Category Archives: ya

#Review: The Here and Now 3/5 stars

The Here and Now
The Here and Now by Ann Brashares
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve not read the Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and I’ve never seen the movies, so I’m very new to Ann Brashares.

To sum it up, I enjoyed this book up until about the 90% part. There were some things missing, a bunch of glaring plotholes, and unbelievable coinky-dinks, but whatever, it’s nice to have easy fiction now and again.

Basically, Prenna, a 14-year old girl from the future comes back in time with a group of contemporaries to escape an apocalyptic scenario unfolding in her native time. Mosquitoes bring and distribute the most devastating blood plague of all time, taking with it her two brothers – one a baby. She arrives in our present, attends high school, and aims to live as benign a life as possible. Three years pass and she’s now 17 and our story begins.

The rules of the Community are very specifically set so that the future group interacts with the present group as little as possible, NEVER falls in love with “time natives”, and has very little effect on the progress of time. How does that make sense, though? Shouldn’t the goal of this flavor of time travel be to change the future by having a gigantic effect on the past?

The pieces fall into place way too easily in this story. The hero is the hottest, super smart, a lab tech at a pivotal location in the book.. Fake phone calls are believed without suspicion.. The leaders of the Community pose NO resistance to Prenna’s Declaration of Independence… It’s all just way too utopian from the point of view of the teenage girl.

The real sour spot for me in this whole story was the ending. After building up the whole story in one singular direction, there’s a moment of epiphany and a sudden, unlabored unraveling that abruptly cuts the whole thing off. I was really put off by how quickly things changed then ended, and by reading other reviews, it appears I am not alone. I wish it had ended differently.

Overall, though, the first 90% of the book was really pleasant and built up pleasantly. I can’t recommend it because the ending kinda blows, but if you can hunker down and prepare for it from the get-go, you’ll be solid.

**This book was provided by the publisher free of charge in exchange for an honest review.
via NetGalley

View all my reviews

“Red Rising” by @Pierce_Brown A fantastic genre bending “Hunger Games” meets “Lord of the Flies”

 

15839976
Red Rising (The Red Rising Trilogy #1)
By Pierce Brown
401 pp
Sci-Fi > YA> Dystopian

The setting is Mars. The setting is bleak with the Reds mining for Helium-3, a necessary element for terraforming Mars as well as other planets. The Reds work hard knowing that what they do is for the greater good of mankind; that they’re sacrifices are not in vain and Mars will be habitable. That is until, 16 year old Darrow learns the truth. It’s with this discovery and what he does that brings the reader into a fantastic world as he attempts to rise up into the ranks and expose the truth for what it is.

 

I don’t read much YA-Sci Fi-Dystopian. Really, I don’t. I read “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Ready Player One” (those last two may be a stretch to classify as Dystopian) and that was it. That said, reading “Red Rising” could be a mash-up of “Hunger Games,” “Ender’s Game,” and “Lord of the Flies,” with a smidgen of “Harry Potter…” and Roman structre and mythos.

 

As mentioned, Darrow rises into the ranks. He becomes a Gold. All is not easy as there are trials which he must pass once he is a Gold. Of the many trials, one needs to be victorious with his House in a “survival of the fittest” of sorts versus other Houses. Of course, the typical cliche with the powers that be intervening, this competition is no different with its obstacles that Darrow must face.

The writing itself had some minor issues as far as I was concerned. There were some “show don’t tell” moments concerning Darrow and how he’s “able to think outside the box” as well as towards the ending with his House vs some other Houses. In other words, rather than letting the reader learn of the traits of Darrow the reader is told, “It’s because of this reason that he’s that way.” The finale with the other Houses felt rushed; less setting up the scene and more of “this happened afterdwe caused that.” In the grand scheme of things I suppose that’s ok, but another hundred pages or so would have been more fulfilling.

Overall, I’m glad I chanced upon this book. For the avid reader of the genre, this will be a quick read. For the casual reader, I’d say the same. Mr. Brown hooks you into the world and doesn’t let go. Let’s hope the second installment does the same.

