The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed


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The Patriots of Mars: The God That Failed by Jeff Faria (Science Fiction)

I don’t read a lot of books about sci-fi worlds, and, of course, if you’re reading about life on Mars, this is world-creation stuff. That part of this book was very impressive to me, although daunting at times. Simulated intelligence, bots for everything, aural and optic implants, artificial atmosphere, communication wonders, and an all-knowing technological presence called MOM that keeps everything going and everyone under observation. Lots of technical information about how things work and lots of detail that was mind-boggling but impressive. Lots of creativity and imagination.

The story itself starts with a group of young people trapped in a mine on Mars, and we soon learn that they’re up against some real baddies in terms of transnational corporations that control everything. We don’t get a lot of time to know these characters, however, before the story starts jumping among lots of characters on Earth and in various locations on Mars until, frankly, I was exhausted from trying to keep track of them all. The Homesteaders and the New Australians and others on Mars are doing their best to change the balance of power — hence the “Patriots” reference — while on Earth, the U.S. military is sending a ship full of troops to maintain the status quo. The early group of young people, one of whom gets visions from something called The Guide, become critical members of the resistance who must stop the incoming ship. Meanwhile, the SIMs and bots and MOM seem to be doing their own thing, in a complicated scenario that made me glad I wasn’t there.

The book is fairly long (or at least it felt that way), but it doesn’t really contain that much action, and the characters are flat. I would have been more interested in a book about the Homesteaders and the folks in New Australia who lived outside of the colonies established by the transnats. They seemed to have some personality and depth, but they remained on the periphery in more ways than one.

Grandma gives The Patriots of Mars three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

All Darling Children

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All Darling Children by Katrina Monroe (Fantasy)

If you ever thought the character Peter Pan was more creepy than cute – a weirdo with narcissistic tendencies and a strange sense of fun – and that Wendy was a twit who needed to be more afraid, then this book is for you. I admit, I only know their story through Walt Disney, and maybe the original novel doesn’t paint such a rosy picture, but no matter what, I found All Darling Children to be more realistic and a lot of fun.

Well, maybe not fun. Peter really is a creep, but there’s more to Wendy than we knew. She’s Grandma Wendy in this version, and the heroine is her teen-aged granddaughter, Madge. The two are constantly at odds, with Madge doing her best to run away every chance she gets, and — no surprise — she makes the ultimate getaway with a trip to Never Never Land.

Captain Hook was always my favorite, and he’s there, too, along with Smee, Tiger Lily, and the Lost Boys, of course. Tinkerbell is out of the picture, though. Little Michael is now Great Uncle Michael, and he has multiple problems as a result of his bizarre childhood experience. Madge is a cynic after growing up under Grandma Wendy’s thumb, so her take on the whole thing is the best part. Throw in a surprise ending, and this could actually be called fun, in a weirdo way.

If you like the “other side” of fairy tales — think Wicked — this is for you.

Bella gives All Darling Children four stars. 4 stars

Potty-mouth Index: MODERATE

Heartborn

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Heartborn by Terry Maggert (Young Adult Science Fiction/Fantasy)

I’d like to start by saying that I really enjoyed this book. I especially loved the fantasy world that Terry Maggert creates. The imagination and creativity of authors who write these types of books always fascinates me. He has brought to life a whole society living in the clouds, with Skywatchers, Scholars, Watershapers, Blightwings (my favorite), Flyers, and the Factors of the nasty Crescent Council, as well as Windbeasts, Airdancers, elementals, and, of course, Heartborn — the rarities born with a need to care for others.

The story fluctuates between the angels in House Windhook, a powerful family looking to overthrow the oppressive Crescent Council, and a seventeen-year-old on Earth named Livvy. Livvy is waiting for a heart transplant, but we know early on that she is very important to members of House Windhook. Keiron, the youngest son, has plunged to Earth in an effort to find her and save her, while the entire family prepares to do battle with the Crescent Council and its supporters in order to change the future of their society.

I enjoyed the style of writing. I was in the moment with the characters and felt like I knew them pretty well. Where it fell apart for me was the ending when I just became confused. I had to go back and reread parts to make sure I didn’t miss something, and when I finished I still wasn’t sure where Livvy was – on earth or up in the clouds? Were her parents really her parents after all, or was she adopted like she said? All of the people who seemed to exist in two worlds – were they watching and taking care of her the whole time? Were they really angels? There were too many unanswered questions for me.  I know it’s the first in a series, and that’s not the problem. I’m just not sure what happened in the last chapter or two. I will definitely be interested in reading the next book, but there are some things I felt should have been more clear in the closing to the first.

Bella gives Heartborn four stars. 4 stars

Potty-mouth Index: CLEAN

Bella Reads and Reviews Books received a free copy from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Delphi Effect

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The Delphi Effect (The Delphi Trilogy, Book One) by Rysa Walker (Science Fiction)

Seventeen-year-old Anna Morgan has been in and out of foster homes and psychiatric institutions for most of her life. As a three-year-old, she was abandoned by her parents in the food court of a shopping mall, wearing a note that said, “This child is possessed.” What possesses her are the spirits of dead people who have not been able to cross over because of unfinished business. She picks up these mental hitchhikers unintentionally, simply by touching something where they linger.

She is currently carrying the spirit of Molly, a teen who was brutally murdered and wants her family to know how it happened. Of course, Molly’s grandfather refuses to believe that Anna is anything more than a con artist, so Anna must let Molly come to the forefront and take over the conversation in order to convince him. When she does, Anna finds herself caught up in the machinations of a covert organization and becomes a person of interest to people on both sides of a dangerous game.

