Reviews of Teen Books
The Bear and the Nightingale is a Russian fairy tale(s) retelling that follows Vasilisa (Vasya) as she comes of age in the harshly beautiful Russian countryside. After her mother dies in childbirth, Vasya develops a kinship with the house spirits that protect her home, village and the surrounding countryside from any evils that lurk in the woods. All is well until her father decides to remarry. Her new stepmother is deeply religious and sees the house spirits as demons; a newly arrived monk further enforces these believes. The townsfolk become afraid, and stop minding the house spirits. This leads to disaster and death as the evil lurking in the woods begins to creep ever closer. Vasya must work with the spirits to restore balance to her town, lest her town be completely consumed by evil.
As someone who grew up on a steady diet of Disney and fantasy books, I am a sucker for a good fairytale and this one hits the mark. It's very much a fairy tale for adult(ish) readers and the writing was so lovely and hauntingly atmospheric that it sometimes felt like I was the one traipsing through the Russian countryside. Vasya was a very likable character - headstrong and intelligent in a time where women were still viewed as a commodity, Vasya is not ok with her lot in life. She wants more than to just pop out babies for some lord; she wants to live her own life on her own terms. That struggle, set against the wintry backdrop of a magical Russian countryside, made for a very entertaining read.
While the writing and most of the characters were fantastic, I did have a few issues with the book. I loved the beginning and ending, but struggled mightily with the middle. Many side plots that barely had anything to do with the story were introduced and never resolved. This is explained by the fact that this book is the first in a series, but I feel like the story would've been better served to focus on the main plot.
Meandering middle aside, this was a great read. This book demands to be read under blankets or near a fireplace on a cold day. Pick it up and prepare to be transported to the snowy fields of the Russia of yore. 3 stars.
A fantastic world of adventure and legions come alive. Elves and dragons and ethereal powers colliding together in this fast paced journey where EVIL again is trying to 'take over'. It was an easy read and kind of a fun romp. A 'page turner' as they say that left me with a desire to get the next book quickly. It's also another '1st book' so it makes it easy to know what to read the next time. (check out my other "1st books" in the staff reviews. The main character has a noble upright spirit in him and his quest in part is about him becoming all that he can be. Many friends join him along the way and he soon learns that without them he will fail. If you like The Lord of the Rings series; you'll probable like the books that I read.
My curiosity is up about these reviews - so If I could get some feed back (at least 7) - I'll tell you the next "best fantasy saga", I have found, after the Lord of the Rings.
Faith and the Renegades have just saved the world from a supervillain - but that fight didn't come without a price. The Renegades have now split up and are doing their own thing. Faith's ex, for example, is now starring in his very own reality tv show! Faith herself is posing as a Buzzfeed (ok, Zipline) writer by day whilst saving Los Angeles as a hero named Zephyr by night. Can she juggle a job and saving the city all by her lonesome?
I came into this comic without having read anything at all about the Renegades, and that was fine - you definitely didn't need prior knowledge of the Renegades to enjoy this comic. Faith was extremely likable; I think most readers, especially those of the lady-type variety, would see something of themselves in Faith. The real draw here, for me at least, was that Faith was not just a woman superhero, but a fat woman superhero which, needless to say, is something of a rarity. I really liked the way her body size was treated in the book. Faith is comfortable in her own skin and unapologetic about that to the point where her body size wasn't even really a thing. Which, in this reader's opinion, is how it should be.
The story itself was your standard superhero fare. After an initial mission of SAVING PUPPIES, Faith finds herself looking for other, possibly powered children that have been disappearing from the city. The artwork was really good, though I found it to be quite similar to that of other hero focused graphic novels. Faith has these amazing fantasy/dream sequences, and I preferred the art in those sequences to the main art as it was a bit more whimsical and different. I preferred the cover artist (look at that cover - so cute!) to both.
This would be a great intro to the superhero comic world for those that are interested but haven't given it a try. Otherwise, it was nothing special, but if the superhero genre is your thing, I don't think you'll be disappointed. 3 stars - I liked it!
