Book Review: Firstborn Academy series by Isla Frost

I found out about this series through Kindle books suggestions. Intrigued by the concept, I picked them up to read and ended up finishing the entire series.

About the Books:

Book 1: Shadow Trials

Shadow Trials (Firstborn Academy #1)

HARRY POTTER MEETS THE HUNGER GAMES
Ever since magic stormed the world, the price for human survival is surrendering your firstborn to the monsters.

But this year it’s Nova’s turn, and the monsters better watch their backs.

I am the firstborn in my family. The first of three. And today I will pay the price for my siblings’ lives by surrendering control of my own. I will step through the runegate, and I will never see my family again.

What the others do with the firstborn is shrouded in mystery. All anyone knows is they are never heard from again.

I will step through the runegate willingly.

But I can keep secrets too. And I’ll do whatever it takes to bring the others to their knees…

Book 2: Shadow Witch

Firstborn Academy: Shadow Witch

Nova has the magic of the enemy.

No one knows whether it’s the power they’ve been waiting for–or a curse that will destroy the world.

And not everyone at the Firstborn Academy is willing to let Nova live long enough to find out…

Fans of Harry Potter, Shadowspell Academy, Harley Merlin, and The Hunger Games, welcome to a magical new world packed with adventure, intrigue, romance, and characters you’ll fall in love with. 

Book 3: Shadow Reaper

Firstborn Academy: Shadow Reaper

Don’t miss this epic conclusion to the internationally bestselling young adult fantasy series.

Life magic is abundant in Nova’s world.
But it might just take death magic to save it.

Nova has sworn she will use every ounce of her wildcard power to bring down the worlds-destroying enemy that has gone undefeated for one hundred and fifty years.

The only hiccup in this otherwise solid plan is that she has no idea how.

But as she and her friends head to the war front to face this impossible task, they find themselves caught between powerful political forces, an unpopular prophesy, new and daunting revelations about their enemy, and the unstoppable might of the Malus itself.

If victory is possible, how much will it cost?

My Thoughts:

I read this series quite some time back (at the beginning of 2020), but somehow I ended up missing out on reviewing the books. So I have decided to combine the posts and share one complete review post on the entire series.

Overall, I enjoyed the concept of the books, the idea that every firstborn is taken away at a certain age and never seen again. Noone knows what happens to them, but when we step onto the other side, we find out that they are sent to an academy for training. The story focuses on Nova, how she navigates the Academy, friendships, enemies and her brand of magic. Some parts of the story is cliché in the sense that Nova is different from others, and she becomes a target for the bad guys. Working with her friends, she tries to fight evil and help save her fellow students.

As the story progresses, the reader becomes invested in the characters, we get to know more about them. I also like how the world was built up, but some more description and depth to the characters would have helped to connect with them better. The focus on the training of the students and finally evolving into the politics behind everything and how to deal with it are well handled by the author.

I enjoy reading fantasy fiction and throw in some magic and adventure and it is a winner. In that sense, this series had all the right elements for a good story and in spite of some flaws, I did enjoy reading the books.

Book Review :- Chronicles of a Spell Caster: Book One – Orientation by J.J. Singleton

I was provided with a copy of the book in exchange for an honest review.
About the Book:
The book focuses on the main character, Jet, who is entering his freshman year of college. In this world, every human has abilities that are better known as powers. Jet is different; he is the last pure Caster, someone who can use magic. Schools and colleges use the most advanced technology of this world, the AITS, to train the students, have sparring matches, and assign missions. Missions are a massive part of the curriculum, and the completion of these missions gives each student points that go toward their term grade.
Colleges and universities use this technology and have the students enter the AITS virtual reality during their second semester. With time working differently in the virtual reality, the students do a full year during the second semester. With the AITS the students refer to the time in the virtual reality as the game, and when they enter the virtual reality, they are in there to fend for themselves.

On the campus of Welwerth University, sports teams and clubs are highly regarded and some clubs shine brighter within the virtual reality. For the students that are not part of a club or sports team, it is hard to get missions done within the virtual reality in order to secure a good grade at the end of the year. To level the playing field, Jet and friends decide to establish a new club, one that would welcome all and give the rest of the student body a place to come together. This new club is called the Sanctuary. But even as everything seems to fall into place, it will all unravel with secrets, underhand deals, backstabbing, and a threat that no one saw coming. To survive, everyone will have to rally together to defeat the adversity.

