The Talon Saga

To take her rightful place in the powerful Talon organization, hatchling Ember Hill must prove she can hide her dragon nature and blend in with humans. Her delight at the prospect of a summer of human teen experiences is short-lived, however, once she discovers that she must also train for her destined career in Talon. But a chance meeting with a rogue dragon will soon challenge everything Ember has been taught.

– Excerpt from Amazon description (https://www.amazon.com/The-Talon-Saga/dp/B074C8YNK1)

Talon is the first book in The Talon Saga by Julie Kagawa. While I devoured the first book, aspects of it reminded me of Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight. There are two male characters who are in love/infatuated with Ember Hill (the main character). She, of course, has feelings for both of them, and these feelings complicate their already difficult life. Romance aside, I really did enjoy the first book and couldn’t wait to see what happened. I eagerly borrowed the second book, Rogue, from the library.

The second book, however, has not impressed me. While I really want to know what happens with the story, there is too much repetition in the second book. The internal dialogue between characters is the same in almost every chapter, and the conversation between the characters is essentially the same, just different circumstances surrounding the characters.

During their internal dialogue, the characters frequently reference the same events and thoughts they had during the first book. I did not mind in the first couple chapters because I think too many authors forget to provide context for people who perhaps haven’t read the first book or for fans who had to wait a year for the book’s release. However, aside from a brief reference for context, the information does not need to be frequently repeated. The same can be said for the romantic internal dialogue. Yes, the characters are struggling to understand their feelings for each other, but they apparently obsess over it every chapter or two.

The conversations between the main characters are repetitive as well. It usually consists of the two guys – Garret and Riley – expressing dislike for each other or Ember and Riley arguing about Ember’s reckless ideas. I admit, I’m on Riley’s side. I started getting frustrated with Ember because of her recklessness. While her character makes decisions based on her emotions, it still seems like she could use a bit more reason and common sense knowing the dangerous circumstances they are encountering.

In terms of Ms. Kagawa’s writing style, she is a good writer. The book is easy to read and draws you in. For those who loved Twilight, I definitely recommend this series. But if you are like me and get board when romance starts to take up a huge chunk of the character’s time, The Talon Saga won’t interest you.

Sensitive reader alert: There are a few instances of the F word (and some other profanity). So between that, the intense romantic infatuation, teen drinking, and an attempted sexual assault, I wouldn’t recommend the book to anyone 14 and younger.

The League and the Lantern

A new year and a new school! That means a fresh start! … Or it is supposed to.

Jake, TJ, and Lucy are entering the 7th grade. Their summer orientation – a sleep over at the local museum – doesn’t go as planned. While participating in a scavenger hunt, Jake, TJ, and Lucy stumble upon something bigger and are quickly caught up in a clandestine fight between two secret organizations – the League and the Lantern. These two organizations have been fighting since the time of Abraham Lincoln and John Wilkes Booth, with one seeking to preserve freedom, and the other seeking to rule.

While reading The League and the Lantern by Brian Wells, I couldn’t help but think of the movie National Treasure. For those who enjoy action, mystery, and history (there is even a little bit of science thrown in), you will definitely want to check out this book. The book is clean – no language or sex – and comical. I really enjoyed the character’s references to The Princess Bride.

This well written story is one I recommend without any reservation to parents of 9-14 year olds (or adults who are young at heart.)

The Portal Wars Saga (Book 1)

When I started listening to The Portal Wars Saga (Book 1), I was optimistic that I’d found my next series. Unfortunately, that is not the case.

The Hidden Tower is the first book in The Portal Wars Saga by James E. Wisher. The story follows Otto, the third son of a country baron, who desires to become an Arcane Lord. The problem? Magic is illegal. When an arranged marriage allows Otto to become a friend of the prince, Otto decides to use his new connections to advance the status of wizards and ultimately become one of the most powerful wizards himself.

The book itself is well written, albeit a little slow. However, as things begin to ramp up in the story, you begin to wonder if the main character is a hero or a villain. One might say Otto becomes obsessed with magic and power, an obsession that sees the initially considerate, somewhat likeable teenage boy quickly transform into a scheming, vengeful, power hungry individual.

As I prefer stories whose main characters are either heroes or are on a path towards redemption, this is not a series I will continue to read.

Going Postal

Going Postal is a mini-series (two episodes) based off of Terry Pratchett’s book by the same name. The movie follows Moist Von Lipwig, an unscrupulous con man, who is given a second chance at life. All he has to do is revive the post office. Simple as it may sound, the post office is threatened by the notorious owner of the Clacks – Reacher Gilt – who will stop at nothing to see his competition annihilated.

Prior to watching Going Postal, I had never heard of Terry Pratchett. While the movie itself is strange, the story line is unique and intriguing. I was incredibly impressed with the caliber of acting and the quality of the dialogue/plot. Most movies these days rely more heavily on action scenes and less so on developing a solid story line. I think that is one of the reasons I enjoyed Going Postal so much; it had a plot.

If you can get past the initial oddity of the movie (especially the first 10-ish minutes), you will find a well-acted, well crafted, and entertaining story.

This is definitely getting added to my “Favorites” list.

Wizard’s Alley

I tried. I really tried! I listened to seven chapters of Wizards Alley by James Haddock and still haven’t figured out what this story is about! The narrator – Daniel Wisniewski – is superb, but the story leaves much to be desired.

Wizard’s Alley starts out promising. Two wizards duel in an alley. A stray bolt of magic knocks a street urchin unconscious. When the boy awakes, he discovers he can do magic. After that, however, the story takes a less than promising turn as Scraps, the street urchin turned wizard, goes around town, stealing, healing, and fighting various people. While his intentions are good – to provide for those less fortunate – his actions are somewhat questionable.

The main complaint I had with the first seven chapters (because I’m not reading anymore of it) was that there was no conflict. Scraps was “blessed” with magical powers, and he doesn’t even have to learn how to use them! He can simply wish for something, and it comes true.

Concerned I was jumping the gun prematurely, I looked at reviews on Amazon to see if I simply needed to be more patient. Unfortunately, many of the reviews observed the same things I did – lack of conflict/plot being the main one. A review left by “Jo” on Amazon described the book perfectly: Wizard’s Alley “reads like a history book”. Imagine reading someone’s autobiography, and you pretty much have a feel for what reading Wizard’s Alley is like.