Book Review: Beyond the Edge of the Map by A.L. Tait

“There are times when facts are helpful and times when a little bit of fanciful thinking goes a long way.”  (Jed)

Beyond the Edge of the Map: The Mapmaker Chronicles, chapter 6

Quinn Freeman has set sail again! It’s another adventure for the young mapmaker as author A.L. Tait presents readers with Beyond the Edge of the Map, the fourth book of The Mapmaker Chronicles.

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The story opens six moons after Quinn wins the race to map the world. His family has settled into the Manor, the prize earned for his accomplishments at sea. While Quinn’s beautiful and incredibly accurate map is now in current use by the Verdanians, there is still more out there. However, Quinn is relegated to staying on land and making copies of the map, per orders of the king. When there’s an attempt on Quinn’s life by another land who wants the mapmaker and his skills, everything changes. It’s decided Quinn would be safest back out at sea and he sets sail taking his brothers Jed and Allyn with him.

Unfortunately for Quinn, he’s not to sail aboard the Libertas with Captain Zain, but the Freeman brothers must board the Rose of the North as per King Orel’s request. They are now at the mercy of Lord Thornton who has assured the King that he’ll do everything in his power to protect Quinn. When Quinn discovers Lord Thornton has plotted against Quinn, the brothers escape from the Rose of the North only to find themselves lost on an island.

Quinn, Jed, Allyn, and the little pup named Leif face many life-threatening obstacles in their quest to find their way back home. They encounter new wildlife, suffer from hunger, and go on the run from the Peatlanders determined to find Quinn and take him to their land. Quinn also meets an old enemy and must decide if he’s to be trusted in this new situation.

I really enjoyed Beyond the Edge of the Map. Like the first three books in the series, it held my attention page after page. Quinn has rapidly become one of my favorite young fictional heroes. He’s definitely evolved over the course of the series, and it was nice to watch him take charge a bit more. This time he didn’t have Zain to offer sage advice or to save him from peril. Quinn had to make several difficult decisions and convince his two older brothers that he knew what he was doing.

Author A..L. Tait brings back all our favorite Mapmaker Chronicles characters, from the sassy, smart Ash to the Libertas crew and even a few pages of Zain (one of my favs from the first three books). There’s plenty of action, including several heart-stopping moments as the Freeman brothers battle for their lives.

I recommend Beyond the Edge of the Map by A.L. Tait as a very entertaining mid-grade/younger YA read. It’s an action-adventure that can be enjoyed by all ages and would make a great read-aloud book for families or in the classroom/library. You could read it as a stand-alone, there’s just enough background from the first three books shared, but I think it’s best to read the entire series. You really don’t want to miss out on getting to know Quinn Freeman and experiencing his adventures at sea as a young mapmaker charting unknown territories.

Please head over to A.L. Tait’s website and check out her entire Mapmaker series as well as her other books.

TBR List: 2018 Edition

The #TBR List — every reader has one. It may be a stack of print novels a combination of garage sales finds, library borrows, and new release splurges. Your TBR (to-be-read) list of books may be list on your Good Reads account or a digital pile waiting on your e-reader. Whatever form the TBR list takes, I personally like to take stock of mine a couple of times a year.

My personal TBR List is a combo of digital reads and print books I’ve bought over the last several months, both new releases and used-book store treasures (that’s how I found my hardback copy of Imzadi).

tbr list

In no particular order, my current 2018 TBR List is:

The Paper Magician by Charlie N. Holmberg

Hidden Figures by Margo Lee Shetterly

Zoo by James Patterson

Aftermath: Empire’s End by Chuck Wendig

House of Furies by Madeleine Roux

Safe by Dawn Husted

The Woodcutter by Kate Danley

Everything, Everything by Nicola Yoon

Imzadi (a Star Trek novel) by Peter David

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray (book 3 of The Diviners)

The Library Jumpers series by Brenda Drake

Purple Hearts by Michael Grant (book 3 in the Front Lines series)

This is not an exhaustive list, but these are the books that I plan on reading (hopefully) in the next six months. I find that I’m happiest when I’m actively reading. It makes me a better writer and I actually take more joy in writing when I’m reading. Besides I love stories.

