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Currently Browsing: YA Literature
Mar
1

Review: Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine

Review: Midnight Bites by Rachel Caine Midnight Bites: Stories of the Morganville Vampires Author: Rachel Caine Reviewer: Una Rating: A What I’m Talking About: What a treat for Morganville Vampires series fans!  Midnight Bites: Stories of the Morganville Vampires is a wonderful collection of some previously released and brand new short stories in this rich and vibrant world.  I would wholeheartedly recommend this to all fans of the series but advise caution for newbies.  This collection would be considered spoilerish if you haven’t read the series.  You’d also be a bit lost on the significance and context of some of the stories included. I’m a big fan of this series and was sad when I read the final book, Daylighters.  I have read anything and everything that I could get my hands on in this world, including those stories that Ms. Caine posted for free on the web, as well as getting anthologies from the library so I didn’t miss a novella.  Though this is not a comprehensive collection of all the short stories Ms. Caine has created, it is a wonderfully balanced anthology. I was able to experience the backstory of some of the most colorful and critical characters in the series as well as enjoy a few new adventures.  Included are points of view from our favorite misunderstood vampire, Myrnin and his liege Amelie.  I enjoyed seeing Morganville, along with our heroes, through their eyes.  There is so much more to the vampires than what we previously experienced.  We are also given a glimpse of Myrnin’s past as well as a few stories that are more epilogues in nature.  One of the most compelling stories I found was from Michael and Eve’s point of view when Michael was struggling as a new vampire.  There is just so much to love in this collection including stories that centered on Shane as well as one from Hannah Moses. Ms. Caine in her afterword gave me hope that she is not finished with this world.  In the meantime though, Morganville Vampires fans will certainly want and need to read this short story collection.  You won’t be disappointed, I certainly wasn’t! My Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: New York Times bestselling author Rachel Caine presents a collection of stories—including six new tales—featuring the little Texas town that’s overrun by the undead.  WELCOME TO MORGANVILLE. YOU’LL NEVER WANT TO LEAVE. By day, Morganville, Texas, is just a typical college town. By night, the vampires emerge and...
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Dec
10

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Black Blade Series Author: Jennifer Estep Narrator: Brittany Presley Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Black Blade #2 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Young Adult Source: author Dark Heart of Magic Dark Heart of Magic, the second book in the exciting Black Blade trilogy, opens with narrator Lila Merriweather and good friends Devon and Felix (all of the Sinclair Family) discovering that something has the tree trolls agitated. Although this is an intriguing mystery, it must be put aside because of the annual Tournament of Blades, a competition that pits the best youth fighters from each Family against one another in a 3-day event. Lila and Devon are two of the many selected to represent the Sinclair family, just as the usual suspects (along with some new ones) are also selected to represent each of his/her Family. Unfortunately, things start to go wrong at the tournament, resulting in injured and dead competitors, and it’s up to Lila to figure out who’s behind the attacks. Unlike its predecessor, Dark Heart of Magic has no need for extensive world-building; therefore, the story takes off right from the get go. I was completely engrossed as the story unfolded, and I found that the additional characters framed the tale perfectly. We learned so much more about not only Lila’s heritage, but what brought the current warring situation to a head. I appreciated that each character is multi-faceted, although the antagonist, Victor Draconi, is just downright evil. As much as I love her, I was a bit frustrated with Lila this time around. It took her way too long to put together all of the pieces of the puzzle and make connections that were pretty obvious. Lila’s constant “it’s on the edge of my memory” bit was annoying, as was the fact that one of the bad guys basically had to spell out to Lila what was happening and why. But maybe I’m just a super-sleuth. haha. Once again, narrator Brittany Presley does an excellent job of capturing each character’s persona within the context of their voices. I can tell the personalities and corresponding moods of each just by listening to her performance. She continues to capture both the youth and life experiences of the each of the primary characters. Overall, I enjoyed this Dark Heart of Magic. I liked the standalone story of the Tournament of Blades and how it brought out each character’s personalities, strengths, and weaknesses....
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Dec
3

