Category Archives: YA

Review: The Last Princess

The Last Princess
The Last Princess by Galaxy Craze
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book I really hated to give a low mark to, since there wasn’t any one thing that stood out, and that was part of the problem. I just found it dull. It was trite, cliched, and lacked any characters that I really cared about. The story is set in the near future, in London, after a “17 day” event of natural disasters that has led to most of the world’s population gone, and for some reason, unexplained, leaving England reasonably better off. Food is scarce, and bands of Roamers have taken over the wooded areas, hunting the last of the animals and taking to eating people, and then there is a man who is intent on overthrowing the current monarchy and making himself king. He claims that the Royals are doing a Marie Antoinette thing, which they sort of are. Our heroine is the second daughter of the King, and as this mysterious cult leader and his army of recruits gets larger, she gets drawn into the quest to save the royal lineage. One of the things that bothered me was the callousness in the beginning that she felt towards others. She and her siblings seemed oblivious to the world around them and the fact that most people were starving. While some things were in short supply, they were eating well, and living in comfort, if a trifle cold, up at Balmoral castle in Scotland. Another thing that bothered me was three separate incidents of animal cruelty in the first half of the book. Not hunting, but just plain cruelty, to show how someone is becoming a bad person, or to show the callousness of the new army, etc. I just found it excessive and it bothered me, but then I an am animal lover. All in all, it’s not a bad book, just dull, cliched, trite, and mundane. i couldn’t get excited about anything, and nothing was described in enough detail, including the characters, to make me get involved. Just bored. The fact that the premise of the book meant it could have been good made it that much more disappointing. Another book in the series is planned for 2013, but I will pass.

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Review: iBoy

iBoy by Kevin Brooks
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is an odd duck of a book. It quacks like improbable SF, but is actually more of a coming of age story, about morality and when you have unlimited power, how and when should you use it, and the law of unintended consequences. Tom lives in a crowded council section in London, in a 34 floor tower, in a block of 7 of them. They are riddled with gangs and drugs, etc. He lives there with his Grandmother, secretly falling for a childhood friend Lucy who lives in the same tower. One evening, as he stands outside the tower, thinking about trying to go see this girl, and somehow get her to see what he feels, someone shouts his name from up top, and something fall from the building and lands on his head, splitting his skull open. It was an iPhone. But at that velocity, it hit so hard that pieces of the plastic case, and the phone’s chip were embedded into his brain and couldn’t be removed. So he goes home after a few days, and finds out that in the meantime, his friend Lucy had been gang raped by a group of thugs in the building, from one of the prominent gangs in their section of the blocks. He feels rage and impotence. What can he do? He eventually tries to talk to Lucy, but she is scared, and knows that if she tries to go to the police and tell them who did it, retaliation to her brother, who was already beat up in the first attack, and her mother, will follow, and could lead to their deaths. Tom knows the same could happen to Lucy even if he tries to report it, or he and his Gram could be in danger. That’s how the gangs operate – fear and intimidation. But then, he decided to take matters into his own hands and dispense his own brand of justice. You see (and this is where the improbable meets SF), the pieces of the iPhone lodged in his brain have fused with his neural network and have allowed him access to the world wide web and just abut anything that is on-line, anywhere, without really having to hack. He is iBoy. So he can hear phone conversations, find out who is up to what, pinpoint locations by phone GPS signals, etc. And so he begins his own campaign of fear and retribution. Never pushing it to the limit, but not quite something that sits morally right with him. It is a struggle, an internal one, since he know if he does nothing, Lucy’s attackers will go free, and keep on doing this. But if he does something that will get them in trouble, and cause some fear, maybe, just maybe, things will change a little. An interesting, if implausible tale of what it means to have unlimited power, and the rights and responsibilities that go with it. An interesting read.

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Review: Embrace

Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Violet is a normal 16 yr old girl, who enjoys school, has fun with her best friend Sophie, and trains with a guy she met in an exercise class. He is teaching her various martial arts moves, running, and rock climbing. She finds it fun, and is drawn to Lincoln in a deep way. But they are just friends. She wonders if there might be more, but he always pulls away just when that moment occurs that might lead to something more. Then one day she meets Phoenix, a dark, brooding type, with an air of mystery about him. He is always there for her, albeit in a sort of stalkerish way, and she begins to fall for him. On her 17th birthday, something weird happens. Her body begins some small changes, and she is confronted with a dangerous man, but Phoenix takes care of it. She confronts Phoenix about him, and he tells her that she is Grigori, half human, half angel, sent to guard humans from the exiled angels in human form who, whether light or dark, seem to get out of hand. She confronts Lincoln about this, and he brings in his mentor, Griffin. But she can’t forgive Lincoln for not telling her, and letting her think that he really liked her, not merely because she was his “partner” as a Grigori. Her anger at Lincoln builds, even as her power grows, and exiled angels seek her out and try and hurt her. But in one of those encounters, Lincoln is gravely wounded, but regular medicine won’t help, so she must choose whether to embrace what she is and become fully Grigori, and heal Lincoln, or to not, and let things be, where Lincoln will most likely die. The rest of the story is about her choice, the war between exiles and Grigori, and her heart. Learning to trust her instincts. A decent book, but I found it slow going, which is why the 3 rating. It took me part of three nights. It might have been me, the mood I was in, but then the next book I read in the same evening all the way through. So I don’t know why this didn’t fully engage me. I like angel stories, it had action, but I guess I wasn’t really into the heroine -There were too many gaps in who she was, what she thought about things other than the major plot points, and a lack of character in the people around her. Humor was lacking.

