Despite an intriguing premise, AFTER THE END never grabbed my attention enough for me to complete reading it. If the book had stood alone on the premi Despite an intriguing premise, AFTER THE END never grabbed my attention enough for me to complete reading it. If the book had stood alone on the premise of a commune separated from the rest of the world and intent on keeping its people insular to the point of naïveté, I could have believed the storyline and what happened when Juneau left. On the other hand, had it been a supernatural tale about those who were different and who hid their powers from those who would try to abuse them, I could have also followed that. The mix of these two scenarios, however, made it hard for me to become immersed in the world or believe in it. I also found the main characters of Juneau and Miles to have no chemistry together, despite the obviously-intended romance, and their dialogue and bickering was grating and immature. I'm glad others found this an enjoyable read, but it didn't work for me....more
This is the fifth title I've read (or attempted to read) by one of the independent or self-published authors I met at the 2014 UtopYA conference, and This is the fifth title I've read (or attempted to read) by one of the independent or self-published authors I met at the 2014 UtopYA conference, and every single one has disappointed me to the point of my not being motivated enough to finish the story.
I support independent authors and am excited by the significant changes that women authors have created in the publishing industry in the past five years, but we must still expect stories to be polished, well thought out, and intentionally planned. That can be done, even with independently-published titles. Indie authors must just slow down and take the time, money, and resources to do it. ...more
Unoriginal tale, but it will still likely pull in many readers
RED QUEEN follows Mare, a rough teenager who has no skills of her own but instead relie Unoriginal tale, but it will still likely pull in many readers
RED QUEEN follows Mare, a rough teenager who has no skills of her own but instead relies on pickpocketing to help her impoverished family. Like those who live around her in the slums, Mare is a Red, a person with no special powers who bleeds red. The Reds are oppressed by the Silvers, a class of people whose Silver blood gifts them with formidable powers and places them in the middle and upper class. Through a series of unlikely events, Mare finds herself living in the Silver palace as the betrothed of the younger prince and faking her way as a Silver. All the while, she is plotting ways to overthrow the Silvers and help the growing Red rebellion. Unexpected alliances form, and Mare finds herself pulled romantically between the two princes.
In the publisher letter that accompanied my review copy of RED QUEEN, the title was described as being "wholly original." Describing anything that way in a very dangerous proposition these days, but it was especially so with this book. I found nothing original about RED QUEEN, but in that, I think, will lay its success. It is a hodgepodge of character tropes, plot points, and themes that pulls from popular YA: strong, female heroine who's rough around the edges; love triangle (or, in this case, love quadrangle) with different boys; story of strife and power struggle between the haves and have-nots; and a bit of rebellion, fighting, and secret alliances. I found that the book struggled to be anything different, new, or more exciting than what I've read before, but I'm sure that many people, teens and adults alike, will love it, even though I did not.
On the positive side, Aveyard's writing is better than most I've read recently in the young adult genre. In addition, the story has the aforementioned elements that will pull in many readers: class struggle, fight scenes, the primary love triangle between the two princes, and visually-compelling descriptions of the various settings. Even so, I found the first 60% of the book incredibly slow, with little forward action in the plot or in character development. When things did start to happen and the intrigue increased, the pace picked up, but my interest level remained low. Many of the events that happened seemed implausible or ridiculously orchestrated, and I found myself frustrated with the main character for being so oblivious to when she was being tricked or manipulated. When the big twist and betrayal was revealed, I was still unmoved and unaffected.
In future books in the series, I hope that the author works to break free of the genre tropes she incorporated into this first novel and brings something new and original to her tale.