 

Colony East: The Toucan Trilogy Book 2 by Scott Cramer #Review

In November of last year I was offered the chance to read and review the first book in this series, Night of the Purple Moon. I loved it. So I was excited to be offered the chance to read and review the second book a couple of weeks ago.

Scott Cramer has delivered a fantastic and moving sequel to that first book.

If you haven’t read the first book (go read it – now!) you can read my review here which will give you the background.

Colony East picks up almost exactly where we left off. Abby and Jordan have gone to get the pills that will save their lives and must journey back to the island to deliver them. Again the incredibly stark contrasts between the choices that each child left alone makes are startling and thought provoking. Abby and Jordan do make it back to the island but the cost of that journey is hard to quantify.

We then fast forward a year. The pitifully few remaining adults are trying to “rebuild society” and have 3 small enclaves on the North American continent into which they have brought the few children they deem worthy. The rest of children are left to fend for themselves.There is also a new threat in threat in the form of a mutated form of the sickness that killed the adults.

Abby and Jordan are both almost 2 years older than when we first met them. They have both lost people they had grown to love and in the process done more growing up than I can personally fathom. Their younger sister, Toucan, has grown up as well and shows quite brilliantly the innate resilience of children. She and the other youngest survivors do not carry the heavy burden of memory and loss that the older children do. Instead they are learning to thrive and succeed in this new world.

Colony East actually refers to one of these adult developed enclaves. Some inspiration was obviously drawn from many of the dystopian worlds that have been created before – but it never feels derivative or like it is overtly copying any of them. The adults have a plan and quite naturally while intentions maybe good – execution and results are not.

Along with further exploring this devastated world from the children’s point of view, we also begin to see it from the view of the few adults left. The contrasts between the two are massive and telling. Cramer manages to comment on modern society and preconceptions while not feeling preachy in the least. An impressive feat all by itself. Managing to do this in a beautifully written and youth friendly novel is breathtaking.

I look forward immensely to the third in this series and hope to read more from this author.

 

 

I was provided a copy of this book for the purpose of review.

 

 

 

 

Andy Smithson: Blast of the Dragon’s Fury by L.R.W. Lee #review

I am a sucker for dragons and fantasy and misunderstood kids. It is almost always a great combination.

I began to read this book with anticipation and a little bit of trepidation. Anticipation for the possibility that the book seemed to promise. The trepidation came because I had just finished a book that utterly disappointed me by not living up to the promise of the jacket blurb.

I am relieved to say that this book was not a disappointment.

It was a joy.

L.R.W. Lee writes a delightful story for a  younger audience.

Our newly minted hero, Andy, is relate-able. He is an imaginative kid who feels constantly misunderstood by his family. So it is with more excitement than fear that he finds himself transported to a magical land called Oomaldee. On arrival he is tasked with helping to break a curse for a centuries old king while being thwarted by a spiteful ghost. He makes new friends and grows as an individual while discovering secrets and battling dragons.

The intro to the book and the history of the curse is nicely done. A funny and fresh take on what awaits those who have passed on.

This book is intended for a younger reader than most of the YA fiction I review. As such it seemed at times to over simplify some situations and maybe underestimate the intended reader. I think that even the younger 8-11 year olds this seems geared towards could understand and appreciate a little more nuance.

The story is well crafted and enjoyable. As an adult I still found the story interesting. It was whimsically quirky without being patronizing or obvious. A very hard combination to achieve. I wanted to know more about this land.

I am hoping that some of the questions I had will be answered in the next book in the series. (How is Andy a descendant being the main one.)

I think this would be an excellent book for a parent and child to read together as both will enjoy it.

My advice to the author would be to trust the young reader and to fully explore the vivid world she is creating.

 

I was provided a gratis copy of this book for review.

 

A Study in Darkness by Emma Jane Holloway #review

cover33053-medium

Steam Punk.

I have heard alot about it, but have tended to avoid it.

The idea of mixing Victorian sensibilities with fantastical steam powered pseudo-modern gadgetry and a dash of magic seemed to be trying too hard. I have picked up and put back several of the tomes over the years without feeling the need to sit down and dig in.

SO – this is the first Steam Punk novel I have actually read.

And it was’t bad.

Jane Holloway writes an intriguing tale.

