Tag Archive | Young Adult

Review: Shadow Eyes — by Dusty Crabtree

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com

Title: Shadow Eyes

 

Author: Dusty Crabtree

Rating:  ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Urban Fantasy / 328

Summary: “Iris thought she could ignore the shadows…until they came after everyone she loved.

Seventeen-year- old Iris Kohl has been able to see both dark and light figures ever since a tragic incident three years ago. The problem is, no one else seems to see them, and even worse…the dark figures terrorize humans, but Iris is powerless to stop them.

Although she’s learned to deal with watching shadows harass everyone around her, Iris is soon forced to question everything she thinks she knows about her world and herself. Her sanity, strength, and will power are tested to the limits by not only the shadows, but also a handsome new teacher whose presence scares away shadows, a new friend with an awe-inspiriting aura, and a mysterious, alluring new student whom Iris has a hard time resisting despite already having a boyfriend. As the shadows invade and terrorize her own life and family, Iris must ultimately accept the guidance of an angel to revisit the most horrific event of her life and become the hero she was meant to be.”

Cover Review: Not a fan of this cover. The font is pretty, and the colors are nice (and important to the plot), but it’s not a very aesthetically pleasing cover, or one that would make me want to pick up / buy the book. It could definitely use a complete revamp. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. First of all, Dusty Crabtree’s writing and imagery are absolutely captivating. She has a way with words that makes everything come to life beautifully. The world and premise are really creative — it’s an epic modern battle between angels and demons, it’s a story that embodies Dumbledore’s quote: 

“Happiness can be found, even in the darkest of times, if one only remembers to turn on the light.” – J.K. Rowling, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Characters: Honestly, the protagonist infuriated me at times, but that’s exactly what made her such a good character. She was so receptive and good at seeing what was wrong with everyone else, except for herself and her immediate circumstances. Then again, I suppose that is exactly what made her so relatable and realistic, because human beings tend to be pretty blind when it comes to themselves and their friends. That’s what enables Iris’ story to teach so many good and important life lessons. Each character exists to teach the reader different things (but not in a preachy way at all), and each character is in a different stage of their personal battle between good and evil. 

Plot: I loved the plot. It told the very real story of a teenage girl in a scary world overcoming her own personal evil. It was heartfelt, it was poignant, and it was meaningful. This is the kind of story that actually stands for something. It’s more than just a fun book to read, it’s genuinely good book, and an important story to tell. It was a fantastic read!

Content Advisory: Wow, this book deals with some really heavy topics. Alcoholism, date rape, drug use, teenage pregnancies, self-harm, suicide, blackmail, manipulation, miscarriages, cheating spouses, and car crashes, if memory serves. These things are always portrayed in a negative light, and is a story contrasting the battle between the light and the dark in the world. When I asked the author about it, she said: “There are some PG-13 things, but nothing major – it’s really more just descriptions of stuff leading up to something bad that never actually happens.  But everything (guy/girl stuff) is shown in a negative light – not condoned.  In fact, I have yet to get negative feedback on that from a Christian or person sensitive to that stuff.”

To Sum It Up: A beautifully written contemporary tale of the eternal battle between good and evil, this book is nearly impossible to put down. It’s engaging, gripping, and realistic. I highly recommend this book to readers 15 and up. 

Review: Lily, the Brave — Katherine Hodges

 

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Title: Lily, the Brave

Author: Katherine Hodges

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 266

Summary: “Lily has a soft spot for helping people, but is it really worth the risk? Her life was already hard enough after the accident. How can she possibly deal with being a superhero too? Seventeen year old Lily Harrison is given an incredible gift. She doesn’t really want it, but she’s stuck with it. Lily’s best friend convinces her it can be used for the good of mankind, but it only seems to bring her trouble and put everyone around her in danger. Using her gift would force her out of her comfort zone and into the realm of top secret assignments, late night stake outs, and constantly looking over her shoulder. All she wants is to be a normal introverted teenager, hang out with her best friend, crush on a gorgeous guy from a distance, and pass algebra at the end of the semester. Lily would give anything for a normal, quiet, life. One thing is for sure, her life will never be the same again.”

