Tag: young adult novels

Book Review: Defending the Galaxy, by Maria V. Snyder

Image belongs to the author.

Title: Defending the Galaxy
Author: Maria V. Snyder
Genre: YA, sci-fi
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Junior Officer Ara Lawrence here, reporting for duty. Again. It’s situation critical for the security team and everyone in the base – including my parents – with a new attack from the looters imminent, a possible galaxy-wide crime conspiracy and an unstoppable alien threat. But this all pales in the face of my mind-blowing discovery about the Q-net. Of course, no one believes me. I’m not sure I believe me. It could just be a stress-induced delusion. That’s what my parents seem to believe…

Their concern for me is hampering my ability to do my job. I know they love me, but with the Q-net in my corner, I’m the only one who can help the security team beat the shadowy aliens from the pits we discovered. We’re holding them at bay, for now, but the entire Milky Way Galaxy is in danger of being overrun.

With battles on too many fronts, it’s looking dire. But one thing I’ve learned is when people I love are in jeopardy, I’ll never give up trying to save them. Not until my dying breath. Which could very well be today…

I’ve thoroughly enjoyed the Sentinels of the Galaxy series! Maria V. Snyder’s writing is fantastic, as always, and this universe is nicely done and intriguing. I’d never considered the effects faster-than-light travel would have on families and friendships, so that was an intriguing detail.

Ara is a lot of fun to read—smart, determined, and with enough snark to make me laugh. She trying to save the universe here, but she’s also concerned with typical teenage things like her boyfriend and what’s going on with him. Lots of action, high stakes, and characters I care about made this a riveting read!

Maria V. Snyder is a bestselling author. Defending the Galaxy is the final book in the Sentinels of the Galaxy series.

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

Book Review: Among the Beasts & Briars, by Ashley Poston

Image belongs to Balzer + Brayin.

Title: Among the Beasts & Briars
Author: Ashley Poston
Genre: Fantasy
Rating: 4.2 out of 5.0

Cerys is safe in the kingdom of Aloriya.

Here there are no droughts, disease, or famine, and peace is everlasting. It has been this way for hundreds of years, since the first king made a bargain with the Lady who ruled the forest that borders the kingdom. But as Aloriya prospered, the woods grew dark, cursed, and forbidden. Cerys knows this all too well: when she was young, she barely escaped as the woods killed her friends and her mother. Now Cerys carries a small bit of the curse—the magic—in her blood, a reminder of the day she lost everything. The most danger she faces now, as a gardener’s daughter, is the annoying fox who stalks the royal gardens and won’t leave her alone.

As a new queen is crowned, however, things long hidden in the woods descend on the kingdom itself. Cerys is forced on the run, her only companions the small fox from the garden, a strange and powerful bear, and the magic in her veins. It’s up to her to find the legendary Lady of the Wilds and beg for a way to save her home. But the road is darker and more dangerous than she knows, and as secrets from the past are uncovered amid the teeth and roots of the forest, it’s going to take everything she has just to survive.

This story felt like an enchantment. I enjoyed the magic and the creatures in the woods—unique in concept and execution. Reading this, I felt like I’d stepped into the pages of a fairy tale.

However, none of the reveals came as a surprise to me. Some of it just turned out exactly like I expected, and there are hints that the next book will also have some things I just expect to happen. I don’t know if it’s because I’ve read so much fantasy over the years that certain things seem like they’re done a lot—or if the hints the author dropped were just a touch too heavy-handed. It doesn’t detract from the story, but it’s there.

Ashley Poston is from South Carolina. Among the Beasts & Briars is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Balzer + Brayin exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review: The Midnight Bargain, by C.L. Polk

Image belongs to Erewhon.

Title: The Midnight Bargain
Author: C.L. Polk   
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Beatrice Clayborn is a sorceress who practices magic in secret, terrified of the day she will be locked into a marital collar that will cut off her powers to protect her unborn children. She dreams of becoming a full-fledged Magus and pursuing magic as her calling as men do, but her family has staked everything to equip her for Bargaining Season, when young men and women of means descend upon the city to negotiate the best marriages. The Clayborns are in severe debt, and only she can save them, by securing an advantageous match before their creditors come calling.