Because this was the second book in a series it took me a bit to feel like I really had a grasp on the world and how it works. Exactly how steam is supposed to do everything it somehow does is still a mystery to me. For the sake of the story I was able to suspend most of my questions and just accept it though.

The story somewhat centers around the niece of Sherlock Holmes, Evelina, and her friends. Evelina is a very progressive modern girl who happens to be able to use magic. Her friend Imogen is having lucid nightmares that may be tied to a string of Jack the Ripperish murders. Nick is a Gypsy pirate who also possess magical powers and happens to have an elemental spirit to control his airship.

From what I can tell this is a well thought out series. This second book could stand alone as a story but obviously works within the larger narrative as well.

I felt the opening dragged a little and was a tad confusing – but if one has read the first book that might not be a problem.

It was engaging and I might be tempted to read the next in the series – but I’m still on the fence about completely embracing the whole steam-punk world.

I was provided a gratis copy for the purpose of review.

 

Doon by Carey Corp & Lorie Langdon #review

 

As reimaginings go this is pretty good.

Had I been sitting around thinking “Someone really needs to retell Brigadoon as a YA fantasy series”… well um… no. But if I had this series would have met the expectations that I didn’t know I already had.

I am a theatre geek at heart and absolutely adored that one of the characters was also. Relating events to their musical theatre equivalent and constantly thinking of songs to suit the occurrences and mood really resonated with me. So I was a little disappointed that Kenna didn’t end up being the real focal point of the story – but the ending gives me hope for the next installment.

The real focus of the book is Veronica – Vee – a tiny slip of a dancer who has an appetite that I can appreciate.

The opening scene was a little rough and not quite completely believable. It is the only scene set in high school and it just felt awkward.  Stephanie and Eric both seemed more like 90210 caricatures than actual teenagers. Thankfully, once removed from the school setting, the writing and characters felt much more natural.

Best friends Vee and Kenna end up in Scotland after their senior year because of a bequest from Kenna’s aunt of a cottage. As in any good YA fantasy story that is where ordinary ends. This cottage happens to be next to the “Bridge of Doon” (did ya catch that?). And there are 2 handsome princes ready to match wits with our spunky American heroines and work together to save the mystical land of Doon from an evil witch.

About 1/4 of the way in I really got used to the switching between storytellers. Some chapters are from Vee’s point of view other’s from Kenna’s. While I m not sure how the book was actually written – it certainly feels like slightly different writing styles take the lead for each of the characters chapters. Oddly this helped to really bring the nuances of each character into focus and provide what felt like two distinct narrators – without being confusing or muddling.

The literal princes of this story are Duncan and Jamie. And both are quite dashing and everything one could want in a modern fairytale-ish story. Luckily they both have distinct and intriguing personalities as well.

I would like to have seen some more of the supporting characters really fleshed out. There were hints of what they could be if fully developed – and it was tantalizing – but ultimately I was left unfulfilled. Vee’s mom and Kenna’s dad both fall into this category as do some of the denizens of Doon.

Overall a very worthwhile read – I look forward to the next installment.

I was provided a gratis copy for review.

 

Guardians Inc: The Cypher by Julian Rosado-Machain #review

 

Tongue-in-cheek YA fiction is one of my favorite sub-genres.

Clever quips, eye-rolling puns and the like are sure to draw me in if done well.

Julian Rosado-Machain does them fairly well. He has created a quirky world with intriguing characters.

Thomas and his grandfather Morgan have only each other after the disappearance of Thomas’ parents while abroad. And it seems both of them have a unique skill set that can help ad ultra-secret ages old society to save the world.

Where this story becomes more intriguing than the slew of similar books in the genre is in how it ends up placing Thomas and Morgan on opposing sides of a race against time. This has set up what could become (and I hope does) a very precarious dynamic in future books.

And I now want gargoyles guarding my house as well.

At only 169 pages this is a very quick read and I imagine would easily hold the interest of most 8-12 year olds. I think it is also interesting enough to hold the attention of slightly older readers as well.

My only suggestion would be to perhaps slow it down just a tiny bit. At times it felt like we were speeding through exposition and plot at 80 mph when 50 mph might have been more appropriate.

