Monthly Archives: September 2013

Colony East: The Toucan Trilogy Book 2 by Scott Cramer #Review

In November of last year I was offered the chance to read and review the first book in this series, Night of the Purple Moon. I loved it. So I was excited to be offered the chance to read and review the second book a couple of weeks ago.

Scott Cramer has delivered a fantastic and moving sequel to that first book.

If you haven’t read the first book (go read it – now!) you can read my review here which will give you the background.

Colony East picks up almost exactly where we left off. Abby and Jordan have gone to get the pills that will save their lives and must journey back to the island to deliver them. Again the incredibly stark contrasts between the choices that each child left alone makes are startling and thought provoking. Abby and Jordan do make it back to the island but the cost of that journey is hard to quantify.

We then fast forward a year. The pitifully few remaining adults are trying to “rebuild society” and have 3 small enclaves on the North American continent into which they have brought the few children they deem worthy. The rest of children are left to fend for themselves.There is also a new threat in threat in the form of a mutated form of the sickness that killed the adults.

Abby and Jordan are both almost 2 years older than when we first met them. They have both lost people they had grown to love and in the process done more growing up than I can personally fathom. Their younger sister, Toucan, has grown up as well and shows quite brilliantly the innate resilience of children. She and the other youngest survivors do not carry the heavy burden of memory and loss that the older children do. Instead they are learning to thrive and succeed in this new world.

Colony East actually refers to one of these adult developed enclaves. Some inspiration was obviously drawn from many of the dystopian worlds that have been created before – but it never feels derivative or like it is overtly copying any of them. The adults have a plan and quite naturally while intentions maybe good – execution and results are not.

Along with further exploring this devastated world from the children’s point of view, we also begin to see it from the view of the few adults left. The contrasts between the two are massive and telling. Cramer manages to comment on modern society and preconceptions while not feeling preachy in the least. An impressive feat all by itself. Managing to do this in a beautifully written and youth friendly novel is breathtaking.

I look forward immensely to the third in this series and hope to read more from this author.

 

 

I was provided a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

 

 

 

 

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by L.R.W. Lee #review

I am a sucker for dragons and fantasy and misunderstood kids. It is almost always a great combination.

I began to read this book with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Anticipation for the possibility that the book seemed to promise. The trepidation came because I had just finished a book that utterly disappointed me by not living up to the promise of the jacket blurb.

I am relieved to say that this book was not a disappointment.

It was a joy.

L.R.W. Lee writes a delightful story for a  younger audience.

Our newly minted hero, Andy, is relate-able. He is an imaginative kid who feels constantly misunderstood by his family. So it is with more excitement than fear that he finds himself transported to a magical land called Oomaldee. On arrival he is tasked with helping to break a curse for a centuries old king while being thwarted by a spiteful ghost. He makes new friends and grows as an individual while discovering secrets and battling dragons.

The intro to the book and the history of the curse is nicely done. A funny and fresh take on what awaits those who have passed on.

This book is intended for a younger reader than most of the YA fiction I review. As such it seemed at times to over simplify some situations and maybe underestimate the intended reader. I think that even the younger 8-11 year olds this seems geared towards could understand and appreciate a little more nuance.

The story is well crafted and enjoyable. As an adult I still found the story interesting. It was whimsically quirky without being patronizing or obvious. A very hard combination to achieve. I wanted to know more about this land.

I am hoping that some of the questions I had will be answered in the next book in the series. (How is Andy a descendant being the main one.)

I think this would be an excellent book for a parent and child to read together as both will enjoy it.

My advice to the author would be to trust the young reader and to fully explore the vivid world she is creating.

 

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

 

The Reluctant Reaper: Death Is What Happens While You’re Making Other Plans by Gina X. Grant #review

The teaser for this book sounded really quirky and fun. Like a mish-mash of Piers Anthony and Dead Like Me. I love the Xanth novels. I loved Dead Like Me for the 2 seasons I got to enjoy it (thanks alot Showtime). Combining the two seemed like a good idea.

In fact I still think it is a good idea. Just not as executed in this book.

Gina X. Grant fails to create characters that are sympathetic or even really likeable. Kirsty is an annoying whiner. She also seems incredibly dense. They way her actual death is set up makes her seem like the least observant, slowest person in the world. This is due to the heavy handed way the story is setup. The reader is being smacked upside the head with hints and clues that a 2 year old couldn’t miss. There is no subtlety or craft employed.

So we find ourselves reading a scene with more bad situation warning bells than a Scary Movie sequel and wondering how on earth our protagonist Kirsty could possibly be so naive. And the truth is there is no plausible or logical way she could be.

This is how we meet a reaper named Dante.

Yes – that Dante.

Who in this book is a ridiculously awkward man-boy with no eloquence. Seriously no eloquence from the guy who wrote The Inferno?

I wish I had stopped reading there.

Puns the world over should be rising up in revolt against their shabby treatment in this book. Where Piers Anthony deftly wields puns to create whimsically literal worlds and situations – Ms. Grant lobs them about like a drunken darts player. Instead of being seamlessly woven into the story she is creating they seemed forced and often painfully setup.

I wanted to like, even love this book. But I just couldn’t. Aside from essentially uninteresting main characters and poor use of puns, the story itself felt cursory and pedantic. She attempted to create a new and different idea of Hell. Some of the elements had great potential. Sadly that potential was unrealized.

I still think the underlying idea could be pretty brilliant.

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

#bookreview – The Humans by Matt Haig (@matthaig1)

humansThe Humans: A Novel – Matt Haig
Science Fiction
305pp

The Humans is a warm, satirical, and entertaining story of an alien assimilating into society as a human on Earth. But first, Professor Andrew Martin must die on the account of having solved one of the biggest problems in mathematics, the Riemann Hypothesis. Of course, this also means anyone that may know of the professor’s discovery must also be eliminated, including his wife and son. Simple.

The first half of the novel is entertaining enough as our nameless Vonnadorian alien slowly learns of the customs and ways of this new civilization he as come upon, especially the value of clothes. He loathes and despises these primitive ways. Suspension of disbelief is a must for the first half – mainly for the descriptive language. There were some concepts and objects that he didn’t grasp but had no problem using the understanding that vehicles were reliant on “fossil fuels” and in upcoming sentences, proceeding to call the vehicles “cars.”  This is a personal issue – it’s something I had an extremely hard time with but considering the novel is 300 plus pages, I figured I might as well finish it. And I’m glad I did.

Into the second half of the novel the tone has shifted to an appreciation of the arts, dogs, familial relationships, and the complexities of emotion. By all means this is no Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert Heinlein; don’t expect commentary on the sexual revolution, religion, greed, war or anything else vis-à-vis the late 60’s to early 70’s. Well, some, but it’s to be expected when you do a cliché theme of bringing an outsider into human culture. Towards the end of the novel, we’re granted 97 tenets of life and how to live as learned by our Vonnadorian. And you know what, they’re not bad. It’s nothing too deep or too profound; they’re things you or I may already know, but Mr. Haig has a great way of putting them into words… words that any human should live by.

GoodReads.com

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