Category Archives: YA Fiction

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning February 1, 2016

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Christian Chapters – An Amish Market: Four Novellas by Various Authors

5 of 5 Hearts. An Uplifting, Varied Collection of Amish Love Stories.

Though these four Amish marketplace stories have commonalities, things are kept fresh by each author’s unique fingerprint — her own “flavor”. Sitting down with An Amish Market is like cozying up by the fire while sipping from different cups of tea or nibbling on four kinds of chocolate. All different, yet all delicious. In case the stories weren’t delightful enough for you, there are recipes at the back of the book to satisfy your sweet tooth.

[Read the full review]

 

Tuesday:

Kids Corner: Review and Giveaway – Jesus Today: Devotions For Kids by Sarah Young

5 of 5 Hearts. A Wonderfully Accessible Devotional Tool For All Ages.

Easy enough for kids, yet robust and meaningful enough for teens, or even adults, Jesus Today: Devotions For Kids is a special text that takes the struggle out of growing closer to Jesus and will likely make quiet time something kids not only enjoy but look forward to.

[Read the full review]

 

 

 

Wednesday:

Christian Chapters: Irish Meadows by Susan Anne Mason

4 of 5 Hearts. A Turn-of-the-Century Romance About Finding the Courage to Dream.

Irish Meadows was a joy and pleasure to read. Susan Anne Mason shows that it takes perseverance and courage to dream. Witnessing Brianna, Colleen, Gil, and Rylan navigate rough waters en route to love and happiness will inspire you to brave your own storm. (And spur you on to reading the next book in the series!)

[Read the full review]

 

 

Friday:

Teen Zone: I Am The Traitor by Allen Zadoff

5 of 5 Hearts. A Killer Conclusion to a Stunning Spy Series!

With The Unknown Assassin, Allen Zadoff has created the perfect YA spy series. With each successive entry, he takes his plotting up a notch while also revealing more complexity and more likability in his hero (and yes, by the end Boy Nobody is unquestionably heroic). Though I Am The Traitor can easily be read in a day — heck, a sitting — resist. Proceed slowly. Savor it. For when you get the end, it’s, sadly, the end.

[Read the full review]

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

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Teen Zone: I Am The Traitor by Allen Zadoff

A Killer Conclusion to a Stunning Spy Series!

I Am The Traitor
by Allen Zadoff


Series: The Unknown Assassin (Book 3)
Publication Date: June 9, 2015
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 304
ISBN-13:  978-0316199728


Related Links:
Allen Zadoff’s Website
Allen Zadoff on Twitter
My Review of I Am The Weapon (Book 1)
My Review of I Am The Mission (Book 2)


Buy the Book

AmazonBN

 

 

 

 


Publisher Synopsis

The Program has sent Boy Nobody on countless missions, instructed to kill whichever target he was given. But now, after going rogue, he is on his own mission to rescue his friend Howard, who was captured by The Program.

Boy Nobody manages to free Howard as well as Tanya, a mysterious girl who was being held with him. Putting their skills to the test, Howard and Tanya help Boy Nobody collect information about his father, eventually revealing a dangerous secret that teaches Boy Nobody a valuable lesson — he can’t trust anyone.

On the run from The Program, Boy Nobody must face his past, as he’s forced to decide where his loyalties lie.


My Review

I Am The Traitor  is a complete and total bang-up of an ending to The Unknown Assassin a.k.a. Boy Nobody trilogy. And if by “bang-up” you think I mean it was a bust or that it bombed, you couldn’t be more wrong! It is fiercely — explosively — spankin’ good!

If you haven’t first read books one and two, don’t read on, don’t pass go — if you’re looking for info on the series, go directly to my prior reviews. If you’re gonna read this one, start from THE BEGINNING.

Zadoff picks up right where he left off. Whereas Boy Nobody had questions about The Program in book two, in book three, he’s gone full-on rogue. Over the course of the series, Zadoff goes deeper and deeper with character development, uncovering more of what makes Boy Nobody tick, just as Boy Nobody becomes more self-determinate. And as his agency grows, Boy Nobody becomes more and more worthy of being labelled a hero. 

Thematically, topics like trust, loyalty, and free-will vs. determinism (or programming) are still explored, but in more depth than before. As for plot: WOW! We learn a lot more about Boy Nobody in this novel — for instance, we finally learn his pre-Program name, and we learn the whole truth about his father. But en route to finding these answers, we have more questions than ever before. Look out: Zadoff skillfully keeps you on your toes. Just when you think you’ve figured things out, he pulls the rug out from under you. More than once!

