Tag Archives: YA Books

Review: Born Wicked

Born Wicked
Born Wicked by Jessica Spotswood
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in the Cahill Witches set. Set in an alt. universe where witches came to prominence, abused their power trying to control men’s minds, and were brought down by a close-minded group of men called The Brotherhood. In certain areas of the world, women can come and go and dress as they please, hold jobs and be educated, such as Dubai, or even Mexico to the south or Indo-China, but not in New England. Here The Brotherhood holds strong, and women are to be meek, subservient to their husbands, and by age 17, choose a husband or life in The Sisterhood, the female religious equivalent of The Brotherhood. Women or girls who are thought to be witches are arrested, tried, and if convicted, which most are, sent to prison ships to labor, to a school for re-training, or they disappear. Cate is a witch, and she is almost 17. Her mother was a witch as well, as are her two sisters. When her mother died several years before, she made Cate promised to protect and look out after her sisters. Their father doesn’t know about the fact that they are witches, as his health is frail, and even their mother wasn’t sure he could handle it and keep it from The Brotherhood without harming his health. None of the servants are supposed to know either, so they follow some basic rules, such as no magic in the house or outside, only in the Rose Garden where no one can see them,and then only limited. Cate is doing her best, but she has no guidance, until one day a letter comes for her, from a mysterious person, Z.R. telling her that she and her sisters are in danger and to look for her mother’s diary. At the same time, a meddlesome neighbor gets their father, who is often away on business, to foist a governess on them, to allow them to become ladies and be fit for marriage. But a governess, being with them all the time, might find out, and Cate is worried. She reads the diary, and it talks about a prophecy, which could change their fate, and the fate o the world. So she decides to talk to her mother’s best friend and see if she knows anything about what all this means, what the diary says about a prophecy. Complicating things are the governess; Paul, the boy next door who she has been best friends with since childhood and who has returned from the University to ask her to marry her; and the bookstore owner’s son, Finn, who was hired to be their gardener. A fun alternate look at a society which is similar in many respects to the time of the Salem witch trials, but is set in quasi-late Victorian/Edwardian times. Her characters are interesting, if a tad flat, but the plot makes up for that, and the minor characters are more interesting at times. Enjoyable, and I look forward to the other books.

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Review: Corbenic

Corbenic by Catherine Fisher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a modern re-telling of The Fisher King, and Parsifal. Cal, running away from his drunken schizophrenic mother, is on his way to his uncle’s house where his uncle has grudgingly offered him a trial job in his accountancy firm, and he gets to take a course at the university one day a week, as well as a place to stay. But he gets off the train at the wrong stop, in the dark and fog, and finds himself at Corbenic, but there is nothing there. He decides to wait for a later train, but realizes that one may not be coming until morning and it’s cold and drizzling. So he makes his way up and overgrown path, brushing his way past brambles, until he hears voices and sees a light. It is two fishermen on a river, one of whom directs him to a hotel up the road, and tells him to say that he sent him. So Cal forces his way up the path, and finds a broken down sign for the inn/castle, and goes inside. Inside, there is light, warmth, and it’s beautiful to him. Someone greets him, and leads him upstairs to a wonderful bedchamber, and tells him there is no charge, since he is their guest. Cautious, but low on funds, he decides to stay. The bell rings for supper, and from out of the rooms around him come men and women dressed in fabulous evening clothes, on their way to a banquet. Once there, he is told that the Fisher King wants him to sit at the head table. Feeling decidedly out of place in his cheap new clothes, he goes to the table, where he finds “Bron,” the Fisher King, is one of the fishermen he met earlier in the boat. He eats course after course of delicious food, and as the banquet progresses, suddenly the others fade out, and from a door behind the table he is seated at, comes a procession: a boy carrying a spear that bleeds from the tip, then two more boys carrying candlesticks, and finally, as a cold wind blows through him, and pain comes agonizingly, just as his mother has described her visions, comes a blonde girl in a green gown, carrying a large jeweled, but dented old cup. A light shines from the Grail cup, and then the procession moves on into a doorway that wasn’t there before, and afterwards disappears. The Fisher King asks him to say what he saw, to ask him what it means, but Cal, afraid that he is becoming a victim to the same mental disease of his mother, and scared by what he has seen, says he saw nothing. The Fisher King bows from pain, and Cal, unsure of himself now, quickly leaves for bed, with the Fisher King saying it will be a long journey. When he awakens the next morning, the castle is not the same. It is an old ruin, and gone are the people, the beautiful wall hangings, etc. It is an open ruin, with leaves, and mold and vegetation creeping in. Stuck into the moldy pillow is a beautiful sword, with a note that tells him it will serve Cal as he has served the Fisher King. He stumbles out of the castle, and hacks his way through the clinging vines and finds himself not far from a village, where he finds his way to his uncle, and tries to forget about Corbenic. But he can’t forget, and he falls in with a group of motley re-enactors, who call themselves Arthur’s men, but speak as if they really are them. He decides, after trying to rid himself of the sword several times, to try and learn how to use it. But he is torn between the nice, upscale life he has wanted, and the desire to set things right. And the legend plays out. Once again, Ms. Fisher outdoes herself in the telling of a legend. She is masterful at imagery and at feelings, delineating characters with swift loving strokes of words, and by their actions, shows them to be who they truly are. No one is perfect – all have flaws that they must work to overcome. But Cal must follow his path, until he figures out what Corbenic means, and come to peace with his past.

