High school senior Gabie Klug lives a fairly quiet life in Portland, Oregon. She studies hard, has a few friends at school and is looking forward to finding out who she is at Stanford next year. Like her surgeon parents, Gabie has everything in order, and never thought that her part-time job at Pete’s Pizza would throw her life into disarray. Gabie usually works Wednesday nights, driving her Mini-Cooper to deliver pizzas in the area. One day, however, Gabie’s beautiful, popular coworker Kayla asks to trade shifts with her. On that Wednesday evening, a man calls to order three pizzas and asks if the girl who drives the Mini-Cooper is working. Kayla goes out to deliver the pizzas and never returns. Now the hunt is on: the man who called in the pizza order gave a fake address, and all that has been recovered of Kayla is her car which was found by the bank of the Willamette River. Since the man asked if the girl who drives the Mini-Cooper was working, Gabie knows that she was the original target of the abduction; Kayla was simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. Wracked with guilt, Gabie struggles as more and more time passes with no sign of Kayla. Certain that she is still alive, Gabie and her coworker, Drew, wonder what they can do to help find Kayla before it’s too late.
Mystery writer April Henry delivers a page-turning thriller with The Night She Disappeared. Set in the author’s home of Portland, Oregon, the novel reads like an episode of Unsolved Mysteries, complete with evidence, police reports, and missing person’s flyers that accompany the narrative. The book is extremely fast-paced and difficult to put down, particularly since the chapters are from the viewpoints of several different characters. The main narrators, Gabie and her coworker Drew, are both likable and relatable. Gabie comes from a well-to-do family but feels stifled by her doctor parents, and Drew is the son of a junky who needs the money he earns from Pete’s Pizza to keep the lights on in the crummy apartment he shares with his mom. The two bond over Kayla’s disappearance, and both evolve as they become more and more embroiled in the hunt to find their missing coworker. There are some unsavory moments in the story, which is to be expected, as details of Kayla’s abduction come to light. The novel is still very much appropriate for a teen audience, however, and would be a particularly good choice for a reluctant reader who wants something that will grab and hold their attention quickly and from beginning to end.
I’d never heard of April Henry before picking up The Night She Disappeared, but having blown through it from cover-to-cover in a day I think I can safely say that I will definitely be reading more mysteries from her in the future! I really enjoyed the novel, and found the pacing to be excellent. The combination of different narrators, evidence and all the other tidbits the author threw in really made it read like an episode of an intriguing true crime TV show. I would highly recommend this story to a reluctant reader because it is so interesting from start to finish. I’m looking forward to reading another one of April Henry’s creations!...more
Pia is perfect. The only member of a race of immortals created deep in the jungles of the Amazon, she has spent her life in the walls of the compound of scientists who have dedicated their lives to engineering more people like her. Pia knows that her destiny lies in one day joining the scientists in discovering how to quickly create more immortals; currently the process takes five generations and Pia is the result of work that began in 1912. Everything changes, however, when Pia discovers a hole in the fence that surrounds her home and ventures out into the jungle. There she meets Eio, a handsome boy who lives in a neighboring village of natives. Pia has never seen someone her age and is fascinated by Eio and the rest of the villagers. Although she knows it’s wrong, she continues to visit Eio and the village, learning more about the outside world than she ever thought possible. The more she discovers, however, the more she begins to realize that not everything inside her compound of scientists is what it seems and that the truth behind her creation might be deadlier than she ever imagined.
From debut author Jessica Khoury comes this Michael Crichton-esque novel for young adults about science, danger and, of course, romance. One of the best things about Origin is that the author does her best not to dumb down the scientific aspects of the plot for the reader. Pia’s creation isn’t paranormal: she was engineered by the very group of scientists that are the only family she has ever known. Some aspects of the operations of Little Cam, the compound Pia calls home, might be difficult for readers to make it through, particularly the elements pertaining to animal testing. Part of the story, however, is showing how Pia’s humanity despite her immortality impacts the events of the novel, and her growing separation from the scientists of Little Cam becomes more evident as she grows and changes. The romance that develops between Pia and Eio, the handsome eighteen-year-old from the neighboring village of natives, is enjoyable and not over-the-top, making the book relatable for teen boys and girls alike. Overall, a well-written and thought-provoking novel from an author with a lot of promise.
I really liked the concept of this book and, although I found it to be a bit slow at times and had some trouble reading through some of the parts pertaining to animal testing, overall, I enjoyed it. Pia is a very likable character and it was interesting watching her grow and become more “human” as the story progressed. While I don’t think this novel is for everyone, I would definitely recommend it to science-fiction fans who want something a little different from the norm. ...more
After Zara stole her power to Damn souls to an eternity of torment, Lex has become an outcast in Croak. The townspeople don’t seem to understand that Zara killed Lex’s sister, Cordy, to get to her and that she never meant for her power to transfer to Zara; they only know that Zara is on a murderous rampage and that Lex is responsible. Determined to put a stop to Zara’s killing spree, Lex, her friends, and Uncle Mort begin to research the Wrong Book, a mysterious text that is held in an impenetrable cabin in the woods surrounding Croak that holds the key to some of the Grimsphere’s most elusive secrets. The only problem? Zara wants the Wrong Book for herself and begins Damning innocent people around the country, convinced that Lex has the book in her possession and is hiding it from her. With the townspeople getting more and more hostile and the threat of an attack from Zara looming, Lex and her friends decide to travel to DeMyse, the Las Vegas of the Grimsphere. There they hope to learn more about the Wrong Book and stay safe long enough to figure out if the information it contains can put an end to Zara’s reign of terror.
Picking up where the first book left off, Scorch, the second installment in Gina Damico’s Croak series, proves to be a decent sequel to what was a stellar beginning in the previous novel. While the author does a lot to expand the world she created in Croak, introducing new characters, backstories and locations, a lot of what made Croak such an enjoyable novel is, unfortunately, absent. The dry humor that permeated the first book is almost completely gone, replaced with a storyline full of tension as Lex and her life in the quirky town of Croak crumble. The plot is far more serious in Scorch, with Zara, the surprise antagonist in Croak, going around the country murdering innocent people. The town of Croak itself, which played a big part in the first novel, is also replaced by various new locations, such as DeMyse, a shallow, Las Vegas-esque city run by an over-the-top mayor. Some of the relationships begun in Croak are expanded, particularly that between Lex and her boyfriend Driggs, but the majority of the novel is dedicated to Lex’s life getting worse and worse as Zara wreaks havoc on the Grimsphere. Overall, Scorch is not nearly as fun as Croak, but the series still has lots of potential, especially since the author does a good job of world-building and creating a storyline that can carry through to another novel. Hopefully the third novel, Rogue, can continue the series in a positive direction when it is released September 10, 2013.
I absolutely loved Croak, so I was super excited to pick up the sequel and continue with the fun and laughs. Unfortunately, I didn’t experience very many of either when I was reading Scorch. The storyline was very bleak, and I felt like everything whimsical and enjoyable about Croak just wasn’t present. I still like the characters and think that there is potential for the author to improve, but Scorch was a bit of a sophomore slump for me. ...more
After her father’s death several years earlier, sixteen-year-old Eleanor Fitt, her brother, Elijah, and their mother were left with next to nothing. Eleanor knows that it is up to her to improve their fortunes by marrying well, something her mother reminds her of daily. After her brother mysteriously disappears, however, and the Dead begin to rise in her hometown of Philadelphia, Eleanor has a lot more than marriage to a wealthy bachelor on her mind. It seems that a necromancer is operating in the city, raising the Dead to do his bidding. Sons of well-to-do families in Philadelphia society are being murdered and Eleanor fears that Elijah, who she believes is being held captive by the necromancer, might be next. To help save her brother, Eleanor turns to a team of Spirit-Hunters operating out of a lab out of Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition. The Spirit-Hunters, consisting of a man named Joseph who can sense the supernatural, a handsome scientist named Daniel, and a young but fierce Chinese woman named Jie, are on the hunt for the necromancer themselves. Can Eleanor and the Spirit-Hunters save Elijah and end the reign of the necromancer and his army of the Dead before it’s too late?
Part historical fiction, part zombie thriller, Something Strange and Deadly, the first installment in a series for teens by debut author Susan Dennard, is a decent selection for readers who like supernatural novels with a bit of a twist. Set in 1876 Philadelphia, much of the story focuses on the plight of leading lady, sixteen-year-old Eleanor Fitt, in securing a marriage to save her family’s hemorrhaging finances. The rest of the novel deals with the supernatural elements, like zombies, ghosts and necromancers and the mystery surrounding exactly what is causing the Dead to rise. While many will enjoy this combination of history, mystery and horror, readers who want something that is only historical fiction or just about zombies and the supernatural might find themselves disappointed that the novel solidly identifies itself in one genre. Not enough focus is given to any element in the story to make it really appealing to fans of a specific type of book, so only readers who are interested in a combination of themes will enjoy reading the novel. Eleanor is a likable enough protagonist, but not enough depth is given to the support characters to really engage the reader in her interactions with them. A small romance does blossom, but not really in any way that feels organic. The story does have some promise, however, so hopefully the author can strengthen the characters and plot in the next installment, A Darkness Strange and Lovely, set to be released July 23, 2013.
I had a difficult time deciding whether I liked this novel or not. It was a bit schizophrenic for me, almost as if the author wanted the story to be many different things that there wasn’t one thing that was done really superbly. The zombie element kind of came and went in importance, Eleanor’s plight to find a good marriage wasn’t really executed fully, and the support characters weren’t as developed as they could have been. I think the author definitely has the makings for a good series, but some editing and focusing of where the story is going and what the main themes are would help the reader to stay more engaged. ...more
Every year on her birthday, Jalen and her grandmother, Nina, visit Madame Beausoleil’s shop and have a horoscope reading. This year, her thirteenth-birthday, Nina is in the hospital battling breast cancer, so Jalen and her best friend, Ellie, have decided to continue the tradition and get Jalen’s horoscope read. While exploring the books in Madame Beausoleil’s quirky shop, Jalen discovers a mysterious book hidden at the back of a shelf called The Keypers of the Zodiack. She and Ellie purchase the book and take it home where they discover that it contains not twelve but thirteen Zodiac signs. The thirteenth, Ophiuchus the serpent, would be Jalen’s actual Zodiac sign were it included in the calendar. Jalen doesn’t realize she is about to find out exactly what it means to be an Ophiuchus, however, when she and Ellie accidentally unlock the thirteenth sign and the entire Zodiac calendar shifts. Everyone now has a new sign, causing personality changes around the world. Surgeons are now timid, unable to perform their jobs, once brave policemen hide in the shadows and airline pilots are afraid to fly. Jalen, Ellie and Ellie’s older brother, Brennan, now find themselves in the middle of a battle between the other twelve Zodiac signs who have descended from the stars to make sure that Ophiuchus doesn’t come into power and make the calendar shift permanent. Can Jalen return Ophiuchus to its rightful place and prevent the world from being irrevocably altered?
