Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

*This Review is Spoiler Free*

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I received an Advance Reader Copy of Fires of Invention back in 2015 at BookCon in New York City. Savage was in attendance, and doing an author signing of his soon to be released (at the time) novel and of his previous works.  I had never read anything by this author before reading this novel in 2015 and went into reading it with no expectations. The story follows thirteen-year-old Trenton Coleman as he navigates life in the City of Cove. In Cove, creativity of any kind  is illegal and the City is structured in order to highlight the dangers of creativity. Throughout the novel the reader is introduced to Kallista Babbage, a girl whose father was a “creative type” that passed away in an explosion. Trenton and Kallista end up working together to build a machine after finding blueprints that it seems Kallista’s father, Leo Babbage, was working on before his death.  

This novel is an incredibly interesting and thoughtful read. The author is able to keep the reader engaged throughout the entire novel. The novel did not lag in any areas and was fairly consistent throughout. There were some pacing issues in certain parts of the novel in regards to certain plot points and events not having been fleshed out and explored as much as they could have been. I did read an ARC of the story and the final, published novel may not have contained those issues.

Overall, I give Fires of Invention a rating of 7.5 Unicorn Horns out of 10. The author accomplished what they set out to do in this novel. All the major plot points were well executed, the characters were dynamic and well thought out, the intrigue and mystery of Cove built organically and did not feel force-fed, and the story was complex and layered. This is a novel that I would recommend to ANYONE! The novel can easily be enjoyed by adult readers who do not tend to read middle grade fiction. And of course I would suggest that anyone within the target age range that is interested in Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian and/or Steampunk to give this novel a read. 

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I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

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I Hunt Killers in the first book in the Jasper Dent Trilogy by Barry Lyga. The novel’s main protagonist is Jasper “Jazz” Dent who’s father is a notorious serial killer who is now in Prison. When a serial killer emerges in Lobo’s Nod, where Jazz lives, suspicions rise because “The Impressionist” is fashioning their kills after those that Jazz’s “Dear Old Dad”, Billy Dent, committed in the past. Being raised by a serial killer couldn’t possibly be easy, but it was the norm for Jazz growing up and through Billy he experienced horrors up-close and personal. Although the knowledge that Jazz has about his father’s crimes frightens him and causes him to worry about ending up like his father, Jazz decides to use that information and his experiences to help catch a killer.

I Hunt Killers was the second novel that I had read by Barry Lyga, with Boy Toy having been my first. So, I already knew that I liked Barry Lyga’s writing style and approach to story telling. I had previously experienced that the author could write a novel that makes you think about things that are sometimes viewed as uncomfortable and taboo. As soon as I read the synopsis of the story I had no doubt in my mind that I would enjoy the Jasper Dent series because it would make me feel conflicted and keep me intrigued. This novel did not fall short of my expectations and *surprise* I ended up thoroughly enjoying my reading experience.  

Jasper Dent is a very well thought-out and executed character. He has understandably conflicting and dark thoughts about women and people in general. He is an absolutely tortured and damaged soul. In certain portions of the novel it becomes increasingly difficult not feel empathy towards Jazz and sad for former child-Jazz. The supporting/side characters were a welcomed addition to the story and did not feel unnecessary or arbitrary. The secondary characters added to the overall story, actually benefitted the story and had pivotal moments in some of the novels more memorable plot points.

The storyline is easy to follow, yet complex and keeps the reader engaged throughout the entire novel. There were definitely a few situations that arise that take the reader by surprise. I was able to guess a bit of what was going to happen, in terms of being able to predict the general direction the story was going to go in, but I was never bored or disinterested. The story is suspenseful, mysterious and has components of  a thriller that is for a more mature audience (not in a bad way). Lyga doesn’t underestimate the target age group’s level of comprehension and includes thought processes, flashbacks and circumstances that could have been targeted to an adult reader.

I would recommend this novel to readers that enjoy mystery, thrillers, and crime novels. There is also the less obvious group of readers that I would recommend this series to and that would be fans of dystopian and fantasy novels. I give I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga a rating of 7-out of a possible-10 Unicorn Horns!

Furies of Calderon by Jim Butcher

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Furies of Calderon is the first instalment in the epic fantasy series, Codex Alera by Jim Butcher. The series follows a few different characters who at the beginning of the story are in different areas of Alera. As the story progresses the individual storylines intersect seamlessly. Some of the most notable characters are Tavi, a furyless 15 y.o.boy who lives on his Uncle’s steadholt. Amara, a woman who is training to become a Cursori (spy) for the First Lord of Alera. In Alera people have the ability to use Furies, which allow them to connect to the elements and use their Furies to manipulate the elements.  

As much as I do love a long Fantasy novel, I can admit when one becomes a bit taxing on my reading life. That thankfully did not happen while I was reading this book. As a reader it does not take too long before you form bonds with particular characters. Whether those be negative or positive feelings that you develop towards individual characters, it absolutely adds to the overall reading experience. You are able to grow with the characters, feel their struggles and triumphs, you feel betrayals stronger and deeper than you would without having made those connections.