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Review: Clarity

Clarity by Kim Harrington
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A decent entry in the YA paranormal genre. Clarity, or Clare as she is known, comes from a family of psychics. Her parents lived and grew up in a psychic community in the Western part of the state, met, fell in love, and for some reason, bought an old Victorian house on the Cape, no resident ghosts, and set up shop. Her father left fifteen years earlier for no apparent reason, when she was a toddler. Her gift is to hold someone’s personal object and see visions through their eyes of recent events. Her mother can read current thoughts only, and her brother can connect to the spirit world, sometimes, if the spirit is connected to a person nearby. They are the real deal, but still have to deal with skeptics. This book also has a love triangle, but it is merely a circling of sharks. No great undying love declared. All is going swimmingly in the summer, although she is cooped up with summer tourists wanting readings – they all do them as a group. They believe it is not possible to see into the future, so they give the clients a taste of what they can do, and they generally leave satisfied. No bad readings allowed. But one day, Clare is drafted. A teenage tourist has been murdered, and they have little to go on. The mayor, knowing an unsolved murder is bad for business, hires her to work with the police and do a take on some of the victim’s objects. The hot shot detective doesn’t believe in this, nor does his hot son, but they agree, and she finds things that lead to other things. She still has her cheating ex-boyfriend on her mind, and is making up with an old frenemy, a rich boy whom she had told on about cheating many years ago, which cost the family a lot of money to cover up so he could still go to an Ivy League school and on to politics. Meanwhile, her brother is acting suspiciously, and she finds out that he had been with the victim just before she died. As she decided to delve deeper, knowing her brother couldn’t kill, she keeps uncovering more lies and deception. The book ended with a nice cliffhanger. Most ends tied up but a few left open for future books. I’d like to see more of these.

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Review: Struck

Struck by Jennifer Bosworth
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is a paranormal story of a teenage girl, who over the past several years has been struck countless times by lightening. Sometimes she has been killed, and revived. Her hair has been burnt off, but she craves it. It makes her feel alive. Then one day, after something bad happened as a result of the stored energy in her body, they moved from Arizona to LA. Somehow, lightening, in a huge storm, struck again, and it triggered a fault under the area she was living in. Her mother was trapped in rubble at work for days,and hasn’t been the same since. Now she watches the TV evangelist, Prophet, who promises if the believers come to him, when the final storm comes, to break the 6th seal, they will be protected. He and his followers wear white. Standing against them, since Prophet and his minions want to bring lightening to the city, and trigger the apocalypse, are the Seekers – those who merely want to contain the power of the other group and somehow divert the disaster looming, while seeking out others with the same energy. Mia is caught in the middle of it all, both groups believing that her great power, and the energy she not only stores, but can call forth, is essential to their goal. Standing against both groups is a boy she just met, Jeremy, who wants her to stay away from both groups, but there is more to Jeremy as well. This is a slam bang right to the wall, edge of your set thriller for teens. Other than a shortened version, and with a paranormal twist, it’s your basic adventure/thriller in disguise. Set in a rubble strewn LA, with not everything working, and having to go to school just to get ration cards for food handouts, it reminds you of what lengths people will go to and what they will believe, to make things right again. Good – wonder if there will be more.

