Tag: young adult fiction

Book Review:  Little Thieves, by Margaret Owen

Image belongs to Macmillan.

Title:   Little Thieves
Author:   Margaret Owen
Genre:   Fantasy
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

Vanja Schmidt knows that no gift is freely given, not even a mother’s love–and she’s on the hook for one hell of a debt. Vanja, the adopted goddaughter of Death and Fortune, was Princess Gisele’s dutiful servant up until a year ago. That was when Vanja’s otherworldly mothers demanded a terrible price for their care, and Vanja decided to steal her future back… by stealing Gisele’s life for herself. 

The real Gisele is left a penniless nobody while Vanja uses an enchanted string of pearls to take her place. Now, Vanja leads a lonely but lucrative double life as princess and jewel thief, charming nobility while emptying their coffers to fund her great escape. Then, one heist away from freedom, Vanja crosses the wrong god and is cursed to an untimely end: turning into jewels, stone by stone, for her greed. 

Vanja has just two weeks to figure out how to break her curse and make her getaway. And with a feral guardian half-god, Gisele’s sinister fiancé, and an overeager junior detective on Vanja’s tail, she’ll have to pull the biggest grift yet to save her own life.

Confession: I almost stopped reading this about 15 times in the first 20%. It just started out so slow, and Vanja just wasn’t a very likable person at all. Fortunately, she started learning and changing after that, so she became more tolerable. After that, I enjoyed this story immensely.

The setting was vividly wrought, and the culture was fascinating to me, with the mythology woven seamlessly in, adding depth and nuance to the story. In the end, this ended up being a fantastic read filled with magic, danger, and romance.

Margaret Owen grew up in Portland, Oregon. Little Thieves is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Keeper of Night, by Kylie Lee Baker

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   The Keeper of Night
Author:   Kylie Lee Baker
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Death is her destiny.

Half British Reaper, half Japanese Shinigami, Ren Scarborough has been collecting souls in the London streets for centuries. Expected to obey the harsh hierarchy of the Reapers who despise her, Ren conceals her emotions and avoids her tormentors as best she can.

 When her failure to control her Shinigami abilities drives Ren out of London, she flees to Japan to seek the acceptance she’s never gotten from her fellow Reapers. Accompanied by her younger brother, the only being on earth to care for her, Ren enters the Japanese underworld to serve the Goddess of Death… only to learn that here, too, she must prove herself worthy. Determined to earn respect, Ren accepts an impossible task—find and eliminate three dangerous Yokai demons—and learns how far she’ll go to claim her place at Death’s side.

The premise of this was excellent, and the writing was solid, too. The characters, however, didn’t really work for me. Ren herself was distant and cold—not human, I get it, but almost impossible to relate to—and I didn’t really care for her. Her brother just came across as weak 99.5% of the time. And Hiro, well, obviously he had secrets. Why on earth was Ren so surprised to find that out? The culture and mythology were rich and detailed, and I enjoyed that very much, but the characters just detracted so much for me.

Kylie Lee Baker grew up in Boston. The Keeper of Night is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour:  This Is Why We Lie, by Gabriella Lepore

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   This Is Why We Lie

Author:   Gabriella Lepore

Genre:   YA

Rating:  4.0 out of 5

Everyone in Gardiners Bay has a secret.

When Jenna Dallas and Adam Cole find Colleen O’Dell’s body floating off the shore of their coastal town, the community of Gardiners Bay is shaken. But even more shocking is the fact that her drowning was no accident.

Once Jenna’s best friend becomes a key suspect, Jenna starts to look for answers on her own. As she uncovers scandals inside Preston Prep School leading back to Rookwood reform school, she knows she needs Adam on her side.

As a student at Rookwood, Adam is used to getting judgmental looks, but now his friends are being investigated by the police. Adam will do whatever he can to keep them safe, even if that means trusting Jenna.

As lies unravel, the truth starts to blur. Only one thing is certain: somebody must take the fall.

This was a quick, enjoyable read—and I didn’t figure out who the killer was on my own. I liked Jenna a lot, and it was interesting watching her perspectives change over the course of the book. I liked Adam as a viewpoint character, too, with his experiences—so different from Jenna’s own—that shape his views and loyalty, almost to his own detriment. This was an engaging read without a big time commitment.

Gabriella Lepore is from South Wales. This is Why We Lie is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Where the Truth Lies, by Anna Bailey

Image belongs to Atria Books.

The town of Whistling Ridge guards its secrets.

When seventeen-year-old Abigail goes missing, her best friend Emma, compelled by the guilt of leaving her alone at a party in the woods, sets out to discover the truth about what happened. The police initially believe Abi ran away, but Emma doesn’t believe that her friend would leave without her, and when officers find disturbing evidence in the nearby woods, the festering secrets and longstanding resentment of both Abigail’s family and the people of Whistling Ridge, Colorado begin to surface with devastating consequences.

