Monday, September 22, 2014

Review: The Dream Keeper

The Dream Keeper
The Dream Keeper by Mikey Brooks

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

[bc:The Dream Keeper|17727253|The Dream Keeper (The Dream Keeper Chronicles, #1)|Mikey Brooks||24797434]
[a:Mikey Brooks|6583458|Mikey Brooks|]

Amazon Blurb
Dreams: Dorothy called it Oz, Alice called it Wonderland, but Nightmares call it HOME. When an evil shifter takes over the gateway to the realm of Dreams, it falls to 14-year-olds Parker and Kaelyn to stop him. Their only hope lies with Gladamyr, the Dream Keeper, but can they trust a Nightmare to save their world?

The Good
I've always been a fan of mid-grade book series. Rick Riordan's, 39 Clues, J. Scott Savage's, Far World, and Brandon Mull's, Fablehaven. Now I can add one more to this list, Mikey Brooks', Dream Keeper Chronicles.

Like other middle grade series, The Dream Keeper features a boy/girl tag team. Mikey does an incredible job of bringing Parker and Kaelyn to life. My favorite aspect is the social bullying and peer pressure that Parker and Kaelyn experience in school, and how their adventures in Dreams help them overcome these influences in their lives. Mikey doesn't minimize bullying or peer pressure, but he crafts realistic experiences in the story that help the characters overcome/understand the pressures they face.

The Bad
Parker and Kaelyn are the main characters, but the Dream Keeper Gladamyr shares almost equal page time with them. While this works well later in the book, the initial introduction left me a little confused. Maybe it was necessary, but I would have enjoyed the introduction to the world of Dreams much more through the eyes of Parker and Kaelyn. Equally so, the revealing of Gladamyr's character and experiences would have been better through the eyes of the children. Excellent opportunities for dialog and connecting characters were missed.

My second complaint covers the narration of the audiobook. It wasn't bad, let me get that out! ... But it could have been better. I listen to a LOT of audiobooks, so I'm a bit of a narrator snob. My biggest complaint with Anthony Bianco, is that a few lines come off flat. I'm not sure if he's a new narrator or not, but Mikey Brooks had lines that really set up the scene, and Anthony blew through them. Like I say, most audio listeners won't catch this, but because I listen to so many, it could have been a bit better.

Oh, yeah. One other minor complaint(full sarcasm here). How Mikey discovered that incident I had in the girl's restroom--and wrote into his book--is beyond me. It scarred me for life and I thought everyone had forgotten it.

Mikey, whatever blackmail you're asking, I'll pay.

The Spin
If you're looking for a great mid-grade read, don't pass up, The Dream Keeper. Kids will identify with the characters and their experiences. But more than that, the story is exciting enough to read the other books in the series.

One other thing to keep in mind when picking up this book, it has an excellent resolution, but a killer cliffhanger at the end, so have book 2, The Dreamstone, handy. You've been warned.

[bc:The Dreamstone|18761258|The Dreamstone (The Dream keeper Chronicles, #2)|Mikey Brooks||26658390]

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Monday, September 1, 2014

Review: Influx

Influx by Daniel Suarez

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Amazon Blurb: "What if our civilization is more advanced than we know?

The New York Times bestselling author of Daemon--"the cyberthriller against which all others will be measured" -Publishers Weekly) --imagines a world in which decades of technological advances have been suppressed in an effort to prevent disruptive change.

Are smart phones really humanity's most significant innovation since the moon landings? Or can something else explain why the bold visions of the 20th century--fusion power, genetic enhancements, artificial intelligence, cures for common disease, extended human life, and a host of other world-changing advances--have remained beyond our grasp? Why has the high-tech future that seemed imminent in the 1960's failed to arrive?

Perhaps it did arrive...but only for a select few.

Particle physicist Jon Grady is ecstatic when his team achieves what they've been working toward for years: a device that can reflect gravity. Their research will revolutionize the field of physics--the crowning achievement of a career. Grady expects widespread acclaim for his entire team. The Nobel. Instead, his lab is locked down by a shadowy organization whose mission is to prevent at all costs the social upheaval sudden technological advances bring. This Bureau of Technology Control uses the advanced technologies they have harvested over the decades to fulfill their mission.

They are living in our future.

Presented with the opportunity to join the BTC and improve his own technology in secret, Grady balks, and is instead thrown into a nightmarish high-tech prison built to hold rebellious geniuses like himself. With so many great intellects confined together, can Grady and his fellow prisoners conceive of a way to usher humanity out of its artificial dark age?

And when they do, is it possible to defeat an enemy that wields a technological advantage half a century in the making?"

The Good
An incredible high-tech thriller! A very engaging story that fascinated me with visions of possible future tech and a world were they are a reality. It also made me fear the groupthink of the BTC and organizations like them.

The characters aren't taken from your usual grab-bag either. Sure you get the 'science guy' and 'tech guy' templates, but Daniel Suarez tweaks them enough to make them fresh and interesting.

In all, an exciting thriller that will widen your perceptions.

The Bad
Some parts of the story felt slow, but really weren't. Due to the intense action, the 'slower' parts were necessary to give the reader breathing space before the action took over again.

My only real complaint, is in the time given to 'learning' new technology. Some of this is necessary because otherwise it would be unbelievable, but one section, about 2/3 through the book could have used some serious condensing. Just tell me they spent the day working with the device. Please, in the name of all that is holy, don't show it to me.

That advice may be counter intuitive to writers, but most understand that too much showing can kill as easily as too much description.

The Spin
If you're in to techno-thrillers or thrillers in general, you'll love this book. The future tech is intriguing without being overly complicated or boring and the characters are fresh enough that you enjoy cheering them on.

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Review: 14

14 by Peter Clines

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Amazon Blurb:

Padlocked doors. Strange light fixtures. Mutant cockroaches.

These are some odd things about Nate's new apartment.

Of course, he has other things on his mind. He hates his job. He has no money in the bank. No girlfriend. No plans for the future. So while his new home isn't perfect, it's livable. The rent is low, the property managers are friendly, and the odd little mysteries don't nag at him too much.

At least, not until he meets Mandy, his neighbor across the hall, and notices something unusual about her apartment. And Xela's apartment. And Tim's. And Veek's.

Because every room in this old Los Angeles brownstone has a mystery or two. Mysteries that stretch back over a hundred years. Some of them are in plain sight. Some are behind locked doors. And all together these mysteries could mean the end of Nate and his friends.

Or the end of everything...

The Good
14 is as unsettling as it is intriguing. I never knew what to expect, though some of my guesses came close to the mark.

Peter Clines did an incredible job with characterization, adding new characters regularly that draw the reader in. And the mystery in 14 unravels slowly enough that you're dying to keep reading without giving you so much that you can't absorb the insanity that is the character's new brown stone apartment.

The Bad
The ending felt a little Stephen King-ish, without sucking. I was still drawn in but... How does a writer describe the literal bending of reality? Either way, it worked. But my mind blew out long before then.

Very satisfactory ending ultimately.

The Spin
14 is a gripping horror/thriller that will keep you guessing. From the appropriately parsed mystery to the engaging characters, its a very satisfying read!

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