Category Archives: adventure

Orphan X, by Gregg Hurwitz

orphanx

Urban legends exist about a man, a Nowhere Man, who will help those who have no other help. He doesn’t ask for money, rather, he provides his help with only one condition: that you pass along his phone number to one other person in need. Except this Nowhere Man is no urban legend. Taken off the streets as a child, Evan Smoak has been trained in a government black ops program given the code name Orphan. Evan is Orphan X. He has mad skills, and uses them for good by killing bad people. But when he helps a young woman named Katrin, somehow he himself ends up in the cross-hairs. The attention means that his secure, hidden life as an unknown agent is threatened. His heart, also secure and hidden, is threatened by his neighbor Mia and her adorable son Peter. Can Evan save Katrin, save Mia and Peter, and save himself? Plot twists and turns keep the pages turning. The body count mounts and the action is fast and furious as Evan battles to outwit his clever adversaries. This is a book that might keep you up all night; you have been warned!

First book of what looks to be a promising series, “Orphan X” will appeal to those who like Jason Bourne, James Bond, and Jason Statham movies. Already this book looks to be heading to the big screen. An excellent read.

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The Girl With Ghost Eyes, by M.H. Boroson

girl

The Girl with Ghost Eyes, by M.H. Boroson

Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1880s, Li-Lin sees ghosts with her yin eyes. This supernatural gift is considered to be a curse by her father, a powerful Daoshi exorcist. Li-Lin honors her father, but embraces her gift in spite of his disapproval. Now widowed, Li-Lin must make her own way in the world, without the full support of her father. When a family friend tricks her into taking a trip into the spirit world and tries to trap her there, Li-Lin is forced to take action to protect her life. The friend seems to be working with a powerful sorcerer, and soon, her father and the entire town are threatened by an ancient evil. With the help of a spirit in the shape of an eyeball, Li-Lin must embrace her own strengths to save those she loves. Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Kung Fu in this brilliant, vibrant debut.Set in San Francisco’s Chinatown in the 1880s, Li-Lin sees ghosts with her yin eyes. This supernatural gift is considered to be a curse by her father, a powerful Daoshi exorcist. Li-Lin honors her father, but embraces her gift in spite of his disapproval. Now widowed, Li-Lin must make her own way in the world, without the full support of her father. When a family friend tricks her into taking a trip into the spirit world and tries to trap her there, Li-Lin is forced to take action to protect her life. The friend seems to be working with a powerful sorcerer, and soon, her father and the entire town are threatened by an ancient evil. With the help of a spirit in the shape of an eyeball, Li-Lin must embrace her own strengths to save those she loves. Buffy the Vampire Slayer meets Kung Fu in this brilliant, vibrant debut.

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Little Robot and Zita the Spacegirl, by Ben Hatke

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke

Little Robot, by Ben Hatke

I have discovered a treasure, and this type of treasure only gets more
valuable with the sharing. What treasure, you ask? Clearly, it is not a winning lottery ticket, because would already be living in Hawaii and I certainly would not share. This treasure is an author and illustrator. His name? Ben Hatke, and he writes the most wonderful  graphic novels for young children.

He has written a series of three graphic novels about the adventures of an intelligent girl, lost, through no fault of her own, in space. The first book, “Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home” tells the tale of Zita, who pushes a red button she shouldn’t have pushed and gets pulled into a strange area of space along with her best friend Joseph. Now, far from home, Zita must try to deal with aliens, a broken red button, a suspicious pied piper, and a missing best friend. Can Zita face her fears, find her friend, fix the red button, and finally get home? The titles in this series are “Zita the Spacegirl: Far From Home,” “Legends of Zita the Spacegirl,” and “The Return of Zita the Spacegirl.” These books would appeal to readers from third grade and up.

Ben’s newest book, titled “Little Robot,” also features a plucky girl character as she finds adventure. In “Little Robot,” we meet a young girl who just happens across a little robot, one lost from his shipment of other robots headed for a factory. The girl overcomes her wariness, and she and Little Robot are soon fast friends. As Little Robot learns about the world, he longs for friends like himself, but the girl does not want to let him go. When danger from Little Robot’s past threatens them both, can their friendship survive? This graphic novel is aimed at a younger audience than Zita the Spacegirl, with a good portion of the story being told without words. When words are used, they are simple enough that I would happily put this into the hands of a six year old. Ben’s illustrations are superb, and actions and emotions are clearly conveyed through the artwork.

