Fablehaven by Brandon Mull

Since I'd read the first book in A World Without Heroes, I thought that I would check out one of the author's earlier series. I ended up with Fablehaven, which is another middle grade fantasy series. And I actually finished reading this book by using time during lunch breaks at work, getting the last pages read back at the end of August. Kept meaning to post but work distracts me, so here is my review of Fablehaven, book 1 in the Fablehaven series, by Brandon Mull

About the Book:  For centuries, mystical creatures of all description were gathered to a hidden refuge called Fablehaven to prevent their extinction. The sanctuary survives today as one of the last strongholds of true magic in a cynical world. Enchanting? Absolutely. Exciting? You bet. Safe? Well, actually, quite the opposite ... Kendra and her brother Seth have no idea their grandfather is the current caretaker of Fablehaven. Inside the gated woods, ancient laws give relative order among greedy trolls, mischievous satyrs, plotting witches, spiteful imps, and jealous fairies. However, when the rules get broken, an arcane evil is unleashed, forcing Kendra and Seth to face the greatest challenge of their lives. To save her family, Fablehaven, and perhaps the world, Kendra must find the courage to do what she fears most.

Overall: I liked this book. It was an easy but interesting read. The beginning started a bit typical. There were many parts I expected, like the kids going to their grandparents and how things first seemed a bit normal but they started to discover that there is something secret going on there. But that was needed for the story to work. Made me think of the Spiderwick Chronicles movie just a bit, but only the commercial for it cause I haven't actually even seen the move or read that book. It's a two POV story, with both the cautious older sister (Kendra) and her not cautious younger brother (Seth). And this one did definitely have a more Middle Grade feel to it, at least in comparison to parts of the other book I read by the author.

Characters: Both characters are likeable in their own way. It's interesting to go back and forth in this case between the two siblings but together the point of views create the story as a whole because we get to see what is behind the surface of each character. We get to see what is behind the adventurous boy's approach and get in on some of the action from the decisions he makes. On the other hand, we also get to see the cautious steps taken and how she finds out answers and when needed whether she will be able to let her fear down enough to act brave for her family. Both work well and I hope to see them in other stories of the series.

Setting: I don't often talk about setting much because I don't notice it too often nor write it in great detail but Mull does a good job in setting up the Fablehaven location, which will be involved for the whole series I would imagine based on the series title. He does an excellent job in both first books I have read in setting up the world for the series without letting it overpower the first story. There are hints that will come in useful later, I can tell, and in general the Fablehaven is a fun place that I want to learn more about. I'm sure others will find it interesting too, of all ages.

Recommendation:  I recommend anyone really who likes fantasy and is up for a little middle grade reading to try out this book. Whether for a middle grade reader or beyond, it's a pretty fun read overall.

The Last Thing I Remember by Andrew Klavan

After the couple paranormal romance-y books in a row, I decided to go for something different and picked up a "boy" looking book that  I purchased about 3 or so years ago. The cover alone has that appearance: guy running from something with an explosion in the background. And it did not disappoint. Here is my review:

About the book: Charlie West just woke up in someone else's nightmare.

He's strapped to a chair. He's covered in blood and bruises. He hurts all over. And a strange voice outside the door just ordered his death.

The last thing he can remember, he was a normal high-school kid doing normal things--working on his homework, practicing karate, daydreaming of becoming an air force pilot, writing a pretty girl's number on his hand. How long ago was that? Where is he now? Who is he really?

And more to the point . . . how is he going to get out of this room alive? - Goodreads

The chair is just the starting point. From there it's action, drama, questions and on the occasion an answer. Main character, Charlie, has the all around good guy appeal but with struggling to figure out what happened to his life. In his pov, we learn things only when he does and in this case it works for the story. The chapters and action move in a quick pace suitable for the genre it's representing and involves enough action with a slight hint of romance potential to have a wide enough audience appeal. He's both a bit nerdy and yet knows karate and could be deadly to a foe even at his young age.

