scenes were well placed and not to mention perfectly written.  I have come across some books that just come up dry when action or battles hit the story.  Whether it's the improper execution or confusing descriptions,  they're sometimes just not easy to follow or read.  This was not he case with Hero Worship.  Long's conflicts were nicely done.

At the end of the day, I was pretty happy with this book.  There was action, a little bit of romance, and tons of super heroes!  These types of books or just stories about people with any power(s) in general make me happy.  I guess that these characters hold something that we all want, even if it's just a little. That is, we want to make a difference in more than simply a small way. Hero Worship was a decent super hero book.  It was even funny at points.  It just wasn't one of my all time favorite crime fighting books which is why I gave it four out of five stars.  Nonetheless, if you love this type of thing or are a huge comic book lover, absolutely give this one a try.  You can definitely see this book play out just like a comic book, a unique quality for a chapter book

If you enjoyed this book you may also like:
5895933    7718013    13549375  

Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

This review was written by: C
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: May 2012
Pages: 324
Stars: (4.5/5)

Here is a short summary of the book:
Emma is just your average teenager until a sudden tragic accident changes her life forever. While vacationing with her friend, Chloe, Emma literally stumbles into Galen, a cute young man who also happens to be a merman (although, his species prefers the term 'Syrena'). Galen immediately recognizes Emma's violet eyes as a Syrena trait, but her white hair does not fit the profile (apparently all Syrena have dark hair). He also finds it strange that she lives among humans, as this is a direct violation of Syrena law. After her embarrassing run-in with Galen and his sister, Rayna, Emma and Chloe go surfing. They are a fair distance from the beach when a shark attack ensues. Chloe is drug below the surface and Emma in powerless to help her friend, nonetheless she dives in after Chloe. Emma attempts to pull her from the shark's jaws, but these attempts are futile. In her frustration she commands the shark to drop Chloe, and to her surprise, the shark complies. The lifeguard arrives and pulls Emma and Chloe into the boat, however, Chloe is no longer alive. Unbeknownst to Emma, Galen saw the events transpire and was unable to get there in time to save the day. He also witnessed her strange ability to command the shark, a gift that only the direct descendants of Poseidon are known to possess.
Emma finds it extremely difficult to continue on after the death of her best friend and is completely oblivious as to how she will survive the school year alone. Galen, who just happens to be a Syrena prince and the ambassador for the Syrena and humans, wants to learn more about Emma and thus sets out to find her. He finds her school and immediately enrolls in the hopes of getting closer to Emma and finding out who and what she truly is. A few strange events transpire and Emma learns that she is actually half Syrena. She begins a complicated relationship with Galen as he teaches her about his world and the abilities that she may soon possess. She also learns that the Syrena are split into two groups, those under the descendants of Poseidon and those under the descendants of Triton. Both royal houses are supposed to carry a strange talent within their bloodlines. It is possible for the royals of Poseidon to inherit the ability to command the animals of the sea and the royal descendants of Triton are supposed to have an ability that enables them to have some sort of control over the water (this exact gift is not completely explained, as no descendant has actually inherited it yet).
Galen is also keeping a crucial detail away from Emma. If she truly possesses the gift of Poseidon, she must mate with Galen's older brother, Grom (a descendant of Triton), in order to keep the gifts alive and ensure the survival of the Syrena. The only problem is that Galen truly loves her and would never want her to end up with his older brother, a man that still loves his lost mate, Nalia.