Among those secrets: Abi’s older brother Noah’s passionate, dangerous love for the handsome Rat, a recently arrived Romanian immigrant who has recently made his home in the trailer park in town; her younger brother Jude’s feeling that he knows information he should tell the police, if only he could put it into words; Abi’s father’s mercurial, unpredictable rages and her mother’s silence. Then there is the rest of Whistling Ridge, where a charismatic preacher advocates for God’s love in language that mirrors violence, under the sway of the powerful businessman who rules the town, insular and wary of outsiders.

But Abi had secrets, too, and the closer Emma grows to unraveling the past, the farther she feels from her friend. And in a tinder box of small-town rage, and all it will take is just one spark—the truth of what really happened that night—to change their community forever.

Whistling Ridge is a horrible place. This is such a dark book—I didn’t feel like there was a single ray of light to be found anywhere. Everyone is keeping secrets—and not little ones, either, but dark and ugly ones. Good writing and vibrant characters, but this book is just so…hopeless, that it negated the positives of the writing. I found the setting and characters to be completely believable and realistic, which is just sad in this case.

Anna Bailey is from England. Where the Truth Lies is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Atria Books in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: A Dragonbird in the Fern, by Laura Rueckert

Image belongs to North Star Editions/Flux .

When an assassin kills Princess Jiara’s older sister Scilla, her vengeful ghost is doomed to walk their city of glittering canals, tormenting loved ones until the murderer is brought to justice. While the entire kingdom mourns, Scilla’s betrothed arrives and requests that seventeen-year-old Jiara take her sister’s place as his bride to confirm the alliance between their countries.

Marrying the young king intended for her sister and traveling to his distant home is distressing enough, but with dyslexia and years of scholarly struggles, Jiara abandoned any hope of learning other languages long ago. She’s terrified of life in a foreign land where she’ll be unable to communicate.

Then Jiara discovers evidence that her sister’s assassin comes from the king’s own country. If she marries the king, Jiara can hunt the murderer and release her family from Scilla’s ghost, whose thirst for blood mounts every day. To save her family, Jiara must find her sister’s killer . . . before he murders her too.

I enjoyed this read. Jiara’s struggles with reading were captured beautifully, and I felt all of her embarrassment and pain. Her attempts to learn the language of her new husband and home grounded the story and made it relatable, even amidst the magic and strange cultures and settings. This was a solid read for a debut novel.

Laura Rueckert grew up in Michigan. A Dragonbird in the Fern is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of North Star Editions/Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Where It All Lands, by Jennie Wexler

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Stevie Rosenstein has never made a true friend. Never fallen in love. Moved from city to city by her father’s unrelenting job, it’s too hard to care for someone. Trust in anything. The pain of leaving always hurts too much. But she’ll soon learn to trust, to love.

Twice.

Drew and Shane have been best friends through everything. The painful death of Shane’s dad. The bitter separation of Drew’s parents. Through sleepaway camps and family heartache, basketball games and immeasurable loss, they’ve always been there for each other.

When Stevie meets Drew and Shane, life should go on as normal.

But a simple coin toss alters the course of their year in profound and unexpected ways.

This was an interesting read. The first half of the story is told where Drew wins the coin toss, the second where Shane wins. And, dang. It was interesting to see the two different storylines—the characters (Drew and Shane at least) came across completely differently with that one seemingly small change.

Music runs through all of this novel, and several times I wanted to stop and look up some of the songs to listen. I have zero musical ability, but I love to read about people who have that ability. All in all, this was a solid read, and I loved the split stories.

Jennie Wexler lives in New Jersey. Where It All Lands is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Six Crimson Cranes, by Elizabeth Lim

Image belongs to Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers.

Shiori, the only princess of Kiata, has a secret. Forbidden magic runs through her veins. Normally she conceals it well, but on the morning of her betrothal ceremony, Shiori loses control. At first, her mistake seems like a stroke of luck, forestalling the wedding she never wanted, but it also catches the attention of Raikama, her stepmother.

Raikama has dark magic of her own, and she banishes the young princess, turning her brothers into cranes, and warning Shiori that she must speak of it to no one: for with every word that escapes her lips, one of her brothers will die.

Penniless, voiceless, and alone, Shiori searches for her brothers, and, on her journey, uncovers a conspiracy to overtake the throne—a conspiracy more twisted and deceitful, more cunning and complex, than even Raikama’s betrayal. Only Shiori can set the kingdom to rights, but to do so she must place her trust in the very boy she fought so hard not to marry. And she must embrace the magic she’s been taught all her life to contain—no matter what it costs her.