Unwind, a novel written by Neal Shusterman, is a fiction book that is about the adventures of three teenagers that have been chosen to be unwound by their parents. Unwinding is basically the process of cutting apart an individual in order to have each parts of their body to be used to save others. In the book, it is something that parents may decide to do to their child. When a child is no longer such, and becomes an early teen or a teen, the parents may decide to have their children go through this process.
Overall, this book provides a great amount of entertainment, as it is full of thrills and excitement. While reading this novel, one gets to feel like they are going through the struggles and adventures with the main characters.
Despite the book being very adventurous and entertaining, it would not be a good novel for someone younger than middle school to read, as it has very graphic details and contains some gruesome scenes. Overall, this novel is one that I would highly recommend for someone looking to have a fun and fairly short read.
Reviewer Grade: 11
Many readers are immediately turned off by the immense depth and length of this classic (450+ pages). However, within the hundreds of pages, Steinbeck is able to create a realistic world with dynamic characters and an immersive story line. The book takes place during the Great Depression era, and the story follows the Joad family as they travel to California after losing their family farm. The story begins with the main character, Tom Joad, returning home from his time in prison. He quickly finds out that the Joad family farm has been repossessed, partly due to the Dust Bowl, and the entire family must travel to California in search of work. Along the way, the family meets and interacts with many characters facing the same difficulties of the Great Depression. Throughout the book, we see the hardships faced by these characters, which accurately correspond to the struggles of those during the 1930's. As an avid history nerd, I found myself quite intrigued by the story, since I was able to feel more connected to this tragic time in American history. Overall, I greatly enjoyed reading this book, and would strongly recommend it to someone who has an interest in history and enough free time to tackle this classic title.
Reviewer Grade: 11
To be honest, I wasn't sure I was going to finish this book. It was hovering around a 2 (Meh) when all of a sudden the author gave it a left turn and I found myself in a good old fashion treasure hunt story. Like the 'Gold Bug' by Poe, it's full of great and cryptic clues to unravel. Fantastic!! The author gives us a taste of the 'Flying Dutchman' legend and then joins us with a young boy and his dog who are traveling a strange road through life. There's three books in this series so if you like the adventure - enjoy.
I've read many teen fiction books, but this book was by far the most honest about dealing with mental issues. There are no easy answers and it is a hard process to fight through. The main character Vicki really wants to be normal, but she is having a hard time dealing with school and her parents. She decides to commit suicide. She is discovered and rescued. She commits herself to a local mental institute to see if she can find a way to deal with her depression. Once there she meets other teens that are also dealing with difficult mental issues. Having dealt with depression in my own life it is nice to see that books are being published about mental health issues, especially books that target teens. The descriptions of how depression affect Vicky were really well done. I will say that there are some moments of teen angst, but overall the book was excellent.
In Marissa Meyer's (The Lunar Chronicles) new standalone novel, she explores the Queen of Heart's origin story. Lady Catherine Pinkerton wants nothing more than to open her own bakery with her maid, Mary Ann. But as the Kingdom of Hearts operates in a style similar to that of Victorian England, Catherine finds herself without the money or permission to do so. Worse yet, she's being courted by the king, a silly man that she has little interest in marrying, though she is under constant pressure from her mother to accept his advances. And then, at a royal ball, a hot new court jester with murky motivations appears alongside a Jabberwock and Catherine's life and the Kingdom of Hearts will never be the same.
This was a pretty hotly anticipated read for me, as I adored the Lunar Chronicles. And a lot of the best things about the Lunar Chronicles were present here too: Wonderland and its delightful, sinister, and delightfully sinister characters are definitely a part of the story without overwhelming the character development or seeming trite. It was brilliantly executed. The romance, for me, was just a bit overbearing, and I had a hard time investing in Jest, the love interest. He was introduced as a magician, and then all I could envision whenever he was around was GOB Bluth dancing around to Final Countdown. Decidedly not sexy. We also didn't really learn enough about him for me to ever really care about his fate. I really enjoyed the other parts, though - Catherine's struggles to do right by her parents while preserving her dreams of opening a bakery were realistic and relatable, and her transition from hero to villain was pretty believable in the context of everything that happened. Warning: the food is well described - this book will make you eat any and all baked goods in your house. Oh, and the last 100 pages, the end game, was fantastic. It's a lot of fast paced action laced with emotion, and it's marvelous.
