Tag Archives: young adult

Anomaly

Anomaly Book Cover Anomaly
Schrodinger's Consortium, Book 1
Tonya Kuper
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
2014-11-25
400

Reality is only an illusion. Except for those who can control it… Worst. Birthday. Ever. My first boyfriend dumped me—happy birthday, Josie!—my dad is who knows where, I have some weird virus that makes me want to hurl, and now my ex is licking another girl’s tonsils. Oh, and I’m officially the same age as my brother was when he died. Yeah, today is about as fun-filled as the swamps of Dagobah. But then weird things start happening… Like I make something materialize just by thinking about it. When hottily-hot badass Reid Wentworth shows up on a motorcycle, everything changes. Like, everything. Who I am. My family. What really happened to my brother. Existence. I am Oculi, and I have the ability to change reality with my thoughts. Now Reid, in all his hotness, is charged with guiding and protecting me as I begin learning how to bend reality. And he’s the only thing standing between me and the secret organization that wants me dead…

 

Review:

This is one instance where I really wish half stars were an option, because I wanted to give “Anomaly” 3 1/2 stars.  I chose to round up, because aside from one specific issue (which I will expand upon later), it was a solid 4 star book, in my opinion.  Giving it 3 stars would be taking off too much.

“Anomaly” is a fun dystopian YA thriller based on the works of Schrodinger and his fellow scientists.  Josie is able to “Push” things into reality by her thoughts, and because she can also “Retract” them, she is an anomaly.  It’s a fun premise with a well-timed plot that keeps you guessing.  Also, there is a good romance in there that isn’t forced into a love triangle.  Build me a ship, and I will sail it.

The only concern I have with the book is that it may be almost too reliant on references to pop culture.  A good many the average reader will get, but some are very obviously related directly to fandom.  That’s great if you’re in the fandom, but a little more explanation may be necessary for others.  One example I can think of is the use of the name Benedict in reference to two posters.  I’ll give a spoiler here, because I do not want that to keep YA dystopian romance lovers from reading the book: Cumberbatch.  IMDB. You’re welcome.

Overall, I really enjoyed “Anomaly” and am looking forward to reading the next.

This review is based upon an advanced copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations

 

The Glass Magician

The Glass Magician Book Cover The Glass Magician
The Paper Magician, Book 2
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction
47North
2014-11-04
211

Now well into her apprenticeship with magician Emery Thane, twenty-year-old Ceony Twill is continuing to discover the joy of paper magic. She adores bringing her spells to life in surprising ways, from learning the power of distortion to creating a beloved paper dog. And she secretly hopes that the romance she foresaw blossoming between her and the peculiar yet strikingly handsome Emery finally becomes real. But when one magician with a penchant for deadly scheming believes that Ceony possesses a secret, he vows to discover it…even if it tears apart the very fabric of their magical world. After a series of attacks target Ceony, and catch those she holds most dear in the crossfire, she knows she must find the true limits of her powers…and keep her knowledge from falling into wicked hands. The delightful sequel to Charlie N. Holmberg's The Paper Magician, The Glass Magician will charm listeners young and old alike.

 

Review:

I enjoyed “The Glass Magician”, by Charlie N. Holmberg, far more than I did its predecessor, “The Paper Magician”.

The plot flows extremely well and is engaging from the first chapter, bringing more spark to the world established in the first of the series.  I found myself fascinated with the inner workings of the magical world, all the way from the apprentices to the villains.  All of them are intriguing, and I am looking forward to learning more of their stories in the next book.  There is a surprise point of view changed for one chapter that I loved reading, as well.

The various forms of magic are clever and fun to read about, and much like choosing which house you should be in if you were to attend Hogwarts, I dare you not to give a good bit of thought to which material you would like to bond.  The mix of the steampunk, fantasy, romance, and history works well together to make a world I think many readers would like to visit.

Highly recommended.  Also, if you do not love Emery Thane, I do not think we can ever be friends.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Brief Language, Brief and Mild Sexual Situations, Violence

The Paper Magician

The Paper Magician Book Cover The Paper Magician
The Paper Magician, Book 1
Charlie N. Holmberg
Fiction
47North
2014-09-01
214

Under the tutelage of magician Emery Thane, Ceony Twill discovers the wonders of paper magic, but when her teacher's life is threatened, she must face the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic to save him.

 

Review:

“The Paper Magician”, by Charlie N. Holmberg, is a fun fantasy novel with some steampunk leanings mixed in for good measure.

The story itself, about a young magician’s apprentice named Ceony training under, well, a paper magician, is imaginative and a new take on magic.  I, for one, would never have considered paper to be used as a form of magic, but with the parallels to the art of origami explored within the novel, it all comes alive.

