Tag Archives: youngadult

Before the Devil Breaks You by Libba Bray

beforethedevilbreaksyou
“The people are afraid now. Too much history rises from the graves. Ghosts take shape in the cornfields. Behind the factories. Along the rivers. At the creeping edges of the cities and towns. They burn brightly like a secret revealed. The night is illuminated by truth so sharp it scrapes breath from the lungs of those who finally see. The people are anxious for vague reassurances.

But this is the history: blood.”

(Before the Devil Breaks You 314-315)

1920’s New York City has a new major problem that only Evie and the Diviners can solve: an infestation of ghosts. Evie and company essentially become Ghostbusters while trying to solve the mystery of her brother’s death and Project Buffalo.

The stories of our protagonists continue—Evie, Theta, Mabel, Ling, Jericho, Sam, and Memphis all undergo major changes in the latest Diviners installment.

I have to say that while I immensely loved this book, I was a little disappointed in yet another cliffhanger ending. I suppose this means the series will continue, which is good, but some parts seem to drag on. I thought the pacing of this particular installment was a bit off—I felt the same way about the third book in Libba Bray’s Gemma Doyle series (The Sweet Far Thing). However, that being said, Bray’s writing continues to be hauntingly beautiful, laugh-out-loud funny, and downright terrifying by turns and I will pretty much read anything this lady publishes (grocery lists included).

I recommend every novel she has published, but if you haven’t yet read Beauty Queens, I suggest you hie thee to a library and check it out. Just don’t read it in public unless you want people staring at you while you break down into fits of hyena-worthy laughter.

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Tower of Dawn by Sarah J. Maas

towerTower of Dawn is the latest installment of Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. Rather than picking up exactly where we left off in Empire of Storms, Tower of Dawn follows Chaol Westfall and Nesryn Faliq on their journey southward to the city of Antica. It is a city renowned for its healers, who reside in the Torre Cesme, and also for its empire–the khaganate.

Chaol and Nesryn have come to ask for the Khagan’s assistance in the war against the Valg, and for Chaol to be healed, but through many twists and turn they find much, much more than they ever expected.

 

I will be honest–a part of me is very impatient to return to Aelin’s story. After reading the ending of Empire of Storms, you will understand. That being said, I did actually enjoy this latest installment. It’s a slight break from the constant turmoil that Ardalan is currently in when we last see it. The clues that both Chaol and Nesryn discover in their respective adventures on the Southern continent are of course important, or will be important for the future. However, with fantasy, I find that Fighting the Great War of Good and Evil can get a bit, well, boring. There are only so many epic magic/sword fights to be had before it becomes repetitive. I like that Sarah J. Maas took the time to slow things down, just for a little while, introduce new love stories, new intrigues, and of course, poses an important question–what if Evil is conquered by healing, rather than killing. It is a question that has been posed before, of course, but Maas does it in her own unique way. After the very short teaser chapter at the end, I know I’ll definitely continue to read this series. I recommend the entire Throne of Glass series if you like fantasy and have not picked it up already.

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Blood and Chocolate by Annette Curtis Klause

bloodandchocolate “They can’t change,” Gabriel said, abandoning her lips in favor of her eyes. “But I do believe they have a beast within. In some it’s buried so deep they’ll never feel it; in others it stirs, and if a person can’t give it a safe voice it warps and rots and breaks out in evil ways. They may not be able to change, but they still can be the beast of their own nightmares. It’s our blessing that we can exorcise those demons. Sometimes it’s our curse.”

~P. 261

This was a re-read for me. I knew the first time I read this book that I would need to return to it. Annette Curtis Klause does something rather underrated and rare when it comes to crafting her YA novels–she creates a vivid world, but does not need a multiple book series to tell the story. (I’m not trying to hate on series books, by the way. I enjoy book series very much, but sometimes I feel as though single-book stories don’t get enough love or attention in the YA fantasy world–perhaps that is changing, however, with the amount of “duologies” I see coming out now–perhaps the next phase will be back to singles). Even though Blood and Chocolate is not very long, I feel like Klause packed it full–and perhaps it will take another re-reading in the future to unravel Vivian’s story further.

What stood out to me with this re-reading was actually Vivian as a heroine. When I first read this, I remember thinking Vivian was a bit vain. But now, years later, I see Vivian less as vain and completely self-centered and more as just a teenage girl who doesn’t hate herself. Though occasionally she is self-centered, or rather, has tunnel vision, believing that Aiden will accept her in her werewolf form.