While there was a bit too much romance in this one for my taste, I think those that enjoy a bit more romance in their fantasy reads, or those that love a well-written, somehow inventive fairy tale retelling will love this one. I liked it - 3 stars.
I don't give ANY book 5 stars, so this is pretty up there on my list.
I can tell you straight away, if you plan to read this, you should read 'Etiquette and Espionage' and 'Curtsies and Conspiracies' first. Waistcoats and Weaponry is the third book in the Finishing School Series. In this book, Sophronia continues her shenanigans around school (she may be suspicious) when she has to go to her brother's ball. With her friends on hand, she witnesses something new, neverbefore seen. With this in mind, she starts on a journey to help out Sidheag (not telling why) when chaos, and perhaps an old enemy, ensue. I think this book is very well written with just the right quirks to keep you wanting more. With a suprise on every page, I was immersed in this book, and I think it was am extraordinary continuation of Finishing School.
Reviewer Grade: 7.
Taking off from the ending of Eragon, Eldest follows Eragon on his journey to defeat the evil king Galbatorix. After arriving at the Vardon, also known as the resistance, Eragon plans to leave to find the Cripple Who is Whole and learn magic from him. Unfortunately, the leader of the Vardon is killed in an Urgal operation and his friend Murtagh also vanishes. The leader’s daughter, Nasuada, becomes the new head of the Vardon and as Eragon departs with his companions to the land of the elves, we follow the story of Eragon’s cousin, Roran. Roran returns to his home village in order to take Katrina’s hand in marriage, unfortunately he finds out the village is under the control of Galbatorix and that he is wanted because of his connection to Eragon, whom the King is looking for. Katrina is taken by the Ra’zac and Roran decides to assemble his community and lead them on a journey to join the resistance. As the story progresses, we find out much about Eragon, the Dragon Riders, and more importantly the whereabouts of Murtagh. I recommend this book to fantasy readers, especially those who were caught by Paolini’s first novel, Eragon.
Reviewer Grade: 11
This book recounts the tumultuous Civil Rights Era. It covers everything from the Montgomery Bus Boycott, Freedom Rides, Sit-ins, Martin Luther King, Jr., the Black Panthers, and much more. It's well organized, engaging, and powerfully written. I learned so much! This book is classified as juvenile nonfiction, but only upper elementary would likely benefit from it. It's better suited for teen nonfiction and of course for adults like me.
Seneca's life revolves around solving cold cases and unsolved murders. As soon as she found the Case Not Closed website online, she becomes obsessed to the point where she stops paying attention in classes and risks expulsion from her university. But when the sister of Helena Kelly, a murder victim who disappeared mysteriously in a sleepy Connecticut town, reaches out through through the website, Seneca knows all bets are off. Along with some friends from the site, she finds herself in Connecticut for spring break trying to solve the mystery of Helena Kelly's disappearance.
I recently read a book that was billed as "Twin Peaks" meets "Gossip Girl" and it sucked. I figured this one might fill that now existent hole in my life. While it was a bit more "Gossip Girl" than "Twin Peaks", the book was exactly what I wanted it to be: brainless but entertaining with a good mystery. It dragged a little in the middle, but otherwise, the pacing was pretty fast especially as the clues start to come together. The dialog is breezy and light, the mystery and background of the characters is, for the most part, pretty dark and the cast is diverse but underdeveloped. Shepard totally fooled me with the killer - I thought I knew who it was, but I had no idea.
If a slightly soapy murder mystery sounds like it could be your thing, look no further. I enjoyed this one - 3 stars.
This is a very informative book about the orchestra, their instruments, and the music they play. I learned a lot from it. I liked the section about composers probably the best, although the history of orchestras was fascinating as well. This book is classified as juvenile nonfiction but it's equally good for teens and adults.
