Ranking Recent Reads 12 – The Grave Keepers, Warcross, Dare Mighty Things, Nyxia, and Haunting the Deep

This list includes the second book in a series, and thus there might be some mild SPOILERS about what happened in the first book!

  1. The Grave Keepers by Elizabeth Byrne

What it’s about:  In a world where people use their graves as homes away from home, the two daughters of the cemetery owners try to find their ways in the world, with their attempts hampered by the continuing effects of the long ago death of their sister in an accident, not to mention the fact that a ghost, presumed to be that of the sister, has taken up residence in their home.

What I Thought: This was a frustrating one.   Each sister has her own arc, but it seems to take a long time for either story to get going.  Once things started moving, I thought for a while that it was going to be a pretty simple story about two girls trying to find their place in the world, with all the bizarre stuff about graves and ghosts just being thrown in to try to sell the idea that it was more than a contemporary story.  As it turned out the graves and ghost did actually play important roles in the stories.  Unfortunately, the stories ended up feeling rushed and incomplete.  I think this could have been good one, but it doesn’t quite come together for me.

  1. Warcross by Marie Lu

What it’s About: Warcross is the hottest game around, so when Emika’s attempted hack accidentally glitches her right into the middle of a match, it’s not something that goes unnoticed. Surprisingly, the games inventor hires Emika to join the Warcross league in order to uncover a security threat.

What I Thought:  My first Marie Lu book!  A lot of people loved this one, and while I found it enjoyable, I’m still a bit of a naysayer compared to many.  This is partly because there is a fair bit of time spent on a romance that just didn’t interest me.  To be fair, romance in general is not usually what gets me into a work of fiction, but I have seen others say that these scenes were a bit of a drag on the novel.  I was intrigued by the world of Warcross and the sequel will definitely be on my radar, but the characters just didn’t jump off the page for me the way they seemed to do for most other readers.

  1. Dare Mighty Things by Heather Kaczynski

What it’s About: Cassandra Gupta is one of a number of young people selected to compete against each other for the chance to win a spot on a mysterious mission into space.

What I Thought: This and the next selection, which have similar concepts, were on my list of books that could become TV shows, even though I hadn’t read either of them when I made the list. Now I have read both, and am happy to say that both were quite enjoyable, and definitely leave me wanting to get my hands on the sequels.  The one problem I have with this book is that there are couple of incidents that seem like they are going to be big plot points, only for them to be pretty much forgotten.  The main example being when Cassie overhears a group talking about the idea that the character who is winning the competition is in the lead because he is a rich white male, not because he actually deserves it.  Cassie wonders if this could be true, but then drops the suspicion as she gets to know the other character.  But just because Cassie realizes that the guy deserves to be leading the competition doesn’t mean that all the others would accept it and move on as well, so it seems strange that this accusation is never really brought up again.

  1. Nyxia by Scott Reintgen

What it’s About:  Emmet is one of ten people selected to journey to another planet.  During the journey, there will be a competition to pick the eight lucky ones who will get to take part in the potentially lucrative job that awaits them at the destination.

What I Thought: While things are kept mysterious in Dare Mighty Things, here everything is laid out pretty clearly from the beginning. Or so it seems.  The mission is to mine a substance known as Nyxia, which seems to have magical properties that have made it the most valuable material in the universe.  The planet where Nyxia is found is inhabited by a hostile species (the first aliens ever encountered), but since this species has apparently lost the ability to procreate, they worship the young and have agreed not to harm the young group being sent to collect the Nyxia.  We meet all ten characters right off the bat, and they are all distinct and engaging in their own way, though it can be a bit hard to remember what physical description goes with which character.

I gave Nyxia the slight nod over Dare Mighty Things because I felt the plotting was a bit tighter. My big problem with this one comes near the end, when a certain character emerges as a very prominent figure, being pretty much unbeatable in the competition, and developing a relationship with the MC that seems to see her easily replace a different character.  Since I preferred the character she replaces over her, this rankled me a bit and I’m a little nervous about what is going to happen with the character in book two.

  1.  Haunting the Deep by Adriana Mather

What it’s About: The sequel to How to Hang a Witch finds Sam still trying to pick up the pieces months after her she, and the descendants, were almost murdered. Though she initially rejects the offer from the Descendants to join their circle, she changes her mind when she starts seeing ghosts again, this time from the Titanic instead of the Salem Witch Trials.

What I Thought:  This definitely wasn’t what I expected!  I thought that Lizzie, leader of The Descendants, was going to be a big problem in this one because she seemed very controlling of the other girls in the first book.  I expected her to resent and push back against Sam’s influence on them, and possibly become a full-fledged antagonist.  Instead she was just gone, as she apparently left town in order to get over the events of the first novel!  All the other characters return though, and I’m happy to see them again. And in spite of all my predictions for the book pretty much going up in smoke, I was still drawn in by the characters and atmosphere, much like I was with the first book.

The one issue I would note is that this book sees the emergence of two characters who serve as rivals to the main group, and it would have been fantastic if those characters had been set up in the first book. I had to double check that one of them is a girl who pops up a couple of times in the first book, but there was nothing there to really hint that she would be important later.  And I think the other character is mentioned once but never named.  It’s not a huge deal, but it might have been nice to see a little more of them and their dynamic with the main group in book one, since they seem to pop up out of nowhere as rivals to The Descendants and important people within the school hierarchy after being non-entities in the first book.

Actually, I lied. My issue is that there doesn’t appear to be anything set up for a third book in the series, or a prequel exploring the lives of the Salemites before and possibly during) the events of the first novel.  That is a major problem!  I want more of these characters!

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