The world is complex and whimsical, with just the right touch of evil lurking in the shadows.  The characters are well-developed, and their histories are revealed in what has to be the most unique way I have ever read.  Which, while being a high point of the novel, is unfortunately also its biggest flaw.

In the revelation, which is most of the second half of the story, it becomes muddled and bogged down, leading to a sluggish read.  A bit of editing and clarification here and there would have done wonders for the flow.  As it stands, what could have been wonderful became somewhat mediocre by the stilted narrative often throwing me out of the story altogether.

That being said, the ending left me wanting to read the next book in the series, and I am hoping the issues in “The Paper Magician” do not reoccur, as it really does hold the promise of a fun and engaging series that can be read by middle readers on up through adults.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Mild Language, Violence, Brief Sexual Situations

 

The Book of Ivy

The Book of Ivy Book Cover The Book of Ivy
Amy Engel
Juvenile Fiction
Entangled: Teen
2014-11-11
304

What would you kill for? After a brutal nuclear war, the United States was left decimated. A small group of survivors eventually banded together, but only after more conflict over which family would govern the new nation. The Westfalls lost. Fifty years later, peace and control are maintained by marrying the daughters of the losing side to the sons of the winning group in a yearly ritual. This year, it is my turn. My name is Ivy Westfall, and my mission is simple: to kill the president’s son—my soon-to-be husband—and return the Westfall family to power. But Bishop Lattimer is either a very skilled actor or he’s not the cruel, heartless boy my family warned me to expect. He might even be the one person in this world who truly understands me. But there is no escape from my fate. I am the only one who can restore the Westfall legacy. Because Bishop must die. And I must be the one to kill him…

 

Review:

“The Book of Ivy”, by Amy Engel, is one of the best and most engaging YA dystopian novels I have ever read.  It manages to combine a heavy dose of romance with excellent world building and heavy situations.

From the first paragraph, the character of Ivy and her life is a complex mystery that grabs you and leaves you wanting to know more.  As the world slowly develops and unfolds, so does Ivy’s past.  It’s extremely well-paced, careful to reveal just enough to keep with flowing without making the ending predictable.

There are some very heavy subjects dealt with in an unflinching manner, but none of them are gratuitous.  The bad behavior is just that – bad, with no excuses or justification.  To counter it, there are many examples of respecting the wishes of others, treating those of the opposite sex with the respect they deserve, and standing up for what you believe is right.

The mix of romance, intrigue, and action makes “The Book of Ivy” a wonderful read for almost anyone who enjoys young adult literature, as well as many adults who just need to pick up a novel like it to realize they will enjoy it, too.  While there are dark subjects, I have no trouble recommending it for readers in their teens due to the responsible nature in which it is all handled.

In short, five stars, two thumbs up, and a high recommendation.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Sexual Situations, Rape, Abuse

The Walled City

The Walled City Book Cover The Walled City
Ryan Graudin
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-11-04
448

730. That's how many days I've been trapped.18. That's how many days I have left to find a way out. DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible.... JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister.... MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She's about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window..... In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

 

Review:

I am not sure what I expected when I first began to read “The Walled City”, by Ryan Graudin, but it was certainly not what I got.  It is gritty, violent, and faces the most unpleasant of subjects head-on, weaving through three different points of view, with totally different lives, to create what eventually becomes a satisfying whole.

While it reads as a dystopia, The Walled City is actually based upon an actual place that once existed in Hong Kong.  Once you finish the book, I highly recommend reading a bit about Kowloon.  It is equal parts horrifying and fascinating, and it will give a real appreciation of how much research the author did to recreate the unimaginable living conditions in her novel.  It’s a history buff’s dream.

All of the characters are well-developed, and all three plot lines are intriguing and filled with detail.  The reader can almost feel the desperation faced by the residents of The Walled City themselves.  There is good flow and almost seamless transitions from one point of view to the next.  The reason I gave it four stars, instead of five, is that some of the relationship dynamics seemed a bit forced, but otherwise it is a good, solid read.

