Tag: YA

Book Review: Nightingale, by Amy Lukavics

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Image belongs to Harlequin Teen.

Title:   Nightingale
Author:   Amy Lukavics
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old June Hardie does not fit in. In 1951, young women are expected to want marriage and a family, and to know how to cook and clean and take care of their husband. June wants to write stories about alien abductions and travel the world as a writer. Her father forces her into a relationship with his partner’s son, and June finds herself practically engaged to the domineering boy, her dreams of becoming a writer shattering, along with June herself.

June ends up in an asylum, a hospital to help women get better. But things there don’t make sense. The words of the other girls make her realize she’s not the only one who thinks this, but those who speak up disappear or worse. And there’s something odd about the head nurse and the doctor. Maybe June really is losing or mind—or maybe there’s more to her story than she ever imagined.

This is marketed as horror, but I didn’t think it was scary—and I’m a big chicken. Instead, it was just weird. Okay, the complete lack of women’s rights plus what was expected of women was horrifying, but the rest of the books was just odd. June is an unreliable narrator at best, and I spent the entire book wondering what, exactly, the point was. The cover is beautiful, though.

Amy Lukavics writes horror fiction. Nightingale is her newest novel.

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Book Review: Embolden, by Syrie James and Ryan St. James

embolden
Image belongs to LDLA Publishing.

Title:   Embolden
Author:   Syrie James and Ryan St. James
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   3 out of 5

Being half angel isn’t easy for Claire Brennan. Her mom and grandmother keep a constant eye on her. She must keep her angel boyfriend, Alec, secret from the local Watcher. She’s trying to find her angel father, who was kidnapped 16 years ago. She tries to avoid her vengeful enemies. And then there’s high school, with all its drama, including the school musical.

Claire is developing new powers, ones that will have every person in her life afraid, but it’s the only way to find her father and keep Alec safe. Except Alec is keeping secrets of his own, secrets that could prove dangerous for them both.

I read Forbidden and Embolden back-to-back. I like the premise of angels and Nephilim but have a few difficulties with the basic set-up of these books. Like, why is Alec, over a hundred years old, interested in a teenager? That’s a little creepy. No matter what he looks like, the life experience puts a pretty big gap between them. And Claire herself is…basically a selfish, clueless teenager. She has no problem using her powers on those around her. She only wants to talk about her problems and can’t understand her friends wanting to have their own lives. She’s willful, whiny, and childish, and somehow thinks it’s a good idea to tell all her friends the details of the whole angel/Nephilim world, which is supposed to be a secret. So, not smart, either. Again, interesting concept, but the characters detracted significantly from the execution.

Syrie James and Ryan St. James are a mother and son writing team. Embolden is their newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Darkest Star, by Jennifer L. Armentrout

the darkest star
Image belongs to Tor Teen.

Title:   The Darkest Star
Author:   Jennifer L. Armentrout
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

When Evie Dasher agrees to go to a club where humans and Luxen can both hang out, she never expects to be caught up in a police raid. Nor does she expect to find herself talking to the very attractive Luc, who annoys her from the beginning. But, one lost cell phone later and Evie finds herself back at the club in search of Luc.

With girls from her high school turning up dead—and left in public places—it’s not safe for Evie to go anywhere, much less with the mysterious Luc. She thinks he might be one of the Luxen, and the girls appear to have been killed by one. But Luc is hiding bigger secrets than that, and soon Evie finds herself right in the middle of a battle.

I’ve never read any of the Luxen books—or anything else by this author—so I was pretty neutral going in. I ended up enjoying the read, despite a few predictable “twists.” Luc was not the most likable character. I found him quite arrogant, and Evie has a few clueless moments, but I still enjoyed the read.

Jennifer L. Armentrout is an award-winning and best-selling author from West Virginia. The Darkest Star is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Umbertouched, by Livia Blackburne

umbertouched
Image belongs to Disney Hyperion.

Title:  Umbertouched
Author:   Livia Blackburne
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   5 out of 5

Zivah and Dineas failed at their mission and barely escaped with their lives. They have information, but they have no proof of what they know. They desperately need to get home before Ampara attacks their people—who need to be warned of the looming danger.

