Tag Archives: Fantasy

The Crème De La Crème Of YA Lit: 15 YA Summer Reads

 

Here are my top 15 YA Summer Reads. Follow me here for more bookish, YA thoughts and tweets and keep an eye out for an exciting new start-up @YAfictionados , launching 25th May, run by @thereaderrunt and @yablooker.

**Note that all covers used are the UK covers**

***Information correct at time of publication***

1. The Lie Tree by Frances Hardinge

untitled (8)

UK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: 7th May 2015

Plot:

Faith’s father has been found dead under mysterious circumstances, and as she is searching through his belongings for clues she discovers a strange tree. The tree only grows healthy and bears fruit if you whisper a lie to it. The fruit of the tree, when eaten, will deliver a hidden truth to the person who consumes it. The bigger the lie, the more people who believe it, the bigger the truth that is uncovered.

The girl realizes that she is good at lying and that the tree might hold the key to her father’s murder, so she begins to spread untruths far and wide across her small island community. But as her tales spiral out of control, she discovers that where lies seduce, truths shatter . .

Ideal for Fans of: Ransom Riggs and Maggie Stiefvater

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23592175-the-lie-tree?ac=1

2. Bomb by Sarah Mussi

9781444917864
UK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

I’m Genesis Wainwright. I’m a sixth-form student. I come from Somerset. My mum is the best mum in the world. I play the guitar (badly). My best friend is Holly. I’m searching for answers to the Meaning of Life. I believe in True Love. AND I’M IN LOVE WITH NAZ. I want to be a performance poet. And I’m crazy about motorbikes. I can remember everything. Except last night. When Genesis goes on a blind internet date, she just wants to get over her ex-boyfriend Naz. She just wants someone to like her again. But when Genesis wakes up the morning after the date, she can’t remember a thing.

She doesn’t know where she is, or how she got there. And she can hardly move because she is strapped into some kind of body armour …Before she has time to figure it out, she receives an order through an earpiece stuck in her ear. And then a voice sounds in her head: ‘You have been chosen for an assignment …The vest you’re wearing is packed with high explosives. And with one mobile call we can detonate it.’ To her horror Genesis has become an agent of mass destruction, a walking weapon in the hands of a terrorist cell. The countdown to detonation has begun: Genesis must re-examine everyone and everything she loves and make terrifying choices …in the face of certain death

Ideal for fans of: A. J. Grainger and Kathy Reichs

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23604128-bomb

Because You’ll Never Meet Me by Leah Thomas


BECAUSEUK Release Date:
 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 2nd June 2015

Plot:

Ollie and Moritz are two teenagers who will never meet. Each of them lives with a life-affecting illness. Contact with electricity sends Ollie into debilitating seizures, while Moritz has a heart defect and is kept alive by an electronic pacemaker. If they did meet, Ollie would seize, but turning off the pacemaker would kill Moritz. Through an exchange of letters, the two boys develop a strong bond of friendship which becomes a lifeline during dark times – until Moritz reveals that he holds the key to their shared, sinister past, and has been keeping it from Ollie all along.

Ideal for fans of: Becky Albertalli and Tess Sharpe

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20649195-because-you-ll-never-meet-me

4. Suicide Notes from Beautiful Girls by Lynn Weingarten

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015SUICIDE NOTES

US Release Date: 7th July 2015

 

Plot:

When June met Delia, she was a lifeline. Their intense friendship gave her a sense of belonging, of security, that she’d never had before. She felt braver, smarter, funnier, more attractive when Delia was around. But then something went wrong, and Delia and June haven’t spoken for a year when an announcement is made at their school that Delia is dead. June barely has time to mourn before Delia’s ex-boyfriend convinces her that Delia didn’t kill herself but was in fact murdered, and June is fast swept into a tangle of lies and deceit – and a conspiracy she can barely conceive of, never mind believe. Stylish, sexy and atmospheric, with so many twists it will leave you breathless.

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke.

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18244970-suicide-notes-from-beautiful-girls

5. A Court of Thorns and Roses by Sarah J. Maas


SARAH J MAASUK Release Date:
 5th May 2015

US Release Date: 5th May 2015

Plot:

Feyre’s survival rests upon her ability to hunt and kill – the forest where she lives is a cold, bleak place in the long winter months. So when she spots a deer in the forest being pursued by a wolf, she cannot resist fighting it for the flesh. But to do so, she must kill the predator and killing something so precious comes at a price …Dragged to a magical kingdom for the murder of a faerie, Feyre discovers that her captor, his face obscured by a jewelled mask, is hiding far more than his piercing green eyes would suggest.

Feyre’s presence at the court is closely guarded, and as she begins to learn why, her feelings for him turn from hostility to passion and the faerie lands become an even more dangerous place. Feyre must fight to break an ancient curse, or she will lose him forever. The start of a sensational romantic fantasy trilogy by the bestselling author of the Throne of Glass series.

Ideal for fans of: Julia Kagawa and Holly Black

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16096824-a-court-of-thorns-and-roses

Birdy by Jess Valance

UK Release Date: 2nd July 20159781471404665

US Release Date: N/A 

Plot:

Frances Bird has been a loner for as long as she can remember. But when she is asked to look after the new girl at school, the sparky Alberta Black, they soon become inseparable, doing everything together, and even creating their own sign of togetherness – a blackbird. After a while though, Bert wants to do things without Frances, and see other people without her there. And that won’t do…No that won’t do at all…

A darkly compulsive tale of friendship and obsession.

Ideal for fans of: Melissa Marr

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/25269375-birdy

7. I Am Her Revenge by Meredith Moore

REVENGEUK Release Date: 1st May 2015

US Release Date: 7th April 2015

Plot:

She can be anyone you want her to be.
Vivian was raised with one purpose in life: to exact revenge on behalf of her mother. Manipulative and cruel, Mother has deprived Vivian not only of a childhood, but of an original identity. With an endless arsenal of enticing personalities at her disposal, Vivian is a veritable weapon of deception.

And she can destroy anyone.
When it’s time to strike, she enrolls in a boarding school on the English moors, where she will zero in on her target: sweet and innocent Ben, the son of the man who broke Mother’s heart twenty years ago.

Anyone… except for the woman who created her.
With every secret she uncovers, Vivian comes one step closer to learning who she really is. But the more she learns about herself, the more dangerous this cat and mouse game becomes. Because Mother will stop at nothing to make sure the truth dies with her.

Ideal for fans of: Sarah Mussi and Sara Shepard

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18658071-i-am-her-revenge

8. Witch Hunter by Virginia Boecker

UK Release Date: 4th June 20159781408335222

US Release Date: 2nd June

Plot

Sixteen-year-old Elizabeth Grey doesn’t look dangerous. A tiny, blonde, wisp of a girl shouldn’t know how to poison a wizard and make it look like an accident. Or take out ten necromancers with a single sword and a bag of salt. Or kill a man using only her thumb. But things are not always as they appear. Elizabeth is one of the best witch hunters in Anglia and a member of the king’s elite guard, devoted to rooting out witchcraft and bringing those who practice it to justice. And in Anglia, the price of justice is high: death by burning.

When Elizabeth is accused of being a witch herself, she’s arrested and thrown in prison. The king declares her a traitor and her life is all but forfeit. With just hours before she’s to die at the stake, Elizabeth gets a visitor – Nicholas Perevil, the most powerful wizard in Anglia. He offers her a deal: he will free her from prison and save her from execution if she will track down the wizard who laid a deadly curse on him. As Elizabeth uncovers the horrifying facts about Nicholas’s curse and the unwitting role she played in its creation, she is forced to redefine the differences between right and wrong, friends and enemies, love and hate…and life and death.

The first book in an incredible new series set in a fantastical medieval world.

Ideal for fans of: Rachel Hawkins and Sally Green

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18190208-the-witch-hunter

9. The Memory Hit by Carla Spradbery

UK Release Date: 4th June 20159781444920277

US Release Date: N/A

Plot

On New Year’s Eve, Jess’s life is unrecognizable: her best friend is in the hospital, her boyfriend is a cheater. A drug-dealing cheater it would seem, after finding a stash of Nostalgex in his bag.