My Thoughts:

In this first book of Chronicles of a Spell Caster, the author chronicles the journey of the main character Jet as he navigates his way through Welwerth University, a place where humans with powers come to learn. Jet is unique in that he is the last pure Caster, someone who can use magic directly. This sets him apart from the rest and of course defines his friends and foes.

The concept of the university is interesting in that the students are divided into sports teams and or clubs. Virtual reality is used to help train them and this concept was something that I enjoyed reading about. The author gives us a lot of interesting detail and some history as the story progresses. Even though the story is told in first person, with Jet as the narrator, we come to know many things about the AITS and the University.

As the students go through the daily classes and experiences, we are introduced to various characters each with their own agenda, strengths and weaknesses. Some become reader favourites and some, well they exist in the story for a reason. It took me some time to get into the book as the writing was not easy to get into. I was not able to relate to Jet easily as he seemed to know everything and he seemed to always win. This was until a point where we are shown fractures in the perfect facades of the characters and then their struggles become more relatable.

Overall, I found the idea of the plot to be interesting and the use of virtual reality as a training tool was unique and well incorporated. The story is worth a read for those who are fans of magic and adventure.

Round-up of 2020: Middle Grade and Children’s Fiction books!

Having read a whole lot of books this year, I have decided to do a sum up of the different genres and list my favourite books among those read in 2020! These posts will help me with the final round-up of favourite books read in 2020 at the end of the year (in another 15 days! :D)

                          —————————————————————————————————–

In this post, I am summarizing the list of middle grade fiction and children’s books that I read and enjoyed this year! They are not listed in any particular order and I truly enjoyed all of them.

Reading all these books took me back to my childhood and growing up with Enid Blyton’s novels! It’s wonderful to see how many authors have come out with such wonderful stories and even as an adult, I am glad that I have had the chance to enjoy these books!

The Eye of Ra by Ben Gartner

Sol Invictus (The Eye of Ra #2) by Ben Gartner

The Case of the Smuggler’s Curse by F.S. Dawson

Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins by Ron Crouch

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

Project Hackathon (Coding Supergirls Book 1) by Arushi Aggarwal

Don’t hesitate to share your thoughts or book recommendations in this Genre!

Book Review – Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins by Ron Crouch

About the Book:

 

Kenai’s parents taught him critical thinking skills before they disappeared. That was handy, because now he needs them.

He needs them right now because he is having a very strange night. He’s being chased by Men In Black. Weird. He is lost in a pitch black museum after hours. Definitely unusual. And, he doesn’t know it yet, but he will soon find himself breaking into a hidden safe in a haunted hotel. Not your normal evening. And the strangest things are yet to come. But that is the kind of thing that happens when you are the youngest ever investigator for “Beyond Belief,” the world’s premier debunker of the paranormal. Together with his Uncle Freeman and a very special drone named Tinkerbell, Kenai chases after werewolves, hunts ghosts, tracks sasquatch, and busts scammers at their game. But he is about to set out on his greatest adventure yet: finding his parents!

 

My Thoughts:

I was provided with a copy of the book by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Beyond Belief: The Adventure Begins is the first in the series and also the first book written by author Ron Crouch. The book is mainly for children in middle school, introducing them to an adventure filled ride! Through this story, the author stresses on the concepts of critical thinking and the importance of asking questions. Inquisitiveness is not always a bad thing.

The story follows Kenai, as he travels with his uncle while looking for his missing parents. Throughout his journey we are introduced to different kinds of people and places. There is an element of paranormal activity and this contributes to the mystery around.

The story is written in a simple manner and is easy to understand. Another aspect of the book that I enjoyed was the focus on psychology and a child’s perspective of the same. I also understand that it is important for children to have some idea about psychology and to learn to ask questions. It is not always right to just accept things as they are told to us. Consequently, I think this book is also a good fit for adults as it gives a perspective on guiding children towards critical thinking and similar concepts.

This is a fun filed adventure which has all the elements of a wonderful story as well as a strong message!

November 2020 – Book round-up!

A huge shoutout to all my readers and fellow bloggers.

I was inspired by other bloggers to post a recap of the books that I read or reviewed during November, 2020 and to highlight my favourite ones. I am hoping to continue this trend and post something similar every month.

I managed to read and review a good number of books last month. I usually do not manage to read so many due to time constraints. Nevertheless, some of them were wonderful and I truly enjoyed all the books!

