Category Archives: Fantasy

Spontaneous, by Aaron Starmer

SpontaneousSpontaneous by Aaron Starmer

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

(This is a review of an ARC from Edelweiss)

You think your senior year was stressful? Trust me, it’s got nothing on what’s going on at Covington High. The seniors there are so tense they’re ready to explode. Literally.

When a case of spontaneous combustion breaks out among the senior class – and begins spreading – Mara Carlyle takes it the way any cliche-ridden teenager would: cracking jokes, doing drugs, and hooking up with a new boy. Luckily her best friend Tess is there to talk her down, and the new boy, Dylan is mysterious and surrounded by rumors (burned down a store? fathered triplets? maybe!) Throw in government agent who implies there’s more to what’s going on than it seems, and you have what could be a great, dark-humored read.

I really wanted to like this. But oy, it just didn’t work for me. The premise was there, if not entirely new (Heathers? Buffy?) but Starmer just couldn’t seem to pull it over the goal-line. The ending peters out and you just never get any answers or resolution for the characters, which irritated me. Even if I don’t like a character, I want to know what happens to them!

And I didn’t like the characters. The main problem is Mara – she’s just an incredibly unpleasant character – and that was before the kids started exploding. Yes, she’s far too cool for school, and for this book even. I had no interest in what she was thinking or doing, and couldn’t figure out why any of the other characters were so interested in talking to her either.  – Ms. Schoen

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Student Review: The Lightning Thief, by Rick Riordan (reviewed by Brandon L.)

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #1)The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The thriller of Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief exhibits the adventures of Percy Jackson. Zeus’ lightning bolt is stolen and Poseidon, his brother, is blamed for the theft. Zeus demands his weapon is to be returned by the summer solstice. As Percy and his mother leave for vacation, an unlikely event occurs and the two are separated; Percy enters Camp Half-Blood and Sally, his mother, is held captive. In Camp Half-Blood, a very important topic is covered. Percy learns more about who he actually is; he learns about his identity. When the demigods discover that he is the son of Poseidon, they set him, along with his friends Grover and Annabeth, out on a quest to retrieve Zeus’ lightning bolt. If they don’t before the summer solstice, a war will break out between the gods. Out in the real world, all of the monsters are set out wanting to kill Percy. But during these adventures of fighting these creatures and reaching places of dismay, Grover, Percy’s protector, and Annabeth, daughter of Athena, ultimately help Percy get to the Underworld, where they believe the bolt is, and bring it back to Olympus. Though this is his main goal to others, the topic of love overthrows this goal. Percy’s love for his mom makes the retrieval of Zeus’ lightning bolt seem small. Percy’s ultimate goal is to be with his mother again. Whether he chooses to risk his life to stay with his mom, or to stay safe and live with his kind in Camp Half-Blood, it ultimately shapes who he is meant to be.

Readers of all different kinds of genres will enjoy Rick Riordan’s The Lightning Thief. Whether comedy, or mythololgy is interesting to the reader, it has a little bit of both. The personality of Percy and his friends will make a reader laugh out loud. At the same time, the adventures they take down relate directly to ancient Greek stories. It also exhibits the love between friends as well as love between family members. A reader that is into the explicit fight scenes that are present in violent books, this one might disappoint as the fight scenes do not go deep into the blood and gore. But whether the reader believes it will definitely not be interesting, or it will be the greatest ever, everyone should read this book. ~ Student: Brandon L.

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Student Review: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins (reviewed by Brett G.)

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

In Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins, romance, drama and gore are displayed. This book is about two people from a poor, poor town in a mystical country of Panem. Each year, two people from their “district” are picked from a bowl to fight in what’s called the “Hunger Games,” which is where 24 kids under the age of 18 fight to the death in an arena. In the prequel to Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta win the Hunger Games, together. Which is forbidden. Only one victor may be crowned, so this is seen as ludicrous. Throughout Catching Fire, Katniss and Peeta fight to prove that what they did is alright.

I recommend this book to any teenager or young adult who is looking for a good read. To understand fully, I would recommend reading the first book, The Hunger Games, Catching Fire, then finally Mockingjay, in that order. If you enjoy a book with a lot of action, this is just right for you. If you like a calm, soothing book, then this is not for you. This book is filled with tons of action, as well as drama and love. If you like those 3, then this series is for you. If not, I advise you stay away from Catching Fire.~ Student: Brett G.

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Student Review: The Cyberiad, by Stanislaw Lem (reviewed by Vera G.)