In a stroke of luck, Beatrice finds a grimoire that contains the key to becoming a Magus, but before she can purchase it, a rival sorceress swindles the book right out of her hands. Beatrice summons a spirit to help her get it back, but her new ally exacts a price: Beatrice’s first kiss . . . with her adversary’s brother, the handsome, compassionate, and fabulously wealthy Ianthe Lavan.

The more Beatrice is entangled with the Lavan siblings, the harder her decision becomes: If she casts the spell to become a Magus, she will devastate her family and lose the only man to ever see her for who she is; but if she marries—even for love—she will sacrifice her magic, her identity, and her dreams. But how can she choose just one, knowing she will forever regret the path not taken?

I ended up enjoying this a lot, although Ianthe seemed just a little bit too good to be true. I mean, handsome, rich, open-minded and for women’s equality in a society where it’s unheard of, willing to give up his status, wealth, and family? But I enjoyed reading about him—and his fabulous clothes—as he and Beatrice got to know each other better.

The society was well-done, if a bit horrifying, and the author didn’t get bogged down in the details, giving the reader just enough detail to bring the setting to life without smothering them with minutiae. I wanted to smack Beatrice’s little sister several times, but on the whole, I very much enjoyed this read.

C.L. Polk lives in Canada. The Midnight Bargain is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Quiet No More, by Nikki Barthelmess

Image belongs to Flux.

Title: Quiet No More
Author:   Nikki Barthelmess  
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.0 out of 5

College freshman Victoria Parker is trying to move on with her life after surviving sexual assault by her father and six months in foster care. She’s focusing on the positives–attending college, living on her own, repairing old relationships and making new ones, and getting involved with an abuse survivors activist group on campus. But everything’s thrown into disarray when a strange woman shows up, claiming to be Victoria’s aunt and asking Victoria to lie about what happened to her. With her father’s sentencing in a few months, she’s nervous about having to share the truth of what happened with a judge. She’s not even sure if she has the strength to go through with it. But when her fellow club members begin pressuring her to speak out, Victoria has to decide how to share her story while remaining true to herself.

Victoria has been through awful things but she’s trying to get her life back to normal. Unfortunately, specters from her past keep interfering and she has to figure out—again—how she will handle the ugly truth about what her father did to her. Her friends, new and old, all seem to have an opinion on what she should do, but when the truth comes out, Victoria must decide what is right for her.

I thought The Quiet You Carry, the book before this one, was very well-done and well-written. I have the same feelings about this book. This is about a tough topic, and the author handles it with respect and care.

Nikki Barthelmess lives in California. Quiet No More is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Above All Else, by Dana Alison Levy

Image belongs to Charlesbridge.

Title: Above All Else
Author: Dana Alison Levy    
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.0 out 0f 5

Rose Keller and Tate Russo have been climbing for years, training in harsh weather and traveling all over the world. The goal that kept them going? Summiting Mount Everest, the highest point on earth. Accompanied by Tate’s dad, the two will finally make the ultimate climb at the end of their senior year. But neither Rose nor Tate are fully in the game–not only is there a simmering romance between them, but Rose can’t get her mind off her mother’s illness, while Tate constantly fails to live up to his ambitious father’s standards.

Everyone on their expedition has something to prove, it seems. And not everyone is making the best decisions while short on oxygen and exhausted, body and mind. The farther up the mountain they go, the more their climbing plans unravel and the more isolated each team member becomes. Rose and Tate will have to dig deep within themselves to determine what–or who–they value above all else.

For someone with a fear of heights, parts of this were moderately terrifying. This was an intense read! I’ve hiked the Grand Canyon twice—third trip will be next year—but that’s more of a months-of-training thing, not years of training. And, while I’m fascinated by people who choose to hike Mt. Everest, I haven’t the faintest desire to actually climb any mountain.