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Review: The Obsidian Blade

The Obsidian Blade
The Obsidian Blade by Pete Hautman
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is book one of a planned series, and my main complaint is that it shows it. I would have given it three and 1/2 stars , but decided to be generous today and round up. Since I’m writing this two days after I read it, and have already forgotten most of it, that’s not a great sign even if I do have a faulty memory. That said, it is the story of a young man living a fairly normal life – his father is a preacher, and his mom bakes cookies. Then one day, while up on the roof, he sees his father disappear, and a disc of some kind hovering in the air. He tries to tell his mother, who is always busy with her Sudoku puzzles, what happened, but she told him not to be silly – his dad just probably went into town. Later that day his father comes home, clothes dirtier, and with a young girl at his side, named Lahlia. She doesn’t speak English. His dad says he found her in town when he went. And being a good man, decides to take her in until a family can be found for her. But now his father no longer believes in God. His dad, who used to run a bible-thumping church, is an atheist, and won’t explain how or why he made this transition. Lahlia and Tucker get a long well, but she is soon adopted into a conservative Christian family and he rarely sees her any more. Then his mother starts changing too – she becomes distant, withdrawn, obsessed with her puzzles and numbers, until one day both his father and mother disappear into a disc that appears again. His dad left a cryptic note that he was talking his mother to get healed, and that Tucker couldn’t come, and that he was sending his uncle to look out for him. The next day, up comes Kosh, a tattooed, leather clad biker, who isn’t that happy about taking in a teenager, but does so, as blood is blood. The rest of the book deals with his trying to find his father and mother by using these strange discs, of which there are two in town that come and go. He learns a lot about the “diskos,” and as he tries to right the past, he is drawn into greater conspiracies. So many threads left handing, my greatest complain was that so much was not revealed that this book has a hard time standing on it’s own. I personally would wait for more in the series. And the ending just drifts of. But the premise is interesting, and the origin and use of the diskos also, so it shows promise. I’d wait until at least Book two is out.

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Review: The Way We Fall

The Way We Fall
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was an interesting, if somewhat quiet book about the effects of a naturally mutated virus that swept a small Canadian maritime island. The island is quarantined as soon as hey realize what is happening, and the story is one of grief, sacrifice, good and bad people, and how they cope with mounting losses, lack of supplies, and no cure in sight. It is a human interest and behavior study for the teen sector. Nicely done, although as it was told in journal form, it had the effect of removing you from the direct action, as she was merely relating what had already happened earlier that day. Good, but just average for me, for the above reasons. If a devastating illness is sweeping my community, I want more outpouring of grief, more action, more anger, other than a few misguided teens, and I want serious consequences. She said she read a number of books on plagues and infectious diseases, including Preston’s The Hot Zone,and in some ways it comes off as semi-documentary. But really, where is the government in all this? The mainland seems to have had a small but contained outbreak, so why isn’t the Canadian equivalent of the CDC swooping down to work on this, since it has a high mortality rate, very high. All they get are some drops of supplies from helicopters. Some WHO type doctors were there at the beginning, but they left on the last ferry out as they were scared, and some caught the virus. But still, if it’s that contagious, everything should be done in the hospital to contain it – heavily quarantined populations, bio-suits with air supply, etc. Here, the heroine, daughter of a microbiologist, is allowed to walk into the hospital, with only a small face mask. Not practical in a real setting as I know from my own readings of such NF books on the subject. There would be labs set up to test it, although there is a lab on the island that her dad goes to, but no luck on the virus, (and we never “see” the lab)  even though they know a common thread that the ones who survived have, and they have their blood. Crichton’s The Andromeda Strain, was similar (although TheAS was alien), and was much more a heavy breather type. And then it just sort of ends – not knowing what happened to some people, and still no cure, although it is winding down, as there are fewer people to infect.

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Review: Deception

Deception by Lee Nichols
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This light YA book is the first in a series of at least 3. Personally I think they could have been made into one larger book, but I guess they like to keep the teen books shorter at times. Series are big. This was a nice entry into the paranormal world, since it involved the ability to see ghosts, but also manipulate them, although Emma, the main character, doesn’t know this. All she knows is that one day her parents, who away on a trip, can’t be reached and she is taken by her “guardian,” a guy she knows only as her older brother’s friend” to Boston, from SF, and enrolled in a private boarding school there. But something has happened, and she starts seeing more and more things she can’t explain. Nice romance, details about a different aspect of the ghost business, and charmingly and lovingly told, esp. about the ghost themselves. Set in a museum of a house, in a New England town just outside of Boston that prides itself on it’s “dunking chair,” there is a bunch of history, and a lot of action. It rarely lets down for a moment. Esp. as she comes to realize her powers, and that in turn leads to more problems and encounters with strong forces of evil.  I have the 2nd book ready to go, after the one I’m reading now.  Slight, but amiable, and warm-hearted. I enjoyed it.