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep Welcome to my weekly feature that focuses on audiobooks. It’s time to… Audiobook review: Black Blade Series Author: Jennifer Estep Narrator: Brittany Presley Audio Speed: 1.25x Series: Black Blade #1 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Young Adult Source: purchased Cold Burn of Magic Cold Burn of Magic is the first book in the new young adult urban fantasy Black Blade trilogy by Jennifer Estep. Even though I very rarely read YA, I decided to give this series a chance, since I absolutely love Ms. Estep’s Elemental Assassin series. Overall, I enjoyed listening to Cold Burn of Magic and found this new world both exciting and engrossing. I will admit that at first I struggled with the book. Being a new series, the author took time to build her world and introduce the characters, which I found strikingly similar to the Elemental Assassins world. Our main character, Lila, is a younger version of Gin. Her world is filled of warring mobster Families, and Gin’s world has fighting mob bosses. Other similarities include some folks having magical Talents/powers, a rare metal used to make weapons, runes/images that represent the different alliances, and, by the way, Lila is an orphan like Gin. At first, I found the resemblances a little disconcerting, but I was willing to wait patiently for the book to take on its own life. And once that story started, it was an amazing ride right up to the very end! The story centers around attacks on Devon Sinclair, the second in command of one of the powerful Families. Lila is forced into protecting Devon and partnering with the Sinclairs to help figure out who the Mystery Man is behind the attacks. I enjoyed watching Lila piece together the puzzle successfully (even though I figured it out before she did!) While the story itself is entertaining, it’s the wonderful characters that bring the book to life. Lila may be a loner thief at the start of the story, but over the course of the book, we are introduced to an amazing cast of characters that I guarantee will become Lila’s closest friends and family before the end of the trilogy. Of course, there are sparks between Lila and Devon, a dangerous attraction given she’s his bodyguard and all. I admire how this is handled by both characters – well, mostly Lila since we share her POV and understand why she does what she does. Oscar is one of my favorites – a house pixie assigned to help...
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Oct
28

Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Review: Dark Heart of Magic by Jennifer Estep Dark Heart of Magic Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una really enjoyed Cold Burn of Magic, the first book in the Black Blade series by Jennifer Estep. The sequel, Dark Heart of Magic, was even better. We loved it and look forward to more. We enjoyed Lila’s humor and down-to-earth nature. Through her journey in this novel, we watched her grow in maturity. There are some world-shattering secrets Lila uncovers in Dark Heart of Magic that completely change her perspective. As Lila matures, she is able to see beyond some of the facades that easily deceived her in the first book. Despite her all consuming goal of avenging her mother, Lila finds herself a part of the Sinclair Family, not just as a bodyguard, but also as a friend and valued family member. It is fascinating how this coming of age story is entwined with the plot of murdered monsters, the Tournament of Blades, and the ongoing plot of the Draconi Family. It kept us glued to the pages, watching to see what happens next! The supporting characters are just as loveable and memorable as Lila. We love Oscar, the pixie with “style”, who cares for Lila in his own way. Lila’s friends Felix, Mo, and Devon add variety and depth to Lila’s world. They are truly colorful characters (Mo in more ways than one), and it is captivating to see Lila slowly change from a loner into a loyal friend. It was fascinating to see Deah humanized in this sequel. We liked how she went from being an aloof, spoiled heiress to a victim trying to get by. Dark Heart of Magic was a nail-biting and enjoyable read. Although the identity of the saboteur was easy to figure out, the saboteur’s motivations were not as cut and dry. We liked how the story played out along as the revelations were made. We are eagerly anticipating the final book in this series Bright Blaze of Magic. If you haven’t picked up the Black Blade series yet, you definitely should. Our Rating: A, Loved It About the Book: As a thief, I stick to the shadows as much as possible. But when the head of the Sinclair Family picks me to compete in the Tournament of Blades, there’s no escaping the spotlight—or the danger. Even though he’s my competition, Devon Sinclair thinks I have the best shot at winning what’s...
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Jul
8