As a woman with a science and engineering background, I applaud that all the books mentioned here feature girls that are bold, smart, and able to fix their own problems and technology. Boys should still enjoy the titles, as they features wit, charm, and a goodly dash of sly humor. Well done, Ben Hatke. Well done!

Zita the Spacegirl

Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

The Return of Zita the Spacegirl

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

Legends of Zita the Spacegirl

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Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie

Half the World, by Joe Abercrombie

Joe Abercrombie’s Shattered Sea series continues with book 2, after Half a King, which featured the trials and tribulations of a young prince Yarvi. Yarvi is now Father Yarvi, counselor to the King and Queen of Gettland. Gettland is marching toward an inevitable war with the forces of the High King, and Gettland needs allies. Yarvi is charged with this task, and he undertakes it in a very untraditional way. But really, this tale of finding allies is not Yarvi’s tale. Rather, it is the tale of two teenagers: Thorn, a warrior girl touched by Mother War, and Brand, a calm, strong young man who only wants to do what is right.

When the story opens, Thorn is training to become a warrior, and accidententally kills one of her fellow trainees. Though the incident was truly not her fault, under the laws of the land, she must die for her crime. Enter Brand, who feels the injustice of Thorn’s plight. He takes the issue to Father Yarvi, who intervenes. Instead of being crushed by stones, Thorn will come with him on his journey to seek allies for the King. Brand will also join him. Yarvi brings together a large cast of characters to help, some familiar, some new, and off they go, sailing up the river on their quest.

One of Yarvi’s merry band is Skifr, a very skilled warrior woman who takes up Thorn’s training. Brand, who is still not sure of his place in the world, continues to try and do the right thing. And onward they go. And of course, adventure, peril, death, and even some victories follow. This is a story of the difficulties of growing up, of facing ackwardness and uncertainty with the help of those who can assure you it’s all normal. Yarvi, the star of the first book, is in the background, but clearly his is orchestrating the actions, and hoping for an outcome that only he can see.

I enjoyed this book more, in many ways, than the first book of this series. With both books, I will admit that the characters and plot took a little longer than I like to get going. Once the story is rolling along, however, it will keep you reading long into the night to find out what happens. Thorn is awesome, and Brand is cool, and Father Yarvi is a deeply cunning man. If you like fantasy, and like a fast-paced story, then this series is for you.

Full-discloser: I received my advanced reading copy from Edelweiss at Above the Treeline. Half the World goes on sale February 17th.

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The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

s The Song of Achilles, by Madeline Miller

If you’re like me, you had to read Homer’s Illiad, a tale set during the Trojan War, in high school. And if you’re like me, you would have been less than impressed by that classic tale. I love battle books, I love books involving warriors and swordfighting and acts of heroism and honor, and so I should have loved Homer’s epic story. But the style and language of the Illiad overshadowed all the battling, heroism, and even the swordfighting. Thank goodness Madeline Miller, a high school classics teacher, wrote The Song of Achilles, for her retelling of the story includes everything I love in such books and none of things I don’t.

The Song of Achilles is told from the point of view of Achilles’ friend, Petroculus. Petroculus meets Achilles at the palace of King Peleus, and the two become friends. King Peleus sends the two young men into the wilderness to be trained by Chiron, King of the cave-dwelling Centuars. The young men become warriors become embroiled in the Trojan War, and the rest is history.  One thing I found astonishing about this book was the depth and complexity of her characters. They practically walk off the page. Achilles’ mother, a sea-nymph named Thetis, was such a wonderfully fierce wild being that when she was on the page, I was certain that the gods of ancient Greece were real. Also, Ms. Miller’s prose is so beautiful–every word has a purpose–it is like reading a poem. Her prose touched my soul, I think. While battles rage and kings and warriors maneuver for power, underneath is a sense of quiet calm and hidden depths.

This is a powerful gem of a book. If you are looking for a classic book to enjoy, yet you want poetry and battles and acts of heroism, this is the book for you.

