Tag Archives: Young Adult

This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

 This is Not the End
by Chandler Baker

If you could choose one person to bring back to life, who would it be? Seventeen-year-old Lake Deveraux is the survivor of a car crash that killed her best friend and boyfriend. Now she faces an impossible choice. Resurrection technology changed the world, but strict laws allow just one resurrection per citizen, to be used on your eighteenth birthday or lost forever. You only have days to decide. For each grieving family, Lake is the best chance to bring back their child. For Lake, it’s the only way to reclaim a piece of happiness after her own family fell apart. And Lake must also grapple with a secret–and illegal–vow she made years ago to resurrect someone else. Someone who’s not even dead yet. Who do you need most? As Lake’s eighteenth birthday nears, secrets and betrayals new and old threaten to eclipse her cherished memories. Lake has one chance to save a life…but can she live with her choice?

Rated: ★★½
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Publication: August 8, 2017
Genre: Young Adult
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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This is Not the End by Chandler Baker

If you’re looking for something super sci-fi and devious, this is not for you. More contemporary than anything else, This is Not the End by Chandler Baker is a very interesting YA book that I initially disliked but really ended up enjoying it by the end. The reasons for which will likely be made in a spoiler vlog in the next day or two. That said, yes, there is something devious, and yes, there is a kernel of sci-fi, but where the heart of the story lies is with Lake facing her truths and the truths of expectations unknowingly placed.

The premise, I have to be honest, feels a little flawed. That there is a procedure that can bring people back to life, but can’t actually be modified to help the living is weird. I know, sci-fi, suspension of belief, but there has to be something there to make it rational, and for me there wasn’t. Then, to limit that choice of resurrection to someone on their 18th birthday and only then, is just weird and feels arbitrary. Why 18? I suppose, for the story’s sake, it needs to be 18, but in general, it just doesn’t seem realistic.

Aside from the unrealistic premise, the story was actually really, really good! I was completely absorbed by it, right there with Lake trying to decide WHO she should resurrect, and then trying to figure out WHAT was actually going on. I had figured out a major spoiler fairly early on, but Baker still managed to surprise me with it as I hadn’t guessed the entire truth. Untangling the relationships Lake has with her family, friends, and boyfriend was well written. It felt so realistic, which is what ultimately won me over — because I could see these characters as actual people and actual situations.

Ultimately, This is Not the End by Chandler Baker isn’t about a cool sci-fi premise, or about some shadowy black market world. It’s about people, relationships, and how they all face their traumas and deal with the repercussions. Solid pacing, good use of the dual time framing technique, and incredibly human characters all make this a solid recommendation from me.

The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead

 The Secrets We Keep
by Deb Loughead

First she blamed herself. Now she doesn’t know who to trust.

When Kit disappeared at a party and was found drowned in the quarry the next day, Clem knew who to point the finger at: herself. She was the last person to see him alive, the last person who could have helped. If she had just kept a closer eye on him instead of her crush, Jake, maybe Kit would still be here. She knows she made a mistake, and wishes she could just forget about it — but Clem’s friend Ellie says she’ll expose Clem’s secret if she doesn’t play along with Ellie’s lies.

Jake seems to have his own difficult secrets, and when he and Clem start to talk, they make a plan to help themselves move on. But when an unexpected discovery at the quarry makes everyone question what they thought they knew, Clem and Jake decide it’s up to them to uncover the truth.

Rated: DNF
Publisher: Dundurn
Publication: December 10, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead

I started The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead because I was just like yessss, murder mystery, young adult, possible romance, this is so great! I’m such a fan of mysteries and all that angst over characters thinking x person’s death is their fault when in reality something else entirely happened. So, I was super excited to get into this. And then, it all fell through when I actually read the words on the page.

This is a super short review because obviously I Did Not Finish-ed the book. Maybe the story itself is decent, but the writing, I could not get past it. It feels like the written equivalent of the Steve Buscemi’s gif where he is dressed like what he thinks teens wear saying How do you do, fellow kids?