I’m not sure there are many series — even many trilogies — whose successive volumes get progressively stronger and increasingly complex. Suzanne Collins’ The Hunger Games is one that immediately comes to mind; The Unknown Assassin accomplishes something similar.

Let’s not overlook one key difference, though. Where Collins’ series was dystopian, this is a straight-up spy series, and character development isn’t something readily found in spy novels. Action? Yes. Thrills? Yes. Adventure? Yes. Danger? Yes. Character Development? Probably not. Breaking from the mold, Zadoff’s trilogy checks off all the boxes making this a series not to be missed! My only let-down? That it’s over.

Dawn Teresa

Verdict

5 Hearts - Final

5 of 5 Hearts. A Killer Conclusion to a Stunning Spy Series!

With The Unknown Assassin, Allen Zadoff has created the perfect YA spy series. With each successive entry, he takes his plotting up a notch while also revealing more complexity and more likability in his hero (and yes, by the end Boy Nobody is unquestionably heroic). Though I Am The Traitor can easily be read in a day — heck, a sitting — resist. Proceed slowly. Savor it. For when you get the end, it’s, sadly, the end.

7374661_orig

*Disclosure of Material Connection:  I would like to thank Little, Brown and NetGalley for allowing me access to the title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

Christian Chapters: Chivalrous by Dina L. Sleiman

A Woman of Valor Fights for Freedom and Love

Chivalrous
by Dina L. Sleiman


Series: Valiant Hearts (Book 2 of 3)
Publication Date: September 8, 2015
Publisher: Bethany House Publishers
Length: 358pp
ISBN-13: 978-0764213137

Related Links:
Dina L. Sleiman’s Website
Publisher’s Website
Read an excerpt from the book


Buy the Book

AmazonBN

 

 

 

 

 

 


Publisher Synopsis

Strong and adventurous Gwendolyn Barnes longs to be a knight like her chivalrous brothers, but her parents view her only as a marriage pawn. When her domineering father makes plans to see her wed to a brutish man, Gwendolyn must fight for her future.

She’s surprised, however, for that clash to include a handsome, good-hearted newcomer. Allen of Ellsworth arrives in Edendale searching for his place in the world, but he finds in Gwendolyn the most unexpected of women.

Tournaments, intrigue, and battles–along with twists and turns aplenty–await these two as they struggle to find love, identity, and their true destinies.


My Review

Chivalrous is the second book in Dina Sleiman’s proposed trilogy about strong women with Valiant Hearts. Though it isn’t absolutely necessary to have read book one, Dauntless, in order to enjoy this companion, to fully appreciate the plot and understand the characters you should! Also, there is in my review a spoiler for those who have not read the first book.

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After a prologue wherein we meet our armor-clad, lance-wielding heroine, Gwendolyn of Edendale, the reader is reintroduced to Allen of Ellsworth, a young man with aspirations of knighthood who, in Dauntless, proved unlucky in love. In (not strictly) alternating chapters, Sleiman lets us in on Gwen and Allen’s fortunes and misfortunes, their desires and the hurdles in the way of their fulfillment. Eventually, as we expect, the two are brought onto the stage together.

From that point onward, the plot, politically and romantically, thickens, and our protagonists must use their wits as well as their strong right arms to fight through the turmoil surrounding (a murderous usurper) and infesting (a progressive, but fickle and befuddled ruling council, and Gwen’s vicious tyrant of a father) the dukedom of North Britannia. Fortunately, they do not have to encounter the dangers alone: Rosalind, Gwen’s maid, as determined as her mistress to forge her own path in life, is a stalwart ally; while Allen makes new friends in Edendale and eventually calls on his old ones from Ellsworth.

As usual in this series, Christian principles guide the primary characters and, in this case, many of the people of North Britannia. Although it must be said that, among Gwen’s other battles, she wrestles with the concept of a guiding God. As she strives to carve a niche for herself as a warrior woman, she also seeks to increase her knowledge of the Bible and her understanding of the ways of the Lord. As she assists her in the former goal, Rosalind also aids her mistress in the latter, though undergoing a dreadful experience herself.