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Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rain Reign, by Ann M. Martin

Rose Howard loves two things: homonyms and her dog, Rain. Homonyms are words that sound alike but are spelled differently. Rose and rows are homonyms, and Rain has two homonyms, reign and rein. Rain, a yellow dog with seven white toes, is a gift from Rose’s father, Wesley Howard, who found the dog wandering lost in the rain. Rose and Rain become inseparable, as Rose’s dad is often away at work, or down the street at the local bar, and Rose is lonely. Life is good for Rose; she has her homonyms, she has Rain, and she has visits from her favorite uncle, Weldon. Until one day, Hurricane Susan, the storm of the century, arrives, and Rose’s dad let’s Rain outside in the storm without her collar or tags. Rain is lost in the hurricane, and Rose is devastated. Rose devises a plan to find Rain, and when her plan goes into action, she finds that Rain may still belong to someone else who loves her. Rose will have to be especially brave to deal with the situation, and her life may never be the same.

This is a story about a girl and a dog. While there are many stories out there about girls and dogs, this one is special because Rose is special. Rose is a high functioning autistic, and she has special challenges in her life. In addition to her unique way of experiencing the world, she also has a difficult home situation with a father who struggles to manage his own life, with little patience left over for Rose. The story, told from Rose’s, shows you her challenges in dealing with life, and let’s you see her wonderful, loving complexity. All I can say, without spoiling the story, is that Rose is possibly the bravest, most caring person I know. (Real or imagined.) I can’t recommend this book highly enough. If you’re looking for a similar books, aimed at adults, try “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time.” This one also features an autistic protagonist. In this case, he solves a troubling mystery and at the same time, he learns more about his connection to his family and to the rest of the world.

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In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick

In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex, by Nathaniel Philbrick

I don’t usually read non-fiction, and when I do, I don’t usually like it all that well. With “In the Heart of the Sea: The Tragedy of the Whaleship Essex,” I’ll admit that I picked up the book because Ron Howard is directing a movie version, soon to be released, starring Chris Hemsworth. (Yes, I am a fangirl of both men.) Add in the fact that the book is a historical sea adventure and involves sperm whales, and I was in. I love sea adventures, having fallen in love with C.S. Forester’s Horatio Hornblower books early in life. And sperm whales hunt giant squid, and that is just awesome. It didn’t hurt that the book won the National Book Award for non-fiction in 2001.

“In the Heart of the Sea” tells the tale of the whaling ship Essex, sailing out of Nantucket in 1819 for the seas west of South America. The tale is told from the point-of-view of Thomas Nickerson, who joined the ship as a 14-year-old cabin boy. Through Nickerson’s account, we are introduced to Captain George Pollard, first mate Owen Chase, and rest of the intrepid crew. They set sail on what was to be a two to three year journey to hunt sperm whales for their oil. The voyage does not go as planned, and in 1820, the ship is sunk by an enraged sperm whale. The twenty man crew is left stranded at sea in three small whaling boats, 2,000 miles west of the coast of South America.  While the Marquesas Islands are 1,200 miles to the west, the stranded men fear that the islands are inhabited by cannibals. Instead, they choose to sail for South America. This course requires them to sail 1,000 miles south, and then 3,000 miles east, due to the winds and ocean currents. They spend 95 days at sea, and eight of the men survive.

This story is fascinating for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s true, and two first-hand accounts of the ordeal exist, written by Thomas Nickerson and Owen Chase. The Essex was the first whaling ship to be sunk by a whale; this act of aggression by a whale not only stunned the crew, but stunned the rest of the whaling community as well, for no one thought that a whale would be capable of what seemed to be calculated, aggressive intent. Then, the choices the castaways make as they fight for survival are mesmerizing. They feared cannibals, and yet they became them. The dynamics of personalities in the three boats are very different, and this matters greatly on who survives the ordeal. There is hunger, thirst, madness, and execution. There is dedication, commitment, and the resolve to survive. And, of course, there are whales and the beautiful, yet merciless sea.

I literally could not stop reading this book. Herman Melville was so entranced by the story that he was inspired to write his classic story, Moby-Dick. The tale is part horror story, part thriller, part sea adventure, with commentary on environmental issues, religion and the lust for the almighty dollar. This is the best book I’ve read all year. Highly recommended.

