Monday, April 20, 2015

Strike: The Hero From the Sky by Charlie Wood

Strike: The Hero From the Sky
Author:  Charlie Wood
Publisher:   Createspace
Release Date: March 28th, 2012
Source: Received from the author in exchange for an honest review.
Book One of the STRIKE Trilogy

Tobin Lloyd's life is perfect: he's a senior at Bridgton High, he's one of the funniest kids in school, and his only worry is whether or not his latest prank is going to result in yet another detention. 

But when he wakes up in the world of Capricious, a place where superheroes are real and attacks by super-villains are just another hassle of living in the city, all of that changes. Suddenly, Tobin's last year of high school is not going as he expected.

Far from home and pretty sure he's gone insane, Tobin must join a strange group of companions (including a beer-drinking dog and a genius, three-foot-tall robot) as he desperately tries to find a way back to Earth. However, that may be even harder than Tobin knows: a mysterious super-villain named Vincent Harris has big plans for the planet Earth...and Tobin is the only person standing in his way.

A carefree, C-student class clown is the world's last hope? Yikes. 

Full of action and humor, STRIKE: THE HERO FROM THE SKY is the perfect novel for anyone who loves a good adventure.

Strike: The Hero From the Sky was one of those books that felt like it would be amazing for a middle school boy. Not being in middle school, nor a boy, I probably didn't get as much out of this as I could have. Don't get me wrong, I think Charile Wood is a great writer. It was easy to get into the story in the beginning, and I liked the flow of the dialog and text. The mechanics of a good book were there. I probably just wasn't as drawn in by the actual plot. Which is funny, because I'm sort of a nerd and I love super heroes. I think in the end it just felt too young for me? Or too boyish? Too something...

Part of the problem was honestly just that it had a different humor than maybe I prefer in a book. I sort of felt like I was on the outside watching the characters laugh and not really finding it as amusing. Talking dog companion and robot and general slapstick conversations just didn't really "click". There were really no female characters to help get me through some of the important parts of the story, and no one I related to, so that eventually made things putter out for me. I started out really into it. Powers and lightning and suspense, yes! Then all the secondary characters and power discovery took that left turn where I felt like I walked into a boys locker room. Somehow, I just wasn't sure I belonged there. 

I'm not marking this book down because I don't think it's really the authors fault. There is an audience for this and if I had a younger brother I could pass it off to them. It just wasn't a "me" book.

Friday, April 10, 2015

Bonus Post: Why I Love Legend of Zelda, Majora's Mask

So I know this is a book review blog, but this post is just me sharing something that's sort of meaningful to me. In this case, it's a video game. You can read if you want to. 

If you know me at all personally, you know I'm a bit of a nerd and my favorite game is Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. Few people actually know why this is my favorite game though. So here's a random post just to clear that up for everyone, because I felt like it. So there.

Why I Love Legend of Zelda, Majora's Mask

Reason 1: The Struggle Against Time
To start off with, Majora's Mask to me has always been a race against the clock. You have three days to stop the moon from crashing into Clock Town and virtually destroying everyone that lives there. There is no guarantee escaping the city will save you, and the world and you know it could be over if you fail the quest. All of this is pushed into action because Skull Kid stole a mask that turned an already impish character into a force of destruction.

After the first play through, it's clear there is no way to do everything possible in one day. That's where some magic and time traveling comes into play to save everyone. You travel back in time over and over, loosing everything but the masks you collect along the way. You can slow down time a little, but if you loose focus or mess up, you have to start over again. 

I really connect with this plot because life is always a race against the clock. You can't stop time, can't rewind, and honestly, you never know when that final day will come. There is no magic answer to go back and start again. We're just these citizens of Clock Town, trying to make the most of every moment, and we all deal with that struggle in different ways. 

Dealing with Death
With the moon doomed to crash into the earth thanks to Skull Kid's trickery, the characters in this video game are forced to face their demise. What's unique about this is everyone faces it differently. Some focus on love and enjoying their last moments together. Others continue to work, because a task needs to get done and they may as well be the one to do it. Some live in denial, and others seek closure to the past. The characters in this game all have a story, and it's your job to find it. 

Reason 3: Collections
As you listen and solve the problems character's face, you are rewarded with masks, which are the only things you can carry with you through time. Some transform you into other forms, others just give you special abilities. Some of the fun of the game is just in building your collection. There is something exciting about having a full inventory. However, that leads us to...