Nostalgex: a drug that stimulates memory. In small doses, a person can remember the order of a deck of cards, or an entire revision guide read the day before an exam. In larger doses it allows the user detailed access to their past, almost like watching a DVD with the ability to pause a moment in time, to focus on previously unnoticed details and to see everything they’ve ever experienced with fresh eyes. As Leon, the local dealer, says ‘it’s like life, only better.’ What he fails to mention is that most memories are clouded by emotions. Even the most vivid memories can look very different when visited.

Across town Sam Cooper is in trouble. Again. This time, gagged and bound in the boot of a car. Getting on the wrong side of a drug dealer is never a good idea, but if he doesn’t make enough money to feed and clothe his sister, who will?

On New Year’s Day, Jess and Cooper’s worlds collide. They must put behind their differences and work together to look into their pasts to uncover a series of events that will lead them to know what really happened on that fateful New Year’s Eve. But what they find is that everything they had once believed to be true, turns out to be a lie …

‘A pleasingly dark teen thriller with fun, fresh characters. Spradbery is a debut author to watch.’ James Dawson

Ideal for fans of: Ellen Hopkins and Tess Sharpe

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23595949-the-memory-hit

11. Lola Carlyle’s 12-Step Romance by Danielle Younge-Ullman

99 DAYSUK Release Date: 7th May 2015

US Release Date: 21st April 2015

Plot

I told her the worst, most secret, most important thing in my life – and she wrote a bestselling book about it. Last year, Molly Barlow did something terrible. Then, her mother wrote a book about it. And so everyone in their tiny hometown found out that Molly cheated on her childhood sweetheart, the love of her life, her best friend with his brother.

After spending senior year at a boarding school in the middle of nowhere, Molly now has ninety-nine days to endure back in her hometown before she can escape to college. Ninety-nine days of being the most hated person in town. Ninety-nine days to heal the hurt she’s caused. Ninety-nine days to figure out what she wants, and who she loves…

Ideal for fans of: John Green and David Levithan

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22836575-99-days

12. The Lost and Found by Cat Clarke

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015THE LOST

US Release Date: N/A

Plot

LOST. When six-year-old Laurel Logan was abducted, the only witness was her younger sister. Faith’s childhood was dominated by Laurel’s disappearance – from her parents’ broken marriage and the constant media attention to dealing with so-called friends who only ever wanted to talk about her sister.

FOUND. Thirteen years later, a young woman is found in the garden of the Logans’ old house, disorientated and clutching the teddy bear Laurel was last seen with. Laurel is home at last, safe and sound. Faith always dreamed of getting her sister back, without ever truly believing it would happen. But a disturbing series of events leaves Faith increasingly isolated and paranoid, and before long she begins to wonder if everything that’s lost can be found again…

Ideal for fans of: Lucy Christopher and Tanya Byrne

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20685157-the-lost-and-the-found

13. The Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

RED QUEENUK Release Date: 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot

This is a world divided by blood – red or silver. The Reds are commoners, ruled by a Silver elite in possession of god-like superpowers. And to Mare Barrow, a seventeen-year-old Red girl from the poverty-stricken Stilts, it seems like nothing will ever change. That is, until she finds herself working in the Silver Palace. Here, surrounded by the people she hates the most, Mare discovers that, despite her red blood, she possesses a deadly power of her own. One that threatens to destroy the balance of power.

Fearful of Mare’s potential, the Silvers hide her in plain view, declaring her a long-lost Silver princess, now engaged to a Silver prince. Despite knowing that one misstep would mean her death, Mare works silently to help the Red Guard, a militant resistance group, and bring down the Silver regime. But this is a world of betrayal and lies, and Mare has entered a dangerous dance – Reds against Silvers, prince against prince, and Mare against her own heart …

Ideal for fans of: Robin Hobb and George R. R. Martin

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/17878931-red-queen

14. All My Secrets by Sophie McKenzieALL MY SECRETS

UK Release Date: 2nd July 2015

US Release Date: 2nd July 2015

Plot

A brand new title from bestselling, award-winning author, Sophie McKenzie. The shocking reality behind a GBP10 million inheritance turns Evie Brown’s world on its head. Unable to find out the truth from her parents, Evie ends up on the mysterious island of Lightsea, where her desire for answers leads her towards a series of revelations that threaten everything she holds dear …including her life.

Ideal for fans of: Robert Muchamore and Lucy Christopher

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/24907336-all-my-secrets

15. All the Rage by Courtney Summers 

ALL THE RAGEUK Release Date: 11th May 2015

US Release Date: 14th April 2015

Plot:

The sheriff’s son, Kellan Turner, is not the golden boy everyone thinks he is, and Romy Grey knows that for a fact. Because no one wants to believe a girl from the wrong side of town, the truth about him has cost her everything–friends, family, and her community. Branded a liar and bullied relentlessly by a group of kids she used to hang out with, Romy’s only refuge is the diner where she works outside of town. No one knows her name or her past there; she can finally be anonymous.

But when a girl with ties to both Romy and Kellan goes missing after a party, and news of him assaulting another girl in a town close by gets out, Romy must decide whether she wants to fight or carry the burden of knowing more girls could get hurt if she doesn’t speak up. Nobody believed her the first time–and they certainly won’t now–but the cost of her silence might be more than she can bear.

With a shocking conclusion and writing that will absolutely knock you out, Courtney Summers’ new novel All the Rage examines the shame and silence inflicted upon young women in a culture that refuses to protect them.

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and Lousie O’Neill

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/21853636-all-the-rage

All these books are available here from Foyles.

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15 YA Spring Titles to Sink Your Teeth Into (***May Contain Nuts***)

Here are my YA picks for Spring 2015. I’ve tried my best to order them in the way I think the general reader would want to read them with a touch of subjectivitiy. If you have any feedback, comment below. Enjoy!

**Note that all covers used are the UK covers**

1. Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda by Becky Albertalli

Simon vs the Homo Sapiens Agenda

UK Release Date: 7th April 2015

US Release Date: 7th April 2015

Plot:

Sixteen-year-old and not-so-openly gay Simon Spier prefers to save his drama for the school musical. But when an email falls into the wrong hands, his secret is at risk of being thrust into the spotlight. Now Simon is actually being blackmailed: if he doesn’t play wingman for class clown Martin, his sexual identity will become everyone’s business. Worse, the privacy of Blue, the pen name of the boy he’s been emailing, will be compromised.

With some messy dynamics emerging in his once tight-knit group of friends, and his email correspondence with Blue growing more flirtatious every day, Simon’s junior year has suddenly gotten all kinds of complicated. Now, change-averse Simon has to find a way to step out of his comfort zone before he’s pushed out—without alienating his friends, compromising himself, or fumbling a shot at happiness with the most confusing, adorable guy he’s never met.

Hype:

North American rights were pre-empted by Balzer & Bray within three days of the manuscript being submitted and the story has the book trade buzzing. The author, Becky Albertalli, is a clinical psychologist and spent seven years working with a support group for gender-nonconforming children in the US. Penguin have also bought rights for her second novel.

Ideal for fans of: David Levithan and Stephen Chbosky

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/19547856-simon-vs-the-homo-sapiens-agenda?ac=1#

2. Under My Skin by James Dawson

Under My Skin
UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

Seventeen-year-old Sally Feather is not exactly a rebel. Her super-conservative parents and her treatment at the hands of high school bullies means that Sally’s about as shy and retiring as they come – but all that’s about to change. Accidentally ending up in the seedier side of town one day, Sally finds herself mysteriously lured to an almost-hidden tattoo parlour – and once inside, Sally is quickly seduced by its charming owner, Rosita, and her talk of how having a secret tattoo can be as empowering as it is thrilling. Almost before she knows what she is doing, Sally selects sexy pin-up Molly Sue, and has her tattooed on her back – hoping that Molly Sue will inspire her to be as confident and popular as she is in her dreams.