The disconnect between the age the character is supposed to be, and the way it is written, the words used, is so severe and jarring, I just cannot keep going with it. It feels wrong. It feels as though the author is trying to write how she thinks teens talk and think, but at the same time, passing judgement on them?

If you can get past the writing, then I hope the story is an enjoyable one. It definitely seems like there’s something intriguing there, and hopefully my initial hunch that Ellie knows more than she’s saying is wrong, but for me, I’ll never find out. The Secrets We Keep by Deb Loughead is just a bust.

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

 Between the Blade and the Heart
by Amanda Hocking

Valkyries have one great responsibility: to return immortals to the afterlife by slaying them. As a Valkyrie, Malin has always known that the balance of the world rests on her ability to carry out orders. But when Malin discovers that her mother spared the life of an immortal who was destined to die, her world is thrown into chaos.

Malin not only wrestles with the knowledge that her mother might not be who she thought—she’s also thrust into the path of a gorgeous blue eyed guy named Asher who needs her help slaying the rogue immortal who destroyed his family. The balance of the world is at stake. And, as Asher competes with Malin’s ex for her love and loyalty, so is her heart.

Valkyrie #1

Rated: ★★★
Publisher: Wednesday Books
Publication: January 2, 2018
Genre: Fantasy, YA
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

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Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking

The synopsis had me hesitant on picking up Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking, worried that it would be just another love triangle ya cookie cutter novel. But! It was so much better than that! The world created by Hocking was interesting and unique, though I’m not entirely sure how accurate some of the mythological aspects were. Even still, it was a good story and I really loved the characters and world!

I was immediately skeptical of the book as soon as I opened up when I saw that Odin and the valkyries in this world were listed as Vanir, when they are actually part of the Aesir (well Valkyries were 50/50 but we’re not here to get that deep into it). I don’t understand why the change, since it seems so superficial, which then gets me wondering if it just wasn’t researched well enough? Or maybe the author thought Vanir, Aesir, all the same, eh? Which, it isn’t considering there was a war between the two. I am someone that has studied world mythologies, so it definitely got me started on the wrong foot. That said, I doubt other readers will notice the difference or care. But, I will say it did leave me wary for the rest of the beings mentioned and just how on point Hocking may have been with describing them/their purpose/origin.

Now that my one pet peeve is out of the way, the world was so interesting! I loved how there were mortals, immortals, hybrids, etc. just all mixed in together in this modern world. There was such a great combination of yeah, this world has all this magic and swords and fates in it, but there’s also bars and magical equivalent of hookah and school and vehicles. That your friendly, and handsome, mechanic could be mortal, but also have horns, was just such a super cool concept to me (please, can we see him again in the sequel??)

The story quest itself, and the theme of Free Will vs Fate was interesting, and I might have to re-read it to think it through a bit more because honestly, what really sold me on this book was the one thing I was worried would ruin it. The romance! What the synopsis failed to mention was that Malin’s ex was a lady and I died! I am SO IN LOVE with Quinn, I could not put the book down once I saw her. I just want all the things for her and just want Malin to talk with Quinn and sort herself out so they can be together. Like yeah, Asher’s great and all, but QUINN! My wlw heart was just so excited! It was also especially great to see that even with mentions of angels and demons, sexuality wasn’t taboo and to be LGBTIQA+ wasn’t a shock to the characters or presented as such to the reader.

I am so grateful to end my year on such a high note with Between the Blade and the Heart by Amanda Hocking. A YA book with a unique world build, fantastic characters (with great use of romance), and just fun, this is something I definitely can recommend to readers who enjoy kick-ass female protagonists who can kick butt and fall in love and not have it be detrimental to either.

Frostblood by Elly Blake

Frostblood by Elly Blake

 

Frostblood
by Elly Blake

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.
Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating–yet irresistible–Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her–and from the icy young man she has come to love.
Frostblood Saga #1

Rated: ★★★
Publisher:  Little, Brown Books
Publication: January 10, 2017
Genre: YA, Fantasy
Borrowed from the Queens Public Library

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Frostblood by Elly Blake

I remember there being hype over Frostblood by Elly Blake, and the summary peaked my interest, so I picked up the ebook from my library and thought I’d give it a go. It surpassed my expectations and I’m actually really interested in continuing the series!