Cover Review: Not everyone likes photography on covers, but I think this one was really well done. I LOVE the font of the title, and having some of the thoughts she hears on the cover is a very interesting concept. Overall, I think it’s a beautiful cover.

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. For some reason, I didn’t think I was going to like this book. I’m not exactly sure what made me think that, but I did. However, I was very pleasantly surprised when I was proven totally wrong, because I ended up loving this book. The premise was totally unique, and the story was wonderful! I really wish and hope that there will be a second book coming out, because I would LOVE to read more about these characters and their lives!

Characters: So this was pretty crazy…  I wasn’t sure what to think of the characters at first, but I quickly grew to love them! Each of them underwent a huge amount of character development throughout the book, and they were each a good, well-written character in their own right. When reading this book, I didn’t really feel like any of the characters were relegated to second class roles like “love interest” or “optimistic best friend”, because even though some of them may have had those traits, they were real people, first. Except, obviously, not, you know… real. 

Plot: Now this was the truly crazy bit. This book was a YA spy thriller with a gifted teenager going on top secret missions. There were times I was screaming at the book, laughing out loud, or gasping in shock. And then there was also that time when I got to one of the huge climactic moments of story and just then — my break was over at work and I had to clock back in. Yeah, that wasn’t fun, because then I spent the rest of my ten hour shift anxiously waiting to figure out what happened next. 

Content Advisory: A girl gets pushed down the stairs and is in a coma, scenes of bullying occur, and there is some kissing in the book. There are some relatively intense scenes of stalking and kidnapping that might be too much for some readers. Gunfights and violence occur, but are generally off screen. Overall, it’s a pretty mild and age-appropriate YA novel. 

To Sum It Up: This book was really awesome. Like, I know people (myself definitely included) way over use that word, but I mean it. This book reminded me of the books I used to go to the library, pick off a shelf at random, and then finish by the next morning, back when I was 13 or 14. It’s just one of those genuinely good quality and enjoyable books. I’m really looking forward to the sequel! highly recommend this book to readers 13 and up. 

Review: Starwarden — by J.A. Dalley

 

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Starwarden (Almek Manning, #2)

 

Author: J.A. Dalley

Rating:  ★★★★★ (5.5 of 5)

Genre/Pages: YA Mil-Sci-Fi / 216

Summary: “Dalton Space Force: Now Hiring!

Almek Manning survived the first part of his military training at the Solar Fleet’s boot camp, and now he must face the rigor of life at the Academy. Meanwhile, the cease-fire between the Solar Fleet and the United Monarchy of Europe is becoming increasingly fragile, and Almek has begun to wonder if he can finish his education quickly enough to help fight the war…

However, Sky Marshal Kitt, Jack Dalton, and High Admiral Numair have plans for the young midshipman, and Almek’s choices may yet decide the outcome of the war.”

Cover Review: It’s pretty. It’s a really nice outer space graphic design cover. I prefer covers with characters on them, but this one’s not bad at all. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I loved this book just as much, if not more, than I loved the first book in the series, The Zochtil. This review’s going to be short and sweet, but don’t take that as anything negative about the book. This is definitely one of my favorite books. I really did love every second of it!

The characters are believable and real, the story is unpredictable and heart-wrenching, and the world is insanely well-developed. This is one of those books that I just opened right away and knew that it would be amazing. The writing captivates you immediately, and you quickly get invested in the lives of these insanely cool and well-developed characters.  

Wow. I REALLY loved this book. It is a genuinely GOOD book. Nearly impossible to put down, it’s the kind of book that you wholeheartedly enjoy the entire time. Spectacularly well-written. Honestly, I was a bit afraid that it would seem unrealistic to have a teenager fresh out of the Academy change the course of battles/war, however, it wasn’t that way at all. There was nothing about this book that seemed rushed or unbelievable.

It was a solid novel. Fast paced, but you never got left behind or confused as you do in many of the novels nowadays (Champion, Shadow Throne, etc.). You were NEVER bored, and even though it revolves 100% around the military and interstellar maneuvering, you never get lost in the anagrams, mil slang, or complicated physics.

The plot and the characters were PERFECT! I really love these characters, and I loved the story ARC of this book. J.A. perfectly crafted a sense of foreboding prior to major plot twists, but you never knew WHAT was going to happen… just that it wasn’t going to be pretty. The timing of the plot and events was PERFECTION.