Review: The Glass Arrow

Review: The Glass Arrow The Glass Arrow Author: Kristen Simmons Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: The Glass Arrow is set in a future Earth dystopia.  In this alternative future, women have been reduced to little more than cattle, bought and sold at public auction.  When the female population rises too high, female infants and children are murdered.  If they reach their young teens, they are used for breeding, entertainment, and labor.  Once they are “used up,” often by the time they are forty, they are tossed aside, usually dying from drug overdose or illness.  A girl’s best hope is that whomever buys her is so in love that he keeps her for his “forever wife.”  The idea is primarily a myth that circulates among the girls hoping to be purchased by someone who is, at the very least, kind. The only free women in this society are those that live in the wilds, outside the walls of the cities.  From time to time, trackers go out into the woods to round up females, as those raised in the wilds on real food, rather than supplements, are more fertile.    Living a lifestyle that is much like early American Indians, they also thrive on folktales which includes the tale of the glass arrow.  If the author will excuse my comparison, it reminded me a little of Dumbo and his magic feather.  I do not mean to make light of Simmon’s story, but it is basically a talisman, real or imaginary, for courage in an untenable situation and I think there is nobility in finding the thing that will get you successfully through difficult times.  Aya, the main character must use the glass arrow to bring her family through horrific circumstances. The book is full of very strong female characters, most of them better developed than the male characters which rule their world.  Feminist themes hit you over the head with a big stick, even going so far as to state, “These girls have no idea how pathetic they sound, each fighting for a position as the most valuable slave.  They’ve forgotten, or maybe they never learned, that their worth is not determined by how much a man wants them.”  Aya was so driven that she was almost exhausting to read.  Being told from her perspective, the book carried the urgency of first-person present. I will admit that despite liking the book, the world building was thin.  I wanted more explanation, but...
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Jul
7

Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine

Review: Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine Ink and Bone Author: Rachel Caine Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: For fans of Rachel Caine’s young adult series The Morganville Vampires, she has something new.  Although Gikany and Una both had very different reactions to the start of Ink and Bone, by the end we both loved it and are eagerly awaiting more in the new The Great Library series. For fans of The Morganville Vampires series looking for something similar, this is not it unless you want something just as addicting.  The Great Library series is completely new and entirely intriguing.  Una thought the book had a slow start to it while Gikany was able to jump right in and be hooked.  However, by the 25-30% mark, Una was hooked and found it difficult to put down.  Ink and Bone starts a bit slowly, giving a little of the history of the world and a bit of background about our hero, Jess.  But the slow pace doesn’t last for long and soon your heart will be racing from the fast-paced action and political suspense. The world is fascinating and Ms. Caine builds it slowly, interspersing the world-building with the adventures of Jess.  It is set in an alternate future – with Libraries (books and knowledge) as a prominent and controlling force of the world.  Ms. Caine deftly uses the correspondence of various Library dignitaries and historical writings to give context to the story.  Since the novel is told solely from Jess’s point of view, these letters balance out the world-building while also giving clues to the on-going political intrigue. Gikany and Una suffered book hangover once they reached the end.  The novel ends with a minor cliffhanger, and the ramifications and consequences of Jess’s choices leave much to ponder, reminisce and grieve over.  This book, and most likely this series, is for a mature young adult.  High school age and older would be appropriate for the serious nature of the novel.  War is a very real aspect of the novel, and the depictions of it are included.  Tough decisions and loss are appropriately handled and included, grounding the novel and giving a clearer picture of the world while also defining Jess’s character and his development. So much occurs in the novel that to discuss more of it would be a disservice to those who will read it.  Gikany and Una were consumed by this new, unique, and compelling world.  The plight of...
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Jun
8