Blake’s world is really interesting, The concept is deceptively simple. A world divided seemingly between those with Frostblood powers and those with Fireblood powers, where the Firebloods have been hunted almost to extinction by the Frostbloods in power. It’s only logical that fire and frost be enemies, it needs to explaining, but Blake actually gives it to us! There’s a solid mythology behind the world, reasons given for why the Frostbloods and Firebloods are at odds, and I’d love to get deeper into hopefully with the second book in the series. There are gods and beings and they directly influence what is happening and it’s just so great to see a YA story where the author knows what the basis of their world is.

Though it clocks in at 376 pages, it felt surprisingly short for me, which is a good mark of how well the pacing worked for Blake. The book was broken up into various little mini arcs, each with their own tension that subtly built up to the finale. We go from death of Ruby’s mother, to training with the monks, to meeting the King so quickly and fluidly, there simply isn’t time to get bored and lose interest. The downside to this, however, is that we don’t get the time to build the romance between Arcus and Ruby.

Speaking of which, Ruby’s character growth was fantastic and I cannot wait to see her face the consequences of her actions in the sequel. But, what I really want to see is what happens with Arcus. As I said, there wasn’t enough time to build a proper romance, but it was one that I wanted nonetheless. I was excited at the prospect and giddy when eventually a kiss was shared (giddier still when a secret revelation was made at the end, though I had hoped/guessed at it long before). Will Arcus actually be ‘the one’ for Ruby? Or was he simply the one that was there? I’m hoping if he’s ‘the one,’ that we can actually see his character grow, or even just have him better developed. And, well, if he isn’t, then we do get a love interest that can match Ruby.

Frostblood by Elly Blake was a solid start to a new YA fantasy series that combines solid world-building with great pacing and main character growth to create a lovely story I thoroughly enjoyed.

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

 

Beautiful Creatures
by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Lena Duchannes is unlike anyone the small Southern town of Gatlin has ever seen, and she’s struggling to conceal her power, and a curse that has haunted her family for generations. But even within the overgrown gardens, murky swamps and crumbling graveyards of the forgotten South, a secret cannot stay hidden forever.

Ethan Wate, who has been counting the months until he can escape from Gatlin, is haunted by dreams of a beautiful girl he has never met. When Lena moves into the town’s oldest and most infamous plantation, Ethan is inexplicably drawn to her and determined to uncover the connection between them.

In a town with no surprises, one secret could change everything

Caster Chronicles #1

Rated: ★½
Publisher:  Little, Brown and Company
Publication: December 1, 2009
Genre: YA, Southern Gothic, Urban Paranormal
Personally purchased title.

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Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl

Either I hyped myself up far too much, or I just didn’t get it for being out of intended target age range, but I could not fall for Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl. Though the premise was an interesting one, and the setting built it up to be part of one of my favorite genres — Southern Gothic — it just fell flat at the end.

Before it all fell away, things were pretty decent! I could get behind narrator Ethan, just a regular ole kid desperate to leave his small town behind. I mean, I grew up on the whole “I hate my parents and this whole town” genre of pop punk bands. So, I got it. I related. I was rooting for him to escape. Then, we get Lena, desperate to fit in outcast that lives moves in with her uncle, the town recluse/eccentric. She’s mysterious and stand-offish, and oh yeah, just so happens to be the girl that Ethan has been having dreams about for the longest time. So, obviously, they fall quickly in love, to the disappointment of the parent figures in their lives, as well as society. Sound familiar? It should because it’s so painfully overdone and by the book, and while there was nothing new about it, it wasn’t terrible! It was familiar and sometimes, that’s okay!

