Tag: YA

Book Review: The Similars, by Rebecca Hanover

the similars
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   The Similars
Author:   Rebecca Hanover
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

The elite Darkwood Academy is for high-achievers from wealthy families. It’s not cheap, and it’s not easy. But this year, it’s going to get a whole lot more competitive when six new students join the junior class. They’re more than overachievers, they’re clones. And their originals already attend Darkwood.

Emma doesn’t care about the clones. Her best friend, Oliver, died over the summer, and all she can think about is getting through each day without him. Until she meets Levi and realizes forgetting Oliver will be harder than she thought:  Levi is Oliver’s clone, and seeing his face every day makes life unbearable.

But something is going on with the clones. They’re hiding something, and Emma discovers they have unheard of abilities to go along with their secret agenda. When her friend is almost murdered, Emma realizes something darker is happening, and she must trust someone if she is to find out the truth. But can she really trust Levi?

This is set in a future-America, but not that future, so it was easy to make sense of the world (sadly). I enjoyed reading Emma’s point-of-view and cannot imagine having lost my best friend and then being faced with his clone every day. There is a lot going on here, and I feel like the author glossed over some things that will hopefully be explored in the rest of the series. I noticed there wasn’t a lot involving the instructors, which seemed a bit odd, considering the setting is basically a boarding school, but it wasn’t something that made the story feel fake. The Similars is definitely a book I recommend.

Rebecca Hanover is an Emmy-winning writer and graduate of Stanford. The Similars is her debut novel.

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

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Book Review: What You Hide, by Natalie D. Richards

what you hide
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   What You Hide
Author:   Natalie D. Richards
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Mallory’s step-father is so controlling her mother can’t breathe without him knowing about it, and Mallory is afraid his control will turn violent. She’s sure something sinister lurks in his past, and she’s desperate to get her pregnant mother out of danger. But her mother refuses to leave, and Mallory finds herself staying with a friend for a few days, then out on the streets. The local library is her only refuge:  a warm place to get her online schooling completed while she searches for a more permanent solution.

After a stunt gone wrong, Spencer is doing community service at the library. He likes the peace and quiet there—until a body is discovered in the stacks—and he likes Mallory. He’s sure she’s hiding something, and he’s desperate to help her. It takes his mind off his own problems: his parents have certain expectations for him, expectations that make him miserable.

Mallory doesn’t want to trust Spencer, but there’s no one she can turn to, so she slowly accepts his help. But there’s more going on at the library than they imagine. Black fingerprints. Footprints that lead nowhere. Mysterious cries. And the messages left scrawled on the walls. Mallory realizes her secrets are no the only things hidden in the library.

This is billed as a thriller, but I wouldn’t necessarily agree with that. Mallory’s storyline is tough and frustrating:  her mother’s refusal to leave a bad situation, Mallory’s inability to find help, her struggles while homeless. She has major trust issues, but she starts to work through them with Spencer’s help. Spencer has his own issues—while they may not seem like a big deal to everyone, they’re huge for him, but he still wants to help Mallory. Mallory and Spencer both learn a great deal about who they are—and who they want to be.

Natalie D. Richards lives and writes in Ohio. What You Hide is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Deadfall, by Stephen Wallenfels

deadfall
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Deadfall
Author:   Stephen Wallenfels
Genre:   Thriller, YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Ty and Cory Bic are running away from the danger and drama in their lives when they come upon a dying deer in the middle of the road, and tire tracks swerving off the road beside it. Though they need to disappear without a trace, they follow the tracks and find an empty car. The banging from the trunk reveals Astrid, so traumatized she doesn’t speak, and they realize they’ve stumbled into something bad. Something that might be linked to their past—and the death of their father.

Sixteen months before, the twins’ father took them on a hike to show them a secret—and to tell them they were leaving their old lives behind. He moved them hours away, where he soon became involved with some frightening men, while the boys struggled to make a life and clean up the abandoned crack house they found themselves living in. When their father is murdered, they end up in a foster house with a powerful man hiding a secret. When the twins decide to reveal his secret, running away is their only option.

This is a pretty dark book, with lots of heavy topics:  drug use, abuse, human trafficking, murder…it’s not for the faint of heart. I liked Cory; he struggled with people accepting him, but he is such a strong person, he just has to realize it. Ty was less likable for me, but the two of them together make a formidable team.

Stephen Wallenfels lives in Washington. Deadfall is his newest novel.

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

Book Review The Queen’s Wing, by Jessica Thorne

the queen's wing
Image belongs to Bookouture.

Title:   The Queen’s Wing
Author:  Jessica Thorne
Genre:   YA, scifi
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

All Bel wants is to fly. She’d love to spend her days in freedom in her Wasp, preferably with her childhood friend and crush, Shae, but instead she spends her days being trained as a daughter of the aristocracy. Until a surprise attack by the Gravians, longtime enemies of her people, destroys the entire royal family, and Bel finds herself the daughter of the king—and a valuable royal commodity about to be married to the ruler of Anthaeus, a distant planet.

