Neal Shusterman is one of my favorite authors, so I wanted to read this book the moment I heard about it. I really enjoyed this book overall, but there were a few points where it fell short for me. Continue reading
Titles: The Demon King, The Exiled Queen, The Gray Wolf Throne, The Crimson Crown
Author: Cinda Williams Chima
Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy
Synopsis: A thousand years ago seven realms were one and wizards ruled like tyrants, but no longer. Now the queendom of the Fells is ruled not by magic users, but by the queens of the gray wolf line. Raisa ana’Marianna, the princess heir, is frustrated by the fact that she is trapped in the palace unable to make changes to improve the lives of her citizens. Meanwhile, ex-thief Han Alister, knows how bad life can get in the Fells. He only wants to keep his family fed and alive, but manages to get himself tangled in wizard politics anyway.
Review: This series took a little while for me to get into the first book, but after I finished The Demon King I was hooked and marathoned the rest of the books.
My favorite aspect of this series was probably the world building. Often in YA fantasy novels the world seems very underdeveloped, but that was not the case here. I enjoyed reading about all of the seven realms various cultures and the tensions between them though the name of this series is somewhat deceptive as it manly focuses on one of the seven kingdoms in this world known as the Fells.
This series often references historical events in the seven realms. I really like when fictional historical events help shape the present in fictional universes because it makes them feel more realistic. Though, as most of the events referenced happened a thousand years ago, it was somewhat unrealistic that so little had changed since then, but this is a common occurrence in fantasy novels so I’m willing to ignore this fact. The ways that the historical facts had been distorted with time made me think a lot about how our own history has been manipulated.
I liked that the romance in this series never overshadowed the fantasy elements. The romance gradual in development which is something I really appreciated, though I do somewhat wish Hans and Raisa had spent more time together in the early books.
Many of the characters were very well developed. Our male main character, Hans, was probably my favorite. I found his backstory as a reformed thief fascinating.
These books just seemed to get better and better as the series went on. Each book seemed to expand upon the scope of the world a little more, and the plot progressed nicely with several twists. It’s not often that I feel the urge to read all the books in a four book long series in a row, but this series continued to feel fresh and engaging throughout.
What readers should know: This series contains vague references to an instance in which a major character’s mother was raped long before the first book began resulting in the birth of aforementioned major character. Besides that there is a fair amount of violence including the torture of a major character. Readers should also know that although the first book is called “The Demon King” and the word “demon” is used on several occasions I don’t remember any demonic intervention/demons getting page time.
Rating: This was an engaging YA high fantasy series. I recommend it for fans of the genre or trying to get into high/epic fantasy as I think this would be a good series to start with. I can’t wait for the spin-off series to be released.
Title: The Wrath and the Dawn
Author: Renee Ahdieh
Publication date: May 12, 2015
Genres: Young Adult, High Fantasy, Retelling, Romance
Synopsis:.Everyday a brings new bride and every dawn brings their death. For unknown reasons, Khalid, the Caliph of Khorasan, marries a new woman each day before having her executed at dawn and repeating the cycle a new. Among the victims was Shahrahzad’s best friend and she is determined to avenge her death.
Shahrahzad has volunteered to marry the Caliph for the opportunity to get close to the Caliph. It was Shahrahzad’s plan to kill the Caliph, but as she speaks with him Shahrazad realizes the Caliph is not who she thought he was. All the same, Shahrahzad is determined to put an end to the murders. She will survive the dawn.
Review: I read this book directly after finishing The Hero of Ages (The conclusion to Brandon Sanderson’s original Mistborn Trilogy). After enjoying that book so thoroughly and knowing this one was high fantasy, I went into this expecting to be disappointed. Fortunately, I instead found this to be an engaging, interesting read.
This book is a retelling of 1001 Nights. I was not very familiar with the story line of 1001 Nights, so I can’t judge the quality of the adaptation, but this story made me interested in reading the original work. This retelling focuses on the ongoing plot linking the many stories within 1001 Nights together.