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Review: Gideon the Cutpurse

Gideon the Cutpurse
Gideon the Cutpurse by Linda Buckley-Archer
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first book in a trilogy. My 18 yr old daughter picked it out for me, and I was skeptical, but was wonderfully surprised. Although the protagonists are 12 year old kids, the vocabulary and syntax is advanced. Part of the action takes place in present day England, and part in the past, in 1763 Georgian England. Peter, who’s parents are always busy working, goes with his nanny to a friend of her’s farm where they have lots of kids, to spend the weekend. While there he meets Kate, a tomboy his age. When her Dad has to go into work at the local science lab, they ask to go with him, so that Kate can show his partner’s cool new invention to Peter. Once there, Kate’s dog escapes, and while running around looking for her, suddenly everything goes black, and the next thing they know is they wake up in a meadow, a little bruised, but other wise okay. The area looks familiar, but they have no idea of what happened at first. Gradually their memory returns and they recall chasing the dog, and then whoop, waking up here. Hiding in the bushes nearby, is Gideon, a cut-purse and a gentleman, who decided to see who and what the children are, and if they pose a danger. Deciding that they don’t, he approaches them, and asked how they got there. Gradually the story is pasted together, and they tell him the truth. Having witnessed their arrival, he is inclined to believe them, but thinks it is in their best interest not to let others in on this secret in a time when people still believed in witches. Gideon brings them to a nearby manor house, where he is to be employed as the estate keeper, and explains that the children are from abroad, and got set upon by highwaymen, and got separated from their uncle who was traveling to London. The lady of the house takes them in, and her kids take to the new comers well, laughing at their funny clothes. Soon they are rested, fed and dressed in their new finery. Thus begins an enchanting tale of Gideon, a good man who has had misfortunes in life, the evil villainous Tar Man, who stole the device that brought them back to 1763, and the difficulties in living in 1763, and trying to find the device, escape from footpads and more highwaymen, and not end up in gaol. Written in a flowery style of that era when back in 1763, except for the kids, who still think and talk in modern terms, the book catches the flavor of the Georgian period wonderfully, the clothes, the food, the traveling, the dangers, the smells, and the cruelty. It was such a gentle story, and full of the details that I used to love when I read Georgian romances, that it brought me back to them, and made me want to drag them out after about 15 years in storage. Thanks to my daughter for this one. Well done, and I look forward to reading more of their adventures.