But, if it was all following a tried and true method of writing a YA urban paranormal/fantasy book, how did it fumble? Why was I let down? The answer is simple. The entire book continually set the message of trying to escape your fate, your destiny, your town. It almost beat us over the head with the message that you didn’t have to get swept away by everyone else’s expectations and could forge your own way. And then suddenly, by the end, the message dissipates. Your own path you thought you could take? Sike, you’re stuck reliving the same roads you’ve always been on because there is no escape! It was SO FRUSTRATING! And I think, that is a major departure from most of the books in this same genre.

I go more in depth on the theme of the book and the ending being such a huge disservice to what was a decent story in the Pages and Pause Screen podcast, so if you want to know more specifics about why I had issues with it, give it a listen! Otherwise, Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia and Margaret Stohl simply fell flat for me. Will not be picking up the second book in the series and honestly, probably wouldn’t recommend this to readers.

 

Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney

Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney

 Black Dawn
by Mallory McCartney

The end of an Empire, The rise of a Queen

Emory Fae enjoys leading a quiet, normal life. That is until two mysterious, and handsome soldiers show up at her apartment, and the life she knew is instantly whisked away. Memphis Carter and Brokk Foster come from the magical and war ridden world of Kiero, and upon Emory’s arrival she will discover she is the long lost heir to the Royal Line and is thrown into the Black Dawn Rebellion with a dynamic role to ignite the rebels and reclaim her throne.

With both men being darkly woven in her past Emory uncovers hidden secrets, a power held long dormant, and will soon realize there are worse things than supernatural humans, love, loss, betrayal, and a Mad King.

Some things are better left in the shadows.

Rated: DNF @ 50%
Publisher: Clean Reads Publishing
Publication: February 14, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
I voluntarily reviewed a complimentary copy of this title.

Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney

Such a beautiful cover and an amazing synopsis. Sadly, though, Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney just didn’t do it for me. I really tried to get into it, to power through and reach the end, but just, not enough happened to make me care about the characters, the world, the ending.

The world feels flimsy. We barely get any information about it except for the party line that gets crowed, there are powers, an Academy, murder, a bad guy/jilted man. All we know (in the first half of the book at least) is what gets told to Emory, which feels like the bare minimum. As a reader, I want to care about the world I’m reading about. I want to feel how high the stakes are and root one for the world to be saved. Yet, with so little information about Emory’s homeland given, it didn’t seem to matter to me.

The characters. Emory never feels like a potential Queen. We see her flounder, which would be great, if we get to feel her frustration, her desire to be what is needed. But we don’t get it (again, in the first half at least). We get someone in Emory who is barely there, barely a character. Then, Memphis. He just, I know he’s supposed to be the love interest, but he feels skeevy. He takes memories, gives memories because he’s selfish, secretly in love with her, leading another on. It’s just too much.

With a world and characters barely fleshed out in the first half of the book, I simply had no interest in finishing Black Dawn by Mallory McCartney, which is sad because I had such high hopes. Maybe it does pick up in the latter half of the book, but honestly, I shouldn’t have to reach the end of the book before caring about the story.

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

 A Court of Wings and Ruin
by Sarah J Maas

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

Rated: ★★★
Publisher: Bloomsbury Childrens Books
Publication: May 2, 2017
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Personally purchased title

A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

Finally, the end, and boy what a surprise I got! A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas might be the book I disliked the least out of the series. Of course, we got more Nesta, but more importantly, we got more action, more everything else. Though, I must warn, the reason I enjoyed this the best out of the series might also have to do with the fact that I wasn’t invested in it anymore. I stopped hoping this would be amazing, read a million spoilers, was convinced it would be horrible, then skim-read the entire thing, finishing in 3 hours.

Maas finally cut out the pity party starts she’s had with the first two books, delving straight into subterfuge and revenge instead. Such a refreshing change of pace that just continues through the book. The focus seems to have changed from being Feyre and Rhys, to hey, there are other characters and people here too and maybe we should give them some page time. This made the story quite fast-paced and much more enjoyable.