Reason 4: You Can't Take it With You
In Majora's Mask, you spend the entire game collecting masks, and frankly, if you're like me you get quite attached to them. I love running around with the bunny mask, and swimming in the Great Bay area as a Zora consumed endless hours of my childhood. But there is a point in the game where you have to give up all your masks in order to finish the game. To me, this really speaks metaphorically about what we face just living and dying every day.

We all collect masks. We collect possessions or we have careers and other things we acquire in this life. But we all will face a day when we have to give that up and just move on. As fun as it is to run around with the bunny mask, there's a point where you just have to continue with the rest of the game, and that means letting go of those things you collected as you went along. You help people, impact their lives and try to make the world a better place if you can. In the end though, the story will have to come to a close. 

Majora's Mask can be frustrating, because you deal with a sense of helplessness. You can't do things quick enough, there are endless puzzles, and a sense of repetition as you live the same day over and over to beat the game. There is a lot of fun in collecting though, and checking off each task in your trusty notebook to help people out. In the end, you must sacrifice what you've collected though to advance to the final round. 

The characters, the struggles, and just the overall story have always connected to me. So even years later, it continues to be one of my favorite games. 

What about you? What is your favorite game and why?

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Whole in the Clouds by Kristine Kibbee

Whole in the Clouds
Author:  Kristine Kibbee
Publisher:   illusio & baqer
Release Date: November 6th, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Cora Catlin is a misfit at best, and an outcast at worst. She feels out of place, as if everything is backward and something is missing from her life.

And then, on her first day of middle school, everything changes.

When Cora encounters an elfin stranger who speaks of the magical world Clouden, an entire kingdom hidden up in the sky, she can’t wait to leave her boring, humdrum life behind. As Cora travels to her new home, where children sprout from the ground and rivers flow with chocolate, she finds herself transformed—and if that weren’t enough, she has to adjust to royal parents, talking Pegasuses, a raging war, and an alluring love interest as well.

Exploring this new land, Cora unearths wonders and secrets beyond her wildest imaginings, discovering the meaning of true friendship, love, and what it means to feel whole. 

There is a line between Middle School Fiction and YA, and Whole in the Clouds falls pretty firmly into the former category. The writing is pretty light, the plot probably fell more in the whole unicorns and rainbows and sparkly magic category that I usually like, and I got bored pretty quickly with the plot. That's not to say I may not have enjoyed it more had I been younger. But as it stands, this wasn't quite mature enough for my taste.

One of the biggest problems I had with this story though was the treatment of beauty and weight. Cora is, to be blunt, fat, and the people surrounding her are pretty terrible to her about it. While that happens, and people are mean, I didn't like how the book handled the issue of her weight. She goes to this magical place, and then suddenly, tada, she's going to be skinny and beautiful? It just irritates me a little when that much emphasis is put on looks only to give a magical answer. She's made skinny because she's a good person on the inside, and when she gets to this land, the inside matches the outside.

I just feel like the morals were coming across all wrong. I don't think I'd want to share this with a middle schooler because I'm really not sure that's the message I want to be sharing. If anything, the story would make me feel even more depressed as a kid. If I'm fat but I'm a nice person, I'm just backwards? If I was in this magical place it'll all get straightened out? Why should my weight have anything to do with who I am on the inside? Red flags, red flags all over the place.

The world is creative, and the cover was beautiful, but some things just seemed shallow to me. This book had a lot of potential to encourage younger readers, but somewhere in the execution it came out garbled.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Author News: Where Are They Now?!

Hey guys! Welcome to a special blog post which I'll just call, Where Are They Now? After reviewing books, I have had the opportunity to follow some of the author's events and happenings. This month I happened to get two cool updates, so I thought I'd share them with you readers while I continue to pluck my way through my reading list : ).

First up is Shannon A. Thompson. I had the chance to review Shannon's book Minutes Before Sunset last June (you can read that post here) Shannon just held a cover release for the second edition of her novel, and I'm pretty jazzed about the new look. If you know me, I'm pretty big on covers, and this one seems a lot more mystical, which is fitting:

Second on the update list is one of my favorite authors, Aaron Galvin. Aaron is about to release the sequel to his book Salem's Vengeance, which I reviewed last July (you can read that one here). The sequel is called Salem's Fury, which is now available to preorder. (liiiink) I got my paws on an early copy, and my review should be up here soon so I can get you all hyped for it ; ) .

Aaron will be attending the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books April 18th-19th to help with the promotion as well. He'll be there both days in Argue Plaza, booth #735, near the YA stage, so this is a fun chance to meet him and interrogate him about both of the Salem books as well as his other books, including Salted which I've been a fan of.

It's always great to see authors keep moving forward with their writing journeys, and I'm always happy to hear what they're up to next!