Review: Powerless by Terra Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs

Review: Powerless by Terra Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs Powerless Author: Terra Lynn Childs & Tracy Deebs Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Powerless is a fabulous start in the new young adult series, The Hero Agenda.  It was a fast paced, riveting, and engaging new novel in a world of Heroes and Villains with super abilities. Gikany and Una really loved the debut book of this series.  Although it is a young adult novel, anyone from a mature junior high student to an adult will enjoy it.  There are some moments of romance and allusions to sex, but nothing graphic. What really is captivating about Powerless is our heroine, Kenna.  She is an ordinary in a world of supers.  Her father was a Hero and her mother works for the Heroes organization.  Her whole life she has lived in fear of the Villains because she has seen what they can do.  Although Kenna is ordinary, she is fearless.  When faced with Villains, she doesn’t run away, but tries to protect others and the research she and her mother have worked on.  From this confrontation, Kenna discovers that her world is not what it seems.  Life is not black and white.  Her coming of age is more than getting comfortable with herself; she must also come to understand the complexities of her world.  It was really fascinating. Another aspect that we enjoyed was the seamless world-building.  The novel starts with action and the tension never really ebbs.  As Kenna navigates from one encounter to another, we learn more about the world – just as she is.  We see the veil being removed from Kenna’s eyes and journey with her as she painfully matures.  It is emotionally charged as Kenna learns the world is not black and white. We eagerly look forward to the next novel in the Hero Agenda.  If you are looking for something new and riveting in the young adult genre, look no further.  Join a new adventure in a fascinating world with engaging characters, an action-packed plot, and riveting storyline.  Check out the new supers in Powerless. Our Rating:  A, Loved It About the Book: Kenna is tired of being “normal”. The only thing special about her is that she isn’t special at all. Which is frustrating in a world of absolutes. Villains, like the one who killed her father, are bad. Heroes, like her mother and best friend, are good. And Kenna, unlike everyone else around her, is completely ordinary—...
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Apr
28

Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Review: Cold Burn of Magic by Jennifer Estep Cold Burn of Magic Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Cold Burn of Magic is the debut novel in Ms. Estep’s new Black Blade young adult series.  Gikany and Una loved it!  This is a fabulous start to a great urban fantasy series. As some of you will know, we loved Ms. Estep’s previous young adult series, The Mythos Academy.  When we heard she was writing a new series, we knew we had to read it.  We enjoyed this fresh and interesting new world.  The mafia element mixed with monsters and magic was fascinating.  We enjoyed how magic worked in this world, and that it wasn’t hidden but a naturally occurring tourist attraction.  The politics between the founding families added an interesting tension and twist to life in this town.  The plot lines of the mystery of the threat against Devon, Lila trying to keep herself safely hidden, and Lila’s desire for vengeance against the ones responsible for her mother’s murder wove together to create a quick, engaging, and engrossing read. Lila is a fascinating heroine.  Although she reminded us a bit of Gwen from the Mythos Academy series at first, Lila is far more confident in herself and her abilities.  She has to be to survive.  We loved her grit, her sarcasm, and the deep-down core of goodness she possesses.  She is clever and respectful to a point (and it varies depending on whom she faces), but most of all heartbreakingly loyal.  We loved that she is a young adult heroine with a healthy appetite.  Considering her athletic ability, it is commendable to see her have an appetite that is appropriate for someone of that age and activity.  Her love of bacon cracked us up. The other characters in the novel helped to ground the story and round out the feel.  We enjoyed Devon and his complexity as he struggled with the role he plays in the Sinclair family.  Felix and Mo were wonderful characters who not only helped to lighten both the novel and Lila, but also added some intrigue.  Oscar the pixie has already become one of our most beloved characters.  The gruffness that he uses to try to keep his emotional distance was touching.  His reluctant care of Lila was endearing.  We look forward to seeing them in the next novel. Cold Burn of Magic is a great novel for anyone who enjoys intrigue, magic, and sarcasm.  We...
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Apr
15