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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: Losers in Space

Losers in Space
Losers in Space by John Barnes
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is a book hard to pin down. I started writing the review in my head shortly after I started it, but it kept changing. The basic premise is that in the far future, a government has evolved that has created peace, and an end to hunger and poverty. Everyone gets a wage that is quite comfortable, so they never have to work, although some like to, and some jobs do need people in them. But in the top tier of the social and economic strata are the celebrities – the Paris Hiltons of their day; the ones with talent – art, theater, sports, etc.; and the extremely smart ones. Children of these people are in a sort of limbo, neither part of the enormous middle class or the upper tier. So they attend a special school, where they can see if they can develop something that will allow them to move up when they turn 18. One way is to basically be in the media attention so much that you amass “points” and a high score, and thus become a celebrity in your own right. Videos, called meeds, are created out of bits or “hooks” of material taken from other sources and spliced (or splyctured) into one video. The more times you get spliced and appear, the higher your score. So when the leader of a teen group comes up with an idea tat will get them recognition beyond anything they normally could get, by pulling a major stunt, they decide to go along. So they stow away on a Mars bound ship, which can only go one way. But it turns out their leader is a sociopath and things go disastrously wrong. Originally, the whole premise I found to be pretentious and over-thought, and the slang or lingo bothered me. But as the book moved along, and the characters were developed, it sort of falls away, and you are left with a rather warm and touching account of kids who have lived a life of privilege suddenly having to cope with some very big stuff. Add in Fwuffy, and you have a story that will melt your heart. The science in it is “hard” – no FTL (faster-than-light), etc. So the ship bound for Mars can only go one way, it can’t turn around. Based on the Aldrin Cyclers type ships, it is filled with “notes” for the geeky ones, most of which I read of course, although a few of the higher math ones involving calculations of aphelion, etc. I skimmed. At times heart wrenching, funny, risque, cliched, and fuzzy, it sings. But if you can’t take the heart, then get out of this kitchen. 😉

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Review: Time’s Chariot

Time's Chariot
Time’s Chariot by Ben Jeapes
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This one was sort of another take on the recent Turtledove I read. It’s about the future, not terribly far, but someone discovered how to manipulate the time stream, and in doing so, accidentally created several new time streams, all with billions of people in them, which of course now must be watched over, and looked after. So they create a Home Time division, where they have various agents who go out and are time police, and others who are planted back in time and move forward through the time stream, observing and recording events and sending them back to be entertainment for the masses, since there isn’t much to do in the future, but live in your apartment. The people are hungry for new things, and observations of the various time streams is a fun thing – a future soap opera or mini-series. They record special events and daily life. Since people can be kept alive almost indefinitely, they can be sent, as one correspondent is, back to Rome around 1000 AD, and live through the rest of history, up until the 21st century, when they are to be recalled. But something goes wrong. And Rico Darren, who has gotten in trouble before, sniffs it out, and begins to follow what seem to be anomalies. He enlists the help of one of the higher ups in Home Time, and a fellow officer, and together they try and track what is going on and stop it, whatever it is. It’s a fun story, sort of a Starship Troopers, but with time rather than bugs, and although the science isn’t very “hard,” the fun is, although at times it got a little confusing to me as to who was what and where. But that happens to me. All in all, a rather more old-fashioned SF book, but enjoyable.

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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: Prophecy of the Sisters

Prophecy of the Sisters
Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is the first in a series of two twin sisters, part of a long line of sisters, who are destined to fulfill a prophecy that they don’t know about, and only find out about just before they are orphaned. The prophecy pits them against each other, as mortal enemies who are destined to destroy of save the world. It’s set in Victorian times, and the pace and writing of the book fit the period. It is leek a gothic novel written during that time. Echoes of those books are throughout this. I didn’t catch any inconsistencies, and I am a stickler for those. The prophecy twist is an interesting one, and it’s really about souls, and about the other planes of existence. Dripping with darkness and damp, secrets, betrayals, all while under the rigid rules and constraints against women during that time, it is a very good book, and I am looking forward to the others in the series. The cover is bland, so don’t be put off by it. Sorry for the brief set-up, but I try and give away no more than the blurb does.

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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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