Historical fiction author Kristin O’Donnell Tubb ventures into the realm of fantasy with her latest novel, The 13th Sign. Set in the already mystical town of New Orleans, the author weaves an interesting and unique story of Zodiac signs gone rogue. The bulk of the novel is dedicated to the consequences Jalen, Ellie and Brennan must deal with after Jalen accidentally invokes Ophiuchus (a constellation that does actually exist), causing the personalities of everyone on Earth to shift. Readers who aren’t interested in the Zodiac or don’t put much stock into its ability to predict or guide a person’s life will likely not find much in the novel to enjoy. There is a limited amount of backstory to Jalen and her relationship with her mother, grandmother and the father that disappeared years earlier. There is also a very tiny bit of romance between Jalen and Brennan, as well as a small amount of development in Jalen’s friendship with Ellie. Apart from these tiny subplots, however, the plot surrounds Jalen battling the various Zodiac signs. Readers who find this intriguing will enjoy the different ways the author introduces familiar names like Gemini, Leo and Capricorn, as well as the methods Jalen must use to defeat them. Since the novel never really gets too deep and is, instead, more of an action/adventure story, it is a good choice for older elementary/early middle school readers who want something fun and entertaining. The book might also be a good extra credit project in a science class to spark interest in astronomy and the history of constellations.
I have always been interested in the Zodiac and found many of the character traits it assigns to be fairly accurate, so when I heard about The 13th Sign I was immediately intrigued. The book is a very quick read and I would easily be able to recommend it to an upper elementary/early middle school-er who wants something fun and fast-paced. I do somewhat wish the author would have developed the characters a little bit more, but the lack of depth works if it’s simply being read for entertainment purposes. I’m looking forward to seeing what Kristin O’Donnell Tubb comes up with next! ...more
Meg and her best friend Minnie have been invited to the party of the year at the isolated vacation home of the uber-popular Jessica Lawrence. Jessica’s family owns a mansion on Henry Island off the coast of Washington, and only a select group received the invitation to stay at the parentless house for the weekend. Meg is used to being in Minnie’s shadow, especially when it comes to handsome football-star T.J. Fletcher. Minnie has been trying to get with T.J. for years, but Meg has never told her that she is secretly in love with him as well. To Meg’s surprise, T.J. was also invited to Jessica’s party, along with his best friend, and Minnie’s ex, Gunner, and nine other people. Although there’s a storm raging outside and they’re the only house around, everything seems set for a weekend of fun. Meg soon realizes, however, that the party is not what it seems. The guests begin to die in mysterious ways one-by-one, each death accompanied by a slash painted in dripping red on the wall. It soon becomes clear that everyone who was invited to the party is there for a reason, and that there is a murderer in the house who is seeking vengeance. But what is the link between the partygoers, and can they survive long enough to determine who the killer is?
In the vein of Agatha Christie’s And Then There Were None comes this story by veteran author Gretchen McNeil. Murder mysteries are not something you find too often in young adult literature, and the McNeil puts up a valiant effort in transforming this concept for a young adult audience. While there are some genuinely creepy moments in the novel and it is well-written, the mystery of the killer’s identity and why the party guests were invited to the house on Henry Island is, unfortunately, very obvious from the beginning of the story. Since the primary objective of the book is to keep the reader guessing as to how the events will unfold, the fact that there isn’t much mystery diminishes the good points of the novel. The relationship between Meg and her best friend Minnie is interesting, particularly since Minnie struggles with bipolar disorder and Meg is her self-imposed caretaker. Expanding on this aspect of the story would have added a lot more depth, but the author never really gets into it at more than a surface level. The romance between Meg and T.J. is also enjoyable, but never gets a chance to truly blossom either, with the author focusing more on the murders. For teens who have never read a mystery or who want something that goes by quickly, Ten is a good option that will, at least, keep them entertained. For readers who want something with a little more depth, however, there isn’t enough meat on the bones of this novel to make it a worthwhile read.
When I read the book jacket for this novel I was super excited to pick it up. An Agatha Christie-esque murder mystery for teens isn’t something you see every day. Unfortunately, while I found the book to be well-written and there were some creepy moments, I found the mystery to be far too predictable. I am by no means a mystery novel buff or an expert at figuring out who did what, but I had the plot figured out a few chapters in. I’m not sure if the mystery was intentionally not too complicated, but there really was no suspense. I do think that this book might be a good choice for a reluctant reader or for a teen who has never experienced a murder mystery novel, but other than that I would skip this one. ...more
After a deadly plague has killed most of the Earth’s population, society is left in ruin. Araby Worth and the rest of the city don’t know if they’re the only ones left alive, but, thanks to Araby’s scientist father, the wealthy are protected from the contagion by specially designed masks. While the poor continue to die, Araby and her best friend April live in the penthouse of one of the city’s nicest buildings, spending most of their time at the Debauchery Club, a darkened den full of drugs, alcohol and sex. Despite her life of relative luxury, Araby is haunted by the memory of her brother, Finn, who caught the sickness before her father invented the masks and died years earlier. Everything changes, however, when Araby meets Elliott, April’s older brother. April and Elliott are niece and nephew of the ruthless Prince Prospero, the city’s ruler who lives in an isolated castle and kills anyone who questions his authority. Elliott is determined to stage a revolution against his uncle, providing masks to everyone in the city along with food, clean water and proper shelter. Elliott needs Araby’s help to bring his plan to light, but Araby is conflicted when she becomes close with Will, the handsome and mysterious manager of the Debauchery Club.
Inspired by Edgar Allan Poe’s classic short story of the same name, The Masque of the Red Death is a tense start to a dystopian series for young adults. Set in the not-so-distant future, the post-apocalyptic world of Araby Worth is gritty, bloody, and cold. High-school English teacher turned author Bethany Griffin does a good job of creating a very uncomfortable atmosphere for the story to take place in. Puss oozes from the open sores of the sick, dead bodies are unceremoniously tossed into the carts of corpse collectors, and even the luxurious lives of Araby and her best friend April are bleak. The author is also successful at developing the character of Araby herself. Araby’s life is completely dominated by thoughts of her brother Finn whose death she feels responsible for. Araby prefers to spend her time in a drug-induced stupor where she can escape her painful memories, but she begins to grow and change after she gets to know Will and his younger siblings and when she becomes involved in Elliott’s plot to overthrow Prince Prospero. Where the novel is somewhat lacking, unfortunately, is in developing the other characters in the story and their relationships with Araby. Will and Elliott are somewhat explored, but their romances with Araby are fuzzy. Does she really like either of them? Why? Araby’s parents are two characters who hold a lot of potential to be interesting, but aren’t given enough page time to really be flushed out. Araby’s best friend, April, is arguably the most successfully developed support character, but really doesn’t have much of a role in the story. Overall, Masque of the Red Death proves to be a bit of a mixed bag, with a strong setting and central character but a weaker plot and supporting cast. The sequel, Dance of the Red Death, is set to be released in June 2013.
I hadn’t heard much about this book prior to picking it up, but I am a big fan of reinvented pieces of classic literature so I was excited to learn about the influence of Edgar Allan Poe on the novel. Although I did, in general, enjoy the book, unfortunately, I can’t say it was one of my favorites. I thought the author did a great job establishing a really tense, uncomfortable atmosphere, which fit the events of the story perfectly, but, for me, that was the best part of the book. I didn’t really get Araby having a romance with either Will or Elliott. I found Araby’s parents, her friend April and even Prince Prospero to be interesting characters, but the novel focused more on Will and Elliott so that didn’t really help much. I would probably recommend this novel to teens who are interested in post-apocalyptic and dystopian reads, but there are others I would likely suggest first. ...more
Lord Denbury is free from his prison inside a cursed painting and the demon who was inhabiting his body has been vanquished. Now he and Natalie are on the run, seeking refuge with one of Denbury’s longtime friends in St. Paul. Not sure where the answer to their troubles lies, they are shocked upon arriving in St. Paul to learn that the Society that cursed Lord Denbury in the first place now has much larger and more sinister plans in store. It seems that the Society has capture Rachel Horowitz, a friend of Natalie’s from New York, who cannot hear or speak but has the ability to communicate with spirits. Through visions and premonitions, Natalie is able to see Rachel being held captive, forced to draw spirits out of objects, mementos, even body parts. What is the Society planning and how does it relate to the demon that once cursed Lord Denbury?
Author Leanna Renee Hieber continues her love-affair with Victorian literature in this sequel to her 2011 novel, Darker Still. Unfortunately, where her first novel shone in its marriage of mystery, romance and suspense, the sequel falls markedly short. There are several reasons why The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart is not a successful follow-up to its predecessor. The first is that Darker Still had a very intriguing and well-written plot: Lord Denbury’s imprisonment in the painting, Natalie’s inability to communicate due to being mute, a murder mystery on the streets of Victorian New York. The plot of the sequel, however, is muddled, convoluted and not very entertaining. The “big reveal” at the end of the novel is very anti-climactic, and the build-up to that point is lackluster. Characters are introduced then never really expanded upon, and the romance between Natalie and Lord Denbury doesn’t really go anywhere. The charm of the setting in Darker Still is also absent, with little attention given to the Victorian surroundings and sensibilities that the author obviously cares for. There is an attempt at a cliffhanger that does little to motivate the reader to want to pick up the third novel which is set to be released in November of 2013. Overall, a disappointing follow-up to a story that had loads of potential.