In 2041, what we currently call "the cloud" morphed into a version of AI called "the Thundercloud" that was able to solve all of the world's problems. Death has been basically eliminated - all manner of illness and injury can be cured, and pain is a thing of the past. Thundercloud stops the effects of global warming, and calculates how to best use the world's resources so that no one goes hungry. It's also made government completely irrelevant. However, to stop overpopulation, people called Scythes have to glean, or permanently kill, random members of the population. Scythe follows two teens, Citra and Rowan, as they reluctantly apprentice to become a Scythe.
I think Shusterman has another "Unwind" type of hit on his hands. As the book develops, the seemingly Utopian society gets darker and darker and more dystopian - but really only because of the gleaning. The Scythes have a rich history, and it was interesting to learn about them and their different approaches to gleaning. The book is absolutely at its best when examining humanity and the moral obligations and quandaries that come along with being a scythe - I ended up reading the occasional sentence out loud to my partner, which is something to which I rarely subject him. The ethical implications of gleaning are pretty huge, and the examination of killing and its purpose are what really makes the book a fun read. Also, no surprises here, Shusterman, a National Book Award winner, can WRITE.
I did feel that the book had some premise issues. As the book explains it, your chances of being gleaned, or even knowing someone who has been gleaned, are pretty rare. So why is gleaning even necessary? The book addresses this, but the answer was not satisfactory. I can also easily think of solutions to this problem that don't involve random killing. For example, why not impose some sort of birth limit (people have dozens of children in this version of the future)? Or maybe only those that have children are eligible for gleaning? Or maybe you only get "9 lives". The tenth time you die, it's for real. There wouldn't have been a book without the gleaning, but the book also never managed to convince me that gleaning was a thing that actually needed to happen. I also found it terribly convenient/nonsensical that the Scythes were the only group of people that operated outside of Thundercloud. Like, why? Thundercloud literally solved ALL of humanity's/the earth's problems, but this, life and death, one of the arguably most important problems, we're going to leave up to humans? Mmmmmmmmmmk. Oh, and then Citra and Rowan are eventually pitted against each other, and the rationale as to why makes absolutely no sense. Especially after a certain event transpires, and they STILL are in a fight to the death. It doesn't seem consistent with the rest of the world-building; it felt like a contrived (and unsuccessful) plot device.
Premise problems aside, I really did enjoy the book. If you like near future books, dystopians or ethics, it's definitely worth a read. 3.5 stars.
Eragon is a small farm boy living in a small corner of the vast country of Alagaesia. His family having little wealth, Eragon roams the woods in search of anything worth selling, and one day he finds a strange blue stone in the middle of some wreckage. Hoping he can sell it for money, he takes it back to his Uncle Garrow and cousin Roran. Unfortunately, no one buys the stone and Eragon is in possession of the stone for good. However, one night the stone hatches and a baby dragon emerges from the stone. Eragon is frightened at first, but when he pets the dragon the two establish a mental connection, he is now its owner. He names the blue Dragon Saphira and he hides her in the woods, secretly training and raising her. Expectedly, two men come to the town asking of the dragon, so Eragon and Saphira fly away, as if in exile.
Returning to town, Eragon finds that the village is destroyed and his Uncle dead. The town storyteller, named Brom, tells Eragon that the two men were called the Ra’zac and they work for the King of the land, Galbatorix.
Together Brom, Saphira, and Eragon set out to find the Ra’zac and seek revenge, as well as restore peace to Alagaesia. I really enjoyed this book and recommend it to fantasy genre readers, but it’s a good starter for anyone wanting to get into fantasy books.
Sierra Santiago is looking forward to the perfect summer. Class is finally out, she has a close group of friends to hang out and party with, and best of all she has the perfect summer gig: painting murals on the walls of old buildings in Brooklyn. But when she starts work on her first mural, she notices something strange going on with the other paintings around her. For one thing, they’re fading way faster than normal, and for another – well, it almost seems like they’re moving. Most confusing of all, when she gets home her grandfather – who hasn’t spoken since his stroke – suddenly wakes up and starts speaking directly to her: she HAS to finish the mural she’s painting, he says, and she needs to do it as fast as possible – before it’s too late. Sierra is thrown. What could a giant picture of a dragon have to with anything? And what does her grandfather mean about time running out? He leaves her with a riddle about a missing woman and more questions than answers.
