Tag Archives: young adult fiction

A Different Me- Review


I was asked to read this for a review. It is far outside my normal genres, (But I never deny a request!) Having said that, it’s not the first time I have read this far outside my norm by request, but this has by far been my most impressive readI was surprised by this book, and think it’s deserving of 5 stars. This book will come highly recommended from me to its intended audience (Girls 13-18.)

I think the meaning behind the song “Demons” by Imagine Dragons and A Different Me are very similar. It is a strange comparison, but you’ll understand that correlation after reading it. Both sum up a concept of there is way more going on under the surface than you can possibly figure out from appearances.

I have never read anything from Deborah Blumenthal, but I could tell this was not her first book. The writing was on point, exceptionally so. Blumenthal managed to create not one or two, but an entire cast of characters that felt real and deep on a level that hard to attain. I was further surprised at the character development, specifically the main character Allie, as well as David and Amber. Being able to add such multi-level depth and development to multiple characters is no small feat. Allie begins as a typical high school girl, and her problems and value set are those of a high school. I felt like I was watching a person, not reading a character. Then through a set of outside influences, Blumenthal transforms Allie in a way that feels so natural that it is hard to believe the girl at the end was the same as the one in the beginning.

This book has the ability to leave a lasting effect on certain readers. The story is clearly meant for girls 13-18 and I think it will hit its intended audience right on the mark. All the characters signify many stereotypical personas encountered in high-school, then open up to levels of insecurities and deeper issues that many individuals deal with at some point in their lives.

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Magic Ain’t So Bad

The Quick Review:
Bad magic is a fun book to read. A blend of magic, mystery, adventure, and a little comedy give the reader plenty of reasons not to put the story down. The writing is up tempo and quirky and is a very nice change in storytelling from a typical third person.
This is the first book in a new series by Pseudonyms Bosch, as well as the first book I have read of this particular author. This series ties into his previous one, which I plan to read after reading Bad Magic.

Story Summary:

(Taken from Goodreads)

As in fake. Cheesy. Unreal. At least, that’s what Clay, who has seen one magic show too many, thinks.

When words from his journal appear mysteriously on his school wall as graffiti, he never imagines that magic might be to blame. And when the same graffiti lands him at Earth Ranch, a camp for “troubled” kids on a remote volcanic island, magic is the last thing he expects to find there.

But at Earth Ranch, there is one strange surprise after another, until Clay no longer knows what to expect. Is he really talking to a llama? Did he really see a ghost? What is the scary secret hidden in the abandoned library? The only thing he knows for sure is that behind the clouds of vog (volcanic smog), nothing is as it seems. Can he solve the riddle of Earth Ranch before trouble erupts?

Elusive author Pseudonymous Bosch introduces an extraordinary new series that will have you believing in the unbelievable.

The Longer Review:
I think this story is a more exciting read if it is the first Book you have read from the author. Not having the familiarity with the author’s previous works makes it hard to peg where the story is going, and this adds to the excitement of the story. I Thought I had the story figured out, but the plot line moved back and forth making it hard to figure out how the book would end.

The narration is third person. The stories read as if someone is telling you the story. The narrator adds plenty of anecdotes to the story as he goes, sometimes adding his own personal opinions. I liked it; it is a different style and keeps the story fun and active.

Clay is a nice main character. He basically comes off as a C student Skateboarder with a knack for magic tricks, even though he hates magic. He isn’t an exemplary kid, but not a bad one either. His nerdy Big-Bang-Theory parents who take a hands off approach to parenting attribute to much of his misguided-ness as well as dealing with the disappearance of his brother. His parents are unique as far as support characters I’ve read, nice to see them break the parent molds we commonly see.

Conclusion:

Definitely a good read. A magic-mystery Survivor feel to it. Easy to start on this series and not Bosch’s original series. The original stories are in the same story arc as these. I want to read Bosch’s previous series now that I have read this one.

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The Map to Everywhere

 

 

The Quick Review:
This is the best read of the year. I loved it so much I will buy the hardcover when it comes out, even though I got the E-book for free. This book series will fit well into a shelf filled with Brandon Mull and Rick Riordan. The cover is one of those covers that make you want to buy the book (because everyone does judge books by their covers) and the story doesn’t let you down. Everything about this story feels different, original, and all blends together perfectly.