At first, I thought this book would just be one of those typical mermaid tales in which a girl finds out she can grow a tail and goes to live as a royal fish under the sea. I was totally wrong. There was more depth than I thought there would be, and there were some fairly interesting plot twists (but so some were a bit predictable). I loved the fact that Emma was a strong female character that formed her own thoughts and was not afraid to voice her own opinions. There was also tons of humor and minor characters that kept the story fresh and interesting.
I loved the fact that Galen turned out to be a bit naive whenever human girls entered the picture, which just made the story even more hilarious. For an ambassador between humans and Syrena, he did not quite understand human customs and word choices (as he often mixed up the terms "mating" and "dating"). His constant bickering relationship with his younger sister, Rayna, brought a lighter tone to the story, too. Rayna and her mate, Toraf, had a great love/hate relationship that displayed how one can showcase their love and another refuses to acknowledge it.
It was a bit predictable when another character that 'possessed' Emma's gift was introduced. It seemed that Galen's and Emma's relationship just might become possible, and suddenly all hope was ripped away. The ending was also a complete cliffhanger!!!! I must read what happens next!

If you enjoyed this book you may also like:
10479750    12246929   15513156

Thursday, August 7, 2014

The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: May 2014
Pages: 496
Stars: (5/5)

Happy endings, Kara often suspected, could only be earned through some sort of sacrifice.
-The Thickety: A Path Begins by J.A. White

Kara Westfall lives on a peculiar island, isolated from the World.  The strange villagers of this land follow the teachings of Timoth Clen, a man who, years ago, eradicated witches and their disastrous magic. Waiting for Clen's return, they follow very specific rules such as don't wish for anything and, most importantly, never practice magic. While the rest of the World continues on into the indefinite future, they stay put in their own time and only specific people may venture out on ships to get the supplies that are needed from the outside.  More importantly, the villagers stay clear of the Thickety, a secluded piece of forest that surrounds part of the island's border.  It is here that the demon, Sordyr, is rumored to reside.  Fearful of even the mention of magic, trouble quickly ensues when Kara's mother is tested for deceitful witchcraft.  At the fragile age of six, Kara sees her mother murdered in front of the whole island.  It is at this time, that Kara is also tested for using magic.  After great hesitation, she is finally declared innocent.

Years later, Kara is living with her younger brother, Taff, and her broken father, who hasn't been the same since his beloved wife died, simply scribbling in the same book day after day.  Confused, Kara is conflicted between feeling love or hatred towards her late mother, a now renowned and infamous witch.  The villagers haven't treated her as they once had, with love and compassion, for six years.  With her being a spitting image of her mother, with dark hair and not to mention a peculiar gift with animals that isn't a common normalcy, she is shunned, with only one true friend beside her dear brother, Lucas.  Kara's been told that her mother murdered two people with her father as a witness.  It was an awful endeavor, they said.  Her life almost seems not worth living, being poor day to day and looking after Taff who is frequently sick with fever every time you turn around, but now life, while not perfect, will soon take a turn for better or far worse.

Being lead by a mysterious bird, Kara is forced to travel into the mysterious and foreboding Thickety, a woods full of dark shadows, writhing shadows, and strange, unbelievable creatures.  Once there, she finds a grimoire, a book full of strong magical powers that might be her mother's very own spell book.  This is the story of her journey with magic and the holds it ties to her.  Being lured by Sordyr himself, the demon with hands made of branches and a body frighteningly cloaked in orange, her life is quickly hurtling towards darkness and even her own destruction.

J. A. White wrote a simply fabulous first installment that will undoubtedly become part of an amazing series.  I have always been looking for a good witchy book to devour but never got to do so until now.  This wasn't because I was hesitant, but because they were never at my disposal.  This was a great way to start off my adventures with this topic.  I like to believe that The Thickety: A Path Begins is one of those books that is fun to read at night, under your covers, with only a flashlight as your friend.  Even though so many people call it a middle grade novel, the writing is so diverse that I feel that it can fit into more than one category.  It can be read by a middle grader, a young adult, and maybe even some adults.  J. A. White has such a voice that makes it blur between the lines so that countless people can enjoy it.  It has magic, friendship, trials, and tribulations.  At the end of the day, though, it seems that family is also very prominent in the story.  I was so warmed by the development of Kara's helpless father into someone she could easily talk to and count on.

