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Currently Browsing: YA Literature
Jul
5

Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine

Review: Paper and Fire by Rachel Caine Paper and Fire Author: Rachel Caine Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A/A- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have really enjoyed this new series, The Great Library.  The first novel, Ink and Bone, was a captivating and thrilling page-turner.  Paper and Fire ramps it up even more, with an unexpected twist at the end. As with our review of Ink and Bone, it is very difficult for us to do our normal discussion type review.  From the beginning of Paper and Fire, the plot begins to twist and turn, revealing some truths while hinting at other plots.  It would be far too easy to spoil this novel.  So we apologize for this terse and vague review. Jess continues to be the central character.  We follow him in the new chapter of his life as part of the Library.  As a bottom-rung cadet, he has very little power, but if the Library thinks they can control him, they are very wrong.  Jess continues to seek answers, find out the truth of his friends, and search for a way to change the brutal dictatorial nature of the library.  Although he never is completely sure whom he can trust, Jess knows he will never be able to free Morgan without help. This series continues to mesmerize us.  Although it can be argued whether this is a young adult series or fantasy, there are topics that are strictly for the more mature reader: torture, rape, and war.  The nefarious plots of the different factions all weave around each other, and all seem to be against Jess.  It is overwhelmingly and incredibly addicting.  We especially enjoyed the painfully clear depiction that no matter how gilded the cage is, it is still a prison. The end came as quite a surprise to us as the novel goes in a completely unexpected direction.  But it is one that makes sense and holds an intriguing possibility.  We eagerly look forward to the next book in this series.  If you haven’t picked it up yet, you are seriously missing out on a well crafted, addicting, and suspenseful world. Our Rating: A/A-  Enjoyed A Lot About the Book: With an iron fist, The Great Library controls the knowledge of the world, ruthlessly stamping out all rebellion, forbidding the personal ownership of books in the name of the greater good. Jess Brightwell has survived his introduction to the sinister, seductive world of the Library, but serving in its army is...
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May
12

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Listen Up! #Audiobook Review: Bright Blaze 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: 1.5x Series: Black Blade #3 Genre: Urban Fantasy / Young Adult Source: purchased/audible Bright Blaze of Magic Bright Blaze of Magic is the third and final story in the wonderful young adult urban fantasy Black Blade trilogy. The book hits all the right marks needed for the successful conclusion of a series: bringing to end the overarching storylines and finishing on a positive note. The story begins shortly after the exciting conclusion of Dark Heart of Magic, with the younger Sinclairs: Lila, Devon, and Felix, breaking into the Draconi Mansion to steal Victor’s magic infused black blades. With the help of new ally Dia, things have gone as smoothly as possible over the past couple of weeks. However, time is up and Victor is ready to make his move against the rest of the Cloudburst Falls Families. Overall, I enjoyed the final adventure in the Black Blade series which brought to close the war between the families and filled in all the details of Victor’s backstory and his dastardly plans. I loved seeing how much Lila has grown over the course of the three books, going from loner to a valued and loved member of the Sinclair family. I also enjoyed seeing her make connections with the monsters around town and learning more about her mother and her own roots. While predictable in where the story would end, the whys and hows were interesting and kept me engrossed in the tale. With that said, I felt that this book was lacking the richness and fullness of the previous two titles. Bright Blaze of Magic focused pretty much solely on the battle between the Victor and the other Families. The book felt like one fight scene after another, with little else. In the previous books, there was a central mystery to be solved, but not so with Bright Blaze of Magic. This, coupled with the amount of repetitious thoughts, actions, and phrases, made the story drag at times, and I found my thoughts wandering as I listened. The narration by Ms. Pressley remained spot on and highly enjoyable. She gives the primary characters the vibrancy of their youthful years without making them come across young or immature. One difference for me this time around; I listened to the book at 1.5x instead of my usual 1.25x. I’m not sure if this is...
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Apr
27

Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep

Review: Bright Blaze of Magic by Jennifer Estep Bright Blaze of Magic Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: It is always difficult to say goodbye to a great series, and that is definitely the case with this final book in the Black Blade series, Bright Blaze of Magic.  We have enjoyed Lila’s adventures and the world that she thrived in.  This final book is an exciting and wonderful conclusion to the series. In this final book Lila’s revenge is sated, those oppressed are freed, and, most importantly, Lila has found hope for the future with her new love and the family which she has become an integral part.  The final confrontation between Lila and Victor was powerful and well played. What makes this series so compelling is Lila’s plight.  When the series began in Cold Burn of Magic, Lila was orphaned and living on the streets.  Her world consisted of herself and her only friend Moe.  By the end of the series she is a part of a family and a group of friends.  She has come a long way.  Her mission to exact vengeance on the man responsible for the horrific murder of her mother unfolds and evolves over the course of the three novels. The world is rich in magic and adventure, and the characters are grounded and engaging.  It is difficult to not be drawn into this vivid and wondrous world. Bright Blaze of Magic is a marvelous conclusion the Black Blade series.  If you haven’t read this trilogy, we strongly recommend it for any fans of urban fantasy. We encourage you to pick it up and indulge in the magic, wit, and action/adventure that make this world come alive.  Although we hope Ms. Estep writes something new in this world, we look forward to the next new world and charming characters she creates. Our Rating (Novel):  A, Loved It Our Rating (Overall Series):  A, Loved It About the Book: Bad Things Always Come In Threes… As a thief, I’m good at three things: hiding in the shadows, getting in and out unseen, and uncovering secrets. I put these skills to work for the Sinclair Family, one of the magical mobs that run the tourist town of Cloudburst Falls.  Everyone knows Victor Draconi wants to take over all the other Families–and kill every last Sinclair. What they don’t know is that I’m on to him, and no way will I let the man who murdered my mom...
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Apr
12

Review: Reckoning by Veronica Wolff

Review: Reckoning by Veronica Wolff Reckoning Author: Veronica Wolff Reviewers: Gikany and Una Rating: B- What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una have eagerly anticipated this final novel in The Watchers young adult series.  We have been mesmerized by this rich and fascinating world of a secret society of vampires and the candidates they lure in so they can train them to be Watchers.  Although the novel nicely ties up everything with a big bow, we thought it was not as smooth as the previous novels. Drew finally exhibits a sense of maturity in this final installment.  We enjoyed seeing her finally take to heart the lessons so many had tried to teach her.  Although she wasn’t perfectly mature throughout, she tried to do the right things and to think before acting.  However her waffling between Cardin and Ronin did wear on us after a while.  We felt it was never a contest between Ronin and Carden (we’ve always had a soft spot for Ronin in our hearts), however with the blood bond between her and Carden and with Ronin’s compulsion abilities, we can understand her fears and inability to determine what is real. Although we were happy with how the story ends, its execution was not polished.  We thought the first half of the novel was forced while the ending was abrupt.  The beginning felt like it was being rushed just to get to the last half.  So much happens near the end that it was a bit convoluted.  We were appalled that a critical reunion took place outside of the storyline.  This was a driving force for Drew, and to not be able to experience this meeting was a huge let down. Overall, we loved The Watchers series and are sad that it is over.  This was a wondrously rich and fascinatingly fresh world of vampires.  Although this final book is a bit of a letdown, we are relieved that Drew achieves her happy ending.  Despite our reservations with this title, we still recommend the young adult series. Our Rating:  B- Liked It, but we had a few small issues About the Book: IN THE GAME OF EVIL, THERE IS ALWAYS A FINAL RECKONING Annelise’s slaying of Vampire Dagursson has thrown the Isle of Night – and her own heart – into chaos. Though she shares a bond with the vampire Carden, her connection to Ronan grows deeper as he protects her from those who seek justice for and power from Dagursson’s death....
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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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