Tag: young adult novels

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.)

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Book Review: City of Bastards, by Andrew Shvarts

cityofbastards
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.)

Book Review: Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy, by Douglas Rees

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Image belongs to Running Press Kids.

Title:   Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy
Author:   Douglas Rees
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4 out of 5

Elektra is happily becoming a Southern belle in a small Mississippi college town where here father is a professor—and an expert on Greek mythology—and her mother is a struggling wannabe writer. Then, without warning, her mom packs Elektra and her sister in the car to move to California.

They end up in Guadalupe Slough, a tiny community outside of San Jose that’s filled with a lot of colorful people. Home is a decrepit houseboat on a mudflat, complete with a pet tarantula. Elektra will do anything to get back to Mississippi and her father, even if it means stealing, but she soon finds out there’s more to what’s going on than meets the eye.

So…I enjoyed this book. For one thing, because it’s one of the few YA books I’ve read without a strong romance plot. Elektra is an interesting character. She starts off pretty self-centered and kind of a spoiled brat but being in a different environment and learning new things is good for her, as are the interesting people she meets. She ends up being much more aware of what’s going on around her, and much more caring as well.

The setting and secondary characters are a little flat, without a lot of details or description. I never had a clear picture of Guadalupe Slough apart from dusty and dry. There’s an interesting mix of secondary characters, but they’re a little one-dimensional. Even so, this was a quick, pleasant read.

Douglas Rees is a children’s librarian and the author of 15 children’s books. Elektra’s Adventures in Tragedy is his newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Girl and the Grove, by Eric Smith

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Image belongs to Flux Books.

Title:   The Girl and the Grove
Author:   Eric Smith
Genre:   YA
Rating:   3.5 out of 5

Leila hasn’t had an easy life. Bounced from foster home to group home, the only constant she’s had is her best friend Sarika. Now Leila is adopted, and she loves her new home, even if she’s still waiting on the other shoe to drop and her new parents to decide they don’t want her.

To make new friends, Leila joins an environmental group at a local high school, and soon finds herself chatting with the cute leader of the group, whose ex-girlfriend is determined to make trouble for Leila and Sarika.

Then the voice in Leila’s head starts demanding her attention, and her coping methods no longer work. On impulse, she follows the voice’s direction to a grove deep in the local park. The grove is a place of old magic, and Leila discovers the truth about herself, and a danger that threatens the entire city.

A YA book about environmental issues? Yes, please. Throw in a diverse cast of characters who also fight against racism, and that upped my interest even more. I loved the premise of this novel, and the magical element made it even more promising. With Leila’s fears and insecurities from being adopted front and center, there was a lot going on in this book.

However, Leila and Sarika weren’t consistent enough to make them completely believable to me. Leila had a wonderful strength, was very outspoken and strong-willed, yet sometimes she seemed so naïve and childish in her thoughts and actions. Sarika was brazen towards others, although she showed her softer side to Leila. Their friendship was amazing, but then they’d throw in an f-bomb or two, and it seemed totally out-of-character, as if the cussing was just to make them seem more adult. Gratuitous profanity just didn’t fit the rest of their character. Actually, all of the teenagers had this dichotomy of personality, so their actions and personality were never cohesive. I never got a good sense of the why behind this erratic behavior.

Eric Smith is an author and literary agent. The Girl and the Grove is his newest novel.

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

@ericsmithrocks #thegirlandthegrove

Book Review: The Stars at Oktober Bend, by Glenda Millard

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Image belongs to Candlewick Press.

Title:  The Stars at Oktober Bend
Author:   Glenda Millard
Genre:   YA
Rating:   4.5 out of 5

Alice is fifteen but to everyone else, she is forever twelve:  she has acquired brain injury as the result of an assault she can’t remember, and now her electrics don’t work. She can speak, but her words don’t always come out right. Instead, she writes poetry; beautiful, haunting, anonymous poetry that she leaves all over town, hoping that someday, someone will read her words.

Alice lives with her brother, Joey, and her grandmother, in a house that’s mostly hidden from the rest of the world. Alice doesn’t go to school. Instead, she writes, ties fishing flies, and takes care of her grandmother. Her family is her world, and she wants things to stay the same forever.

Then Alice meets Manny, a boy who reads her poems and wants to hear her speak. Manny was forced to become a boy soldier, and he still suffers from PTSD. In Alice he finds comfort. But not everyone in town wants Alice, her family, or Manny to be happy, and as Alice finds out more of the truth surrounding her life, she will be faced with her greatest fears.

I’m not a fan of stream-of-consciousness writing, nor with lack of proper punctuation or capitalization. The parts of this novel from Alice’s point-of-view employed this, and I initially considered not finishing this. However, I got so drawn into Alice’s tale that I stopped noticing these things—they absolutely made sense for Alice, and by the end of the book, I had forgotten they existed.

This is a book with a lot of sadness, but there is joy and hope as well. I found this very lyrical and compelling, and Alice and her family broke my heart, as did Manny and his story. The other people in town were infuriating, but typical for society, making this a highly believable book to read (even if it made me angry). A very good read, and one I highly recommend.

Glenda Millard is an award-winning author from Australia. The Stars at Oktober Bend is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Suitors and Sabotage, by Cindy Anstey

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Image belongs to Swoon Reads.

Title:   Suitors and Sabotage
Author:  Cindy Anstey
Genre:   young adult, historical romance
Rating:   4.5/5

Shy Imogene Chively hated the Season, but she had a successful one, gaining a serious suitor, Ernest Steeple. Now the aspiring artist just wishes to get to know Ernest better before he proposes. When Ernest and his brother, Ben, arrive earlier than expected for their visit, Imogene finds herself in over her head.

While Imogene and Ernest get to know one another, charming Ben reveals his dark secret:  he’s an architect apprentice who can’t draw. Fortunately, Imogene is an apt teacher, and the two work together as Ben learns to draw.

But a series of suspicious accidents lead them to believe that someone is out to get Ben. The only suspects are Imogene’s friends and family, so Ben, Ernest, Imogene, and her friend, Emily do their best to uncover who means Ben harm. Along the way, Imogene realizes she has feelings for the wrong brother—feelings that could break Ernest’s heart and alienate her from her demanding family.

Suitors and Sabotage was a fun, light read full of sassiness, humor, and romance. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it! It had the feel of Jane Austen mixed with a modern romcom, but the characters showed some surprising depths and the identity of the saboteur surprised me completely.

Cindy Anstey loves to travel and write books inspired by Jane Austen. Suitors and Sabotage is her newest novel.

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