Did I mention I love the characters? Their interaction is THE BEST. The implants, too. And the psychological damage of war and wartime promotion. And basically just the whole book. This is a book that you come out of feeling satisfied. Wanting to know what happens next, yes, but HAPPY with the book as a whole.

To Sum it Up: I never really thought that I would read and enjoy Young Adult Military Science Fiction (man, that’s quite the mouthful for a genre, isn’t it?), but there’s just something about the writing, characters, and plot of this book that make it unforgettable and impossible to put down. highly recommend this book to readers 11 and up.

 

Review: The Sailweaver’s Son — by Jeff Minerd

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: The Sailweaver’s Son (Sky Riders of Etherium, #1)

Author: Jeff Minerd

Rating:  ★★★★★★ (6 of 5 – One of the best books of all time!)

Genre/Pages: Steampunk Fantasy / 310

Summary: “The Sailweaver’s Son combines traditional fantasy with a dash of steampunk and takes readers to the world of Etherium, where mountains rise like islands above a sea of clouds and adventurers travel the sky in sail-driven airships.

When fifteen-year-old Tak rescues the survivor of an airship destroyed by one of the giant flammable gas bubbles mysteriously appearing in the sky of Etherium, the authorities react like a flock of startled grekks.

Admiral Scud accuses Tak of sabotage and treason. Tak’s father grounds him for reckless airmanship. Rumors spread that the bubbles are weapons devised by the Gublins, a race of loathsome but ingenious underground creatures. The King’s advisors call for war, hoping to win much-needed Gublin coal.

To prove his innocence, solve the mystery, and prevent a misguided war, Tak must do what anyone knows is suicide – visit the Gublins and find out what they’re up to. When the wizard’s adopted daughter, an oddly beautiful and irksomely intelligent girl from the Eastern kingdoms, asks Tak to help her do just that, he can’t say no.

The adventure will take Tak from the deepest underground caves to a desperate battle on Etherium’s highest mountaintop. It will force him to face his worst fears, and to grow up faster than he expected.”

Cover Review: Absolutely beautiful. This is the kind of cover I love to see on a book. The artwork is well-done, the colors are aesthetically pleasing, and the scene actually presents a solid idea of what the book is about. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I don’t give out six star ratings very often. It takes a very special book to receive my highest of ratings, and Sailweaver’s Son was completely worthy of it! This book automatically ranks among Percy Jackson and the Ranger’s Apprentice/Brotherband series’ as one of the single best MG/YA books ever. 

Plot: The world building was exquisite, and unlike any concept I’d ever read before. I also think this book did a beautiful job handling the after effects of war on Tak. Too often I see MG/YA characters carry on as if nothing of importance had happened after they kill their opponents. I think Jeff Minerd portrayed war with realism, while still respecting the age of his readers.  This is a steampunk fantasy world of teenagers flying airships and going on diplomatic missions for the king. This is a story of friendship, of compromise, and of peace talks. This book is more than just a fun adventure world to escape to — it’s a story people (myself definitely included) will be reading to their children for years to come. 

Characters: These were characters worth cosplaying. They were crazy awesome. They were realistically brave, dedicated, and adventurous. They were characters that I would happily read a dozen more books about. These are characters that I continue to think about and wonder about even after I’ve closed the book. Like Gregor the Overlander.  I loved these characters so much, I could hardly put this book down. 

 

Content Advisory: Death and war. Threats of torture. Lots and lots of death, but not horribly graphic… Just heartbreakingly real. 

To Sum It Up: It’s books like these that made me start this blog — books that don’t have a mainstream publishing agency promoting their book, but are a million times better than almost any book mainstream published. These are books that I need to tell the world about, because The Sailweaver’s Son makes it possible for the reader to Escape Reality — One Book at a Time ;) I highly recommend it to readers 10 and up. 

Side note: Jeff Minerd told me that he is currently working on the second book in the series, The Wizard’s Daughter. I’m super excited!

 

Review: Awakening — by Lauren Ashley

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Awakening (Hope Trilogy, #1)

Author: Lauren Ashley

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ (3 of 5 — I liked it!)