Books read/reviewed in November 2020:

Finale (Caraval #3) by Stephanie Garber

The most awaited conclusion to the Caraval series, Stephanie Garber brings us a well-crafted ending! This is definitely one of the most talked about series in today’s world!

I thoroughly enjoyed this conclusion and loved the way the author has crafted the plot of the entire series. A well-written fantasy fiction, this series will take the reader on an adventure that is amazing, with colorful characters whom we cannot help but fall in love with! This series is indeed a must-read and is well worth the time spent on it.

Dinosaur Adventure: A Field Trip to Remember by Kelly Santana-Banks

This story can be used as a picture book for younger children and as an interactive learning book for older ones. It is truly well-written and interactive making it a wonderful teaching and learning aid.

Prism (The Color Alchemist #1) by Nina Walker

Prism by author Nina Walker introduces the reader to an intriguing concept of magic and magical abilities and I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. The story is well-written and fast paced, keeping the reader hooked until the very end.

337 by M. Jonathan Lee

A wonderfully written novel, the story follows Sam as he goes through the motions of living every day. However, not everything is at it seems, and this is a constant theme running in the background of the plot.

This latest book by the author is a pleasure to read and though it raises many questions that ensure the reader is kept engaged long after finishing the book. This book is a must read!

Vampire Royals (Books 1-3) by Leigh Walker

Overall, this series is fun and enjoyable especially for those who love the idea of vampires and human’s together, though there is not a lot of focus on the supernatural aspect of the characters. The books are short and easy to read. They can each be read in one sitting and are a good stress free read!

Ten Days with a Duke by Erica Ridley

This book is a pleasant and quick read set in the time of Christmas in a rather picturesque village! It is indeed the season of love!

The Guardians of the Halahala by Shatrujeet Nath

A truly fascinating story set during the rule of Samrat Vikramaditya, this book is the first in a series of four books. In this book, the author has taken a tiny part of mythology and merged it with a historical setting to bring us this entertaining plot.

The book pulls you in until the very end as each character’s personality unravels and their dynamics together are established and later shift.

This book is truly a wonderful start to a great series and I cannot wait to read further!

Book Review: Project Hackathon (Coding Supergirls Book 1) by Arushi Aggarwal

I am grateful to Arushi Aggarwal for reaching out to me for a review of her new release. Read on to know my thoughts.

About the Book:

Curii is creative. Pia is passionate. Ina is imaginative. Together, they solve real world problems using their programming skills – developing powerful, disruptive, and cutting-edge ideas along the way. Follow these Supergirls who code on their first journey as they navigate the world of hackathons. Can they crack the code? Persistence brings knowledge.

Aggarwal combines education and adventure in her innovative “Coding Supergirls” series. She hopes to inspire the students in STEM she’s supporting by showing the numerous coding related opportunities available. After many parents and students were confused about her own hackathon, Code 4 Cause, she also aims to clarify the event’s important purpose – empowering students in tech.

Find the book on Amazon here.

Connect with the author:

Unknown16.com/codingsupergirls

http://twitter.com/dounknown16

https://www.facebook.com/dounknown16

My Thoughts:

This is a very short and pleasant read detailing the experience of three girls as they attend their first hackathon. Right from trying to understand what it is, to how to prepare for it and finally attending it, we are given all the steps. Arushi undoubtedly draws from her personal experience as the story progresses. I particularly like how she modelled her characters and gave us their descriptions, drawing on different aspects of interests and curiosity.

The story aims to bring about an awareness of coding and the world of opportunities it opens up. Through the hackathon experience, we observe as creativity, art, design, coding skills and a whole other set of skills come together in and idea for an application.

The illustrations in the book compliment some parts of the story and are very well done. Arushi has done a great job in taking us through the steps involved in the hackathon through which our protagonists make news friends, gain confidence in themselves, venture into new areas and learn to think out of the box.

I strongly recommend this book for everyone but mainly middle school children! This book would serve as a source of inspiration!

 

 

Book Review: Heaven Adjacent by Catherine Ryan Hyde

I was provided with an advance reader’s copy of the book via NetGalley by Lake Union Publishing in exchange for an honest review.

About the Book:

From New York Times bestselling author Catherine Ryan Hyde comes a bittersweet novel about healing old wounds and finding a new place to call home…

Roseanna Chaldecott spent her life as a high-powered lawyer in Manhattan. But when her best friend and law partner dies suddenly, something snaps. Unsure of her future, Roseanna heads upstate on one tank of gas and with no plans to return.

