A Door in the Woods: Fresh off having read The 13th Reality-- The Hunt for Dark Infinity, I realized James Dashner has a four book series (finished) that I hadn't read. It was called the Jimmy Fincher Saga, and within its thin binding, it promised to tell a big story. There's no way I would even consider leaving a Dashner book on the shelves now, so I bought it upon sight. While this might not have been the case if it still had its first cover, I walked out of the store with a beautiful book tucked under my arm.
Woods tells the story of a young man from Georgia named-- you guessed it, you're so smart-- Jimmy Fincher. He goes into the woods near his house to climb a tree, but in the tree, he sees something that will change his life forever. I'm not going to spoil the surprise of that the thing is, but I will say it's very impressive and dangerous, and it hints of something really huge. Jimmy finds himself whisked on a nonstop adventure around the country and beyond as he tries to put together the puzzle he is now in. But who can he trust? And what is the secret of the old wooden door in the middle of the woods near his home that no one can open? The answer: I can't tell you that, but it's world-changing.
Dashner, as always, has a great sense of humor that combines with huge discoveries to make a gripping book. You really root for Jimmy as he almost stumbles through his adventure. But this book tells the amount of story that's in one of his 13th Reality books in only half the space. There's no stopping this tale, but there's no room to breathe, either. The relentless pace of the book, while it kept me reading until I was done, was a little overwhelming at times. Yes, that's right, I found a 175-page book a little overwhelming. That's kinda sad, I know. That said, I had a fun time reading about Mr. Fincher, and I hope to join him soon in Book 2: A Gift of Ice.
My rating: 8.5/10
The Skulduggery Pleasant Series: In all the time I've had this blog, I haven't mentioned the Skulduggery Pleasant books. Which is really a shame, because I've enjoyed every minute I've spent reading them. They haven't quite caught on in the US like they have in the UK, but they're one of my answers to the question of what to read after Harry Potter.
Scepter of the Ancients: When 12-year-old Stephanie's eccentric Uncle Gordon dies, a mysterious man bundled in an overcoat, scarf, sunglasses, and a hat shows up at both the funeral and the reading of the will. This man, as it turns out, is Skulduggery Pleasant, a walking, talking skeleton who rescues Stephanie when she is attacked while alone in the house that she has just inherited. It seems that a particularly evil person named Serpine is trying to obtain a scepter that will allow him to rule the world. Stephanie is swept into a world of magic, secrets, power, and intrigue as she and Skulduggery try to keep one step ahead of Serpine and various other nefarious folk. Deadly hand-to-hand combat, nasty villains, magical derring-do, and traitorous allies will keep readers turning the pages, but it is the dynamic duo of Stephanie and Skulduggery who provide the real magic. The girl eagerly jumps into this new, dangerous, action-packed life, but she isn't sure that she has the guts or the power to pull it off.
My rating: 9/10
Playing with Fire: 13-year-old Valkyrie Cain and her mentor, the living skeleton detective, are faced with the return of the evil Baron Vengeous, who has been freed from prison. Vengeous is trying to reanimate the Grotesquery, a monster made up of pieces of a variety of evil creatures. If his scheme is successful, the Faceless Ones, "the terrible dark gods, exiled from this world," will return. Faced with treachery within the ranks of good magicians, Valkyrie and Skulduggery must rely on their own Elemental magical powers and a few trusted allies to confront Vengeous's magic and helpers, such as the vampire Dusk and Billy-Ray Sanguine, who has the ability to tunnel underground. One magical action sequence follows another as Valkyrie must find the courage to face what seem to be insurmountable foes.
My rating: 8.5/10
The Faceless Ones: If you've read the other Skulduggery books by Derek Landy (and you really should have read them by now), you've seen it all before: Some bad guy wants to bring about the end of the world, and Skulduggery and Valkyrie fight valiantly to stop it from happening. A few people get hurt, sure, but everything's all right in the end. Well, not this time.
My rating: 9.5/10
Some things I like about the series: Skulduggery and Valkyrie have a great back-and-forth, and all of the dialogue in these books is snappy and energized. The action scenes are handled well, and, as the third book's synopsis suggests, the characters don't live in a perfect, harmless world like a certain boy wizard I know seemed to in the early books of his series. It's a great ride that it's impossible not to love. I read them all in a day each. You probably will, too. I can't wait for Book 4.
Coming Soon: Bran Hambric-- The Farfield Curse.