But things quickly take a nightmareish turn. Almost immediately, Sally begins to hear voices in her head – or rather, one voice in particular: Molly Sue’s. And she has no interest in staying quiet and being a good girl – in fact, she’s mighty delighted to have a body to take charge of again. Sally slowly realizes that she is unable to control Molly Sue… and before long she’s going to find out the hard way what it truly means to have somebody ‘under your skin’

Hype:

Another story from 2014’s Queen of Teen. Dawson established himself last year with titles such as Say Her Name and This Book is Gay and his Number One gal-pal, Conchita Wurst. His latest offering, no doubt, offers a new and interesting twist delivered in classic Dawson-esque style. What’s that? You don’t follow? Then, I guess you need to pre-order Under My Skin. Now. Of course now. I’ll just wait…

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/23058143-under-my-skin?from_search=true

3. The Dolls by Kiki Sullivan

The Dolls
UK Release Date: 1st March 2015

US Release Date: 2nd September 2014

Plot:

Eveny Cheval just moved back to Louisiana after spending her childhood in New York with her aunt Bea. Eveny hasn’t seen her hometown since her mother’s suicide fourteen years ago, and her memories couldn’t have prepared her for what she encounters. Because pristine, perfectly manicured Carrefour has a dark side full of intrigue, betrayal, and lies—and Eveny quickly finds herself at the center of it all.

Enter Peregrine Marceau, Chloe St. Pierre, and their group of rich, sexy friends known as the Dolls. From sipping champagne at lunch to hooking up with the hottest boys, Peregrine and Chloe have everything—including an explanation for what’s going on in Carrefour. And Eveny doesn’t trust them one bit.

But after murder strikes and Eveny discovers that everything she believes about herself, her family, and her life is a lie, she must turn to the Dolls for answers. Something’s wrong in paradise, and it’s up to Eveny, Chloe, and Peregrine to save Carrefour and make it right

Hype:

Though I’ve yet to read them, I admire an author who supports her stories with e-novellas, short stories and, in Sullivan’s case, e-episodes. It allows for the expansion and development of the world. I think the premise is an interesting one. I’m a sucker for paranormal and fantasy stories. Sullivan had me at murder!

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Links:

Link to a free chapter of the book and six free e-episodes: http://www.usborne.com/catalogue/book/1~EB~E14~8884/the-dolls.aspx

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/18249114-the-dolls?ac=1

4. My Heart and Other Black Holes by Jasmine Warga

My Heart and Other Black Holes

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th February 2015

Plot:

I’m getting higher and higher and I feel the swing set creak. ‘Be careful,’ he says. ‘Why?’ I’m not thinking about being careful. I’m thinking about one last push, of letting go, of flying, and of falling. ‘You aren’t allowed to die without me,’ he whispers.

Aysel and Roman are practically strangers, but they’ve been drawn into an unthinkable partnership. In a month’s time, they plan to commit suicide – together. Aysel knows why she wants to die: being the daughter of a murderer doesn’t equal normal, well-adjusted teenager. But she can’t figure out why handsome, popular Roman wants to end it all…and why he’s even more determined than she is. With the deadline getting closer, something starts to grow between Aysel and Roman – a feeling she never thought she would experience. It seems there might be something to live for, after all – but is Aysel in so deep she can’t turn back?

Hype: This feels a bit like a re-visioned Romeo and Juliet. I love reading something different. I think it will appeal to teens and twenty-teens because of the way it deals with a real social issue but uses it as the means for two people to come together and fall in love. High hopes for this one.

Ideal for fans of: Jay Asher and Cat Clarke

Links:

Goodreads: http://www.bookdepository.com/My-Heart-Other-Black-Holes-Jasmine-Warga/9781444791532

5. Soulprint by Megan Miranda

Soulprint

UK Release Date: 12th February 2015

US Release Date: 3rd February 2015

Plot:

Alina Chase has spent her entire life in confinement. With the science of soul-printing now a reality, she is ‘protected’ for her own safety – and the safety of others – because her soul has done terrible things …or so she’s told. When Alina finally breaks out of prison, helped by a group of people with unclear motives, she begins to uncover clues left by her past life that only she can decipher. And she may not be as innocent as she once believed. Can Alina change her future, or is she fated to repeat her past and face the consequences?

Hype: I love the mystery behind this; the obliviousness of the main character’s actions that obscure whether she’ll be the hero or a sort of anti-hero. What is soul-printing? And what has Alina done that’s so bad?

Ideal for fans of: Sophie Kenzie

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22392926-soulprint?from_search=true

6. Geek Drama by Holly Smale

Geek Drama

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 26th February 2015

Plot:

“My name is Harriet Manners, and I am a geek.”

Harriet Manners knows that the hottest observed place on earth is Furnace Creek in Death Valley. She knows that dolphins shed the top layer of their skin every two hours. And she knows just how badly auditions can go, especially when you’re a model. But she has no idea how to get herself out of the extreme embarrassment of the school play or what to do when arch-nemesis Alexa decides it’s the perfect opportunity to humiliate her…Can GEEK GIRL survive the bright lights of the stage?

Hype:

A hilarious World Book Day GEEK GIRL novella by award-winning, bestselling author Holly Smale. I love this. Seriously, I’m 24 and I don’t care. Holly Smale is a genius. Harriet comes alive in the pages and I literally LOL on the bus (which is worrying when you’re pressed up against sweaty armpits at the peak time rush!).

Ideal for fans of: Lousie Rennison and James Dawson

Links:

http://www.bookdepository.com/Geek-Drama-50-Book-Pack-Holly-Smale/9780008113483

7. Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild

UK Release Date: 26th March 2015

US Release Date: 24th March 2015

Plot:

“You will have a powerful Gift, but it’s how you use it that will show you to be good or bad.”

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.

Meanwhile, Soul O’Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?

Hype:

Sally Green’s Half Bad debut saw a boy in a cage at Manchester Piccadilly and the book itself gave witches a face-lift (arguably, literally) and experimented with first- and second-person narrative styles. This is certainly one to look out for. No doubt, we’ll see it in bookshop windows very soon.

Ideal for fans of: Rachel Hawkins and Kami Garcia & Margaret Stohl

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20814989-half-wild?from_search=true

8. The Game of Love and Death by Martha Brockenbrough

The Game of Love and Death

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

Flora and Henry were born a few blocks from each other, innocent of the forces that might keep a white boy and an African American girl apart; years later they meet again and their mutual love of music sparks an even more powerful connection. But what Flora and Henry don’t know is that they are pawns in a game played by the eternal adversaries Love and Death, here brilliantly re-imagined as two extremely sympathetic and fascinating characters. Can their hearts and their wills overcome not only their earthly circumstances, but forces that have battled throughout history?

Hype:

This has the potential to be amazing. I can’t add anything else, without sullying the plot, other than saying I love reading about diverse characters in YA Lit. I hope it’s a dual narrative and offers credible accounts from both characters.

Ideal for fans of: Jenny Downham and Gayle Forman

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20308537-the-game-of-love-and-death?from_search=true

9. The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

The Sin Eater's Daughter

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 24th February 2015

Plot:

Seventeen-year-old Twylla lives in the castle. But although she’s engaged to the prince, Twylla isn’t exactly a member of the court. She’s the executioner. As the Goddess embodied, Twylla instantly kills anyone she touches. Each month she’s taken to the prison and forced to lay her hands on those accused of treason. No one will ever love a girl with murder in her veins. Even the prince, whose royal blood supposedly makes him immune to Twylla’s fatal touch, avoids her company. But then a new guard arrives, a boy whose easy smile belies his deadly swordsmanship. And unlike the others, he’s able to look past Twylla’s executioner robes and see the girl, not the Goddess. Yet Twylla’s been promised to the prince, and knows what happens to people who cross the queen. However, a treasonous secret is the least of Twylla’s problems. The queen has a plan to destroy her enemies, a plan that requires a stomach-churning, unthinkable sacrifice. Will Twylla do what it takes to protect her kingdom? Or will she abandon her duty in favor of a doomed love?