Darker Still was one of my favorite young adult books that I’ve read within the past few years. I was really excited for the sequel, so much so that I held off on reading it for awhile so that I could really enjoy it when I finally got to crack it open. Unfortunately, I was exceptionally unimpressed with The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart. I’m not sure what happened, it just took a complete turn into dullsville for me. Where Darker Still was original and charming, the sequel was very blah. I am really sad about how much I didn’t enjoy it because I still really love the first novel. Hopefully the author can turn it around for the third installment, but I do have to say, it’s unlikely I will bother completing the series. ...more
After narrowly escaping execution, Day and June are on the run from the Republic. Not sure where to turn for safety, they soon find themselves at the mercy of the Patriots: an anti-Republic group lead by a man named Razor. The Patriots want to unite the Republic and the Colonies and bring about the return of the United States of America, and offer to help Day and June in exchange for their assistance in bringing about a revolution. After the Elector Primo dies and his son, Anden, takes over as leader of the Republic, the Patriots see their chance to create an uprising. In order to do so, they will assassinate the new Elector; more specifically, Day will pull the trigger. Day and June reluctantly agree to the Patriots’ plan, having nowhere else to turn and desperately wanting the help of the Patriots in rescuing Day’s brother Eden from the clutches of the Republic. But can Day and June truly trust Razor and the rest of the Patriots, or is there something, or someone, else behind the plot to assassinate the new Elector?
Following up 2012’s best-selling and hugely popular Legend was, undoubtedly, a daunting task for author Marie Lu. Fortunately, the sequel, Prodigy, not only lives up to but surpasses its predecessor, bringing the Legend trilogy safely to the forefront of the young adult genre. Where Legend spent a great deal of time setting the stage for the story (i.e. firmly establishing the totalitarian brutality of the Republic, building the romance between Day and June, etc), Prodigy gets to use this plot construction as a springboard into a very exciting series of twists and turns. Full of action from start to finish, most readers will have trouble putting the book down. Day and June are further developed, as are some additional characters, making the reader a lot more invested in the story than they might have been in Legend. In addition, a lot of information is revealed, propelling the world Marie Lu has created into very intriguing new areas. Overall, a stellar sequel that is sure to please already existing fans and draw in new readers as well. The third and final novel in the trilogy, Champion, is set to be released in 2014.
I enjoyed Legend quite a bit, but after now after reading Prodigy I can safely say that I have morphed into a huge fan of Marie Lu’s series. I really like the world she has created, especially since we got to learn more about it in this novel. I found myself liking Day and June a lot more than I did in Legend, particularly June who is given the opportunity to come out of her “Republic soldier genius” shell in Prodigy. I would easily recommend this trilogy to fans of dystopian novels, especially readers who are pining for something Hunger Games-y. I am really looking forward to the third novel!...more
On the mysterious and remote island of Neverland, creatures like faeries and mermaids are common. Inhabitants of Neverland only age to a certain point, and the island is divided amongst various tribes, a fierce band of pirates, and a group of Lost Boys rumored to be lead by a monster named Peter Pan. One faerie named Tink finds herself following Tiger Lily, a girl who is well over eighty years old but with the appearance of a fifteen-year-old. Tiger Lily has never really fit into her tribe known as the Sky Eaters. Both brave and strong, her tribe has always feared her, believing her to be under the protection of the crows. After being promised to a cruel and oafish man in her tribe, Tiger Lily meets Peter Pan and discovers that, not only is he not a monster, he is a charismatic and bewitching boy her own age who protects his group of Lost Boys from the pirates. Initially unsure of their relationship, Tiger Lily and Peter soon find themselves falling in love with one another, all under the watchful eye of Tink. The arrival of an English ship to Neverland and, in particular, a beautiful girl named Wendy, however, will change everything forever.
Everyone knows the tale of Peter Pan, Wendy, Neverland, Captain Hook and the Lost Boys. A character who doesn’t always figure into the story in a positive light is the beautiful but wild girl named Tiger Lily. In veteran author Jodi Lynn Anderson’s Tiger Lily, however, the reader gets a new take on this mysterious girl and her relationship with Peter Pan, all from the perspective of a tiny faerie named Tink. A more gritty interpretation of J.M. Barrie’s mythical world of Neverland, the novel focuses primarily on Tiger Lily herself: who she is, her place among her people, and why she allows herself to fall for the unpredictable Peter Pan. The Disney version of the characters is completely absent from Tiger Lily. Captain Hook is a decrepit alcoholic who is obsessed with killing the person he views responsible for kidnapping his young cabin boys. His right-hand man Smee is a murderer and the pirates are dirty and constantly in a drunken stupor. Peter Pan himself is charismatic and charming, but slightly unhinged, leading his band of dirty Lost Boys in a constant effort to hide from the pirates. Tink is a quirky narrator who, incapable of actually speaking with Peter or Tiger Lily herself, observes their actions, giving the reader her interpretations and feelings on their relationship, particularly after the arrival of the spoiled and slightly bratty Wendy. Fans of the original Peter Pan story and its many iterations will enjoy this new look at the classic tale. For those who aren’t as interested in the characters themselves, however, the story might not satisfy as much, offering nothing that would entice teens who don’t want to read the novel simply based on it being a Peter Pan re-boot. Overall, an excellent story for teens and adults for like re-told classics, but not really for those whose tastes lie elsewhere.
When I was a kid, the release of the movie Hook was a big deal, so I have been a fan of Peter Pan and the rest of inhabitants of Neverland for a long time. When I heard about this book, I was immediately intrigued because Tiger Lily has always been one of the more sub-characters in the story with Wendy getting far more screentime. I think the author feels the same way as me (that Wendy is kind of irritating), so I’m glad she wrote this story that turns Tiger Lily into a Xena Warrior Princess type character. It was interesting to see Tiger Lily in this light, and I really enjoyed that the novel was narrated by Tink. The story is far from light-hearted, but I enjoyed reading it and hope that the author comes up with more classic reboots in the future. ...more
Six months ago, sixteen-year-old Hannah Wagner’s life changed forever when her best friend, Lillian, died. Now Hannah is being haunted by Lillian’s ghost, who is just as controlling as she was when she was alive. Hannah always followed Lillian’s lead with their other friends, but now that she’s on her own she isn’t sure if she fits in with the popular crowd anymore. To make matters worse, Hannah can’t stop thinking about Finny Boone, a delinquent and social outcast who has always been strangely kind to her. Living with the ghost of Lillian quickly becomes the least of Hannah’s problems, however, when a string of grisly murders begins happening in a park near her house. It seems that a serial killer is targeting young girls, leaving the bodies riddled with toys and a single paper valentine. Lillian urges Hannah to begin investigating the murders, but the more she learns, the more it seems like her life might be in danger next.
Brenna Yovanoff is well-known in the young adult arena for her dark, quirky and well-written novels, and her latest, Paper Valentine, is no exception. Part murder-mystery, part ghost story, Paper Valentine weaves a complex and thoroughly enjoyable tale with interesting, well-developed characters. The relationship between Hannah and the ghost of her best friend Lillian is perhaps the most important part of the story. In life, popular girl Lillian was in charge. Hannah followed her charismatic friend’s lead, even as Lillian began to self-destruct thanks to a lifelong struggle with anorexia. Now that Lillian’s dead, Hannah feels more than a little lost, even with her friend’s ghost constantly hovering nearby. Readers who have ever had a relationship like that between Lillian and Hannah will identify with what Hannah feels, especially when she begins to make her own social decisions following Lillian’s death. For those readers who aren’t as interested in the friendship aspect of the novel, the mysterious murders committed by the Valentine Killer will provide more than a little entertainment. Hannah and Lillian are determined to find out the identity of the killer before more girls are murdered, but the more they uncover, the more they realize that there is nothing simple about the person who is targeting young girls, leaving their bodies littered with toys and a single paper valentine. Overall, Brenna Yovanoff’s latest novel is at times both exceptionally heartwarming and creepy. It will hold a lot of appeal to a variety of readers, both teen and adult.
This is the second novel of Brenna Yovanoff’s that I’ve read, and I can safely say after thoroughly enjoying both that I am a fan. One of my favorite things about this author, apart from her dark, well-written stories, is that her novels are stand-alone. This means that the story is given a beginning, middle and end, leaving the reader feeling satisfied instead of longing for a sequel. I think it’s a huge accomplishment that the author can create something intriguing and with a great deal of depth without having to publish oodles of sequels. I’m looking forward to seeing what she comes up with next! ...more
Now that she is settling into her newfound role as the queen of Ludania, Charlie is struggling to cope with unrest in her troubled kingdom. The caste system that used to strictly divide the country by language has been abolished, and Charlie, Max and Brooklynn are trying to ensure that the transition to equality goes smoothly. Unfortunately, not everyone in Ludania is thrilled about what Charlie has done. Threats against the queen are uncovered on a daily basis, making Charlie fear for the safety of her family, especially her younger sister, Angelina. Charlie’s biggest threat, however, is not something outside the castle walls, but lives deep inside of her: the essence of the evil queen Sabara, the one Charlie supposedly killed to become queen, is trapped in Charlie and wants nothing more than to get out. The longer Sabara’s spirit lives within Charlie, the more their thoughts and memories become linked, and Charlie soon realizes that there is much she didn’t know about the former queen of Ludania. What do the dreams of Sabara’s previous lives mean? Why does Charlie find herself drawn to a mysterious strange, Niko Bartolo, from a neighboring kingdom? Can Charlie keep the presence of Sabara’s essence within her a secret from the people she loves?
Following the popular first installment in The Pledge trilogy, veteran author Kimberly Derting continues her latest series with The Essence. Beginning shortly after the events of the previous novel, Charlie, the vendor’s daughter turned queen of the kingdom of Ludania, finds herself in a series of increasingly dangerous situations. Her people aren’t as crazy about her as she’d hoped they be, it seems like someone is trying very hard to kill her, she’s not that into being treated like royalty, and the spirit of the evil queen Sabara, who also happens to be her boyfriend’s grandmother, is living inside of her. A lot of Charlie’s spunk that was present in the first novel is absent in the wake of all of these challenges, turning her from a likable leading lady to a bit of a whiner. Things go from bad to worse when Charlie is sent to a summit where the queens of neighboring kingdoms meet to discuss official business and try to out shine one another. Charlie doesn’t know the etiquette that the other queens have had years to learn, plus her trip is especially rocky considering that someone really wants her dead. Much of what was enjoyable about the first novel, the dystopian nature of Ludania, the caste system, Charlie’s budding romance with Max, is completely absent in the sequel. While The Essence isn’t necessarily a poorly written or “bad” story, it’s drastically different from its predecessor, making it unclear if fans of The Pledge will like it. For readers who don’t mind the story veering off from a mix of adventure and dystopia into full on fantasy territory, The Essence will prove to be an entertaining read. For those who aren’t into battles, commanders, armies, and dead queens, however, the likelihood of enjoying the novel enough to pick up the third and final installment is slim.
