Invictus || Time Traveling Teenage Thieves

Invictus Book Review Image
This image is derivative of “Silver Vintage Mist Overlay” by Pink Sherbet Photography from Utah, USA. “Silver Vintage Mist Overlay” is CC BY 2.0

33152795Title: Invictus

Author: Ryan Graudin

Published: September 26, 2017

Genre: Young Adult Science Fiction

Synopsis: Far is the son of a gladiator and a professional time traveler. The first baby born outside of time. Top of his class. At least Far was, before his failed final exam shatters Far’s dreams of following in his time traveling mother’s footsteps faster than his cousin’s gelato can melt.

Far’s only hope is a handwritten note from an unknown sender promising him a second chance. Far’s present is not a time of second chances. The sender could be anyone, yet Far knows this is the sole remaining possibility to fulfill his time traveling dream.

Bluejay Feather

Review: This was a great light read to pick-up between the dense epic fantasy novels I’ve been reading and the additional ones I’m planning to read in the future.

That said, the novel itself contains several common time travel tropes. Having consumed my share of time travel related media, the world-building and plot twists, for the most part, weren’t all that surprising.

The heart of this novel was instead the characters and its addictive nature. I’ve been in a bit of a reading slump as of late, but I found this to be a hard to put down read.

While I do stand by what I said about most of the plot’s elements being ones I’ve seen before, there was one plot-twist that surprised me. This has more to do with this twist introducing tropes from a sub-genre that I didn’t expect to be incorporated into this novel than anything else.

Still, mixing sub-genres is a legitimate strategy, and the details of this twist fell into place once the author explained it.

Returning my attention to the characters, they have a great dynamic that only tends to come about in third-person-multiple point-of-view novels (which this is). Funnily enough, this is a characteristic I’ve noticed also reoccurs in novels centering around a heist. This novels characters also happens to be thieves. I don’t know what it says about fictional criminals that they have such great group dynamics.

This novel is one of those hard to pull off cases where the many points of view remained distinct and never got confusing despite the several main characters and the frequent shift in perspective.

This leads me to another great aspect of this novel: it is easy to follow. So many time travel novels have timelines that are difficult to keep track of. I didn’t have that problem at all with the main story here. I remained clear on what was happening in the story itself even throughout times when the characters weren’t sure themselves.

The other greatest aspect of this book was that the main characters have a domesticated red panda. Too bad domesticated red pandas don’t exist. The rest of us will have to keep observing from afar.

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Rating: This book was great fun, but it wasn’t anything revolutionary. 4 out of 5 blue jays. If you’re looking for a fast paced time travel heist novel this might be the book for you.

4 blue jays

Have you read or plan on reading Invictus? What’s your favorite time travel trope? Are red pandas cute or aren’t they cute?

Share your thoughts in the comments below!

Please add a disclaimer if your comment contains spoilers.

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May 2016 Wrap-up

Monthly Wrap-Up (1)

In the month of May I read a total of eight books. Some of these I really liked, and some I thought were just okay.

Reading

25106755Short Synopsis: When a faerie wakes up from a long slumber it’s up to a teenage girl to save everyone.

Thoughts: My favorite aspect of this book is its atmosphere. The thought of this small town in modern times where they’re the only ones who know faeries exist was such an interesting concept.

What kept me from loving this book is that I had a hard time connecting to the main character, who I felt was too much like many other heroines I’ve read about, and thought the pacing was a little too slow at the beginning.

Rating: 3 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: Sequel to a retelling of 1001 and One Nights.

Thoughts: I have a hard time deciding how I feel about this book.

On one hand, I liked how we were shown more of the magic system, and it departed more from what I know of the original story it’s retelling of. (Though I have not read the book it’s a retelling of, so someone who has read it should feel free to correct me if I’m wrong.)

What makes me so conflicted is that I didn’t care about what was happening as I read it. This distance I felt from the story surprises me because I don’t remember feeling this way about the first book. Maybe it has something to do with when I was reading it?

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

25746699Short Synopsis: A young woman named Hope is unable to be remembered for more than a minute.

Note: Advanced copy provided by the publisher, but opinions are my own.

Thoughts: I’ve written a full review of this one. There were things I really liked and things that fell short.

Rating: 

3.5 blue jays

26252859Short Synopsis: The god Apollo is cast out of Olympus and turned into an ordinary teenage boy.

Thoughts: This book was hilarious! I liked it a lot. I might write a full review, but am having trouble putting my thoughts on this book into words.

