Review: “Ender’s Game” by Orson Scott Card

A review by Brit.

Andrew “Ender” Wiggin is a very special little boy. At the age of six years old, he is selected to attend “battle school,” an academy for children and pre-teens believed to have innate gifts for strategy and warfare. The planet Earth is at war with a race of aliens nicknamed the “Buggers.” Ender’s the third child in his family, only allowed to be born because his brother Peter was too cruel for battle school and his sister Valentine was too passive. The high-ranking adults of the world think Ender may have the gifts necessary to save the world. In fact, it seems like they’re betting on it.

Once in the battle school, Ender is quickly isolated and pitted against the other students (mostly boys) in the school. The leaders at hand are seeking to make him a leader. He’s a tactical genius who tries to be civil but is ultimately suspicious of anyone who tries to be friendly. Against all odds, Ender gains friends among those the school leaders would deem his subordinates. He grows and develops skills. But he’s soon promoted to higher ranks, reinforcing just how much he is ruled by the adults around him. On the outside, Peter and Valentine are hatching their own plans to help the world… which may or may not involve Ender.

I did my very best to enjoy this book (which I consumed in audiobook format), but all in all the exposition blended in too much with the dialogue. Characters blended together, their speech often sounding the same. The book fell into the unfortunate science fiction stereotype of having too much action and not enough character development for the action to feel meaningful. There were few instances where Ender, his classmates, and siblings actually spoke as if they were the ages they were prescribed. Even genius children still sound like children. I would only recommend this book to those seeking to know more about a science fiction classic. But for someone looking to learn more about science fiction, I would advise them to stay away from Ender’s Game. It will leave you apathetic to Ender and the plight of his world.

My rating: 2/5 stars.

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Review: “Mask of Shadows” by Linsey Miller

Review: “Mask of Shadows” by Linsey Miller

A review by Amanda.

Sallot Leon is a gender-fluid teen who has survived by fighting for money and robbing nobles. A chance encounter with a noble lady leads Sal to an exciting and dangerous new life. While robbing the intriguing Lady Elise, Sal discovers a poster advertising auditions for a position with the Queen’s Left Hand – her elite team of guards and assassins. Anyone may try to join the auditioners; they need only bring proof of their skills.  This may be the only way for Sal to exact vengeance on the Lords and Ladies responsible for the destruction of Sal’s homeland.

The main character Sal was clever, sneaky, and incredibly self-aware. The gender-fluidity was written with care and grace. The story was entirely told from Sal’s perspective, and Sal instructed inquiring minds to address them based on their appearance – “she” and “her” when she was dressed in feminine attire, “he” and “him” when he was wearing masculine clothes, and “they” and “them” when their clothes were neutral. This may seem confusing, but the character was written in such a way that gender truly did not matter. Gender fluidity was regarded as an oddity in this book, and Sal does express frustration with bigoted behaviors, but most of the characters accepted Sal as-is after a simple explanation about preferred pronouns. Readers got to know Sal as just “Sal”; an intelligent and shy person with a morbid sense of humor, who got flustered when romance was involved. Sal was quite likable, if stubbornly single-minded, and readers will find themselves emotionally invested.

The supporting characters were varied and had their own agendas and agency, although several could benefit from more definition. The plot moved at a quick and steady pace, with a lot of action nicely balanced with drama and romance. The world-building was fairly simplistic which was not a detriment to the story, but more details would have been welcome.  Fans of Sarah J Maas’s Throne of Glass series, or Victoria Aveyard’s Red Queen series may enjoy this book.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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Review: “One Piece: Skypiea vol. 31-33” by Eiichiro Oda

Review:

A review by Hannah.

One Piece was started in 1997 and is continuing today. There are 81 volumes to date, which is why this series of reviews will be broken up into three volume books. From now on there will be spoilers for what happens in the rest of the series. You have been warned…

Eneru is trying to destroy the Sky Islands, in search of the endless Vearth. Vearth is what the Sky Islanders call earth or as we call “dirt.” There is only one person who can stop him and that is Luffy. Eneru has the power of lightning and mantra. Luffy is made of rubber and is a bit of an air head. Eneru never really had a chance.

There is a flashback about why the Shandians are fighting the Sky Islanders. Basically, they come from the island Jaya. The Knock Up Stream sent the Shandians into the air, ringing a giant golden bell all the way. The bell alerted the Sky Islanders, and they found the biggest collections of Vearth anyone on the Cloud Sea had ever seen. The Kami at the time quickly took over the island, kicked the altitude sickened Shandians out, and turned the former Jaya Island into Upper Yard. There has been war ever since.

