Tag: young adult novels

Book Review and Blog Tour:  A Forgery of Roses, by Jessica S. Olson

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title:   A Forgery of Roses
Author:   Jessica S. Olson
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

She’s an artist whose portraits alter people’s real-life bodies, a talent she must hide from those who would kidnap, blackmail, and worse in order to control it. Guarding that secret is the only way to keep her younger sister safe now that their parents are gone.

 But one frigid night, the governor’s wife discovers the truth and threatens to expose Myra if she does not complete a special portrait that would resurrect the governor’s dead son. Desperate, Myra ventures to his legendary stone mansion.

 Once she arrives, however, it becomes clear the boy’s death was no accident. Someone dangerous lurks within these glittering halls. Someone harboring a disturbing obsession with portrait magic.

 Myra cannot do the painting until she knows what really happened, so she turns to the governor’s older son, a captivating redheaded poet. Together, they delve into the family’s most shadowed affairs, racing to uncover the truth before the secret Myra spent her life concealing makes her the killer’s next victim.

I enjoyed this! Myra was a great character, and her relationship with her sister was just wonderful, and made the book really shine. This book is fairly dark from the first page, but there are spots of brightness. August is another of them. The author portrayed his debilitating anxiety so well, and I was never sure if he would conquer it, or it would conquer him. His family, meanwhile, was absolutely horrible. A lovely read!

Jessica S. Olson lives in Texas. A Forgery of Roses is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:   A Magic Steeped in Poison, by Judy I. Lin

Image belongs to Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends.

Title:    A Magic Steeped in Poison
Author:    Judy I. Lin
Genre:    Fantasy, YA
Rating:  4.5 out of 5

For Ning, the only thing worse than losing her mother is knowing that it’s her own fault. She was the one who unknowingly brewed the poison tea that killed her—the poison tea that now threatens to also take her sister, Shu. 

When Ning hears of a competition to find the kingdom’s greatest shennong-shi—masters of the ancient and magical art of tea-making—she travels to the imperial city to compete. The winner will receive a favor from the princess, which may be Ning’s only chance to save her sister’s life.

 But between the backstabbing competitors, bloody court politics, and a mysterious (and handsome) boy with a shocking secret, Ning might actually be the one in more danger.

I really enjoyed this read! The culture and world were fascinating, and I loved all the sensory details that brought it to vivid life. The characters were believable, and I really loved Ning and the friendships she formed—and the intrigues she landed in. I can’t wait to read the second book in the duology!

Judy I. Lin grew up in Canada. A Magic Steeped in Poison is her debut novel.

(Galley courtesy of Macmillan/Feiwel & Friends in exchange for an honest review.)

 

Book Review:  A Far Wilder Magic, by Allison Saft

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   A Far Wilder Magic
Author:   Allison Saft
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4.0 out of 5

When Margaret Welty spots the legendary hala, the last living mythical creature, she knows the Halfmoon Hunt will soon follow. Whoever is able to kill the hala will earn fame and riches, and unlock an ancient magical secret. If Margaret wins the hunt, it may finally bring her mother home. While Margaret is the best sharpshooter in town, only teams of two can register, and she needs an alchemist.

 Weston Winters isn’t an alchemist–yet. Fired from every apprenticeship he’s landed, his last chance hinges on Master Welty taking him in. But when Wes arrives at Welty Manor, he finds only Margaret and her bloodhound Trouble. Margaret begrudgingly allows him to stay, but on one condition: he must join the hunt with her.

 Although they make an unlikely team, Wes is in awe of the girl who has endured alone on the outskirts of a town that doesn’t want her, in this creaking house of ghosts and sorrow. And even though Wes disrupts every aspect of her life, Margaret is drawn to him. He, too, knows what it’s like to be an outsider. As the hunt looms closer and tensions rise, Margaret and Wes uncover dark magic that could be the key to winning the hunt – if they survive that long.

To me, this culture was an odd mix of things from our current world and things that were just slightly skewed from that all jumbled together. It didn’t have an effect on my enjoyment of the story, just stating something that caught my eye (more than once). I liked the story well enough, but Margaret was a little too hateful at times—and constantly I’m-an-outsider-and-care-for-no-one-else—and Weston was a bit of a selfish brat, but they eventually worked well together. Weston’s family was fantastic. Margaret’s mom, not so much. This is a solid read, but I didn’t find it to be stellar.

Allison Saft lives on the West Coast. A Far Wilder Magic is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Daughter, by Kate McLaughlin

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Daughter
Author:   Kate McLaughlin
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Scarlet’s life is pretty average. Overly protective mom. Great friends. Cute boy she’s interested in. And a father she’s never known – until she does.

 When the FBI show up at Scarlet’s door, she is shocked to learn her father is infamous serial killer Jeffrey Robert Lake. And now, he’s dying and will only give the names and locations of his remaining victims to the one person, the daughter he hasn’t seen since she was a baby.