Rating: 4 blue jays

26864835Short Synopsis: The sequel to Wolf By Wolf. An alternate history World War II novel.

Note: Advanced copy provided by publisher, but thoughts are my own.

Thoughts: Really liked it. One chapter left me close to tears. Full review to come closer to the release date.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

24876258Short Synopsis: In a world where people live in spires and cats are intelligent a group of unlikely heroes must defend their home from invaders.

Thoughts: It took me a long time to read this book. Part of this is that I was traveling, and another part is that the book is over 600 pages long. The main reason, however, is that this book has so many elements it takes a while to understand what is happening.

The book was a lot of fun, but I’m not sure I’ve come to care about the characters enough to read the next one.

Rating: 

3.5 blue jays

227658Short Synopsis: Girl from a frontier town in Indiana must leave to find help to save the children in her town from a diphtheria epidemic.

Thoughts: This was such a fun concept, but I felt it was hard at times to care about the kids dying back at the village because the reader didn’t know them very well.

The main character, Jessie, leaves her town at the beginning of the story and their aren’t any strong side characters accompanying Jessie.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

16131489Short Synopsis: The third book in the 5th Wave Trilogy.

Thoughts: Around half-way through I stopped reading and started skimming this book. Normally, I wouldn’t bother finishing, but since I’d already gotten so far in this trilogy I decided to see it through.

There were a lot of gaps in logic, I stopped caring about most of the characters, and the writing, particularly from Cassie’s perspective, sometimes made me cringe.

I will give it this though: the book is very addictive, and I finished it very quickly.

Rating: 

2.5 blue jays

Writing

I didn’t meet my goal of finishing my rewrite of my epic fantasy work in progress this month, but wrote around 10,000 words. I have around 20,000 words left before it is complete making it so that I estimate it is going to be around 10,000 words longer than I thought. Meaning it will be about 90,000 words in total. It’s currently 73,000 words long.

Traveling

In May I attended Bookexpo America in Chicago. You can read about my experiences in parts one and two of my blog posts.

BEA 2016 Experiences Part 1: I fail at traveling

This post will be detailing my experiences at Bookexpo America 2016 held at McCormick Place in Chicago from May 11 to May 13th. This post will cover the day I was in Chicago before the event, and the first day of BEA.

The decision for me to go to BEA was a last minute one, or as last minute as a decision can be when someone decides to go on a trip to a place no where near where they live. I am a university student, and my exams started not long after I decided to go on this trip and did not end until just before I was about to leave. This left me with little time to plan.

I figured this would be okay because my traveling companion was someone who had grown up in Chicago and had attended BEA in a previous year. This was a mistake.

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The view of Chicago from above at night.

I arrived in Chicago by plane late at night. The first thing that struck me was that it was not nearly as cold as I’d expected. I had visited Chicago before in the winter, but not in spring.

I packed just about all the cold weather clothes I own which, while admittedly is not very many, made my suitcase significantly more full than I would have liked. It also resulted in me removing an umbrella to fit in more winter clothes. Should have kept the umbrella, left the clothes.

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Picture of McCormick Place the day I arrived in Chicago.

My traveling companion and I awoke the next morning convinced we were late. We found our way to the convention center only to discover there was hardly anyone there. We knew we were in the right place because of all the book related signs and people setting up, but couldn’t figure out why so few people would be there until we realized the event didn’t start until tomorrow.

We’d arrived in Chicago a day early.

Admittedly, this was as much my fault as it was her fault. I never should have left all the planning to her even if I was busy with exams. Besides, the extra day gave us time to explore Chicago.

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Picture taken outside the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry.

The two of us opted to spend the day at the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry. It’s so big we didn’t have the chance to see much of the museum though it was still fairly early when we got there and we stayed until closing.

It was here that I came to the realization that the vague memories I have of running through and gaping at what I thought to be a giant toy submarine as a small child, was not a toy at all.

What I was actually remembering was the museum’s authentic WWII submarine.

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Leaving the museum.

After leaving the museum my companion wanted to take me to one of her favorite restaurants in Chicago. As we were on our way there, our driver informed us that the restaurant had closed down a few months before. We ate at a pizza chain we’d heard good things about, but that they don’t have in our city instead.

This left us in the middle of downtown Chicago. By the time we finished eating the rain had finally let up, so we walked around the city and took some pictures.

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Site seeing in downtown Chicago.

The next morning we woke up and were on time for the BEA blogger conference we’d signed up for. I only stayed for two panels because I was too excited for the event itself, which overlapped with the conference, but the two I did go to were interesting.