In the foothills of the Adirondacks, Roseanna discovers the perfect hideout in a ramshackle farm. Its seventy-six acres are rich with possibilities and full of surprises, including a mother and daughter squatting on the property. Although company is the last thing Roseanna wants, she reluctantly lets them stay.

Roseanna and the young girl begin sculpting junk found around the farm into zoo animals, drawing more newcomers—including her estranged son, Lance. He pleads with Roseanna to return to the city, but she’s finally discovered where she belongs. It may not provide the solitude she originally sought, but her heart has found room for much more.

My Thoughts:

I am thankful to once again have been given the chance to read Catherine Ryan Hyde’s next upcoming novel! Heaven Adjacent teaches us to appreciate the small things in life. It teaches us that it is okay to be scared, everyone is scared, but, there is no need to run from it. It teaches us to trust those around us, to open ourselves up to people and to just be happy with the things we have.

Roseanna, our protagonist, makes the sudden split-second decision to just up and run. She wakes up one morning with the urge to get away from the city, her world and the life she leads. Part of her is grieving due to the loss of her best friend/ law partner and the other part of her is trying to reconcile with the fact that life is too short to waste away without enjoying it. As she drives away in her fancy car without a specific destination in mind, Roseanna lands up somewhere near the Adirondacks where she finds a perfectly acceptable farm.

As she settles and tries to make a home here, she allows a mother and daughter to stay on the premises. Slowly, a few more people happen upon her place, all seemingly in search of paradise or peace. At first Roseanna is irritated by the presence of other people, but as time passes, she starts to accept them. This seems to bug her son when he finally finds out where she is, through a news article about her animals sculpted from the junk around, and comes to convince her to go back. He does not understand her sudden decision and as he starts to spend some time with his mother, the two of them discover things about the other that they never knew or understood before. Talking about their lives, their relationships and who they are, a knew sense of peace and acceptance develops.

This story is one of self-discovery and self-acceptance. Roseanna finds a new kind of peace, a new hobby, and learns to accept the people around her. They all have something to teach her about life and her relationship with her son. This is a heart-warming story that is very well-written and pushes the reader towards introspection. It helps the reader understand that it is okay to want to escape, but don’t be rash about it, and be sure to let in the ones you love. It will make a world of difference. Be open about your thoughts and don’t be afraid to speak up. This is how a person can learn and grow into a better human being.

One again, this new and upcoming novel by author Catherine Ryan Hyde is a must read as it touches upon relevant and relatable topics!

Someday, Someday, Maybe by Lauren Graham

About the Book:

Someday, Someday, Maybe

A charming and laugh-out-loud novel by Lauren Graham, beloved star of Parenthood and Gilmore Girls, about an aspiring actress trying to make it in mid-nineties New York City.

Franny Banks is a struggling actress in New York City, with just six months left of the three-year deadline she gave herself to succeed. But so far, all she has to show for her efforts is a single line in an ad for ugly Christmas sweaters and a degrading waitressing job. She lives in Brooklyn with two roommates – Jane, her best friend from college, and Dan, a sci-fi writer, who is very definitely not boyfriend material – and is struggling with her feelings for a suspiciously charming guy in her acting class, all while trying to find a hair-product cocktail that actually works.

Meanwhile, she dreams of doing “important” work, but only ever seems to get auditions for dishwashing liquid and peanut butter commercials. It’s hard to tell if she’ll run out of time or money first, but either way, failure would mean facing the fact that she has absolutely no skills to make it in the real world. Her father wants her to come home and teach, her agent won’t call her back, and her classmate Penelope, who seems supportive, might just turn out to be her toughest competition yet.

Someday, Someday, Maybe is a funny and charming debut about finding yourself, finding love, and, most difficult of all, finding an acting job.

My Thoughts:

Someday,  Someday,  Maybe is a story of finding yourself amidst the glamourous world of acting (theater and films). Written in a fresh and quirky manner, this story will speak to the soul of every reader, ever dreamer and in general every person who reads it. Even though the setting is pretty specific (set in a world that the author understands best), it is easy to relate to the hopes, aspirations, heart break and search for love and meaning in life of the protagonist.

The title resonates throughout the story, reminding us that this thought has occurred to all of us at different times. Franny is an aspiring actress who is trying to find her place in the acting world. She believes in work that is fulfilling and meaningful. As she stumbles through with a particular deadline in mind, we follow her journey and her encounters with people, her decisions and the consequences of those. There is a lot to learn and as she starts to find her way, Franny realizes that the idea she had in her head of the acting world, might not coincide with the reality. Luckily she has friends and well wishers who support her along the way and teach her, helping her to find her place.

