Saturday, April 30, 2016

Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

Fires of Invention (Mysteries of Cove, #1)Fires of Invention by J. Scott Savage

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review copy provided by Netgalley

This was a most unusual mixture of science fiction, dystopia, and fantasy. In the underground city of Cove, where technological advancement has been brought to an utter and complete stop, Trenton is at odds with himself. He is a mechanical whiz with a penchant for seeing potential improvements to his city's machinery and equipment, but also a devout believer in the city philosophy that curiosity, creativity, and inventiveness brought about the downfall of mankind everywhere except for Cove.

Trenton deals with a heavy sense of self-loathing as his mind continues to create while his sense of duty tells him that he should be able to suppress his creative urges. Into this mix comes Kallista Babbage, the only daughter of infamous inventor, Leo Babbage. She's not an easy sort of personality to be around, having lived most of her life as a defensive loner. She is a strong individual, hellbent on vindicating her father's work and restoring his reputation, which is is in ruins after an explosion that supposedly killed him and a number of residents in an apartment building where he was fixing a water heater.

Though their initial meeting is brought about by happenstance and Trenton is understandably resistant to being associated with Kallista, the two characters begin to work together when Trenton's mother prevents him from receiving an assignment to become a mechanic and he finds himself unable to pursue the career path that he has aspired to for as long as he can remember. What ensues is whirlwind adventure wherein Trenton and Kallista discover information that breaks down their previously held perceptions about their city and its beliefs. There is great risk and dire consequences for their behavior, but as information leads to inspiration and inspiration leads to invention, they both realize that there is no turning back for either of them.

This is a beautiful story, one that will leave readers both reeling and thoughtful. Characters are complex and multi-dimensional, and themes such as trust as friendship are as central to the plot as the "steam-punk" mechanical drive of its protagonists. I was more than a little impressed with this story as a whole. I can't wait to get my hands on the next volume in this middle grade series. This is sure to be a hit with the upper middle grade crowd as well as the young adult audience.

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Thursday, April 14, 2016

Scrap City by D.S. Thornton

Scrap CityScrap City by D.S. Thornton

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Review copy provided by Netgalley

This book sucked me in and stole hours of sleep, something I don't get enough of as is, but I don't hold that against it because it gave me hours of pleasure in return. It was hardly typical of the fantasy genre with the overabundance of robot-like characters called Scrappers, but this was a worthwhile read in the fantasy genre.

Jerome Barnes is a protagonist that comes with a lot of baggage. His mother and his younger brother, Max, died tragically in an accident and Jerome blames himself. As a result, he isolates himself from others as he has lost all faith in the dependability of relationships. His father is dealing with the loss by throwing himself into his work as a real estate agent, making Jerome feel even more isolated.

The story springs out of Jerome tagging along on one such real estate deal, as his father attempts to convince the town junkman to sell his junkyard to a developer. While at the junkyard, he meets a mechanical boy named Arkie and is drawn into a secret world that exists at the junkyard.

This book really had me hooked from fairly on. At times, Jerome was hard to take since he puts on such a flinty exterior, treating Cici, a girl who tirelessly tries to be friends with him, like a nuisance, but you can tell through it all that he is just a kid dealing with a bad situation in the only way he knows how.

The Scrapper world of Smithytowne is definitely the most alluring part of this story. It has a Hogwarts-like appeal,a world that exists alongside the rest of the world, yet remains entirely undetected. There is a magical element in what brings the Scrappers to life, but it's a minimal piece of the story. Mostly, the story is centered on equal parts mystery and adventure as Jerome becomes more entangled in the world of the Scrappers and the effort to save the junkyard that Smithytowne lies beneath from what turns out to be an evil developer.

While I don't read stories like this often, I was impressed by this from start to finish, and I am certainly going to add it to my library collection as soon as I can. I recommend that elementary and middle school libraries all do the same. If you don't, you're missing out. This was a real pleasure to read.

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