Soon Bel is on a ship headed to meet her future husband, with Shae at her side, as always. But now he’s no longer her friend, he’s the commander of her guards. An attempt to kill her is followed by a thwarted attempt to blow up the ship, and Bel meets her future husband, Conleith, in the furor.

She realizes everything is not okay on Anthaeus when she meets the Gravian representative there, and Con refuses to believe her about the danger the Gravians represent. Soon her worst fears are realized when the Gravians attack and destroy much of Anthaeus and its people, but Bel and Con aren’t ready to surrender yet—and they have a secret weapon on their side.

If I had realized this was a “space opera,” I probably would have skipped it. I enjoyed Bel’s character arc, but the entire plot line felt far too rushed, with very little transition or, sometimes, reason. Frankly, at times this felt like a B-rate scifi movie, although Bel and Con were both interesting characters.

Jessica Thorne lives and works in Ireland. The Queen’s Wing is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Iron Flower, by Laurie Forest

the iron flower

Title:   The Iron Flower
Author:   Laurie Forest
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

High Priest Marcus Vogel and his influence—not to mention his army—is spreading quickly, along with his hate-filled, racist beliefs. The Gardnerian soldiers are tightening their hold everywhere, and the strict laws make life difficult, not to mention the fear their cruelty instills. Every non-Gardnerian is a target, and death is the sentence for many.

Elloren Gardner may be the granddaughter of a murderess, but she is a mage with almost no power. She’s determined to fight to save her friends and family. For Elloren, “family” is her brothers, her uncle, and her friends—of all races and species. Most of all, she wishes she weren’t Gardnerian and seen as the enemy by many she wants to help. As if that isn’t enough, she is the very image of her evil grandmother—and even the forest whispers dark things against her.

As the darkness around her grows worse, Elloren struggles to find a way out for her friends and family—any way out—and is willing to risk her life to save whoever she can. Then there’s Lukas Grey, commander of the military base and determined to win Elloren over, no matter what. The pull between them is strong, but Elloren has no way of knowing which side he’s truly on—or what he wants.

Let me say that I have not read The Black Witch, the first book in this series, but that did not detract from my enjoyment of The Iron Flower. (And, I’ll be buying and reading it immediately!) This was a fantastic read, and I was drawn in from the very first page. Elloren is fighting her heritage and what she’s always known as she realizes just how horrible those beliefs are. Diversity is something the Gardnerians hate, but Elloren sees its beauty—and will fight to protect it. This is a dark book, but completely compelling, and I read it in about 24 hours, staying up far too late to find out what happens!

Laurie Forest lives and writes in the woods of Vermont. The Iron Flower is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Once a King, by Erin Summerill

once a king
HMH Books for Young Readers

 

Title:   Once a King
Author:   Erin Summerill
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

The kingdom of Malam has a dark history of persecuting Channelers, women with magical ability, but now the young king, Aodren is seeking to end the persecution and unite his kingdom. But decades of hatred cannot be undone with words, and rumors of a Channeler-made drug are causing fears to burst into flame, and violence to erupt.

Lirra was born in Malam, but her father fled when she was an infant, after her mother was murdered. She distrusts Malam and its new young king, and wants only to perform in the magic showcase, her chance to let her talents shine. But the deadly drug makes a kingdoms-wide summit even more dangerous, and soon Lirra is forced to work with Aodren as they try to find the source of the mysterious drug—and who’s behind it—before Malam’s future is destroyed forever.

This is a standalone, but it’s linked to the other books in the Clash of Kingdoms series, and I had no trouble picking this up without reading the first two (which sometimes does NOT work out). The worldbuilding was fantastic, and the sense of history gave so many compelling layers to this story! The characters are struggling to work together despite the many things that should make that impossible, as they do everything they can to overcome years and a culture of hatred. Highly recommended!

Erin Summerill is an award-winning author. Once a King is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by HMH Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Fire and Heist, by Sarah Beth Durst

fire & heist
Image belongs to Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers.

Title:  Fire and Heist
Author:   Sarah Beth Durst
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Sky Hawkins’s family fell from grace and lost some of their wealth and most of their good name when her mother disappeared after a heist gone bad. Sky lost her mom, her friends, and her boyfriend all at the same time, as well as becoming a social media and paparazzi pariah. Sky is a wyvern (a were dragon), after all, and the media is fascinated by her family and culture.

No one will talk about her mother’s disappearance, and Sky wants to know what really went down, so she starts to plan her first heist to find out. The first heist is a coming-of-age for wyverns, and Sky is determined to succeed at hers, and save her family’s good name, her mother, and her relationship at one time. Until she learns more about the mysterious jewel her mother was after—and realizes someone has been hiding dark secrets about wyvern history for years.

