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Currently Browsing: YA Literature
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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Oct
28

Review: Eventide by Christine Allen-Riley

Review: Eventide by Christine Allen-Riley Eventide Author: Christine Allen-Riley Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: A- What We’re Talking About: Eventide is the first book in a new young adult series that is quite promising. Gikany and Una enjoyed this slowly building story, becoming completely lost in the heroine’s plight. The story starts very slowly. We are gently introduced to Devon, the pain and grief she is battling after the loss of her best friend, and her understanding that all is not as it seems in her hometown. As the story begins to unfold, we, along with Devon, learn about the Sidhe who live and hunt in the town of Iron Falls. The tragic accidents that have been occurring are not what they seem to be and that those lost may not be lost at all. First, we really enjoyed this novel. The tension increases through the novel as the character development, plot, and mythology unfold, and the plight of the characters becomes clear. It is very expertly woven. Though the start is slow, it truly is akin to waiting for the first drop on a rollercoaster ride. Nothing is very clearly cut and we enjoyed trying to figure things out along with Devon – not just the mystery of the Sidhe and how she can save her friend Rachel, but her relationships. This is a very well done balance between a coming of age story, fantasy/adventure, and mystery. Devon is a down to earth character dealing with some very real and adult issues. Nothing is sugar coated, but it is done gently. It is also handled respectfully and responsibly. Devon was driving on the night of the fateful accident because she was the sober one. The care and concern Devon shows for her siblings. Although nothing is clear-cut and Devon’s world is completely shattered, she is working at putting it in some semblance of order. We liked Devon and we look forward to seeing more of what happens to her and her growth in the next book. Considering the themes of the novel, we would recommend this to any mature junior high students and above. In spite of the temptations she faces, Devon strives to be conscious of consequences and takes responsibility for her actions. We found we liked her and were rooting for her as she heals and fights for innocents. Though she is a victim of bullying, she works at keeping herself grounded. What helps to keep this story fresh and real...
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Oct
9

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins

Review: Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins Isla and the Happily Ever After Author: Stephanie Perkins Reviewer: Nima Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: If you are an unapologetic hopeless romantic, this is your book.  Isla and the Happily Ever After is all about that gut-wrenching, turn your heart inside-out, I may never eat again if I can just stay in this love bubble with you kind of love.  I loved every minute of it.  I read it straight through.  Seriously, I think if I had had to stop mid-book, it would have been physically painful. Isla and the Happily Ever After, book three in Perkins unnamed trilogy, is told exclusively from Isla’s point of view.  For that reason we have to forego some of the details and depth that go with having additional perspectives.  It also means there are no sub-plots that don’t involve Isla.  It’s a purer, contiguous read in that sense.  I only missed them in a few places, but it didn’t take away from my enjoyment of the journey or the conclusion.  In fact, during a major plot crisis, because we don’t know what’s going on with the other characters, we genuinely feel Isla’s anxiety amplifying the overall conclusion. Both of the main characters, Isla Martin and Josh Wasserstein, were on the periphery in the first book of the series, Anna and the French Kiss.  They were little more than set dressing at the time.  It’s now three years later and Anna, St. Claire, and Meredith have all graduated leaving Josh alone to finish his senior year.  Isla, of course, has been in love with Josh since they were both freshman, and outsider looking on at him and his friends.  This year, their senior year, is the year they finally come together and make the fantasy of their love into a reality. That’s not say they don’t have issues, because they’re seventeen and what high school senior doesn’t have issues?  It’s a life season full of possibilities.  That can excite and scare all at the same time and Isla and Josh are no exception.  Don’t try to read them as the adults they haven’t become yet.  Being a more (ahem) mature adult myself, it was frankly a breath of fresh air to be so completely in the moment from chapter to chapter. Perkins pulls more into the story from the secondary characters than in past novels.  Kurt, Isla’s best friend, is an enjoyable addition.  Living with a high functioning form of autism,...
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Jul
29