One of the interesting and challenging aspects of writing fiction is selecting the names of your characters, especially those playing major roles. There’s always a sense that the name should mean something, but also an awareness that one can go overboard with the notion. Sleiman does a perfect job in choosing to dub her female warrior, Gwendolyn. To quote from Wikipedia: “Gwendolen was a legendary queen of Britain…[who] defeated her husband in battle…and took on the leadership of the Britons herself…[She] is an example of a queen willing to go to any lengths to protect her kingdom…”

Though not a queen, the heroine of Chivalrous is a worthy successor to her royal namesake, and Lady Gwendolyn’s struggle to arrive at her place in the world makes for an entertaining story.

                                                                                                — Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


4 of 5 Hearts. A Woman of Valor Fights for Freedom and Love.

Filled with plenty of action, scheming, and solid characters (both good and evil), Chivalrous is a diverting gallop into an Arthurian-inspired past. Gwendolyn and Allen are easy to root for — especially Allen, when the reader of the first book was, by the direction of the plot and the plan of the author, made to pull against him. Happily, the extremely likeable Rosalind, who figures so prominently in this book, is set to be the featured character in book three, Courageous.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Bethany House Publishers for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

To read an excerpt and find out more about book one in the Valiant Hearts series,
please click on the cover:

Dauntless-663x1024

Teen Zone: The Girl at Midnight by Melissa Grey

Enjoyable Fantasy Romance, But Too Formulaic To Be Groundbreaking

The Girl at Midnight
by Melissa Grey


Publication Date: April 28, 2015
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Length: 357pp
ISBN-13: 978-0385744652

Starred Reviews:
Booklist, Kirkus Reviews

Related Links:
Melissa Grey’s Website
Publisher’s Website (with 70 page excerpt)
Huffington Post Author Interview

 


Buy the Book
AmazonBN

 

 

 


Publisher Synopsis

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, though 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.


My Review

In any fantasy novel there must be world-building. How the author accomplishes it can make or break a book. In The Girl at Midnight (the title neatly reflects both the book’s attention-grabbing prologue and its ending), the world-building starts in the first paragraph when we meet “the Ala”, a member of the Avicen, a race of feathered humans. Over the next few chapters we are introduced to The Nest, the Avicen’s underground world; we meet the prime movers of the Drakharin, humans with dragon-like scales: Caius, their Prince, Dorian, his doggedly faithful, one-eyed Captain of the Guard, and Tanith, Caius’ power-hungry twin sister; and learn about the lengthy war between the two races and the legendary Firebird, an unknown something, that could put an end to it. It is a lot to take in, especially as we are also getting to know our protagonist, Echo, a teenage human girl with strong ties to the Avicen, and her array of feathered friends. Our ability to remember names and absorb facts is challenged: Dorian, we find, is in unrequited love with Caius, who still dreams of his lost love, an Avicen named Rose, a hundred years dead; the Ala is a thousand years old, Caius and Dorian two hundred and fifty, the war a hundred; the Drakharin magically travel through physical gateways, while Echo creates her own passages using Shadow Dust; there’s Rowan, Echo’s love interest, her BFF Ivy, hateful Ruby, Altair, Perrin, Jasper, and so on. It’s partly captivating, partly confusing, but once the plot takes hold a quarter of the way through, the main characters dominate the action, everything falls into place, and we are off and running.

It’s not difficult to keep turning the novel’s pages — action abounds and the characters develop into people whose fates we care about. Grey’s writing is generally solid, although she relies too often on YA fantasy devices, such as inserting back-to-back chapters devoted solely to dreams in order to inject excitement (artificial and meaningless though it is) into an otherwise quiet section of the book. It’s unfortunate because it undercuts the shocking and far more exciting events that soon follow. Omitting the dreams would have tightened the plot by eliminating useless chapters and kept Midnight apart from the norm. Instead, the book falls into line with the majority of its genre.

A larger and more annoying problem is the overwhelming amount of blushing that goes on (at least 24 instances!). When under the eye of the men they have feelings for, Echo and Dorian blush/flush/turn pink to an unrealistic degree. A teenage girl we can forgive, but to have a battle-hardened, battle-scarred dragon-warrior repeatedly acting like a blushing bride is irritating, and ultimately reduces him to caricature. In fact, it is an odd thing, but for the most part the leading men in Midnight seem emasculated (Altair, the war-mongering Avicen, is the exception), while the most forceful characters are the females. Caius displays a cold-hearted cruelty in those early chapters, but after that, the trait mysteriously vanishes from his character. Comparing the two, the reader can’t help but think that the decisive, merciless Tanith is a far better choice to lead her people in a war.