Genre/Pages: Fantasy / 518

Summary: “To everyone, Emma is an ordinary teenager—a forgettable
figure to most. But, little do they know that she
is about to experience an awakening after centuries of
being kept in the dark when fate finally chooses to
call upon her and reveal the secret behind her existence.
A descendent of godlike beings known as the
El-ahren, Emma is both stunned and terrified when she
learns she not only possesses special gifts and extraordinary
powers, but is also destined to save the world.
However, pitted against an evil alliance determined
to destroy her and any good left on this earth, Emma
finds it a struggle just to stay alive. Joined by those
commissioned to protect her, she must search for others
like her in order to fulfill her destiny and prevent
the resurrection of evil.”

Cover Review: This cover is a special kind of bad. It’s not straight-up awful and gross like all the romance novels with half-naked people on them, but this is just a very very low quality cover. The only thing it tells me about the book is that the protagonist is a girl. I get no other information from the cover, and overall it’s not aesthetically pleasing at all. 

My Review: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. This one took me a very long time to get around to reading, mostly due to the sheer size of the thing. 518 pages is a lot of pages, and my main complaint about the book is that it could have (and should have) easily been cut in half. At least cut out 1/3rd of it, and the story would flow significantly better. I really enjoyed the premise of the story, and it had some amazing  plot points, but at the end of the day, it was too long for the story it had to tell. My family would see me reading it and say: “Are you still reading that Twilight book? You’re not done with it yet?”. There. Now that I have ranted about the length, I can go on to tell you all the awesome things that I truly did enjoy about this book. 

Characters: Man, these characters were epic. But I suppose hundreds of lifetimes of reincarnation will make a group of friends get pretty close. ;) Each of these characters were so unique that they each bring something completely different and original to the team.  Side note: I love character betrayals that I don’t predict ahead of time, and I never saw any of those betrayals coming! I loved getting into the heads of these characters and learning about their different powers, and how they cope with evil and tragedy. The characters were definitely the high point of the book.

Plot: This is where I had a problem with the book. The author herself compares Awakening to Twilight, and she  lives up to the comparison. So if Twilight isn’t your cup of tea, odds are this book isn’t, either… The premise of the book is something we’ve all read a million times — friends of the “Chosen One” reveal themselves to be her protectors and teach her about her “true self”. With this knowledge, hordes of demons and evil people begin to hunt her down, and she and her friends must go on the run to stay alive. But even though this book uses a simple YA fantasy formula, it’s really the details in this book that make it so great. Child seers, fragile alliances between enemies, epic battles, and so much more are what truly make this book worth reading. It feels kinda like the 39 Clues series all grown up, with some magic thrown in, just for fun.

Content Advisory: Lots of death, some of which was very graphic. Also, some really creepy, awkward, and kinda gross instances of a teenage girl hard-core lusting after a guy. I could have happily lived my whole life without ever having read her thoughts in those instances. 

To Sum It Up: Though the book certainly suffers from too many pages, the story is enjoyable, and the characters feel like your best friends. Reading this book would be a really fun way to spend a few summer days! I enjoyed Awakening, and don’t regret reading it at all.  I recommend this book to readers ages 18 and up. 

Review: Join Up — By Tudor Robins

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Cover image and summary from goodreads.com.

Title: Join Up (Island Series, #3)

Author: Tudor Robins

Rating: ★★★★★ (5 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Fiction / 224

Summary: A summer at one of the poshest riding camps in the province. A hundred horses. Rolling hills ribboned with hacking trails and cross-country jumps.

It could be perfect. Unless you’re Lacey Strickland, and you’re leaving Salem, Meg, and Jared behind on the island.

The only thing that isn’t hard to leave is Lacey’s memory of her first kiss, delivered in a spring-scented hayfield, which sizzled, then fizzled into nothing at all.

The other thing making camp less-than-perfect for Lacey? She’s not a cosseted camper, but a staff member – teaching riding lessons from sun-up to sun-down.

In Meg’s first letter to Lacey, she writes: “I bet anything there’s at least one amazing horse waiting for you there. And maybe a new great – if not best – friend.”