I’d also like to read more mythology this year. I love Greek mythology (Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed series is one of my favorite) but after recently reading Brenda Drake’s Thunderstruck with its Norse mythology, I’d like to learn a bit more about that. I’m going to add Norse Gods by Johan Egerkrans to my list as well.

Currently I’m reading Beyond the Edge of the Map (The Mapmaker Chronicles) by A.L. Tait. It’s the fourth book in this series, a series I highly recommend for mid-grade and YA readers. You can check out my thoughts on books 1, 2, and 3. — spoiler: I loved them all!

What are you reading? What’s your 2018 TBR List looking like so far?

Book Review: Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake

“There are more than two choices. Always another way we cannot see for our minds are too close to the heart.”

(Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake)

This weekend I dove into Thunderstruck by Brenda Drake, a YA novel that effortlessly combines Norse mythology, action-adventure, and sweet romance.

Thunderstruck

As a kid, my mom introduced me early to Greek mythology because it was one of her passions. And I fell in love with those stories. Now as an adult, I’ve discovered the Norse myths and they hold me equally entranced. I enjoyed reading Thunderstruck a lot. I had zero preconceptions regarding the story and it’s my first time reading Brenda Drake — so glad I picked up this book!

Quick synopsis (or read the full one on Brenda Drake’s website):

Blake Foster is not your average high school kid. He’s actually Einar, the son of Norse god Thor. He’s been sent to retrieve the powerful horn of Heimdall before all the worlds fall into chaos and destruction. Stevie Moon is your average high school kid, well mostly. She does have a heart condition and a secret identity as well. She’s not a Norse god but she is Comic Cam, a vlog celebrity who unknowingly has ties to Asgard. Blake and Stevie, along with Blake’s brother Kyle/Lajos will work together to prevent Ragnarok and save both Midgard/Earth and Asgard.

Overall, Thunderstruck had a nice balance between the mythology and modern world. I loved watching Blake learn about being a Midgard teen and the distinct contrasts between him and Kyle. There were several little moments throughout the book that made me chuckle and smile. I loved some of Blake/Einar’s observations and thoughts about Midgard. Things like,

“He tugged at the gray tie around his neck. He hated the contraption and wondered why it was a style on Midgard. Was it a leash for lovers to keep their men at bay?” (page 92)

I also enjoyed Stevie’s character. She’s not a damsel in distress — she’s smart, funny, and a good friend. Her parents were slightly absent, but their absence was plausible and offset by the presence of Dr. May Hompluem, a veterinarian who has firsthand knowledge of Norse gods and Asgard.

Thunderstruck is a stand-alone read, not super long, and I recommend it to anyone who enjoys engaging characters, a fast-paced plot, and a bit of romance while battling trolls and evil gods.

Discover more Brenda Drake books here. She’s the author of the Library Jumpers series and The Fated series as well.

Book Review: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

“Because love is the most dangerous weapon in the world. It’s more unstable than uranium.”

(The Last Star by Rick Yancey, Chapter 52, page 188)

Dystopian YA has always been a favorite of mine to read. I began reading The 5th Wave series by Rick Yancey because I saw the movie and the basic premise captured my attention. As it often happens, I did like the first book of this trilogy, the one the movie was based upon, way better than the movie. And I liked Cassie, named for Cassiopeia not Cassandra, a lot better in the book as well.

Last Star

Fast forward to book 3, The Last Star. (I’ve already written reviews of book 1 and book 2 if you need to catch up.)

So. The Last Star. For me, a solid 4 of 5 stars is how I rated it on Good Reads. It kept me entertained, continued to develop the remaining characters, and tied up loose ends fairly well. Yes, some of it was predictable, but so are many books and movies of all genres. However, there were several strong moments and ultimately, I liked how our main characters were left.