Story Summary:

(Taken from Goodreads) To Master Thief Fin, an orphan from the murky pirate world of the Khaznot Quay, the Map is the key to finding his mother. To suburban schoolgirl Marrill, it’s her only way home after getting stranded on the Pirate Stream, the magical waterway which connects every world in creation (Apparently she shouldn’t have climbed aboard the mysterious pirate ship that sailed out of nowhere and into a dry Arizona parking lot. How was she to know?).

With the help of a bumbling wizard and his crew, they must scour the many worlds of the Pirate Stream to gather the pieces of the Map to Everywhere, but they aren’t the only ones looking. A dark and sinister figure is hot on their tail, and if they can’t beat his ghostly ship to find the Map, it could mean the destruction of everything they hold dear-not least of all themselves!

In Carrie Ryan and John Parke Davis’ first installment of a fantastical new series, adventure, magic, and hilarity collide in the treacherous skies and dangerous waters of the Pirate Stream. Heart-pounding escapades and a colorful cast of characters will have readers setting sail through this wholly original and unforgettable tale.

The Longer Review:

This book had a lot of “Why hasn’t anyone thought of that before” moments. It felt very original. Fin, one of the two main characters is fresh and completely out of the box. Many of the characters just struck me as different I didn’t find myself thinking about stereotypical characters types at all. There is no info dump and all the characters still have some mystery about them by the end of the book.

The scenery and locations in this book are fantastic. There all unexpected and it is hard to guess ahead to what’s in store as Fin and Marill travel down the pirate stream. They, along with the corky wizard Ardent and stern Captain Coll, hope from realm to realm on a magic induced goose chase that is hard to foreshadow. The story is very well thought out, the authors must have layered and re-layered the plot along the way. Every little detail in every chapter is related to the ending. Things I read over as such minor details became important at the end. There was no fluff or unnecessary chapters.

I disagree with the reviewers who say this book is too confusing. Middle school readers will have a fine time following along with this book. If the intended reader can keep up with a Fable haven book, then they will be fine reading through The Map to Everywhere.

There are a bunch of visuals that are going to be added to the final version that were left out of the advanced read copy. I want to know what they are! The book doesn’t need pictures, the writing is great, but the inner child in me wants to see the pictures. I want to see the movie as well. Can we get started on making that? There’s going to be a lot of cgi involved, so they need to get started now.

Conclusion:
Again, my read of the year. And that’s after reading Some Riordan earlier in the year (one of my favorites.) This book has the potential to be huge. I really hope it is. I want this to become a long series.

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Empress Fallen by Bethan-Ann Scott – Review

4/5 Stars

The Quick Review:

Space-Adventure fans- get ready for you new favorite series!

Empress Fallen is a strong first novel from new author Bethan-Ann Scott.  A dark, high-octane novel that is surprisingly profound. All the action scenes are intensely exciting. This book is filled with an array of exciting ship battles and firefights to rival scenes from Star Wars and Star Trek.

The Longer Review:

Empress fallen takes place far in the future (7000’s AD) long after the destruction of earth.  Spaceships reminiscent of those of Star Trek and a galaxy run by an Empire that feels more oppressive than that of Star Wars.  It has all the excitement of a good Sci-Fi series, yet is darker and exaggerates moral issues present in today’s society. The action scenes are intense and stimulating and very well written.

The first part of the book was mainly set up and back-story.  Scott’s galaxy is very complex, and takes a large amount of set up to understand. A great fantasy world is one that is thorough; one that exists more off the page than on. Scott has created a fantastic realm, and I am excited to read more in it.

This book is most definitely a Space opera. Many of the characters and ideas build around exaggerated feeling and concepts; amplifying emotions and moralities present in today’s culture and politics. This is my first drama (and space drama) read; at times the character personalities felt too over the top for me, but I cannot compare to anything else.

The Story:

A tyrannical empire filled with corruption, a danger that could destroy the entire human race.  Miriam and Aliya find their destinies inexplicably intertwined as they fight to save an empire that they have been brought up to hate. Will they be able to save humanity and destroy the oppressive rule of the empress and still make it out alive? (Well you have to read to find out ;P ) A story filled with war, rebellion, intense ship battles, love, and secrecy. I thoroughly enjoyed this story from start to finish!