Review: Sanguine Mountain by Jennifer Foxcroft

Review: Sanguine Mountain by Jennifer Foxcroft Sanguine Mountain Author: Jennifer Foxcroft Reviewer: Nima Rating: A- What I’m Talking About: Sanguine Mountain’s title suggests a story of vampires and blood.  There is blood, although very little, and there are vampire—bats.  Neither Lestat nor Edward Cullen are sneaking in anyone’s windows.  The only creatures of the night in this tale are actual bats.  In a new take on the vampire myth, this is a much more Wild Kingdom approach to a teen love story. Rockland or “Rocks” is descended from a centuries old culture called the Camazotz that was magically transformed into bats to evade and conquer their enemies.  They have shunned the advances of the world as it grew up and they did not, choosing instead to isolate themselves.  Now their numbers are dwindling and Rocks believes it is crucial to modernize if they are to survive.  He is fascinated by all things technological, but especially by Connie, a high school senior who is blonde and all things sunshine. The story is told in first person, completely from Connie’s perspective.  Foxcroft successfully represents a teenage girl with a unique voice.  Connie’s maturity is age appropriate and does not feel like the voice of an adult author trying to speak as a teenager.  It reminds me of Need by Carrie Jones, combining normal teen life with a wispy, ethereal quality that hangs in magical, but not dangerous places.  Sanguine Mountain is better written than Need.  If I have any criticism of Connie’s character it’s that she does a little too much swooning over Rocks and it actually impedes the reader from getting to know him better.  Rather than more observations of his speech and actions, we get a few too many forest smells and giddy tingles. For me it crossed over a certain line of saturation.  Nevertheless all the swooning did successfully express some of the self-centeredness that is typical of teenage life. In the end it probably added some authenticity. The story is the first of three in a trilogy and must be read in order.  In fact, Sanguine Mountain comes to a stopping place, but isn’t a complete story on its own.  It’s only an introduction that comes in under 300 pages.  If you read it, be prepared to read all three.  I hope in future books that we get additional perspectives.  I would be disappointed for the entire trilogy to be from solely Connie’s point of view. My Rating: A- Enjoyed A Lot About...
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Dec
3

Review: The Vault by Emily McKay

Review: The Vault by Emily McKay The Vault Author: Emily McKay Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: Note: This review contains spoilers from the previous two titles. If you have not read the previous books, read this review at your risk. Gikany and Una have come to appreciate the compelling world of The Farm series. The unique vampire mythology is fascinating. Humans already possess the DNA that can turn us from thinking beings into ticks consumed by only the hunt and need for blood. That this potential can be made a reality through a catalyst created by human scientists is staggering. The previous two novels, The Farm and The Lair, have led to this final resolution: the search for the cure. Does it exist? Will it actually work? But most importantly, what are the consequences using the cure on the tick? As the novel begins, Carter and Mel are forced to split up to try to save Lily. Carter returned to base camp to get help obtaining a sample of the cure from the vampire Sabrina. Meanwhile, Mel returned to El Dorado to hopefully find Sebastian and use him to open his impregnable vault. However, nothing in this novel was as simple or clear cut as it seemed. The end of the novel nicely tied everything up with a big bow. We enjoyed how the story came full circle and the hope we were left with. Despite that, we still wonder what happens next. The world isn’t fixed, but there is hope that it can heal. However, with nothing on the author’s website alluding to future novels, it seems like this is the last novel. After experiencing so much heartbreak and tension through the series, it was really wonderful to have that sense of hope and happiness at the end. Gikany and Una are not fond of multiple points of view when utilized in first person narration. The Vault is told from the viewpoints of all three main characters. This is a chapter from Mel, then a chapter from Lily, a few from Carter, then one from each, and so on. The constant starting and stopping interrupted the flow of the story for us, especially as the story bounced from once location and situation to another. To add to the roughness of the rhythm of the story, Carter and Lily’s perspectives are in past tense while Mel perspective uses present tense adding to the confusion as the story transitioned from one...
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