I loved how we see this story from both Rose and Tate’s points-of-view. They’re such different people and their perspectives are so different, despite everyone thinking of them as RoseandTate. There are some intense scenes in this, but the author does an incredible job with the setting and letting us see what Rose and Tate experience on this once-in-a-lifetime journey.

Dana Alison Levy lives in New England. Above All Else is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Kingdom of Sea and Stone, by Mara Rutherford

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Kingdom of Sea and Stone
Author: Mara Rutherford    
Genre: Fantasy, YA
Rating: 5 out of 5

Ever since Nor was forced to go to a nearby kingdom in her sister’s place, she’s wanted nothing more than to return to the place and people she loves. But when her wish comes true, she soon finds herself cast out from both worlds, with a war on the horizon.

As an old enemy resurfaces more powerful than ever, Nor will have to keep the kingdom from falling apart with the help of Prince Talin and Nor’s twin sister, Zadie. There are forces within the world more mysterious than any of them ever guessed—and they’ll need to stay alive long enough to conquer them…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book (And the one before it, A Crown of Coral and Pearl.). And I think the covers are gorgeous!

The world here is unique and distinctive, with different cultures, countries, and beliefs, and it’s fun to explore them with Nor. She knows what’s right and she does it, but she can see both sides of the issues. I love her strength even in the face of overwhelming odds, and her courage to speak up about wrongs—even when it can hurt her in the long run.

Adventure, magic, and a captivating setting all combine in this to make it almost impossible to put down!

Mara Rutherford was born in California but has lived all over the world. Kingdom of Sea and Stone is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: The Code for Love and Heartbreak, by Jillian Cantor

  

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: The Code for Love and Heartbreak
Author: Jillian Cantor
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Emma Woodhouse is a genius at math, but clueless about people. After all, people are unreliable. They let you down—just like Emma’s sister, Izzy, did this year, when she moved to California for college. But numbers…those you can count on. (No pun intended.)

Emma’s senior year is going to be all about numbers, and seeing how far they can take her. When she and George, her Coding Club co-president, are tasked with brainstorming a new project, The Code for Love is born—a matchmaking app that goes far beyond swiping, using algorithms to calculate compatibility. George disapproves of Emma’s idea, accusing her of meddling in people’s lives. But all the happy new couples at school are proof that the app works. At least at first.

Emma’s code is flawless. So why is it that perfectly matched couples start breaking up, the wrong people keep falling for each other and her own feelings defy any algorithm? Emma thought math could solve everything. But there’s nothing more complex—or unpredictable—than love.

This was an excellent and unique re-telling of Emma! Emma is beyond clueless about people—to the point it’s actually funny to see what she’ll fail to understand next, but she’s so likable and relatable. I felt sorry for her while wanting her to succeed and learn from her mistakes. And George is just so lovable!

The prose flows smoothly here, not getting in the way of the story. Any awkwardness is due to Emma—and maybe Jane—not author intrusion or clunky writing. This was a fun read that did not disgrace Jane Austen.

Jillian Cantor lives in Arizona. The Code for Love and Heartbreak is her newest novel.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Smash It, by Francina Simone

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: Smash It
Author: Francina Simone  
Genre: YA
Rating: 3.5 out of 5

Olivia “Liv” James is done with letting her insecurities get the best of her. So she does what any self-respecting hot mess of a girl who wants to SMASH junior year does…

After Liv shows up to a Halloween party in khaki shorts–why, God, why?–she decides to set aside her wack AF ways. She makes a list–a F*ck-It list.

1. Be bold–do the thing that scares me.

2. Learn to take a compliment.

3. Stand out instead of back.

She kicks it off by trying out for the school musical, saying yes to a date and making new friends. Life is great when you stop punking yourself! However, with change comes a lot of missteps, and being bold means following her heart. So what happens when Liv’s heart is interested in three different guys–and two of them are her best friends? What is she supposed to do when she gets dumped by a guy she’s not even dating? How does one Smash It! after the humiliation of being friend-zoned?

In Liv’s own words, “F*ck it. What’s the worst that can happen?”

A lot, apparently.