The Writing: 

Bethan-Ann Scott writes amazing action and fight scenes. She adds enough visual for your imagination to create the imagery, but does not bog the story down with descriptiveness.

The first half of the story felt more like the intended Space-Opera genre; the second half of the book read more like Space-Adventure. Personally, I though the Space-Adventure portions were more exciting to read and felt more naturally written.  Scott has a natural ability for action and fight scenes; her writing portrays this and is an obvious strength.

Scott writer consists of many short sentences. A good amount of them were one word; either a name or re-emphasized thought. (This maybe a norm in the drama/opera genre, but was not something I was accustomed to.)  This made the beginning chapters and certain scenes feel a little choppy. Once the action kicked in to full throttle (around page 80) it felt like the sentencing smoothed out and the story flowed very naturally.

 

The Characters:

The character cast is very large and they all have uncommon names.  One of the few critiques I have is that a character/place list and maybe a key term list be added to the beginning or end of the book.  I frequently confused support characters with each other through the first half of the book; about halfway through I sorted them all out in my head.

The POV of the story follows 2 main characters; Miriam a ship captain/pilot; and Aliya, a rebellious slave girl. Miriam and Aliya begin as very similar characters; strong females, have lost parents, are from high rank families, and became fugitives. Overall, they are both pessimistic and anger is their dominant emotion. They both have love interests that are more even tempered then they are. They have leadership qualities, are hot-tempered, zone out in thought occasionally, and have major insecurities they do not like to share.

Their characters become more unique, develop well and gain more depth as the story progresses.  I liked Miriam’s development and the well rounded character she became for the second half of the novel.

Aliya consistently made irrational, brash decisions from start to finish. She is very headstrong and emotionally in the moment.  It seems like every decision she makes has the large possibility to kill everyone; and she would be dead in moments if it weren’t for those around her. She walks a fine line between peoples’ champion and death. Although frustrating, creates excitement and action chapter to chapter. She does not fit a stereotypical “main character” role. I am interested to see how she develops moving forward in the second book.

Conclusion:

Empress Fallen is definitely worth the read, especially for Sci-Fi fans.  It might not  appeal to you, depending on the level of drama you are accustomed to, but try it out. Bethan-Ann Scott is a very young and talented writer, so give Empress fallen a read and jump on her “fan” bandwagon early!

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Blackbrooke: Book I of the Trilogy – Review

Blackbrooke

4.5 Stars

The short:

Blackbrooke had me on the edge of my seat and kept my heart racing.  Emma Silver filled Blackbrooke with vivid emotion and suspense. I found myself surprised at every turn as the plot did not do what I anticipated or expected. Emma Silver writes emotions so well they explode off the page and into your heart.

As a male reader, I half expected something along the lines of Twilight and City of Bones- This was a very wrong assumption. Blackbrooke is a very suspenseful horror.  It has a great blend of thrills, mystery, gruesomeness, love, and excitement.

A read that will appeal most to 13-18 year old girls, but an exciting read for anyone who loves fiction and suspense.  I think some male readers will not connect with the story, especially in the beginning. My advice is to read it; you will not want to put it down as the mystery heightens in Blackbrooke.

The Long:

I thought I knew what to expect at certain points along the storyline (I was Wrong!)I consistently found myself surprised when the plot went in a different direction than I anticipated. It created a lot of excitement to read the unexpected events and character decisions that unfolded throughout the story, especially in the middle chapters.

The suspense, oh my god, the suspense was amazing.  My jaw dropped a couple of times as I was reading. There was some gruesomeness, but not overdone. The book did not scare me while I read it; it did thrill me beyond belief! The horror aspect of Blackbrooke would transfer well to a theatrical horror film.

The story came to its first climax about three quarters of the way through when Lib put all the pieces of the puzzle together. Blackbrooke was a rush of excitement and anticipation up until this point. Afterwards, I felt like the books excitement settled down a bit (until the very end where the plot turned unexpectedly yet again and threw me for another loop.) Emma wrote a couple of chapters to develop the character relationships while they prepared for the end. These chapters did a good job with the character development, but they were a little too off pace to the rest of the story. I think Emma’s intended audience (mid-teen girls) will find these chapters more enjoyable than I did.

