Tag: YA

Book Review: Fawkes, by Nadine Brandes

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Image belongs to Thomas Nelson.

Title:   Fawkes
Author:   Nadine Brandes
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

The Stone Plague has tormented England for years. There is no cure. In most cases, it means death. For a lucky few, it means a life of despair and being shunned and beaten. Thomas Fawkes has the plague, but it’s dormant, hidden behind his eye patch, and almost no one knows.

Except his father, the legendary Guy Fawkes, known for his bravery and courage. But he abandoned Thomas after his son got the plague, and all Thomas wants from him is his own mask—so he can graduate and make his way in the world using his color power as a Keeper, one who bonds with a single color power. Keepers are beaten and killed now that an Igniter king is on the throne, so Thomas trusts no one.

When his father doesn’t show up, Thomas is kicked out and abandoned. Angry, he makes his way to London, and finds his father embroiled in a plot to kill the king and Parliament, destroying Igniter power forever and putting a Keeper on the throne. But Thomas starts to see that things aren’t as his father believes, and with the help of a classmate, an Igniter girl with more power than he’s ever seen, he learns the truth. Now Thomas must decide between his father and the girl he loves—and his choice is a death sentence for one.

I found the magic system in Fawkes fascinating and unique. Thomas is a troubled character searching for the truth amid many obstacles. His relationship with his father—the notorious Guy Fawkes—is complex and nuanced, and the exploration of English culture is vivid and probably uncomfortably accurate. I highly enjoyed reading this adventure.

Nadine Brandes loves Harry Potter and Oreos. Fawkes is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.)

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Book Review: Olympian Challenger, by Astrid Arditi

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Image belongs to Astrid Arditi.

Title:   Olympian Challenger
Author:   Astrid Arditi
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Hope Diaz lives in New York City. She spends her time swimming, studying, and caring for her mother, who has dementia. She doesn’t have time for parties, so when she receives a mysterious invitation to one, she doesn’t really care. It seems like every other senior in the city got one, so it can’t be all that special. Until she realizes that everyone else can only see a single sentence on the invitation…and she sees more.

Soon, Hope finds herself on Mount Olympus, a guest of the gods, as she and other challengers prepare for a competition that will grant them their greatest wish. Hope doesn’t want immortality. She just wants to go home and take care of her mother.

But leaving Olympus isn’t an option and Hope soon finds out that not everything—or everyone—is as it seems.

Olympian Challenger isn’t a completely unique concept. I’ve seen lots of comparisons to Percy Jackson and Hunger Games. Sure, there are similarities. It’s difficult to write anything that has nothing in common with any other book ever written. But Olympian Challenger is its own story.

Hope is an interesting character, and the friendships she forges on Olympus are intriguing and inspiring. I enjoyed seeing the gods and the heroes through her less-than-impressed eyes. While the plot lags in places and does skimp on details at times, the writing is solid, and I’m interested in reading the second book.

Astrid Arditi lives and writes in Brooklyn. Olympian Challenger is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Museum of Us, by Tara Wilson Redd

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Image belongs to Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books.

Title:   The Museum of Us
Author:   Tara Wilson Redd
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Sadie has a boyfriend she loves, Henry, who plays in a band and loves her even though she can’t understand why. Her best friend, Lucie, runs Cross Country and is a secret nerd, but still loves to hang out with Sadie. Then there’s George. George just gets her. They talk for hours. They go on adventures. They explore the world around them. Together, they are magic.

George is a secret. He’s imaginary. But when a car accident leaves Sadie calling out his name, she ends up in a hospital for people with issues like hers.

Life with George is more extraordinary than anything Sadie has experienced without him. But, while trying to keep her secret, she starts to yearn for something more, for something real. Can she give up George and the magical lives she leads with him?

At first, I wasn’t too sure about this book. I mean, daydreaming is one thing, but Sadie takes it to a whole other level. Her adventures with George are fantastic, but she just can’t see how great her real life is, too. I just didn’t get it at first, but then it all started to make sense, and I really felt for Sadie and all she’d been through. This is an exploration of mental illness from the inside—and it is very, very well done and vivid.

Tara Wilson Redd lives in Washington D.C. The Museum of Us is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Wendy Lamb Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Not the Girls You’re Looking For, by Aminah Mae Safi

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Image belongs to Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.

Title: Not the Girls You’re Looking For
Author: Aminah Mae Safi
Genre: YA
Rating: 3 out of 5

Lulu Saad has her squad, her family, and a huge chip on her shoulder. She doesn’t need anything else. She’s fasting for Ramadan, which she does every year, and her squad still doesn’t get it, but Lulu is determined to make it through this time.

Except Lulu and her friends have a falling out. And she alienates half of her extended family. And she can’t quite figure out why everything in her life is going wrong…

Okay. I didn’t realize quite how…plotless this book was until I tried to write a synopsis. And now it’s all so clear to me…Lulu and her friends aren’t very likeable. Scratch that. They aren’t likable at all. They do stupid stuff, knowingly. They talk about people. They sabotage people. They’re judgmental. Basically, this book is all angst and anger, with a lot of cultural diversity thrown in.