 Scarlet’s mother has tried to protect her from Lake’s horrifying legacy, but there’s no way they can escape the media firestorm that erupts when they come out of hiding. Or the people who blame Scarlet for her father’s choices. When trying to do the right thing puts her life in danger, Scarlet is faced with a choice – go back into hiding or make the world see her as more than a monster’s daughter.

I can’t imagine living your whole life not knowing who your father is, and suddenly finding out he’s an infamous serial killer, and your whole life is kind of a lie. Scarlet had moments of extreme selfishness and childish behavior, but for the most part, she was doing her best to be a good person. The way Lake tried to manipulate her and everyone else was creepy in the extreme, but she was smart enough to realize she was being manipulated.

It seems like every teenager in this book—so, most of the characters—drank, did drugs, and had sex indiscriminately. While I’m sure that’s true for some teenagers, it’s not for every teenager, so the generalization bothered me. And…the way people treated Scarlet and her mother was horrific. This story may be fiction, but that sort of behavior isn’t, and that just bothers me in general. All in all, I enjoyed this read.

Kate McLaughlin lives in Connecticut. Daughter is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  Full Flight, by Ashley Schumacher

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Full Flight
Author Ashley Schumacher
Genre:   YA
Rating:  3.5

Everyone else in the tiny town of Enfield, Texas calls fall football season, but for the forty-three members of the Fighting Enfield Marching Band, it’s contest season. And for new saxophonist Anna James, it’s her first chance to prove herself as the great musician she’s trying hard to be.

 When she’s assigned a duet with mellophone player Weston Ryan, the boy her small-minded town thinks of as nothing but trouble, she’s equal parts thrilled and intimidated. But as he helps her with the duet, and she sees the smile he seems to save just for her, she can’t help but feel like she’s helping him with something too.

 After her strict parents find out she’s been secretly seeing him and keep them apart, together they learn what it truly means to fight for something they love. With the marching contest nearing, and the two falling hard for one another, the unthinkable happens, and Anna is left grappling for a way forward without Weston.

Solid writing in this, and I enjoyed the story, until tragedy occurred. Up until that point, this was a light, fun YA read. The tragedy felt pointless and completely unnecessary. It accomplished nothing in the storyline, as people’s perceptions had already been changed before it happened. And…the story ends shortly after it happens, so it’s not liked the reader gets to see Anna finding her way forward. The story just ends. Sorry, but this just didn’t work for me. It felt forced and manipulative, not believable.

Ashley Schumacher lives in Dallas. Full Flight is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review and Blog Tour:  The Iron Sword, by Julie Kagawa

Image belongs to Inkyard Press.

Title: The Iron Sword    
Author:   Julie Kagawa
Genre:   YA, fantasy
Rating:   5 out of 5

As Evenfall nears, the stakes grow ever higher for those in Faery…

Banished from the Winter Court for daring to fall in love, Prince Ash achieved the impossible and journeyed to the End of the World to earn a soul and keep his vow to always stand beside Queen Meghan of the Iron Fey.

Now he faces even more incomprehensible odds. Their son, King Keirran of the Forgotten, is missing. Something more ancient than the courts of Faery and more evil than anything Ash has faced in a millennium is rising as Evenfall approaches. And if Ash and his allies cannot stop it, the chaos that has begun to divide the world will shatter it for eternity.

I really love anything the author writes in this world, and this was no exception. I enjoyed the continuing story of Ash and Meghan, although I did enjoy Puck’s POV very much in the last book. Lots of action, intriguing magic, and hints of romance made this a perfect mix that I practically devoured. Highly recommend!

Julie Kagawa is a bestselling author. The Iron Sword is her newest novel.

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

 

Book Review:  One True Loves, by Elise Bryant

Image belongs to HarperCollins.

Title:   One True Loves
Author:   Elise Bryant
Genre:   YA
Rating:  4 out of 5

Lenore Bennett has always been a force. A star artist and style icon at her high school, she’s a master in the subtle art of not giving a . . . well, you know what. But now that graduation is here, she’s a little less sure.

 She’s heading to NYU in the fall with a scarlet U (for “undeclared”) written across her chest. Her parents always remind her that Black kids don’t have the luxury of figuring it out as they go—they have to be 110 percent prepared. But it’s a lot of pressure to be her ancestors’ wildest dreams when Lenore’s not even sure what her dreams are yet.

 When her family embarks on a post-graduation Mediterranean cruise, her friend Tessa is sure Lenore’s in for a whirlwind romance. But Lenore knows that doesn’t happen in real life. At least not to girls like her.

 Then she meets Alex Lee. After their parents bond over the Cupid Shuffle, she ends up stuck with him for the remainder of the cruise. He’s a hopeless romantic and a golden boy with a ten-year plan. In short, he’s irritating as hell.