Fae by C.J. Abedi #review

C.J. Abedi (which actually stands for sisters Colet and Jasmine) have started a new series in the realm of YA fantasy literature.

“Fae” is a welcome addition to the genre.

The entire story is based in Roanoke, North Carolina and draws heavily from the missing colony lore surrounding it. The Abedi sisters have created some beautiful mythology weaving the Fae into this narrative.

Caroline is busy trying to be a normal teen when she is drawn into this Fae world by the handsome and intriguing Devilyn. All of this is because of Caroline’s lineage, which she of course knows nothing about.

Helping to make this story relate-able is a fantastic set of supporting characters. Caroline has a best friend, Teddy, that anyone would be lucky to have. Devilyn’s grandfather is amazing and adds an incredibly interesting twist to the whole story. Caroline’s parents are near perfect and the depth of their caring for her is beautiful.

Chosen family vs. blood family is a large theme throughout this book. Are the bonds that we choose to create stronger than the bonds we are born into? What is loyalty?

In this very crowded field it is hard for a book to really break out and distinguish itself. Fae does this. It provides a well thought out story. The back-story and history are fully developed and well presented. The introduction to all of the elements flows well for the reader. The characters interact believably.

It is a well crafted story that deserves to find an abundance of readers.

I would also like to add that the cover is beautiful. Simple and evocative. Perfect.

I was provided a gratis copy for the purpose of review.

Chameleon: The Awakening by Maggie Faire #review

The general idea is that there is a complete other world basically coexisting with our modern one that we know nothing about. There are clans that are human like – but not exactly human – that inhabit the forest. And there is a young teen girl who is responsible for saving it all, but of course she doesn’t know that.

Maggie Faire seems to draw on variety sources for the frame work of this world. Native American and Aboriginal myth seem to have been a large inspiration. I would also guess that the author is an Anne McCaffrey fan because her thunder dragons and void are drawn directly from McCaffrey’s dragons and between.

As with any new realm there is a lot of new information/history/myth to establish. One area where this book is lacking is in really fleshing all of this other world out. By the end of the book I was still wondering where these tribes came from, why they were splintered and why a savior was needed exactly.

There is an attempt to merge some myth and science with this 10 dimensions and traveling through dimensions 5-10 via lichen (yes you read that correctly) though it is never really explained.

There is potential for an intriguing story and I would read another book – but I sincerely hope there is some fleshing out of the back story that occurs. As the book was only 156 pages perhaps it could have been extended a bit and more of the history explained and made clear.

The Woken Gods by Gwenda Bond #review

Gods from every mythology you have ever heard of, and a few you haven’t, rampaging through Washington, D.C.

A fairly intriguing concept.

I started and then put down this book several times in the first 70 pages. Gwenda Bond writes well and she has a great backstory and interesting characters.

So, why did it take making myself pick it back up 4 times to finally get lost in it? The set-up.

I spent the first 1/4 of the book feeling like I had come in on the 2nd or 3rd book in a series. There is exposition and backstory that needs to be given to the reader, but it needs to be done in a way that doesn’t frustrate the reader. Sadly I can see many readers not making it through to the excellent novel that eventually shows up. It is really frustrating to pick up a book that has well crafted prose and an excellent storyline but suffers from a poorly executed introduction.

I am glad that I muddled through the first chapters – because I was rewarded with an amazing heroine named Kyra at the center of what is a cleverly conceived mythology mish-mash that has altered the entire world as we know it. She has been let down and abandoned by everyone who should have been there for her and manages to find herself in the center of a major conspiracy.

Big props to Bond for the big choice Kyra makes toward the end of the book. Many YA authors would have shied away from that or tried to couch it as not a conscious choice. I’m not going to spoil it, because it is a powerful moment, but I want to make sure the reader knows there is awesome waiting for them if they keep reading.

I am sincerely hoping there is more Anzu in the next book as well. The giant lion-eagle really grew on me. I want to look into those liquid gold eyes.

Since this was an ARC I am hoping that some final editing might make the first few chapters and exposition more reader friendly. But even without that I would recommend reading this – get past the first 70 pages and you will thank me for it.

« Older Entries