Archive for the ‘Young Adult’ Category

High fantasy YA: Witchlanders by Lena Coakley

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

Ryder is a farmer in Witchland, trying to maintain the farm that’s fallen into his hands after the death of his father. His mother doesn’t help, as she spends most of her time high and trying to tell the future by throwing bones. But Ryder knows that fortune telling is hogwash, and that the witches that take a tithe from his farm each year to protect him are fakes.

In the Bitterlands, Falpian is a disappointment to his father and he’s been sent to a remote cabin on the border with Witchland to mourn the death of his twin brother. Needless to say, they’re brought together.

Bromance ensues.

Well, not exactly. Falpian and Ryder are opposing sides of a conflict, but they have a lot in common. Despite their quirks and different upbringings, they’re both noble and it’s clear they have a shared destiny.

Witchlanders is an interesting read. I appreciated the male protagonists. I also appreciated that while I saw a potential love interest for Ryder, the novel was about so much more and that area wasn’t explored at all. The world-building is strong and nuanced throughout the novel, slowly revealing the beliefs of the two cultures. I enjoyed the magic and the mythology, and I’m curious where the author will go in the rest of the series.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Witchlanders
Author: Lena Coakley
Read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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Mythology adapted to YA Lite-Horror Tale

August 2nd, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

The classic mythological creatures the Furies are adapted to a teenage audience in Fury by Elizabeth Miles.

The novel starts out from the perspective of someone—identified later—attempting to commit suicide. One can only assume her attempt draws the Furies to Ascension, Maine for the beginning of the holiday season.

While lead character Emily is popular, she’s in the shadow of her best friend Gabby, and she secretly pines after a boy. Not just any boy: Gabby’s boyfriend, Zach. With Gabby gone for Christmas, will the temptation be too much for Em to handle?

Chase is the quarterback of the football team, and he spends his time trying to fit in with the popular kids and hide his trailer park upbringing. He studies life carefully, dressing and acting act right to create an impeccable facade. But why have the furies chosen him?

I enjoyed the voice of the novel. It felt more like a light horror novel than a paranormal romance. I wish we learned more about the furies and how they chose their targets. The author spends time detailing what the furies looked like without going into their characters. Was Chase’s punishment justified? Does Ty have a different sense of morality from her Fury-cousins? It’s hard to tell without more insight. The novel is clearly the first in a series and the end of Fury sets up the next book.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Fury
Author: Elizabeth Miles
Read: July 2011
Source: ARC

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Please don’t Ignore Vera Dietz

July 8th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Award-Winning, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

VeraDietzA. S. King’s Please Ignore Vera Dietz won a 2011 Printz award for good reason. It’s a funny, edgy, insightful. It’s dark in a real life sort of way.

Eighteen-year old Vera hates Charlie Kahn, her lifelong best friend and secret crush. She hates him even more because he’s dead. Everyone thinks Charlie did something terrible, and Vera can clear his name. If she can find a way to forgive him.

Please Ignore Vera Dietz touches on alcoholism, spousal abuse, and other problems real teens have. While the majority of the novel is told from Vera’s first person perspective, occasionally chapters are show from Vera’s dad perspective complete with flow charts (he’s a recovering alcoholic/current accountant who loves his daughter and tries to be a good parent), from Charlie, and from the Pagoda (a local structure used in the novel). The story–Charlie’s betrayal and fall from grace–emerges over the course of the novel, as relevant plot points are metered out while we show Vera’s recovery from loss and road to adulthood.

The Wall Street Journal ran an op-ed critical of the ‘darkness’ in YA fiction, and this is the sort of novel that the reviewer but have been critical of. But this novel confronts the sorts of problems some teens face. Vera faces her problems, and even though she’s emerging as adult, she learns to rely on her father for help when she needs it.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Please Ignore Vera Dietz
Author: A. S. King
Source: Gift from friend
Read: July 2011

 

 

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Mini reviews: Snow Angels, Ella Enchanted, and Big Red Tequila

April 17th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Award-Winning, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Mystery, Young Adult
 

I’ve been on the fence the past few days about reviewing the three—three—books I’ve read in the past week. I enjoyed all of them, but I didn’t want to write an in-depth reviews. But then I realized a short blurb for each book meets the spirit of my 52 books in one year challenge. Plus all of these books are worth mentioning.