Hype:

I got an advance copy of this last year at the London Book Fair and I have to say, it’s a damn good read with twists, romance, betrayal and action galore. The cover looks amazing and Melinda (from what I’ve gathered, tweeting her back and forth) is absolutely lovely.

Ideal for fans of: Ideal for fans of: Maria V. Snyder and Philip Pullman

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22536448-the-sin-eater-s-daughter?from_search=true

10. The Alex Crow by Andrew Smith

The Alex Crow

UK Release Date: 26th February 2015

US Release Date: 10th March 2015

Plot:

Ariel, the sole survivor of an attack on his village in the Middle East is ‘rescued’ from the horrific madness of war in his homeland by an American soldier and sent to live with a family in suburban Virginia. And yet, to Ariel, this new life with a genetic scientist father and resentful brother, Max, is as confusing and bizarre as the life he just left. Things get even weirder when Ariel and Max are sent to an all-boys summer camp in the forest for tech detox. Intense, funny and fierce friendships are formed. And all the time the scientific tinkerings of the boys’ father into genetics and our very existence are creeping up on them in their wooden cabin, second by painful second…

Hype:

The story is an interesting one (much like the rest, he says). The follow-up to Andrew Smith’s Grasshopper Jungle – I think we can expect another great read. I also heard that the book fairies left copies at London (underground) tube stations this morning.

Ideal for fans of: Markus Zusak and Sally Gardner

Links:

Goodreads: http://www.bookdepository.com/Alex-Crow-Andrew-Smith/9781405273428

11. I’ll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson

I'll Give You The Sun

UK Release Date: 2nd April 2015

US Release Date: 16th September 2014

Plot:

Jude and her twin Noah were incredibly close – until a tragedy drove them apart, and now they are barely speaking. Then Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy as well as a captivating new mentor, both of whom may just need her as much as she needs them. What the twins don’t realize is that each of them has only half the story and if they can just find their way back to one another, they have a chance to remake their world.

Hype:

This one is described as “a radiant novel that will leave you laughing and crying” so obviously, I had to include it. I would have placed it higher except that A.) it’s a tough quarter for YA and B.) it echoes Nathan Filer’s The Shock of the Fall and Karen Joy Fowler’s We Are All Completely Beside Ourselves and that worries me a little. If it’s too similar, it will show but still, a potential good read.

Ideal for fans of: Karen Joy Fowler and John Green

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20820994-i-ll-give-you-the-sun?from_search=true

12. Unspeakable by Abbie Rushton

Unspeakable

UK Release Date: 5th February 2015

US Release Date: 5th February 2015

Plot:

Megan doesn’t speak. She hasn’t spoken in months.

Pushing away the people she cares about is just a small price to pay. Because there are things locked inside Megan’s head – things that are screaming to be heard – that she cannot, must not, let out.

Then Jasmine starts at school: bubbly, beautiful, talkative Jasmine. And for reasons Megan can’t quite understand, life starts to look a bit brighter.

Megan would love to speak again, and it seems like Jasmine might be the answer. But if she finds her voice, will she lose everything else?

Hype: This has echoes of Emily Murdoch’s If You Find Me so I’ll just wait and see. It seems to offer some diversity (LGBT) and again, we need more diverse voices in YA, so that, along with the plot (and the John Green style cover) places this at the #12 spot.

Ideal for fans of: Tess Sharpe and David Levithan

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22103725-unspeakable

13. The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

The Girl At Midnight

UK Release Date: 28th April 2015

US Release Date: 28th April 2015

Plot:

Beneath the streets of New York City live the Avicen, an ancient race of people with feathers for hair and magic running through their veins. Age-old enchantments keep them hidden from humans. All but one. Echo is a runaway pickpocket who survives by selling stolen treasures on the black market, and the Avicen are the only family she’s ever known. Echo is clever and daring, and at times she can be brash, but above all else she’s fiercely loyal. So when a centuries-old war crests on the borders of her home, she decides it’s time to act.

Legend has it that there is a way to end the conflict once and for all: find the Firebird, a mythical entity believed to possess power the likes of which the world has never seen. It will be no easy task, but if life as a thief has taught Echo anything, it’s how to hunt down what she wants …and how to take it. But some jobs aren’t as straightforward as they seem. And this one might just set the world on fire.

Hype: I love fantasy escapism. This looks like just the ticket. World-building and story; all we can do now is hope for character and distinct narration and Melissa Grey is on to a winner.

Ideal for fans of: Leslye Walton and Marcus Sedgwick

Links:

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/20345202-the-girl-at-midnight?from_search=true

14. Killing the Dead by Marcus Sedgwick

Killing

UK Release Date: 5th March 2015

US Release Date: N/A

Plot:

Set in a girls’ boarding school in Massachusetts a haunting and sinister story YA story for World Book Day from prize-winning author Marcus Sedgwick. 1963. Foxgrove School near Stockbridge, Massachusetts. One of the oldest and finest academies in the country – but what really goes on behind closed doors? Nathaniel Drake, the new young English teacher, Isobel Milewski, the quiet girl who loved to draw spirals, her fingers stained with green ink, Jack Lewis, who lent Isobel books – just words, just ink on paper, Margot Leya, the girl with those eyes – who are they, what part have they played in killing the dead? Follow the dark, dark path Into the dark, dark woods To the dark, dark bridge By the dark, dark water. Linger. Let the ghosts of heaven tell their story

Hype: A stylish and creepy story for World Book Day from the award-winning author of She is Not Invisible. Cheap and cheerful: what more could you want?

Ideal for fans of: Kendare Blake and Alyxandra Harvey

Links:

No Goodreads link available.

Waterstones: https://www.waterstones.com/book/killing-the-dead/marcus-sedgwick/9781780622392

15. The Prey by Tom Isbell

The Prey

UK Release Date: 12th March 2015

US Release Date: 20th January 2015

Plot:

In the Republic of the True America, it’s always hunting season. Riveting action, intense romance, and gripping emotion make this fast-paced adventure a standout debut. After a radiation blast burned most of the Earth to a crisp, the new government established settlement camps for the survivors. At one such camp, Book and the other ‘LTs’ are eager to graduate as part of the Rite. Until they learn the dark truth: ‘LTs’ doesn’t stand for lieutenant but for ‘Less Thans’, feared by society and raised to be hunted for sport.

Together with the sisters, Hope and Faith, twin girls who’ve suffered their own haunting fate, they join forces to seek the safety of the fabled New Territory. As Book and Hope lead their quest for freedom, these teens must find the best in themselves to fight the worst in their enemies. But as they are pursued by sadistic hunters, secrets are revealed, allegiances are made, and lives are threatened.

Hype:

We had The Hunger Games, Divergent, The Maze Runner and now, we have The Prey. There’s been a lot of talk about this one over at Team HC (HarperCollins – the publisher). It seems to be aimed at adults (marketed by the Harper Voyager – sci-fi/fantasy imprint) though it will be probably also resonate with a teen audience. Dystopian fiction has been exhausted in recent years (with big screen adaptations and book market saturation), this holds promise though I worry it could come off like The Hunger Games fan fiction.

Ideal for fans of: Suzanne Collins and Veronica Roth

Links:

Goodreads: https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/22061971-the-prey?from_search=true

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Dorothy Must Die

DMD

Title: Dorothy Must Die

Author: Danielle Paige

Publisher: HarperCollins Children’s Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 452 

Plot:

Set in Kansas, Amy Gunn, is an outcast who gets transported during a freak tornado to Oz. But it isn’t the Oz that Amy’s seen in the movie. Nobody’s singing, the inhabitants are terrified and everyone is living under a new tyrannical leader: Dorothy. Aligning herself with the Order of the Wicked, Amy must take down Dorothy and her friends.