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The “Making the Right Connections: Publishers and Bloggers” Panel. Moderated by Stephanie Brown of nobsbookreviews.com with panelists Molly Brouillette, the Associate Director of Publicity for Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group, Stephanie Sinclair of cuddlebuggery.com, Lizzy Mason, the Director of Publicity for Bloomsbury Children’s Books, and Kristin Hackett of superspacechick.com.

The fist panel I went to talked about the logistics of requesting advanced copies from publishers. I learned a lot about when it’s okay to not review a book a blogger has accepted an ARC of, and how to turn people down easily when a blogger is not interested.

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The “Creative Content: From Ideas to Tools” panel. Moderated by Meg Morley of Cuddlebuggery.com with panelists Gillian Berry of The Art of Young Adult, and Writer of Wrongs, Ashley Evans of www.nosegraze.com, Samantha from Thoughts on Tomes, and Amanda of The Bookcraft.

The second panel I attended discussed how different platforms allow for bloggers to be creative in different ways, and how bloggers should chose the platforms that best allow them to express their creativity and brand. It was interesting to hear from individuals who use such different platforms (from Instagram, to YouTube, to WordPress) to discuss the same topic: books.

For the rest of the day I was too excited to take many pictures to document what I was doing, but suffice to say I was waiting in a lot of lines and talked to the people in those lines who (not so coincidentally) often happened to be a fan of whatever book we were waiting in line for.

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Me flipping through Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. The background is the outside of McCormick Place. Note: Book provided by the publisher. 

The book I wanted most being given out on day one was Blood for Blood by Ryan Graudin. It was being given out in the form of a dice game where people role a dice to win an ARC. The person in front of me in line saw that I wanted it so badly she agreed to give me her copy if she won it. It worked out rather nicely because she won the book I wanted and I won the book she wanted.

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Picture I took of my new acquisitions at the end of day one. Note: Books provided by their publishers. 

One thing I learned about myself from this event is that I am supper picky when it comes to books. Many of the people there probably ended up with around three times the amount of books as I did, but I was trying to be honest with myself and knew that if I randomly grabbing copies of everything I saw I wouldn’t read most of what I got. Also, I didn’t want to have to pay to ship a bunch of books home I would never read.

Even still, several of the books I acquired were ones that I took because they were presented to me in such a way that to turn them down would have been extremely rude. People who are more enthusiastic about ARCs would get more out of this event than I did, but in spite of this and the mistakes I made, I still had a lot of fun.

To be continued . . .

April 2016 Wrap-up and Announcement

Monthly Wrap-Up (1)April was an insanely busy month for me. While I did not accomplish much in the way of blogging I did manage to read six books and two novellas.

Before I begin I’d like to mention the two books I forgot to put in my March wrap-up, but have since edited that post to include. Not because I didn’t like these books, but because I forgot to mark them as read on goodreads until more recently.

Honorable mentions from March

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Short Synopsis: The queen of an alien civilization and a half human, half alien boy must team up to save themselves and humanity.

Thoughts: This book was a light and fun read. The writing was a little hard to follow at times. I sometimes wondered how the characters had gotten from one scene to another, and wasn’t too keen on the romance, but all in all it was a nice debut.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

 

13638125Short Synopsis: Two college students uncover the key to getting superpowers which subsequently ruins their lives.

Thoughts: Very different from the other V.E. Schwab books I’ve read in the A Darker Shade of Magic series. I really enjoyed the way the novels’ two timelines interwove, and how  this book toyed with the traditional concept of good verses evil.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

April Reads

223236592360443525711360Short Synopsis: The second story arc of the Wings of Fire series following a new group of young dragons as they attempt to prevent a prophecy unrelated to the one in the first half of the series.

Thoughts: I like the direction the author has chosen to go with these new characters, but think these books should probably have been considered a spin-off as opposed to a continuation of the original series.

These books are highly addictive, and I look forward to the next installment.

Rating: 4 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: A novel about a girl trying to win a motor cycle race in order to kill Hitler, and its prequel novella centering around the events in the same race the year before.

Thoughts: I really enjoyed these. I’ve written a full review of Wolf by Wolf which can be found here.

Rating: 

4 blue jays

 

28698036Short Synopsis: There is always another secret.

Thoughts: This novella is definitely not for everyone. Seriously, those who haven’t at least read the original Mistborn trilogy should stay far, far away from this novella. Those who haven’t read at least the first six books in the Mistborn series, and even some other Cosmere novels not part of Mistborn series may want to avoid this as well.