Although a little confusing sometimes in terms of who was who, the story was engrossing and I cared a lot about Anna and the secondary characters who come into her life as a result of Molly. The premise is very clever; among other things, once her hitchhikers have achieved their goal, they leave, but she retains their memories and skills, which can come in handy now and then. This is the first in a series, so not all of the questions are answered, such as exactly how did Anna come to have these skills and who were her parents, but we know enough to be satisfied at the end of this book while curious enough to want to read the next one.

Bella gives The Delphi Effect five stars. 5 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received an ARC of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Freya and the Dragon Egg

Freya and the Dragon Egg

Freya and the Dragon Egg by K.W. Penndorf (Middle Grade Fantasy)

I love it when a novel takes me to a new place and makes me want to know more about that place. I’m not talking about fantasy worlds, but real worlds, either historical or geographical or, in this case, mythological.

Freya and the Dragon Egg is much more than the cover art or the title would suggest. Freya lives in present-day Denmark, and Viking mythology is a big part of her life because her father is a Viking archaeologist. He runs a museum full of runes, tapestries, and other artifacts he has discovered. Among them is a dragon’s egg that he gives to Freya for safekeeping when it becomes obvious that thieves are looking for it. The egg transports Freya back in time to the Viking era. There she learns that she is the Summoned One who is expected to save mankind from the sinister Ragnar and his evil plans to control the Nine Realms.

For me, the best thing about this book was all of the Norse mythology that I learned about — the Nine Realms, the Valkyries, Valhalla, Norns, and so on — and also the origin of the term “berserk.” After reading it, I went online and found that all of it is true and the author really knew her stuff.

The story itself had some holes that left me wondering, but for middle-grade readers that may not be such a big problem. It has a somewhat confusing beginning because it starts with a dream — always a bad idea if you ask me — but quickly moves into a solid storyline with a twelve-year-old main character that kids can identify with. She solves problems, learns to trust herself, and develops new awareness of how important her family is to her. It’s the usual “finding out you’re a magical special person” thing that we all dream of, so we’re on her side.

The writing was pretty good. After too many “Freya did a double-take” lines, though, I was wishing for a new way of saying that.

Bella gives Freya and the Dragon Egg four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Birr Elixir

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The Birr Elixir by Jo Sparkes (YA Fantasy)

This short book is the first in a series called The Legend of the Gamesmen. It caught my interest right away, and I read it in one afternoon. It’s a fantasy with princes, potions, good guys and bad guys, and a team of gallant young gamesmen engaged in a competitive game called Comet.

The female lead character, Marra, has inherited a book of potions from the deceased herbalist with whom she was apprenticing, and among the potions is an elixir that helps the gamesmen win against tough odds.  Male leads include the captain of the Comet team and a prince traveling incognito who joins up with Marra and the gamesmen. I suspect this will turn into a love triangle in coming books. Meanwhile nasties have kidnapped the prince once and are trying to do it again, so there’s lots going on.

The writing is very good and the story is quick-moving and fun. I enjoyed the cleverness of the game the author has invented and how it is scored. Things are a little confusing because this book leaves some basic questions unanswered, like why the nasties want to kidnap the prince, which you might expect to find out before the first book ends. But it wasn’t enough to keep me from enjoying the story, and since the book is so short, moving on to book two, The Agben School, is an easy fix.

Bella gives The Birr Elixir four stars. 4 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

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A Supersleuth is Born

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A Supersleuth is Born by T. Mara Jerabek (Middle Grade Fantasy)

I don’t usually review Middle Grade books, but I agreed to read this because the idea of a blind kid finding glasses that let him see sounded pretty good.

Ethan is a blind sixth grader who lives with his aunt because his parents have died. His best friend (and love interest) is Addison, a girl who meets him every day to take him to school, and his former best friend, Mikey, is now the kid who bullies him. He knows lots of people in town and is pretty independent, counting steps to get where he wants to go and being checked on by lots of neighbors as he travels between his house and that of the lady who takes care of him after school. One day, at the home of the caregiver, he finds a pair of magic goggles that give him the ability to see. They also talk to him about what’s going on, take pictures, record notes, and can increase his ability to hear conversations at a distance.

Meanwhile, his aunt/mom is a newspaper reporter who is trying to get new information about a bunch of stolen bikes in town, and since Ethan has always wanted to solve mysteries, he decides to use his new eyesight to help her and the police find the bike thief.

I’m not sure what to say about this, because everything was too simple and too quick, but maybe for middle-grade kids, that’s okay. The bullying kid, Mikey, suddenly becomes Ethan’s best friend again so they can solve mysteries together, but we never learn why he turned on him in the first place, and now, like overnight, everything’s okay. The mystery was a pretty minor one, and it’s hard to believe it took three kids to solve it when the police couldn’t. Plus, I never did understand why the thief had to steal kids’ bikes in order to do what he wanted to do. And I do think it would have been better if Ethan could have solved it all because he was an awesome blind kid instead of needing the goggles. They just turned him into another kid who could see.

I hope the author adds more tension and danger next time, to get the reader excited and nervous for Ethan, instead of making everything work out too easily. I liked Ethan’s voice as he told the story. He seemed like a kid I’d like to know, with a good sense of humor about life.

Bella gives A Supersleuth is Born three stars. 3 stars

Bella Reads and Reviews received a free paperback copy from the author in return for an honest review.

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