If you haven’t read Blood and Chocolate, and are a fan of YA paranormal/fantasy, I fully recommend it. I also recommend her novel about vampires, The Silver Kiss. You won’t regret picking up either, as they are both fast reads, very fun, but also complex in their exploration of what a teenager’s life is like in the world of werewolves or vampires. Also, Annette Curtis Klause was also a librarian while she wrote these–which makes her even more awesome automatically.

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A Court of Thorns and Roses–series review

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I’ve been reading Sarah J. Maas’s other high fantasy series, Throne of Glass, for the past couple of years and I have been a frequent and enthusiastic reader of Young Adult (and adult) fantasy for many years. For some time now though, I’ve been out of the habit of reading what is usually my first pick, and I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because I needed to live somewhere else for awhile—in the world of murder mystery thrillers, period romance, and memoir (the bulk of what I’ve read this summer). However, I decided to end my summer reading by trying out Maas’s A Court of Thorns and Roses series. And at first, I was skeptical. The very first book, eponymous to the series, seemed to be a retelling of two tales very dear and very familiar to me: The Ballad of Tam Lin and Beauty and the Beast. In other words, the first book did not wow me….until. Until our protagonist Feyre finds herself biting off more than she can chew—like young Janet from the Ballad she tries to save her beloved (Tamlin, in this instance) from the evil faerie queen, in this case Amarantha, in her horrible “court” (really just underground caverns where all the High Lords and other fae of Prythian are held captive) aptly named Under the Mountain.

It’s there, I think, that the story really begins for me. Feyre is tested, finds herself an unexpected ally in the High Lord of the Night Court, supposedly Amarantha’s right hand man and lover. It is Under the Mountain that Feyre changes—from vulnerable, young, pretty girl to now a major player in the world of the High Fae.

She returns “home” with Tamlin after the ordeal, only to find herself so unrecognizable, so altered, that she begins to realize her love for Tamlin, the safety he stood for and represented while she was human, did not survive her transformation. It is in the second book in the series, A Court of Mist and Fury, that she finds her place, her voice, and her strength at the Night Court with her former ally/enemy, Rhysand. The second book is nearly entirely dedicated to the relationship between Rhysand and Feyre, and Feyre’s realization that she does not love Tamlin…does not want the fairytale wedding with him or the role of being his safe, tame, pampered, and mostly ignored wife. The second book also provides a backdrop for the third, A Court of Wings and Ruin, which deals with the consequences of Feyre’s sisters also having been turned from human to fae, and the every looming war from Amarantha’s former master, the insidious King of Hybern—an island off the coast of Prythian that refused to yield any land to humans and is now bent on world domination (sorry Ireland).

Before I go further with my thoughts on the series, I will just say this. I haven’t been drawn into a story or a world in the way that this one drew me in in a very long time. The Court of Thorns and Roses series was a reminder—why I love books and why I love fantasy books in particular. For all its flaws—and there were many (constant phrase repetition—i.e. “clanged through me,” just made my inner editor cringe, also—she still didn’t escape the Big War Between Good and Evil trope that has been written into the ground by fantasy authors by now)—I really and truly could not put these books down. I haven’t read an actual series of books all the way through like this in a long time. Usually I am fine with putting a bit of space between the first book and the second. However, that just wasn’t an option here. Both the first and second books left me wanting more. The third ended on a note that made me wish that any continuing books in this world won’t center on our hero and heroine—that Rhysand and Feyre can have their adventures in peace.

One thing I will say for this series is that I’m not entirely sure I would classify it as Young Adult. It is sold in the Young Adult section and certainly labeled YA at the library. And that is fine—I think I probably would have enjoyed the series as a teenager. However, Feyre’s challenges and issues that she faces trying to end a relationship maturely, how to react to that person when they do not handle it well…I think this might belong to the newer, more slippery category of New Adult.

In any case—whether it is incorrectly categorized or not, I definitely recommend this series to readers who enjoy fantasy and romance. Even though I think some of the mechanics of the language could be improved, I have to hand it to Maas that she really does create a marvelous and monstrous world that I definitely want to return to by re-reading this series at some point in the future.