Most infuriating of all, everyone in her family seems to know exactly what’s going on – but no one will tell her. Her mother even gets angry with her when she tries to ask about the connection between her grandfather and the murals. Something about the subject is just too dangerous to discuss. At first this seems ridiculous to her, but when she goes to a party with a group of her friends suddenly the danger is all too real. A zombie crashes the party and heads straight for her. Sierra is in shock, but Robbie, the quiet, artistic boy from her class that she’s been chatting with, knows what it is – and knows Sierra’s grandfather, too. Sierra escapes, but it’s a close call, and her problems are only just beginning.
Afraid and more confused than ever, she decides to go to the best place for research: the library. While she’s there, she discovers that an anthropologist, the mysterious Dr. Wick, was studying her grandfather and his group of friends just before he had a stroke and everything went wrong. Dr. Wick was researching a power called shadowshaping: the ability to imbue ancestral spirits into their artwork, whether it’s storytelling, music, or, you guessed it, painting murals. Sierra’s starting to put together the pieces, but time is running out – the murals are fading faster than ever and her grandfather’s group of friends, the shadowshapers, are dying one by one. Sure, they’re elderly men, and there’s not a mark on their bodies, but it can’t just be a coincidence, can it? And what about Dr. Wick – he went missing at the same time as her grandfather's a stroke, but is he a victim or a killer? Sierra sets out with Robbie and her group of friends in search of answers. Along the way, she’ll face the walking dead, living paintings, and her family’s tangled past.
I love fantasy, and this had such a unique premise that I had to pick it up, but sadly it fell far short of my expectations. First, the good: the magic system is very original and a lot of fun to read about; the idea of imbuing artwork with ancestral spirits is already interesting, but having murals and chalk drawings come to life to dance and fight and interact with the world made for great reading and some really cool action scenes. In addition, the cast is very diverse in terms of both race and sexuality, and Sierra’s budding relationship with Robbie felt natural rather than forced (and I say that as someone who usually hates romance in YA, but it was very subtle and actually rather sweet). Unfortunately, none of this could save the book from its biggest problem: the pacing. Usually I’m complaining about books that are bloated with filler, but this one had the opposite problem: way too many ideas, not enough space. In just 280 pages, there wasn’t enough room to develop all of the world-building and plot and character development that could have made this book great. As a result, it’s very uneven, and there’s no room for the plot to breathe; the book jumps around a lot from plot point to plot point, and most of the interactions between characters are, quite frankly, bizarre. Older forces awkward conversations that seemed designed to cram in as much background detail as possible before ending abruptly mid-stream so that Sierra can get to the next scene. It’s as if he’s written a check list of everything Sierra needs to do and he’s decided to follow it doggedly regardless of whether or not it flows. Details are introduced but then never followed up on or resolved in any way.
This is compounded by a second problem: the writing just isn’t very good. Part of that is just the book being aimed at a younger audience, and that aspect doesn’t bother me, but another part is awkward transitions between scenes, ham-fisted dialogue, and way too many editing errors for such a short read. These problems together made it honestly quite painful to get through, especially in the rushed beginning chapters when you can see Older trying to get to the main plot as quickly as possible at the expense of everything else. Basically, good idea, poor execution. I would give it 2.5 stars. I still think this has appeal for teens who love urban fantasy or who are looking for something different and original to read, but I wouldn’t call it good by any stretch of the imagination.
Review: This is the one of best historical fiction books I've ever read. Most historical fictions get their facts wrong, but this book had accurate details and the writer manages to get a good story into it. I absolutely loved the plot and the different kind of character's. The only problem with it is after all that detail throughout the book, at the end it kind of just drops off a cliff. It had a unique ending, I just wish it had more explanation to it.
