Tag Archives: young adult lit

January 21 New Releases

22 Jan

13626692Title: Evertrue
Author: Brodi Ashton
Publisher: Balzer & Bray
Genre: Fantastic…ish? Mythology remix?
Blurb: Inspired by the Persephone myth, this stunning conclusion to the Everneath trilogy—whose captivating first book earned a VOYA Perfect Ten of 2011 and a Whitney Award—explores the resilience of the human spirit and the indomitable power of true love. (This is totally not the real blurb, but since I haven’t read the second book yet I didn’t want to look at it too closely.)
Excitement Factor: Maybe, if I’ve got nothing else to read. I enjoyed the first one but never got around to reading the second one, so if that ever happens, sure.

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June 4 and 11 New Releases

14 Jun

I’m a lazy cad, so here are the new releases that interest me from the past two weeks. Note: THERE ARE ONLY TWO OF THEM.

far-far-awayTitle: Far Far Away
Author: Tom McNeal
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Genre: Fantasy/horror
Blurb: It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn’t even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he’s able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it’s been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn’t been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm. Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings. . .
Excitement Factor: Yes, please!

14061955Title: Siege and Storm
Author: Leigh Bardugo
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co.
Genre: Fantasy
Blurb: Darkness never dies.
Hunted across the True Sea, haunted by the lives she took on the Fold, Alina must try to make a life with Mal in an unfamiliar land, all while keeping her identity as the Sun Summoner a secret. But she can’t outrun her past or her destiny for long. The Darkling has emerged from the Shadow Fold with a terrifying new power and a dangerous plan that will test the very boundaries of the natural world. With the help of a notorious privateer, Alina returns to the country she abandoned, determined to fight the forces gathering against Ravka. But as her power grows, Alina slips deeper into the Darkling’s game of forbidden magic, and farther away from Mal. Somehow, she will have to choose between her country, her power, and the love she always thought would guide her–or risk losing everything to the oncoming storm.
Excitement Factor: Even though I had tons of problems with the first book, I still found it compulsively readable so sure, why not.

In Darkness by Nick Lake

9 Apr

11451112I am the voice in the dark, calling out for your help.

Nick Lake‘s In Darkness is the 2013 Printz Award winning story of a nameless teen trapped in the rubble underneath a collapsed hospital after the Haiti earthquake. His only companion in the darkness is a decomposing hand, his own memories, and a psychic connection to Touissant l’Ouverture, a Haitian revolutionary who lived 200 years earlier.

So, this book is…wait for it…dark. And when I say it’s dark, I mean dark in every sense of the word. Half of the narrative’s setting is defined by absolute darkness. The sense of claustrophobia as we experience the narrator’s blindness, his thirst that drives him to drink whatever blood has collected on the floor, to reach out and touch a disembodied hand just to see if his only companion in his coffin is alive, is overwhelmingly visceral.

The subject matter is dark. It is a story of horrible lives, of murder and murderers, of watching your father get hacked apart by machete toting gangsters, of fighting for your country’s freedom only to die in a dungeon on the other side of the world. This is the kind of story that, for the bulk of its telling, makes you want to kill yourself from the overwhelming sense that there is nothing good in the world, at all.

The writing is staggering in its bleak beauty. Some of my favorite quotes include:

“I tried to call out, but bullets are faster than words, and I was just standing there in the middle of all that metal death” (263).

“We have a mouth – we can feel it in our face, an opening into us that can let the spirit out – but when we use it, when we speak, there is no one to listen. The voices that come to us, drifting through the darkness beyond our prison, they might as well be the voices of the dead. (…) We are a slave to this space, to the inevitable decay of trapped things. We can feed ourselves, but there is no food; we can work with our hands and with our minds, but there is nothing on which to work; we have eyes, but there is nothing to see. There is no future and no past. We are in the darkness. We are one” (326-7).

One of my favorite things about this book was the spirit of Om that came through more and more strongly as the narrative progressed; the sense of emptiness and unity, while horribly depressing in context, was also one of the only reoccurring moments in which I, as a reader, felt liberated from the oppressing sense of insurmountable awfulness.

At times I struggled to get through Touissant’s half of the narrative; it just didn’t have the pop that our nameless narrator’s story had. However, I appreciated the parallels of experience that spanned the hundreds of years between their physical lives, and so I was able to deal.

All in all, this is a pretty amazing book that still continues to haunt me even though I finished it about two weeks ago. However, there are parts that can be difficult to get through without wanting to say “fuck this world, I want to die,” so just be forewarned if you do decide to pick it up.

And, just because Biggie Smalls is mentioned every other page, it’s only fitting that he gets the spotlight for this edition’s music match.

