Guten tag, readers! I’ve got more top five goodness for you all, in the form of my favorite (completed) series that I have read. Standalone novels and longer series both have different pros and cons. While single books can get away with less development, plots must be more interesting, and writing quality must be as impressive as possible for the shorter amount of time the reader is exposed to it. Singular books can also be more abstract, seeing how they can be extended metaphors that would seem strange to stretch out as far as several novels. But a series is able to have- and is usually expected to have- as much depth as possible, in the world, in plot, and in characters. Thus, while standalones have the tough job of being as good as possible, series must consistently be good, and even improve with time, due the larger scope and chances the author has to work on his writing. So in a small tribute to the effort good writers put in for their series, this list will be the top five series of books I have read!

#5- The Mysterious Benedict Society by Trenton Lee Stewart

            This is one of the first series in this list I had read, for the clear reason that this book is focused more towards the younger crowds, though the fact that it’s on this list says something about the quality. This series follows the lives of four gifted children chosen by the eponymous Mr. Benedict, as they solve several conspiracies aimed at world domination. While the writing style is again for younger audiences, the story and characters more than make up for it, with the children being both realistically intelligent and naïve in equal measure. Mr. Benedict, by being both the “leader” of the organization and the adult that is most connected with the kids, is possibly the most interesting character, and even gets his own prequel novel, which is my favorite book in the series. The books, while expanding characters, also repeatedly changes the setting to keep things fresh, from a boarding school to a city to several different countries. While these books may not be for the Young Adult crowd, they're a wonderful series that you might want to get a sibling interested in.

#4- The Graceling Realm series by Kristin Cashore

            The best way I can describe this series is to put pre-series Katniss Everdeen in a position of political power and see how she does, in a fantasy setting that mixes idealism and cynicism in a blender just to see how it tastes. Each book focuses on a different female protagonist in several connected kingdoms in which Gracelings, people born with different-colored eyes and exceptional abilities, are both feared and respected. With a total of about ten different nations, conspiracies run rampant, creating interesting relations and plots. And with the three different protagonists, each book provides a new look upon these stories, from a woman who hates the complications of court intrigue and the position of the king’s killer Graceling niece, to the others who are terrified of the legacy of their monstrous fathers. The biggest flaw would have to be that the antagonists aren’t the strongest, as they get little onscreen time, and what they do have doesn’t match the buildup they are given. But the relationships between the characters are exceptional, and never gloss over either the problems or reactions that comes from two characters sharing a bond. This series is a wonderful read, and despite the flaws of the vilains, provide engaging stories for any reader.

#3- Young Wizards series by Diane Duane

            This series is the exception to the “completed” moniker that was stated in the beginning, as the books are still coming out, thought the next one won’t be released for more than a year. As well, this is the oldest series, starting a whopping thirty years ago, with no signs of ending. Nita Callahan and Kit Rodriguez have become wizards, tasked along with thousands of other wizards in preventing the death of the universes. In doing so, they learn the Speech, the language of creation, and meet with the builders of the worlds themselves, including the creator of death. These books get huge, quickly expanding from New York, to the ocean depths, to far off planets just beginning new life. Each location provides its own lore and plot, revolving around the Lone Power, the aforementioned creator of death. And while wizardry is an excuse to be crazy and a bit nonsensical when it comes to powers, the Speech's uses are laid out early on, and its rules are followed closely. Side characters are brought in and remain important, rarely getting left by the wayside just to keep the plot moving, which gives them expanded development and makes each relationship feel more substantial. Special mention goes to Nita's father, who in later books must deal with the fact that his family is in much deeper than he could imagine, but who then tries to work with his daughter to understand more of the new world he has found. Huge books, lots of characters, and wonderful magic makes this series of young wizards great for young adults.

#2- Skulduggery Pleasant by Derek Landy

            I had no idea what to think of this series when I had first picked it up. While the first book is an average, if positively sarcastic urban fantasy and mystery, the next books quickly change gears to become much darker and more violent, creating trauma and psychological problems by the handful. Stephanie Edgley was an average teen, except for the mansion she inherits from a dead uncle. While being forced to stay there the night, a man breaks in, only to be driven off by a living skeleton, the titular Skulduggery Pleasant. Stephanie forces him to bring her along with him, and they solve the mystery surrounding her uncles death, and later much, much more. Both of our main character are witty, snarky fellows, who will just as often make jabs at each other as commenting on their strange- and usually perilous- situations. Other characters range from psychotic killers, to killer-wannabes, to manipulative people who aren't satisfied with the status quo. Each of them probably has something wrong in the brain, which often gets exposed, either with a switch in narration, or with the nosing about of our protagonists. While the setting is cynical-with that list of characters, it has to be- it still keeps a bright enough atmosphere through the dialogue and naration, which are as snarky as our main characters. There's more magic in this one, and like the Young Wizards series it sticks to the rules, but still leaves enough wiggle room to create new situations and powers, seeing as how the two branches are basically "manipulate the four elements" and "something other than manipulating the elements". But along with the characters, these abilities get darker as the series progresses, especially when Necromancy becomes prominent. Everything is dark in this series, so light a candle and get to checking it out!