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Review: Under the Never Sky

Under the Never Sky
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I am only giving this book 4 to 4 1/2 stars because of some minor quibbles, which may or may not be answered in future books. But I figure I am usually generous with my ratings and if these were bothering me, then it was as sign it wasn’t 5 stars. That said, I believe there will be more in the series, although that is not implied or mentioned in any way, just the way it ended – with miles to go. It is optioned for a movie and could do well. It is a terrific dystopian SF set sometime in the future, when somethings have still been preserved, but most of the people have retreated into pods, leaving everything outside – something happened – the Aether (electrical storms as far as I can figure out) came and caused great damage to the country side, and even the pods at times, and still do. There are two types of people – the Dwellers – those who live in the enclosed pods, and the Outsides – those who live in the Death Drop, the zones outside, where they are said to be deformed, cannibals – Savages. The book starts with Aria, on her own since her mother was sent to another pod in her top secret research a few weeks before, and Aria can’t get ahold of her – the links to Bliss- that compound, are down. So she pretends to like the son of the high councilman, and goes for a “joy ride” into one of the outer pods, thinking she can lure him away and get him to ask his father about her mother – not well thought out. They don’t know the boys well, she and her best friend Paisley, and soon the boys are turning this into a dangerous adventure and doing strange things. Normally , all those but maintenance people live in the central pod which is comprised of various Realms – virtual reality places where they can live, hang out, etc. Not much is said about their life when not in the Realms – do they eat, sleep, or shower even in real life, or is all that done virtually? If so, how? Anyway, the adventure turns bad as the boys, free from restraint, go wild, and start a big fire in the Ag pod, and then the boy who she was trying to get information from decides to try and ape her. But something, or someone comes into the greenhouse pod where they are, and helps her, and drags her to safety. She is found the next day. All the rest died, except her self and the consul’s son. She had her eye-piece in the whole time – her link to the Realms, and had recorded the whole attack, but the stranger took it with him. Why he was there at that time was a mystery to be later solved. She has no proof of what happened, since her eye-piece was missing, and the consul, not wanting his son to get into trouble, sends her out, supposedly to her mother, but in reality she is dumped into the barren and harsh Outside, where she is left to fend for herself. She is in deep trouble, thinking she will die of thirst, starvation or disease, when the same stranger that helped her in the pod comes along and tried to help again, although she is mistrustful, since they have been told that all Outsides are savage, diseased, etc. But she has no choice, and he did come to help her. And so begins their journey – to safety, and then to try and find her mother in the other pod, just as the Savage is trying to find his lost nephew who was kidnapping by Insiders. Along the way, they learn secrets about each other, about themselves, and begin to understand what is going on, and how it all happened. Plenty of detail, some interesting genetic qualities, and the action is non-ceasing, and their lives are in imminent danger more than once. Meanwhile romance develops, and there are several interesting side characters. Well done book – the only quibbles were the lack of information about how these pods came to be, other than just a mention of a “Unity” whereby the pods were built and the people retreated – those who didn’t want to, stayed outside. But why? And the lack of information about what life was like in the Realms and in the central pod. How much time did they spend in the virtual world? All of it? The story starts with her in the Ag pod, and so we never get to experience normal life for her, except as seen in flashbacks. I am too curious about such details for it to go unnoticed. I want my world-building to be complete. Worth the read though.

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Review: Cinder

Cinder by Marissa Meyer
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Once in a while, and I have been lucky lately, a book comes long that fulfills the promise it makes. Cinder is such a book. At once a fairytale, and also a science fiction book, it is the story of the Commonwealth’s greatest mechanic, a partially cyborg 18 yr old girl named Cinder, who is the stepdaughter of a nasty, vindictive woman, who holds her guardianship after the man who saved her (her guardian’s husband) died, and her two stepdaughters, one kind, Peony, and the other cruel, Pearl. They make Cinder work, so they don’t have to, living in poverty, but putting on airs of a higher status. One day, a handsome young man comes to her booth at the market, and asks if she can repair his android – it is vital. It is the Prince in disguise. And so she says she’ll help him. Now very young girl in the Commonwealth is secretly in love with the prince, and Cinder is really no different, so she tries to hide the fact that she is a cyborg. But a nasty plague is consuming the kingdom and soon consumes those around the Prince and Cinder. And she is drafted by her stepmother to be a test subject for an antidote they are working on. Usually the “volunteers” die, but somehow Cinder does not. And so the adventure begins – twists and turns, an evil queen seeking to marry the prince, a secret long lost Princess of Luna who could overthrow the Queen, and a possible cure for the devastating plague. But this seems to be only the first stop in this riotous, funny, tender homage to fairytales. I can’t wait for more. Minor characters take on life, and you care about them, as well as our hero and heroine. The setting is intriguing, New Beijing, centuries after WWIII, and WWIV, and after a Lunar colony has been established on the moon, had time to grow, and now is a threat. The attention to detail is amazing, and you cheer for Cinder, and cry with her, and generally get all the feelings that a good fairy tale evokes. Since I spent countless Saturday morning hours cozied up in my bed with one of Andrew Lang’s fairy books, this one was a breath of fresh air and a glimpse of my past. Highly recommended if you have ever liked fairy stories. I simply can not do it justice.

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