What I had mild issues with was what I felt was rambling. It felt like (in book 2 as well) that Yancey drones on a bit long in places as characters muse over the “why” of everything. After a while, it felt repetitive and I wanted to skip certain passages. Beyond that, I really liked the series. And I have every intention of rereading it again, maybe later in the year. I’m sure I missed some nuances and with a dystopian series like this told from multiple POVs, things can be misinterpreted or missed completely.

According to Den of Geek, author Rick Yancey has plans to publish three more books in the 5th Wave series. This was reported back in March 2017. If Yancey does publish more books in this series, I’ll read them.

As for The 5th Waves series, I’d recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA end-of-the-world tales with strong female characters and very likable secondary characters.

Added “Everything, Everything” to TBR List

If you’ve been following my book review posts since Christmas, you know I’ve been reading the Rick Yancey YA series The 5th Wave. I’ve already posted my thoughts and reviews about book 1 and book 2 — yes, I liked both.

Currently, I’m reading book three, The Last Star. I had hoped to finish it this morning, but instead found myself sucked in and watching the movie “Everything, Everything” which is based on the book of the same name by author Nicola Yoon. The story held my attention and I loved Maddy, played by actress Amandla Stenberg.

I have not read Nicola Yoon’s YA book Everything, Everything, but now I want to and I’m adding it to my 2018 TBR list.

Wait, what? You’ve not made a TBR list for this year yet? That’s okay! I’m still working on mine and will post it (or whatever I have of it) later this week.

So, I guess that leaves us today with two things:

  1. Keep your eye out for my review of The Last Star by Rick Yancey, the last book in The 5th Wave trilogy.
  2. Share with me your book recommendations for 2018 so I can add them to my TBR list. Pop your number one favorite recommendation in the comments. Thanks!

Book Review: The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey

“That’s the lesson they taught us, Razor. What matters and what doesn’t. The one truth at the center of all the lies.”

(The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey, Chapter 82, page 292)

Starting off the New Year by finishing The Infinite Sea, the second book in Rick Yancey’s The 5th Wave series. The opportunity to tuck in with a good book for some quality reading time during the hectic holiday season has been pure bliss. I received the boxed set of The 5th Wave series for Christmas and have been making my way through this action-packed, end-of-the-world trilogy that combines just the right amount of YA angst with gritty fight scenes, layers of lies, and relatable characters.

Infinite Sea

The Infinite Sea continues the story of Cassie and Sam Sullivan, Ben “Zombie” Parish, Evan Walker, and the Others who’ve decimated the human the race in five distinct waves. The 5th Wave (book one) ends after the destruction of Camp Haven. Book two picks up shortly after with Cassie, Zombie, Sam, Ringer, Poundcake, Dumbo, and Teacup regrouping, healing, and coming to terms with the revelations they’ve uncovered regarding the Others.

While The Infinite Sea continues along with the storylines for Cassie and Zombie, it also gives readers more Ringer—and believe me, that’s a very good thing. Ringer’s story in book two was my favorite. Loved the insight into her background and Yancey’s development of her character was interesting, riveting, and revealing. In addition to Ringer’s backstory, we also get a deeper look at Poundcake and since I won’t do spoilers I will only say, Poundcake now has to rate as one of my favorite characters of the story.

New characters also are introduced, including Razor. I’m still making up my mind if I like him or not. I think Ringer may still be trying to make up her mind as well. Or not. Hard to say.

What I will say is that there’s a lot to contemplate in this book. Who are the Others really? Why the five waves? Why not just drop a big-ass rock on the planet and be done with it?

Like any good second installment of a trilogy, The Infinite Sea not only moves the story along, but it also leaves it with unresolved conflict and a questions that must be answered in book three.

Overall, I like The Infinite Sea by Rick Yancey and I’m anxious to begin book three The Last Star.

Book Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

“Luck had carried us through the first three waves. But even the best gambler will tell you that luck only lasts so long.”