I will warn that if you expect things answered and resolved in book 1, there will be a mild bit of disappointment. Book 1 in the series, this book right here, sets up a lot of questions. It does not answer them all or even most I would say, but it does answer some and leaves hints for others. Not quite a stand alone type of book, this does require reading more in the series to finish all that the author made promise to in book 1 and I hope to read the next book in the future.

Also, while during the book at points there is some question if Charlie is really a good guy, there is a funny little phenomenon seen in movies and such that help hint that he's the good guy. Doesn't matter who shoots at him (bad guys that tortured him or even police and such), a bullet doesn't hit him. Hits near him, but he is not shot in book 1 despite the training and type of guns used by those aiming in his direction. Definitely a good guy indicator.

This book is for anyone who likes action, explosions, fast pacing and such. What some would call a "boy book" it might be more focused for the male audience but anyone can enjoy the story. It's a mix of karate, danger, questions, and trying to get the girl that in the end works and hopefully the rest of the series can match and even answer the questions that still remain. Definitely, those lamenting over not enough "boy books" in YA should give this one a read.  Enjoy!

The Thirteen Chime by Emma Michaels

This is a book I heard about on twitter and purchased a few years ago. But I didn't read it till a couple months ago (review is a bit late compared to when I finished it).

About the book: Hatred never dies...

Destiny has finally found the life that she has always wanted. She is about to finish college, has a fiance that loves her, and a great summer on the West Coast planned with her friend, Stephanie. But her world is turned upside down when an antique clock mysteriously chimes thirteen times and someone attacks them, sending Stephanie and her mother to the hospital.

Alone, and without any help from the police, Destiny has no choice but to turn to the one man she had left behind a year ago - her ex-boyfriend, David. Together, they must solve the riddle of the thirteenth chime before the clock strikes thirteen again. Yet as they face their own past and hearts, a trap over half a century old is waiting for them to become its prey.

For revenge, fifty years is never too long...

The Thirteenth Chime (A Sense of Truth)

There are some books you know from the beginning sort of what to expect because it's similar to other types of books you've read before. This one wasn't one of those for me. I liked the title and thought I'd give it a read, not really knowing what the story would entail when I opened the pages. Overall, it was a good read. The story had very interesting twists and the plot kept me going. I wanted to find out what happened in the house with the clock when it chimed thirteen.

Character wise... I have a few things both good and not so good to mention. This is one of those times where advice I have given other amateur writers looks questionable because to me this book did something often said as a no-no. This book had a bit of head hopping in it. The main two points of view are Destiny and David. Most of the time there is a pause or a chapter change for the differing viewpoints. However, that isn't always the case. Some of the chapters jump in viewpoint between Destiny, David and the friend Stephanie. And speaking of point of view and character... I have to admit that while the story started focusing on Destiny, I was glad when David came into the picture and focus. I liked him a whole lot more.

At first I had trouble getting into the story. Something about Destiny annoyed me a little. But the more I read, the more I became interested in the story. David's viewpoint helped a lot though I felt really bad for him at the end (won't say anything more though cause you'd have to read the book to understand why).

Those interested in supernatural stories with a little bit of a strange mystery to solve who don't mind a little head hop every now and then will enjoy this book. It's decently written, has a good plot and some interesting characters and the twists will come as enough of a surprise without coming off as too out of left field. Check it out.

Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

Review by Ashlee Burke

About the Book: "Charlie is a freshman. And while he's not the biggest geek in the school, he is by no means popular. Shy, introspective, intelligent beyond his years yet socially awkward, he is a wallflower, caught between trying to live his life and trying to run from it." - Goodreads

“Perks of Being a Wallflower” by Stephen Chbosky is interesting for a teen book because it is quiet. There is no sparkly undead, there is no dooming apocalypse, and the kids aren’t all driving beemers and ruining each other’s lives with twisted games of intrigue. It simply follows a boy name Charlie through his first year of high school. He meets friends, has a crush, and even goes to a school dance or two. The book very much like the main character Charlie himself: introverted and shy. But once you get to know Charlie/Perks you feel this intense sense of loneliness and desire to belong that really makes you think. He comes off a little odd at first but once you get inside his head you can see a bit of yourself in him. If you can’t relate to the struggling outsider there are plenty of other characters in the story to relate to. 