The crew leaves Skypeia while running away from the natives in true pirate fashion. They had retrieved a bunch of gold from the ruins and thought that the natives would be angry with them for this. That’s not true, the natives haven’t assigned a worth to gold. It’s just shiny and yellow, apparently.

The Straw Hats land back in the Blue Sea. They meet another pirate crew and take part in the Davy Back Fight. This fight takes place in three rounds. A boat race, a ball game of sorts, and a brawl between the captains. The winner of each round gets to take a crew member of the opposing crew as their new crew. Cheating abounds and the crew lose Chopper in the first round. But they get him back in the second. Volume 33 leaves off with Luffy facing the other captain in a boxing match, declaring that he will win even if it kills him.

Overall I have always found the Skypiea arc to be kind of pointless and too coincidental for my taste. They only show up because Luffy is self centered and wanted to go up there. Then they just so happen to arrive at the same time that Eneru is putting the finishing touches on his “destroy everything” plan, and the civil war that has been raging for 200 years happens to kindof involve this guy they met a few days ago. Most of the other story arcs are entwined with the crew in a way that makes the what happens seem very important. This arc is more about setting things up for the future.

This is my last review of the One Piece arcs. If I haven’t convinced you of the great and wonderful adventure that is One Piece, then you are losing out. If you feel that it is too intimidating (it’s been around for twenty years), all I can say is that the effort is worth it. Watching these characters grow stronger and closer over the years has been a true delight.

A few things that you will miss if you do not continue the story: Robin’s secret and terrible past, Luffy’s family, a cyborg, a living skeleton, zombies,the crew gets separated, Amazons, the biggest war between marines and pirates that the world has ever seen, Zoro cutting a ship in half, Sanji flying, Nami manipulating weather, Ussop using killer plants, Chopper’s monster form, Robin summoning giant legs to crush everything in her path, and Luffy changing gears.

My rating: 3/5 stars.

Overall series rating: 5/5 stars.

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Review: “A Mad and Mindless Night” by Elizabeth Cole

Review: “A Mad and Mindless Night” by Elizabeth Cole

A review by Vanessa.

I was offered a review copy of this book by the author in exchange for an honest review. This book is set in an already existing series, but I was assured they were stand alones and you do not have to read previous books in order to enjoy others.

Elanora Morrison has a gift that has gotten her into a lot of trouble. She remembers everything. Her infallible memory and perfect recall, combined with her skill for scientific research, seemed like blessings when she met her husband Albert Morrison. But now they are the curse that keeps her under lock and key. Nora’s skills along with her husband’s innovation led them to create a highly valuable new form of communication. Their intent was to test it and sell the results to the government of England to aid them in their endeavors against their enemy, France. There is just one problem: Albert Morrison isn’t Albert Morrison anymore, and only Nora knows it. But he has told everyone that she is mad, and they believe it because he is a man. She has lost hope for escape, until one day an official from the government arrives to check on the progress of the project. Can Nora slip out of the confines of her locked attic room, and convince him to help her?

Ashley Allander is no government official. He is a scorned second son with a terrible reputation for torrid affairs and for ruining women; though many of the rumors are not true. He has no desire to play at being a spy, but when his older brother Bruce Allander, Lord Forrester, deigns to ask for his help he agrees. Bruce is a member of a highly secret organization of spies working for England, known as The Zodiac. Something has gone awry with Morrison’s project, and Bruce needs Ash to investigate. Ash would never admit it, but the role of hero is a tempting one. When he arrives at the estate and sees a woman standing on the roof near the window to an attic room, he is intrigued. Especially when he awakes to find the odd lady has snuck into his room, and begs him not to reveal that he even knows she exists. Are her wild stories true? Is something much more sinister brewing under the facade that is Albert Morrison? Perhaps together they can find out.

I totally enjoyed reading this book, and I will admit that I intend to seek out the rest of the Zodiac series because I believe they will be very fun reads. I was a bit worried at first that this novel would slip into the cliched and well worn story arc that can sometimes plague the historical romance genre, but the author definitely threw in enough twists to keep my interest. The character of Nora is very engaging, and not boringly typical at all. She is no wilting female ready to throw herself at the mercy of her savior. She is strong, incredibly clever, determined, and self-reliant. Though Ashley Allander does fit the mold of your typically misunderstood handsome rogue, the addition of his backstory is a very interesting twist on the “ruined woman” only with the gender roles turned upside down. In addition the romantic aspect was refreshing. There was no shy waif giving in to her desires for the man pursuing her. It was a determined and curious woman chasing her desire, and a handsome more experienced man giving in to his desire for her. Surrounded by a cast of engaging characters, who I only wish we could have learned more about, this was a very fun read.

My rating: 4/5 stars.

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