(The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey, Chapter 16, page 75)

Author Rick Yancey packs pages of twists and turns into an epic tale of survival during and after a cunning alien invasion. Told from multiple points-of-view (POVs), The 5th Wave is book one in a trilogy. The 5th Wave offers readers a fast-paced, action-adventure wrapped in paranoia and sprinkled with a range of deep emotions—from fear to love and horror. It’s all there.

5th WaveWith the first wave they took out all power. No lights. No motors. No cell phones. All grids down, just a taste of what was to come.

The second wave hits differently. Tsunami. Coastal cities across the globe wiped out. Still, the survivors press on. There is always hope, right?

The third wave decimates. A plague that kills almost everyone it touches. There’s no hiding from the pestilence they’ve unleashed.

Then comes the fourth wave. The Silencers emerge.

What’s the fifth wave? It’s the unthinkable.

Readers ride the waves of the world’s decimation with a variety of characters that include high school kids Cassie Sullivan and Ben “Zombie” Parish. Then there’s Evan Walker, a bit older and definitely different. He saves Cassie’s life, but can we really trust him? Author Yancey weaves a distinctive dystopian story that resonates because it’s just enough to have a reader thinking, hmmm, what if and yes, I could see this, crap—what would I do if I were Cassie or Ben or any other human trying to survive this invasion?

I found The 5th Wave to be a great escape book. It swept me away into its world, and that’s exactly what a good book should do. I didn’t want to put it down and I’m so happy that I have the boxed set so when I finished I was able to grab book two and soldier on with story.

You can find out more about author Rick Yancey here. And I highly recommend this book to anyone who enjoys a well-written end-of-world story told from multiple perspectives and that doesn’t lose its sense of reality.

Book Review: “Year One” by Nora Roberts

“You get up in the morning, and do what you have to do. You get up, thinking for just a split second, everything’s the way it was. Then you know it’s not. It’s never going to be, but you get up and keep going.”

(YEAR ONE by Nora Roberts, Chapter Six, page 96)

“Year One” by Nora Roberts offers readers a disturbing glimpse into human nature when civilization as we know it ends and a world with new rules and ancient magicks emerges.

Year One

From the Good Reads synopsis, “The end has come. The beginning comes next.”

It’s the New Year and amid the revelry a sickness has begun to spread. It hits fast and spreads even quicker. They call it the Doom. Within a few weeks the world has been decimated—more than half the population is dead, infrastructures have collapsed, and the Uncanny are among the immune. The Uncanny have powers and abilities. There are witches, faeries, elves, and others, some light and some dark.

Max and Lana practiced witchcraft before the Doom. Now immunes, their powers have increased and they find themselves trying to get out of New York away from the savages and evil attempting to take over the city. Also heading out of the city are Arlys and Fred, a journalist and a young intern who both worked for the same television station plus their friend Chuck, a tech genius. This trio eventually meets up with another group fleeing the city: Rachel the doctor, Jonah the paramedic, and Katie a young mother who just gave birth to twins and adopted a third baby left orphaned by the Doom.

“Year One” is told from multiple POV’s and spans a full year in time. If you pick up this book expecting the typical Nora Roberts romance, it’s not there. Romance takes a backseat in “Year One” — even though we do get a nicely developed relationship between Lana and Max. This novel focuses more on the breakdown of order and the chaos that quickly follows. There’s the rise of magic as tech dwindles and dies. And there is the fear.

Author Roberts has created a very disturbing reality in “Year One.” She explores the dark side of humanity, both the “normal” humans and their prejudice against any type of Uncanny or person who may be perceived as an Uncanny plus the dark Uncanny who simply are evil. She takes readers on a frightening journey, but also manages to give us hope.

There’s a nice balance in “Year One”. While we see the horrors and atrocities, we also get to see the good. The people who learn to live together, pooling resources and relying on all types of abilities—supernatural as well as natural. Faeries, elves, and witches living and working with policemen, teachers, and lawyers to build a new society that’s safe and welcoming for everyone.