Charlie’s is at times a complete hero and other time’s leaves the reader just wondering what the hell is wrong with this kid. He often vaguely references depression and memory lapses like they are no big deal and the beginning of the story starts with him recalling his best friend’s suicide. But at the end of the day I rooted for him. I wanted him to win the girl and I wanted him to figure out how to “participate”. I couldn’t help but wonder when I was reading: If he figures it out maybe I can too.

“It's strange because sometimes, I read a book, and I think I am the people in the book.” 
― Stephen Chbosky, The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Recommendation: I think Perks of Being a Wallflower is a must read. It’s hauntingly beautiful and a pleasant read. It was a nice change of pace in a genre that doesn’t always slow down for the small stories. 

Stardust by Neil Gaiman

This is a book I got from the library and is one of the rare instances where I watched the movie first. The reason I watched it first is more because I was watching over my little 5 and 7 year old cousins and it was their favorite movie at the time. Had to fast forward at a part near the end cause it scared them but other than that, they wanted to watch that movie over and over and over again. It's a good movie too so I decided to check out the book.

About the book: Hopelessly crossed in love, a boy of half-fairy parentage leaves his mundane Victorian-English village on a quest for a fallen star in the magical realm. The star proves to be an attractive woman with a hot temper, who plunges with our hero into adventures featuring witches, the lion and the unicorn, plotting elf-lords, ships that sail the sky, magical transformations, curses whose effects rebound, binding conditions with hidden loopholes and all the rest.

Link for purchasing the book: 

[STARDUST] BY Gaiman, Neil (Author) Harper Teen (publisher) Paperback

Verdict: It was a good book. Though I will admit that it's one of the few times where I liked the movie a little more than the actual book. I can see what they did, what they emphasized different or changed to a degree and they made some really good calls when making that movie. I read the story on my lunch breaks at work so took me a while. At first I wasn't sure on the book as the chapter one reminded me of a prologue and then had to get to know a different focus character in the next one. But I got through it in part because I knew to certain degrees what would happen having seen the movie. It's definitely different than some of his other works. Not quite at the level of American Gods but still a well written story. While I didn't think it was the greatest story (compared to movie) but I did notice how well Gaiman writes. He is just good.

There are several different viewpoints. A good portion of it is from the boy character's view, the one trying to find the star to please a girl he likes. But we also get into the star's pov along with witches, brothers fighting for a crown, boy's father and something else I can't remember at this point as I finished reading the book over a month ago. Setting is sort of a typical fantasy but has its own characteristics and the creatures/characters have their own spin, which makes the story fun to read.

I won't spoil the end but I will say that the end is a part that didn't work the most for me in comparison to the movie. Though the characters came to life a little more in the movie but it's different seeing them than reading about so that's understandable. However, the end of the movie and the end of the book is different. The book ends on a less dramatic note so it's almost anti-climatic feeling. I liked the end of the movie better.

However, I do recommend this book to others because it's well written and overall a good read.
Like Fantasy? Have read other books by Neil Gaiman? Haven't read any of his books? Either way, check it out. It's a good library option (or own for those that want to do so). Also, check out the movie.

Welcome and Call for Reviews

Hello fellow readers.

First off, I want to say a quick welcome to our newest official addition to the blog. She has posted a couple guest reviews for us in the past and I decided she would make a good edition to the small team we have going so far here on Reading at Dawn.