Now, that part was very well done, and executed so well that I caught all the nuances of Lulu’s struggle to fit in when she feels like she doesn’t belong in either culture. But she’s also touchy to the point of looking for things to take offense at. Have some respect for yourself. Guys should absolutely respect women, and women should be able to wear whatever they want without having to be afraid of guys’ reactions…but, it’s not okay to sexualize men for their bodies, either. Lulu doesn’t get this, and she thinks it’s okay for her to be focused on the guys and for her to react inappropriately towards them. So…all the stars for diversity, but no stars for plot or character likability.

Aminah Mae Safi has studied art History, but now writes fiction. Not the Girls You’re Looking For is her debut novel.

(Galley provided by in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: Little Do We Know, by Tamara Ireland Stone

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Little Do We Know
Author:   Tamara Ireland Stone
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Hannah and Emory are next-door-neighbors and best friends. Until a few months ago, when they had a fight and said some things they can never take back. Hannah’s life at the Christian school her father runs is great, but is her faith really her own, or is it something she just picked up from her family? These questions become even harder when she realizes she may never get the chance to live out her dreams and gets involved with someone she should never have been involved with.

Emory is preparing for her UCLA performing arts audition and enjoying every moment she has left with her boyfriend, Luke. They’ll be going off to separate colleges, and she knows they don’t have much time left. Emory just wants to avoid her memories of the fight with Hannah—and what caused them.

The distance between the two girls seems unsurpassable, until the night Hannah finds Luke in his car outside Emory’s house, doubled over and on the verge of death. In the aftermath of that ordeal, the girls seek to sort out their differences, and realize their friendship is the strength that keeps them both afloat.

I loved this book. I could relate to Hannah so much, and the way she struggles with defining her own faith, while fighting for the chance to chase her dreams, was both poignant and uplifting. She makes some bad decisions, but learns from them, and changes as a result. Emory is a vibrant girl who practically dances across the pages. Her outgoing personality hides a secret—and a fear of the future. The two of them are drawn back together because of Luke, but their friendship is the backbone of this wonderful novel.

Tamara Ireland Stone is a New York Times-bestselling author and her novels have won several awards. Little Do We Know is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: City of Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   City of Bastards
Author:   Andrew Shvarts
Genre:   YA/fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Tilla has finally made it to safety in the city of Lightspire. She’s there with her boyfriend, Zell, and her best friend, Princess Lyriana—safe from her rebelling, murderous father (she’s his illegitimate, disposable daughter), who’s intent on overthrowing the king. But the whispers and accusations follow her even as she attends the prestigious University.

Life in Lightspire isn’t what she imagined, but she does her best to fit in…until she stumbles on the body of one of her friends and sees a mysterious mage with deadly powers. Tilla’s friends won’t listen to her—what she saw is treason, and she’s already under suspicion due to her father.

But Tilla knows what she saw and is determined to find out the truth. Things don’t make sense:  not the secretive cult causing trouble in Lightspire, not how her father’s army is beating the invincible Lightspire mages, and certainly not the secrets those closest to her are keeping.

I haven’t actually read Royal Bastards, which is the first book in this series. And that did not make much difference at all in reading City of Bastards (although it might have explained the title a little bit). Although the setting is pretty traditional for fantasy, Tilla (and Lyriana) is a surprisingly modern teenager, complete with getting drunk and how open she is about her physical relationship with Zell. (So, if you’re expecting “traditional” fantasy/medieval values, that’ll be a shocker.) Her observations give the story an edge and settle the reader firmly in her point-of-view, so we’re just as shocked as she is at the murder and betrayal she experiences. I loved these characters, and I intend on going back and reading Royal Bastards to catch up.

Andrew Shvarts was born in Russia but grew up in the U.S. City of Bastards is his newest book, the second in the Royal Bastards series.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe, by Preston Norton

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe
Author:   Preston Norton
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Cliff Hubbard tries to stay in the background at Happy Valley High School, a difficult task for someone who’s 6’6”, 250 pounds, and called Neanderthal by the whole school. Cliff’s life sucks:  he has no friends and his home life in a ratty trailer park has only gotten worse since his older brother committed suicide last year. He can’t stand the popular kids, and he doesn’t even know what to say to the druggies who hang around outside of school.

The guy he hates the most is Aaron Zimmerman, the perfect star quarterback who can do no wrong. All Cliff wants is to beat that smug look off Aaron’s face. Until Aaron has a near-death experience and returns to school with a message:  while unconscious, he saw God, who gave him a list of things to do to make Happy Valley better…and Cliff is the only one who can help him.

To his own surprise, Cliff agrees, and he and Aaron start on the List which includes the meanest English teacher ever, a computer hacker intent on exposing the entire school’s secrets, the local drug dealers, the school’s most sadistic bully, and a group of teens who are Christian in name only. But soon Cliff will realize the List is more personal than he ever suspected—and he must act if he’s to prevent tragedy from striking Happy Valley High again.

