Showing posts tagged young adult

Four: A Divergent Story Collection by Veronica Roth

3 star

Short Stories, Dystopian, Alternate POV

Four stories (ha) told from the perspective of Four from Divergent. These are very well-written and it was fun seeing Four’s life before Tris. I also really liked slipping back into the world of Divergent. But it didn’t add anything to the trilogy and it didn’t give me another plot or story; not enough to make it a full stand-alone hardback.

Cleopatra Rules!: The Amazing Life of the Original Teen Queen by Vicky Alvear Shecter

3 star

Biography, Cleopatra, Egypt, Rome, Girl Power

Shecter’s thesis is that Cleopatra was slandered and was not an evil seductress but instead an educated, brilliant, charismatic leader who went to any lengths necessary to strengthen Egypt. She does a great job of backing this up with facts, and the images throughout are well-placed, and the indices at the end are very helpful for anyone looking for more detail. The actual writing style, however, got old really fast (at one point she makes a metaphor that banishing Cleopatra and expecting her to stay banished was as likely as taking a cell phone from a teenage girl) as it was chock full of annoying stereotypes that counteracted the feminist positivity Shecter uses to describe Cleopatra. A quick and fun read for fans of Ancient Egypt, but not a must read for fans of history in general.

Railsea by China Miéville

5 star

Railroads, Steampunk Future, Something Like Moby Dick, Adventure

If you threw Moby Dick in the bathtub and said you know what actually, water is stupid, let’s take the basic structure of this book but make it about RAILROADS and GIANT MOLES and a kid who’s on this MOLETRAIN and secretly wants to discover what happens where all the railroads END—well, you would have Railsea. Miéville has built a society, a scenario, slang, and a whole bunch of jobs that don’t exist today and has spun them into a tale that is as amazing as it is unique. His style of writing is expressive and fanciful and his plot is engaging. Would recommend to everyone.

Wonderland by Tommy Kovac and illustrated by Sonny Liew

5 star

Graphic Novel, Wonderland, Fractured Fairy Tales, Whimsy

Wonderland without Alice, this graphic novel follows Maryann (the housemaid that Alice was mistaken for), a tidy perfectionist who is trying to keep it together in the aftermath of the Alice monster who has started a revolution that Maryann wants no part in. It is a delightful book that wastes no time because Maryann knows the rules of Wonderland. The art is fun and I would recommend to any Carroll fans.

Ready Player One by Ernest Cline

5 star

Virtual Reality, Adventure, Thriller, Friendship, Culture

Wade escapes from his miserable life by slipping into the OASIS, a virtual reality universe that started as a video game and expanded to include shopping, adventure, gaming, lifestyle, and even Wade’s online high school. Wade is one of the nerds obsessed with Halliday, the man who created the OASIS, because whoever discovers his hidden game wins his entire fortune and control of the company — but when Wade finds the first clue a rival corporation tries to kill him for his knowledge and the race is on to find the clues before they do. It has a wacky start as Cline has to explain how shitty the world is and why everyone is so obsessed with this hunt for Halliday’s game, but it warms up quickly into one of the most action-packed and intense books I’ve read in a long time. It is hilarious and heart-pounding while managing to avoid those cringeworthy moments where the character does something dumb, and if you love the eighties you will adore all of the pop culture references that practically spill out of its pages. It is long enough to allow you to fully understand the world and keep you up two nights in a row and leave you sleep-deprived and short enough that the action never stops.

Avalon by Mindee Arnett

4 stars

SciFi, Horror, Space Pirates, Family

Jeth Seagrave and his crew are teenage mercenaries working for a powerful and volatile crime boss. While Jeth works to earn enough money to buy back his parent’s ship and freedom for himself and his little sister, an assignment brings new information about the death of his parents and the true nature of the metatech that makes space travel possible. The story moves quickly and throws a lot of surprises at you. Although it doesn’t avoid the average teenage romance drama that tends to make its way into many young adult books, Avalon does manage an interesting take on space and the horrors made possible by future technology. The story for me felt like a strange and exciting combination of elements from the show Firefly, the book House of Leaves, and the video game Mass Effect.

Sequel: Polaris

Short Story Prequel: Proxy

DragonFly by Charles A. Cornell

4 star

Dieselpunk, WWII, Historical Alternate Worlds, Female Pilots, Adventure

DragonFly is a wild AU WWII adventure that takes the British Navy, Air Force, and Hitler himself from our own history and throws in heavy doses of Hitler’s mysticism and army of talented humans and genetically modified monsters along with some pretty impressive British forces of sassy ladies (including Princess Victoria), powerful crystal-harvesting druids, and fantastic diesel punk aircraft. It is a refreshing break from the over-saturated market of WWII fiction that focuses on true events and lets the reader experience the war as it could have been under futuristic circumstances, and its wonderful female pilots do a great job of showing that women in the air are just as tough as men without taking away their femininity. Ronnie is a smart-mouthed pilot who is a delight to read, and it was fun to watch her interact with her fellow pilots and the DragonFly scientists and mechanics. I loved the way the illustrations and photographs displayed the characters; it added a lot to the story for me to be able to see the aircraft as well as I have no background in it. Would recommend to people wanting a grown up version of Scott Westerfeld’s Leviathan, a new take on historical fiction, some fun diesel punk, or a good action story.

(Gifted from the author for review, review cross-posted at Goodreads.)

(Sequel forthcoming.)