I enjoyed the story. I like how Paige lets us see Amy’s life; how miserable she is and her relationship with her depressed mother. There are enough obstacles to keep you reading and as well as going on a physical journey, Amy goes on an emotional one. I would like to point out that Dorothy had silver shoes in the book and not ruby heels. I know this is explained in the prequel novella but I, and I’m sure it will be the same for many readers, didn’t know about the prequel novella until I read the main novel. I also feel let down by the ending. I think most people will agree with this sentiment.

Layered with betrayals, buried in secrets, the story whisks you away to a very different Oz and demands your attention from the very first line:

“I first discovered I was trash three days before my ninth birthday – one day after my father lost his job and moved to Secaucus to live with a woman named Crystal and four years before my mother had the car accident, started taking pills, and began exclusively wearing bedroom slippers instead of normal shoes.”

13/20

Narration:

I love the narrative voice. Amy comes across loud and clear, funny and feisty but more poignant than both of these are the vulnerable moments when her thoughts drift to her mother. There are times when she focuses on Nox and it removes you from the danger she’s in and the difficulty of what she’ll eventually have to do. Also, the petty jealousy with Melindra and the somewhat clichéd girl-hating-girl-for-no-reason element is a little stale.

15/20

Character:

New and classic characters feature side by side in Paige’s dystopian Oz. To the classic, Danielle shows a darker edge and builds back-stories around them, their relationships and their motivations. The new characters come across with strong personalities that rival the darker, well-established characters from Baum’s original.

Paige builds up Amy’s character for the first line. The “Salvation Amy” taunt is a nice touch. It’s not overused but it keeps it fresh in our minds who Amy Gunn is at all times. It also refreshes her tumultuous relationship with her mother. Her weaponizations of the Scarecrow, the Tin Woodman and the Lion are both horrific and imaginative.

Some of my favourite moments are:

  • “It wasn’t hot and it wasn’t cold. It was like nothing I’d ever felt before – including the time when I was little and I put my finger in a lightbulb socket to see what would happen.”

  • “‘Ugh! It would literally hurt! He has knives for fingers’, Dorothy complained.” (Loved Dorothy!)

  • Jellia: “‘Remember––it’s a thousand strokes. Not a thousand and one and not nine hundred and ninety-nine. Don’t lose count. Dorothy will know. She always does––we’ve lost more than one girl that way. If there’s one thing to say about Hannah, it’s that she certainly could count.’”

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing quality is set at a high standard though the cultural references to Star Wars and the like distract you from Oz. Assume that the reader will have the slightest knowledge of Oz and push forward with the darker aspects of the story and build on the new characters.

When Amy says that Dorothy’s lips were “shellacked in plasticky crimson”, it’s slightly confusing. I misread it as a typo and thought she meant shellac. Not sure if they have shellac nails in the US but I drew a comparison between nails and lips and found it jarring. I think saying “varnished” or “polished” would have ironed this out. Sometimes, Amy would almost spoon-feed the reader with descriptions, telling us what to think like when she describes what Dorothy is wearing but then tells us that she’s looks like a hooker. Give the reader some credit and let us work that out for ourselves.

This aside, there were some beautiful phrases:

  • “There was a pause I could drive a truck through.”

  • “Dorothy’s boobs were out to here, her legs up to there.”

  • “The Tin Woodman’s forehead crumpled like aluminium foil, then smoothed itself out again as he considered the idea.”

16/20

Setting:

I like how Paige portrays Oz and draws it back to Amy’s knowledge of it. I felt that we maybe could have seen more of the world though. A large portion of the story takes place with the Order of the Wicked and this might have been an opportunity to either show or tell us more about Oz.

7/10

Comparative Literature:

When you turn a utopic world into a dystopia by changing one character, a lot can wrong. The world must reflect the shift in power, the cast of characters change but the characters must show a range of qualities. The second challenge lies in that some of the original characters in Baum’s original were somewhat one-dimensional or rather, they had one motivation. The Scarecrow wanted a brain and to help Dorothy. Dorothy wanted to go home. The Wicked Witch of the West wanted Dorothy’s shoes. They all had one true desire. And while each character in Paige’s retelling has one true desire, they show a myriad of emotions and motives; a rich layering of the complexities of human nature. Paige uses the popularity and reader’s familiarity with Oz as a springboard to accelerate her story and push it into new, darker territory. The story piques the reader’s curiosity and forces us to keep reading in an attempt to find answers to the questions that are presented similar to Josephine Angelini’s Starcrossed. The world is dark and the characters memorable like Julie Kagawa’s Iron Fey series. Both stories incorporate myths and more established stories – Kagawa’s, of the fey in (Sir Orfeo) and Angelini’s, of Helen of Troy – and use them as a base for their story but do not rely on that. Rather, they push the story further and Paige’s Dorothy Must Die is no different.

10/10

Overall Score:

81/100

Books You May Also Like:

No Place Like Oz by Danielle Paige – to get answers to some of your questions like, how did Dorothy become evil? What happened to her aunt and uncle?

The Iron Fey series by Julia Kagawa – for a story about fairy lore with a creative twist

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August 7, 2014 · 10:58 am

The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender

Ava Lavender

Title: The Strange And Beautiful Sorrows Of Ava Lavender

Author: Leslye Walton

Publisher: Walker Books

Format: Hardback

Standalone/Series: Standalone

Pages: 320

Plot:

The plot is exhibitionist in that it’s like flipping through the pages of a furniture catalogue and reading the descriptions of those hardwood coffee tables that you may or may not want. It’s just that exciting. The plot is supposed to be about a sixteen-year-old girl who is born with wings and confined to the house to protect her from those that might mock or harass – or even hurt – her. Half of the book recounts the family history – right back to Ava’s grandparents – and while interesting, a lot of it could be cut (seriously, it takes up half of the book and after the first one hundred pages, you start to wonder if you’re reading the book that was advertised on the cover jacket. It doesn’t follow the three-act structure and while this is not essential, I feel that this is one of those occasions where it could really benefit from it.

I understand that this book incorporates elements of romance and magic realism but it’s really boring. There’s not enough in there to make me want to read on (though I did  and it was like reading the Oxford English Dictionary). You don’t need sharks with laser beams attached to their heads to get my attention but you need something to hook me and obstacles in the story to keep me reading (be it a betrayal, a forbidden romance etc.). There are also a lot of plot holes. The harpsichord is unused for so many years, and I’m no music expert, but somehow it’s in tune after all that time when it’s finally played and it doesn’t feel plausible.

6/20

Narration:

Have you ever had a friend tell you about a strange or odd experience they’ve had and, while it’s interesting, you’re not feeling it as much as they are because they experienced it? The narration is kind of along those lines. The history of her family intrigues me but the narration is all over the place so that I feel like I’m watching the scenes through a telescope. The story is first-person – told by Ava. Somehow, she seems to know everything about her family including things that she could never possibly know such as the night she was conceived. The narration jumps between first-person and omniscient third-person and while demonstrating all of the limitations of both, shows none of the advantages. I felt distanced from Ava and the intimacy of her narration that we get in the last fifty pages is lost in the rest of the book.

5/20

Character:

The character cast was weak at best. I can understand why Ava is a bit bland having been boxed up in her house for so long but what’s the excuse for the other characters? Cardigan is the breakout. The rest aren’t strong enough characters to make me empathise with their struggles. They possess distinguishing features but lack the substance that allows the reader to really feel for them.

8/20

Quality of Writing:

The writing is beautiful in places but, for the most part, it’s drawn-out. The events are very much told instead of shown. The first half of the novel, in particular, is like reading a journal of your mother’s life – a second-hand account that lacks the intimacy that the reader needs. And more than once, the writing becomes a little clunky.

6/20

Setting:

I had no major issue with the setting. I would have liked if Walton had sliced information into the scene to keep us in the moment rather than overloading us with scene-setting chunks of text though.

