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Friday, March 28, 2014

YA Fantasy Books

I had so much fun digging up books for my husband in my previous post that I decided to explore other areas.  This post is all about YA fantasy.  This is my favorite genre so it is especially enjoyable to compile this list.  Each book is either a stand alone novel or the first in a series.  There may be more books in the series that aren't posted.  Those marked with an asterisk have reviews by me on Goodreads (username Jo Strader).  If you stop by, send me a friend request!

Graceling by Kristen Cashore*
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers*
The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson*
Mistwood by Leah Cypess*
Death Sworn by Leah Cypess*
The False Prince by Jennifer Nielsen*
Falling Kingdoms by Morgan Rhodes*
The Magician's Nephew by C.S. Lewis
Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson
Alanna by Tamora Pierce
Heart's Blood by Juliette Marillier*
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama*
Shadowfell by Juliette Marillier*
Touch of Power by Maria V. Snyder*
Finnikin of the Rock by Melina Marchetta
Seraphina by Rachel Hartman*
Incarnate by Jodi Meadows*
Eon by Alison Goodman*
Throne of Glass by Sarah Maas*
Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo*
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner*
You Are Mine by Jeneal Falor*
Princess Academy by Shannon Hale*
The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman*
The Goose Girl by Shannon Hale*
A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. LeGuin
Prophecy by Ellen Oh*
Defiance by C.J. Redwine
Poison by Bridget Zinn
The Hero and the Crown by Robin McKinley*
The Book of Three by Lloyd Alexander
The Singer of All Songs by Kate Constable
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
Heartless by Ann Elisabeth Stengl
The Sweetest Spell by Suzanne Selfors*
Defy by Sara Larson
The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski*

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

YA Dystopian Novels or What to Read After Divergent

I was compiling a list for my husband of what books to read that are like Divergent.  I thought it might be helpful to post the list here.  This is by no means an exhaustive list, but one that will get you started.  The underlined books are true dystopians. Those marked by an asterisk have a review by me on Goodreads (username Jo Strader).  While your on Goodreads, send me a friend request!

The Maze Runner by James Dashner*
Legend by Marie Lu*
Gone by Michael Grant
Article 5 by Kristen Simmons*
Enclave by Ann Aguire
The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness
Matched by Allie Condie*
Unwind by Neal Shusterman*

Not a Drop to Drink by Mindy McGinnis*
Taken by Erin Bowman*
Breathe by Sarah Crossen*
The Darkest Mind by Alexandra Bracken*
Birthmarked by Caragh O'Brien
The Way We Fall by Megan Crewe*

Reboot by Amy Tintera
by S.A. Bodeen*
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers*
Uglies by Scott Westerfeld*
Life As We Knew It by Susan Pfieffer*
Cinder by Marissa Meyer*
Ender's Game by Orson Scott Card*
The Giver series by Lois Lowery*
Wither by Lauren DeStefano*
How I Live Now by Meg Rosoff*
The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan*
 Incarceron by Catherine Fisher*
The Pledge by Kimberly Derting*
Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi*
The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau*
The Moon Dwellers by David Estes
Eve by Anna Carey
Ashes by Ilsa Bick*
The House of the Scorpion by Nancy Farmer
XVI by Julia Karr*
The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater*
Pure by Julianna Baggott
Plus One by Elizabeth Fama*
For Darkness Shows the Stars by Diane Peterfruend*
The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey*
Numbers by Rachel Ward*

Monday, March 17, 2014

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

This book certainly kept you guessing. The clues were all there to know who the bad guy/girl (I don't want to give away gender of the offender) was. I enjoyed reading this and very much will be looking for the next book if there is one. The romance wasn't as rushed as some YA books. There were some characters that I was routing for that didn't get a satisfying ending. The puzzles that the bad person left for Nearly were clever. I'm not sure I could have figured them out. They use a blend of scientific and literature knowledge. Kudos to Elle Cosimano for inventing such smart clues. And let this be a lesson to all the teens out there - know your Shakespeare, physics and chemistry! You never know when a serial killer will taunt you with that knowledge.

I hope we will see more of Nearly. She was an interesting character. She was smart, but impulsive. Clearly was a deep thinker, yet she reacted on emotion. I think there is more room to explore between her and her mom and definitely need more answers about her dad. There was a strong message that you can take charge of your own life and lead a completely different one than your parents. Education is strongly encouraged as a vehicle for that change.

I really enjoyed this one, and the person I thought was the culprit was not. The whole enjoyment of this book is that you don't know who did it, but when you find out, it makes perfect sense. I will be looking for more from this author.