I recommend “The Walled City” for those in high school and above, or very advanced older middle school readers, due to the intensity of some of the subject matter.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Violence, Child Trafficking, Child Prostitution, Heavy Drug Usage

Undivided

UnDivided Book Cover UnDivided
Unwind Dystology, Book 4
Neal Shusterman
Juvenile Fiction
Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
2014-10-14
384

Teens control the fate of America in the fourth and final book in the New York Times bestselling Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman. Proactive Citizenry, the company that created Cam from the parts of unwound teens, has a plan: to mass produce rewound teens like Cam for military purposes. And below the surface of that horror lies another shocking level of intrigue: Proactive Citizenry has been suppressing technology that could make unwinding completely unnecessary. As Conner, Risa, and Lev uncover these startling secrets, enraged teens begin to march on Washington to demand justice and a better future. But more trouble is brewing. Starkey’s group of storked teens is growing more powerful and militant with each new recruit. And if they have their way, they’ll burn the harvest camps to the ground and put every adult in them before a firing squad—which could destroy any chance America has for a peaceful future.

 

Review:

“Undivided”, the last book in the Unwind dystology by Neal Shusterman, is everything a final book in a series should be.  It is sheer perfection from beginning to end.

All of the characters introduced previously are developed even more, and their stories manage to come full-circle.  All of the plot is consistent with the previous books, without one single detail out of line with what has already been established.  In fact, even small details from the first book, “Unwind”, are brought back in “Undivided”.  I am looking forward to reading all four books in a row so I can fully appreciate all of the details that were sprinkled throughout.

It’s difficult to say much without spoiling everything.  “Undivided” is a deeply disturbing novel, as it should be, and unflinching in the various topics explored, ranging from human rights to abortion.  It will make you question your own beliefs and search your soul.  It may even change you in ways you never expected.

Thank you, Mr. Shusterman, for such an excellent series.  It will always remain one of my favorites.

Five stars.  I wish I could give it more.

 

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Violence, Disturbing Imagery

Endgame: The Calling

Endgame: The Calling Book Cover Endgame: The Calling
Endgame, Book 1
James Frey, Nils Johnson-Shelton,
Juvenile Fiction
HarperCollins
2014-10-07
480

Twelve ancient cultures were chosen millennia ago to represent humanity in Endgame, a global game that will decide the fate of humankind. Endgame has always been a possibility, but never a reality…until now. Twelve meteorites have just struck Earth, each meteorite containing a message for a Player who has been trained for this moment. At stake for the Players: saving their bloodline, as well as the fate of the world. And only one can win. Endgame is real. Endgame is now. Endgame has begun. Google Niantic is building a mobile location-based augmented reality videogame inextricably tied to the books and mythology, a major prize will be tied to a puzzle in each book, and Twentieth Century Fox has bought the movie rights. Read the Books. Find the Clues. Solve the Puzzle. Who will Win?

 

Review:

“Endgame: The Calling” is a very unique take on the apocalyptic genre, merging both a story and a puzzle.  The first to solve the puzzle will win a hefty amount, and the gold is actually on display at Caeser’s Palace in Las Vegas.

My review is based on the story itself.  I intend to reread it and try to solve the puzzle at some point.

The story was somewhat slow in the beginning, with so many characters that it was difficult to follow difficult to follow.  Mixed in with a large amount of information clearly meant to be used solely in solving the puzzle, and a very slow revelation of the nature of the story, and I became disenchanted with it.  Having a review copy, I continued to read,  and I really am glad that I did.

The story slowly comes together to make a remarkable and unique plot.  All of the characters take on a life of their own, with complex feelings and backstories, leaving you feeling like you are a part of the “game” they are playing.  Without realizing it, I was emotionally invested in every character’s story.  The ending was a perfect gateway into the sequel, which I very much look forward to.

I recommend this to those who enjoy apocalyptic thrillers, do not mind violence in what they read, and who are willing to play along with the puzzle.  I wish I had from the very beginning, as that would have made it more enjoyable and less difficult to get into.

This review is based on a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Content Warning:

Language, Sexual Situations, Heavy Violence

UnSouled

UnSouled Book Cover UnSouled
UnWind Dystology, Book 3
Neal Shusterman
Juvenile Fiction
Simon and Schuster
2014-10-14
432

After the destruction of the Graveyard, Connor and Lev are on the run, seeking a woman who may be the key to bringing down unwinding forever while Cam, the rewound boy, tries to prove his love for Risa by bringing Proactive Citizenry to its knees.

 

Review:

“UnSouled”, the third book in the brilliant Unwind Dystology by Neal Shusterman, is the best in the series thus far.  It takes the existentialist themes to an entirely new level.

It’s difficult to review “UnSouled” without giving away major plot developments, so please excuse the generalities found in this review.

There are many difficult questions that can make the reader uneasy, as they should, because there are no real answers.  What is a soul?  Can only God create it?  What control do we have over what makes us who we are?  All of these questions are presented so well, with arguments from different points of view, that I believe “UnSouled” should be taught in upper level english classes as the perfect example of existentialism.