Is Meg right? Could Lacey meet a horse she’ll love just as much as Salem? And are there new friends in her future? Maybe even somebody who could give her more than just one kiss in a hayfield?

Cover Review: It’s not the artwork that I really love on covers, but it’s still a beautiful cover. I would love to have this gorgeous book on my shelf.

My Review: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. I absolutely adore this series. Check out my review of the first book, Appaloosa Summer, and my review of the second book, Wednesday Riders I LOVED the first two books, and the third one did not disappoint!

This series has restored my faith in equestrian fiction. There actually ARE fun, original, quality horse novels out there in the world! The self-publishing world, at least. I think the traditionally published horse books are a lost cause, at this point. Anyway, back to the story. I absolutely loved that Lacey took center stage in this book, and getting a chance to better know a beloved character from the previous books made me incredibly happy! This story is set at a summer camp, and there’s something inherently magical about summer camp stories, and I’m not exactly sure what it is. I suppose I’ve simply watched too many Disney Channel Original Movies.

The romance is adorable and adds some fun drama to this incredible story chock-full of adventure, laughter, and solid horse training advice. I really can’t say enough good things about this book! It was fun to get to see Meg from Lacey’s point of view, and I loved the setting. It was very odd to get off the island, but in a good way. I also liked the larger cast of characters this book had, and the very unique plot. Sure, we’ve all read a million summer camp romance novels, but, as always, Tudor Robins takes a tried and true concept and turns it into something spectacularly original and refreshing.

Content Advisory: There’s one awkward scene that almost goes to the explicit level, but the character’s decide to stop. It was weird, tho. Lots of kissing. 

To Sum It Up: I’m in love with this series. Tudor’s writing style is absolutely magical, and I immediately get drawn into her story of broken hearts, horse training, and new starts. I HIGHLY recommend that you read the other books in the series, but even if you haven’t, I think you would be able to enjoy this one as a stand-alone. I recommend this book for ages 14+.

Review: Bewitching Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Paranormal — by Cass Grix”


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Bewitching Mr. Darcy: A Pride and Prejudice Paranormal

Author: Cass Grix

Rating: ★★★★☆ (4 of 5)

Genre / Pages: Paranormal / 99

Summary: Fitzwilliam Darcy has never met a woman like Elizabeth Bennet. He finds her fascinating, irritating, compelling, inspiring, maddening, and absolutely beautiful. If he didn’t know better, he would think he was bewitched.

Bewitching Mr. Darcy is a Pride and Prejudice Variation, a paranormal novella.

Cover Review: I really love this cover! It’s gorgeous!

My review: I received a free copy of this novella in exchange for an honest review. So I’ll be honest: I have watched the Kiera Knightley Pride and Prejudice twice, the Pride and Prejudice: A Latter-day Comedy twice, and I thoroughly enjoyed both films. But I’m definitely not a Jane Austen fangirl (are they called Janeites?) or anything. So, admittedly, I was a bit hesitant when Cass approached me with reading these novellas. But I decided to give this novella a shot, and I was very pleasantly surprised.

It was an absolutely charming (pun totally intended) novella! Cass provides a a refreshing and quirky take on a classic romance. And in case that isn’t enough to convince you, Cass’ writing style is absolutely beautiful. She is a masterful storyteller, and adeptly weaves the magical world with the muggl– erm, non-magical world. She crafts complex characters that I actually care about. I definitely like Bewitching Mr. Darcy better than the original Pride & Prejudice… I think that every story ever written can benefit from a healthy dose of magic.

In this novella, we’re introduced to a mostly hidden world of wizardry during a very formal and conservative time. Some wizards have “come out” and are publicly ridiculed for their delusional practices, but most wizards are, like Elizabeth and her father, secretive and subtle in their magic useage. What happens when the fiercely independent and self-confident Elizabeth Bennet decides that she wants to humble the arrogant and closed-off Fitzwilliam Darcy? Well, you’ll have to buy the e-book HERE to find out ;)

Content AdvisorySome kissing, etc. Nothing explicit. 

To Sum It Up: Bewitching Mr. Darcy  was fun and quick read. I loved this story, and I’m sure that other YA fans of Paranormal Romance would, too!  I highly recommend it to readers 12+.