Memory’s Wake – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Memory's Wake book cover - Memory with black hair that has pink tips, dressed in her broken heart tshirt - Silhouette of a dragon in the background

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Synopsis

Lost in a world full of monstrous fairies, a troubled sixteen year old has to find out who she is and why her memories were stolen before she is found by those who want her dead.

She takes the name “Memory” and knows she has just one goal – to find her way home, wherever that is. But this land is strange. No technology to be seen, and iron is banned, thanks to a pact the humans have with the magical creatures who share their pre-industrial era world. In her t-shirt and torn jeans, Memory knows she’s different, even before she performs impossible magic.

Haunted by her past, chased by a dragon, wanted by the king and stalked by the strange, handsome savage that seems to know her, everyone is after Memory, and she suspects it’s not just for her eye-catching outfit. Her forgotten past holds dangerous secrets that will challenge everything she believes and risk the lives of everyone she loves.

Memory’s Wake contains over 45 illustrations by the author and artist.

Review

Memory’s Wake by Selina Fenech is not only the first book in a trilogy but it’s also Ms. Fenech’s first published book. She is a successful fantasy artist in Australia and now has several other books under her belt, including the rest of Memory’s trilogy.

I was already excited about this book coming out as Ms. Fenech is my favorite fantasy artist and I had learned about it through her newsletter. I was not disappointed at all! This is a wonderful debut novel for teens and young adults.

The book starts out on a high energy adventure and it never really slows down. The world that has been created in this trilogy is full of magic and wonder and yet is still believable. The characters are refreshingly real. They’re not perfect and yet they’re not completely bad either. Memory, Eloryn, & Roen are teens and behave as teens have for centuries. They’re thrust into a situation in which they’ve never been in before and they don’t know how to handle it. On top of the fact that they’re still learning who they are and what their purpose in life is. They don’t make the right decisions all the time. They get angry with one another and wish they could be somewhere else, but in the end, it works out.

The villains are just as realistic as the main characters and can be frightening and yet still very believable. We can see how the villain became the man he is.  Then, there are the marvelous illustrations. They really add to the story line, both the full-page illustrations and the smaller, more whimsical doodles that precede each chapter.

I look forward to seeing what happens to all of these characters in the next two installments of the trilogy.

Reviewers Note: This was written in 2011 when Memory’s Wake was first published. Since then the other two books in the trilogy, Hope’s Reign and Providence Unveiled have been released and are just as great.

The Stepsister Scheme – REVIEW

4 out of 5 stars.

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim C. Hines book cover - Castle silhouette in background - three young adult women on front - two dark-haired and one blond

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Synopsis

You know how all those old fairy tales take you through lots of scary adventures till you finally reach that inevitable line: “And they lived happily ever after…” Guess what? It’s not true. Life in never-never land isn’t all sweetness and light. Cinderella – whose real name is Danielle Whiteshore (nee Danielle de Glas) – does marry Prince Armand. And (if you can ignore the pigeon incident) their wedding is a dream-come-true.

But not long after the “happily ever after,” Danielle is attacked by her stepsister Charlotte, who suddenly has all sorts of magic to call upon. And though Talia – otherwise known as Sleeping Beauty – comes to the rescue (she’s a martial arts master, and all those fairy blessings make her almost unbeatable), Charlotte gets away.

That’s when Danielle discovers a number of disturbing facts: Armand has been kidnapped and taken to the realm of the Fairies; Danielle is pregnant with his child; and the Queen has her very own Secret Service that consists of Talia and Snow (White, of course). Snow is an expert at mirror magic and heavy-duty flirting.

Can three princesses track down Armand and extract both the prince and themselves from the clutches of some of fantasyland’s most nefarious villains?

Line of gold crowns with alternating green, red, and blue tips
©Graphic Garden

Review

The Stepsister Scheme by Jim Hines is the first in his Princess series. He takes popular fairy tales beyond their supposedly “happily ever after” and creates a world full of intrigue, betrayal, and adventure. Goodreads is spot on in their description of it combining Disney Princesses, Charlie’s Angels, and the darker side of fairy tales.

This is another one of those books that I’d been meaning to read for a while and just hadn’t had a chance, so I was a little afraid that it wouldn’t live up to my expectations. It totally did and I wasn’t disappointed.

This book finds Danielle (Cinderella), Talia (Sleeping Beauty) and Snow (Snow White) working together to find Danielle’s husband, the prince. It was packed with great action scenes, twists and turns in the plot, and great characters.  This is a prime example of what an author can do when they take fairy tale characters and re-imagine them in different roles.

If you prefer fairy tales retold with only superficial detail changes, this book is not for you. But if you’re willing to stretch your imagination and re-imagine these princesses in totally different roles in their lives, you’ll enjoy this book.

Graphic line of 2 bluebirds holding a bunch of stars on a string between them.
©Graphic Garden

Armada – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars.

Armada by Ernest Cline Book Cover - black background with a fleet of green triangle spaceships at the top and 6 tiny white triangle ships at the bottom

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Synopsis

Zack Lightman has spent his life dreaming. Dreaming that the real world could be a little more like the countless science-fiction books, movies, and video games he’s spent his life consuming. Dreaming that one day, some fantastic, world-altering event will shatter the monotony of his humdrum existence and whisk him off on some grand space-faring adventure.

But hey, there’s nothing wrong with a little escapism, right? After all, Zack tells himself, he knows the difference between fantasy and reality. He knows that here in the real world, aimless teenage gamers with anger issues don’t get chosen to save the universe.