Review: What Dreams May Come by Beth M. Honeycutt

Review: What Dreams May Come by Beth M. Honeycutt What Dreams May Come Author: Beth M. Honeycutt Reviewer: Nima Rating: C+ What I’m Talking About: What Dreams May Come is the debut effort of author Beth M. Honeycutt. The first in her In Dreams series, it is a sweet, young adult romance, and in my opinion, probably on the younger side of teens than adult. I think its target audience is about twelve or thirteen even though the main characters are sixteen or seventeen. Parents can rest assured that it is comfortably clean. The concept of the story is strong one.  I won’t spoil it by telling you what it is, but it involves dreams and was original enough to hold my attention.  Unfortunately, there wasn’t a great deal of plot to go with it. If some of the over-done swooning were removed, it would have been better suited to a novella or even a very tight short story. With a print length of only 246 pages, I thought there were many places the narrative could have been expanded to show us more and develop more of the peripheral characters to enrich the promising base plotline. The narrative actually has the ring of Twilight fan fiction. It begins in a meadow, the two main characters, Ellie and Gabe, challenge each other and bond in science class, the heroine is socially awkward, and is constantly hiding behind a “veil of hair.”  It’s also desperately one-sided.  Ellie is being bullied when Gabe comes to her rescue.  Gabe has been through hell in the foster care system and abandoned by his parents.  Not to diminish the very real harm of bullying, but in this narrative, Gabe’s problems are downplayed so he can be highlighted as Ellie’s hero.  Nowhere does she seem to do anything for him except exist. Finally, I found it regrettable that Honeycutt gave her interesting story such a common title. There are multiple books with the same name, including a very well-known 1978 romance by Richard Matheson. It was made into one of my favorite Oscar winning movies starring Robin Williams. (Super intense, visually symbolic story about a love that can withstand a trip to hell and back, literally.  Have an entire box of tissues next to you if you rent it.) Despite my issues with some of its construction, I definitely liked it and I strongly believe the next books in the series will only improve as Honeycutt develops as a writer. My Rating:  C+ Liked It — But...
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Jul
14

Review: Ashlynn’s Dreams by Julie C. Gilbert

Review: Ashlynn’s Dreams by Julie C. Gilbert Ashlynn’s Dreams Author: Julie C. Gilbert Reviewer: Gikany & Una Rating: DNF What We’re Talking About: Ashlynn’s Dreams is a young adult novel about a young girl who discovers she is special after being kidnapped.  This first book in what appears to be the Devya’s Children series held promise to Gikany and Una but ultimately was not our cup of tea. We found the premise interesting, the characters fascinating, and the plot intriguing.  However, it fell flat in the storytelling.  The story is told through letters from and journal entries by various characters.  Although this may appeal to some, it felt choppy and disjointed to us.  After reading through 25% of the novel, we found we were just not connecting to the story because of this method of narration.  It was impossible for us to immerse ourselves in the world.  Due to the shifting perspectives, we could not find a foundation for ourselves in the story. Although it was promising, ultimately Ashlynn’s Dreams did not appeal to us. However, it may appeal to many others, and we hope if it sounds interesting to you, you give it a shot. Our Rating:  DNF: Did Not Finish About the Book: Before she was kidnapped, Jillian Marie Antel Blairington was just an average bright, brave, headstrong child. She was excited for life in a new house with her Momma and new Daddy. Afterward, she’s all that … and so much more. Held in a scientific facility, Jillian discovers her past-a family she never knew and a power she doesn’t understand. With her ability now activated, she can enter and even shape a person’s dreams. Jillian’s been kidnapped, and her Gift has been triggered, so she can locate and save Benjamin Connelly, a brother she never even knew she had. She’d better master this strange ability quickly, though, because her life isn’t the only one at stake. Her babysitter, Danielle Matheson, is being held as a hostage to ensure Jillian’s full cooperation. Slowly, Jillian begins to learn more about her captor and the other genetically altered children held at the facility. Join Jillian as she tries to survive the training being forced upon her, find her unknown brother, escape with Danielle, and work her way back to a normal life once more. Release Date: February 28, 2013 Publisher: self-published Series: Devya’s Children #1 ISBN: #978-1450232845 Genre: Young Adult (Science Fiction) Format(s): Paperback (216 pages), e-book Book Source: Author Purchase Info: Ashlynn’s Dreams (Devya’s...
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Jun
10