6/10

Comparative Literature:

It adds nothing special to the genre. The synopsis shows promise but the book itself centres around Ava’s grandmother and her mother. There’s so much potential with this story and I really wanted to enjoy it but there’s no denying that the narration and characters are weak and that it’s a tough read. Comparing it to other books that show characters suffering and dealing with loss like Sally Green’s Half Bad, she manages to capture her protagonist’s torture and pain perfectly. She adds something different to the genre in that she adopts a second-person narrative style along with first-person and creates a world. Walton doesn’t achieve anything like this.

3/10

Overall Score:

34/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • A beautiful story but a weak plot
  • A confusing narrative structure
  • Misleading in that it tells us more about Ava’s grandmother than Ava herself
  • On the bright side, a really amazing cover

Books You May Also Like:

Half-Bad by Sally Green – if you want to read more about (real) sorrow and pain (and the mental and emotional trauma’s that Nathan – the protagonist – is subjected to) and how his being different gradually ostracizes him from his community

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May 13, 2014 · 3:16 pm

The Sin Eater’s Daughter

imageimage (1)

Title: The Sin Eater’s Daughter

Author: Melinda Salisbury

Publisher: Scholastic

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 320

Plot:

Set in Lomere, Salisbury crafts an original world. The plot progresses with  a three-act structure and there’s enough bumps in the road to keep you hooked.

20/20

Narration:

The narrative is told by Twylla in first-person narration. I like how she sets up the world and the back story with Tyrek and slowly releases information about her life and her world. I had an issue with her personality though. It doesn’t really shine until halfway through the story and even then, I found myself wanting more. I love the world, I love the setting and the array of characters but I just wanted more personality in the narration.

15/20

Character:

I love Twylla’s mother and we get glimpses of Twylla’s personality mirrored back to us in how she thinks about, and acts, around her mother. I love the ruthlessness of the queen and the open-mindedness and intelligence of her son, Merek. I like Lief as one of the love interests in the love triangle. The issue I had was when Twylla discovers that her sister is dead. I don’t feel any more sad when I discover this than if Morrissons ran out of fish fingers. The reason being that other than being Twylla’s sister, I have absolutely no idea who she is. There is not enough established back-story on her character for me to feel anything when this blow is delivered.

13/20

Quality of Writing:

The lexicon employed in the novel is, for the most part, consistent and words like “breeches”/”my lady”/”Queen” and so on, help to support the world and the information that is released about it. I wish the in-the-moment scenes were more immediate as I read them and felt quite distanced and on certain occasions, there are words like “rank” (referring to smell) and “slut” that don’t fit in with the established lexicon. I would also have liked to have seen the information filtered in or dramatised. At times, it’s al lot to digest and it’s big blocks of text with a lot of information coming at the reader fast.

15/20

Setting:

The setting is spot-on. There’s not much else I can say. Salisbury knows her world inside-out.

10/10

Comparative Literature:

The plot reminds me somewhat of Maria V. Snyder’s Poison Study where, Yelena, having committed murder, must choose between execution or becoming the new food taster to the King. To prevent her escape, she is poisoned with Butterfly Dust and must take the antidote every day or the poison will kill her. Both authors create really vivid worlds. But have memorable antagonists and a good range of characters. Salisbury layers her plot with betrayal but Snyder does infuse more character into her narrative style. The main selling point of this book is the world and its secrets – secrets that can get you killed.

9/10

Overall Score:

82/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Great world-building
  • Could do with more character in the narration
  • An intricate story layered with betrayal and secrets
  • A memorable antagonist
  • Layered characters that have their own agendas

If you enjoyed this review, follow me on @YAblooker and follow Mel on @AHintofMystery

Books You May Also Like:

Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder – for another fantasy title with forbidden love and a great world to explore

The Iron Fey series by Julia Kagawa – for a novel with an exciting world to explore, a love triangle and memorable antagonists

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April 28, 2014 · 7:15 am

Half Bad

Half Bad

Title: Half Bad

Author: Sally Green

Publisher: Puffin

Format: Paperback (also available in Hardback and e-book formats)

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 380

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Sally Green and Puffin Books.

Excerpt from page 14/15:

“When she comes back a few seconds later, you’re round by the pantry door and you bring the iron down hard, pointed side against her head.

But she’s so blood tall and so bloody fast. The iron catches the side of her scalp and sinks into her shoulder.

You’re on the floor clutching your ears, looking at her boots before you pass out.”

Plot:

The plot is great. On a fundamental level, it’s about the fight between good and evil both externally and internally. Nathan lives in a world where he, a Half-Code (a cross between a White and Black witch),  lives in a world where White witches (who act as paragons of good) rule and Black witches (who are viewed as terrorists) are hunted. He must receive three Gifts by his seventeenth birthday or he’ll die. Left with no alternative, he must get to Mercury, the Black witch who eats boys, before he turns seventeen.

I love how Green builds a world. What’s more, there’s enough bumps in the path to keep adventure-seekers happy and romance enough to leave you wondering how Nathan and Annalise will ever be together. I will admit though that I was expecting something bigger at the end. It felt like a build up of pressure that deflated at the last page. Slightly anti-climatic but I stand by this book in saying that it’s still a great read.

16/20

Narration:

The narration is different to the norm in YA genre. For the most part, it’s a first person narrative but in the beginning and interspersed throughout, is a different style that is Nathan’s voice but he uses the “you” pronoun, placing the reader into the text: “You go first. You light the match, and hold it between your thumb and forefinger…” (3) This style gets you closer to the action and makes you feel like you’re actually there, like you’re the one lighting the matches while the traditional, first-person style lends a more intimate quality to the story. Both work magnificently together and help draw the reader into the story.

20/20

Character:

I can’t really fault Green on character. There was a nice array of different personalities. Particular highlights for me where Mercury (and Gabriel, to a lesser extent).

20/20

Quality of Writing:

The quality of the writing was on-point for the most part. The only criticism I have is that I would have liked a bit more dramatisation than exposition in the story. I felt there were times when it would have made for a richer story if Green dramatised some of the character detail, allowing us to make our own observations and not spell everything out.

17/20

Setting:

Green does what few writers manage to do and that is, to create a world. Not just a physical world (Wales, London, Geneva etc.) but an actual sense of a world (and community) when it comes to the Council and the war between the White and Black witches and the politics of Nathan’s world. I do wish we got a bit more concrete detail, especially in Geneva. At times, it feels like we could be in one of twenty different places across the globe. There’s a lack of definining and anchoring features at times.

7/10

Comparative Literature:

The story is fresh and raw, darker than many YA novels. It’s edgy and definitely a page-turner. It reminds me of Divergent by Veronica Roth, in that it draws you into Nathan’s world and you always want to know more. It’s exciting and the craftmanship in the story is beautiful. I guess it also reminds me of stories about vampires like Marked and Twilight in that many of the characters in these books must deal with the good and the bad that rages within them. My main point here though, is that the narrative voice is striking and I haven’t seen anything quite like it in other YA stories before.

10/10

Overall Score:

90/100

NOW SKIP TO THE GOOD BIT…

  • Well-rounded, likable and horrible characters
  • A different, edgy take on narration
  • Good, quality writing
  • Intriguing story and a world that draws
  • Physical setting could do with a bit more anchoring detail but overall. great world-building technique

Books You May Also Like:

Divergent series by Veronica Roth – for a different (dystopian) world and a strong narrative voice

Marked (House of Night series) by P.C. and Kristin Cast. – for more of that internal good/bad struggle and that sense of entering and discovering a new world

Harry Potter series by J.K. Rowling – I don’t think there’s much I can say here that will do Rowling’s phenomenon justice so I’ll say no more

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Fallen

Fallen

Title: Fallen

Author: Lauren Kate

Publisher: Random House Children’s Books

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 452

Plot:

The plot is rather simple. Luce gets sent to a boarding school, when a boy she likes, dies under mysterious circumstances that implicate her. At Sword and Cross school, Luce meets Daniel – a boy that she can’t help but feel she already knows. She gravitates towards him and he oscillates between cruelty and kindness.