Our main character, Shahrzad, is a very determined young woman and remained so throughout. I liked that she never let Khalid, the Caliph, scare her into submission although she was scared at times for good reason. She also never forgot what Khalid had done or entirely forgave him even as she started spending more time with him. This is something I can’t say about a lot of YA characters and it makes me appreciate Shahrzad even more for it. The retelling didn’t put much emphasis on the stories Shahrazad told during the night, and I’ll admit I found myself skimming through them when they were incorporated as the contents of the stories told didn’t hold much influence in this particular retelling as a whole besides distracting Khalid and making him think.
Although I really enjoyed this, there were some elements that kept me from rating it higher. Every character in this book seems to have their own unique eye color. While the author may have intended to use this as a way for the reader to better differentiate between characters, and this fixation on eye colors is fairly common in novels, I found it extremely annoying. Overall, however, the writing was very good: just the right balance of poetic but not too poetic.
Shahrzad gave the impression that she had planned and expected to distract the Caliph. Much of what she did seemed improvised and I’m surprised she didn’t know more about the Caliph before going in. This made the story a little unbelievable for me, but I guess the author was trying to use the fact that desperation can make people act irrationally as justification.
The love triangle is something else I could have done without. It’s clear who Shahrzed is going to end up with, and so I view it as rather pointless. However, I can see that the author added it to create tension, and it doesn’t bother me as much as it does in many other books. The magic system was also barely touched on. I would have liked to see more of it.
While I was reading this I was trying to place it in history due to references of a few real world countries/cultural elements. The religious references in particular left me confused as the characters would appear to worship the Greek gods but the story seems to take place in the Middle East. Though I think the author might have simply had Shahrzad pick up on terms that implied she worshiped the Greek gods as she grew into a friendship with a Greek serving girl.
What Readers Should Know: Sex is mentioned and there scenes where sex was implied, but this wasn’t explicit or frequent. The characters involved were married. There was the use of the occasional curse word, but it was not frequent. There was no gory violence, but there were mentions of the Caliphs past murders, attempts at murders, and practice with weapons.
Rating: The pacing and overall writing of this book was well done, and I liked that it was set in a fantasy world that did not resemble Medieval Europe as I haven’t read nearly enough fantasy novels where the setting didn’t, but there were too many minor issues I had with it for me to give it higher than a four.
Author: Rachel Hartman
Publication date: July 10, 2012
Genre: Young Adult High Fantasy
Synopsis: Dragons and humans are at peace, but it may not last much longer. The long war between dragons and the humans of Goredd has not been forgotten by either species. As the forty year anniversary of the peace accord draws near tensions are high after a member of the royal family is murdered in a suspiciously dragon-like manor.
Seraphina, who has just arrived at court and recently become assistant to the court composer, is about to become involved. The last thing Seraphina wants to do is to gain attention from others, especially not Prince Lucian Kiggs who is determined to solve every mystery that presents itself. Seraphina has a secret of her own, one that she could be killed for if discovered.
Review: Several people I know who’ve mentioned this book thought it was a sequel to Eragon. I assure everyone it isn’t. Yes, it’s about dragons and the main character’s name sounds quite a bit like “Saphira,” but that’s where the simulates end. That said, I’ve always been attracted to the topic of dragons which is what drew me to this book.
I was expecting to be bothered by the fact that their were characters shifting between human and dragon “forms.” This is fairly common in dragon stories (for example Firelight by Sophie Jordan or Eustace from C.S. Lewis’s Voyage of the Dawn Treader), but was pleased that the main character did not have this ability which made the story more unusual.
The portrayal of dragons was made further unique in that despite the dragon characters in the book occasionally appearing human their thought process is made to seem very different. This is something I have found lacking in other dragon books: dragons aren’t humans so they shouldn’t think like humans no matter what they look like.
The relationship between Kiggs and Seraphina was refreshing. The relationship developed slowly, and I enjoyed that the two struggled to trust one another as I would expect from people of their particular backgrounds. They’re also unusual in YA in that they don’t stop in the middle of a disaster to kiss. In fact, at one point Seraphina states, “‘Crisis first, love later.'” The romance remains very much a subplot without overpowering the story as a whole.