Dineas spent months thinking he was an Amparan soldier—and now his fellow Shidadi warriors question his loyalty—as does he. Zivah made choices during their mission that broke her healer’s vows, and she’s not sure she can ever regain what she lost—especially when the leaders ask the unthinkable of her. She and the Dineas from Sehmar City were in love, but that Dineas is gone now, leaving both stumbling over their feelings and their history. As Zivah’s plague symptoms return, she struggles to come to terms with her reality—and Dineas fights battles of his own.

I loved Rosemarked, and Umbertouched is just as good! These characters and this world are so vivid and so compelling, that I just can’t put the books down. Zivah is a strong person, but she struggles under so many burdens, afraid to hope as she suffers. And Dineas is torn between two truths:  his whole life as a Shidadi warrior, and his brief time as an Amparan soldier.

Livia Blackburne has a PhD in cognitive neuroscience from MIT. Umbertouched is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Salt, by Hannah Moskowitz

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Image belongs to Chronicle Books.

Title:   Salt
Author:   Hannah Moskowitz
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seventeen-year-old Indi has only ever known one life:  roaming the oceans with his parents, his older sister, his younger brother, and his younger sister as they seek out and destroy the sea monsters plaguing the seas. Their life is spent in secret, trying to keep others outside their calling from knowing about the monsters. Indi grew up thinking it was normal, until his parents disappeared while on the trail of a huge monster, leaving he and his sister Beleza to take care of their younger siblings.

Beleza wants revenge on the monster that killed their parents and will stop at nothing to track it down. Oscar seems intent on becoming a pirate, or at least a very adept thief. Six-year-old Zulu is brilliant but has no chance at an education on the ocean. Indi just wants to take care of his family—and maybe, just maybe, do something for himself just once.

The premise of this novel is pretty incredible:  sea monsters exist, and families that have hunted them for centuries continue to do so, keeping them secret from the rest of the world. I would have liked to have seen a bit more depth and fleshing-out of the characters, but the concept was unique. The final battle was a bit of a letdown, but I still enjoyed the adventure.

Hannah Moskowitz’s new novel is Salt.

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

Book Review: The Boneless Mercies, by April Genevieve Tucholke

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Image belongs to Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus and Giroux.

Title:   The Boneless Mercies
Author:  April Genevieve Tucholke
Genre:   Fantasy, young adult
Rating:   5 out of 5

Frey, Ovie, Juniper, and Runa are the Boneless Mercies. They have no homes, and no families but each other. They travel around dispensing death quickly, quietly, and mercifully when they are hired to. The sick wife with a lingering illness. The elderly man who feels he’s a burden on his children. The father with a child who is suffering and will never recover. The Mercies take care of them all and ease their way from this life.

But Frey and the others are tired of the death trade. When they hear of a ferocious monster rampaging a nearby region and killing everyone it meets, Frey decides it’s their one chance to make enough money to leave their old lives behind. The fame they will earn as well will give them a fresh start. But that monster isn’t the only obstacle they’ll face and ending up in the middle of a witches’ war might be the last thing they’ll do.

I loved this book! The concept was beyond unique, and the setting and mythology—reminiscent of the Norse—was compelling and detailed. There are layers in this story:  layers of mythology, history, and culture that make it feel so vibrant and alive. l loved the characters as well. Their cohesiveness is wonderful, but their individuality really shines. Go read this!

April Genevieve Tucholke lives and writes in Oregon. The Boneless Mercies is her newest novel.

(Galley provided by Macmillan Children’s Publishing Group/Farrar, Straus and Giroux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig, by Don Zolidis

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig
Author:   Don Zolidis
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.8 out of 5

Craig is awkward. He plays Dungeons & Dragons, which, in 1994 Wisconsin, does not make you part of the cool crowd. He’s had a crush on Amy for a while. But a geek with the super-smart student body president? That’s never going to happen. Until it does.

Then Amy breaks up with Craig. And gets back together with him. Then breaks up with him again. Over and over again. Seven times.

Senior year is hard enough without adding heartbreak—repetitive heartbreak at that—into the mix. Craig wants to escape his hometown and hopes to find a quirky college to feel at home at. Amy doesn’t know what she wants—she just knows it’s not what she has. It might be Craig. It might not. But both of them are fighting to figure out what really matters—and what they can do about it.