I’m just going to say it:  I LOVED this book! I generally prefer female YA protagonists, but Cliff was wonderful! His voice and humor brought this story to life, and I couldn’t wait to see what he’d do next. Cliff’s family life is sad and hard, and I felt so sorry for him at times I wanted to cry. But at heart, he’s such an optimistic, good-hearted person. Even the minor characters in this book are vivid (and somewhat over-the-top, making them completely realistic), and I loved every page.

Preston Norton’s newest book is Neanderthal Opens the Door to the Universe.

(Galley provided by Disney-Hyperion in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Furyborn, by Claire Legrand

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Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   Furyborn
Author:   Claire Legrand
Genre:   YA/Fantasy
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Rielle Dardenne has lived with a horrible secret since she was five years old:  she can control all seven of the elements of magic, not just one. Rielle tells no one, not even her best friends, Prince Audric and Ludivine, his fiancée. But when assassins ambush Audric, Rielle unleashes her magic to save his life, revealing her secret.

To prove which of the prophesied queens she is—the Queen of Light or the Blood Queen—Rielle must face seven trials, trials that will test her loyalty, her power, and her control. Her only ally is the voice in her head—Corien, one of the angels who has supposedly been vanquished. Rielle is determined to prove herself the Queen of Light, but Corien makes her question who she really is.

A thousand years later, Eliana is a bounty hunter, forced to work with the Empire to keep her family safe. Until her mother vanishes, and Eliana will do anything to find her, even ally herself with the Wolf, the mysterious man who is hiding secrets that will change Eliana’s world forever.

I’ve seen a lot of opposing reviews on Furyborn. It seems most people either love it or HATED it. I enjoyed it a lot, although the switching from Rielle’s to Eliana’s POV confused me a few times (a thousand years apart, and the world is essentially the same). I liked the strong female characters, and the female friendships were great, too. I didn’t learn much about the magic system, but it intrigued me. This is the first in a trilogy, and I can’t wait to read more!

Claire Legrand was born in Texas but now lives in New Jersey. Her newest novel is Furyborn.

(Galley provided by Sourcebooks Fire in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Crossing, by Jason Mott

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Image belongs to Harlequin/Park Row.

Title:  The Crossing
Author:   Jason Mott
Genre:   YA/dystopian
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

At first, the disease only took those over age 90, putting them into a sleep they never awoke from. Gradually, the victims grew younger, and the world realized eventually no one of childbearing age would be left awake—or alive. Accusations of blame arose, followed by the war.

Virginia and Tommy have spent most of their lives in the foster care system, fighting to stay together. But now the draft threatens to keep them apart forever. So they run away, headed for Florida and a space shuttle lunch that could be the last hope of mankind.

In a world gone mad, people try desperately to forget the truth, but Virginia remembers everything:  ever single detail of everything she’s ever seen or heard. The Memory Gospel brings the past alive for her, but it makes her blind to some things. As Tommy and Virginia flee across the country, they have only themselves to depend on, but can they bear the cost of the truth?

This was an intriguing novel, with a premise unique in the dystopian books I’ve read. The world, filled with war and the Disease, is frankly terrifying. Virginia and Tommy’s history is sad, yet their love for each other remains strong.

I found Virginal pretty unlikable. Her perfect memory makes her think she’s smarter than everyone around her, and, while that may be true in some cases, she only remembers her memories, not necessarily the truth. She’s a selfish person whose intellect makes her push people away. Despite that, this was an engrossing read.

Jason Mott is a New York Times bestselling author. The Crossing is his newest novel.

(Galley provided by Harlequin/Park Row in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review: The Way You Make Me Feel, by Maurene Goo

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Image belongs to Farrar, Straus, and Giroux (BYR).

Title:   The Way You Make Me Feel
Author:   Maurene Goo
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Clara Shin and her friends are rebellious and anti-anything-too-trendy-and-popular. Clara is always pulling pranks and cracking jokes to keep people at arm’s length, but when a school prank goes too far, Clara ends up sentenced to work her dad’s food truck with her enemy all summer long.

Rose Carver is an uptight goody-two-shoes, but as Clara is forced to spend time with her, she realizes Rose is really just from a family of overachievers and she is scared to fail. She’s never had a friend, and she and Clara work to figure out their relationship while working the KoBra.

When Clara meets Hamlet, the boy who works the coffee shop near one of their stops, she’s intrigued, but he’s not her usual type at all; Hamlet is much too nice and polite for that. Then Clara realizes the way things have always been may not be all there is out there, and who she’s always been may not be based on the truth.

I loved this book! Clara’s relationship with her single dad is funny, open, and absolutely perfect. She’s always thought her social influencer mother was the thoughtful parent, but she learns that things aren’t always what they seem.

Clara’s sarcasm and biting humor were over-the-top in the beginning, but as her summer “punishment” opened her eyes to the truth, she truly changes as a person. Hamlet is almost too good to be true, and he serves as a great foil for Clara’s pessimistic worldview. Lots of humor and social commentary in this one, making it a fun, enjoyable read.

Maurene Goo is a young adult author who lives in California. The Way You Make Me Feel is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) in exchange for an honest review.)