My main issue with the plot is that there’s not enough in the book to bite into. You have Luce – the heroine that I don’t particularly like – whose whole story revolves around Daniel. You have the introduction of a love triangle when she meets Cam. You have allies in the form of Penn and Arriane and a kind-of-antagonist in the form of Gabbe.

The story would benefit from a three-act structure:

  • a beginning in which the set-up and the characters are introduced;
  • a middle where Luce faces a series of obstacles, each greater than the last and;
  • an ending that packs enough punch where Luce must deal with a final confrontation or face something that will change things.

Instead, Luce acts as a beacon that satelites around Daniel. Her struggles are undermined by this obliviousness to everything else when he’s around.

Luce’s thought process don’t make sense a lot of the time. After she has been touched by the shadows, there is a weak rationalisation:

“That was impossible–she’d just been standing in a weird place; a draft must have shot through the gymnasium.” (136)

Really? I’m not buying what you’re selling (unfortunately, I’ve already spent seven quid on the book).

At another point, Cam is sipping coffee when previously, there’s no mention of where he gets coffee from. you’d think there’d be some mention of it seeing as how we get pages and pages of tedious description but no. Cam pulls his coffee out of thin air. There’s problems also with the transitioning of the relationship between Daniel and Luce. I find Daniel’s responses a bit clunky and jarring at times, especially when he accuses her of being a stalker. Daniel is portrayed as this elegant, beautiful boy with a way with words and he comes across as the complete opposite in some of these interactions. I’m also confused with how Cam gets a driver and a black sedan to pick Luce up and bring her to an obscure and seedy bar. The ending is satisfying but that’s only if you manage to get through the first 300 pages.

08/20

Narration:

The third-person narration is quite distant and the lengthy descriptions further distance us rather than anchor us in the scene. The narrative detail is told rather than shown. The story would have benefitted from more dramatisation compared with the lengthy, run-on-forever paragraphs. If you look at Michael Grant’s writing style, he filters in detail into dialogue, body language – the small details that help build a scene and a world instead of bombarding us with chunks of description. There is many a clunky sentence structure in the piece. These sentences aren’t gramatically incorrect but they are difficult to get your head around:

“Which didn’t make sense, because a gorgeous and friendly guy was standing right behind her, asking her what she’d like to drink. The other gorgeous, infinitely less friendly guy sitting across from her should not be the one she couldn’t stop looking at.” (117)

The third-person narration distances the reader also with the word choice: “moniker”(60/67) / “powwow” (66) – have girls ever used this in conversation? I hope not!/”Daniel could be with whomever he wanted” (134) – why not just say whoever?

The word choice clashes with the character we’re getting to know and it seems that author wants us to know what a broad vocabulary she has rather than helping us to understand her character and strengthen her narrative voice.

08/20

Character:

As far as character is concerned, I don’t compare about any of them except for Arriane. Anything that happens to Arriane piques my interest:

“”It’s detention,” Arriane said flatly. You have to pair up. Do you think Roland and Chester the Molester are friends?” She pointed at Roland and Cam.” (91)

The other characters could die in a horrific explosion and I’d probably still have a more emotional reaction if I discovered my Corn Flakes went mushy in my milk. The distant narration doesn’t help. The lengthy descriptions take us away from the characters. The flashbacks pull us out of the scene and do little to reinforce character.

Penn is fine as the mousy, book type. Roland is an interesting character in that, you don’t quite know where he stands. Callie as the over-the-top BFF – even though we only gets glimmers of her throughout the story – is credible. Luce is about as interesting as a whitewash wall. Daniel acts as a mirror in which we catch glimpses of her character.

I’m especially surprised that her character is so weak when the narration style follows her every move. I feel like Kate could have done more with Daniel’s character. He reminds me of a doughy cookie before it’s been baked and rises – he’s a cut-out and until he rises, he won’t become a fully-realised, three-dimensional character. Arriane steals every scene she’s in and she reveals just how weak and under-developed many of the characters are.

07/20

Quality of Writing:

The technique just wasn’t her in this book. At best, it’s middle-of-the-road. The descriptions run on for far too long. I feel like there could be more variation in the sentence structure. At times, I suspect it may be an attempt on the author’s part to show us all the words that she knows when it doesn’t fit in with the sentence, the scene or reflect on the character.

09/20

Setting:

I get a sense of place but this is overshadowed by the over-detailing of each scene -with both character and setting. Information overload.

04/10

Comparative Literature:

Compared to Hush Hush, Fitzpatrick’s characters are more interesting than what Kate has to offer, her scene description is significantly less over-egged and her in-the-moment scenes draw you in more than any conflict scene in Fallen. There’s nothing really new here. Arriane is a fresh character to the genre but that’s about it. There’s nothing special about the narrative voice, the location or the characters. L.A. Weatherly puts a new spin on the “angel” motif which is definitely worth a read.

03/10

Overall Score:

39/100

Summary:

Get your reading fix elsewhere.

Books You May Also Like:

The Immortals by Alyson Noel – Noel’s protagonist can see auras, infusing her narrative style with something extra

Hush Hush  by Becca Fitzpatrick– great world building and fast-paced action scenes

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia – believable Southern setting and a story about the good and evil that fights within us

Angel by L.A. Weatherly – new spin on a popularised motif and fast-paced plot

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Gone

gone

Title: Gone

Author: Michael Grant

Publisher: Electric Monkey (an imprint of Egmont UK Limited)

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 560

Adults disappear. Kids develop powers. A dome cages them in and beneath the surface, a dark beast lurks, biding its time.

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong Michael Grant to  and Electric Monkey.

Excerpt taken from Page 3:

“ONE MINUTE THE teacher was talking about the Civil War.

And the next minute he was gone.

There.

Gone.

No ‘poof’. No flash of light. No explosion.

Sam Temple was sitting in third-period history class staring blankly  at the blackboard, but far away in his head. In his head, he was down at the beach, he and Quinn. Down at the beach with their boards, yelling, bracing for that first plunge into cold Pacific water.

For a moment, he thought he had imagined it, the teacher disappearing. For a moment, he thought he’d slipped into a daydream.

Sam turned to Mary Terrafino, who sat just to his left. ‘You saw that, right?'”

Narration:

The narration in this novel is on-point throughout. The narrative style is third-person, allowing us an insight into the lives of many of the Perdido Beach and Coates inhabitants, while centring around more crucial characters like Sam, Caine and Drake. Grant builds up an interlinking story arc with various different characters that builds a foundation for the plot, setting up the obstacles and events to come. He deliberately builds up the dramatic tension and leaves you on somewhat of a cliff-hanger as to what the fate of the character is, what they might have discovered, what they are about to do or simply leave you excited and wanting to find out what happens next when they make a defining choice that will change the course of the novel. The descriptions and observations are also sensory, unlike some YA novels that become over-reliant on observation alone. Grant dramatises many of the facts instead of stating them too which makes for a more interesting read. For example, we know from the dialogue between Lana and her grandfather that he is 75 (or 76). We can piece that information together ourselves. As readers, we aren’t being spoon-fed. There are places though, where I feel as though Grant tells us about the character’s background or what they are thinking where he could possibly have found ways to dramatise this information, either in actions or dialogue.

At times, there is a little excessive detail though, more so in the description of the dialogue. Telling us that Astrid berates herself when we already know it, both given the situation and her words. It also feels as though there is a lapse in the narrative voice in places:

“They veered towards it. There might be food or water or shelter.”

Otherwise, the narrative is seamless and though some might argue that Grant focuses on too many characters’ viewpoints, I would argue the opposite. Yes, there is a lot to process but Grant’s sharp delivery of the prose and the fast pace of the plot make it easy to absorb the information.

