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Jinx

In YA Book Reviews on September 30, 2013 at 1:53 am

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by Sage Blackwood

Fantasy/©2013/360 pages/First in a Series

Publisher’s Blurb from the book jacket:

In the Urwald, you don’t step off the path. Trolls, werewolves, and butter churn–riding witches lurk amid the clawing branches, eager to swoop up the unwary. Jinx has always feared leaving the path—then he meets the wizard Simon Magnus.

Jinx knows that wizards are evil. But Simon’s kitchen is cozy, and he seems cranky rather than wicked. Staying with him appears to be Jinx’s safest, and perhaps only, option. As Jinx’s curiosity about magic grows, he learns to listen to the trees as closely as he does to Simon’s unusual visitors. The more Jinx discovers, the more determined he becomes to explore beyond the security of well-trodden paths.

But in the Urwald, a little healthy fear is never out of place, for magic—and magicians—can be as dangerous as the forest. And soon Jinx must decide which is the greater threat.

My Thoughts:

This is your basic, well-rounded middle grade fantasy book with lots of magic, trolls, and wizards. I liked the main character, Jinx, with his survival smarts and special powers, and how he related to the quirky adults in the story, especially the hard to figure out Simon. I liked the Urwald world, with all its magical elements and inhabitants. The plot had some interesting parts, but overall I did not find it as engaging as I had hoped. It is recommended for 8-12 year-olds, but there is one part where the hero’s death and apparent restoration to life after sleeping for three days may be too much for  some children.

My Rating: 3 1/2  Stars

Other Thoughts:

By Singing Light

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The Future of Us

In YA Book Reviews on September 25, 2013 at 10:48 pm

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by Jay Asher and Carolyn Mackler

YA Fiction/@2011/ 356 pages/7th Grade and Up/Stand Alone Book*

Publisher’s Blurb:

It’s 1996, and Josh and Emma have been neighbors their whole lives. They’ve been best friends almost as long – at least, up until last November, when Josh did something that changed everything. Things have been weird between them ever since, but when Josh’s family gets a free AOL CD in the mail,his mom makes him bring it over so that Emma can install it on her new computer. When they sign on, they’re automatically logged onto their Facebook pages. But Facebook hasn’t been invented yet. And they’re looking at themselves fifteen years in the future.

By refreshing their pages, they learn that making different decisions now will affect the outcome of their lives later. And as they grapple with the ups and downs of what their futures hold, they’re forced to confront what they’re doing right – and wrong – in the present.

My Thoughts:

I think the unique time-travel premise of this book is highly creative and a welcome change from the overwhelming number of dystopian novels in the Young Adult genre. Overall, it was a quick read, with some parts more engaging than others. I did like how the story telling shifted between Emma and Josh, and how it helped clarify what each was feeling. Always interesting to get the male and female take on the same experience. I got a kick out of the 1996 setting and where technology was back in the day. It should be quite the eye-opener for today’s teen.  Overall, it is a fun and light read.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Reviews:

http://skrishnasbooks.com/2012/04/book-review-future-of-us-jay-asher.html

http://www.readingteen.net/2011/12/review-future-of-us-by-jay-asher-and.html

The Vampire Academy

In YA Book Reviews on September 24, 2013 at 7:16 pm

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by Richelle Mead

Young Adult, Romance, Fantasy/ @2007/ 336 pages/ First in a Series of Six

Publisher Blurb from Goodreads:

St. Vladimir’s Academy isn’t just any boarding school—it’s a hidden place where vampires are educated in the ways of magic and half-human teens train to protect them. Rose Hathaway is a Dhampir, a bodyguard for her best friend Lissa, a Moroi Vampire Princess. They’ve been on the run, but now they’re being dragged back to St. Vladimir’s—the very place where they’re most in danger…

Rose and Lissa become enmeshed in forbidden romance, the Academy’s ruthless social scene, and unspeakable nighttime rituals. But they must be careful lest the Strigoi—the world’s fiercest and most dangerous vampires—make Lissa one of them forever.

My Thoughts:

This book has some great characters and adds some interesting layers to the vampire world of Twlight. It is fairly fast-paced, surprisingly low on gore, and heavy on romance. Though the publisher recommends this book for ages 12+, there is some graphic language, lots of promiscuity, and some sex scenes. That said, it is a good read.  It is the first in a series of six (now complete), and, judging by other reviews, it continues to get better with each new book.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Other Reviews:

http://seriesousbookreviews.wordpress.com/2013/05/08/series-review-vampire-academy-by-richelle-mead/

http://effortlesslyreading.com/2013/06/book-review-vampire-academy-richelle-mead.html

Throne of Glass

In YA Book Reviews on September 12, 2013 at 6:07 am

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by Sarah J. Maas

YA Fantasy/@2012/406 pages/ First in the series/7th Grade and Up*

Publisher Blurb:

When magic has gone from the world, and a vicious king rules from his throne of glass, an assassin comes to the castle. She does not come to kill, but to win her freedom. If she can defeat twenty-three killers, thieves, and warriors in a competition to find the greatest assassin in the land, she will become the King’s Champion and be released from prison. Her name is Celaena Sardothien. The Crown Prince will provoke her. The Captain of the Guard will protect her. And a princess from a foreign land will become the one thing Celaena never thought she’d have again: a friend. But something evil dwells in the castle–and it’s there to kill. When her competitors start dying, horribly, one by one, Celaena’s fight for freedom becomes a fight for survival–and a desperate quest to root out the source of evil before it destroys her world.