#1- Seven Realms series by Cinda Williams Chima

              Cinda Williams Chima has written two different series, both of which are very good. However, to remain fair, I chose to only showcase one of these series. Both of which also magic and wizardry, so no surprise there. The Seven Realms focus on the kingdom of the Fells, where magic is practiced by noble wizard families and the clans of the forest, usually in contention with each other. Raisa ana' Marianna is the heir to the throne, and feels pressure from both the clan on her father's side and from her mother and the High Wizard, who would like nothing more than for her to marry another wizard, forbidden by ancient laws and stories. On the opposite spectrum, Han Alister is trying to eke out a living for his family, both working in the clans and in the city. However, his legacy catches up with him, and he must find a way to survive in the cutthroat situations he is thrown into. The stories intertwine very nicely, as both character represent near-opposites both in social standing and in ideals, and the two of them affect each other's life without knowing it. Many of these seven realms get exposure too, though some have much shorter on-screen moments. Notable is the magic-hating southern kingdom, which clashes with the Fells' policies, and where the character must travel through in the second novel. The story shifts over time to be nearly completely focused on the noble classes, but has a better story for it. The magic system is once again upheld, and even pulls some tricks with how a character appears to bypass some restriction of magic. Court intrigue, magical mysteries, and conjoining narration creates a tight series that will have anyone interested the full four books.

         While many of you won't be so willing to pick up a whole series at once, I suggest that some of you grab the first books and give them a try, If you like them, you'll have a bunch of new books just waiting to be read! I'll see you all on Monday and Friday next week!

 TitleThe Bodies We Wear
Author: Jeyn Roberts 
  Pages: 368
 Publisher Random House
   Published: September 23, 2014           Ranking: 4/5    
     
People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven. Faye was only eleven when dealers forced Heam on her and her best friend, Christian. But Faye didn’t glimpse heaven—she saw hell. And Christian died. 
 
Now Faye spends her days hiding her secret from the kids at school, and her nights training to take revenge on the men who destroyed her life and murdered her best friend. But life never goes the way we think it will. When a mysterious young man named Chael appears, Faye's plan suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Chael seems to know everything about her, including her past. But too many secrets start tearing her world apart: trouble at school, with the police, and with the people she thought might be her friends. Even Gazer, her guardian, fears she's become too obsessed with vengeance. Love and death. Will Faye overcome her desires, or will her quest for revenge consume her?
A new, dangerous drug. Crime ridden neighborhoods crawling with dealers and prostitutes. A breakdown of law and order. The question  becomes, is this the book I'm reviewing for the week, or ABC's next teledrama?

The Bodies We Wear zips along at a lightning quick pace, one not out of step with shows like CSI or Criminal Minds. Also like a TV show, it took a bit of time for me to warm up to the plot. The beginning of the book is difficult, Faye is largely unrelatable and unlikable, the plot twist is predictable, and plot is too focused and simple to carry the book on its own.I was pretty sire for the first few chapters that I was going to get to write a scathing review for the first time in a while.

But, plot twist! The second half of the book had me pleasantly surprised. Faye becomes more human as we see her interact with more characters  This development becomes critical to the plot as a whole as I was ready to forgive just about any action she did by gathering her into my arms for a much needed hug, I got to experience fury or sorrow or joy while reading, meaning I understood and connected with her in a way nearly impossible to pull off. This worked for many of the other characters too- I truly cared about secondary characters and their stories whether they played a major plot like Gazer or appeared for only a few pages like Jessica. 

The plot also switched from a very simplistic 'I need revenge' to a more complicated question of how to we solve evil without becoming evil ourselves. It's not a question tackled often today nor is the general topic of addition/bias against addicts,  but this book pulls it off masterfully, leaving plenty of questions for long after the last page has been closed. 

Somethings get better as time (or in this case, chapters) wear on. The Bodies We Wear is beautifully written and wonderfully engaging, but really only after you get past the first part of the book. 

Do yourself a favor and stick it out; you'll be glad you did. 



 TitleThe Terminals
Author: Royce Scott Buckingham 
  Pages: 288
 Publisher St. Martin’s Press
   Published: October 14, 2014           Ranking: 4/5    
     
When 19 year-old Cam Cody is diagnosed with a terminal illness, he expects to spend the rest of his shortened life in an adjustable bed. Then one night, a mysterious man offers Cam one chance to join a covert unit of young "terminals." They are like him, only they spend the last year of their lives executing exciting and dangerous missions to make the world a better place.