I seem to keep being disappointed by sequels to novels that I really loved and, unfortunately, The Essence is yet another sophomore slump for me. The Pledge was a really interesting and entertaining story, with the language-based caste system, Charlie uncovering her role as heir to the throne of Ludania and her relationship with Max. In The Essence, Charlie is now a bit of a brat, whining constantly about all of the issues she has to deal with as queen. The plot is also slow and never seems to pick up a lot of speed at any point in the novel. I hope that the author can turn the series around with an excellent third novel, but I’m sorry to say that my hopes aren’t very high. ...more
Following their discovery of her mother’s death and of the defeat of his brother Vale, Aria and Perry, now the blood lord of the Tides, are living an uneasy existence amongst the Outsiders. Distrustful of Dwellers, Aria’s new home is far from welcoming, especially since Perry’s new position as ruler of the Tides is shaky at best. Determined to protect his people and make up for his brother’s mistakes, Perry and Aria decide to seek out the Still Blue: the last place on Earth that is said to be free of the Aether storms that increasingly scorch the landscape and everything in its path. The only person who knows where the location of the Still Blue, however, is Sable: the blood lord of the Horns, the tribe that Perry and Aria believe is still holding Perry’s sister Liv captive. To make matters worse, Consul Hess, the leader of the domed-city of Reverie that Aria used to call home, is forcing Aria to provide him the location of the Still Blue, using Perry’s brother Talon as a bargaining chip. As the Tides’ trust of their new blood lord and his dweller girlfriend decreases and the Aether storms get worse and worse, can Aria and Perry discover the location of the one place on Earth where they might be able to survive?
Picking up where the best-selling novel, Under the Never Sky, left off, this second installment in Veronica Rossi’s trilogy doesn’t quite live up to its predecessor but still manages to continue the author’s intriguing tale of danger, love and duty. Unlike the first book, Aria and Perry’s relationship is firmly cemented in Through the Ever Night. What is not cemented, however, is their position in Perry’s tribe, the Tides, of which he finds himself the new blood lord. Readers who have forgotten some of the events of Under the Never Sky will need a little refresher to understand exactly what is going on, because the novel does little to recap what happened previously, potentially leading to some confusion. For those who remember all of the details, and plot twists of the first book, however, the story flows well, expanding on the characters created in Under the Never Sky and adding new elements to the landscape in which they exist. One of the most intriguing parts of Veronica Rossi’s creation, the mysterious and deadly Aether storms, becomes the largest driving force in the plot as Aria and Perry struggle to find a way to free themselves and the Tides from its constant destruction. This focus on the Aether and survival, unfortunately means that some of what was so enjoyable about the first novel, such as Perry and Aria’s developing relationship, the nature of the domed cities and the various inhabitants of the outside world, etc. take the backseat. Some interesting plot twists occur surrounding Perry’s sister Liv and her new home with Sable, the leader of a rival tribe, add entertainment value, but many readers might find themselves longing for the spark of the first book that simply isn’t as apparent in Through the Ever Night. Despite its shortcomings, however, the first two novels in this trilogy will definitely appeal to teens and fans of the dystopian genre. The third and final installment, Into the Still Blue, is set to be released in 2014.
I was a huge fan of Under the Never Sky and have recommended it quite frequently to Hunger Games fans who want something similar, so I was really looking forward to picking up Through the Ever Night. Unfortunately, I didn’t enjoy it nearly as much as I did the first novel. I found the whole tribe/survival element of Perry’s role as blood lord and little tedious and I kept waiting for something exciting to happen throughout the first two-thirds of the story. The book does pick up towards the end, which leads me to believe that there is still hope it will be an overall excellent trilogy, but I think the author has a bit of work to do in the final installment. Either way, I will still recommend this series to fans of the dystopian genre. Interesting storyline and likable characters that hold a lot of promise for a strong finish....more
For decades, Calder White and his sisters, Maris, Pavati and Tallulah, have hunted in the waters of Lake Superior. Feeding off the lives and emotionsFor decades, Calder White and his sisters, Maris, Pavati and Tallulah, have hunted in the waters of Lake Superior. Feeding off the lives and emotions of humans, Calder and his sisters are not like the Disney version of mermaids: their supernatural powers and ability to survive both above and beneath the surface of the icy waves makes them lethal to their prey. Years earlier, their mother died as a result of a broken promise made between her and a human man who’s life she saved in exchange for that of his infant child. The man, Tom Hancock, took his family away from the lake, but his now adult son, Jason, has returned with his wife and children. Determined to avenge their mother’s death, Maris, the eldest of Calder’s sisters and the leader of their family, orders Calder to seduce Lily, Jason’s seventeen-year-old daughter. In order to please his sisters, Calder gets close to Lily, spending more time with her than he ever has with another human. What Calder doesn’t expect, however, is to find himself falling in love with his prey. As Lily and Calder get closer, will he be able to deliver her father to his sisters?
Author Anne Greenwood Brown’s enthusiasm for Lake Superior is evident in her debut novel, Lies Beneath, the first installment in a new series for young adults. It’s not very often that mermaid tales take place in a lake, but the author’s obvious love for the beauty surrounding the nearly ocean-sized body of water makes the presence of sea creatures perfectly acceptable. The geography and climate of the lake is almost as much of a character as Calder, the leading merman, and Lily, his unknowing prey. Readers who are unfamiliar with Lake Superior will feel like they know the area quite well by the end of the story, largely due to the factual information the author includes about the history and lore that surround it. The plot of the novel itself is also interesting, with Calder and his mermaid sisters being more like sharks circling the shore watching for prey. The revenge aspect of the tale gets slightly confusing at times: it’s clear that there is more to the story but it isn’t until the end of the book that the author really decides what direction she wants to take the characters. The conclusion feels somewhat abrupt, but overall, the novel is entertaining and will likely leave readers excited for the sequel, Deep Betrayal, which is set to be released on March 12, 2013.
I’m always intrigued by mermaid tales, especially ones where the mermaids are kind of mean, so this story was up my alley. While I did enjoy it, there were some aspects that I wish had been downplayed and some that I wish had been highlighted more. I really liked reading about Calder and his sisters and their ability to lure victims to their watery graves. I wanted to know more about the mermaid family, but instead the bulk of the novel focused on Lily and her relationship with Calder. The romance was sweet, but seemed to blossom incredibly quickly from trepidation to full-blown love within a few chapters. I also felt like the ending got a little muddled, but I will still likely pick up the sequel when it’s released later this year. I think the series has potential and would recommend it to readers who like paranormal romance, especially of the mermaid variety. ...more
Amy, Elder and the inhabitants of the Godspeed who chose to start a new life on the planet have landed on Centauri Earth. The frozen members of the original Godspeed mission, including Amy’s parents, have been released from their icy chambers and work must now begin to colonize their new home. But everything is not going as smoothly as Amy and Elder had hoped. The shipborn colonists do not trust their new military leaders, and the Earth natives, including Amy’s father who is now the leader of the mission, are even more wary of Elder and his people. More troubling, however, is the planet which they must now call home. Inhabited by fierce dinosaur-like creatures, deadly vegetation and unpredictable weather, Amy and Elder aren’t sure if Centauri Earth is as habitable as they were lead to believe. The colonists also begin to discover ruins: proof that someone has been to the planet before but seems to be gone without a trace. Will Amy, Elder and the rest of the members of the Godspeed mission be able to survive long enough to learn the truth about Centauri Earth?
This third and final installment in Beth Revis’ best-selling Across the Universe trilogy provides the series with an incredibly exciting and satisfying end. Revis is a master at creating twists and turns that are difficult to anticipate, and the reader will find themselves along for a very bumpy ride as Amy and Elder learn the truth about the mission that has brought them to their new home. Free from the confines of the Godspeed, the author creates an entire world for her characters to navigate, providing opportunities to develop Amy and Elder even further as they learn more about themselves and each other. The novel is action-packed and paced perfectly as well, building suspense throughout the plot that comes to an exciting climax. In her Across the Universe trilogy, Beth Revis has created a story and set of characters that is certain to stand the test of time as one of the best science-fiction series ever written for the young adult audience.
Wow, this is one of the best series I have ever read. I loved the first novel, enjoyed the sequel even more, but can safely say that the third book was the best…not many trilogies can accomplish that! From start to finish, this is an amazing book and I was completely satisfied with the ending. I am only sad that the series is over, but I am really looking forward to reading what Beth Revis comes up with next. This trilogy is a must-read for anyone who simply likes a well-written, exciting and entertaining story. Excellent, excellent, excellent. ...more
After years of war, poverty and violence, North America is now the UNA: an alliance between Canada, the United States and Mexico controlled by a harsh and incredibly strict military government. When she was little girl, Alenna Shawcross’ parents, like anyone else who opposed the UNA, were taken by the government, and Alenna became one of countless orphans raised to respect and obey. At the age of sixteen, all citizens of the UNA are required to take the GPPT: a chemical personality test that can identify individuals with violent or criminal tendencies. After Alenna inexplicably fails the test, she is sent to Alpha Island, a brutal tropical prison where other teens who didn’t pass the GPPT must struggle to survive. The island is in the midst of a civil war between two rival factions of teens: those who follow the Monk, a charismatic dictator whose devotees revere him as a path to salvation, and those who oppose the Monk. Alenna finds herself in the middle of the conflict living with the teens who fight against the Monk and his drones. Amongst the rebels, Alenna meets Liam, a strong and handsome warrior who is convinced that there is a way off Island Alpha. As Alenna learns about the island, she begins to realize that it is much more than a prison, and becomes determined to help Liam, and the rest of her new friends, escape before it is too late.