This was a fantastic read! I love that it’s a retelling of a fairy tale, set in a completely different—and vividly drawn—culture. Some of the brothers kind of blurred together for me; not a surprise, as for the most part they sort of played one part, but the other characters were distinct and believable.

Shiori herself was great. Her journey to realizing and embracing her strength was wonderful, and I loved how she thought for herself and didn’t just go along with what everyone told her. I was up late finishing this because I just couldn’t put it down.

Elizabeth Lin lives in New York City. Six Crimson Cranes is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Random House Children’s/ Knopf Books for Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review and Blog Tour: The Right Side of Reckless, by Whitney D. Grandison

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

They were supposed to ignore each other and respect that fine line between them…

Guillermo Lozano is getting a fresh start. New town, new school, and no more reckless behavior. He’s done his time, and now he needs to right his wrongs. But when his work at the local community center throws him into the path of the one girl who is off-limits, friendship sparks…and maybe more.

Regan London needs a fresh perspective. The pressure to stay in her “perfect” relationship and be the good girl all the time has worn her down. But when the walls start to cave in and she finds unexpected understanding from the boy her parents warned about, she can’t ignore her feelings anymore.

The disapproval is instant. Being together might just get Guillermo sent away. But when it comes to the heart, sometimes you have to break the rules and be a little bit reckless…

I enjoyed this read! Guillermo was a great character:  flawed and really struggling to overcome his past and change. I liked Regan, but she put up with way too much from Troy and her dad. I’m glad the author didn’t totally villainize Troy and gave him a moment of clarity and realization which kind of redeemed him a tiny bit. I liked the mix of cultures and personalities in this too, it made for an intriguing, engrossing read.

Whitney D. Grandison is from Ohio. The Right Side of Reckless is her new novel.

(Galley courtesy of Inkyard Press in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: Down with this Ship, by Katie Kingman

Image belongs to Flux.
  • Author:  Katie Kingman
  • Genre:  YA
  • Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Kole Miller does one thing really well: write fanfiction for the show The Space Game. Everything else is a struggle: like managing her anxiety, frequent crushes, and plans after high school. But when her blog, Spacer, wins a major fanfiction contest, her traffic soars.

With massive readership comes criticism Kole isn’t prepared for, including getting stuck in the heated ship wars surrounding the show. And then an invitation to speak at The Space Game’s official convention arrives in her inbox.

When the most competitive kids in her Creative Writing class discover Kole’s writing Spacer, her blog is taken hostage and she risks them hitting ctrl+A+del on Spacer. To win it back, Kole must face both her inner demons and the ones at Crystal Lake High before they make the drama not just about The Space Game, but about Kole herself.

I love to read YA fiction. I do. But I think maybe this wasn’t the best fit for me. I’m not knocking her being obsessed with a TV show or writing fanfiction at all, but she just didn’t make sense to me. Why is she hiding her identity so hard? Why does she not want anyone to know she writes a hugely popular blog? Why does she even care what her ex-friends think of her? And why does she care about all of those things so much she lets herself be blackmailed? Multiple times, no less. If you care that much about something, own it. Don’t let someone make you feel less-than because of it.

Bits of this were pretty cliched (the boy next door crush) or blown out of proportion (Are you telling me someone with such a successful online presence doesn’t know how to protect her own blog?), and it felt like that stuff happened just to add drama—without being believable. In the end, this tried just a little bit too hard, without fully delivering a believable story or characters.

Katie Kingman lives in Phoenix. Down with This Ship is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Flux in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Tragedy of Dane Riley, by Kat Spears

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Dane Riley’s grasp on reality is slipping, and he’s not sure that he cares. While his mother has moved on after his father’s death, Dane desperately misses the man who made Dane feel okay to be himself. He can’t stand his mother’s boyfriend, or the boyfriend’s son, whose favorite pastime is tormenting Dane. Then there’s the girl next door: Dane can’t quite define their relationship, and he doesn’t know if he’s got the courage to leave the friend zone.

Dane is an interesting character! He’s sad, but he’s so thoughtful and introspective about everything—and, while I don’t necessarily agree with some of his conclusions, I can see where they make sense to him, in the middle of the shadows where he is.

His mother comes across as clueless and insensitive, but I loved the reveal about her boyfriend. I like Ophelia, too, but she and Dane were both totally oblivious to each other’s interest, which was frustrating. I have to say, I didn’t care for the ending. It left things feeling unresolved, so that was definitely not a plus, but this book dealt with depression and grief in a way that draws the reader into Dane’s head, so they can understand exactly how he’s feeling.

Kat Spears thinks being a teenager sucked, so now she writes about it. The Tragedy of Dane Riley is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of St. Martin’s Press in exchange for an honest review.)