Beyond that this novella has an unusual structure without a typical beginning, middle, end feel. This is all I can say about the novella itself without spoiling it.

Rating: 

4.5 blue jays

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Short Synopsis: First book in the Spin-off series to The Seven Realms.

Thoughts: I have a lot of conflicted emotions with regards to this book. The character death at the beginning felt a lot like a plot device, and knowing what I did about this individual from the previous series I found their death a little out of character.

I like our new cast, and am glad it looks like we’ll be seeing more of this world than we did in the previous series. I’d recommend reading the original series before this one if only because I enjoyed it more, but that could change as this series progresses.

Rating: 3.5 blue jays

Writing

Camp NaNo Graph April 2016Last month I participated in the April 2016 session of Camp NaNoWriMo. My original goal was  to write 20,000 words, but I lowered that to 15,000 words halfway through the month.

As the chart on the left shows, I ended up writing a significant amount on the last day of the event to meet my original goal. My total word count for the event was 20,084 words.

 

Announcement

Next week I’ll be attending Bookexpo America in Chicago. I’m very excited for the chance to interact with people who enjoy books as much as I do, get lots of books, see Chicago, and experience this thing people living in temperate climates refer to as “spring.” (I live in the sub-tropics. This is technically in the temperate zone, but it’s just not the same.)

Wolf By Wolf by Ryan Graudin

24807186Title: Wolf by Wolf

Author: Ryan Graudin

Publication Date: October 20, 2015

Genre: Young Adult Alternate History, Fantasy/Science-Fiction

Synopsis: In an alternate 1956 where the Axis Powers won World War II Yael, a teenage Jewish concentration camp escapee, enters an ambitious cross-continent motorcycle race. The winner gets to meet Hitler. Her goal is to win the race, kill Hitler, and start a revolution.

Thoughts: I went into this book not expecting to like it much, but was pleasantly surprised. Historical fiction isn’t my genre of choice, but I think the speculative aspects of this book are what made it appeal to me much more than most historical fiction.

The book focuses on the race itself as opposed to the historical aspects of a world where the Axis powers won World War II, though we do get to see a fair amount of the world considering the immense amount of distance traveled by the racers.

The world-building towards the beginning of the novel felt a little like info-dumping in the way it was introduced and almost made me stop reading, but the book soon picks up the pace and becomes less info-dump heavy as soon as the race starts. This is due in a large part to the fact that the focus isn’t on the world either, but on the interactions between the characters.

Yael, the main character, is a very dedicated, driven character, and all the flashbacks to her horrible past make her easy to see where that drive comes from. That said, she could feel a little too good at everything at times. Yes, Yael spent a lot of time training and being educated, but she hadn’t been riding a motorcycle nearly as long as her competitors, who were supposed to be some of the best in their respective countries. Yet, somehow she manages to be better at riding a motorcycle than most of her competitors who are undeniably also very driven, though for entirely different reasons than Yael.

Adele, the character Yael spends most of the novel impersonating, proves far more interesting than I anticipated despite the true Adele’s brief appearance in the novel. I feel like it would have been easy for Graudin to brush over Adele’s character and past since she wasn’t featured much, but the way we learn about her though the characters who have interacted with Adele before Yael began impersonating her made her seem just about as fleshed out as other major characters’ in the novel.

Felix, Adele’s twin brother, is yet another character it might have been easy for the author to make one dimensional or demonize, but the devotion he showed to his sister, or the girl he thought was his sister, made him a lovable character even as you know he’d likely turn on the protagonist the instant he realized her true identity.

Luka was an interesting character. The author made it so the reader never knew what to expect from him. He has a history with Adele and throughout the novel Yael and the reader are left guessing what their relationship in the previous race was that left Felix wanting to attack Luka anytime he gets near the girl they believe is Adele. Their relationship is hinted to have been romantic in nature. This made for a crisis of trust not typically seen in most other books because most characters are well versed in details of their personal romantic history.

I got a little distracted at times trying to figure out where my ancestors would have been at the times it was taking place and how the changes would have affected them. I have come to the conclusion that my birth would be next to impossible in this alternate timeline, which was, of course, my least favorite part of this book, but I can hardly blame the author for that. 🙂

On a more serious note, I can’t say I would have wanted to be born in this novel’s reality. It’s that bad.

Rating: This book has left me thinking about it for weeks, and I had such a fun experience reading it. However, I cannot entirely overlook its flaws. For these reasons it is getting a four out of five.

4 blue jays