With nothing to lose, Cam is in.

A helicopter flies Cam to a secret tropical location, where he's tossed out with a parachute and an instruction manual. After a rough landing, he meets his nine teammates. The other terminals don't seem sick; Zara is beautiful, Donnie is an amazing athlete, and Calliope sings like a bird. He soon learns that they're enhanced with an experimental super steroid TS-8, which suppresses their illnesses' symptoms and heightens their physical and mental abilities. It's also fatal if taken for more than a year.

Cam joins this extreme spy team, and they begin pulling dangerous operations in multiple countries. As his teammates fall around him, he starts to receive cryptic messages from a haggard survivor of last year's class hiding in the forest. She reveals that the program isn't what it claims to be...

Considering that I never get to the movies these days, books seem to my primary form of entertainment. And to me, that mean's I'm not missing much. You pay about the same for a new book as a movie ticket these days; and half the movies out seem to be poorly adapted books anyways. SO if you, like me, are escaping into books instead of movies, The Terminals might be the perfect action-flick substitute.

The Terminals is one of those books that zips along at lightening speed, barely pausing to catch its breath along the way. We go from parachuting out of a plane in the first few chapters to rescuing hostages from pirates soon thereafter. Additionally, underneath all of the excitement is a dark undercurrent, urging the story forward as we try to find out exactly what sinister things lie behind this sinister organization. The book doesn't try to make anything pretty or easy- this is a dangerous adventure and no one is invincible. As readers, we're left never quite knowing what will happen next but continually waiting for the other shoe to drop.

To be honest, the plot (like most action movies) is what carries the entire story. The introduction of 10 main characters hurt all of their characterization; it became nearly impossible to remember who each of them were, let alone care about them as individuals. The romances between the characters seemed contrived and deaths were pretty desensitized. While there were absolutely a few moments when one character might have shown, the feeling as a whole while reading was that of having to flip back and forth in the book just to refresh my memory as to someone's name.

I liked this book but not for the reasons I generally enjoy stories. I didn't forge any lasting connections with the characters or fall in love with a romance or even allow myself to be surprised by a wonderful bit of character development. I enjoyed it because, despite in missing all of that, the novel is fun, crafty, and wonderfully plotted. For those people looking to escape into a totally different world and come back feeling as if no time has passed at all, this is, without a doubt, the book for you.

For the rest looking for a new character to befriend? Might e time to look elsewhere.      

TitleLoop
Author: Karen Akins
  Pages: 336
  Series: Loop (Book 1)
 PublisherSt. Martin's Griffin
   Published: October 21, 2007            Ranking: 5/5    
     
At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her. 

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future. 
It's rare that I get to the end of a book and think OH THERE BETTER BE A SEQUEL TO THIS. Because let's face it. There's far too many bad books out there that should not try to stretch themselves into trilogies. Quit while you're ahead.

Not this book.

Loop is one of those books that grabs your attention from the very beginning and runs away with it to the very last page. (Few things are as great for a first page as having your heroine land in the midst of a battle without any clue as to how she got there.) The story only gets better from there as Atkins manages to create an entirely new world, complete with time traveling, futuristic gadgets, and , of course, a plot that spans multiple eras. This world building feels like it's on the same level as something J.K. Rowling would do; completely impossible and yet utterly believable because of the littlest details.

And then you have the characters. Bree is one of those people you want to love, not because she's doing everything correctly but because you understand why she's doing everything she is. She feels like an old friend. And Finn.... While I have to admit that I'm not generally a romance person, these two together were perfectly adorable, infuriating and all together just perfect. Watching them interact has that same intoxicating, tantalizing pleasure of other famous, quarreling couples like Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy, or Beatrice and Benedick from Much Ado About Nothing

This book has something for everyone, from romance to action to science fiction. You'll tear right through it and, like me, be left eagerly waiting for the next.

Is it March yet?


This book is a ARC given to me by St. Martin's Griffin! While I love getting free books and am eternally grateful to the author and the publisher, all above opinions are mine and mine alone. 

Both the synopsis of the book and the picture of its cover come from Amazon. I mean absolutely no copyright infringement and use both, with proper credit given, under fair use policies.  



TitleUnwind
Author: Neal Shusterman
  Pages: 335
  Series: Unwind (Book 1)
 PublisherSimon and Schuster
   Published: November 6, 2007            Ranking: 4/5    
     
Connor, Risa, and Lev are running for their lives.