This is billed as a re-telling of Othello, except it’s not. Not even remotely. The school musical Liv ends up doing is Othello (a rap version, no less), but that’s it. Solid writing and diverse characters, but those were the only positives for me of this book.

Liv herself is…immensely selfish. She’s so self-involved she doesn’t even notice her two best friends’ lives imploding—and not in the way Liv’s does (because she’s so selfish she brings disaster on herself). I’m all for owning your own life, but you shouldn’t do it at the expense of those around you. And Liv does. She’s awful to her mom and sister, to the guy who likes her, to hew new friends, and how she treats her two “best” friends is atrocious (With friends like Liv, who needs enemies?).

Francina Simone was born in Germany. Smash It is her newest novel.

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

Book Review: Finding Balance, by Kati Gardner

finding balance
Image belongs to North Star Editions/Flux.

Title:  Finding Balance
AuthorKati Gardner
Genre:  YA
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

Jase Ellison doesn’t remember having Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia when he was three years old. His cancer diagnosis only enters his mind twice a year. Once at his yearly checkup at the oncology clinic and when he attends Camp Chemo in the summer. No one in his “real” life knows about his past, especially his friends at Atlanta West Prep.

Mari Manos has never been able to hide her cancer survivorship. She wakes every morning, grabs her pink forearm clip crutches, and starts her day. Mari loves Camp Chemo—where she’s developed a healthy crush on fellow camper Jase. At Camp, she knows that she’ll never get “the look” or have to explain her amputation to anyone.

Jase wants to move on, to never reveal his past. But when Mari transfers to his school, he knows she could blow his cover. That’s the last thing he wants, but he also cannot ignore his attraction to her. For Mari, she only wants to be looked at like a girl, a person, and not only known for her disability. But how do you move on from cancer when the world won’t let you

 

This book deals with some really tough subjects. Bad things happen sometimes—and sometimes children are the one who have to deal with it. Jase and Mari survived childhood cancer, but years later they’re still dealing with the fallout. Mari is so unbelievably strong—and I love how she doesn’t just put up with Jase’s b.s. She calls him out on it and lets him know it’s not okay.

I felt really sorry for Jase. How can anyone think it’s okay to bully someone who had cancer? I can’t imagine being the victim there, on top of having cancer! Strength in the midst of pain runs through this novel, and it was so good!

Kati Gardner calls herself a recovering actor. She lives in North Carolina and had an amputation as the result of childhood cancer. Finding Balance is her newest novel, the second book in the Brave Enough series.

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

Book Review and Blog Tour: Furia, by Yamile Saied Méndez

Image belongs to Algonquin Young Readers.

Title: Furia
Author: Yamile Saied Méndez     
Genre: YA
Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Camila Hassan lives a double life. At home, she is a careful daughter, living within her mother’s narrow expectations, in her rising-soccer-star brother’s shadow, and under the abusive rule of her short-tempered father. On the field, she is La Furia, a powerhouse of skill and talent. When her team qualifies for the South American tournament, Camila gets the chance to see just how far her talents can take her. In her wildest dreams, she’d get an athletic scholarship to a North American university, but the path ahead won’t be easy. Her parents, who don’t know about her passion, wouldn’t allow a girl to play fútbol—and she needs their permission to go any farther. Meanwhile, the boy she once loved, Diego, is not only back in town, but has also become an international star, playing in Italy for the renowned team Juventus. Things aren’t the same as when he left: Camila has her own fútbol ambitions now, and La Furia cannot be denied. As her life becomes more complicated, she is forced to face her secrets and make her way in a world with no place for the dreams and passion of a girl like her.

This is an excellent read! The setting comes to life on the page—even for someone who’s never seen an Argentina barrio—and the picture of life there is hard and dark, but with glimmers of light in unexpected places.

Camila is tough as nails, and she keeps her soft spots hidden from everyone:  her parents, her friends, even Diego. I loved reading about her determination to succeed, no matter what obstacles stand in her way.

Yamile Saied Méndez is from Argentina but now lives in Utah. Furia is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of Algonquin Young Readers in exchange for an honest review.)