 But as they get to know each other during the picturesque stops across Europe, he may be able to help her find something else she’s been looking for, even if she doesn’t want to admit it to herself: love.

I enjoyed this read! Lenore was a bit over-the-top at first, with her brashness and in-your-face attitude, but when she tamped it down a bit, she was much more relatable. She’s under a lot of pressure from her family, and I felt sorry for her in that respect. It was good to see some character growth from her, as she slowly started to figure out who she is and what she wants from life.

Elise Bryant is from California. One True Loves is her newest novel.

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

Book Review:  The Storyteller, by Kathryn Williams

Image belongs to HarperCollins/HarperTeen.

Title:   The Storyteller
Author:   Kathryn Williams
Genre:   Historical fiction, YA, mystery/thriller
Rating:  4.2 out of 5

It’s not every day you discover you might be related to Anastasia…or that the tragic princess actually survived her assassination attempt and has been living as the woman you know as Aunt Anna.

 For Jess Morgan, who is growing tired of living her life to please everyone else, discovering her late aunt’s diaries shows her she’s not the only one struggling to hide who she really is. But was her aunt truly a Romanov princess? Or is this some elaborate hoax?

 With the help of a supremely dorky, but undeniably cute, local college student named Evan, Jess digs into the century-old mystery.

 But soon Jess realizes there’s another, bigger truth waiting to be revealed: Jess Morgan. Because if she’s learned anything from Aunt Anna, it’s that only you can write your own story.

I enjoyed this read! It was sweet and fun and I was completely engrossed in the mystery—and both Jess’s story and Aunt Anna’s kept me intrigued. I liked Jess’s friends…but I couldn’t stand her boyfriend. Evan was a lot more relatable and fun. This makes a good weekend binge-read.

Kathryn Williams lives in Maine. The Storyteller is her newest novel.

(Galley courtesy of HarperCollins Children’s Books, HarperTeen in exchange for an honest review.)

Book Review:  Anatomy: A Love Story, by Dana Schwartz

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Anatomy: A Love Story
Author Dana Schwartz
Genre:   Fantasy, YA
Rating:  3.5 out of 5

Edinburgh, 1817.

 Hazel Sinnett is a lady who wants to be a surgeon more than she wants to marry.

 Jack Currer is a resurrection man who’s just trying to survive in a city where it’s too easy to die.

 When the two of them have a chance encounter outside the Edinburgh Anatomist’s Society, Hazel thinks nothing of it at first. But after she gets kicked out of renowned surgeon Dr. Beecham’s lectures for being the wrong gender, she realizes that her new acquaintance might be more helpful than she first thought. Because Hazel has made a deal with Dr. Beecham: if she can pass the medical examination on her own, the university will allow her to enroll. Without official lessons, though, Hazel will need more than just her books – she’ll need bodies to study, corpses to dissect.

 Lucky that she’s made the acquaintance of someone who digs them up for a living, then.

 But Jack has his own problems: strange men have been seen skulking around cemeteries, his friends are disappearing off the streets. Hazel and Jack work together to uncover the secrets buried not just in unmarked graves, but in the very heart of Edinburgh society.

I was a little bit disappointed in the last section of this (not just the ending). For the entire novel, Hazel is determined to do the right thing for people and in the end she just sort of slowly caves? Eh. That was disappointing. For most of the book, I really enjoyed her determination, but then she just kind of chickened out, which was disappointing.

Dana Schwartz lives in L.A. Anatomy:  A Love Story is her new novel.

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

Book Review:  Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves, by Meg Long

Image belongs to St. Martin’s Press.

Title:   Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves
Author:   Meg Long
Genre:   YA, scifi
Rating:  4.0 out of 5.0

After angering a local gangster, seventeen-year-old Sena Korhosen must flee with her prize fighting wolf, Iska, in tow. A team of scientists offer to pay her way off her frozen planet on one condition: she gets them to the finish line of the planet’s infamous sled race. Though Sena always swore she’d never race after it claimed both her mothers’ lives, it’s now her only option.

But the tundra is a treacherous place, and as the race unfolds and their lives are threatened at every turn, Sena starts to question her own abilities. She must discover whether she’s strong enough to survive the wild – whether she and Iska together are strong enough to get them all out alive.

It’s been a while since I’ve read any scifi, and I enjoyed this foray back into it. It’s not hardcore scifi, but the cultures and peoples of the planet make for a fascinating setting—a planet run by gangsters and a hidden society who are against the corporate-driven greed that infuse the planet—with plenty of room for interesting diversions. The writing was solid, and I enjoyed the buildup to the race itself, but I feel like there were a few issues left unresolved by the ending. This is a solid debut, though, and I’d be interested in reading more from this author.

Meg Long wanted to be a spy when she grew up. Instead she became a writer. Cold the Night, Fast the Wolves is her debut novel.

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