Welcome to the BLUE edition of mini reviews!
And if you’re wondering why it’s blue this is for several, probably very clever, reasons including (A) you know that song about A Blue Christmas??? Well I’m being seasonal; and (B) also these books are all somewhat blue (you have to squint for The Amateurs but STILL), and (C) they all made me kind of blue. #awkward
I’M SO CLEVER.
And as always with my reviews — even if they don’t all work for me, that doesn’t mean these books might not pique your attention. And you want to read them: BLESS YOU AND HAVE FUN.
(Thanks to Allen & Unwin, Hot Keys, and Scholastic for these surprise review-copies!)
THE FEVER CODE (MAZER RUNNER #0.5) BY JAMES DASHNER
★★★✩✩ // published October 2016
All will be revealed in the fifth book in James Dashner’s #1 New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series. This is the story that fans all over the world have been waiting for—the story of how Thomas and WICKED built the Maze. You will not want to miss it.
Once there was a world’s end.
The forests burned, the lakes and rivers dried up, and the oceans swelled. Then came a plague, and fever spread across the globe. Families died, violence reigned, and man killed man.Next came WICKED, who were looking for an answer. And then they found the perfect boy. The boy’s name was Thomas, and Thomas built a maze. Now there are secrets. There are lies. And there are loyalties history could never have foreseen. This is the story of that boy, Thomas, and how he built a maze that only he could tear down. All will be revealed.
Well, I admit…this was disappointing. I absolutely LOVE The Maze Runner so I was really excited to have (A) more time with Thomas, and (B) GET MORE ANSWERS IN THIS PREQUEL. I got more Thomas but more answers? NEGATIVE. I basically knew all everything that this book talked about already from reading the original trilogy. #disappointed.
NOTE: This review is spoiler free!! BUT HOWEVER THE BOOK ITSELF IS NOT. Do not read the book unless you’ve read the original Maze Runner trilogy! Otherwise it’ll spoil all the things.
- It was so WONDERFUL being back with all the characters!! And they all start off as smol frightened children, so that was squishily adorable. I mean, I’ve seen these boys grow up and survive near death and so getting to see them as SMOL CHILDREN was actually the best.
- Plus more time with Thomas & Co is always my favourite. We’re back with Minho, and Newt, and Alby and Gally and Frypan and CHUCK. Oh and Teresa. Lowkey not sure if she’s evil or not.
- We do get some more details on the backstory! Like I said, it’s not new, per se. But it was still nice seeing how Thomas/Teresa got their telepathy link and seeing what WICKED looked like originally and watching the kids grow up as the Maze is being built and the Cranks are Cranking or whatever they do in their spare time when not destroying things. #nice
- I found out Thomas real name!! AND I’M NOT GOING TO TELL YOU. HA! Although the scene where they force little-baby-five-year-old-not-Thomas to forget his original name and take on this IS ACTUALLY HEARTBREAKING. How dare you torture a five year old. Come meet my fist.
- It was actually kind of boring?? They just sort of…stood around and did tests and said “what is the meaning of life” and ate bad food. And I hate saying it was boring because I loved the original trilogy so much. But I just keep looking at this book and saying “HELLO WHAT’S THE POINT OF YOUR FACE???” Which is probably rude and I swear my mother raised me with manners but, ya know, I have my off days.
- They said Thomas “built” the Maze, but how? I still am not sure. He spent time “building” and “working” on it but hooooow.
- I still don’t know HOW the Maze finds a cure. They map their brains or something BUT THEN WHAT. Is this just a conspiracy theory to kill a bunch of (extremely good looking according to the movies omg) boys because I don’t see how running around a maze actually gives you a cure.
- I JUST WANTED THOMAS TO ACTUALLY DO SOMETHING. But he was a really passive character compared to his awesomeness in the actual trilogy.
THE BEGINNING WOODS BY MALCOLM MCNEILL
★★✩✩✩ // published September 2016
A MYSTERY NO ONE CAN SOLVE
The Vanishings started without warning. People disappearing into thin air – just piles of clothes left behind. Each day, thousands gone without a trace.
A BABY NO ONE WANTED
Max was abandoned in a bookshop and grows up haunted by memories of his parents. Only he can solve the mystery of the Vanishings.
A SECRET THAT COULD SAVE THE FUTURE
To find the answers, Max must leave this world and enter the Beginning Woods. A realm of magic and terror, life and death.
But can he bear the truth – or will is destroy him?
A STORY THAT WILL TAKE YOU TO ANOTHER WORLD
Greater than your dreams. Darker than your fears. Full of more wonder than you could ever desire. Welcome to the ineffable Beginning Woods…
I actually have no idea what is going on in this book. It’s a “it’s me not you, darling” scenario because this just really isn’t my kind of story. I don’t do well with the old-style-whimsical-airy-fairy-tale vibe. I GET CONFUSED. I need solid action and solid answers…the nonsense and improbability leave me a bit dizzy. I’M SORRY, BOOK.
- The writing is pretty! If…entirely confusing but shh, we’ll get to that later. I can still appreciate that it’s beautifully done. LIKE LIVING IN FAIRYLAND.
- It features a boy named Max, who is all elbows and sharp teeth. Who’s probably an evil fairy child. So cute.