City of Heavenly Fire by Cassandra Clare

5 star

War, Family, Friendship, Nephilim, Love

From introducing new characters from the Institute of Los Angeles to destroying some relationships while building others up to war that ravages the entire planet and the next dimension, Clare has built the perfect ending to her Mortal Instruments series. The book is very long, but it never feels slow because Clare packs it full of adventure, humor, and love so that by the end you are satisfied that there is nothing left that needs to be said. If you liked the rest of the series, you will love this one.

Previous books: City of BonesCity of Ashes, City of Glass, City of Fallen Angels, City of Lost Souls

Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

4 star

Los Angeles, Werewolves, Internet Culture, Love, Friendship

Stiefvater’s magical way with words and her love of love take center stage in this companion novel to the Wolves of Mercy Falls trilogy that follows Cole St. Clair and Isabel Culpepper to Los Angeles where Cole is filming a reality show and Isabel is trying to keep herself on track to be a doctor with no time for love. The language alone is worth reading it for, and Stiefvater makes you feel as if you really are in Los Angeles with Cole and Isabel, living beside them. My only complaint is that I felt there wasn’t enough struggle—that may sound weird, but Sam and Grace had to fight to stay human and keep the rest of the pack safe and this book lacked that tension that an external force provided. All of the tension comes from Cole struggling to overcome his addictive personality and Isabel struggling to overcome her own fear of intimacy—both valid and honestly depicted, but I would have liked to see them more at odds with the world.

Gaijin: American Prisoner of War by Matt Faulkner

4 star

WWII, Internment Camps, Japanese-Americans, Family, Graphic Novel

Despite his white mother, Koji is set to an internment camp after Pearl Harbor. His mother joins him, and he tries to make a life by helping an older man garden and avoiding the wrath of the gang of Japanese boys who hate him for being half-white, an outsider. It is a heartbreaking tale that describes the horrible time in American history when Americans were treated as monsters simply for their skin — an appalling trend that still rings true today. It is a story of history but it is even more a story of mankind.

Keturah and Lord Death by Martine Leavitt

3 star

Fantasy, Death, Romance, Village Life, Black Plague

Keturah has known Lord Death since her mother died giving birth to her, but when she is a young woman she is dying and Death comes for her—but she steals herself time by telling him a story, Scheherezade-style, and promises to tell him the end if he gives her another day. Keturah is a delight: she tricks Lord Death, after all, and she knows what she wants and spends her final time on earth helping her friends and her village. But she is not enough to make up for angsty Death and a predictable ending. Leavitt writes neatly crafted sentences but the story as a whole lacks the depth it needed to make this story ring true.

Deathless by Catherynne M. Valente

5 star

Fairy Tales, Mythology, Russia, Communism, Love, Revolution

Marya Morevna is the girl you know from the fairy tale — but she is more: Valente’s Marya sees the patriotic Communist domovoi and birds who turn into men, and when Koschei the Deathless arrives to take her away, she is waiting for him. In this tale, Ivan is not the husband who comes to save Marya—he is Koschei’s enemy, the man who always takes Marya away from their marriage. This is a spellbinding tale that combines history with mythology and in so doing makes the two more than they could be on their own. It is strange and wild and exactly what you might expect when a fairy tale like this comes to life. Would recommend to anyone looking for a different kind of fantasy, or anyone who loves fractured fairy tales.

Revolver by Marcus Sedgwick

4 star

Isolation, Wilderness, Family, Greed

The story has two parts that alternate between chapters: Alaska ten years ago where Sig’s father went to hunt for gold, and present day Arctic where Sig has just found his father’s frozen body and a stranger has come demanding his father’s gold. It is a very slow-moving atmospheric story that lets the tension build around Sig and his father’s past, the stranger and Sig’s revolver. It felt very real and present, but the characters were a little too stock and the story a little too perfectly tied up. Would recommend if you want a simple but powerful novella.

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

2 star

Mystery, Teenagers, Army Towns, Drugs

When a girl is found dead in the woods, Emily’s father is arrested—he can’t remember committing the crime, but his counselors and the police are blaming a PTSD-related flashback. Emily is blaming Damon, the dead girl’s boyfriend and the last person to see her alive—but when she starts to have feelings for Damon, she wonders if she is crazy or if there is another killer out in the woods. None of the character relations are very realistic; Damon was too drugged up to remember what happened to his girlfriend the night she dies, he and Emily have inexplicable feelings for each other, Emily’s mother doesn’t defend her jailed husband, Emily’s friends are pretty creepy and not fleshed out, and this pretty much kills the character-driven story. I was looking for a murder mystery but was handed a sad (but not insightful) look at the aftermath of war and a bunch of screwed up kids. The writing was not particularly skilled and overall it was a very forgettable story.

The Elfstones of Shannara by Terry Brooks

4 star

Epic Quests, Everyman Heroes, Friendship, Family, Honor, Good vs Evil

Fifty years after the first book, Shea’s grandson Wil is assigned as the protector of the girl who must revive the tree that stands alone to keep demons out of the world. The stakes are high because the rest of the realm does not believe in the demons that are about to burst into the world, and Wil and Amberle are racing against time to save the tree before the entire Elven army is slaughtered and the demons take over the land. Brooks is skilled at building a detailed world and creating interesting characters without ever spending too long on descriptions. The tale is a splendid one of good and evil, friendship, and sacrifice.

Previous book: The Sword of Shannara
Later book (in this trilogy): The Wishsong of Shannara