My Thoughts:

I could not read this book fast enough. It is an engaging, well-written story with a variety of interesting characters. I would have liked more detail about the tests, but, then again, there were certainly enough other things going on to keep my attention. The plot was complex without being daunting. There is a complete fantasy world going on here with political intrigue and some elements of magic, but the author kept it easy enough to follow while still providing adequate descriptions about what was happening in and around the kingdom. The plot, for the most part, was action packed and well paced. I found the main character, Celaena, absolutely fascinating. With her incredible fighting skills and stamina, she could hold her own with the macho assassins in the king’s competition, as well as hold her own with the women who surrounded the Prince. She is incredibly smart (she enjoys reading, need I say more?), feisty, and independent and has a killer wit (pardon the pun). Prince Dorian and Chaol Westfall provide points in the love triangle, and Cain and the King and a few others make for chilling villains. This is the first in a series of six, plus there are several novellas available about some the back-stories involved, so you can definitely classify this as an epic fantasy.

My Rating: 5/5 Stars

Looking for more books like this? You might like The False Prince by Jennifer A. Nielsen , Graceling by Kristin Cashore, The Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

Finnikin of the Rock

In YA Book Reviews on September 6, 2013 at 6:52 pm

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by Melina Marchetta

Fantasy/@2008/399 pages/ First book in the Lumatere Series

Publisher’s Blurb (From Goodreads):

Finnikin of the Rock and his guardian, Sir Topher, have not been home to their beloved Lumatere for ten years. Not since the dark days when the royal family was murdered and the kingdom put under a terrible curse. But then Finnikin is summoned to meet Evanjalin, a young woman with an incredible claim: the heir to the throne of Lumatere, Prince Balthazar, is alive. Evanjalin is determined to return home and she is the only one who can lead them to the heir. As they journey together, Finnikin is affected by her arrogance . . . and her hope. He begins to believe he will see his childhood friend, Prince Balthazar, again. And that their cursed people will be able to enter Lumatere and be reunited with those trapped inside. He even believes he will find his imprisoned father.

But Evanjalin is not what she seems. And the truth will test not only Finnikin’s faith in her . . . but in himself. 

My Thoughts:

This is your basic epic adventure fantasy with multiple kingdoms, a large cast of characters, and lots of battle scenes.  The violence, I think, is offset by the themes of hope, compassion, redemption, and forgiveness that also run through the story. I found the main characters interesting, though sometimes quite exasperating. For some of them, like Sir Topher, the thief, Trevanion, and Lucian, I got little more than superficial information, and I was left with wanting to know more.  The two main characters were fairly well developed. Finnikin was the requisite heroic and compassionate lead, and Evanjalin was fearless and full of surprises. They both had a sarcastic sense of humor that helped lighten the story. The plot had action, adventure, twists and turns. There were some slow parts, but, overall, it kept my interest. The ending is such that this can be a stand alone book, but it is actually the first in the Lumatere series. The next book centers on the thief, and I am intrigued enough to want to continue reading. It is not the best book ever, but it was an enjoyable read, especially if you are into high fantasy.

My Rating: 3.5/5 Stars

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The 5th Wave

In YA Book Reviews on September 1, 2013 at 8:27 pm

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by Rick Yancey

Science Fiction/@2013/457 pages/ First in a Trilogy

Publisher’s Blurb (from Goodreads)

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one. Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My Thoughts: 

This is straight up alien invasion science fiction, not my favorite genre by any stretch of the imagination. I gave in to the hype and good reviews surrounding the book, but I still wasn’t expecting to like it. Yet…I did. I liked the way Yancy organized his book. It is divided into sections (with very dramatic two page spreads, I might add) that are told, alternately, from the perspective of three different characters. I liked those characters (Cassie, Zombie, and Ben), their sense of humor, and how they evolved over the course of the book. I liked Ringer and Sammy and what they added to the story.  And it was a good story, with lots of action and twists and turns that kept my attention. I liked how it all came together at the end (though, not all together because this is, after all, only the first of three books). I do admit I was somewhat taken aback by what turned out to be the 5th wave, but there were plenty of other parts that wowed me. Be aware that this is an intense plot with violence and kids with guns, so this book is definitely not for the younger more sensitive young adult reader.

My Rating: 4/5 Stars