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.


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.


Daughter of Smoke and Bone Series by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, Dreams of Gods and Monsters

Author: Laini Taylor

Publication dates: 2011-2014

Genre: Young Adult Fantasy

Synopsis: “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”– Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor

Karou is a rather unusual art student from Prague. She never talks about her family or past, and answers all personal questions with an outrageous story about traveling around the world hunting for teeth. She mysteriously disappears often, and once returned to school having contracted malaria. The truth is, Karou can’t answer the questions about her past because they are as big a mystery to Karou as everyone else, but she’s about to find out the truth.

Lives will be lost. Wars will be fought. A forbidden love between an angel and a monster unearthed.

Review: The writing and pacing in this series is just amazing. I read the entire trilogy over the course of about a week, and there are so many great quotes to be taken from the writing.

I had some minor issues with the first book, especially the second half which consisted mainly of flashbacks, and felt there was an element of insta-love to the romance although it didn’t bother me as much as it does in most works because after the novel’s primary relationship was formed the characters’ reacted to learning hard to accept truths about one another in a relatively realistic way not normally seen in young adult fiction.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone feels much more typical in terms of young adult fiction than the next two books. The first book feels like urban fantasy as most of the novel takes place on modern Earth. In the next two books the fantasy elements take over and the story feels much more like high fantasy than urban.

One of my favorite elements in this series was the symbolism particularly that of the wishbone.

I appreciated the author’s portrayal of “angels” and “monsters.” I feel the message Laini Taylor was trying to get across involves questioning everything and not jumping to conclusions. Just because someone looks like an angel doesn’t make them trustworthy, and just because someone looks like a demon does not make them a demon.

Favorite quotes: “It is a condition that monsters do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.” –Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“Imagine if [Juliet] woke up and he was still alive, but…” She swallowed, waiting out a tremor in her voice. “But [Romeo] had killed her whole family. And burned her city. And killed and enslaved her people.” –Laini Taylor, Days of Blood and Starlight

“Karou wasn’t a prize to win; that wasn’t why he was here. She was a woman and would choose her own life. He was here to do what he could, whatever he could, that she might have a life to choose, one day. Whoever and whatever that included was her own affair.” –Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters

What Readers Should Know: This series contains cursing intermixed with casual conversations in the way many teenagers speak. Sex is mentioned with some frequency, although no detailed sex scenes ever occur. There are also some fairly gruesome scenes in book two due to the main characters becoming involved in a major conflict. *minor spoiler* In Days of Blood and Starlight a character is almost raped, but the “r” word is never mentioned. While younger readers may mistake this scene for an act of mere aggression it will be immediately clear to everyone else what was narrowly avoided. Personally, I thought this scene captured the fear and horror of the girl involved.

Rating: The first book was a 4.5/5 for me, but the rest of the series was a 5. It’s rare to find a series in which I preferred the sequels to the first installment, but that was the case here. I recommend this for people willing to overlook a little insta-love who enjoy fantasy.

five blue jays

earthBound By Aprilynne Pike Book Review

Title: earthBound

Author: Aprilyeen Pike

Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy

Release Date: July 30, 2013

Synopsis: Travia’s former life was ripped away from her in an instant. She’d gotten on that plane expecting a bright future at a prestigious art school, but she’d gotten off alone and lucky to be alive.

Travia is the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash who just want’s to start a new and move on, but the world won’t let her. Travia begins to wonder if the crash might not have been an accident.


Review: Reading a book about a pane crash on a plane is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I picked this book up because of the cover and bought it because I’d heard of Miss Pike’s Wings Trilogy. Unfortunately for me I failed to read the description and only realized I had done the unthinkable as I read the first page.

My heart pounding, I glanced wearily at my seat number. I was not in seat E12, the seat of the main character. I sighed in relief and went back to reading, glancing out the window at the slightest sign of turbulence.

Sadly,  book wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the story I’ve just told. For one thing the love triangle was a set up in a way that is used far to often and the main character got on my nerves. I didn’t find her decisions entirely believable.