My main complaint with this story is the number of flashbacks. I normally do not like flashbacks and prefer the story I read be told primarily in the present as telling the story out of chronological order can make it difficult to follow. Despite this, all of the details included makes this a good book to reread. I’ve read this book two and a half times now and am surprised how many details I notice after multiple readings I missed the first time.
What readers should know: This book contains frequent use of the word meaning illegitimate child that starts with a “b.” Other than that it’s pretty clean language-wise. The romance doesn’t go beyond kissing when involving the main character, but there are some scenes involving other characters that suggested more was going on romantically between those side characters, but the novel doesn’t go into much detail. There was some violence, but it wasn’t described in depth. This novel deals with discrimination between humans and dragons with some organizations and reactions that loosely resemble historical manifestations of discrimination.
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 for good world-building and well thought out plot.
Titles: Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Days of Blood and Starlight, Dreams of Gods and Monsters
Author: Laini Taylor
Publication dates: 2011-2014
Genre: Young Adult Fantasy
Synopsis: “Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”– Daughter of Smoke and Bone, Laini Taylor
Karou is a rather unusual art student from Prague. She never talks about her family or past, and answers all personal questions with an outrageous story about traveling around the world hunting for teeth. She mysteriously disappears often, and once returned to school having contracted malaria. The truth is, Karou can’t answer the questions about her past because they are as big a mystery to Karou as everyone else, but she’s about to find out the truth.
Lives will be lost. Wars will be fought. A forbidden love between an angel and a monster unearthed.
Review: The writing and pacing in this series is just amazing. I read the entire trilogy over the course of about a week, and there are so many great quotes to be taken from the writing.
I had some minor issues with the first book, especially the second half which consisted mainly of flashbacks, and felt there was an element of insta-love to the romance although it didn’t bother me as much as it does in most works because after the novel’s primary relationship was formed the characters’ reacted to learning hard to accept truths about one another in a relatively realistic way not normally seen in young adult fiction.
Daughter of Smoke and Bone feels much more typical in terms of young adult fiction than the next two books. The first book feels like urban fantasy as most of the novel takes place on modern Earth. In the next two books the fantasy elements take over and the story feels much more like high fantasy than urban.
One of my favorite elements in this series was the symbolism particularly that of the wishbone.
I appreciated the author’s portrayal of “angels” and “monsters.” I feel the message Laini Taylor was trying to get across involves questioning everything and not jumping to conclusions. Just because someone looks like an angel doesn’t make them trustworthy, and just because someone looks like a demon does not make them a demon.
Favorite quotes: “It is a condition that monsters do not perceive themselves as such. The dragon, you know, hunkered in the village devouring maidens, heard the townsfolk cry ‘Monster!’ and looked behind him.” –Laini Taylor, Daughter of Smoke and Bone
“Imagine if [Juliet] woke up and he was still alive, but…” She swallowed, waiting out a tremor in her voice. “But [Romeo] had killed her whole family. And burned her city. And killed and enslaved her people.” –Laini Taylor, Days of Blood and Starlight
“Karou wasn’t a prize to win; that wasn’t why he was here. She was a woman and would choose her own life. He was here to do what he could, whatever he could, that she might have a life to choose, one day. Whoever and whatever that included was her own affair.” –Laini Taylor, Dreams of Gods and Monsters
What Readers Should Know: This series contains cursing intermixed with casual conversations in the way many teenagers speak. Sex is mentioned with some frequency, although no detailed sex scenes ever occur. There are also some fairly gruesome scenes in book two due to the main characters becoming involved in a major conflict. *minor spoiler* In Days of Blood and Starlight a character is almost raped, but the “r” word is never mentioned. While younger readers may mistake this scene for an act of mere aggression it will be immediately clear to everyone else what was narrowly avoided. Personally, I thought this scene captured the fear and horror of the girl involved.
Rating: The first book was a 4.5/5 for me, but the rest of the series was a 5. It’s rare to find a series in which I preferred the sequels to the first installment, but that was the case here. I recommend this for people willing to overlook a little insta-love who enjoy fantasy.