The magic system is rather intriguing and I have seen some interesting stories of how Butcher developed the magic system; however, I have never looked into it to see if it is in fact true so I won’t comment on that point. In Alera people are able to control the elements (earth, air, fire, water, and metal). I enjoyed the fact that the magic system was rather easy to believe and understand. There were very few inconsistencies that I remember reading in this novel, none that I can recall at this time. It sometimes takes you completely out of the world/story when you are made aware of actions and abilities that don’t make sense based upon the explanation of the world/magic system that an Author provided. Luckily, that doesn’t happen in this novel and the magic system, abilities, and limitations of “crafting” are consistent and explained. 

The novel contains political intrigue and unrest, adventure, shifting family/friend dynamics, suspense, a good magic system, character development and an understandability of the magic system and the story as well. If you choose to continue on with the Codex Alera series you will find that Furies of Calderon, acts more as a prequel to the remaining 5 books. I give this novel a rating of 7 out of 10 stars. My rating of the series as a whole is considerably higher. This novel serves as more of a introduction to all the hell that this series is going to put you through over time. 

Toradora! Vol. 1 by Yuyuko Takemiya (Story) & Zekkyo (Art)

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8/10 unicorn horns so far!

I initially meant to write a Holiday themed book review but have been really strapped for time this past month- things have been pretty hectic and work and busy at home- so that didn’t work out. I figured I’d just go with something new, something outside of my usual reading preferences, after seeing that I have actually never written a manga review on any shojo (manga intended for young girls). Though I’ve come across a few great series in the shojo genre, I have to admit it’s been more miss than hit so I unfortunately tend to avoid it altogether. Only after reading and pre-posting this review did I notice my mistake. Turns out this is yet another shonen (intended for young males) manga. But since I truly enjoyed this series so much I decided to do write a review anyway (I swear I’ll write at least 1 shojo review next month). 

Toradora!, a fairly popular romantic comedy based on a light novel series, is narrated by a 17-year-old high school student named Takasu Ryuuji who struggles to fit in and make friends with his classmates due to a series of hilarious, over dramatic misunderstandings. These misunderstandings actually have nothing to do with his personality or even his actions, but simply because of his natural expression. No matter what he does, he almost always appears to be glaring at others. This doesn’t make it easy for him to get to know others, especially his long-term crush Kushieda, but the new school year gives him a better opportunity when his crush ends up in the same class as him. Well, should have been, except for an unexpected encounter with fellow classmate Aiska Taiga (a.k.a. The Palmtop Tiger). As the name suggests, Aiska is a tiny girl with a wild temperament and terrible personality- rude, demanding, ungrateful, very talented at all things klutz, and the best friend of Kushieda. After things take an unexpected and hilariously embarrassing turn, Ryuuji uncovers Aisaka’s secret: she’s in love with his (only) best friend. And so, these two end up working together in an attempt to confess their feelings to their respective love interests. 

This, as you can probably tell, is all very generic: boy meets girl + host of hilarious events= love. But that’s not quite the case. I considered dropping this series after seeing that this would likely take an incredibly predictable path, and also because I wasn’t too interested in sticking it out when I didn’t really like the other main character Aiska; but since I’d already taken the first two volumes from the library, was going to to a review on it (my main reason) and was really loving the humour I figured I’d at least finish them both. Now? I’m definitely collecting it. Not so much because I love over done story-lines, but because, incredibly, the main characters’ personalities and uniqueness are turning this story into an amazing experience so far. I expected both to follow common archetype but they surprised me. Ryuuji, generally the clueless, slow to action, and/or initially inconsiderate male lead, was considerate, kind to a fault, and emotionally mature (for protagonists of this genre that is). Aisaka, though at first got on my nerves despite all the jokes and making me laugh, really does have a bad personality but quickly comes to own up to her faults and later expresses complex, all too human emotions. Safe to say she grew on me (especially in the 2nd volume). The two love interests, Kushieda and Kitamura, haven’t been given much time to shine, but so far (by the 2nd volume at least) have made some insightful choices and judgement calls uncommon for side characters with their personality. I’m looking forward to getting to know them more. 

As of now there are 7 volumes available in English with the 8th volume scheduled to be released late November 2017 (the wait is going to kill me!). I can’t tell how faithful the novel adaptation is since it’s not available in English, but since the story is credited to the same author as the novels I’ll assume it doesn’t branch too far from the original work. There is also a 25 episode anime adaptation of the series available on Crunchyroll that, at least so far, follows the manga incredibly well. I’d recommend this series to any fan of comedy or romance. 