In her debut novel, digital librarian turned author Lisa M. Stasse delivers a healthy dose of action, adventure, romance and overall dystopian excitement in The Forsaken. The dystopian genre seems to be slowly taking over young adult literature, but Stasse’s novel truly shines as a thoroughly entertaining and well-written book. Fans of The Hunger Games will easily enjoy the fast pace, likable characters, and non-stop action in The Forsaken, which reads much like a futuristic Lord of the Flies. From start to finish, the reader is entrenched in the world of Island Alpha, where teens battle eachother for scarce resources, territory and power. Throw in a protagonist that many teens will identify with, a strong supporting cast of characters, and a romance that refrains from being overly gushy and melodramatic and you have a story with loads of appeal to both male and female teens. The novel has received some mixed reviews from those who consider it to be too much like The Hunger Games, but the author’s ability to have the same tone as the uber-successful series while creating a unique storyline is perfect for teachers or librarians who want to provide teen readers an enjoyable read-a-like. Overall, a successful and entertaining debut novel that will leave fans eagerly anticipating the release of the sequel, The Uprising, in August 2013.
Having read and completely loved The Forsaken, I am shocked that I haven’t heard more buzz about it. I have said many times that I am a huge fan of the dystopian genre, but too often dystopian books aren’t super satisfying. That is not the case with The Forsaken, however, which I loved from the first page to the last. I can’t wait for the sequel, and am looking forward to recommending this new series to Hunger Games fans. What an accomplishment for debut author (and librarian!) Lisa M. Stasse! ...more
Orphaned when she was six, Jane Williams has spent the last ten years bouncing around from foster home to foster home in the shady neighborhood of Helmsdale (or Hellsdale as the residents call it.) Her closest friend, Hosea, died several years earlier, and Jane used his death as motivation to transform herself from a foul-mouthed brat to a smart, articulate, straight-A student despite her unfortunate surroundings. Now she has been offered a full scholarship to the exclusive Birch Grove Academy: a boarding school in a wealthy town. She is provided her own small cottage to live in, an allowance for living expenses, clothes, and everything else she could want by Mrs. Radcliffe, the headmistress. Jane can’t believe her good fortune at escaping Hellsdale, and soon finds herself with a new set of friends who don’t seem to mind that she was raised in poverty amongst drug dealers and prostitutes. Especially surprising is that Lucian “Lucky” Radcliffe, the headmistress’ handsome son, seems to be interested in her. As Jane begins to learn more about Birch Grove Academy, however, she discovers that everything isn’t as ideal as it seems. The previous scholarship recipient, a girl named BB who was also from Hellsdale, recently disappeared, supposedly moving away with a rich uncle. The wife of one of Birch Grove’s teachers, also a former Hellsdale resident, seems to have committed suicide under mysterious circumstances. Jane is reluctant to leave her new life of luxury and security, but can she survive the truth of the Birch Grove Academy?
Written by veteran author Marta Acosta, this multi-layered tale with undertones of Jane Eyre proves to be an interesting combination of realistic fiction and paranormal romance that many readers are likely to find enjoyable. The bulk of the story is centered on Jane. Jane is a likable but flawed character with a difficult past who grows as a person as the story progresses. She makes mistakes throughout the story, allowing herself to be used on her quest for love and acceptance, but she is well-written and believable, a character that many young adults will find something to identify with. The supporting characters are also interesting, from the wealthy and handsome Lucky Radcliffe to his offbeat older brother Jack to Jane’s new dramatic Birch Grove BFF Mary Violet, but none are as explored or flushed out as Jane. The paranormal and romantic aspects of the plot are present, but really the novel is about Jane surviving an abusive childhood and learning to open up and trust others. Readers who are seeking something with paranormal components that make up the bulk of the story will be disappointed, but those who like to delve into character driven novels will enjoy Dark Companion. Although a sequel has not been announced, the author could easily continue Jane’s story in another novel. For now, Dark Companion is a quiet but entertaining book that a thoughtful young adult audience can enjoy.
I hadn’t heard much of anything about this book, but the plot sounded intriguing so I decided to give it a try. It’s one of those novels that I wish would get more attention, but I can see why hordes of teens aren’t rushing to pick it up. It’s quiet and very much about Jane. Although it has some paranormal elements that readers can latch onto, I found watching Jane grow as a character to be far more interesting. I would easily recommend this book to readers who like books that are well-written but not as dramatic as Twilight or other popular paranormal romances. I’m looking forward to seeing if Marta Acosta writes a sequel and what other novels she produces in the future. ...more
After the deaths of her chimaera family, and most of the race, Karou finds herself at the service of the White Wolf, the chimaera leader who, decades earlier, had her beheaded when she was living her previous life as Madrigal. Karou and what is left of the chimaera army have taken refuge in the human world, inhabiting a Kasbah in the deserts of Morocco, close to one of the last remaining portals to Eretz. Using the skills she learned from Brimstone, Karou is now the chimaera’s Resurrectionist, helping the White Wolf recreate his army to return to Eretz and seek revenge against the seraphim. Meanwhile, a heartbroken Akiva, believing Karou is dead, has reunited with his brother Hazael and sister Liraz, and the trio are now in service of their father, the emperor. Determined to completely wipe out what’s left of the chimaera, the seraphim armies patrol Eretz, killing every last chimaera they come across. Akiva, seeking to atone for what he has done, takes it upon himself to save as many chimaera as he can, still believing that the dream he and Madrigal shared of peace between the two races might be possible.
Well-written but extremely complex, this sequel to Laini Taylor’s best-selling novel Daughter of Smoke and Bone continues to weave the multi-faceted tale of Karou, Akiva and the parallel worlds they inhabit. Although the plot from the previous book is continued, Days of Blood and Starlight is a very different story from its predecessor. There is little to no light-heartedness in the novel, page after page filled with death, war and suffering. The romance between Karou and Akiva is also noticeably decreased in this book, with most of the focus falling on the tension building as the renegade chimaera army plots its revenge against the seraphim. While Daughter of Smoke and Bone might have appealed to the typical young adult audience who like a mix of fantasy and romance, the appeal of the sequel to a variety of different readers is unlikely. Since the novel focuses almost entirely on battle, many teens who enjoyed Daughter of Smoke and Bone for its blend of fantasy, action-adventure and romance are going to get lost in the sea of swords and gore. The pacing of the book is also peculiar at times, skipping back and forth at random between Karou and Akiva’s perspectives. Overall, Days of Blood and Starlight is an interesting but not entirely successful sequel in Laini Taylor’s series. Hopefully the third novel, set to be released in 2014, can improve upon what is still a story and set of characters that hold a lot of potential.
I was a huge fan of Daughter of Smoke and Bone so I was very excited to read Days of Blood and Starlight. Unfortunately, like many series, the sequel just did not cut it for me. I found it to be about 100-200 pages too long, the pacing was odd, and it was incredibly dark. I wanted a little bit of levity, but happy moments were few and far between, as were romantic moments between Karou and Akiva. I did enjoy getting to know the characters a bit better, but I felt like the story dove headfirst into the Tolkien-esque fantasy realm and left those of us who aren’t into loads of battles and swordplay in the lurch. That being said, however, I will still likely pick up the third novel in the series when it is released, because I do think there is still some potential for the author to turn things around. ...more
Shortly after the events of the first novel, Mara Dyer finds herself in a mental institution. The doctors tell her that she was uncontrollably raving about having killed her teacher and that Jude, her ex-boyfriend who was thought to have died in the tragic accident that brought Mara to Miami, is still alive. Everyone thinks Mara is crazy: her parents, her brothers, the doctors, the police. Everyone but Noah Shaw, Mara’s boyfriend, who seems to have supernatural abilities like her. In an effort escape the confines of the mental institution, Mara pretends to be normal: not mentioning that she sees evidence that Jude is very much alive and stalking her. Jude seems determined to punish Mara for the accident that killed Claire, Jude’s sister and Mara’s best friend. Mara can rely only on Noah, the sole person who believes the Jude is still alive. As Mara begins to uncover more about the truth of the accident that changed her life forever and Jude’s sudden reappearance, however, she discovers a much larger, centuries-old secret, showing that everything that has happened to her was no accident.
Following up her best-selling debut novel, The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer, this second installment in the Mara Dyer trilogy picks up briskly right where the previous book left off, plunging the reader again head first into Mara’s confusing but fascinating world. One of the most enjoyable parts of both the first and second novels in this series is that, like Mara, the reader isn’t sure what is real and what is imaginary. Clearly Mara herself has difficulty distinguishing between reality and fantasy, making her an unreliable narrator in the sense that the reader doesn’t know the truth either. Is Jude really alive? Is he truly stalking her? These are questions that the author does a good job of raising throughout the story, making this book a lot more complex than other paranormal titles available for the young adult audience. The Evolution of Mara Dyer also begins to unravel some of the mystery surrounding Mara, Noah and their apparent supernatural abilities, explaining some things to the reader while creating even larger questions as well. Like the first novel, the story ends of a large cliffhanger that will undoubtedly leave readers clambering for the third and final book in the series, The Retribution of Mara Dyer, which is set to be released in the fall of 2013. Overall, a successful sequel in a very intriguing trilogy.
I really enjoyed the first book in this series and found it to be very unique, so I was hoping that The Evolution of Mara Dyer would be similar in its creativity. I was happy to find it just as intriguing as its predecessor! The tone of this novel is dark (as was the first), especially because the reader is never really sure if the horrible things Mara is experiencing are actually happening. I found these dark moments to be creepy but also a large component in why the novel is so enjoyable. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Michelle Hodkin concludes this trilogy and wraps up the complicated web she has woven in the character of Mara Dyer. I highly recommend this series to both teen and adult readers alike!
After her mother’s sudden death from dysentery, seventeen-year-old Arabella “Abbie” Sharp leaves the gritty streets of 1888 Dublin to live with her wealthy grandmother, Lady Westfield, in the well-to-do London neighborhood of Kensington. Before she was born, Lady Westfield disowned Abbie’s mother for eloping with a poor Frenchman, but now that Abbie has returned to her mother’s former privileged life, her grandmother is determined to ensure that Abbie doesn’t follow in her mother’s footsteps. In an effort to make her granddaughter appreciate her luxurious if dull new surroundings, Lady Westfield volunteers Abbie to work with family friend Dr. Bartlett at the women’s hospital in the impoverished Whitechapel neighborhood. Soon after beginning her work there, Abbie discovers a natural love of medicine and a genuine enjoyment of helping the poverty-stricken women of the East End. Her love of working in the hospital is brief, however, when Jack the Ripper begins his brutal killing spree, murdering women who were recently discharged from the hospital’s care. Like everyone, Abbie is terrified by the savage nature of the crimes, but she soon realizes that she and the Ripper have a connection: strange visions that show the Ripper’s victims just before their deaths. What is the link between Abbie, the Ripper and the Whitechapel Hospital, and can she discover it in time to save her own life?