As you may have already heard, The Thickety: A Path Begins does have violence and "gore."  However, White conveys these happenings in such a fashion in which you know what happened, but it wasn't something that was described in detail, almost "swept under the rug," if you will.  For example, one character lost a few fingers at one point, but it was written so that you knew what occurred without going into the bloody details.  It was simply a part of the story line.  People are killed, bad things happen, and darkness is a part of everything.  That's what makes this book so interesting, the darkness fighting the light, the lies pitted against the truth.  It captivated me.  Kara struggled with the grimoire.  It blackened her heart and turned her into someone different.  Her character changes were so fascinating and very well portrayed.  For a middle grade novel it was amazing!  I have never read one like it.  I wasn't expecting so many of the twists and turns that the author presented to me.  It was a brilliant piece of work!  The ending about killed me, I was so not ready for it.  But, as Kara said, happy endings could only be earned through some sort of sacrifice.

If you have the opportunity to read this captivating tale, you should definitely do so!  If you are worried about whether or not your child should read it, then maybe wait for it.  Some nine or ten year olds may enjoy this spooky book while others may be frightened.  In the end, you may want to wait until they are twelve.  If you're an adult or young adult, take the chance on The Thickety: A Path Begins.  I hope you enjoy it just as much as I did.  I'm simply dying for the next one and am so excited to read more and more by Mr. White!!!!!  He's definitely an exceptional author who can twist a tale like no other.

If you enjoyed this book you may also like:
18667913     18365279

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

The Actual & Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher by Jessica Lawson


This review was written by: B
Received: Library
Publication Date of Book: July 2014
Pages: 224
 Stars: (4/5)  

 I kept my eyes down and picked at the scab on my knee, afraid to look up at her. Gently, she cupped my chin in her hand and tilted my head up to meet hers.  "You leave that scab alone, you hear me?  Keep picking and picking at something like that, making it bleed over and over, and your whole leg will be ruined.  Knees and hearts take enough bruising from life as it is.  They ain't meant to be beat up by your own self."
       -Miss Ada     

To be truthful, I was very hesitant going into this book.  It is very rare for me to not love a piece of literature that I pick up.  I'm funny like that, always enjoying every book.  That being said, I really respect and enjoy some of Mark Twain's work, but "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" simply wasn't for me.  When a friend of mine at the library offered "The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher" as a possible read, I was skeptical.  In the end, I promised them that I would read it and then hoped for the best.  The end result is simply WOW!  Jessica Lawson blew me away!  Before I get too carried away with my thoughts on this subject, I'll give you a little overview on what to expect in Jessica's book. 

Becky Thatcher's family recently moved to St. Petersburg, Missouri, in an attempt to start over.  Once her dear older brother, Jon, died roughly a year ago, her father, Judge Thatcher, decided they needed a change.  Becky's mother, yet to fully get over her son's death, keeps to herself and has faltered in her attempt to start living again.  To keep her brother close, Becky wears Jon's old overalls in hopes to make it feel as though the pressure building in her chest is  Jon's arms around her instead of the grief that threatens to overwhelm Becky's very being.  Not only does she do this, she also carries around his precious bag of marbles wherever she goes.  She promised that she'd take them on all of her adventures so that he can be a part of them as well.  Now, all Becky has to do is find adventures in this sleepy little town.

While Judge Thatcher frequently asks his daughter to start acting like a lady and grow up while taking responsibility, Becky continues to spit cherry pits, sneak out of the house at night, and make trouble.  It's not a big surprise when she quickly befriends one of the town's well known troublemakers, Sid Sawyer.  Sid lives with his tattletale younger brother, Tom, and their Aunt Polly.  Sid loves adventures while Tom's too scared to have one of his own.  With Sid's bosom friend, Joe, they strike a deal with Becky to steal from the Widow Douglas, the "town witch."  Becky then makes friends with Amy whose father happens to be the town drunk.  Amy's still going through the long lasting effects of her mother's death, bonding the two girls through a tie of loss.  Amy is then recruited in the Widow Douglas extravaganza.  In their preparation of gathering graveyard soil prior to their thievery job so they can protect themselves from the "witch," they see more than they bargained for.  Wanted murders are in Becky and Amy's sight.  Perhaps Becky got more than she bargained for in the adventure department.  What will happen next, and what in the world did these two get themselves into?           