Welcome Ashlee Burke. :-)

Ashlee reads often young adult fiction, so that does increase our YA review side. We will have her official bio up in the near future along with her next book review. Which brings me to the next quick little point of this email. I wanted to remind people that we are open to guest bloggers/reviews.

In particular, Reading at Dawn is looking for non-YA book reviews. Check out the Guests page for more information.

Also, we are coming up with a reading day blog hop, so look for that in the near future. Have a good day and keep reading.

Tree Girl by Ben Mikaelsen

This is a book I got from the Library. I wouldn't have known about the book if I hadn't perused the juvenile aisles in the library. Yeah, the one here calls middle grade as juvenile, which looks weird but eh, I shrug it off. I found the book and though it took longer than necessary to finish, I am glad I read it.

About Tree Girl from Goodreads:  They call Gabriela Tree Girl. Gabi climbs trees to be within reach of the eagles and watch the sun rise into an empty sky. She is at home among the outstretched branches of the Guatemalan forests.

Then one day from the safety of a tree, Gabi witnesses the sights and sounds of an unspeakable massacre. She vows to be Tree Girl no more and joins the hordes of refugees struggling to reach the Mexican border. She has lost her whole family; her entire village has been wiped out. Yet she clings to the hope that she will be reunited with her youngest sister, Alicia. Over dangerous miles and months of hunger and thirst, Gabriela's search for Alicia and for a safe haven becomes a search for self. Having turned her back on her own identity, can she hope to claim a new life?

While I am not often a fan first person point of view, this is the case of when it works. I didn't feel like I was the character, it wasn't necessary. I did, however, feel like the character was talking to me and that was the exact reason for writing the story this way. It reads that way, as the real Tree Girl told her story to the author. It's the character telling/showing what she endured in her youth during the massacres of her people. And from there, more struggles, and it's amazing what a person can live through and keep going each day.

It is a tragic story, to say the least. While the story starts off showing the character and her little world, it doesn't take too long for things to go bad and it just gets worse for her from there. It's the type of story I used to read, which is interesting considering the fact that it's middle grade as were the books I read when I was younger. Tragedy and enduring historical hard times was a common theme it seems. Don't believe me, look at the holocaust stories in middle grade. Yep, there are a few. But I digress.

I liked this book because of the character's voice. It's a very touching story and one I'd recommend to others. The end did feel a bit rocky, like something was a bit off that I can't quite place. However, at the same time I agree and understood the authors note on why he added one aspect to the end that I'll be vague about so I don't spoil anything for those that take the chance to read it.

This book may be "middle grade" age range but it's a good read for any age. Check it out.

We Love Libraries

Yes, as book readers, or people who are trying to read more books, the library is a great place. And I felt the need to do a quick post to express the appreciation we have for the existence of places for people to get books on a regular basis. And it is February, the month for hearts and declarations of love.

I will admit, I hadn't used a library to check out books in many years, since part way through college. As kid and preteen I would get books from the library all of the time and even in high school. The librarians and school secretaries knew me well. But at college, I ended up not checking out books very often. Some time in high school I started to struggle with the return on time policy and that got a bit worse in college. I would often have to pay fines for returning books late, sometimes a month late or so because I'd forget about the book and not return it. Some of those fines can get a bit steep so I ended up getting books less from the library in part because of my struggles to get the books in on time (and the rest of it just life things and not thinking about it, plus having a ton of books I own but haven't read yet).

But I'm back to the Library! :-D

And it's great. Not only could I print out a couple documents I needed (I'm going to Vegas in March so had a travel plan and I don't own a printer) but also I checked out 3 books. 1 dealt with health and the other two were middle grade. It was great to look through the books, finding ones I'd never heard of before and getting them without having a plan. This is why I like physical stores and buying books from them. Random finding books to read. I can't wait to read and look forward to having a review by the end of the month for at least one of the books.

If you haven't been to your local library lately, check it out. You might find some interesting things that you hadn't know about before. And as always, keep reading!

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