Snow Angels is the first in the Detective Vaara series by James Thompson. (The second novel in the series, Lucifer’s Tears was reviewed on this site earlier this year.)

The scenery and climate of Northern Finland during December, aka the darkest days of the years, is as important to the novel as the actual crimes of the novel. Adding to the complexity of the story are facets of the Laestadian religion and Finnish culture. As someone who’s lived in Finland—and has Laestadian ancestors—I appreciated this book on multiple levels, including for its insight into Finnish culture. This is a good series for mystery buffs.

After reading and reviewing Fairest, I picked up Ella Enchanted by Gail Carson Levine from my local library. There’s not much to say other than I loved it. It’s a great retelling of Cinderella. It’s easy to root for Ella as a character, and I love the idea of gifts (like Ella’s gift of “obedience”) turning into curses.

Last of all, since I’ve read all of Rick Riordan’s middle grade novels, I decided to pick up the first in his Tres Navarre mystery series for adults. In Big Red Tequila, Tres Navarre returns to his hometown of San Antonio to rekindle a relationship with his childhood sweetheart. He left town ten years before after seeing his Sheriff father gunned down in the front yard of his home. His father’s murder was never unsolved, and now it’s time for Tres to use the private investigator/English PhD/tai chi skills he honed in San Francisco.

Big Red Tequila is a fun read, and it’s definitely meant for an adult audience. Robert Johnson, Tres’ cat, is perhaps the best drawn character in the novel. The setting—San Antonio, Texas—adds color to the novel. This is a good choice for mystery fans.

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Who’s the Fairest of them all?

April 7th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fantasy, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

Aza spends most of her life trying to hide her face from guests at her parents’ inn. She might not be the fairest girl in Ayortha, but she has the most beautiful singing voice. Aza also have a few unique talents. She can mimic other voices and sounds. She’s also able to illuse, or make her voice sound like it’s coming from elsewhere. No one else can do this.

Of course, these skills are taken advantage of in this loose retelling of Snow White. When Aza unexpectedly finds herself at the marriage of the king, and falls prey to the insecure new queen, will she be able to save herself and her future?

Fairest is an enjoyable read set in a fun, fairy-tale land. Some of the small details (“Oochoo answers to ‘her royal highhoundness’”) are great, and the larger world within the book is as enjoyable. The overall message, in which Aza learned to accept her strengths and weaknesses, and engage with the world bravely, is important. Aza is beautiful inside, and finds her place in the world with people who respect her mind, character, and singing voice.

Title: Fairest
Author: Gail Carson Levine
Source: Public Library
Read: April 2011

 

 

 

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Persephone myth retold in Meg Cabot’s Abandon

March 29th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, ARCs, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

Meg CabotPierce knows what it’s like to die. After all, she drowned when she was fifteen. Her family just thinks she was resuscitated, but Pierce knows the truth. She escaped from the underworld.

In this retelling of the Persephone myth, Pierce is tied to John Hayden, a death deity of the underworld. His full powers and role are unclear, but he’s mysterious, dark, and handsome. He also wants Pierce.

Throughout the novel, Pierce’s history slowly unfolds, and the author will tease the reader with a small clue and then go into more detail later. Most of the book is shown in flashbacks, and the bulk of the action takes place towards the end of the book. I enjoyed this, in part because Pierce is a strong character and I enjoyed her voice.

This novel is the first in a trilogy, and I hope we’ll get more insight into Pierce’s friends and family. For example, Pierce’s cousin Alex is essentially a stranger to her when the story starts, and small aspects of his life are shown throughout the novel. He’s clearly meant to be a round character, and I look forward to seeing him come to life in the next two books (pun intended).

Abandon comes out on April 26, 2011.

Title: Abandon
Author: Meg Cabot
Date read: March 2011
Source: ARC from publisher

 

 

 

 

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A new way to turn on, tune out, and drop out: Feed by M. T. Anderson

March 15th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Dystopian, Fiction, Kelly, Science Fiction, Young Adult
 

Imagine having your brain hardwired to stream music, TV, and advertisements. All day. Learning actual information isn’t that important: you can look it up. Instantly. In your head.

In the dark and dystopian world of M. T. Anderson’s Feed, everyone is connected, literally. “Feeds” are interwoven within brains and allow the USA’s population—well, 78% of the country—to be connected in a sort of wide reaching internet. When Titus spends spring break on the moon—and the moon “sucks”, by the way—he meets Violet, a girl unlike any he’s ever known. She’s pretty, smart, and has been homeschooled away from privileged students like Titus. When a computer hacker attacks Titus, his friends, and Violet, they get to know each other without the influence of the feed.