Popular school mascot Brittany Montague jumps off a bridge in her mascot costume. The only two members of the private school's "Mystery Club" are determined to find out why.
This book took me forever to read, mostly because it was kind of awful. I picked it up because I love a good murder mystery and this was billed as Twin Peaks meets Pretty Little Liars. While I'm not super familiar with either property, I figured that this meant it would be a dark and weird murder mystery with a touch of scandal and gossip, which, YES PLEASE. I was also pretty drawn in by that AMAZING cover. Kudos to whoever designed that. But the book itself was not so great. I've actually got so many reasons that I didn't like it that I'm going to present them in an enumerated list:
1. The "mystery" such that it is, is actually solved in the first 100 pages, and the book was seriously uninteresting after that.
2. BOTH main characters were freaking terrible, small, boring people.
3. Aside from the MCs, there were five "bad" characters in the book, four of which were people of color (three are Asians - does the author have something against Asians?). There's also a weird sort of anti-Semitic statement. So.
4. Adults are presented as being totally worthless. Something to this effect is actually said multiple times.
5. There is a weird unresolved child porn sex-ring subplot that will seemingly go somewhere in the next book? Somehow this is a series?
6. Our lovely main girl character refers to other lady characters as sluts, because, as mentioned earlier, she is freaking terrible. There is other fun sexist messaging as well. At one point, a coach basically calls women crazy because they get periods. Awesome.
7. Oh yeah, and there is rape. Because of course there is. Our main characters know about it, but do they do anything? No! Because they are terrible. The whole thing is basically shrugged off.
Sigh. This was clearly meant to be satire or a parody or funny or something, but whatever the author was doing, it was not working. Not for me, anyway. 1 star - I did NOT like it.
Rainbow Rowell's "Carry On" had me laughing and tearing up and cheering along the protagonists like a crazy person, which -- as I listened to the audiobook in my car -- I'm hoping didn't concern my fellow drivers. This book is not only a clever love letter to the Harry Potter universe/the concept of a "chosen one" narrative, it's one of the cutest teen fiction romances I've read in a long time. I'm going to try not to spoil anything, which is why this review is so very, very short, but... Awww. What a simultaneously goofy and emotional book.
As you may or may not know, "Carry On" takes place in the universe Cath is fangirl-ing over in Rowell's other novel, "Fangirl," but I'd say it works very well as its own independent story. You could read it as a set with "Fangirl," or just read it for its own sake, I imagine both ways are fun and interesting for different reasons.
Categories: Teen Fantasy, Just Plain (?) Fantasy (if you love the Harry Potter books, this is kind of intended for you, I think, regardless of age), GLBTQ Fiction, Humor (?), Romance, Satire/Reinterpretation
Real Rating: 4.5, rounded up. 6 stars for the Olympians!! Not so many stars for Orion and some of the other creative choices here regarding Diana's origins (that's personal, though -- you may disagree with me.) BUT THE OLYMPIANS, THOUGH.
Brian Azzarello’s work isn’t always my cup of tea, but I have to say I really appreciate a lot about his recent run on Wonder Woman, beginning with “Wonder Woman Volume One: Blood.” A lot of my appreciation for this comic stems from its creative portrayals of the Greek gods – Dionysus can twist the world as a proper god of madness, Apollo is made out of sizzling magma-ish sun stuff, with an obsidian skin hardened over his fiery insides, and Artemis is literally shaped out of fluid moonlight. It’s gorgeous, and a ton of fun. If you love Greek folklore but have always wanted to see Poseidon represented as a barnacle-crusted sea monster, this may be the perfect series for you. Cliff Chiang's art is also very modern and playful, which fits the optimistic tone of the book perfectly. Diana is fierce and loyal, here, a heroine truly worthy of the name “Wonder Woman.” Some of the characters didn't mesh with me so well (>:( I'm looking at you, Orion!!! Augh!!) but despite that I eagerly awaited every volume of this series as I was reading it, so… Consider it hereby recommended for the fun-factor alone. Watch Hera try ice cream for the first time! Watch Artemis run rampant through a tube station! ALL IN DC COMICS CANON! Yes!