In the middle of this well-written story is Samuel Clemens, also known as the famous Mark Twain, right in the center of Becky's adventures.  He's staying with the Sawyer family while waiting for the parts of his broken boat to come in.  He's consistently found writing down his thoughts and things that the children tell him, such as the idea of attending your own funeral (wink wink for those "The Adventures of Tom Sawyer" fans) and having adventures for those who are too afraid to embark on them.

Jessica Lawson wrote a fantastic novel that really made me interested in what her story was played off of.  I never in a million years believed that I would enjoy something like this, but I did truly and unexpectedly love it!  To explain to you what this book is about, I must use an excerpt from Lawson's "Author's Note" page: This novel is meant to be an origin story, suggesting that Clemens's The Adventures of Tom Sawyer was actually inspired by a happenstance stop in a small Missouri town during the author's river piloting days and, more specifically, by the adventures of a young girl he encountered there, Becky Thatcher. While I realize that this was not the reason for Mark Twain's book, it was imaginative and intriguing, not to mention clever on Jessica's part. 

I loved how every character in this book was depicted as someone so distinct and different from Mark Twain's original creations.  Sid and Tom practically swapped places.  No longer is Sid the tattletale and the "good child."  Tom has taken up that role.  Becky isn't the sweet girl who is engaged to Tom Sawyer, a friendless little boy in this story.  Becky is someone entirely different, and she was so well voiced, a superb strong presence.  Full of drive, courage, and loss, she's certainly a character not to be rivaled with.  The character of Sam Clemens was my ultimate favorite to read about.  Every time he showed up, he was so captivating to hear about and listen to.  The way that Lawson decided how certain things or people, such as Huck's character and the original Tom formed by this new one, got to be represented in the timeless and classic tales was so brilliant.  I was caught smiling at the end.

What truly amazed me in this book is something of a theme that I keep mentioning: loss.  It didn't weigh down the story too much, but its presence was there nonetheless.  The book had such profound thoughts on the subject.  This was shown in Becky's heart and mind which never stopped wondering when her mother would get over her deceased son and start to spend time with the one who was still living.  Becky realizes that Jon's death isn't something so easily forgotten, he'll always be there even if he's not with them, but she still deals with the struggle daily.  When Becky's mother refuses to acknowledge many of Becky's actions, Miss Thatcher's left with a feeling of being dead to her mother.  I never expected this subject matter in The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher's content.  However, it was such an enrichment to the story.  It made me love Becky more and realize what an amazing character she truly was.

All in all, The Actual and Truthful Adventures of Becky Thatcher was a fabulous read.  However, I did lose interest in the book for twenty or so pages, henceforth the four stars, but I was quickly thrown headfirst back into the story once the adventure began again with no ending in site.  While Jessica's writing style was similar to that of Twain's own voice (an on purpose action, I'm sure), she also put her own heart into it.  It was great!   If you loved Mark Twain's Tom Sawyer or Huckleberry Finn, I'm certain that you'll love this book just as much.  It's funny, endearing, and a true voice in today's literature.  If you haven't read Tom Sawyer or Huck Finn's stories yet or didn't like them so much maybe you should give this book a try.  If you've never heard of or read those books, read this book anyway because it is definitely something to consider.  You might be surprised.  I know I sure was, and who knows...maybe I'll go and pick up The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and give it a try...all thanks to Jessica Lawson!

If you enjoyed this book you may also like:
 18254     24583     2956