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child "unwound," whereby all of the child's organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn't technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.
            Since wars have been fought over rights of the people, I guess it’s only fair for there to be a war based on the rights of the unborn. Unwind by Neal Shusterman deals with the repercussions of this kind of war, based on the compromise of two sides, pro- and anti- abortion. With both an interesting premise and varied and independent characters, Unwind delivers a high-stakes story of what life means. Though this book came out seven years ago, I decided to do this review due to the fact that the series, now four books long, was completed about a week ago. If this review tickles your fancy, I hope you’ll feel like picking up the whole series!
            The Heartland War was fought between the Pro-Life and Pro-Choice forces, and only ended with the signing of the Unwind Accord, which allowed both government orphanages and parents to retroactively “abort” their children between 13 and 18, with their parts being used as transplants for people in need. The story focuses on three teenagers, Connor, Risa, and Levi, each with different reasons for being unwound, and their survival outside of the system. The alternate world set up by the novel is in several ways different to ours, such as the biological and medical advances, and new terms for people and places. The teenagers travel across the country, meeting those both sympathetic and antagonistic to their problems, and creating a discussion on whether a person split apart is still alive, and what even constitutes “alive” for a sentient being. Happily, while it offers several opinions on the latter question, it never leaves it answered, letting the reader draw their own conclusions. Each character, whether or not they are sympathetic themselves, acts both intelligently and in character through a situation, which also creates the plots of everyone trying to outmaneuver the others, creating more problems and conspiracies. With all of everything going on, the main characters- who each get a chance with the narrative- each follow their ideologies, sometimes with the conflicting sides bringing those ideas crashing down. The weight and effect this brings to everyone’s choices is great. One fact you might want to know is that the effects and ideas of unwinding, as well as other portions, are a bit strong, so the squeamish might feel uncomfortable.
            Altogether, the world created in Unwind is both large and populated by opinionated characters, coloring a story and argument about human life. Like I said before, this series has recently finished, so I recommend picking up the first book to see if you are interested. See you all Friday!

-- Lucy 

            Bonjourno, readers! While doing some scavenging on the internet, I learned of a new movie adaptation being made for an ongoing series I have been reading for quite a few years now, titled The Last Apprentice series or The Wardstone Chronicles, for UK readers. After I saw the trailer and read a small summary, I’m… interested, to be sure.
            The Last Apprentice books are based on the story of Tom Ward, who is given to be the apprentice of an elderly Spook by his father, who has been finding jobs for all of his children. The Spook’s duty is to handle any number of supernatural creatures of the darkness, from witches to wights and dark gods themselves. As Tom Ward grows into the role, he finds that being the seventh son of a seventh son is the least strange thing about his life and legacy. The books are dark, with death and cynical characters appearing wherever the Spook and Tom go, and the stakes quickly rising with each installment. So I’m invested in the series, and I watch the trailer online, with the adapted name of Seventh Son:

       
         Let's start analyzing this, shall we? The big draw for me of the novels was that the Spook and Tom always felt alone in their responsibility, as the only people locally able to fight creatures of the darkness. Even in later books, the number goes up at most by five, and that includes people who are trying, but don't know enough about anything to get something done. In this, the Spook was a part of an ancient order of knights, who apparently gallivanted around until all but the Spook died. While this still gives the "alone" idea, the order thing doesn't quite sit well with the feeling that the Spook only has what he can procure and purchase himself, instead of a seemingly large base/knight sanctuary. The creepy, ominous threats also are left out, to seemingly be replaced by action scenes that a young apprentice from a farm family shouldn't live through- though this probably happens with most adaptations- it's not easy to make something interesting on paper as good on a screen. The age-up is also understandable, since while Tom is younger than seen in the trailer, it's much easier to have a good teenage actor than a mediocre child actor. I would have to say that the two things that irk me about this adaptation are the villain changes and the... Wikipedia page. The first is crazy, as the initial antagonist of The Last Apprentice is an undead witch who was released from confinement and begins to roam the town, aided by the living relatives of a beast-man and another witch. Here, it's an attractive woman who claims to be some sort of ruler of the darkness. I understand that since they won't be adapting all nine or so books, they have to up the stakes quickly. But really, if the novel gives a new concept for a villain that can still be threatening and useful in action scenes, why not use it to set the film apart from others? The Wiki page is weirder. It lists the film as a loose adaptation of the novel, which quickly raises the big question of why they picked up the rights for the novel in the first place. If you put in all of the major changes from both this list and the trailer, it would seem cheaper to just make your own franchise so you could control more about it. Instead, they grabbed a name that doesn't fit at all with the action-oriented plot and scenes, which just annoys the original fans. And if they're looking for name recognition, this series isn't quite on par with The Hunger Games in terms of popularity, so they wouldn't bring in as many fans. Weird changes to a interesting series that makes it seem sort of generic, but what can you do really? It's show business, baby.
         No plans for next week's piece yet (are you surprised at this point?), but it'll be up on Friday, as usual. See everyone Monday and Friday!
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