Review: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

Review: City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare City of Heavenly Fire Author: Cassandra Clare Reviewer: Una Rating: A+ What I’m Talking About: It seems lately I have been reviewing the end-of-a-series books.  So far, they have all been well done.  City of Heavenly Fire is no exception and in fact is amazing!  It is beautifully crafted, brimming with pathos, and completely tensioned filled; I was mesmerized, overwhelmed, and ensnared.  The course of the last five books reached an unexpected and almost hopelessly impossible pinnacle, and I find myself left with a beautiful sense of peace and a core of hope.  City of Heavenly Fire is by far my favorite book of the series! Ms. Clare certainly has the ability to craft a poetic epic.  The imagery, the characters and situations; they all seem orchestrated to music.  The feelings she evokes, the images her words paint, the knowledge she plants, combine to an incredibly all-encompassing read.  For a novel that is over 700 pages, it goes by quickly and yet, at times, each second lasted pages.  Frequently, the tension is tempered by humor, but more often I found it tempered by several different emotions: love, desire, fear, confusion, and sometimes cold logical thinking (“what on earth was next” being the most popular in my mind).  But what I find the most humorous of my read is that I am the main culprit for a good deal of the tension.  The war was coming; the majority of the novel is a chess game.  Yet, just when I think the pieces are in position, I discovered that we were not quite to the end game.  I found myself expecting the worst around each turn due to the loss of a character early on in the novel. City of Heavenly Fire truly takes us full circle.  Though the novel does wrap up with a big bow of hope, we still grieve the losses.  However, Ms. Clare writes about loss in more than the conventional way.  Though there are moments and players that I could tell were key, the way it unfolds is completely a surprise.  I was stunned by some of the sacrifices that take place.  Some sacrifices are in the form of death, but some are political, some are of love, friendships, and some of home or the path of what could have been.  If Ms. Clare plays as she writes, I would be a poor opponent indeed at the chess table.  Although I am taken by the twists,...
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Mar
6

Review: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep

Review: Killer Frost by Jennifer Estep Killer Frost Author: Jennifer Estep Reviewer: Gikany and Una Rating: A What We’re Talking About: Gikany and Una are bereft to inform you that we have indeed read the last of the Mythos Academy books.  Killer Frost is a bittersweet read only in that we say goodbye to Gwen and her friends and this rich and wondrous world.  However, Killer Frost is an exceedingly brilliant novel that ties up all the loose ends simply and poignantly. Throughout the Mythos Academy series, Gwen has been the underdog, the unlikely hero.  Surrounded at the Academy by Amazons, Valkyries, Spartans, Ninjas and other great warriors, Gwen is different.  Her magic lies in psychometry – not really a fearsome offensive weapon.  But Nike chose Gwen to be her champion anyway.  Was it her fierce determination, her stubborn will, or her innate compassion and kindness?  Rest assured fans and readers, the answer is revealed!  Gikany and Una always wondered why Gwen was chosen, she seemed so outmatched, especially taking into consideration that Loki’s champion is a Valkyrie.  Nike is one smart cookie – this explains why she is the Goddess of Victory.  The clues were there all along but, as is the nature of the gods, you needed the right circumstances and context to understand them.  Gwen truly is the embodiment of a Champion. This book is all about the final battle, Gwen facing Loki.  However, as we build up to this final moment there are many different pieces that first needed to be locked into place.  Getting there was not just full of suspense and adventure, but emotionally charged as well.  We loved seeing how well Gwen’s friends not only know her, but love her.  They do what they can to support her.  Part of what makes this series so rich is the group of supporting characters.  Not just Gwen’s friends, but other allies – some obvious and some not so.  They add humor, humanity and pathos. One thing that we respected and loved about Killer Frost was the reality check at the end.  Once the dust settles, these people will never be the same.  We were not spared the reality of a great battle’s aftermath.  In this world, where Loki and his followers have affected each and every student and teacher, it would be insulting to not endure their losses with them.  Some have lost friends, parents, etc. during this time of turmoil.  The great final battle requires more sacrifices and losses. ...
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