The CyberiadThe Cyberiad by Stanisław Lem

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The Cyberiad, by Stanislaw Lem, is a collection of science-fiction stories revolving around two inventors named Trurl and Klapaucius. While Trurl and Klapaucius are quite amiable towards one another most of the time, they are also rivals. They create complex pieces of machinery that can perform strange tasks, such as only creating things that begin with the letter N, or writing poetry. The environment in which they exist is a place where humans are not of the norm and where futuristic technology is merged together with medieval concepts of princes, princesses, knights, and dragons. This book contains stories of mystery, treachery, love, and mathematics, with dynamic characters and suspenseful plots. In addition to its scientific aspects, this book is quite philosophical. It deals with the concepts of utopias, society-building, and the quests for happiness and knowledge. People should read this book because of the way it is formatted and because of the unique themes and stories it is comprised of. Anyone that is interested in the science-fiction genre would enjoy The Cyberiad, as well as someone who is looking for a fantasy storybook with an extraterrestrial twist! Since this book is broken up into stories, it can be read over a long period of time in almost any order. Its unique characters and eccentric plotlines should keep the reader interested throughout the duration of the stories.~ Student: Vera G.

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Student Review: Game of Thrones, by George R. R. Martin (reviewed by Joshua L.)

A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, #1)A Game of Thrones by George R.R. Martin

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

For term 2 (and more), I have started reading George R.R. Martin’s Game of Thrones. It is about various characters in the fictional fantasy world of Westeros and their families’ power struggle for the Iron Throne. Whoever holds the Iron Throne controls all of Westeros. At first, the characters are separated doing their own thing. However, a series of events and dilemmas unite them. I find this interesting when it happens because many of them have different cultures which sometimes causes conflicts to arise because of the different interpretations/opinions of one another’s ways. There is no main character in Game of Thrones as Martin focuses on numerous characters. If there was a character that the book focuses on the most, I would say that this character is Daenerys Targaryen. She is involved in many of the conflicts between the various characters and holds a considerable amount of sway as she is the only remaining child of the predecessor of the Iron Throne. This book covers the topic of power and deceit which play an important role in many of the events that occur. Others should read this book because it compares itself to our world and helps the reader understand what conflict is and how it affects us. It is well-written and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who is into the fantasy genre. A reader that dislikes a book that has an abundance of lengthy and/or sexual content should avoid this book.
~ Student: Joshua L.

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Unhooked, by Lisa Maxwell

UnhookedUnhooked by Lisa Maxwell

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a review of an ARC from Edelweiss.

Gwen’s mother has been moving her from home to home for as long as she can remember. Whenever she starts to feel settled, something will spook her mom, and off they go,looking for a place that can keep her “safe.” Her best friend Olivia is helping her settle into their latest stop in London, when she finally finds out the reason her mom has kept her running all these years.

Stolen from their beds in the middle of the night by great, dark, things the girls are dropped off in a strange land with sea-hags and evil Fey. Gwen ends up on a pirate ship staffed entirely by young boys, and led by a soulful rogue with a mechanical hand. When he points to an island off-shore and refers to it as Neverland, she finally realizes where she is, but the story ends up being much darker than she ever imagined.

Fairy-tale retellings is thing now in YA, isn’t it? I feel like I’ve read quite a few of these lately, and this fits right in – pitching Hook and Peter Pan as competitors for both the girl and for the soul of Neverland. Maxwell keeps the action moving, and does a nice job of illustrating how childhood dreams of pirates and sword fights are actually pretty grim in reality. If you’re a fan of Once Upon a Time (and I am) the whole Hook-as-dashing-hero is not new, but he’s still enticing. Gwen is an appealing heroine who cares as much about saving her friend as she does about finding her destiny. The book feels like it could have done with one more re-write or edit – the final battles get a bit confusing, and I didn’t entirely follow how the Fey queen and Dark King backstory plot entirely worked out, but all-in-all, a fun read.
~ Ms Schoen

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Student Review: WebMage, by Kelly McCollough, reviewed by Noah K.

WebMage (Webmage, #1)WebMage by Kelly McCullough
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I would recommend Webmage by Kelly McCullough especially to people who are interested in Greek mythology and enjoy sci fi and fantasy. The main strengths of the book are the interactions between characters, specifically between the two main characters. The story is interesting, and is an entertaining variation of Greek mythology. The premise is that the main character, whose name is Ravirn, and his familiar, whose name is Melchior, learn that Atropes, the fate of death, who is the many great aunt of Ravirn, is working on a spell to remove free will from the multiverse. Antropes asks for his Ravirn’s help on getting it to work, as there is some bug with the spell. Ravirn rejects her, and then attempts to survive her attempts on his life. The series has an interesting meshing of normal fantasy magic, and technology and coding, and manages to stay fairly consistent with what is possible within the rules of the book’s universe. The book also isn’t one of the those books that tells you more than the characters know, meaning that there is never a situation when the character makes a decision that is obviously stupid because of what you know but they don’t know that. It bugs me when books do that. ~ Student: Noah K.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses, by Sarah J. Maas

A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1)A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Teenage Feyre is out hunting, looking to feed her starving family, when she accidentally/not accidentally kills a wolf. Or is it a fairy wolf? (Or is it a faerie wolf, because this is THAT kind of book).