Note: This reviews refers to an advance review copy....more
I have read two of Colleen Hoover's other works and was disappointed in each, so I'm not sure why I expected that my experience with this novella woul I have read two of Colleen Hoover's other works and was disappointed in each, so I'm not sure why I expected that my experience with this novella would be any different. Despite the easy, breezy style of her writing, the plot points, character and relationship development (or lack thereof), and the indescribably slap-dash way in which the big issue was handled were all beyond my ability to suspend disbelief. I'm also confused as to whether her novels in the Hopeless world should qualify as young adult or new adult; it seems like the two categories are mixed up in her works. ...more
This collection of poems felt outdated and disjointed in its organization, and I doubt that it would find much purchase with today's feminist teens. IThis collection of poems felt outdated and disjointed in its organization, and I doubt that it would find much purchase with today's feminist teens. It may have, however, found more resonance with readers when it was originally published in the mid-1990s....more
A very solid and moving contemporary title, complete with a swoon-worthy boy, a supportive and present family, and a flawed and realistic main charact A very solid and moving contemporary title, complete with a swoon-worthy boy, a supportive and present family, and a flawed and realistic main character. While the plot trajectory was too obvious and the ending wrapped up too quickly and easily, I still enjoyed reading every page of this fourth novel by Jessi Kirby. Based on this book and her debut (Moonglass) that I read, I believe Kirby should be considered one of the best voices in today's contemporary YA market....more
POISONED APPLES has an interesting premise with some gems in the mix (as well as some beautifully evocative photography), but in the end, it was not a POISONED APPLES has an interesting premise with some gems in the mix (as well as some beautifully evocative photography), but in the end, it was not as searing or inspiring as I had hoped. For young feminists, or those girls who are just starting to see the injustices in the world around them, it may resonate more deeply, however. ...more
Though there wasn't anything terribly wrong or troubling about this book, it didn't grab me emotionally. The improbable likelihood of Amber and Cade m Though there wasn't anything terribly wrong or troubling about this book, it didn't grab me emotionally. The improbable likelihood of Amber and Cade meeting on "the day before" each of their lives changed and striking an immediate connection felt too contrived, as did the quick resolution in two pages at the end....more
Incredibly satisfying & moving novel about difficult issues
FAKING NORMAL was an incredibly satisfying and moving blend of high school drama, myst Incredibly satisfying & moving novel about difficult issues
FAKING NORMAL was an incredibly satisfying and moving blend of high school drama, mystery, and romance; but most importantly, it was a novel about facing unspeakable trauma and overcoming it through the support of others.
As the main characters, Lexi and Bodee were both heartwarming and heartbreaking in their quiet support of one another. Their relationship and its slow and deliberate development was the definite highlight of the novel and its writing. It was, however, a difficult read about upsetting but important issues, and I know I teared up more than once while grimacing through the pain that each character had endured in his or her life. I also appreciated the inclusion of religion in a non-intrusive way into the novel, as it is a major component of many young people's lives. On the downside, my main qualms with the novel were the predictability of some aspects of the plot and the quick and too easy resolution at the end; I also sometimes thought that Bodee seemed to know too perfectly what to do or say. Regardless, since reading this book, I have recommended it multiple times to my mature students, and I'm looking forward to whatever the author writes next.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Sci-fi light at its lightest. This title, a tie-in with the CW show of the same name, masquerades as a science-fiction/post-apocalyptic title that isSci-fi light at its lightest. This title, a tie-in with the CW show of the same name, masquerades as a science-fiction/post-apocalyptic title that is simply a teen romance. There were hints of worldbuilding and conflict that could have been built into an engaging plot, but the romance aspect and the characters' ridiculous decisions regarding their relationships took away from that....more
Poor plotting & character development make for lackluster read
Kelley Armstrong is a household name among those who love urban fantasy, both young Poor plotting & character development make for lackluster read
Kelley Armstrong is a household name among those who love urban fantasy, both young adult and adult, and I was excited about the opportunity to read and review the first book in her newest YA series, Age of Legends. While Sea of Shadows provided the same easy writing style that Armstrong's other books have, it had very little of the worldbuilding, character development, and plotting that her best works contain. Because of this, it was a disappointment.
SEA OF SHADOWS is the author's first foray in YA high fantasy, and I think it suffered because of this. Though the story didn't shy away from grisly depictions of violence or high-stakes encounters, I still felt bored and unmoved by the first 40% of the novel. The worldbuilding didn't make sense, and the threats that were present seemed to exist simply for scare or awe factor. As the two protagonists, twin sisters Moira and Ashyn, moved out into their own personal journeys, the pace of the narrative picked up, but the character development did not. Each girl fell into her own clichéd role of being either the strong and brusque one or the emotional, sensitive one. When the romances enter, the chosen love interest for each girl was too obvious and too quickly developed for me to feel any real connection or swoon between the characters. The story's arc also followed Armstrong's typical plot of characters attempting to outrun a threat, being captured or nearly so, escaping, and then repeating the process. Based on the ending of this book, I predict that the plot of the sequel will be much of the same. And that's what I found most disappointing about this novel: the story, despite its high fantasy trappings of magical, terrifying things, felt simply like another iteration of the stories the author has written before.