 

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Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune's Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Fortune’s Pawn, by Rachel Bach

Deviana Morris has one goal: to become a Devastator, an armored guard and fighter under the direct command of the Sainted King of Paradox. But to become a Devastator, a girl has to get a serious reputation, so Devi sets out to do just that. With her own Lady Gray armor, Devi can kick ass better than just about anyone. She joins Captain Cardswell’s ship, The Glorious Fool, because he has a reputation for finding himself in the deepest of trouble, and overcoming trouble will help Devi achieve her goal. At first, Devi is sure she’s made a mistake, as her first days on the ship are boring, without a hint of trouble in sight. But then, trouble arrives, and in spades. Devi soon finds herself dealing with angry aliens, mysterious missions, invisible creatures, and muddled memories. And to top it all off, Devi finds the most confounding trouble of all: Devi finds love with the hunky ship’s cook, Rupert. Can Devi manage all of the drama and turmoil and stay alive to become a Devastator? Can she and Rupert be happy in spite of it all? Devi is sure going to give it her best effort, but even her best effort may not be good enough.

I loved this book! This is a space opera with interesting aliens, love, and lots and lots of fighting. This was the type of story that made me fall in love with science fiction stories in the first place. As I read, I had that giddy, happy feeling that I felt while reading my favorite Andre Norton books when I was younger. I know that the latest scifi books try to be different–grim and gritty or stories told from an unusual point of view. I like those, yes. But I loved the scifi of decades past, and this book recaptures all the best qualities of some of those books. I look forward to more titles from Ms. Bach. I’ve already read the second book in this series, titled “Fortune’s Knight.” It’s just as good, and I’m ready to dive into the third book, “Heaven’s Queen.” Very enjoyable, and highly recommended.

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Lock In, by John Scalzi

Lock In, by John Scalzi

Lock In, by John Scalzi

In the near distant future, a new virus takes its place on the world stage; the majority of those who are infected suffer flu like symptoms, a smaller percent suffer meningitis-like symptoms. While many of the smaller group die, a few survive and find that they are “locked in” to their own body, fully aware but unable to move or respond to their surroundings. While the numbers of those locked in are small comparative to the total population, about 1.7 million people in the U.S. alone must deal with this condition. Technology comes to the rescue, creating a new “virtual” environment called the Agora, where lock in’s can interact with each other and with those in the real world. This technology also allows lock in’s to put themselves into robotic bodies called “threeps,” (after C3PO, natch!) so they can interact with the physical world. A few virus survivors, called integrators, have the new ability to allow lock in’s to “borrow” their human body and use it as their own, for a price. Enter Chris Shane, FBI agent and a lock in who works his job both via a threep and via the Agora.  His partner, Louise Vann is one of the rare individuals who can allow lock ins to borrow her body. When integrators start dying, and a major medical research firm is blown up, the FBI fears a deeper conspiracy. Someone, it seems, is trying to use the lock in’s and their special needs for their own profit or gain. It’s up to Shane and Vann to figure out whom, before the conflict escalates beyond repair.

This book reminded me of “I, Robot,” by Isaac Asimov, in that it explored what it means to be human. This is an excellent sci-fi thriller, with great pacing, snappy dialogue, and a thought-provoking plot. I highly recommend it.

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The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

The Girl of Fire and Thorns, by Rae Carson

Elisa is the second daughter of the king of Oravalle, and is the complete opposite of her sister. While her sister is beautiful, graceful, and always at the center of attention, Elisa is overweight, clumsy, and shy. She really isn’t all that important to the kingdom, this second princess, and she very well knows it. Except, in Elisha’s case, she was blessed with a special mark from God on her naming day. On that day, God put a sparkling blue, living stone in her navel, a favor that is only given every 100 years. It means that the bearer will perform a special service for God, something large and important. Elisa is pretty sure she’s not up to the task, for she is pretty sure she doesn’t have the talents for much of anything, except perhaps eating.

Then, on her sixteenth birthday, Elisa’s life changes quickly and forever. She is married to King Alejandro, handsome ruler of a neighboring country, and whisked away to his homeland. And just as quickly, she is made aware of the threat of invasion from the hostile forces of the county of Invierne. Life in the palace isn’t peaceful either, as political currents swirl all around the inner court. Elisa must call on hidden strengths as she tries to puzzle out her place in the increasingly tense situation. And then, when she is kidnapped, the entire situation changes again. Now Elisa must find a way to complete her service, help her people, and find love, all at the same time.

This is a very special book. Elisa is a strong character, one faced with an almost insurmountable task.  Rae Carson immerses you in the story, and gives you a cast of complex, wonderful characters. This is a fast-paced adventure, and you will feel the tension as Elisa faces the challenges before her. If you liked other fantasy titles such as “The Throne of Glass,” by Sarah J. Maas and “Graceling,” by Kristin Cashore, then you will love “The Girl of Fire and Thorns.”

 

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