The other aspect that put me off was the world building. I read this not long after finishing Unremembered by Jessica Broody. The whole “plane crash” scenario is almost eerily similar. The “Earthbound” concept wasn’t all that intriguing once it was explained. It was just too predictable for my taste.

Don’t get the wrong impression, this book was not terrible, but it didn’t meet my expectations. The book is very gripping after the first few chapters and is fairly fast paced.

The moral: Don’t bring books on a plane without reading the description first, or you may just be in for a panic attack.

Disclaimers: Some swearing, mild violence, kissing

Rating/Recommendations: I give this book 3/5 for giving me a good laugh and keeping me hooked but not holding up to my expectations. This book is good for people looking for something cute and doesn’t care if cliches of the YA Paranormal Romance genre are present.

3 blue jays

Sabriel By Garth Nix Book Review

Title: Sabriel (Abhorsen book 1 AKA The Old Kingdom book 1)

Author: Garth Nix

Genre(s): High Fantasy, Young Adult Fiction

Summary: Sabriel once dreamed of the magic and adventure of the Old Kingdom. Now she would give almost anything to return to her quiet life in Acelstierre. Perhaps when she saves her father she will.

The Old Kingdom has been in a state of complete anarchy for the past twenty years. Cities and villages are overrun with the dead that won’t stay dead and with each day the death count rises. There is only one person left standing between the undead and the citizens of the Old Kingdom: the Abhorsen.

Other necromancers wake the dead. It is the Abhorsen’s job to put the dead to rest. But now even the Abhorsen has become trapped in death. When this news reaches his daughter, Sabriel, she is willing to do anything to bring him back.

Even if “anything” entails traveling to the former capital of a nation overrun by the dead and passing through the gates of death themselves.

Review: There is only one book I have ever read and been truly unable to put down. That book was a part of the Keys to the Kingdom series by Garth Nix. I have a distinct memory of hiding this book under my desk at school and reading as my teachers gave instruction. My social life was likewise abused.

With this in mind I started Sabriel in the hopes of revisiting the author’s particular style of world building. I was not disappointed in that regard as Sabriel has some great world building. I found the contrast between the cars, telephones, and electric lights of Ancelstierre and the magic of the Old Kingdom to make the setting highly unique.

I read on for about a hundred pages then stopped. Despite this, below I have given this book four stars, and for good reason.

I found that I couldn’t stop thinking about the world of the Old Kingdom. Each time I thought of the book I should read next I kept thinking that I wanted to go back to reading Sabrel. Eventually I gave in and finished the book.

This time I found myself absorbed in the plot line, loving the characters, and even getting a little teary eyed for the final chapter. Sabrel makes for an intelligent heroine. Learning about her family history was enjoyable and I found the world of necromancers, Charter Mages, and free magic to be complex and interesting.

Even though this book doesn’t show much of Abhorsen (Sabriel’s father) the reader gains an appreciation of their relationship. Sabriel does not see her father very often but she’s still willing to travel to a place she knows nothing about to find him. I found this touching and I loved the complexity of their relationship.

The ending is somewhat open and leaves some questions and events of the story unresolved. The story almost felt like it was ending at the climax as opposed to the resolution. I would have liked to have known more about what happens directly after the ending.

Normally I would suspect that the story ended this way because  this is the first in the trilogy, but from what I understand books two and three are not told from Sabriel’s prospective. Regardless, I do plan to return to the Old Kingdom. This has been my first read in the Abhorsen trilogy but it will not be my last.

Rating/Recommendations: I give this book four blue jays for the most original take on necromancers I have ever read and some of the most  creative world building I have ever seen.

I recommend this book to people who enjoy High Fantasy, YA fiction that does not revolve around a love triangle, and are willing to read through the first hundred or so pages to reach the bittersweet end.