There is language in this book and kissing, but no sex.

This book will release on March 25, 2014.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Graduation Day by Joelle Charbonneau

Like so many other trilogies, this last book just seemed like more of the first two books. This was Cia going around not knowing who to trust, solving dilemmas. I wanted more, and the "big" twist at the end was not so big. Everything was wrapped up nicely, and there weren't any glaring omissions. I actually began to not like Cia in this one. She was too moralistic. If it comes down to killing someone in order to stop great evil, I'm not sure I would wrestle with the decision the way Cia does. A bullet in Hitler's head could have saved millions of lives. Now living with the guilt of doing something like that, I can see someone like Cia struggling with that. I never really bought that Cia was a leader either. She was smarter than everyone else, but really all she showed was ingenuity and an instinct about people. She never demonstrated power or how she would wield it if it was given to her.

Like the first two books, this one was action packed. There is no lag time in the middle the way some books tend to be. It was a very fast read, and satisfying. The end comes and you know it is an end. There is no lingering doubt that there will be a fourth book. (view spoiler)

I think the takeaway from this series is a serious consideration of how valuable life is. Cia places high value on everyone's life even the mutants in book one. She stays true to her morals and doesn't allow anyone to compromise them. Some say that this is her weakness, but Cia proves that it can be a strength. I admire that she stuck with her convictions and wish to be half as strong as she was had I been placed in similar circumstances.

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Knight Assasin by Rima Jean

When I started reading this, I immediately thought of all the other assassin books that seem to be flooding the market lately. Even though this book features an assassin girl bent on revenge, this was a delightful and unique book. I really loved Zayn and found she was a strong character, but able to think for herself. She does not just blindly follow what people tell her, but reason for herself how a situation should be. I loved that she allowed herself to be vulnerable with several characters even though she had been horribly used.

The backdrop of Syria and the Holy Land was expertly woven into the story. I felt that the plot was really enhanced by the setting. I love historical pieces, but add in supernatural powers and assassins, and I think it's twenty times the fun. I cannot wait for the next book as the setting is a particular favorite of mine, and I would love to see Zayn in that setting.

This was a great read that was engaging and exciting. If you aren't familiar with the Crusades, Saladin or the Knights Templar, a quick trip to an encyclopedia would be a good start. This book assumes that you know a little bit about that time period.

There were a couple, mild curse words.  There is a rape scene, but it is not graphic.  However, the character does wrestle with it throughout the novel.  It is an honest portrayal and well done.

The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

This is a book about relationships and guilt. The paranormal aspects, the romance, and the mystery all take a back seat to the description of relationships. It is a clever exploration of them - what makes for a good friendship, who can you truly be your own self with, and how suspicion can ruin relationships. This book had a myriad of characters who are inexplicably have an issue that affects their interactions with others. Some carry guilt, others have secrets which interfere. As a study in psychology, this was a brilliant book. As a mystery, it fell a little flat. I was really expecting a big pay off at the end since the characters were so carefully painted. It was a bit of a let down at the end. The paranormal aspect, Becca's ability to hear other's thoughts, was really non-existent. It could have been a great plot point, but it felt as though it was thrown in so there could be a hook to draw young readers in. I think it was a distraction since it never provided answers for Becca, but rather confused her. I felt the setting was a great asset to the story. It was atmospheric and described beautifully. I am intrigued by Diana and why she is different. Since that was never answered, I will be checking out the second book because I feel that she will a great enigma to puzzle out.

Sunday, March 2, 2014

Half Bad by Sally Green

3.5 stars
It was certainly a compelling book. I found myself reading as fast as I could to see what was going to happen. Nathan is a very sympathetic character, and I truly cared what happened to him. It was difficult reading about his time in the cage because I felt like he was one of my children. He has a great voice as a narrator. I loved that Wales was his special place. I think it is the best place on Earth, and even though I have never been there, I know that I will go one day and feel like it is home. Sally Green did a great job of portraying Nathan's need to be alone and communing with nature. The book was a little slow in the middle. There were times when I wanted to shout at the book to hurry up and have something happen. The ending was satisfying, but left so many unanswered questions. I really want to read the next book so I can get those answers. The cover was extremely well done and foreshadowed the significance of blood in the novel. I am curious what they will do with the second book. The writing was unique and fresh, and I couldn't believe that this was her first book. It felt like mature and seasoned writing so I am very excited to see what comes next. I wasn't sure about the use of second person in the beginning, and truly if the whole book had been that was, I don't think I would have liked it. I loved that there was actually a significance to the use of second person in that if signified a shift in narrative for Nathan. Overall, I liked this one and am looking forward to the next one.