The plot is engaging, and it flows perfectly from the previous book, “UnDivided”. Nothing seems forced and the progression of society seems natural.  Character development is deep and well-executed.  The issue of human rights, and to what degree should society interfere with those rights with criminals, adds another dimension to an already excellent book.

I recommend “UnSouled” for all readers who like books that aren’t afraid to make them uncomfortable.  It’s wonderful and definitely worth the ride.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Language, Sexual Situations, Disturbing Imagery

Waistcoats and Weaponry

Waistcoats & Weaponry Book Cover Waistcoats & Weaponry
Finishing School, Book 3
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2014-11-04
304

Class is back in session... Sophronia continues her second year at finishing school in style--with a steel-bladed fan secreted in the folds of her ball gown, of course. Such a fashionable choice of weapon comes in handy when Sophronia, her best friend Dimity, sweet sootie Soap, and the charming Lord Felix Mersey stowaway on a train to return their classmate Sidheag to her werewolf pack in Scotland. No one suspected what--or who--they would find aboard that suspiciously empty train. Sophronia uncovers a plot that threatens to throw all of London into chaos and she must decide where her loyalties lie, once and for all. Gather your poison, steel tipped quill, and the rest of your school supplies and join Mademoiselle Geraldine's proper young killing machines in the third rousing installment in the New York Times bestselling Finishing School Series by steampunk author, Gail Carriger.

 

Review:

“Waistcoats and Weaponry” is the latest in the Finishing School series by Gail Carriger, and it is by far my favorite thus far.

The book begins with Sophronia’s second year at her finishing school for espionage.  Many things have changed, not the least of which being the challenges that come with being older.  Young men, potential sponsors, marriage, and prospective employment keep Sophronia on her toes.

As with the Harry Potter series, the topics explored in “Waistcoats and Weaponry” are geared toward a bit older set than the previous two of the series.  While it is still suitable for middle readers, it should be noted that there is quite a bit more dealing with sex, though nothing is graphic.  It also delves much more deeply into the matters of politics and the supernatural.

The adventure is darker, but still keeps the humor and detail that makes the series  so enjoyable.  I highly recommend “Waistcoats and Weaponry” to all of those who enjoy the first two of the Finishing School Series.

This review is based on an advanced copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Sexual Situations

Curtsies and Conspiracies

Curtsies & Conspiracies Book Cover Curtsies & Conspiracies
Finishing School, Book 2
Gail Carriger
Juvenile Fiction
Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
2013-11-05
320

Does one need four fully grown foxgloves for decorating a dinner table for six guests? Or is it six foxgloves to kill four fully grown guests? Sophronia's first year at Mademoiselle Geraldine's Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality has certainly been rousing! For one thing, finishing school is training her to be a spy--won't Mumsy be surprised? Furthermore, Sophronia got mixed up in an intrigue over a stolen device and had a cheese pie thrown at her in a most horrid display of poor manners. Now, as she sneaks around the dirigible school, eavesdropping on the teachers' quarters and making clandestine climbs to the ship's boiler room, she learns that there may be more to a field trip to London than is apparent at first. A conspiracy is afoot--one with dire implications for both supernaturals and humans. Sophronia must rely on her training to discover who is behind the dangerous plot-and survive the London Season with a full dance card. In this sequel to New York Times bestselling Etiquette & Espionage, class is back in session with more petticoats and poison, tea trays and treason. Gail's distinctive voice, signature humor, and lush steampunk setting are sure to be the height of fashion this season.

 

Review:

As with its predecessor, “Curtsies and Conspiracies” is about the life of Sophronia in a unique finishing school for espionage in Victorian England.  It continues the Finishing School series in a way that leaves the reader looking for more.

“Curtsies and Conspiracies” is a wonderfully written adventure full of imagination and all of the wonderful imagery found in the best of steampunk novels.  The characters are well-developed and relatable in spite of being set in an entirely different period of history.  The one drawback is that while there is mystery, it is definitely setting the plot and character for advancement in the next book in the series.  That provides a little less spark of the first one, but is necessary to further the character development.

The attention to the details of fashion and speech from Victorian England are so vivid that the novel also serves as a history lesson of sorts.  The tongue-in-cheek humor about how things were done is delightful and shows how much society has changed over time.  The strong female protagonist sets a good example, and this series remains an excellent introduction to steampunk that can be enjoyed by middle readers, as well as those far beyond the age of a finishing school student.

I highly recommend “Curtsies and Conspiracies”, with a word of caution that the language of the period may be a turn off for more reluctant readers.

This review is based upon a complimentary copy provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

 

Content Warning:

Violence, Brief and Mild Sexual Situations