In her debut novel, author and 19th century British literature expert Amy Carol Reeves brings one of history’s most terrifying figures to life in Ripper. Although not the first young adult novel in recent years to feature Jack the Ripper, Abbie Sharp’s story is one of many layers in which the infamous murderer is just another component of a larger mystery. Abbie herself is a very likable character, trying to reconcile her new life of corsets and tea parties with the knife throwing skills and street smarts she picked up in Dublin. Her devotion and compassion for the patients she finds herself caring for at the Whitechapel Hospital is very believable, and will hopefully prompt readers to research more into what life was like for women living in poverty in the 19th century. Ripper fans will find some familiar faces, as Abbie meets and befriends several victims before they are brutally slain. The paranormal aspects of the story, from Abbie’s psychic visions to the increasingly obvious supernatural nature of the crimes, will also appeal to readers who want something more than just a simple historical fiction novel. As with all young adult novels, it seems, there is also a romance in the form of a love triangle between Abbie and two young physicians at the hospital. Since Ripper is the first book in a series, the love triangle will undoubtedly continue in the second installment, Renegade, which is set to be released in April 2013. Overall, Ripper proves to be an entertaining historical fiction novel that both Jack the Ripper fans and those not well acquainted with the killer can enjoy.
As I have said before, I am always ready to pounce on any novels that feature the brutal if intriguing Jack the Ripper case, so when I heard about Ripper I had to pick it up. I am also a fan of historical fiction, so I was able to enjoy Amy Carol Reeves’ story from both angles. Her knowledge and love of the time period is clear, and I definitely found some subtle and not-so-subtle references to classic novels that, hopefully, teen readers can pick up on as well. Although I found the supernatural components as well as the requisite love-triangle to somewhat detract from what I was really interested in, I think most teen readers will enjoy these aspects of the story, especially since so many young adult novels include them. I would easily recommend this book to a reader who wants historical fiction with a twist. I look forward to reading Renegade when it is released in 2013. ...more
She almost lost her life trying to rescue the girls who were kidnapped and taken aboard the New Horizon, but Waverly Marshall finds a less than welcome homecoming after their shuttle returns to the Empyrean. Desperate to get their parents back from the clutches of the New Horizon’s charismatic leader, Anne Mather, those who are left alive on the Empyrean blame both Waverly and Kieran, who is still acting captain, for their inability to catch up with their sister ship. Seth, who tried and failed to stage a mutiny against Kieran, finds himself locked in the brig, struggling to maintain his sanity as he thinks about all those who were lost during the New Horizon’s attack. Soon after Waverly the other girls’ return to the Empyrean, however, acts of sabotage begin to happen around the ship. Seth finds himself inexplicably released from the brig, his cell door unlocked and the guards knocked out. Kieran suspects that Seth himself is the terrorist wreaking havoc, and Seth, now in hiding onboard the ship, is determined to prove that the saboteur is actually a stowaway from the New Horizon. As dissent and distrust grows on the Empyrean, will Waverly, Kieran and Seth survive long enough to see the rescue of their parents and the end of their mission to reach New Earth?
The effective writing, breakneck packing, and intriguing twists and turns of the Sky Chasers series are as apparent as ever in Spark, the sequel to Amy Kathleen Ryan’s 2011 novel Glow. One of the most enjoyable parts of Glow was that the action began very early on in the story, and continued pretty much without pause throughout the book. The same is true for Spark, which picks up right where the first novel left off. Although romance wasn’t a huge part of the author’s first installment in this series, it is virtually gone in the sequel, making this novel an ideal selection for readers (especially guys) who want to stick with pure action, adventure and science-fiction. The plot twists and turns, leaving the reader guessing about what will happen next. The author does an excellent job of furthering the development of the characters she introduced in Glow, with them growing and adapting as the horrible circumstances they are facing continue to change. Waverly, the somewhat doe-eyed girl who was in love with Kieran at the beginning of the first novel, is now hardened and at odds with her former fiancée. Kieran is becoming increasingly paranoid following the near mutiny staged by Seth in Glow, fearing that the crew and inhabitants left onboard the Empyrean are plotting against him. Seth has also shifted from a brutish bully to a more sympathetic character, out to restore his good name and save the ship from the plots of the terrorist that is now onboard. The book ends on quite a cliffhanger that is certain to leave readers eagerly anticipating the third novel, Flame, which is set to be released on June 4, 2013. Overall, a solid installment in a solid sci-fi series that both teens and adults can easily enjoy.
I liked the first novel in this series, Glow, but after reading Spark, I can now safely say that I am a real Sky Chasers fan. I really like the author’s pacing and find that it makes the story flow smoothly enough that I would be able to recommend the series to a more reluctant teen reader. The plot is also developed enough, however, for it to be thought-provoking and enjoyable for readers who want a story with a little more meat. I applaud Amy Kathleen Ryan for writing a sequel that is as good, if not better, than the first novel, and I can’t wait to read Flame when it is released in June. ...more
Raised by an abusive father and shunned by her village for a large, unsightly birthmark on her back, Ismae Rienne’s life in late 15th-century Brittany has never been easy. After her father forces her into a marriage with a wealthy man in the village, Ismae hopes that her life has taken a turn for the better, only to soon find out that her new husband is just as abusive as her father, savagely beating her on their wedding night. Ismae’s prayers are finally answered, however, when a local priest smuggles her out of the village and takes her to the Convent of Saint Mortain. There Ismae learns that her birthmark is actually a sign that she is a daughter of Saint Mortain, the god of Death, and destined to live in the convent with dozens of other girls, training to become a deadly assassin. Ismae spends three years in the convent before she is charged by the reverend mother to travel to the high court of Brittany to pose as the mistress of the mysterious and handsome Gavriel Duval, brother of the young duchess who is set to rule the country. Duval, along with the reverend mother and one of the duchess’ closest advisors, Chancellor Crunard, fear that traitors are living at court, plotting with the French to overthrow the duchess. The reverend mother and Crunard both fear that Duval might be the one to blame, and it is up to Ismae to determine who is committing treason and, thus, deserves the wrath of Saint Mortain. Soon after arriving at court, however, Ismae realizes that her training at the convent has not prepared her for the treachery that abounds under the duchess’ roof. Ismae can trust no one, even Gavriel, who she finds herself developing feelings for. Can a handmaiden of death truly hope to save a country amidst a sea of traitors?
From veteran author Robin LaFevers comes this epically scaled novel set in 15th century Britanny. The story revolves around seventeen-year-old Ismae Rienne, an assassin trained in the fictitious Convent of Saint Mortain. Several characters in the novel, however, are based on real people, particularly Anne Duchess of Brittany. Readers who are not familiar with Brittany, the small kingdom that became a province of France in 1532, will learn quite a bit about the intricacies involved in the country trying to remain autonomous despite threats from its much larger and more powerful neighbors. The author does a good job of tying the more historical aspects of the novel into Ismae’s story which is more along the lines of what one would expect from a young adult novel. Ismae is a typical teen heroine with a bonus: she is a deadly assassin trained by even deadlier nuns in service to Saint Mortain. There are some paranormal components of the novel, but the majority of the story surrounds the high court of Brittany and, more importantly, Ismae’s relationship with the troubled but kind Gavriel Duval. The book is quite lengthy at almost 550 pages, but this gives the author plenty of time to develop the characters and story, making it likely that readers will want to pick up the sequel, Dark Triumph, which is set to be released April 2, 2013.
I love historical fiction, so I was excited to read that Grave Mercy combines the genre with the paranormal and romance. Although I thought the book was a little long (I know plenty of teens I would try to recommend it to would blanch when seeing its thickness), I did enjoy the story quite a bit. I only knew a little bit about Brittany prior to picking it up, and it inspired me to learn more, something that it is likely to do for young adult readers as well. I also found Ismae to be a very likable character, and enjoyed seeing her walls come down as she began to have feelings for Gavriel. Like I said, some chapters did get to be a bit wordy and some of the subplots could have been eliminated as well, but overall I think this a good choice for a teen reader who wants a mix of history and fantasy. I’m looking forward to the sequel. ...more
Four years ago the world discovered the truth about Jasper “Jazz” Dent’s father, Billy: he was a sociopathic serial killer who had murdered over 120 innocent people in his career. Growing up, Jazz never understood that the “lessons” his father gave him on a daily basis were anything but normal: how to dismember a body, how to avoid leaving evidence, how to choose your victim. Once Billy Dent was caught, however, and the world came to know him as the son of a monster, Jazz began to wonder if his dad had accomplished his goal and groomed him to become a serial killer himself. Now Jazz is seventeen and still living in the small town Lobo’s Nod with his grandma. Jazz is determined to avoid following in his father’s footsteps, so when a string of bizarre murders take place, Jazz decides to use the “talents” his father gave him to help the local sheriff’s office solve the case. Together with his best friend, Howie, and his girlfriend, Connie, Jazz tries to put himself in the killer’s shoes: piecing together who the victims were and why they were chosen. As Jazz becomes more immersed in the case, however, terrifying memories from his childhood begin to resurface, memories that he had locked away, making him realize he might not be so different from his father after all.
Gruesome, creepy but strangely entertaining, this first novel in a new series for teens by veteran author Barry Lyga proves to be as disturbing as it is enjoyable. Squeamish readers be warned: the subject matter of this book is not for the faint of heart. Jazz is the son of a serial killer, one who raped, tortured and brutally murdered his victims in a very sadistic fashion. A lot of the grisly details of these crimes, and more, are included in the story, making it appropriate for a high school audience, but not recommended for younger teens or tweens. In fact, much of the novel is more suitable for a mature reader, from Jazz’s internal struggle over the similarities he observes between himself and his father to the new string of murders that he takes it upon himself to help solve. Jazz might still be in high school, but adults can easily enjoy his efforts to come to terms with his past and the methods he uses to unravel the crimes of a serial killer other than his father. The book is very well-written, with a great deal of character development put into Jazz, his best friend, Howie, girlfriend, Connie, and “dear old dad,” Billy. The story ends on a cliffhanger and is intriguing enough that readers who enjoyed I Hunt Killers will definitely be yearning for the sequel, Game, which is set to be released on April 23, 2013.