- There are many dark creatures. WHICH IS FUN. Dragons! Ghosts! Witches! Scientists! (Shh, the last one is a dark creature too, probably.)
- The formatting was epic. There are little illustrations (ESPECIALLY CUTE ONES OF DRAGONS!!) and the text and font often change and explode across the page and I love that! It gives the actual words emotion!
- Max really loved books! His life was: reading > doing anything else. I relate.
- I was deathly bored. The writing is like a turtle doing the backstroke in molasses. AND I HAVE THE ATTENTION SPAN OF A GNAT. So. This is awkward. And the style was all “tell tell tell” like a good ol’ fairy tale…so I get that it was the style. And if you’re good with that style you should be fine!
- What was going on? Who can say. It was confusing as soon as Max went into fairyland for me.
- Max was an insufferable little gnat. He finds out he’s adopted when he’s 12 and he’s all suddenly “I NEED TO FIND MY REAL PARENTS AND I HATE MY CURRENT PARENTS.” The kid knows no chill. He goes from 0% to 100% hate within like one page. And his adopted-parents are really sweet?? He’s happy when they Vanish?? Someone get me a pot so I can put this little brat in and turn him into soup.
- Remember how this has dragons? WELL THEY’D RATHER HUNT/KILL/DISSECT THE DRAGONS AND I CANNOT EVEN. #EqualRightsForDragons #DragonsHaveFeelingsToo
- IT’S VERY LONG. It’s nearly 500 pages and it’s a middle-grade book and it was tedious and the plot just waffles around without aim half the time so I had to bathe in coffee to stay focused.
THE AMATEURS BY SARA SHEPARD
When Aerin Kelly was eleven, she idolised her seventeen-year-old sister, Helena, and they did everything together. They made Claymation movies and posted them to YouTube. They made fun of Windmere-Carruthers, the private school they attended, they invented new flavours for their parents’ organic ice cream shop, and they dressed up their golden retriever, Buster. But when Helena went into senior year things started to change. Rather than being Aerin’s inseparable sister, she started to push her away. Then, on a snowy winter’s day, Helena vanished.
Four years later, Helena’s body is found. Wracked with grief and refusing to give up on her sister, Aerin spends months trying to figure out what exactly happened to Helena and who killed her. But the police have no leads. A young, familiar officer named Thomas wants to help and suggests she checks out a website called Case Not Closed. Hesitantly, she posts, and when teenagers Seneca and Maddox show up on her doorstep offering to help investigate she accepts in desperation. Both have suffered their own losses and also posted to the site with no luck, so they are hoping this case might be the one they crack. But as their investigation begins, it seems that maybe it’s no accident that they are all together, and that maybe the crimes have something – or someone – in common.
I’m nearly extra sure that these 4 teens are just about the worst mystery solvers in the history of ever. And even the title says so??? The Amateurs??? So like even the title has no hope in them. Oh dear.
- The writing style was quite good! It was engaging and easy to read and had some really great lines!
- It did feature a diverse cast. Seneca was biracial, and Maddox’s adopted sister was Korean.
- There were lots of twists in the plot. I LIKE THAT. Because who wants to guess the murderer on the first page!?? Not me. I want so many twists that liquorice is jealous and this did deliver.
- These teens were VERY VERY BAD at being detectives. They’re actually just a bunch of kids who hang out on online forums and decide to solve a murder mystery over the holidays. But their mistakes went from “aw that’s a silly blunder!” to “did you leave our brain in the blender this morning” and that’s not great.
- Are we SOLVING FOR MURDER or just thinking about who to make out with??? THE GOLDEN QUESTION.
- It features internet friendship gone WRONG. Seneca teams up with her BFF internet pal, Maddy, to solve this mystery on the weekend. BUT MADDY IS ACTUALLY A BOY. So I don’t think he intentionally catfished her but (A) what 17 year old boy goes by “Maddy” and (B) how could they be friends for yeras and have this “accidental” misunderstanding?
- Maddox/Maddy was awful. He’s the “nERD WHO TURNED INTO A HANDSOME JOCK!” trope and has to stop himself from saying things like “well other girls would love to hang out with me” when Seneca gets mad that she’s been mislead to his identity. He’s very conceited and his attitude sucks. And he constantly keeps things from Seneca that make no sense for him to not say. He just doesn’t bother mentioning them till looooool MORE BIG MISUNDERSTANDINGS AND STUPIDITY ENSUE.
- I spent the whole time reading about Seneca and thinking of this dude from The Hunger Games:
- There’s a lot of coincidences. Like Seneca’s interested in this certain cold case and just HAPPENS to have an internet friend in that town and that internet friend JUST HAPPENS to know the family involved and JUST HAPPENS to have another internet friend who’s into solving crimes nearby AND IT JUST HAPPENS to have threads that relate to Seneca’s own mother’s murder case and —
- And then a random guard called out the incompetence of the foursome quite easily.
“Also, if you think she was killed in December, why would I have called her in January?” He rolled his eyes. “You people are total amateurs.”
- Ya mate. We all are getting that vibe.
- Around page 183, Sherlock Holmes himself had a conniption and died. I mean, maybe. If he was reading this.