In future books in the series, I hope Armstrong takes the time to mix up her usual plot line and infuse it with some of the emotional heart that first impressed me in her Darkest Powers series....more
Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of Complex, dark, and evocative tale – Gratton’s best book yet, 4.5 stars
Tessa Gratton has penned her best book yet with Book 2 of her United States of Asgard series: The Strange Maid. I stayed up late into the night, with goosebumps raised on my arms, to finish this book. The story, the writing, and the characterization are all beautiful, deep, and complex. I love a book like this that prioritizes character development over plot, but The Strange Maid still manages to combine the two well. Most of all, though, I love the risks that this book takes with characterization, theme, and source material.
Signy Valborn is a girl on the verge of Odinist glory as a Valkyrie, and she embraces the dark things she believes that should include – blood and death and violence and chaotic, passionate things stirring inside her soul. I love that Gratton was willing to create a wild, out-of-control, and fearsome female character; in doing so, she affirms that madness, desire, and a longing for revenge can be felt by all, not just males. Signy, however, is not a one-note character; she also experiences fear, doubt, and love. The other characters who flank and support Signy are also well-developed, from Soren Bearstar of the first book to Ned the truth-teller who hides behind his poetry to the gods and other Valkyries themselves. I also so appreciated the themes conveyed in the story about loss and revenge, the balance between chaos and control, choice versus destiny, and the types of relationships that matter in our lives.
In addition, Gratton skillfully plays with and updates Norse mythology to create a modern tale that pays homage to the violence, strength, and madness that was celebrated in Old English works like Beowulf. Because of this and the adept way the characters are portrayed, this book felt more mature than most other YA titles I’ve read. This is a complex and evocative tale that will be best appreciated by readers who aren’t afraid to feel uncomfortable from time to time while reading. Reading the first book in the series or having a background in Norse tales isn’t necessary to understand and appreciate the story, but it will likely help.
I have always been a fan of Gratton’s work, but my appreciation for her craft and the intentionality of her writing has been taken to a new level after my reading of The Strange Maid. I can’t wait to see what the next book in the series brings, and I will definitely be recommending this title to my friends and older students alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up Fun & engaging third installment keeps the action & intrigue coming
Marissa Meyer’s third installment in her Lunar Chronicles, Cress, picks up right where the second book left off. Cinder, Thorne, Scarlet, and Wolf have escaped Earth and are now hiding in space. Their greatest chance for eluding Queen Levana and her dangerous companions lies with Cress, a gifted hacker who’s lived alone in a satellite for the past seven years. Soon, a rescue plan goes amiss, people are captured, and satellites start crashing to earth. Old characters and new ones must work to find a way back to one another in order to bring the evil Queen down.
As with her previous installments, Meyer has created a fun and engaging story in this book. CRESS is full of action and intrigue, and the author does a wonderful job of interweaving the storylines of the two previous books with the one. It was exciting to see how hints from as far back as the first book were linked to major plot points or character reveals in this novel. All of the characters that readers have come to love (or loathe) make appearances again, and some characters, especially Cinder, begin to grapple with real issues of how to use power and how one’s personal decisions can affect others, including whole cities or nations. Though not practical like Cinder or strong like Scarlet, Cress comes across as an endearingly naïve but earnest character who mixes well with the existing cast.
While a fast and enjoyable read overall, I did sometimes wish for a bit more: more swoon, more character and relationship development, and more gravity regarding the issues being experienced by the characters. This series is a refreshingly upbeat collection when compared to many other young adult novels, but the issues it addresses (war, torture, sacrifice for others, lost identities) often felt like they were passed over too quickly. Similarly, some characters accepted certain big reveals too easily.
Even with these quibbles, I had a great time reading CRESS, and I can’t wait for the final installment to come out next year (Winter). Not only will the final book provide a conclusion (and hopefully some happy endings for the characters), but it will feature quite possibly the most intriguing heroine of the series. The few glimpses given of Winter in this book had me simultaneously riveted and unsettled. The Lunar Chronicles is a series I will be recommending to my students and adult friends alike.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
A lovely but simple homage to a precocious cat and one woman's relationship with him. While this was shelved under the YA/teen section at our local li A lovely but simple homage to a precocious cat and one woman's relationship with him. While this was shelved under the YA/teen section at our local library, I think this short collection would be best appreciated by older readers....more