“Year One” by Nora Roberts is epic and a book I highly recommend, especially if you’ve enjoyed her books like The Sign of Seven Trilogy and The Guardians Trilogy. Here is a great link to a list of all her books by published date. If you’ve never read a Nora Roberts book, this actually is a really good one for a start.

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge: How’d You Do?

Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge By the Numbers:

Participants—3,064,552

Books pledged—138,755,909

Books finished (as of 12/10/17)—42,456,838

Average books pledged—45

Challenges completed (as of 12/10/17)—14,675

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The Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge has just 21 days left (as of this writing).

Never heard of the Goodreads annual Reading Challenge? No worries. It’s pretty simple. It’s free and open to all Goodreads members. All you do is choose or “pledge” how many books you want to read for the year. It can be any amount.

According to the Goodreads Reading Challenge statistics, which I’ve posted above, the average number of books pledge is  45 or a little less than one book a week.

Seems doable, right? For many readers, absolutely!

For others, myself included. I opt for a lower number. And I feel no shame. Pledge whatever you want. Slow reader? Make your challenge 5 or 10 books for the year. If you make that easily, then increase the number in the next year.

My 2017 Goodreads Reading Challenge was 25 books. I completed my challenge on November 30. You can see my list of completed books and their reviews here.

In looking over the list, I’ve been trying to decide which one would be my favorite read of the year. There are so many books that I read in the last year that I really, really liked. I’d have to say my absolute favorite on this list is “Silver Stars” by Michael Grant. It’s book two in his Front Lines series.

I also read a middle-grade series written by A.L. Tait, The Mapmaker Chronicles—all three of those books appear in my Goodreads Reading Challenge list. Loved this series and highly recommend it for your young readers.

So what am I reading right now? Well, I’m still working my way through the Harry Potter series. I’m on book two but am first going to finish up reading the new Nora Roberts book “Year One”. As soon as I have “Year One” finished, I’ll post a review—but I’ll tell you right now, I’m LOVING it!

Did you do the Goodreads 2017 Reading Challenge?

How many books did you pledge?

Did you make your goals or are you still in a race to finish before the clock chimes midnight on December 31?

Christmas. Reading. Books.

“One can never have enough socks,” said Dumbledore. “Another Christmas has come and gone and I didn’t get a single pair. People will insist on giving me books.”

(“Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” by J. K. Rowling)

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As the Christmas holidays rapidly approach and the final days of 2017 wind down, I find myself wanting nothing more than to curl up with a good, familiar book. Maybe it’s the rush and hurry of the holiday season or the uncertainties that 2018 may bring. I don’t know. Whatever it is, I just know that I’m in the mood for something tried, true, and entertaining.

So I’m rereading the Harry Potter series.

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I love to reread favorite books. It’s not uncommon for me to step up to my bookshelves and pull “Death on the Nile” by Agatha Christie or “Pride and Prejudice” by Jane Austen just to plop down on the floor, opening the book to a random page and reading a chapter or two. Usually during December I reread a series (or two). Last year, I reread the Gone series by Michael Grant and the Starcrossed trilogy by Josephine Angelini. This year it will be Harry Potter.

It’s been about two years since I’ve read the full Harry Potter series. Currently, I’m at a little more than half way through “Sorcerer’s Stone.” I’m enjoying it so much. It’s amazing that after reading this series more than 10 times through that I still get just as much enjoyment as I did when each word, chapter, and book was brand new to me. Crazy, right?

Rereading the Harry Potter series won’t be the only books I open. I plan to reread “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” by Barbara Robinson.

Yes, it’s a kids book.

Yes, I’ve read it too many times to count, including reading it aloud to my son when he was little.

It’s a GREAT Christmas book and I never tire of it. If you haven’t read it or shared it with your kids, maybe this is the year to do that. Here’s a handy link to Harper Collins if you want to check it out.

How about you? What are you reading this holiday season?