And then he sees the flying saucer.

Even stranger, the alien ship he’s staring at is straight out of the videogame he plays every night, a hugely popular online flight simulator called Armada—in which gamers just happen to be protecting the earth from alien invaders.

No, Zack hasn’t lost his mind. As impossible as it seems, what he’s seeing is all too real. And his skills—as well as those of millions of gamers across the world—are going to be needed to save the earth from what’s about to befall it.

It’s Zack’s chance, at last, to play the hero. But even through the terror and exhilaration, he can’t help thinking back to all those science-fiction stories he grew up with, and wondering: Doesn’t something about this scenario seem a little…familiar?

At once gleefully embracing and brilliantly subverting science-fiction conventions as only Ernest Cline could, Armada is a rollicking, surprising thriller, a classic coming of age adventure, and an alien invasion tale like nothing you’ve ever read before—one whose every page is infused with the pop-culture savvy that has helped make Ready Player One a phenomenon

Review

Armada by Ernest Cline is Mr. Cline’s second novel. His first novel, Ready Player One, was quite successful and is being made into a movie. I’ve heard from many colleagues and friends that they didn’t like this one as much as the first book, but I felt differently. I really enjoyed Ready Player One, but I loved this book. I was riveted from the start and had a hard time putting the book down.

I think  part of the reason I liked this one even more is because this one seems more plausible than Ready Player One. Sure, it’s still fiction, but it’s not too far out of the realm of possibility of what could happen in the near future. It’s not likely to happen, but it could and that gave it an extra level of excitement for me.

I felt the characters were very “real” and not too “perfect” or too horrible. The main character, Zack was very believable as a 17/18-year-old. He was brash, somewhat arrogant, reacted without thinking at times, thought his way was better sometimes to the detriment of others, etc. – all things I’d expect from someone of his age.

The settings were realistic and the plot line moved along at a good pace. It wasn’t so fast that you were confused about what was happening, but it certainly wasn’t a slow book! Plus, the ending was a twist that I didn’t really see coming.

I would definitely recommend this to others who enjoyed Ready Player One or just enjoy science fiction in general. One of the best books I’ve read in a long time!

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 book cover - Silhouette of boy/man standing in front of a door with a window in it - boy/man's hand is emitting lightning

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Synopsis

My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.

To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he’s unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive.

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Review

Michael Vey: The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans is the first in the Michael Vey series for teens. This was Mr. Evans’ first foray into the world of teen fiction and it was very well done. It’s a bit different from other teen books in there isn’t the horror and darkness you often encounter. Instead, there’s an underlying feeling of hope. There are villains certainly and villains that you would love to hate, but it has an underlying feeling of hope and inspiration. Yet it’s not “preachy” either. It strikes just the right balance of conflict, personal growth, and positive messages for teens.

The protagonist, Michael Vey, has Tourette’s Syndrome. It’s rare to find a book where the protagonist is dealing with some sort of syndrome and dealing with it successfully. It’s not hidden away in a dark corner. It’s shown as something that Michael has to deal with and yet it’s not the sole focus of the story. The teenage years are full of angst and uncertainty anyway and to add in a chronic health condition just makes it worse. This book shows teens that they’re not alone in their struggles and they can be dealt with.

Finally, this book holds your attention. It grabs you and doesn’t let go until the end. I read it in one setting because I couldn’t put it down! If you have teens in your life and you want them to be reading something other than vampires and zombies, perhaps consider introducing them to the Michael Vey series!

Enchantment – REVIEW

5 out of 5 stars

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card book cover - Goldenrod background, reproduction of "Ophelia" painting by J.E. Millais

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Line of gold crowns with alternating green, red, and blue tips
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Synopsis

The moment Ivan stumbled upon a clearing in the dense Carpathian forest, his life was forever changed. Atop a pedestal encircled by fallen leaves, the beautiful princess Katerina lay still as death. But beneath the foliage a malevolent presence stirred and sent the ten-year-old Ivan scrambling for the safety of Cousin Marek’s farm.

Now, years later, Ivan is an American graduate student, engaged to be married. Yet he cannot forget that long-ago day in the forest–or convince himself it was merely a frightened boy’s fantasy. Compelled to return to his native land, Ivan finds the clearing just as he left it.

This time he does not run. This time he awakens the beauty with a kiss . . . and steps into a world that vanished a thousand years ago.

A rich tapestry of clashing worlds and cultures, Enchantment is a powerfully original novel of a love and destiny that transcend centuries . . . and the dark force that stalks them across the ages.

Line of gold crowns with alternating green, red, and blue tips
© Graphic Garden

Review

Enchantment by Orson Scott Card is a one of my all-time favorite “fairy tales retold”. I’m a fan of the genre in general, but in my opinion, this one is particularly well done.

This retelling is set in the Carpathian mountains and the United States. The first time our hero, Ivan, comes across the sleeping beauty in the forest, he’s only 10 and doesn’t know what to do. He runs away but yet throughout the years, he can’t forget the beauty. He has the opportunity to go back to the area as part of his graduate degree rework in obscure old Russian dialects. This time he wakes the beauty and is sucked into a world of magic, time travel and intrigue.

Bouncing between modern-day United States and medieval Russia, Mr. Card does a terrific job of interweaving Russian folklore with the Sleeping Beauty story and adding in modern day issues and settings.

I love re-reading it every few years because it’s such a wonderful retelling of the story. I highly recommend it to anyone who enjoys fairy tales retold in other formats/settings or loves the story of Sleeping Beauty.