Emma wrote a fantastic, cliffhanging end to Blackbrooke.  I again found myself not knowing what to expect as I read the final 2 chapters.  The end blew my mind and left me dying to read part II.

Pros:

Emma Silver writes emotions you can really feel as you read.

Super thrilling and shocking plot twists

Foreshadowing that made Blackbrooke super suspenseful and not-at-all expected.

Does not use typical supernatural beings. Original supernatural beings called Crits

Cons:

The book did not hook me from in the very beginning, (just kept me curious to keep going until the story exploded.)

Uneven pace at times.

A couple sections where I felt a little more editing would have cleared some of my  confusion.

The Story:

Blackbrooke, the town where everyone know monsters exist, but they only exist here. Avoiding them is just part of life for the residents of Blackbrooke. The monsters, called crits, only roam at night. Blackbrooke has a pact with the monsters that lets humans live by day, and crits by night; anyone who breaks these rules is fair game.

Liberty Connor is planning to leave Blackbrooke when she turns 18. Everyone gets one chance to leave and never return at that age. You just have to survive until then, and not “walk out.”  Lib is suspicious when her friends begin to “walk out” in the middle of the night to be eaten by crits.  She goes on a hunt to find the truth behind Blackbrooke, the Crits, and the secrets that the local hide from the kids.

The Writing: 

Blackbrooke is set in the first person view of Liberty Connor. This is the first YA fiction novel that I have read in first person that I can recall. Emma does an excellent job writing in this point of view. It took me 2-3 chapters to adjust to this POV, and then I found myself racing through the pages to see what happens next.

Emma expresses her characters’ emotions so they jump out of the pages. I felt very engaged, as if I was experiencing the joy, anxiety, anger, curiosity, etc. of Libby as she narrated her story. I think one of the marks of a strong and talented writer is the ability to turn characters’ emotions into something real. Emma did an amazing job.

The structure of the writing was good overall. There were a few places where I did not understand what a sentence or paragraph was portraying. I believe part of this might be the differences in colloquialisms between The UK and America.

The Characters:

Liberty “Libby” Connor- Libby is a rule abiding good student. She is safe, boring, and blends in in the beginning of the book. She has jock and popular friends, but does not fit that stereotype herself.  Through the course of the story she develops rebelliousness in her spurred by the loss of her friends.  She is very clever, but sometimes headstrong.

Cassius- Lib’s childhood friend. He is a tall and skinny albino.  Lib was very protective of him when they were children. The roles get reversed now that they are in their teens.  Lib abandoned their friendship for several years when she started hanging out with Gemma, Noah, and Gabriel.  Cassius is a very well written character and stands out from others in Emma’s writing.

Gemma Jones-  An attractive and flirtatious rule breaker. She is the best friend of Libby and girlfriend of Noah. Gemma and Lib are practically sisters.  She is the daughter of the school’s head master.

Gabriel- Libby’s boyfriend. He is a very athletic football player. He and Lib plan to leave Blackbrooke to travel the world.

Noah- Gabriel’s best friend and Gemma’s boyfriend. He is also an athletic football player. He dislikes Cassius, who is one of Lib’s childhood friends.

Conclusion:

Blackbrooke is a powerful start to an original trilogy. This is a book you will want to read no matter what genre you prefer.  I am excited to read the second installment of the Blackbrooke series.

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The Door Within (The Door Within Trilogy: book 1) Review

 4/5 stars

A Christian-fantasy novel by Wayne Thomas Batson that is entertaining for Christians and non-Christians alike. (Coming from a reader who does not typically read Christian novels.) The Door Within is action packed from start to finish and is filled with good morals and lessons.

The hybrid of Chronicles of Narnia and Lord of the Rings. The Door within is a magical fantasy read that is enjoyable for all ages. It is an easy read for children and tweens who might find The Lord of The Rings a confusing book to read at their age level.

The Door Within might feel too simple if you only enjoy reading at the level of Tolkien and George R. R. Martin’s Game of Thrones.