February 19 New Releases

21 Feb

15721642Title: The 39 Deaths of Adam Strand
Author: Gregory Galloway
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Genre: Speculative sci-fi-ish?
Blurb: Adam Strand isn’t depressed. He’s just bored. Disaffected. So he kills himself—39 times. No matter the method, Adam can’t seem to stay dead; he awakes after each suicide alive and physically unharmed, more determined to succeed and undeterred by others’ concerns. But when his self-contained, self-absorbed path is diverted, Adam is struck by the reality that life is an ever-expanding web of impact and forged connections, and that nothing—not even death—can sever those bonds.
Excitement factor: Yes, please!

12578294Title: Mind Games
Author: Kiersten White
Publisher: HarperTeen
Genre: Science Fiction
Blurb: Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.
Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways… or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.
Excitement factor: Sure, why not.

January 29 New Releases

30 Jan

12291438Title: The Madman’s Daughter
Author: Megan Sheperd
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Genre: gothic/science fiction
Page Count: 432 pages
Blurb: Sixteen-year-old Juliet Moreau has built a life for herself in London—working as a maid, attending church on Sundays, and trying not to think about the scandal that ruined her life. After all, no one ever proved the rumors about her father’s gruesome experiments. But when she learns he is alive and continuing his work on a remote tropical island, she is determined to find out if the accusations are true. Accompanied by her father’s handsome young assistant, Montgomery, and an enigmatic castaway, Edward—both of whom she is deeply drawn to—Juliet travels to the island, only to discover the depths of her father’s madness: He has experimented on animals so that they resemble, speak, and behave as humans. And worse, one of the creatures has turned violent and is killing the island’s inhabitants. Torn between horror and scientific curiosity, Juliet knows she must end her father’s dangerous experiments and escape her jungle prison before it’s too late. Yet as the island falls into chaos, she discovers the extent of her father’s genius—and madness—in her own blood. Inspired by H. G. Wells’s classic The Island of Dr. Moreau, The Madman’s Daughter is a dark and breathless Gothic thriller about the secrets we’ll do anything to know and the truths we’ll go to any lengths to protect.
Excitement factor: Yes, please!

13414446Title: Prodigy
Author: Marie Lu
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile
Genre: Science Fiction
Page Count: 384 pages
Blurb: June and Day arrive in Vegas just as the unthinkable happens: the Elector Primo dies, and his son Anden takes his place. With the Republic edging closer to chaos, the two join a group of Patriot rebels eager to help Day rescue his brother and offer passage to the Colonies. They have only one request—June and Day must assassinate the new Elector. It’s their chance to change the nation, to give voice to a people silenced for too long. But as June realizes this Elector is nothing like his father, she’s haunted by the choice ahead. What if Anden is a new beginning? What if revolution must be more than loss and vengeance, anger and blood—what if the Patriots are wrong? In this highly-anticipated sequel to the New York Times bestseller Legend, Lu delivers a breathtaking thriller with high stakes and cinematic action.
Excitement Factor: I don’t actually give a shit about this one (the audiobook for Legend was so terrible I had to abandon ship and can’t even think about it without cringing), but a lot of other people do so there you have it.

So, that’s that. I know I haven’t done a review in ages and I promise it isn’t because I haven’t been reading. I was doing some re-reading over the holidays and am currently reading Days of Blood and Starlight so hold on to your butts! There will be a review of that juicy bit of fantasy violence shortly.

Carnival of Souls by Melissa Marr

20 Oct

Well, the rains have finally rolled into Vancouver, and with that my urge to go out and be social and soak up sunshine has died a miserable death. Now all I want to do is snuggle under blankets and read books to the constant pitter-patter of rainy little feet on my roof. Yesterday I indulged that desire to nest and hide away from the world and finished my first ever Melissa Marr book, A Carnival of Souls. I have to admit that I think I was partially drawn to this book because it’s about daimons, which is one letter away from being the same word as daemons, the external souls found in His Dark Materials, a.k.a. the best books ever. Silly, I know.

The man – WITCH – who’d summoned Selah was nothing like what she’d expected.

Seventeen-year-old Mallory has been trained in self-defense and combat from an early age. Her father, a powerful witch named Adam, wants her to be prepared for the day when she finally comes up against a daimon, fierce otherworldly creatures that she has been taught to fear and hate for her entire life. However, Adam hasn’t been entirely truthful with Mallory: she is a daimon herself, the stolen daughter of Marchiosas, ruler of The City. The City, a labyrinthine lair of decadence and violence in the caste-stratified daimon world, is also home to the Carnival of Souls. Each generation the Carnival of Souls hosts a series of death matches in which any daimon can enter for the chance to improve his or her lot in life. Ruling-caste Aya wants to rule the city and escape her role as a glorified breeder. The assassin cur Kaleb wants to transcend his violent, degrading hand-to-mouth way of living. The fates of these three young daimons become more and more entwined as it becomes evident that they are each instrumental in each other’s deliverance.