4 blue jays

Gated Book Review

Title: Gated

Author: Amy Christine Parker

Genres: Young Adult, Physiological Thriller, Contemporary

Release Date: August 6, 2013

Format: Hardcover

Synopsis: When Lyla was 7 years old, she and her sister Karen were playing outside and Lyla went inside to tell her mother that Karen wasn’t playing fair. When she came back only Karen’s bright red shoes remained. A few weeks later airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center on 9/11 and the police stopped looking. With no extended family or close friends for comfort, Lyla’s family fell into despair, but then came Pioneer with his visions of the Brethren and the end of the world. He told them that they were among the Chosen and meant to be saved. With Pioneer the world seems bright again and things are finally looking up.The whole family packs their bags and moves to Mandrodage Meadows to prepare for the end.

Now 17, Lyla believes that life in the community is perfect. Pioneer makes everything run smoothly and he is always right. With the end of the world only 3 months away, Lyla can’t afford to allow her faith in Pioneer and the Brethren to falter now, but that was before she met the mysterious outsider who made her question everything.

Review: I have a confession to make: I’ve never read a physiological thriller before, or a book about doomsday cults but as soon as I saw the signed copies on display at my local bookstore I knew I had to have one. I kept seeing this book everywhere, but was hesitant to read it because I thought it was just another dystopian. I could not have been more wrong.

In fact, this book seems almost like a slap in the face to all the YA apocalyptic books out there. I say this because in typical young adult literature the people predicting the end of the world would be the ones with the right idea, but in this book they have the the wrong one. It might even be for the best to come into this book unsure of what to expect, because most of the details I could share are spoilers.

It had a slow beginning, but as the book progresses the pacing and action picks up. Despite this, at no point did I feel that the book was boring and I was hooked from the beginning to the end (but especially at the end). Perhaps my biggest complaint is not with the book itself, but that I made the mistake of reading this book on my first day of school. How could I possibly focus on my classes while I was reading such an awesome book?

The romance was a little rushed and there was a love triangle present, but with the way that Lyla’s isolated cult lived I don’t feel that a slowly developed relationship would have been possible. Romance was also complicated by the presence of “Intendeds” which were basically whoever Pioneer (the cult leader) had arranged for for the teenagers in his cult to be married to.

As the story progresses our protagonist, Lyla, begins to question certain aspects of cult life including whether or not the end of the world is in fact drawing near and chalange Pioneer himself. I found this gradual shift  in her character to be realistic as ideals that someone has held for their whole life don’t change overnight. It should be noted, however, that not much time was spent developing the personalities of side characters so a few of the characters felt a little flat.

As this was a standalone, the ending wrapped just about everything up rather nicely, but there were enough story elements left unexplained that I feel like there is room for a sequel (i.e. What was in Pioneer’s room?). All in all, I enjoyed Ms. Parker’s debut novel and will keep an eye out for her future writing.

Quotes: “I thought that we came here to get away from all of the ugly in this world. This was supposed to be our haven. This was supposed to be better. We were supposed to be better. But this, right here, is the worst thing I’ve ever seen. And there isn’t a shelter insulated enough to protect me from it.”

“None of this will ever make sense. I thought we came here to escape all the ugliness out there, but we can’t, can we? It’s here too. We pretend like it’s all okay–this place, our routines– but it’s built on lies.”

“It comes down to whether or not you’re ready to die today. I’m not. If the world ends, we can’t fight it, but we can fight one man. We can choose to live this day and every day after it that we have left.”

“The weird thing is that it still could. I mean, it won’t, of course, but on any given day anything’s possible. It’s what makes being here–on this planet–scary. We can’t predict what will happen. We can’t control any of it. Good things. Horrible things. We can only deal with it as it comes.”

“If a sky this dark can still be peppered with so much light, maybe this world can be too.”

Rating/Recommendations: This is a great gateway book for those who have not read books about doomsday cults before. However, I have a feeling that it was on the less intense side of the sub-genre so I’m not sure what people who already enjoy this variety of books will think. On the other hand, I also recommend that readers searching for a happy book look elsewhere because this is one of those books that makes readers consider the shadier side of human nature. I give Gated a 4/5 rating for being a unique edition to the Young Adult genre but with some minor issues with pacing, a rushed romance, and side characters that could have used some depth.

4 blue jays