Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, (Leviathan #1)

Redd Becker Book Reviews

Scott Westerfeld created a fascinating, pre-WWI alternative history pivoting around the Austro-Hungarian throne. Creativity floods out of every page. A fun read wLeviathan (Leviathan, #1) by Scott Westerfeldith monstrous walking war machines and a bio-conglomerate-whale balloon ship. Detailed drawings throughout, by Keith Thompson, add dimension to the steampunk imagery.

Scott Westerfeld’s Upsurped Prince Plot

The plot of an usurped prince fighting to claim his throne carries the story. When the Austro-Hungarian prince’s parents are killed, he’s secreted away before war is declared with Germany.  The prince must survive live through ensuing war to claim the crown. Challenges present themselves from every angle. The prince uses his wits to confront each challenge, while he learns about the enemy and builds friendships in unexpected places.

Balance is provided by a fifteen year old girl’s adventures while masquerading as a midship boy on a whale airship (made from the amalgamation of hundreds of species, using bats and hawks as well as cannons for defense).

The novel carried me into a world where other character’s problems, both big and small, captivated my attention.

My Rating five-stars

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld, (Leviathan #1)Leviathan (Leviathan, #1) by Scott Westerfeld
Series: Leviathan Trilogy #1
Published by Simon Pulse on October 6th 2009
Genres: Steampunk, Alternate History
Pages: 440
Source: Goodreads
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Prince Aleksander, would-be heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battletorn war machine and a loyal crew of men.
Deryn Sharp is a commoner, disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered.
With World War I brewing, Alek and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way…taking them on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure that will change both their lives forever.

Passenger by Alexandra Bracken

Redd Becker Book Review

In Alexandra Bracken’s story, Passenger, the protagonist, Etta, is chased through time from modern day theater, to a pirate ship, to WWII London, to Passenger (Passenger, #1) byCambodia, Paris and Damascus to find an astrolabe that will allow her to return home to save her mom. The sequences keep you moving but when is it too much. Etta meets varied friends and foes that test her pirate-heart and wits at each time-shift.

Alexandra Bracken Mixes Issue and Story Telling

Alexander Bracken integrates women’s rights, slavery and prejudice through the lens of historical changes in his story. He portrays Etta’s nemesis, a girl who could be heir of her family’s time-traveling heritage as a second class citizen in her family’s eyes, because she’s a girl. The injustice draws them together. And Etta’s traveling companion and potential love interest is a black youth, who is also in line as heir, but is not the right ethnicity to lead the family. He travels with Etta as her protector in search of the astrolabe in order to prove himself, but to who?

The middle of the book dragged a bit for me. Scenes were described in more detail than I like. Bracken described the entire crew of a pirate ship when they weren’t particularly integral to the plot. She could have trusted the action and dialogue of the dinner scene to represent crew-members characters instead of describing them.

Bracken researched each location he depicts well and integrated that information effectively into scenes, but the pattern of Etta’s chase repeated its overall arch. Because of the arch of many scenes repeated they did not add to characterizations or plot. At 486 pages, some condensing would strengthen the story.

With that said Passenger did for me what I ask of a book, I connected with Etta and her story took me out of my time and place. Twists at the end of the story were fun and assure an interesting sequel.

My Rating four-stars

Passenger by Alexandra BrackenPassenger (Passenger, #1) by Alexandra Bracken
Series: Passenger #1
Published by Disney-Hyperion on January 5th 2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult, Time Travel
Pages: 486
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Passage, n.i. A brief section of music composed of a series of notes and flourishes.ii. A journey by water; a voyage.iii. The transition from one place to another, across space and time.
In one devastating night, violin prodigy Etta Spencer loses everything she knows and loves. Thrust into an unfamiliar world by a stranger with a dangerous agenda, Etta is certain of only one thing: she has traveled not just miles but years from home. And she’s inherited a legacy she knows nothing about from a family whose existence she’s never heard of. Until now.
Nicholas Carter is content with his life at sea, free from the Ironwoods—a powerful family in the colonies—and the servitude he’s known at their hands. But with the arrival of an unusual passenger on his ship comes the insistent pull of the past that he can’t escape and the family that won’t let him go so easily. Now the Ironwoods are searching for a stolen object of untold value, one they believe only Etta, Nicholas’ passenger, can find. In order to protect her, he must ensure she brings it back to them—whether she wants to or not.
Together, Etta and Nicholas embark on a perilous journey across centuries and continents, piecing together clues left behind by the traveler who will do anything to keep the object out of the Ironwoods’ grasp. But as they get closer to the truth of their search, and the deadly game the Ironwoods are playing, treacherous forces threaten to separate Etta not only from Nicholas but from her path home... forever.
Alternate cover for this ISBN can be found here

Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Redd Becker Book Review

A dark shadow threatens to engulf the country until the Darkling identifies the orphan, Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoAlina, with her special powers as their potential savior. Okay, so it’s the orphan challenging the ‘dark force’ story-line. Again. But Leigh Bardugo crafts Shadow and Bone well as a coming-of-age story complete with lessons of love, trust and commitment issues. There’s a nice arc to Alina’s growth. I liked how Bardugo depicted her as worn down, bedraggled and mousey when she hid her powers, but when she finally allowed her talents to shine she glowed with beauty and confidence.