Lesions are starting to form on the people in the book, but this predicament has been spun to be stylish as opposed to a sign of serious environmental issues. The world is decaying, but Titus and his friends don’t notice or care. It’s not trendy.

In many ways, the lead character Titus is as shallow as the world he lives in. But he has the potential to be deeper, passionate, unexpected. Violet might be able to get Titus to think, but he’s wired to be as consumerist as everyone else. When faced with difficult questions and a heart-breaking scenario, will Titus rise above the feed?

Feed is a great novel for those interested in YA, dystopian fiction, and science fiction. It’s thought provoking and intelligent. The slang takes a few minutes to get used to—think Clockwork Orange, although more, like, contemporary, like, teen—but it’s worth it since this is an excellent novel for both teens and adults.

On a side note, Feed was a Finalist for the 2002 National Book Award, Young People’s Literature.

 

Title: Feed
Author: M. T. Anderson
Read: March 2011
Source: Barnes & Noble

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2010 Printz Award Winner: Going Bovine

January 26th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Award-Winning, Fantasy, Fiction, Young Adult
 
Going Bovine

Libba Bray’s 2010 Printz-award winning YA novel Going Bovine is an interesting read on several levels. It’s a retelling of Don Quixote from the perspective of Cameron, a teenager with underachiever slacker angst. Cameron’s world is rocked he’s diagnosed with mad cow disease. Now his life not only sucks; it’s almost over. When Dulcie, an angel with a punk/alternative streak, tells Cameron he can save both the world and himself, he takes on the challenge.

Accompanying Cameron on his hero quest to save the world is a Gonzo, a dwarf and high school classmate, and Balder, the Norse god in yard gnome form. Dulcie makes appearances to encourage Cameron and occasionally give him life lessons.

Cameron travels from Texas to New Orleans to Florida, all the while being chased by fire ants, an evil wizard, and a security team from a snow-globe manufacturer. Will he find Dr. X in time to save the world? Or is he still in his hospital bed?

Going Bovine generally succeeds as a coming-of-age story, hero’s quest, and comic novel. The beginning is a little slow, and I never fully clicked with Cameron. I enjoyed the sarcastic metaphors and social commentary (consumerism, religious brainwashing, obsession with celebrities/doing anything it takes to get famous to name a few). Cameron eventually learns that life is messy and unfair but it’s important to live and to love. Even with the end in sight.

Not my favorite book, but I can see why this book both appeals to many people while alienating others.

Read by: Kelly

Title: Going Bovine
Author: Libba Bray
Read: January 2011
Source: Public Library

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Flash Burnout: Realistic YA by L. K. Madigan

January 14th, 2011    Posted in 52 Books in one year challenge, Fiction, Kelly, Young Adult
 

Flash BurnoutOne of the things I appreciated about Flash Burnout is the novel’s setting: Portland, Oregon. Overall, it felt like the Portland I know. It weaved a quirky local event—zoobombing, called “hurtle” in the book—into the story arc.

Protagonist Blake has two major hobbies: photography, and comedy. He also has two girls in his life: his girlfriend, who’s cute, has a good sense of humor, and he hopes to sleep with. Then there’s Marissa, his friend from photography, whose work is “pretty” as opposed to Blake’s “gritty”. But when Blake takes a photo of a homeless woman on the streets of Old Town, he finds out that Marissa’s life is as gritty as his photographs. The woman in the picture is Marissa’s mother.

Blake’s life isn’t exactly “pretty”—both of his parents deal with death for a living—but they’re involved in the lives of their sons. Compared to Marissa’s life, Blake has an ideal family, although he’s free to make his own mistakes. Since he’s a teenage boy, he does.

Madigan weaved photographic terms into the story well, and Blake’s story is both believable, and compelling.

About the author: I originally reserved this novel at the library when @Literaticat mentioned it on Twitter. The day I started the novel, I heard some sad news. In a simple but eloquent post, L. K. Madigan blogged about having stage IV pancreatic cancer that’s metastasized to her liver. Please keep her in your thoughts.

Read by: Kelly

Book: Flash Burnout
Author: L. K. Madigan
Date Finished: January 12, 2011
Source: Public Library

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