The author introduces us to the hard-work and dedication required to make it as an actor/actress as well as the number of people involved. It is an interesting and intriguing glimpse into the world of acting and the author handles the plot very well. The story is enjoyable and overall a wonderful read! The people we meet as the story progresses are well thought out and have crucial roles to play in this story. The author gives us so many points to take away from the story, with a fair amount of emphasis on staying true to one’s beliefs and ideals.

If not today, then, Someday, Someday, Maybe, it will indeed happen! Dreams do come true as long as we put in a fair amount of effort!

Book Review: Roller Coaster in Tehran by Y. I. LATZ

About the Book:

Roller Coaster in Tehran

Imagine being sent to spy on your country’s worst enemy!

Dr. Amalia Tavori is a mother of three and an expert rollercoaster engineer with a short fuse and an insatiable appetite for adventure. She is forced to join the Israeli Mossad to save her husband from economic collapse. Amalia is sent under false identity to Tehran, the capital of Israel’s worst enemy, to help the Iranians build a grandiose amusement park.

Every day could be Amalia’s last!

Roller Coaster in Tehran reveals an intimate picture of the exceedingly dangerous daily life of an Israeli spy in Tehran. Amalia knows no boundaries and has no shame. She fools both her enemies and her operators from the Mossad, working out of her own deep inner convictions.

Can Amalia complete her mission without losing her life?

When a grave disaster befalls her family in Israel, it becomes even more difficult for her to perform her secret mission. This book redefines the concepts of loyalty, betrayal, enemies, and compassion. The image of an ordinary woman emerges – one who yearns for true love but who has been forced to become larger than life itself. She is prepared to sacrifice herself for her country, but not to sacrifice her life for an existence without love.

My Thoughts:

Meet Dr. Amalia Tavori an Israeli spy for the Mossad and an expert rollercoaster engineer. She is sent to Tehran on mission, under the ruse of helping the Iranians build a huge amusement park. Being a part of this world and the work, doesn’t deter Amalia from enjoying the thrill of it all. The exhileration she feels when she travels on missions seem to have made her crave danger more, taking her away from her family. A mother of three, Amalia finds that her relationship with her husband has sunk, mostly due to how he dealt with the loss of their money, forcing her to join the Mossad in the first place, to save him and their family. Having gotten accustomed to a certain lifestyle, it is rather difficult to perceive any other way of life.

While on mission in Tehran, Amalia is forced to reconnect with her old friend, to renew old ties as she continues to get closer to her friend in order to get to her husband. Through all this, we see the compassionate side of our protagonist as she struggles to deal with some of the facts presented to her, which seem to contradict the nature of the people she sees everyday. As the story progresses, we see a more sinister plan in place and a stronger character in Amalia as she decides to fight for what is right was well as a life filled with love.

A heart wrenching and deeply moving story, the author brings to us the trials and tribulations of a mother and her love for her children, her country and herself. We follow her as she navigates through heart ache, desire, and hurt among other emotions. We meet some interesting characters, central to the plot and who add a lot of substance to it. This story teaches us about making choices and the consequences each choice may have.

Book Review: Henry and the Hidden Treasure by B.C.R. Fegan

About the Book:

Henry and the Hidden Treasure

Henry and the Hidden Treasure is an imaginative adventure a young child has in defending his pocket money against his little sister. Henry constructs elaborate defensive measures that he is sure will stand up to the clever ambitions of Lucy. Little does he know, Lucy has a few tricks of her own.

With a focus on introducing children to the use of ordinal numbers, Henry and the Hidden Treasure also draws out some important qualities of being a kid – such as creativity, the value of listening to parental advice, and of course, being nice to your sister.

My Thoughts:

A simple enough children’s story, this book seeks to enlighten children about the importance of listening to your parents and of having an imagination and not shying away from it. It also subtly brings out the concept of ordinal numbers and thus proves to be a useful way of teaching a mathematical concept to children.

The story is imaginative and Henry’s ideas are highly amusing. However, though it is a short story, it felt very abrupt and incomplete, as though the whole point of the plot is not yet conveyed. Looking at this from a child’s point of view however, it proves to be enjoyable and just enough to perhaps keep their attention.

This is a good story to use for both fun reading and as a teaching aid with it’s wonderful illustrations.