In retribution for her crime, Feyre is taken from her home-bound father, and useless, spoiled sisters, to the land of the Fae. Her captor, Tamlin, is a high lord of the Fae and has claimed her life as vengeance. Tamlin can change shapes into a furred beast-like form, and keeps his claws when he returns to his Fae state, along with a powerfully muscular body, strong jaw, and a strange animal mask. (I pictured him looking kind of like Hugh Jackman as Wolverine).

The trouble with basing your book on a fairy tale is that we all know how the story is expected to play out, and unless you’re doing something wildly creative with it, or have amazing writing, it can get kind of boring. The retelling of beauty and the beast is pitched as adult fantasy, but it felt much more like a bodice-ripper to me. Most of the energy is spent on Feyre trying to figure out her feelings for Tamlin, and his for her. I wasn’t at all surprised to see that relationship develop, and was actually much more interested in the back story of the war between the humans and the Fae, which was mentioned multiple times, but never really explained in a way that made sense of the character’s actions. Fans of fantasy and romance will probably enjoy this.~Ms Schoen

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Student Review: The Sea of Monsters, by Rick Riordan (reviewed by Peter C.)

The Sea of Monsters (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, #2)The Sea of Monsters by Rick Riordan

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Have you ever wondered what hell looks like? Well, Rick Riordan paints a pretty vivid picture of it in The Sea Of Monsters: the first time Percy goes into Hell there are huge walls of fire-red lava. I like this book because I thought it was funny at some parts and full of action. For example, when they were fighting the cyclops, he says “Blaaaaaah!¨ and Percy tells us, ¨Polyphemus bleated just like this, and swung at me with his tree.” Percy and his friends Annabelle and Grover have to go to Tartarus in order to get the golden fleece, which is believed to heal anything. They need the fleece because the tree at their camp is dying and without the tree there would be no forcefield around their camp to protect them from the monsters. Read the book and find out if they succeed! If you like Greek mythology then this is the perfect book for you; you will be talking about it for the rest of your life. ~ Student: Peter C.

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The Queen of the Tearling, by Erika Johansen

The Queen of the Tearling (The Queen of the Tearling, #1)The Queen of the Tearling by Erika Johansen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Princess Kelsea Glynn has been hidden away since infancy, waiting for the day she will begin her reign as Queen of the Tearling. Meanwhile, her uncle serves as Regent. When he’s not sacrificing the kingdom and its people to the neighboring state of Mortmense and it’s evil Red Queen, he’s sending assassins to hunt Kelsea down. Now that she’s 19, the Queen’s Guard, all of whom swore loyalty to her dead mother (though none seem to have liked her very much) have come to escort her her castle and begin her rule.

I’m generally positive about this one. Kelsea is ridiculously naive, though it’s explained by the fact that growing up, her guardians refused to tell her anything important about her kingdom or her parents. They’ve taught her what they think a ruler needs to know, but left out key parts that will help her rule *this* kingdom. The reasons why are eventually explained, but to a certain degree it felt like the real reason was “because this will make the story more interesting.”

The one quirky bit is the setting. At first it seems like standard medieval-ish fantasy novel, but there are occasional references to the Americans and the British as the settlers of these worlds, and a “Great Crossing,” and you eventually learn that this is set in some distant future when people fled those countries for a “New World.” Where this world is isn’t clear – the map at the front looks like the Iberian peninsula, but obviously, that’s not new. There are references to terrible seas where boats were lost during the Crossing (conveniently containing all the doctors and technology) so maybe it’s a global warming/rising seas thing? Maybe it will be explained in the sequel? It’s not particularly relevant to the story, but it’s interesting in passing. It also doesn’t explain the magic – oh, did I mention the magic stones, and the Red Queen’s visions, and the fact that she stays miraculously young for hundreds of years?

This review sounds like I didn’t like the book, but I did – it’s basically everything I liked about Game of Thrones-type fantasy with dramatically less violence and rape. There’s still lots of that, but not to the Game of Thrones level, where I’m starting to worry about any pets George R. R. Martin has.

Ms Schoen

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