One of my favorite shows on TV is Dexter, the story of a serial killer who only targets other murderers, so when I read about I Hunt Killers, I was immediately intrigued. The story does have some similarities to the popular Showtime series, but is also creative and unique in its own right. I really love reading young adult novels by male authors, especially when the leading character is also a male. Jazz is very believably and well-written, and I found myself genuinely caring about his inner struggle with his gruesome past as well as his relationships with the people in his life. I did get pretty creeped out at several points in the novel (particularly in one scene involving the family dog…eek!), but I had trouble putting the book down despite these trepidations. I’m really looking forward to seeing where Barry Lyga takes this series and would recommend it to mature teen readers, particularly guys, who want something edgy and entertaining. ...more
Seventeen-year-old Mia Price has tried for years to hide her darkest secret from the outside world. While most girls her age are interested in boys or music, Mia is addicted to lightning. Mia has been struck dozens of times, so much, in fact, that her body is covered with red veins that snake around like a lightning bolt. She doesn’t know why or how, but she seems to attract lightning, and can even feel a storm coming like tingles on her skin. After her abilities inadvertently cause her to seriously injure one of her friends, Mia, her mother and brother, Parker, leave their home in Lake Havasu, Arizona and move to Los Angeles to start over. Mia’s plans for a new life are put on hold, however, after a devastating earthquake, accompanied by a powerful lightning storm, destroy the city. Most of Los Angeles is killed, the rest displaced into a strange Tent City on the beaches. Those who were lucky enough not to lose their homes in the earthquake are left to fend for themselves as supplies of water and food run short. To make matters worse, a mysterious religious figure known as Rance Ridley Prophet, who accurately predicted the coming of the storm and earthquake days before it happened, has taken hold of much of the city’s survivors. Preaching that God is punishing Earth for its sins, Prophet’s Followers, clad all in white, roam the city like a church militia, trying to recruit anyone and everyone to their fold. Opposing Prophet are the Seekers, a group determined to show the Followers that their leader is a con-artist who is using the disaster to gain power. Not interested in taking sides, Mia soon finds herself in the middle of the conflict between the Followers and the Seekers, both seeming to know about her abilities and wanting to use them to their advantage.
Fans of dystopian literature are sure to be interested when reading the description of Struck, the first novel in a new series by author Jennifer Bosworth. The idea of someone not only getting struck by lightning, but surviving and eventually becoming addicted to it is very intriguing. Unfortunately, however, Struck suffers from a common problem that plagues many young adult novels: too many ideas in one book. Individually, each of the concepts in the novel would make for a great story: post-apocalyptic Los Angeles destroyed by an earthquake started by lightning, a war between a religious leader and his followers and those who oppose him, a girl who is addicted to getting struck by lightning. Put together, however, the novel feels a little schizophrenic. Mia is a somewhat likable protagonist, wanting to protect her mother and brother at all costs. What is frustrating about her character, and as a result much of the book, is that the reason behind her ability to be struck by lightning and her subsequent addiction to it is never explained. Most of the time when someone is struck, they are seriously injured or killed, so why is Mia able to be struck over and over again without dying? If the significance of the lightning addiction as a genetic abnormality, paranormal ability, etc. was explained, the novel would have likely made more sense. The conclusion of the story as well feels very rushed and unresolved, but hopefully the author will be explain to expand on the events that occur and more in the sequel. With so many dystopian novels available for teens, Struck, unfortunately does not stand out enough to be easy to recommend.
I love dystopian novels so I was pumped to read this one since I thought the lightning was a nice twist. Unfortunately, it didn’t really live up to my expectations. I found it to be too jumbled and wasn’t sure what kind of direction it was going in. I really wish the author had focused more on one main concept because I think she would have created a really awesome story had that been the case. I do think she has some interesting ideas, however, and look forward to seeing what she comes up with in the future. Hopefully she can improve and write something truly outstanding. ...more
After the death of her older brother years earlier, seventeen-year-old Nora Kane didn’t think she’d ever be able to be close with anyone again. After a scholarship lands her at the exclusive Chapman Prep, however, she meets Chris Moore and his girlfriend Adriane Ames, and the trio soon becomes inseparable. At the beginning of Nora’s senior year, and Chris’ first year at a local university, Nora is invited to do a special project and, along with Chris and his roommate Max, assist the eccentric Professor Hoffpauer in deciphering a centuries old book written in a mysterious code. Nora’s job is to translate the letters of Elizabeth Weston, a woman who lived in Prague at the end of the 16th century whose father was thought to have cracked the book’s code. As they spend more and more time together, Nora finds herself falling for the soft spoken Max and, for the first time since her brother’s death, she is happy. Everything changes, however, when Chris is brutally murdered. Adriane, who witnesses the murder, is catatonic and Max, who the police suspect killed Chris, is nowhere to be found. Nora soon realizes that it is the book, and the information it contains, that have caused her and her friends to be drawn into a dangerous conflict that has been raging for centuries. Determined to discover the truth about the book and save Max, Nora finds herself in Prague, on the hunt for answers about a mysterious machine known as the Lumen Dei and the ancient society that will stop at nothing to protect it.
Fans of Dan Brown’s The DaVinci Code or films like National Treasure or Indiana Jones will find much to enjoy in veteran author Robin Wasserman’s latest novel, The Book of Blood and Shadow. Although it is complicated and the plot takes a bit of time to really get moving, readers who are willing to stick with the book will discover a story full of twists and turns that combines adventure, danger, religion and history. What makes The Book of Blood and Shadow more complex that most novels for young adults, but ultimately rewarding, is that the author devotes some serious time into developing the characters. Nora in particular is very fleshed out with a great deal of attention given to the backstory of her brother’s death. Her friends are also written with a lot of detail, making it all the more intriguing when the story shifts and Nora begins to discover that what she thought she knew about them might not be true. The historical and geographical aspects of the novel are also well-written, and readers can expect to learn quite a bit about the city of Prague. It is difficult to describe the events of the plot without giving too much away, but suffice it to say that the story keeps the reader guessing at every turn. A good choice for teen readers who want something full of adventure.
I am a big fan of stories like The DaVinci Code that offer a mix of mystery, adventure and history, so I found a lot to enjoy in The Book of Blood and Shadow. The twists and turns in Nora’s quest to discover the truth about the Lumen Dei always kept me on my toes, and I found myself genuinely surprised by some of the events in the story. I did find the novel to be a bit complicated at times and it had a slow start, so I would recommend it to readers who aren’t discouraged if the action doesn’t happen on the first page. For teens who want something that is going to make them think and keep them on the edge of their seat, however, this is easy to recommend!...more
Written in free verse, this macabre collection of poems and creepy illustrations includes twenty-three retellings of classic fairy tales. Featured tales range from “Cinderella,” told from the perspective of the stepsisters, “Hansel and Gretel,” who want revenge against the father that allowed them to be abandoned in the woods, and a monologue from “Red Riding Hood” who is relaying what happened to her mother once she is home safe from Grandma’s house.
Seasoned young adult author and poet Ron Koertge delivers a chilling set of retold fairy tales in Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses. The collection is brief and can easily be read in one sitting, although many readers might want to go through some of the chapters twice so as not to miss any gruesome details. In terms of enjoyment, some of the tales fare better than others. Although the book is marketed for the young adult audience, only some of Koertge’s retellings will appeal to teen readers. Teens will likely enjoy tales like “Red Riding Hood, Home at Last, Tells Her Mother What Happened,” “Hansel and Gretel,” and “Memoirs of the Beast,” all grim but witty retellings of stories that younger readers will undoubtedly be familiar with. Other chapters, such as “Godfather Death,” “The Little Match Girl” and “The Robber Bridegroom” are taken from tales that aren’t as well-known, and are far more grisly, making them less likely to resonate with the young adult audience. In fact, when factors like language, characterization and imagery are taken into account, this collection seems more appropriate for an adult audience. At most, it will entertain very sophisticated teen readers who will understand all the nuances in each retelling and be familiar with the original tales they are derived from. Overall, Lies, Knives and Girls in Red Dresses is an enjoyable and entertaining journey into the creepiness of fairy tales, but one that is likely to appeal more to adults than to teens.
I am a fan of fairytale retellings, so when I heard about this creepy collection, and saw the very grim cover, I made sure to pick it up. Although I did enjoy the book, I found myself thinking as I was reading it, “Wow. This isn’t really for teens.” A lot of the stories are based on more obscure fairy tales, there is definitely some very adult language and imagery in them, and a lot of the humor and irony is very subtle. That’s not to say that I don’t think many teen readers would be able to understand the poems, they just seem to me that they would appeal much more to an adult audience. I would have trouble recommending this collection to teens who are simply interested in reading fairy tale retellings, as I feel there are many more appropriate and enjoyable books for the age group. To older teens and adults who want a taste of the macabre, however, I would suggest giving this one a try. ...more
In 1539 England, Katherine “Kitty” Tylney and her best friend Catherine “Cat” Howard live together, along with dozens of other young ladies, in the household of the Dowager Duchess of Norfolk. Forgotten by their poor but aristocratic families, Kitty and Cat and the rest of the girls spend their time flirting with the male servants of the household. Cat, the most vivacious and popular of the girls, rules over the maidens’ chamber, deciding who does what, who is in favor, and who is to be shunned. Even though she is awkward, shy, and not nearly as beautiful and bewitching as Cat, Kitty enjoys a certain level of social protection in the maidens’ chamber as Cat’s closest friend and confidante. Everything changes, however, when the Duke of Norfolk decides to send Cat to live in the royal court as a maid servant to Anne of Cleves, King Henry VII’s latest wife. Kitty and the rest of the ladies mourn the loss of their leader, and life quiets down in the household of the Dowager Duchess until Cat writes to invite Kitty and two other ladies, Joan and Alice, to join her at court. It seems that King Henry has fallen under Cat’s spell, and is intent upon marrying her. As the best friend of the Queen, Kitty is suddenly thrust into a life of fancy gowns, parties and men. But no secret is safe in the court of Henry VIII, and idle gossip can lead to a date with the executioner. Will Kitty be able to survive a life in service to a Queen like Cat, or is she destined to fall like so many in King Henry’s court?
