Tunnels by Roderick Gordon and Brian Williams

Tunnels(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

Fourteen-year-old Will Burrows has little in common with his family.  But he does share one bond with his odd father: an obsession with archaeological digs.  When the two discover an abandoned tunnel buried beneath modern-day London, they think they’re on the brink of a major find.

Then Dad vanishes.

With the help of his best friend Chester, Will decides to investigate the truth behind his father’s disappearance—and the deeper they descend, the deadlier the threat to their lives!

This book is 474 pages long and yet I read it in about two hours, so this is more of a Middle Grade than a YA novel.  (Despite the fact that it is classified as YA at the local library.)  Still, I did enjoy it, even if Gordon and Williams loved to belabor the point at times.

Readers who like fast-paced plots and mysterious secret societies will love Tunnels, but first they have to get past the first third of the book.  I’m not an impatient reader, but trust me when I say my thoughts were this at the beginning of the book: Okay, I get it already, now get on with the show!  Will likes digging, his dad is an archaeologist, there are mysterious tunnels cropping up all over town…okay, now what?  A good set up in the beginning is important, but the set up for Tunnels did not need to take so long.

Once you get past the beginning, things really do speed up and get interesting.  I can’t say much without giving away whatever suspense you encounter at the beginning, but I can say that your suspicions are probably correct when you’re trying to figure out who the mysterious men are.  If you read a lot of fantasy, you’ll know almost right away because the basic idea has been done before.  However, I think Gordon and Williams did a great job of putting their own spin on things, which is why I still enjoyed Tunnels.

The characters are interesting, the plot is fast-paced, the world is well thought-out and there’s quite a cliffhanger ending.  Really, you can’t ask for much more in a Middle Grade/YA Novel.

I give this book 4/5 stars.

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Posting at The Mad Reviewer Today

Today I’m once again posting over at The Mad Reviewer with a review of The Infinity Ring: The Trap Door by Lisa McMann. Head on over and check it out and while you are there take a look around and catch up on some of Carrie’s more recent reviews from the past few weeks, I’m sure you’ll find a few things to add to your reading list.

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier(Cover picture courtesy of Macmillan.)

Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended—and rather eccentric—family in an exclusive London neighborhood.  IN spite of her ancestors’ peculiar history, she’s had a relatively normal life so far.  The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn’t been introduced to “the mysteries,” and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley.  It comes as an unwelcome surprise when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past.

She’s totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart.  He’s obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she’s seen in any century.

I was pretty excited to read Ruby Red because it had such an awesome premise, but it fell flat.  It wasn’t a terrible book, but it wasn’t a great book by any measure.  There were some great elements and some things were done really well, but others…not so much.

Truly, I did not like Gwen one bit.  She’s shallow, vain and behaves like a stereotypical teenage girl (as Gideon himself points out in the novel).  But the catch is that she’s gorgeous but doesn’t know it, just like every single YA heroine out there.  She does get better throughout the novel as she starts to understand time travel and the secret society surrounding it, but because she remains practically clueless for two thirds of the novel, things get painful.  Things would have been much more interesting from Charlotte’s point of view because she actually had a clue as to what was going on, even if she didn’t actually inherit the time-traveling gene.

We never really do get a satisfactory explanation as to why Gwen’s mother changed her date of birth.  She wanted to keep her out of the society supposedly because she saw the dark side of it.  Well, where the heck is this dark side?  Why doesn’t she sit Gwen down and explain why the society actually is evil and why it’s a bad idea to complete the circle.  Secondly, why do YA heroines always fall for the drop-dead gorgeous guy who treats them like complete garbage?  Gideon is a jerk, plain and simple.  I guess I don’t understand the bad-boy attraction.

Okay, while there are a lot of negatives, there are some positives.  Kerstin Gier has an interesting, sometimes humourous writing style and Anthea Bell did a great job translating Ruby Red from the original German.  Sometimes translations don’t work out and the whole novel seems disjointed, but this was certainly not the case here.  As for the premise that there is a secret time-travelling gene and people can control their time-travel by means of a chronograph, it was fantastic!  I would have liked much more explanation, but the fact remains that Kerstin Gier has come up with an unique premise.  That’s rare in YA.

I give this book 3/5 stars.

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Posting at The Mad Reviewer Today

Today I’m once again posting over at The Mad Reviewer with a review of Alcatraz Versus the Shattered Lens by Brandon Sanderson. Head on over and check it out and while you are there take a look around and catch up on some of Carrie’s more recent reviews from the past few weeks, I’m sure you’ll find a few things to add to your reading list.

Empty by Suzanne Weyn

Empty by Suzanne Weyn(Cover picture courtesy of Goodreads.)

It’s the future—the very near future—and the fossil fuels are running out.  No gas.  No oil.  Which means no driving.  No heat.  Supermarkets are empty.  Malls have shut down.  Life has just become more local than we ever knew it could be.

Nobody expected the end to come this fast.  And in the small town of Sage Valley, decisions that once seemed easy are quickly becoming matters of life and death.  There is hope—there has to be hope—but there are also sacrifices that need to be made, and a society that needs to be rethought.  Niki, Tom, and Gwen may find what they need to survive.  But their lives are never going to be the same again.

Let’s see, how can I sum up this book?  Well, maybe ‘awesome premise, poor characters and mediocre execution’ is a good way to do it.  I’ll start with the first point.

Empty by Suzanne Weyn has an awesome premise.  The world is running out of fossil fuels…so what’s humanity going to do?  Through newspaper clippings and radio reports we see that the United States goes to war over oil with one of the few gasoline producing nations still left in the world (Venezuela).  We also see rampant stupidity like people still cranking the air conditioning in summer, cranking the heat in winter, charging their cell phones and driving everywhere.  Yes, this would likely happen, but more people would be able to cut back than Suzanne Weyn is predicting.  Still, Empty had a pretty awesome premise, you can’t deny that.

But the characters, oh the characters!  Can we say ‘stock characters’ or what?  You’ve got the jock, the mysterious Goth chick, the guy next door, the bimbo cheerleader who really has a heart of gold, the dumb jock.  Did any creativity go into manufacturing characters?  Meh, probably not.  By now I’m used to Suzanne Weyn’s characters being less than stellar, but the ones in Empty just felt contrived, especially in their interactions with others.  The dialogue felt stiff and there was really nothing unique about them.  The attempts at romance between these characters was just cringe-worthy in a contrived, all stories need romance to appeal to teens, kind of way.

Now, onto the mediocre execution: this was a good premise done in a ‘meh’ way.  A fuel crisis?  Awesome; not all that many authors have done it with as much research as Suzanne Weyn put in this time.  But could we please, please bring back something called subtlety?  I support cutting back on emissions and searching for alternative energy sources but I felt like I was being preached at the whole time.  Yes, having a message is great, but does it have to be beat-you-over-the-head-with-a-stick obvious?  No, not really.  For a much better apocalyptic book, see Earth Abides by George R. Stewart.  Don’t waste your time with this one, even though it is less than 200 pages.

I give this book 2.5/5 stars.

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