Bardugo sets up an interesting palace, where Grishas with magical powers via for power. The head of the Grishas, the Darkling, takes Alina under his care and trains her to hone her magical skills, so she can destroy the shadow that splits her country, Ravka, into two parts. Alina learns about more than her special powers as she navigates her position at the palace, among the other Grishas. In the process her best friend, Mal, is estranged, but friendships run deep and twists abound in this story.

My Rating four-stars

Shadow and Bone by Leigh BardugoShadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha Trilogy
Published by Orion Children's on June 6th 2013
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Young Adult, Magical Realism
Pages: 458
Source: Goodreads
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The Shadow Fold, a swathe of impenetrable darkness, crawling with monsters that feast on human flesh, is slowly destroying the once-great nation of Ravka.
Alina, a pale, lonely orphan, discovers a unique power that thrusts her into the lavish world of the kingdom's magical elite - the Grisha. Could she be the key to unravelling the dark fabric of the Shadow Fold and setting Ravka free?
The Darkling, a creature of seductive charm and terrifying power, leader of the Grisha. If Alina is to fulfil her destiny, she must discover how to unlock her gift and face up to her dangerous attraction to him.
But what of Mal, Alina's childhood best friend? As Alina contemplates her dazzling new future, why can't she ever quite forget him?
Glorious. Epic. Irresistible. Romance. Perfect for fans of Kristin Cashore and Laini Taylor.

Merchant of Alyss by Thomas Locke

Redd Becker Book Review

What fun to share in an honorable quest with characters I’dMerchant of Alyss by Thomas Locke like to know; as real and vibrant as friends. Dragons, witches, elves, ancient spells and lore entwine in an adventure that spun me into their space and time. A test of endurance, the purity of love and loyalty meshed together in Merchant of Alyss, an Ursula LeGuin type adventure.

In Merchant of Alyss a dragon summons a sorcerer who lost his power in order to save their world. A troupe of magicians, apprentices and guards assemble for a journey through devastated lands in search of answers on their quest. Allies solidify where tensions once stood in a kingdom threatened from every side. A girl forges her path to queen and ancient rules bend while fighting evil.

Merchant of Alyss is one of many fun Thomas Locke books

Thomas Locke writes prolifically. Merchant of Alyss is book 2 in his Legends of the Realm series. He also wrote the techno-thriller Faultlines series.  I wrote a short review on book two in the series, Flashpoint since I enjoyed Merchant of Alyss so much. This contemporary urban thriller taps into a very different science-fiction world, but with equally engaging results. An interview with him in Happily Everafter gives you some insights to the author.

My Rating five-stars

Merchant of Alyss by Thomas LockeMerchant of Alyss (Legends of the Realm, #2) by Thomas Locke
Published by Revell on January 5th 2016
Genres: Adventure, Magical Realism, Young Adult
Pages: 384
Format: Standard
Source: Goodreads
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Life for Hyam is bittersweet. Admired by the citizens of Falmouth for his heroic rescue mission, he cherishes these peaceful days with Joelle by his side. Yet grief over the loss of his magical skills during the great Battle of Emporis threatens to engulf him. Sometimes he even wishes he had never known magic at all.
When Hyam comes into possession of an ancient Milantian scroll, he is thrilled to feel the surge of power that courses through him whenever he touches it. But what he discerns in the text could mean war. He embarks upon another journey to determine its true meaning and forestall any attack. But as Hyam is seeking answers, he is unaware that the merchant of Alyss is seeking him . . .


Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

Redd Becker Book Review

I love it when a writer takes a passion or hobby and morphs it into Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggssomething new. Ransom Riggs gathered peculiar photos from friends and flea markets. From those photos he created wonderful characters (the peculiar children) and a unique world for them to come to life–where the impossible is possible and children step from one time to another.

When Grandpa Portman dies under mysterious circumstances Jacob can’t let it go. Some think Jacob is crazy, but his father agrees to take him on a trip to the island where Jacob’s grandpa said the peculiar children live. Eventually, Jacob finds the children, but not without challenges that lead bad guys right into the peculiar children’s liar.

As if the story of the peculiar children isn’t enough, Riggs weaves web after web of mysteries into the book with delightfully dark, twists. He has a wonderfully fresh approach. 

The book is full of compassion, quirky characters and lots of amazing vintage photographs that enhanced my journey.

Ransom Riggs story takes off on TV

Thank you Ransom Riggs for stretching the envelope. I look forward to more adventures, but for those who can’t wait the book’s adaptation to TV puts another twist on the stories as the youtube trailor shows.

My Rating five-stars

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom RiggsMiss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children (Miss Peregrine’s Peculiar Children, #1) by Ransom Riggs
Series: Miss Peregrine's Children #1
Published by Quirk Books on June 4th 2013
Genres: Young Adult, Mystery, Historical Fiction
Pages: 382
Format: Standard
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A mysterious island. An abandoned orphanage. A strange collection of curious photographs.
A horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography.