Book Review: Battle of the Ampere

Battle of the Ampere
Michael Vey #3
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi adventure

Spoiler notice: The following review may contain some spoilers for the previous books in the series, starting with The Prisoner of Cell 25.

Michael Vey is separated from the rest of the Electroclan after the destruction of the Starxource plant in Peru. While the electric teens and their normal friends attempt to escape and regroup, the Elgen are licking their wounds and dealing with a change in management—a change that Michael and his friends are determined to reverse.

I think that part of the issue with this book is that the title doesn’t really come into play until the last quarter (or less) of the book. This is similar to the first in the series, The Prisoner of Cell 25, where Cell 25 is a really minor part of the book. But at least there, we have the initial world building, the introduction of the main character and him learning about the Elgen and the other electric teens. Here, the bulk of the book is the Electroclan trying to get free of the jungle and their pursuers, then a little bit of a battle, as promised in the title, at the end. Maybe that’s the reason that the book came down half a star for me, compared to the first two. I still enjoyed it, but I think it didn’t really deliver on what it promised.

I did like the introduction of a new character and that, though a love triangle seemed to be in the offing, Evans went a different way. I also appreciate that Hatch is more of a background villain this time, rather than being a big part of the story. I felt he was a little over the top in the previous book, but fortunately his extreme villainy then allows both the electric teens and the reader to be fully aware of how dangerous he is without needing it pushed on us so much.

Something that really didn’t sit right with me in this book is the emotional maturity displayed by these teenagers. Various difficult situations happen, even some serious tragedy, and I feel like the characters handle these things in ways that don’t seem realistic for their age (around 15), and they display empathy that many adults haven’t mastered. Saying more would give spoilers, and it’s not necessarily a major flaw in the book, but it did strike me as strange. Overall, though I liked this book just a little less than the first two, I still read it quickly and look forward to the next.

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Book Review: Rise of the Elgen

Rise of the Elgen
Michael Vey #2
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi adventure

Michael Vey isn’t exactly an ordinary kid. For one thing, he has Tourette syndrome. For another, he produces electricity like a taser. And he’s not the only one with electric abilities. Together with some of the other teens like him, and some without powers, Michael sets out to rescue his mom from Dr. Hatch and the Elgen.

I both enjoyed and was annoyed by this book. For plot and intrigue, I give it a thumbs up. For characterization and writing style, I give it a thumbs down. The story itself kept me interested, and I sped through it. Evans has some interesting ideas involving the electric powers and how they can be used by both sides (though there are some aspects I’m not sure are completely thought out—for example, if Zeus’s electric powers are sapped, wouldn’t water not affect him so much? How does Ian’s echolocation allow him to read printed text?).

However, the group of hero teens generally fall into two categories—the boys are strong, alpha males who just want to flirt and smash. The girls are silly creatures that think fluffy animals are cute (except for the rats). The only exceptions to these stereotypes are Michael himself and his best friend Ostin. And then there’s the bad guy, who makes me feel like Evans did a study in how to do one better on the evils of Nazi Germany. The things they do are just over the top evil, it’s disturbing. As for the writing, I hate to say it, but it made me feel like I was reading my own early attempts at writing as a 12-year-old. I rolled my eyes several times at the immaturity. I know this is written for a younger audience, but that doesn’t mean it has to be quite so silly.

In the end, though I wrote down several notes of things that bothered me, I look back and mostly see an exciting, fast-paced book (which might be interesting, since I’ve read several reviews that say this book was slower than the first). While the downsides are the kind of thing that I don’t expect to get any better in future books, as long as the good parts are still there, I look forward to seeing where the story goes from here.

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Book Review: The Prisoner of Cell 25

The Prisoner of Cell 25
Michael Vey #1
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 4 / 5
Genre: YA sci-fi adventure

Michael Vey isn’t exactly an ordinary kid. For one thing, he has Tourette syndrome. For another, he produces electricity like a taser. In the space of a few days, Michael discovers that he’s not the only one with powers and that there are sinister forces that are looking for him. When his mom is kidnapped, Michael has to go on the offensive while figuring out what his powers can do.

I enjoyed this story overall. The writing was nothing special, but the story is interesting. I think I liked Michael’s powerless friend, Ostin, most. I kept imagining him as Ned from the more recent Spider-Man movies. Hatch is a sufficiently interesting bad guy, who I assume majored in psychology, because he really knows how to manipulate people. Though I do think he makes some obvious errors when trying to break one of the characters, so that was a little off-putting. It might just show how completely deranged he is though.

For as atypical as Michael is supposed to be, he sure seems to bring a lot of tropes and cliches to the book. For example, he has a crush on the cheerleader and can’t talk right around her. He’s also scrawny and victim to some intense bullying, yet is able to understand their motivation super quickly and easily, which is definitely not likely to happen in a situation like this. But while most of the characters don’t get a lot of development and there’s an amazing coincidence involving two kids with powers that happen to go to the same school that is never explained, the story overall moves along quickly and kept my attention. The climax may have been a little on the easy side, but I don’t mind that, especially in a book for a younger audience. The story this first book sets up is intriguing, so I’ll definitely be continuing the series.

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Book Review: The Christmas Box

The Christmas Box
by Richard Paul Evans

My rating: 3.5 / 5
Genre: Christmas drama

A young family of 3 move into a mansion to be companion and helper to an elderly widow named MaryAnne. As the Christmas season progresses, the narrator–husband & father Richard–uncovers MaryAnne’s painful secret, and in turn, is reminded of what is truly important in life, and what Christmas is really about.

I read this in about an hour and a half, and it was a decent read. The writing was clear and simple. The characters weren’t very fleshed-out, but for a story of this length, I wouldn’t expect them to be, so it didn’t bother me. The plot developed in a way that made it seem like I was meant to be surprised by some reveals near the end, but it all seemed pretty obvious to me.

The message about why it’s important to spend time with your loved one while you can was portrayed clearly, if not a little heavy-handedly. I must admit, though, that the Christmas box itself seemed like a much smaller element than I would have expected. There are also some pseudo-supernatural elements that weren’t explained.

The thing that confused me the most is that apparently the book is set in the late 1940s, but it’s almost like it was a secret. The only way I realized it is by doing some math from some passing comments and a date shown on a letter.

The book is the first in a trilogy, which are all included in the collection copy that I have. The later 2 books are apparently both prequels to the first one. And each installment basically doubles the size of the previous. I think this first book would be enjoyed by those who are looking for a poignant book about love, loss, and the importance of family. 

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Top Ten Tuesday: Christmas TBR

It’s time for another Top Ten list from That Artsy Reader Girl. The topic this week is “Holiday Reads.” The intention was to list books that you love reading during the holiday season, so presumably books you’ve read before. However, until July of this year, I’ve barely read a book per year since my heavy reading days of the past (over 10 years ago). I do, however, love immersing myself in Christmas-related things during the holiday season, so I have already picked up some Christmas books to read over the next few weeks. I figured I’d just make today’s TTT about my Christmas season TBR then. Here are the 5 I’m currently planning to read (probably about all I’ll have time for before Christmas):

1. The End of the Magi by Patrick W. Carr
I’m currently reading this book. It is an interesting take on the “Christmas story” from the perspective of the magi and definitely doesn’t have a Christmas atmosphere like the others will, but I have been really enjoying it so far.

2. The Christmas Box by Richard Paul Evans
I got a paperback of The Christmas Box Trilogy, but I don’t know if I’ll have time to read all 3 before Christmas, so the first one is officially on the list, and the others are there if I get to them.

3. Catching Christmas by Terri Blackstock
I read my first Terri Blackstock book a couple months ago and enjoyed it, so when I saw this at Half Price Books, I didn’t hesitate to grab it.

4. A Plain and Simple Christmas by Amy Clipston
There are actually 2 novellas in the book I have collectively titled A Kauffman Amish Christmas Collection, but I only expect to have time to read the first of the 2 for now. Amish romances are apparently pretty big in Christian fiction. This is me dipping my toe in to see what the big fuss is about.

5. A Christmas Star by Thomas Kinkade & Katherine Spencer
My husband knew about my quest to find some feel-good Christmas books to read this season, so he picked this up in the used book sale section of our library recently. He also knows that I like Thomas Kinkade’s art.

Have you read any of these books? What’s on your Christmas TBR?