On a separate note:

Happy Holidays everyone!! 😁🎉🎁

Proxy by Alex London

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Proxy by Author Alex London is the first installment in a Young Adult Dystopian duology. The novel follows Knox, a Patron and Syd, his Proxy. In this dystopian society the wealthy do not have to pay for their crimes. Anything they do that is punishable, from the most trivial of childhood transgressions to acts as horrible as manslaughter, their Proxy has to take the repercussions of their actions. So when Knox causes the accidental death of his friend in a car crash, Syd is the one who is sentenced to death. In an unbelievable sequence of events the boys’ lives become entangled as the story progresses. Both Knox and Syd learn things about themselves, each other and the society they live in. Not much of what they have grown up seeing and believing is the actual truth  and we the reader get to join them on this quest for truth and redemption.

Knox is initially an incredibly unlikable character. He’s spoiled, entitled, self-involved and self-centered,  but as the story is concluded it is undeniable that his character has the most growth. The author does a superb job at executing Knox’s character development and up until the very last page of this novel his character consistently surprised me. Syd is not a bad character, he’s also a great character in this novel, but he was much more ‘aware’ from the beginning of the story so at some points his character’s growth does not seem to have as much impact as the other main character.

This novel will make you feel all sorts of feels. The unjust and unfair structure of this society is astounding and at times hard to read without seeing parallels to the world we live in. This novel breaks your heart and your spirit in parts, but it is so very beautifully and purposefully executed that I can’t even be angry at the author for all the pain he put me through lol. Another aspect of this novel that I enjoyed is that everything is not always okay. So many times in YA fiction, the story is so neatly and sweetly wrapped up, which is completely unrealistic when you take into account the climate of the world the novel is set in, but Alex London does not spare our feelings. Although the climax and conclusion of the story are far out there I still have to appreciate what the author tried to accomplish.

I really enjoyed this novel, I will note that I did NOT enjoy the second installment in the duology as much as this first book. The second book, Guardian, fell flat in so many areas such as, world building, character development, the believability and consistency of the stroyline, and the  fleshing out of the side characters.  So, just keep that in mind if you decide to pick up this book….there’s a possibility that you may not love the series as a whole. I would recommend Proxy to YA dystopian lovers, especially if you are not all that interested in reading another book that feels like a re-write of The Hunger Games or Divergent. Overall I give this novel a rating of 7 out of 10 Unicorn Horns. Also, Syd is gay, so if you are looking for a novel with a gay main protagonist outside of Contemporary/Realistic Fiction this is a worthwhile read. 

 

 

Old Man’s War by John Scalzi

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So, I recently read my first John Scalzi novel, which was Lock In, and did a review of the novel on here a view weeks ago. I liked that book so much that I went to the library soon after that and picked up Old Man’s War, as well as the next two books in the series. About half-way through Old Man’s War I returned to the library and grabbed the rest of the books in the series. If that is any indication at all that I enjoyed this novel as much…and more than I enjoyed Lock In…I don’t know what is lol. 

The main character of this novel is 75 year-old John Perry, who after visiting his wife’s grave on his 75th birthday joins the Colonial Defense Forces. The CDF is an army of the Colonial Union that is situated in space, which is where the bulk of this novel is set. The novel follows John as he enlists in the CDF and follows him through his journey to become a soldier. Once again you shall only be getting the bare bones of the synopsis (…sorry, not sorry!)  because a great part of my reading experience was discovering the world and the intricacies of the CDF as Perry got his understanding of life in space. There are no real spoilers if you do read a full synopsis of the novel on Goodreads, or elsewhere, but when I went back and read the synopsis after reading the novel I was glad that I went into reading it with as little knowledge of the story as possible.

The novel is very interesting and the world building is amazing. The pacing of the story is well done and it’s fitting to have a MC that doesn’t know everything that’s going on around them and get to figure it out with him. This added to my overall enjoyment of the novel because it aids on giving the novel an aire of suspense and an added level of intrigue. This book was very well thought out and the more scientific aspects of the story were not just simply glossed over. You can very easily tell that Scalzi put in the effort to make the novel’s more otherworldly aspects, as well as, the connections between what John Perry experiences interesting, inventive, but at the same time believable. Let me not forget to mention that John Scalzi’s humorous writing is superb! I laughed out loud, in public, at least a dozen times while commuting to and from work. Now, this may embarrass some other unicorns, but as a seasoned transit reader it doesn’t even phase me anymore. Okay, admittedly the few times I snorted in public while reading this book were not my finest moments and I *may* have sported some good ole anime/manga style diagonal line blushes.

I enjoyed this novel and HIGHLY recommend it. There was not much that I can recall disliking. I’m making my way through the rest of the series and hope to be able to provide an overall review of the series when I complete it. I give this novel 8 out of 10 unicorn horns! Any fans of Science Fiction should definitely check this novel out. Readers who don’t tend to generally read Sci-Fi, but would like to venture into the sub-genre should give this novel a try…especially if you like combat scenarios, political intrigue, good world-bulding, stories that bring into question what defines our humanity, and/or humorous writing.