This book has a hella promising premise. The hedonistic Carnival made me think of Mardi Gras on fairy dust. For all the sexy smoke and mirrors, though, Marr’s world just doesn’t deliver. That shimmering facade of a well-executed and imagined daimon world was just that – a facade. I never understood more about it than I did from the opening chapters. For one, I never truly understood what a daimon was. They seemed to be almost werewolf like shapeshifters who change when threatened or fighting, but, I don’t know? I never grasped the full difference between the castes, either. I get that ruling-caste people are on top, scabs on the bottom, and curs in the middle, but why did curs have packs and nobody else? If Kaleb was a cur with a soul-deep need to build a pack, how was he a scab to begin with? Are ALL daimons curs, just spread through the different castes? Is there anything else beyond the city other than the vaguely described “Untamed Lands”? So many questions! None of them answered!

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Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore

23 Aug

When he grabs Mama’s wrist and yanks her toward the wall-hanging like that, it must hurt.

Once upon a time in a galaxy far, far away I was a naive library school student doing my practicum in New York Public Library’s amazeballs Teen Central. During a discussion of what to recommend to teen girls to get them reading about strong female leads rather than dippy, self-loathing Bella, the lovely librarians of Teen Central introduced me Kristin Cashore‘s Graceling Realm.

For the uninitiated, and because this is the third book in the sequence (though the second book, Fire, takes place before Graceling or Bitterblue), let me try to do a brief summation: gracelings are people born with preternatural abilities.  Leck, who features in all three novels and is one of the most terrifying literary figures I have ever encountered, ruled the kingdom of Monsea for decades without anyone knowing he was graced. You see, Leck had the ability to control minds, to make people believe everything he said to them. He manipulated their memories and their free will just to please his psychotic whims until Katsa, the heroine of Graceling (graced super power: survival and general badassery) threw a dagger through his open mouth and killed him (holler!), thereby rescuing his young daughter, Bitterblue, and liberating Monsea from a sadistic tyrant.

Bitterblue is the story of the eponymous young queen, now eighteen, who inherited her psychopathic father’s throne after Katsa assassinated him. Stifled by her four overprotective advisers (who are all suffering from varying degrees of PTSD, I should add) and wanting desperately to help her kingdom move forward from its collective trauma but feeling woefully out of touch with the reality of her city,  Bitterblue makes like a teenager, disguises herself as a commoner, and sneaks out at night. She spends evening after evening in her city’s storyhouses, listening to tales of her father’s tyranny and her friends’ heroism. She meets two young men, Teddy and Saf, a printer and a thief,  and as their friendship develops a conspiracy begins to unfold that threatens her life, her kingdom, and the healing it so desperately needs.

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Divergent by Veronica Roth

18 Jun

When I went to see The Hunger Games in the theater for the second time, I was surprised to see an ad for Veronica Roth‘s Insurgent pop up during the pre-movie “entertainment.” Insurgent is definitely one of the bigger spring/summer YA releases this year, but it still surprised me since it was the first time I had seen a book previewed like that at the movies. That plus the bajillion holds placed on it at my library made me realize I should probably read the first book, Divergent (Katherine Tegen Books), to prep me for it so I wouldn’t be the lamest/most clueless librarian ever. It was a Goodreads reader’s choice whatever, is hugely popular, and constantly gets lumped into “If you liked The Hunger Games…” lists, so I had high hopes. High hopes that were shattered into a million not-so-dazzling pieces.

Beatrice Prior lives in a future Chicago where society is divided into five “factions” meant to cultivate a different virtue: Candor (honesty), Dauntless (bravery), Abegnation (selflessness), Amity (…friendship? Being nice? Peacefulness? I don’t know), and Erudite (Smartassness). Every year, all the sixteen-year-olds of the society must choose their faction, which often means leaving their families to go to a NEW faction. Before this happens, though, they are administered an aptitude test which supposedly shows them which faction they would do best in. However, the ultimate choice is still that of the sixteen-year-old (haha, I wrote “sexteen” at first. Appropriate!), so that there is still an element of free will when it comes to the teenage version of choose-your-own rest of your god damn life. Anyways. Beatrice’s test results are “inconclusive,” which means she is “divergent,” which is apparently even worse than being a Slytherin, so much so that she is told to keep it a secret or she’ll be killed. Anywho, Beatrice chooses a faction, renames herself “Tris,” starts lusting after her hunky and oh-so-broody instructor, Four, and as she undergoes the brutal Dauntless initiation she begins to unravel a dark conspiracy that is corrupting the foundations of her society.