I liked Craig. He’s quirky and fun and definitely awkward. His group of friends are all nerdy but vibrant. Craig and Amy together, however…Well, I was Team Craig in this one. Except he was basically selfish and oblivious of what was going on around him, so focused on himself and what he wanted that it never occurred to him to think about what other people wanted. But he does grow and develops an awareness of others that is both fledgling and blooming, making this worth reading.

Don Zolidis is a playwright and former teacher. The Seven Torments of Amy and Craig is his first published novel.

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

Book Review: My Whole Truth, by Mischa Thrace

my whole truth
Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   My Whole Truth
Author:   Mischa Thrace
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Seelie Stanton has a mother who could not care less about her, but she has three best friends who have her back no matter what, so it’s okay. Even when the kids at school can’t stand her. She just sticks with her friends and minds her own business. Until Shane Mayfield shows up at her job high and attacks her.

Seelie never wanted to kill someone, but she had to kill Shane to save her own life. Now she’s being charged with murder, haunted by a night she never wants to speak of again.

Though her friends support her, most of the town turns against her. Seelie doesn’t want to think about that night, much less talk about it, but she’ll have to tell the truth about what happened—the whole truth—if she wants to survive.

The friendships in this book are the best thing. I loved the group’s interactions, even when they disagree, they still support each other. Seelie is a strong character, but she can’t see it for her grief and pain. A well-written look at a girl who survived the horrors of being attacked—only to face condemnation and hatred from those around her.

Mischa Thrace lives in Massachusetts. My Whole Truth is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Words We Don’t Say, by K.J. Reilly

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Image belongs to Disney-Hyperion.

Title:   Words We Don’t Say
Author:   K.J. Reilly
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Joel Higgins has almost 1,000 unsent text messages on his phone. He can say whatever he wants there. He can talk to people he just can’t seem to find words for in person. Like Eli, the girl he has a crush on.

His best friend, Andy, is gone. The new guy, Benj, talks a lot but Joel doesn’t know quite how to take him. He failed the SATs. The only bright spots in his days are volunteering with Eli at the soup kitchen.

Then there’s the wounded vet Joel meets. The bag hidden in the garage. And the problem of all those Corvette Stingrays. Joel sees so many problems and has so many questions, but all he can do is type another text message he won’t send.

I really enjoyed this book, even though I sometimes have problems clicking with male narrators. That wasn’t the case here. Joel is such an honest character and getting inside his head was easy. You should definitely read this!

Words We Don’t Say is the new novel by K.J. Reilly.

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

Book Review: After the Fire, by Will Hill

after the fire
Image belongs to Sourcebooks Fire.

Title:   After the Fire
Author:   Will Hill
Genre:   YA
Rating:   5 out of 5

Before

Moonbeam has lived inside the fence as long as she can remember. Her parents joined the Lord’s Legion when she was very young, and this is the only life she’s ever known. Her father died here. Her mother was banished. Now Moonbeam is alone, except for the rest of her “family,” and Father John, the leader of the Legion and her future husband.

Every day is filled with labor, a fight for the Legion to survive. Rules govern every action, every thought. Father John is the Lord’s voice, so his words are law. No matter what. Less food. Stricter punishments. New rules. More wives. Disagreeing means banishment:  being forced to leave the safety of the fence for the dark world outside. Sometimes Moonbeam wonders if this is what life should really be like. But she can never let any of her family know she wonders.

After

Reeling from the destruction of the Lord’s Legion, Moonbeam struggles to stay true to Father John’s teaching:  never speak to outsiders! They are servants of darkness and speaking to them gives them power. But Dr. Hernandez seems to really care what happens to her, and slowly her defenses come down. Then Agent Carlyle starts asking questions about life inside the fence—and what really happened the night of the fire. Moonbeam knows she shouldn’t tell, but some wounds will never heal without being exposed to the light. Even if the truth means she must pay for her sins.

This book. Wow. I was intrigued by a character raised by a cult, and I loved how Will Hill handled it. Moonbeam is a fantastic narrator. The story follows her growth from a fervent believer in the Legion to a tragedy survivor who realizes the truth. The subtle way Hill weaves this tale together had me hooked from the beginning, and this vivid look at life inside a cult was completely engrossing.

Will Hill lives in London and calls himself a creative procrastinator. After the Fire is his newest novel.

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