The story of Catherine Howard, the young, beautiful, bubbly and ultimately ill-fated fifth wife of King Henry VIII has been retold by countless authors over the years. In Gilt, however, author Katherine Longshore has successfully adapted the history into a novel for young adults, something that is actually quite fitting considering that Catherine herself was only a teenager when she became Queen. The author portrays Cat as something of a “mean girl.” Popular, charismatic and charming, Cat rules over the other girls in the household of the Dowager Duchess like a high school queen bee. Although Kitty is considered by all to be Cat’s best friend, it is clear from the start that their friendship is not equitable. Kitty is at the mercy of her friend, and it seems that their relationship is strongest when Kitty does Cat’s bidding, regardless of what danger it puts her in. Many readers will be able to identify with this, especially those who have had experiences with friends like Cat who seem to use friendships for their own gain. After Cat goes to court and eventually wins the heart of the King, the relationship between Kitty and her best friend becomes even more strained. The novel is an excellent jumping off point to spark interest in this time period for young adult readers. The author does a good job of relaying the history while making the story intriguing and relatable for teens. Gilt is the first in a series of books about life in Henry VIII’s court. The second novel, Tarnish, takes place twenty years before the events of Gilt and is set to be released in June 2013.
I love all things related to Henry VIII and his six wives (I’ve read bunches of novels on the subject, watched every episode of The Tudors, have seen all the movies…I’m a hardcore fan!) When I saw that a young adult novel had been published about the life of Catherine Howard, I was very excited and, not surprisingly, enjoyed reading Gilt quite a bit. I’ve always thought that Catherine Howard’s story would make a great novel for teens because she herself was a teenager, thrust into a royal life with little education or knowledge of what to expect. I liked reading from Kitty’s perspective, especially since it gave the opportunity to portray Catherine as a 1539 version of Regina George. I am really looking forward to reading the rest of the series and am happy that Katherine Longshore is re-telling this exciting period of history for the young adult audience. ...more
Sixteen-year-old Cate Cahill lives in the town of Chatham in the country of New England. Ruled over by the Brotherhood, society in New England is very rigid, women growing up with the expectation that their highest aspiration in life is to be obedient to their husbands and raise healthy children. Cate and her two younger sisters, Maura and Tess, are still struggling to cope with the death of their mother three years earlier. Not only did the loss of their mother leave them without someone to guide them into entering society as proper women, but it meant that no one could instruct them into hiding their most dangerous secret: all three Cahill sisters are witches. The Brotherhood regularly arrests young girls upon suspicion of witchcraft, sending them to asylums, work ships, or worse. Cate wants nothing more than to keep herself and her sisters safe from the prying eyes of the Brotherhood. After a mysterious letter arrives at the Cahill house, however, one that warns of imminent danger to the Cahill sisters, Cate is determined to find out the truth about her mother and their family secret.
Set in an alternate version of history where North America is divided between Indo-China in the west, Mexico in the south and New England in the east, this debut novel from author Jessica Spotswood marks to beginning of a new series for young adults that combines both fantasy and dystopia seamlessly. It’s unclear what exactly the circumstances are that have lead to the Brotherhood reigning in an iron-fisted theocracy over the “country” of New England. The reader is left wondering if the novel really takes place in the 19th century as it claims, or is actually in the distant future following some terrible post-apocalyptic event. This makes for a very intriguing thread that runs throughout the story: what exactly is the truth? As Cate, both independent and strong-willed, struggles to learn more about her past and what danger the future might hold, the reader begins to discover more about the world Cate is living in. The theme of the Brotherhood fixating on punishing girls, witches or those who display attraction to the same sex in particular, permeates the novel as well, making for some interesting points to think about while reading. Overall, a multi-faceted and thought-provoking start to what appears to be a creative and original series for teens. The second novel, Star Cursed, is set to be released on June 18, 2013.
This was one of those novels that really made me think. I was trying to figure out the whole time whether it was something along the lines of the movie The Village, where all the townspeople think they’re living in the 19th century but it’s actually the present-day. This was very intriguing to me and almost outplayed the rest of the story. Cate’s struggle to find out the truth about her mother and the Cahill sisters’ powers as witches is interesting, but in picking up the sequel I will be wondering primarily about the nature of the world they live in. I would easily recommend this book to readers who want something dystopian but with a twist. Definitely one to look out for!...more
In the distant future, twelve-year-old Malora is the daughter of Thora and Jayke, the leaders of the last tribe of the People. Malora’s tribe relies on their horses to hunt and bring game to feed the People, and no horse is faster than her father’s, Sky. Malora wants nothing more than to learn to become a hunter herself and have her own horse like Sky to look after. Malora’s life changes, however, when Leatherwings, vicious creatures with horrible human heads and large bat-like wings, murder all of the men in the tribe while they are on the hunt. Thora knows that the Leatherwings will return to finish off the rest of the tribe, so she sends Malora and Sky, the only horse that survived the attack, away from the tribe and into the wild. After three years on her own, Malora is now fifteen and the keeper of a large herd of horses thanks to Sky meeting with several wild mares in the bush. Malora knows every horse and protects them from predators, all the while wondering if she herself will ever encounter any other People. One day as Malora and the herd are travelling in the north, they catch the attention of Orion and his cousins, a travelling party of centaurs from the luxurious city of Mount Kheiron. Orion intends to capture the wild herd to serve his father, the leader of Mount Kheiron, in an annual race, and is shocked to discover Malora amongst the horses. None of the centaurs have ever laid eyes on one of the People, who were rumored to be long extinct, and both Orion and Malora are shocked to learn that not only are they able to communicate, but have more in common than they would have ever thought.
Combining fantasy with a post-apocalyptic future, this first installment in a new series for young adult readers will appeal to fans of Greek mythology, but holds particular interest for horse enthusiasts. The author’s love for horses is apparent in every aspect of the novel. Everything about the horses, from the way they eat, to the noises they make, to their general behavior is described in depth. Horse lovers are sure to relish these details. For readers who aren’t equine aficionados, however, the plot of the novel itself might not be as exciting. Malora is a likable if somewhat underdeveloped character. While the story primarily focuses on her, there is little exploration into her personality apart from being a robust and skilled huntress. She shows little vulnerability and it’s unclear if she has romantic feelings for any of the handsome male centaurs she becomes close to in the story. Far more interesting is the centaur civilization of Mount Kheiron, a luxurious but strict city divided into the haves (the Highlanders) and the have-nots (the Flatlanders.) Malora is lucky enough to become the “pet” of Orion, the son of Mount Kheiron’s leader, or Apex, so she has a rags-to-riches experience in the fanciest part of town. Hopefully in the next installments in the series, more about how Mount Kheiron was established will be explained so that the reader will fully understand how the distinction between Highlanders and Flatlanders came about. For horse fans, Daughter of the Centaurs is an enjoyable and different kind of read than they may have experienced. For those who aren’t as excited by things on four legs, this story might be one to pass by. The sequel, A Gathering of Wings, is set to be released May 28, 2013.
I have mixed feelings about this book. On the one hand, I really like Greek mythology so the centaur aspect of it was entertaining for me. On the other hand, I am not a horse person, so the very detailed accounts of flanks, muzzles, and whinnies didn’t appeal to me. I think there are some clever ideas in the novel, but they got too muddled down by horse minutia. I would easily recommend this book to someone who loves all things equine. If that wasn’t the case, however, I probably would select something else. ...more
For the past two years, sixteen-year-old Lexington “Lex” Bartleby has made it her personal mission to punch, bite, scratch or generally injure her classmates. She used to be a straight-A student and have more friends than just her twin sister, Cordy, but for some reason she has been overcome by an inexplicable rage that makes her lash out at everyone, even her loving parents. Fed up with her bad attitude (and potty mouth), her parents decide to send her to live with her Uncle Mort in upstate New York for the summer. Lex is, of course, beyond angry, but soon finds herself on a bus travelling north to the small town of Croak. After she arrives and meets her motorcycle riding, crazy-haired but strangely likable uncle, she soon realizes that Croak isn’t your average farming town. It’s actually home to the eastern seaboard’s population of Grim Reapers, people who travel instantaneously from place to place, extracting the souls from those who have died and transporting them to the afterlife. Uncle Mort informs Lex that her rage is a normal reaction that arises from those who have the natural ability to be Grims, and that she will be spending the summer reaping along with the other Juniors, teenagers who call Croak home. At first, Lex is excited about her new life in Croak. She gets along well with the other Juniors and even likes her partner in reaping, a guy just a few years older than her named Driggs. But not everything is happy-go-lucky in Croak: it seems that a rogue Grim has been travelling under the radar and killing people who weren’t ready to die. When it appears that this murderer is now targeting other Grims, Lex, Driggs and Uncle Mort must find out who it is before it’s too late.
Funny and original, it is difficult for fans of the young adult genre not to instantly fall in love with Croak, the first novel in a witty new series for teens by Gina Damico. From start to finish, Croak is well-written, entertaining and thoroughly enjoyable. One of the most unusual (and ultimately satisfying) parts of the story is that, in the beginning, the reader isn’t compelled to like Lex. She is foul-mouthed, rude, violent, and just plain irritating. She has no reason to be as angry as she is, and, like her parents and sweet twin sister, the reader hopes that Uncle Mort will (literally) knock some sense into her. After she arrives in Croak, however, and begins working as a Grim, she begins to transform into someone readers can root for. This transformation isn’t forced, but is one of the best parts of the story. In addition to this, there are loads of other things readers will love about Croak. The town itself is interesting, with all of the shops having morbid names and equally morbid owners. The mechanics of the Grim system of collecting and transporting souls from those who have died is also very original and not confusing, something that often happens when novels for teens get a bit too scientific in their descriptions of how paranormal things actually work. Supporting characters like Lex’s lovable Uncle Mort, her wise-cracking partner, Driggs, and her other new friends in Croak add a great deal to the story as well. Overall, a fast-paced and fun start to a series that is easy to recommend to both teen and adult readers alike. The sequel, Scorch, was released in September 2012.
It’s been awhile since I’ve picked up a book that I loved as much as Croak from start to finish. Gina Damico’s writing style really resonated with me because she is able to accomplish a lot without being cliché, melodramatic, or attempting to manipulate the reader into feeling a certain way. She simple wrote a good, entertaining and original story with a solid plot and likable characters: a definite recipe for success! Even though I didn’t like her at first, I am now a huge Lex fan and can’t wait to see what happens in the sequel, Scorch. I highly recommend this book to teens, adults, or anyone who simply wants something that is breezily paced and enjoyable. ...more