Title: Sabriel, Lirael, Abhorsen
*Note: This is a review of the original trilogy not including the recently released prequel Clariel. It focuses on books two and three since they are two parts of a longer story-line. My review of book one is found here, but this review does not contain major spoilers.*
Author: Garth Nix
Genre: High Fantasy, Young Adult
Synopsis: All Lirael has ever wanted was to have the Sight so that she could be a full member of the Clayr. So long as she lives with the Clayr, a group of individuals tasked with seeing into the future, Lirael will be viewed forever as a child no matter how old she gets.
Picking up fourteen to twenty years after Sabriel left off this novel follows the separate journeys of Lirael and Sam, Sabriel’s son until their lives converge on their quest to protect the Old Kingdom from the Greater Dead.
Review: I liked Sabrel, but had a difficult time getting through it. When I decided to read the sequel I expected to have the same problem, but was pleasantly surprised when I finished book two in only a day and book three in the two days after that.
My favorite aspect of this series is the world building. There are so many details in the way the necromancer’s bells work, to the magic system, and the way the fictional society is structured that make it feel more believable and realistic.
I found our new characters more compelling than the ones in the first book. I had a hard time connecting with Sabriel and Touchstone, but connected with Lirael almost immediately. I feel her sense of being estranged from everyone around her is something to which most people can relate. Sam can be annoying sometimes, but his passages were enjoyable as well, and I didn’t feel tempted to skip them during the time periods when Lirael and Sam are apart. I liked that it was Sam who needed to be rescued all the time instead of Lireal who would stereotypically be the damsel in distress in a fantasy novel where the lead male character holds aristocratic status.
This is the first book I’ve read in a while where there was both a lead male and female character and the two never fall in love. I know several people who have been trying to find a book where this happens, or rather doesn’t happen, and will need to tell them about it.
The linear progression of book two was unusual. Part one of the novel is told entirely from Lireal’s point of view on her fourteenth birthday and shortly thereafter. The rest of the novel is told after her nineteenth birthday. A time gap this large in the middle of a novel is unusual for young adult fiction, and it makes me wonder why it is classified as young adult. The only time I ever come across main characters in young adult books older than eighteen seems to be high fantasy. I’m wondering if the only reason this book is classified as it is has to do with the first book being YA and Sam being between the ages of sixteen and seventeen throughout the entire portion of the novel he narrates.
Rating: I really enjoyed the second and third books of the Abhorsen series, and recommend them to anyone who read the first one and liked it even a little. For amazing world building and for being so engaging I give both books five stars. As much as I enjoyed this continuation of the series, I’m not sure if I will continue with the recently released prequel as I have seen mixed reviews. If anyone has read the prequel I would appreciate them leaving their perspective on it in the comments.
Title: Deep in the Meadow (The Hunger Games book 4)
Author: Suzanne Collins
Release Date: 2015, unconfirmed
*Note: This is a review of an advanced copy.
Synopsis: The Huger Games are over and the rebellion is won. Soon even this will be thrown into question.
Gianna Snow spent the first twelve years of her life like any other citizen of the capital: living like royalty. The rebellion changed that.
Now hated and shunned as the former President Snow’s granddaughter Gianna plans to lead a quiet life, but the new government has its own agenda– the 76 annual Hunger Games. Gianna is a prime candidate for the reaping.
Katniss Everdeen is the only person with any chance of stopping this new government regime, but with the girl on fire nowhere to be found Gianna’s life expectancy is bleak. If Gianna doesn’t find Katniss soon the rebellion will have been pointless.
Review: The first time I heard about the Hunger Games I have to admit I was hesitant. Kids killing kids? I thought. Who would enjoy such a thing?
I had expected for the story to be violent and amoral, but instead found myself pleasantly surprised. To put it simply: I LOVED it. Then there was the torturous six month wait for book two and the full year long wait for book three. I spent the next few years disappointed that there were no new books to look forwards to and thinking that the movies were the closest I could come to having new materials.
Being contacted as a beta reader for the secret fourth book was one of the best moments of my life. Naturally I replied with an enthusiastic YES!!!
This book did a great job introducing our new narrator, President’s Snow’s granddaughter. She starts out the book as the spoiled brat you expect from someone of her status but from there her character development is some of the best I’ve ever seen. Katniss and Peeta might not be main characters in this novel but don’t worry Katniss fans: once the pair makes an appearance they’re on the page to stay.