Despite these problems, The Girl at Midnight is a good read. And though it is the first in a series, the novel feels complete and ends on a satisfying note.

                                                                                                — Jennifer Michelle

Verdict


3.5 of 5 Hearts. Enjoyable Fantasy Romance, But Too Formulaic To Be Groundbreaking.

Penguin Random House’s web site accurately classifies The Girl at Midnight as both YA Romance and YA Fantasy. Romance tends to dominate as opposites quickly attract one another, though the fantasy element is successful. Grey’s occasionally formulaic prose weakens the novel — “A pale pink flush crept up Dorian’s neck”; “a blush creeping up her cheeks”; “A pink flush crept up Dorian’s pale neck”; among many other similar instances. — and had her dragon-warriors retained more of the beast in them, the book would have been much improved. But her heroine saves the day: Echo is quick-thinking, confident, humorous, and easy to like, and the reader can’t help but be interested in her fate.

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank Penguin Random House, Delacorte Press, and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning March 23rd

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Kids Corner: The Sweetest Heist in History by Octavia Spencer



4 of 5 Hearts. A Worthy Sequel That Pulls No Punches. With The Sweetest Heist in History, Octavia Spencer offers a strong follow-up to her series opener, proving that feisty Randi Rhodes and her fellow Ninja Detectives are a crime-fighting force to be reckoned with!  [Read the full review]

 

 

 

 

Tuesday:

Teen Zone – Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery by Margi Preus

 

 

4 of 5 Hearts. Lively Lakefront Lark. Margi Preus’ young protagonist, Francie, begins her investigation reluctantly, but as the case gains traction, she embraces her role of private eye. Along the way, the clever intrigue is supported by a heavy dose of humor to keep both the tone and the plot from growing cumbersome. Give this one to readers of Nancy Drew or Sammy Keyes (though Francie and crew lack the realism and depth that make Sammy and friends so endearing).  [Read the full review]

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

Teen Zone – Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery by Margi Preus

A Lively Lakefront Lark

Enchantment Lake: A Northwoods Mystery
by Margi Preus


Publication Date: March 15, 2015
Publisher: University Of Minnesota Press
Length: 200pp
ISBN-13: 978-0816683024

Related Links:
Margi Preus’ Website
Enchantment Lake at U of Minn Press

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Buy the Book

  AmazonBN






Publisher Synopsis

A disturbing call from her great aunts Astrid and Jeannette sends seventeen-year-old Francie far from her new home in New York into a tangle of mysteries. Ditching an audition in a Manhattan theater, Francie travels to a remote lake in the northwoods where her aunts’ neighbors are “dropping like flies” from strange accidents. But are they accidents?

On the shores of Enchantment Lake in the woods of northern Minnesota, something ominous is afoot, and as Francie begins to investigate, the mysteries multiply: a poisoned hotdish, a puzzling confession, eerie noises in the bog, and a legendary treasure said to be under enchantment—or is that under Enchantment, as in under the lake? At the center of everything is a suddenly booming business in cabin sales and a road not everyone wants built.

To a somewhat reluctant northwoods Nancy Drew, the intrigue proves irresistible, especially when it draws her closer to the mysteries at the heart of her own life. What happened to her father? Who and where is her mother? Who is she, and where does her heart lie—in the bustle of New York City or the deep woods of Minnesota? With its gripping story, romantic spirit, and a sly dash of modern-day trouble (including evil realtors and other invasive species), Enchantment Lake will fascinate readers, providing precisely the charm that Margi Preus’s fans have come to expect.


My Review

While at an audition in New York, Francie receives an alarming phone call from her aunts in Minnesota. The connection is bad, so although she can’t be sure exactly what was said before the call’s abrupt end, she is convinced it sounded like they said someone was trying to kill them. When she can’t reach her aunts, she first dials the NYPD who are no help. She then tries to contact the local police who don’t pick up. So just like that, Francie leaves the Big Apple for the remote northwoods of Minnesota.

Once she makes it to Enchantment Lake, it doesn’t take long for Francie to understand why her aunts are so worried. Several neighbors and community members have died in odd “accidents”. So many that it’s increasingly hard to believe their deaths were accidental. Could there be a murderer lurking at Enchantment Lake? It’s up to Francie to find out!