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The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E. Pearson

6 Jun

So I haven’t written a post in forever and a day, and for that I apologize. See, I did this thing recently, in fact I’m still doing it, and it is called “moving.” I hate “moving” with the fire of a thousand hells. It’s really hard to find the time or the motivation to write when all of you free time is devoted to organizing your life via the filling and emptying of boxes. I have yet to figure out how to get my office chair up the stairs into my adorable attic bedroom, so that is an added challenge. Argh. Anyways, let’s get right into it.

Mary Pearson’s The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Square Fish Books) was first recommended to me by a coworker who is a huge jerk and told me what it was about before I read it. I didn’t realize what a jerk she was until I started reading and realized “this would be a hell of a lot better if I didn’t know what this book was actually about!” So, I am going to try really, really hard to sum up and review without giving away key plot elements and TWISTS so that you are actually SURPRISED and feeling the SUSPENSE if you choose to read it.

Seventeen-year-old Jenna Fox wakes from a year-long coma with no memories. None. Nada. Zilch. She doesn’t know anything about her life prior to her accident, which means she also has no idea who she, Jenna Fox, is. As Jenna unravels the mystery of her own identity by watching videos of her extensively recorded life, the nature of her coma and her present life come into clearer focus, leaving her to question not only who she is but what she is.

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Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta

22 Apr

I have a not-so-surprising secret to share:

I am a serious fantasy nerd.

I mean it. Before I went to college, became an English major, and learned that it is shameful to read anything but literary fiction, I was a rabid consumer of paperback fantasies of the $6.99 variety. If there was a dragon or a woman disguising herself as a man to become a mage/warrior/first class citizen or whatever the hell I was on it (and yes, I read A Game of Thrones waaaaaay before it became an HBO series). Then I was brainwashed into believing that if it wasn’t literary it wasn’t worth reading, and I spent years slogging through things that I didn’t really enjoy but appreciated. It was actually through delving back into the wonderful world of YA fantasy that I re-discovered my absolute mania for reading. However, my time as an English major changed me: I will still shamelessly indulge in genre fiction without coming close to giving a damn, but now I tend to filter my selections a bit more based on a little thing called “quality writing.” (But only a bit.) That’s where Melina Marchetta comes in.

I fell in love with Melina Marchetta’s writing when I read her Printz award-winning novel, Jellicoe Road. If you like really complex, slowly unfurling and beautifully written stories and like to cry a shit ton, then Jellicoe Road is probably for you. Once I read it I of course decided to pursue her other books, and that’s when I came across Finnikin of the Rock, her first fantasy novel for teens (which was published in 2008 but WHATEVER. I can’t be on top of every damn thing). Say what? Could a master of contemporary teen realism really make that transition? Well, in, short: hell yes.

When Finnikin was nine years old he received a prophecy stating that he must sacrifice a pound of flesh in order to save his kingdom, Lumatere. So, being a strapping young lad, he gets his two best royal buddies together on a rock and they each cut a chunk of skin out of their thighs all in the name of heroism. I mean, that’s pretty standard behavior for a nine-year-old, right? Right. So, right after they do the great thigh-cut-a-thon, the Five Days of the Unspeakable happens: the royal family is assassinated, Lumatere is invaded by a royal asshole of a cousin, half the kingdom flees, a healer/witch lays a blood curse on the land while she’s being burned at the stake, and then this crazy black mist thing engulfs the kingdom, trapping those who remained IN and those who fled OUT. Got that? Yeah, neither did I for the first hundred pages, but all in good time. Flash forward ten years to Finnikin, now a hunk of burning 19-year-old, wandering the land with Sir Topher, the assassinated King’s First Man, in an attempt to account for all the displaced Lumaterans in order to find a nice little chunk of land where they can settle without fear of being sold to slavers, abused, starved, forced to live in ghettos to die of disease, etc. This really pleasant past-time gets disrupted when Finnikin and Topher take on a mute Novice named Evanjalin who claims to be able to walk through the dreams of those still trapped in Lumatere. Oh, and she also says that the royal prince Balthazar, one of Finnikin’s royal thigh-cutting buddies, is still alive. Finnikin must rely on the evasive and suspicious Evanjalin to lead him to the Prince so that the exiled nation of Lumatere can return home.

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