I had a little problem shifting from Katniss’s to Gianna’s point of view but once I got over this shift the story was everything I could have hoped for. Deep in the Meadow is closed ended but has the potential for a series.
Disclaimers: If you thought books one through three were violent then you’re in for a shock. This book takes that violence to a whole new level. Ninety percent of the newly introduced characters sudden and tragic deaths.
Rating/Recommendations: This is one of the best books I’ve read all year. There is no set release date yet but Hunger Games fans will want to read this new volume the instant it’s released. Five/five for perfection!
Sorry, but unless Mrs. Collins decides to publish a fourth book the trilogy status still stands. The cover is a forgery made using paint and the silhouette is from the mocking jay on book one. I do not own any rights to the Hunger Games Trilogy nor am I associated with the author or publisher.
Title: Angelfall (Penryn and the End of Days book 1)
Author: Susan Ee
Genre(s): Young Adult, Paranormal, Apocalyptic
Release Date: May 21, 2011
Synopsis: Six weeks ago the world ended. Those cute little angel mosaics and statues? Turns out they’re about as far from the truth as it is possible to imagine. The apocalypse was not from an alien invasion or scientific invention. The world was destroyed by angels.
17-year-old Penryn Young doesn’t care about saving the world. She just wants to have her sister back, and there’s only one person who can help her. The only problem is that he’s not exactly human.
He’s a wingless angel named Raffe, and angels are the enemy.
If Penryn is to find her sister and Raffe is to get his wings back these two must make a temporarily alliance. Their only hope is to reach San Francisco where the angels have gathered in number, but there is no guarantee that arriving in San Francisco will give either of them what they want.
Review: When I told my friends I had read this book in one night they thought I was crazy. When I reached the “100%” mark on my e-reader in one sitting I was not at all surprised. I enjoyed this novel that much. Angelfall is the suspense grabbing, action-packed type of novel that leaves readers wondering “what happens next?”
I must admit that I came into this book with some doubts. To put it simply, I had a prejudice against self-published authors. But, this book has helped change that. If I hadn’t known before I started reading that this book had been self-published I never would have guessed.
One of the main reason this books works is our main character, Penryn. Unlike most of the heroine’s I’ve read lately Penryn is a very strong female lead who never forgets what’s at stake and is determined to find her sister no matter what the cost. Penryn isn’t about to let anyone push her around– not even Raffe.
Raffe knows this about Penryn. He lets Penryn fight her own battles and acknowledges her strengths. Some readers might be expecting some Penryn and Raffe insta-love thanks to all the paranormal romances in existence, but this was not the case. This book does contain a touch of romance, but it is mostly found in the last ten percent. Perhaps one of my favorite elements of this book was the absence of the “love triangle” cliche that plagues paranormal novels.
The usage of angels in this book was fairly well done. The author was trying to write an angel book that appeals to the general audience. I know that a lot of people are hesitant to read books containing angels because they either a) don’t read books that are preachy or b) don’t read books that are the opposite of preachy. As this book takes a neutral stance, neither audience is likely to have a problem with it on this regard.
Raffe is not your stereotypical angel from modern YA novels either– none of the angels in this novel are. Most novelists either decide to have the focus of their angel novel be on fallen angels or morally perfect beings who can do no wrong but Mrs. Ee has decided for her angels to be more like the angels of the Old Testament. Meaning that there is destruction to the point that the world can say goodbye to most of its major cities.
The world building was another strong point. This novel is set only a few weeks after the start of the apocalypses which results in characters who still remember their lives before and most modern infrastructure is still around but useless. I liked the way the author intermixed the highly popular Apocalyptic and Paranormal genres. I often see the two apart but almost never written into the same book, and I found the combination of angels and the end of the world to be a refreshing twist.
One of the only element that I didn’t enjoy was the cannibalism. I give a detailed analysis of my reasoning without giving away major spoilers so all I can say is I felt it was unnecessary.
This book was one of the best apocalyptic novels I’ve read in a while.
Disclaimers: If this book were a movie I’d rate it towards the more gruesome end of the PG-13 spectrum. This novel contains references to cannibalism and potentially disturbing depictions of dead bodies.