The characters… were interesting. Nesta is back and better than ever. She’s still the only reason I don’t regret this series. Still the saving grace for me. I might consider borrowing a book about Nesta from the library if she gets a spin-off (never buying a Maas book again after this series). What boggles my mind is how Maas can develop Nesta so well, yet stumble so horribly with other characters. Namely, Mor. Mor, who has been a strong, independent character that does have vulnerabilities but fights with elegance, was now reduced to a shadow of her former self. Indeed, her character felt so different from what she was in the previous book, it was jarring. Then, there was what she was put through by her so-called ‘family.’ Yes, I’m talking about the inner circle. She was put in situations where her well-being was a not even an after-thought. The situation with Az is squicky for the main reason that we have a ‘best friend’ who makes Mor so uncomfortable she will sleep with random men. We have someone who became That Guy™ but are still supposed to like him? Be okay with him? Feel sorry for him? No, thank you.

The ending, not a letdown since I already had low expectations, but not amazing either. I think one of the biggest flaws is that Maas didn’t want to tie everything up. Not that she necessarily needs to, but it very much felt like the way it was written was simply to set up the spin-off novels coming next year. It didn’t feel like the focus was on the current fight, the current struggle.

There’s a lot more I can say about A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas, and expect to hear it during the Pages and Pause Screen podcast for it next week, May 17th. That said, this book is sure to polarize fans of the series, though I’m sure there’s nothing that I, or anyone else, can say to keep the rabid fangirls from picking it up.

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

 A Court of Mist and Fury
by Sarah J Maas

Feyre survived Amarantha’s clutches to return to the Spring Court—but at a steep cost. Though she now has the powers of the High Fae, her heart remains human, and it can’t forget the terrible deeds she performed to save Tamlin’s people.

Nor has Feyre forgotten her bargain with Rhysand, High Lord of the feared Night Court. As Feyre navigates its dark web of politics, passion, and dazzling power, a greater evil looms—and she might be key to stopping it. But only if she can harness her harrowing gifts, heal her fractured soul, and decide how she wishes to shape her future—and the future of a world cleaved in two.

Rated: ★★★
Publisher: Bloomsbury USA Childrens
Publication: May 3, 2016
Genre: Young Adult, Fantasy
Personally purchased title

A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas

I honestly don’t know what to make of A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas. This being the second book ever I’ve read by Maas, it seems a pattern with her to have slow, excruciatingly boring starts that eventually builds up at the very end. How did this book manage to get four stars out of me then? Easy. Nesta Archeron, the saving grace of this series for me.

Maas continues the pity party for Feyre, though this time it is completely deserved. That said, the way Maas treats her PTSD does not feel real. It feels as though it’s just a cheap plot point to get her away from Tamlin, instead of something very real for Feyre. The fact that we could have gotten an amazing book just dealing with Feyre coming to terms with what she did, and what she did for Tamlin, and Tamlin coming to terms with what he couldn’t do, and then instead we got a book that swept all of that quickly under the rug for the sake of a rushed romance was so incredibly disappointing. I wanted better for everyone involved.

For me, everything felt flat, from the characters, to the missions, everything. At least in the first half. Then, things changed towards the end, as seems to be Maas’ style, which leaves me wondering if perhaps she doesn’t have enough story to carry out the page length she’s looking for so she drags the start. Or again, it’s probably just me.

So again, why the four stars? Minor character Nesta Archeron, Feyre’s sister. The only thing I found likable about this series so far. She’s horrible and she doesn’t apologize for it. She has passion and fights and is sure of herself. She felt like a character that shouldn’t have been, but fought her way to the front, starting as a stock evil sister in A Court of Thorns and Roses, and evolving to potential major player. She made the book exciting. The Target exclusive, Wings and Ember, made the book worth it and really made me wonder how Maas could do such a lovely job with Nesta and Cassian, with a short story, yet seems to struggle with the longer, actual books themselves.

If Nesta hadn’t been in A Court of Mist and Fury by Sarah J Maas, there is no way I would ever pick up the third in the series, or bother reading more Maas. But, seeing her character gives me hope that things will pick up in A Court of Wings and Ruin.

This book was read for the Pages and Pause Screen podcast (part 1 and part 2).