14/20

Character:

Grant’s characterisation really is one of the strongest points of his writing. It’s not just a case of black-and-white with each character. There are psychological complexities that mirror people in everyday life. It’s not a case of: “he’s evil” or “she’s good” and that’s it. Grant takes us on a rollercoaster journey with each character. The characters change, develop and adapt in their new environment. Diana is, for me, one of the most interesting characters. She’s manipulative and crafty; a perfect combination of beauty and sarcasm who does whatever she has to, to survive. It’s a game of “survival of the fittest” and Diana is in it for herself. Sam is an interesting choice as the hero – the protagonist – of the story. He makes mistakes. He has blood on his hands. He’s not the ideal hero and yet, he is hope personified for the kids at  Perdido Beach. He is what they need; what they invest in; who they turn to. And his guilt is captured brilliantly throughout.

20/20

Plot:

The plot is pretty simply until you look beyond what is happening and ask why it is happening. Kids start to develop abilities. A dome covers Perdido Beach and Coates Academy. Kids over the age of 15 disappear. And kids that turn 15 in the FAYZ (Fallout Alley Youth Zone) still continue to disappear. But why is it all happening? And Grant doesn’t offer us half-baked, convoluted reasoning. He reveals tidbits – tasters even – throughout the story, a little at a time, until we gradually build up a picture of what has happened, what is happening and why it is happening. There are plenty of obstacles, action scenes, humour and new developments that alter the course of the journey dramatically.

20/20

Setting: 

We get a detailed description of where everything is and what the buildings look like. There’s also a map supplied though there’s enough in the text to anchor the landmarks – the Nuclear Plant, Coates, the Mine Shaft and so on – in our minds. There’s not much more to say. The setting is interwoven with the fast-paced plot so that the delivery of the descriptive details doesn’t pull us out of the world Grant has created.

20/20

Comparative Literature/Originality: 

The story is, in some sense, a re-working of William Golding’s The Lord of the Flies. It follows the same basic idea. The kids are stranded on a deserted island and left to fend for themselves. Cue the power struggle before the adults come to rescue the kids. Gone works on a similar plot structure. What differentiates it from Golding’s work is it’s unique evolution of the landscape, the kids themselves and the mystery and menace that lurks behind the scenes. The story is complex with an overarching narrative that encompasses many of the characters. It breaks down characters, that could potentially turn out one-dimensional, and shows the complexities and, in some cases, the psychological processes behind their decisions.

20/20

Summary:

Great characters. Fantastic world-building. Actioned-packed, twist-and-turns plot. A must read.

Overall Score:

94/100

Books You May Also Like:

Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick

BZRK by Michael Grant

Eve And Adam by Michael Grant

The Knife Of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

The Lord Of The Flies by William Golding

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December 19, 2013 · 2:22 pm

Skulduggery Pleasant

Skulduggery_Pleasant_book_cover

Title: Skulduggery Pleasant

Author: Derek Landy

Publisher: Harper Collins Children’s Books (an imprint of Harper Collins Publishers)

Format: Paperback

Standalone/Series: Series

Pages: 371

The plot is simple. Take one smart-ass girl, throw in a gun-wielding, slightly unbalanced skeleton and you get a team up against the clock to stop a madman from brining about the end of the world.

Sounds a lot like my Saturday nights!

Not strictly a YA book but the writing is very, very, very, very (did I say VERY?) sharp. And any book that makes me LOL on a bus has my seal of approval. I just wish people didn’t stare so much…

Narration: The narrative style is third-person, omniscient, but we zoom in on certain characters, both villains and heroes (and the inbetweeners). It could have went so wrong if Landy wasn’t such an expert in tying together all the relationships and tangents. Some might say that there are too many characters, too many side intentions and side plots and while this could be debated, I think it’s fantastic. It allows us to get a broader scope of the world and the characters. It focuses on Stephanie but we get to see all aspects of Skulduggery’s world through the insights into some of the different characters in the novel. It also works as a tool to ratchet up the excitement, to turn the tension up a notch. Landy often leaves us on a cliff-hanger and switches to a different character so we’re left wondering about Stephanie’s fate. There’s a lot going on and a lot to follow but really, the narration in this story is at such a high, consistent standard that I don’t have a problem with the decision to focus in on a number of different characters.

20/20

Character: More than the sense of humour that many of Landy’s characters display, I love the way the characters are presented. None of the characters are black-and-white, simply good or evil (except maybe the antagonist. He is pretty evil what with wanting to summon a bunch of primitive Gods and basically destroy humanity). Landy captures that essence of what it is to be human. Take China Sorrows, for example. She does what she does for her own gain. She’s selfish. Skullduggery was a violent man in the past and now, he brings criminals to justice although sometimes, his methods are questionable. The Toxic Twins are cruel where Stephanie is concerned but they aren’t categorically evil. They’re kids. They’re human. One of my favourite elements of this series is the characters and the way that they evolve and grow across the course of each book, particularly Stephanie and Skulduggery. Landy also manages to link up the sorcerers’ powers (and even their names in some cases) to their personalities. China Sorrows makes people fall in love with her and she revels in that attention, using it as a means to get what she wants. Shrewd businesswoman that she is. I do find it a little worrying that we don’t get to see more grief on Stephanie’s part. As the story progresses, we see how close she was to her uncle and yet, we don’t see that as she becomes engrossed in the world of sorcery.

I do not own the content taken from this novel. All rights belong to Derek Landy and Harper Collins Children’s Books.

Excerpt from Page 60:

“Wow look at the time. I’ve got to go Stephanie.”

“Go? Go where?”

“Things to do, I’m afraid. Number one is finding out why the nice gentleman was sent here, and number two is finding out who sent him.”

“You can’t leave me alone,” she said, following him into the living room.

“Yes,” he corrected, “I can. You’ll be perfectly safe.”

“The front door’s off!”

“Well yes. You’ll be perfectly safe as long as they don’t come through the front door.”

He pulled on his coat but she snatched his hat away.

“Are you taking my hat hostage?” he asked doubtfully.

Skulduggery and Stephanie’s back-and-forth humour (or as I call it, banter) seems genuine. Their dialogue gives a real sense of character and helps in allowing us to understand what has happened, what is happening and what is going to happen.

16/20 

Plot: The story is simple but effective. We get to see different facets of the narrative and different parts of the journeys that the characters (Stephanie, Skulduggery, Mr. Bliss, Nefarian Serpine, the Elders etc.) take to get to the endgame. It’s a plot that dates back to biblical times: the story of good versus evil and more particularly, the journey of the hero (or in the case of Skulduggery, it could be argued, the anti-hero). There’s deception and lies. There are parts of Landy’s worlds and secrets that are not revealed deliberately but they are explained further down the line like the White Cleaver (without giving any spoilers) and China Sorrows’ past. There are loose ends and these are deliberate. Read on to the next book if you want the answers!

20/20

Setting: The story is set in Ireland, mostly in my hometown, Dublin. Landy paints a vivid picture of Dublin life, his descriptions allow us to piece together the environment and visualise the scene. He blends perfectly, the real and the should-be-real to create a fictional world beneath something that already exists. Haggard doesn’t actually exist but Landy’s description of the town is so telling that I feel as though it could be.

20/20

Comparative Literature/Originality:

It’s not the most original story but when you’ve gone through thousands of years of literature, it’s doubtful that you’ll find a completely authentic, original story. Landy’s take on sorcery is interesting though. He brings a number of different facets of magic together to help the reader understand what sorcerers are capable of. For example, Stephanie’s reflection, the power in names (though this has been covered before across other literature) and the division of magic into the Elemental and Adept disciplines. It’s not that this hasn’t been done before but rather, Landy does it so well that it feels fresh and new. He creates not only a story but a world that is both consistent and dangerous and leaves the reader with questions that will be covered in future books.

17/20

Summary: Twenty-thrills-a-minute kind of reading. If you’re not laughing (or at least smiling), then you’re reading it wrong!

Overall Score

93/100

Books You May Also Like:

The Skulduggery Pleasant series (there are a further seven books with the final book due out September 2014!!!)

The Maleficent Seven by Derek Landy

Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer

Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

There are also a number of short stories and a novella (The End of the World) available in addition to the main series.

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November 10, 2013 · 12:49 am