Margi Preus places her reluctant heroine at the center of a decidedly eccentric company of players. In particular, Francie’s off-the-wall aunts immediately steal the stage. Though Francie only briefly portrayed a TV detective, her aunts seem to think she’s an honest-to-goodness private eye — and they’ve told the whole town! When Francie starts looking for clues, she spends much time trying to deflect the erroneous assumption that she’s a detective. As the case develops, since she can’t convince people of the truth, she finally decides that she might as well play along.

In addition to being a page-turning mystery, Enchantment Lake is a love letter to the Minnesota northwoods. Markedly different from her previous work, Preus has crafted a charming cozy for teen readers. Think of Francie as a thoroughly modern Nancy Drew. Although she’s amiable enough, Francie is sometimes upstaged by her aunts. In fact, Astrid and Jeannette are so funny and likeable that when they are removed from the story, the narrative suffers.

While Preus kept my attention throughout, I would have liked more character development. Understandably, though, given the wide cast, this may have been an insurmountable task — or at least an impracticality in such a lean volume. At just two hundred pages, Preus opts for a plot-driven rather than character-driven tale. And it’s just creepy enough — although there is a high body count, deaths are reported rather than witnessed, and despite Francie getting into some precarious situations, you never fear for her life. As such, Enchantment Lake serves as a good, clean, fast-paced mystery for teens.

— Dawn Teresa

Verdict

4 of 5 Hearts. A Lively Lakefront Lark.

Margi Preus’ young protagonist, Francie, begins her investigation reluctantly, but as the case gains traction, she embraces her role of private eye. Along the way, the clever intrigue is supported by a heavy dose of humor to keep both the tone and the plot from growing cumbersome. Give this one to readers of Nancy Drew or Sammy Keyes (though Francie and crew lack the realism and depth that make Sammy and friends so endearing).

*Disclosure of Material Connection: I would like to thank the University of Minnesota Press and NetGalley for providing me a copy of this title. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

The Week in Reviews: ReadLove Recap For the Week Beginning March 9th

 

Another week has come and gone at ReadLove ! Here’s what you may have missed:

Monday:

Kids Corner: Aoléon The Martian Girl Part One: First Contact by Brent LeVasseur

3 Hearts - Final



3 of 5 Hearts. Good Storyline and Excellent Artwork Lift a Text in Need of an Editor. Aoléon The Martian Girl Part One: First Contact is the first entry in a five-part series. Though the writing is less than stellar, the text is saved by the accompanying 3D images and a fast-paced plot. Consider this a good choice for young, reluctant readers of both genders, being the type of book that generously feeds one’s imagination while vigorously exercising one’s suspension of disbelief.  [Read the full review]


Tuesday:

Kids Corner: Nightbird by Alice Hoffman

 

 

4 of 5 Hearts. A Bewitchingly Beautiful Tale of Family and Friendship. As Twig and her new-found friend Julia work together to break a centuries-old curse, they learn just how strong the ties of family, friendship, and love can be.  [Read the full review]

 

 

 

Thursday:

Kids Corner: T.A. Barron – “Countdown to a Meaningful Life” Week 7: Hope

ReadLove joins T.A. Barron for a special blog series to celebrate the upcoming publication of The Wisdom of Merlin: 7 Magical Words for a Meaningful Life. This seven-week countdown campaign will be based on Merlin’s answer to the question, “What is the meaning of life?”

Surprisingly, the answer has only seven words…but they are the most powerful words of all.

Join with us each week as we focus on one of these magical words with supporting content that will help us acknowledge, reflect, practice, and get inspired to embark on a new adventure or live life to its fullest.

Seventh Magical Word: Hope  [Read the full article]

 

Saturday:

Teen Zone: An Uncertain Choice by Jody Hedlund




3.5 of 5 Hearts. The Bachelorette Goes Medieval! Full of gorgeous and gallant knights wooing a beautiful young damsel, An Uncertain Choice is a good pick for a YA Christian romance. Don’t expect too much in the way of history or surprises, but if it’s a love story you crave, this one will entertain, especially in its final, exciting chapters.  [Read the full review]

 

 

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That’s everything that happened on ReadLove this week. See you next week!

Until then, I’d love it if you shared a bit about your week in the comments!

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