Review: The Lightning Thief

The Lightning Thief
The Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This is a very good middle-grade book. My family’s pretty deeply rooted in the Classics, so I can see why my younger brother — who virtually almost never reads — became so enthralled with this series as a child.

However, it’s not just not to my tastes — and I don’t think it’s meant to be. I firmly believe I am not the audience for this book, and that’s okay. I’m happy that my younger brother had a series that he could anticipate the way I used to anticipate the next Harry Potter book; and I’m glad it also spurred along in him a period of interest in Greek mythology.

As for me: not my thing, but I’m glad I can at least say I did read it.

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Review: Wolf By Wolf

Wolf By Wolf
Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

*4.5/5

**Thank you to Little, Brown Books for Young Readers for providing me a digital ARC of this novel via NetGalley for the purpose of review**

Ryan Graudin is swiftly becoming an author with whom I’m highly intrigued. After reading her phenomenally dark and gritty THE WALLED CITY last year, I eagerly anticipated the release of WOLF BY WOLF — especially after hearing it involved alternate history and epic motorcycle races.

I definitely got the high-octane excitement I expected from the lead-up to the Axis Tour, and the race itself kept me on the edge of my seat. But what I really enjoyed most was reading about the emotional struggle of our protagonist: Yael. Without going into spoilers, Yael disguises herself as motocross champion Adele Wolf in order to win the Axis Tour and kill Hitler, but soon becomes embroiled in more danger than she ever anticipated when Adele’s brother, Felix, pops onto the scene alongside a very intense competitor in the Tour, Luka.

There is an element of the paranormal — skin shifting — and it adds to the “edge of your seat” feeling that is the backbone of this book. Some people have compared Yael to Katniss Everdeen of THE HUNGER GAMES, but I disagree: there’s something far more real about Yael, despite the skin shifting bit, because we know that WWII and The Holocaust actually happened. Her blisteringly powerful rage is completely understandable, and her “fight or flight” mentality fits perfectly with her situation.

I think it is because this book is dealing with WWII and Hitler — albeit an alternate conclusion to the war — that makes the atmosphere so much more compelling than if this were, say, some kind of fantasy world, et al. It is impossible, I think, for many of us to wrap our heads around the atrocities that Hitler committed against those he deemed “undesirable” during the height of the Third Reich. It’s horrific, and this book never tries to make it seem otherwise. Yes, it’s for a YA audience and so, no, it’s not nearly as graphic as it could have been. But the terror and the horror still remain; that nasty twist in my gut still sat like a lead weight while I read.

Ms. Graudin has a singular talent for writing compelling stories in locations and situations that are fraught with peril, and I can’t wait to see what happens in the next book of this series.

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Review: The Martian

The Martian
The Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was on my radar long before my book club decided to pick it as our September read. Having worked at a Barnes & Noble, I remember The Martian for its bright orange cover, and the fact that it continually sold out of our store. When the paperback released, it was seriously an effort to keep it on shelves, and it was always on the paperback bestsellers list.

Having now both read and listened to the audiobook of this story, I can see why.

I’ve stated many times that I am not the most science-savvy person out there. Although, if I had to pick a science, I will say that I do find astronomy fascinating. I chalk this up to my dad introducing me to Star Trek and Star Wars as a young child — if nothing else, it fosters a love of science fiction.

I’d heard more about the scientific merit of this novel — Mr. Weir is a programmer — than the story, which I actually now find a little disappointing: it’s why I didn’t rush to this novel. Since I am, as aforementioned, not science-savvy, I am more likely to care about the story of a piece of science fiction as opposed to its actual science.

In all truth, the story of The Martian can be pretty easily elevator-pitched: Cast Away on Mars.

I usually hate comparative pitches and blurbs, but that truly is an accurate way to describe this book…but with a couple of additions.

The biggest thing is that this book doesn’t take place entirely on Mars. Yes, we predominantly follow Mark Watney, the titular “Martian” and accidentally stranded biologist-turned-astronaut who must now survive on the red planet. But, we also spend time back on Earth with NASA as well as abroad the spaceship containing Mark’s crewmates. All of these perspectives are portrayed with varying degrees of tone, pace, and style. It’s incredibly refreshing because, well, people are all different. They’re going to behave and speak and present their situations differently.

Basically: the writing is awesome. The people feel real because of the way they speak, think to themselves, present themselves to others, and interact with the people and situations around them. I, at the very least, really cared about these people. I wanted them to succeed.

This book is one of the most entertaining pieces of science fiction I’ve ever read and I highly recommend it to anyone — even if you think/know you don’t like science fiction. Just trust me 🙂

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Review: Queen of Shadows

Queen of Shadows
Queen of Shadows by Sarah J. Maas
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I will go down with my ship…

Honestly that’s the only thing that truly bothered me in this book. I thought the finale was fairly spectacular and gaining Aedion as a larger player and perspective was really nice. I even liked Manon’s chapters this go around — I had trouble staying interested during HEIR OF FIRE — and thought her contribution to the plot was very well-played.

Overall, a great novel in the series. SJM gets bigger and better with each book 🙂

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