Rating/Recommendations: I recommend this book for people who enjoy strong heroines and are looking for a fast paced read. I would recommend reading this book when you have time set aside to read through it quickly.
I give this book 4.5/5 because I adored Penryn, liked that the romance remained a subplot, and found the world Susan Ee created facinating. The .5 is only taken off because I didn’t enjoy the way cannibalism is used in the story-line.
Author: Aprilyeen Pike
Genres: Young Adult, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Release Date: July 30, 2013
Synopsis: Travia’s former life was ripped away from her in an instant. She’d gotten on that plane expecting a bright future at a prestigious art school, but she’d gotten off alone and lucky to be alive.
Travia is the sole survivor of a devastating plane crash who just want’s to start a new and move on, but the world won’t let her. Travia begins to wonder if the crash might not have been an accident.
Review: Reading a book about a pane crash on a plane is not the smartest thing I’ve ever done. I picked this book up because of the cover and bought it because I’d heard of Miss Pike’s Wings Trilogy. Unfortunately for me I failed to read the description and only realized I had done the unthinkable as I read the first page.
My heart pounding, I glanced wearily at my seat number. I was not in seat E12, the seat of the main character. I sighed in relief and went back to reading, glancing out the window at the slightest sign of turbulence.
Sadly, book wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the story I’ve just told. For one thing the love triangle was a set up in a way that is used far to often and the main character got on my nerves. I didn’t find her decisions entirely believable.
The other aspect that put me off was the world building. I read this not long after finishing Unremembered by Jessica Broody. The whole “plane crash” scenario is almost eerily similar. The “Earthbound” concept wasn’t all that intriguing once it was explained. It was just too predictable for my taste.
Don’t get the wrong impression, this book was not terrible, but it didn’t meet my expectations. The book is very gripping after the first few chapters and is fairly fast paced.
The moral: Don’t bring books on a plane without reading the description first, or you may just be in for a panic attack.
Disclaimers: Some swearing, mild violence, kissing
Rating/Recommendations: I give this book 3/5 for giving me a good laugh and keeping me hooked but not holding up to my expectations. This book is good for people looking for something cute and doesn’t care if cliches of the YA Paranormal Romance genre are present.
Title: United We Spy (Gallagher Girls Book 6)
Author: Ally Carter
Release Date: September 17, 2013
Synopsis: Reasons to Continue Reading this Series (A list by Jacqueline) 1. Life in spy school isn’t exactly a walk in the park (unless they take a walk to a park). 2. Cammie and her friends are back and ready to jump right into the fray. 3. More spying, more action, and a progressively darker plot line. 4. Graduating high school while trying to stop a top secret terrorist organization and, oh, did I mention kissing?
Trailer: *Note: This trailer was made by the publisher.*
Review: While I have always been a fan of Ally Carter’s Heist Society series, Gallager Girls and I have had somewhat of a rocky past. After book one I was hesitant to read on, (because the first book was to cutesy for my taste) but goodness am I glad that I did.
Like the previous books, United We Spy was just the slightest tinge more violent than the preceding one. Had I been told while reading book one that one of characters would kill a man later on in the series would I have believed them? Short answer: no, absolutely not.
I loved the way that the romance in this series was there for those who wanted it but was not all consuming for those who didn’t. I enjoyed the way this book jumped right into the fray without an instant for readers to catch their breath. Of course it should also be noted that this made it a little more difficult for those who had not just finished reading the previous book, but that was a detail of minor concern.
I would have preferred a greater sense of closure by having some of the characters from book one make an appearance, but as I’ve already mentioned book one was not my favorite book in this series so that wasn’t really much of an issue. This book was fun and fast paced. It was a pleasure visiting the Gallagher Acadamy. I was sad to see it end but ultimately satisfied.
Rating/Recommendations: I give this book a five in five rating because I thoroughly enjoyed it. It’s difficult to keep a series interesting for six books but Ally Carter managed. I highly recommend this book to fans of this series. However, it should be noted that this series is on the girly side of fiction, so I recommend that any boys interested in Ms. Carter’s work try the Heist Society series instead.