Pros:

Easy reading page turner

Classically entertaining medieval fantasy

Likeable characters

Very well written allegory

Cons:

Some character clichés

Simpler story if you prefer adult fiction fantasy. (Not a problem for me, but for some it is)

The Long:

Wayne Thomas Batson’s first novel has characters and plots similar to The Chronicles of Narnia, while being set in a real that show similarities to Middle-Earth. The story is just plain enjoyable, especially for a middle school boy. The realm that Batson creates is one than any imaginative boy dreams of going to himself; a place where you can go from an ordinary kid to a heroic knight.

Batson fills his story with a cast of likable and straight forward heroes.  The villain characters are also very straightforward. Good is good and bad is bad; there is not as much in-between in this novel.

While the realm in The Door Within holds similarities to other reals, Batson creates unique concepts in this storyline. Particularly the main beings or the realm, glimpses, and their ability to change eye color based on allegiance.

This is a novel I did not want to end. I was excited and eagerly anticipated the second novel, which did not disappoint. (Review for that one to come!)

The Story:

Aidan is the quintessential, average grade school kid.  He has a relationship with his parents you have seen in novels before. His family uproots him from his new school to move to Colorado to aid his sick grandfather. He finds 3 scrolls that, after reading, bring him to a parallel realm called Alleble. He is chosen as the 12th knight in a quest to unite a neighboring land with Alleble to help fight the tide of the villainous Paragor.

Batson’s realm might feel a little lighter than Middle-earth, but contains very unique and original ideas as well. The inhabitants are called Glimpses, which are a humans’ other-realm counterpart. A human and his glimpse may not be in the same real at the same time. If one dies, so does the other. Some religions and past cultures have similar beliefs. Glimpses are a similar concept to Grimes from Moroccan folklore.

Glimpses have a good, neutral, or bad relationship with King Eliam (the god-like character.) A glimpses eyes change color depending on allegiance. Blue for good; green for neutral, and red for bad. I love this was to portray character affiliation. The concept felt original compared to other fantasies I have read.

The Writing: 

Batson uses plenty of allegory in his writing. Most of the allegory flows very well, and some of it is unnoticeable to a reader who does not commonly read Christian works.  Other Christian novels I have read fell to preachy to me. The Door within did not feel like this at any point.  There is no doubt that Batson found a perfect writing style to satisfy Christian and non-Christian readers alike.

The writing is very appropriate for the 9-15 age level. Not too complex, but enough so that it can challenge a young reads vocabulary.  There are lessons and morals woven throughout that teach valuable lessons while providing a likable story.

The Characters:

Batson’s character are mostly straight forward. With the exception of one or two, they are either clearly good or clearly evil. Batson’s characters are believable personas and feel natural despite the lack of internal struggle between good vs. evil.

Many of the hero characters will share resemblances to characters you have read before. Whether or not I believed some of the character were clichés, I found that I really liked who they were and how they acted throughout the story. Perfect examples would be Knock and Bolt, who share commonalities to elven archers such as Legolas. These 2 were my favorite characters of the 12 chosen knights of Alleble. I found myself wanting to visit the Yewland and meet this pair of archers.

Aidan Thomas- may come off as too unhappy a kid. He feels like an average 13 year old despite his unhappiness. Teen boys will be able to relate to his averageness. The move to Colorado feels like an occurrence that is believable in an everyday setting. He evolves into a heroic character throughout the novel.

Robby- Aidan’s friend from back home in Maryland. A popular boy who was one of the only good things in Aiden’s life until the move to Colorado.

Paragor- The villain character. He is a classical all-evil destroy everything for power type of guy.

King Eliam- the God/Jesus like character. Ruler of Alleble, the real of good. Believers of the one true king have eyes that glint green.

Captain Valithor- Captain of the 12 chosen knights, the Elder guard. A great character for Aidan to look up to as he develops into a hero. Valithor is a strong and dependable leader for the team.

Gwenne- The love interest of Aiden. She is a reliable Glimpse warrior on the Elder Guard team of 12.

Conclusion:

This hardcover is one of my favorites. The pages of the novel are printed to look old and scroll-like. The extra effort for presentation makes this a great novel to have in hardcover displayed on a prominent shelf.

Knights, dragons, huge battles, a budding love interest, and a struggle between good vs. evil. All the makings of a great fantasy series. An easy page turner that has me excited for the next installment. I have suggested this book to most of my family, and everyone has loved it!

 This was one of my first and favorite YA fiction reads!

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