This is a clean read, and suitable for even younger YA readers. The wyvern society is intriguing and well-thought-out. It makes sense for were-dragons, and I loved how it tied in historical figures to the wyvern worldbuilding. Sky is kind of an innocent about life, so I’d say this is skewed a bit towards younger readers, and a few things seemed a little too easy, but it was a an entertaining and fun read.

Sarah Beth Durst writes fantasy books for all ages. Fire and Heist is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Random House Children’s/Crown Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Love à la Mode, by Stephanie Kate Strohm

love a la mode
Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Love à la Mode
Author:   Stephanie Kate Strohm
Genre:   YA, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Rosie Radeke is from East Liberty, Ohio, a small town where winning local baking contests is a big deal. But now Rosie got into Chef Laurent’s prestigious cooking school in Paris, and she just knows she’s finally going to start living all her celebrity-cooking-show-inspired dreams. But a nightmare chef/instructor soon makes Rosie wonder if she has any talent at all.

Henry Yi was raised in his dad’s Chicago restaurant. Cooking is in his blood, and it’s all he wants to do. His mother, however, insists he do more—and gets him extra work from his instructors to prove it. Henry likes Rosie, but between his extra homework, his fear of being an uninspired cook, and Rosie’s growing friendship with famous model/chef Bodie, does he even stand a chance?

This was a sweet tale, in more than one way. First, don’t read this if you’re hungry. The pastry descriptions alone will have you drooling. And this is a clean book, which I appreciated, told from both Henry and Rosie’s point-of-views. Well-written, with quirky and entertaining characters (the secondary characters are a riot), this is a thoroughly enjoyable read.

Stephanie Kate Strohm writes children’s and YA books. Love à la Mode is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: When Elephants Fly by Nancy Richardson Fischer

when elephants fly
Image belongs to Harlequin Teen.

Title:   When Elephants Fly
Author:   Nancy Richardson Fischer
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Lily Decker is a senior with a 12-year-plan that includes college, no caffeine, no stress, and no boys, except her best friend Sawyer. Her plan is geared towards fending off the schizophrenia that runs in her family—and that caused her mother to try to kill her when she was seven years old.

Her dad wants her to sit home and do nothing, but Lily can’t forget that he reached for her mother and not her on that fateful day, so she keeps quiet about her internship with a newspaper. Until Lily’s story about naming the zoo’s elephant calf leads to Lily being present when the calf is born—and also there when the mother rejects the baby and attacks her.

With the baby elephant, Swifty, grieving, Lily is desperate to help in whatever way she can. That turns out to be traveling with Swifty to the circus when the zoo loses custody of her. But everything at the circus is not as perfect as the owners pretend, and Lily will risk everything—including her mental health—to keep Swifty safe.

This well-written novel takes a sensitive subject—mental health—and treats it with respect, dignity, and understanding. Lily is desperate to avoid schizophrenia, but she’s also realistic about her chances and her symptoms. The bond between her and Swifty is sweet and heartbreaking, and I flew through the pages to find out what happens.

Nancy Richardson Fischer graduated from Cornell University and used to work for the circus. When Elephants Fly is her new novel.

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

Book Review: Little White Lies, by Jennifer Lynn Barnes

little white lies
Image belongs to Disney Book Group/Freeform.

Title:   Little White Lies
Author:  Jennifer Lynn Barnes
Genre:   YA, fiction
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Sawyer Taft grew up on the wrong side of the tracks with a mom who was unreliable at best and the knowledge that her mother’s family kicked her mom out of the house when she got pregnant in the middle of her debutante season. Now 18-year-old Sawyer is an auto mechanic who’d love to go to college but sees no way to get there.

Until her autocratic grandmother shows up, offering her half a million dollars if she’ll move into the family house and participate in the current debutante season. That’s a whole lot of money to put up with a prim-and-proper crowd with certain expectations and a penchant for the phrase “Bless your heart,” but Sawyer thinks she might be able to solve the mystery of who her father is, so she agrees.

And finds herself in a world of glittering dresses, unending rules, and people with more secrets than she ever imagined. Not to mention the devious minds to keep those secrets and manipulate Sawyer and her new friends. And one of the best-kept secrets is just who Sawyer’s father is—and why he doesn’t want anyone to know.

I read a few of Jennifer Lynn Barnes’ books years ago and enjoyed them, but kind of forgot about her until I saw this one. I’m so glad I picked this up! The glittering world of the debs is far beyond my experience, but it came to life on the pages of Little White Lies. Sawyer is a great character:  she does not fit in with this society and she unsettles everyone around her, but she is intent on doing what’s right—and she’s smart. This is an attention-grabbing read, and it was nice that it wasn’t filled with romance like a lot of YA series-openers are.

Jennifer Lynn Barnes was a Fulbright Scholar at Yale, and also holds a Ph.D. from Yale. Her newest novel is Little White Lies.

(Galley provided by Disney Book Group/Freeform in exchange for an honest review.)