 

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And I Darken by Kiersten White

andidarken-cover “I am your father. But that woman is not your mother. Your mother is Wallachia. Your mother is the very earth we go to now, the land I am prince of. Do you understand?” Lada looked into her father’s eyes, deep-set and etched with years of cunning and cruelty. She nodded, then held out her hand . “The daughter of Wallachia wants her knife back.” Vlad smiled and gave it to her. ~p. 12

Radu and Ladislav (Lada) are born into a world of conflict–they are the children of Vlad Dracul, who rules Wallachia, an outlying province/principality of the Ottoman Empire. They are as different as night and day–Lada can be a terror, a bully, but she is also strong and fiercely protects what she considers to be her own (such as Radu). Radu is quiet, bullied, but kindness and cunning are his gifts. When their father, Vlad Dracul, allows them to be held hostage by the emperor, Murad, who rules the Ottoman Empire all to keep his throne in Wallachia, Lada remains fiercely loyal to Wallachia, if not her father, while Radu is ready to eschew everything about his former life. Radu loves the Ottoman Empire, Islam, and most of all their friend, the emperor’s son Mehmed. The bonds of their friendship are tested again and again as they grow up and Mehmed takes the throne. Mehmed will need both Lada’s ferocity and Radu’s quiet cunning to help him gain and keep the throne. But what of Lada’s destiny, and her strange place in society as a fighting woman, a woman who refuses what traditional womanhood means? While they are so different, both Lada and Radu don’t quite “fit” into the roles society has given them–Lada desperately wants to rule and protect Wallachia, and Radu desperately wants Mehmed–a desire that he knows is somehow forbidden though no one speaks of it. In the end, what will each of them be willing to sacrifice for what they want?

I have to say that I absolutely loved this book. I loved how bravely the author posed the question, what if Vlad Dracula (Vlad the Impaler) was a woman? How would this story change? Fair warning though, if you like your protagonists to be straightforward good guys, this might not be the book for you. White does an excellent job of complicating both Lada and Radu. And what a love triangle! I see that this is going to be a series and I can’t wait to read the next installment. I enjoyed the writing (subtle and sharp as Lada’s hidden knives), the characters, and even the setting of Wallachia and the Ottoman Empire. And I Darken earned my wholehearted recommendation.

 

 

 

 

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A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

torch “Skies,” Afya says. “I thought you told me you loved stories. Have you ever heard a story of an adventurer with a sane plan?”

“Well….no.”

“And why do you think that is?”

I am at a loss. “Because….ah, because–”

She chuckles again. “Because sane plans never work, girl,” she says. “Only the mad ones do.”

~p. 388

Note: Spoilers ahead

A Torch Against the Night is the sequel to Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes. It continues the story of Elias and Laia, right as they’re beginning to escape the city of Serra and on their way to get to Kauf prison to free Laia’s brother Darin.
But on the way, they will meet with many unexpected guests. As with any good adventure story, friendships are tested, true identities are revealed, and destinies are made and challenged.
I have to say that I enjoyed the sequel to Ember every bit as much as I did the first book. Tahir’s writing is enjoyable and at times very beautiful. My only complaint is that it could be a little tighter. One of the characters which seemed completely nonessential (Keenan) turns out to be one of the core antagonists. But the love story between him an Laia seemed really extraneous and so the big reveal just wasn’t as devastating to me as it could have been with some tighter writing. In the first novel I seriously thought his only purpose was to be a secondary love interest for Laia–since there was already a triangle between Elias/Laia/Helene.
Speaking of Helene, I am actually very interested in her story arc. I think her story is the one I’m most looking forward to continuing to read in the next installment. I’m also intrigued by Avitas Harper–her former torturer and spy for the Commandant turned ally to Helene. And I’m also curious to see how all the new magical powers everyone has will play out.
Overall, I think I’ve found yet another YA fantasy series that I will be following. I’ve lost count of how many of these I’m supposed to be keeping up with–a very good problem to have, I’d say!

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Crooked Kingdom by Leigh Bardugo

crooked Note: This review contains slight spoilers.

Inej almost felt sorry for her. Dunyasha really believed she was the Lantsov heir, and maybe she was. But wasn’t that what every girl dreamed? That she’d wake and find herself a princess? Or blessed with magical powers and a grand destiny? Maybe there were people who lived those lives. Maybe this girl was one of them. But what about the rest of us? What about the nobodies and the nothings, the invisible girls? We learn to hold our heads as if we wear crowns. We learn to wring magic from the ordinary. That was how you survived when you weren’t chosen, when there was no royal blood in your veins. When the world owed you nothing, you demanded something of it anyway. p. 460

Crooked Kingdom is the sequel to Leigh Bardugo’s Six of Crows. Friends, let me just tell you now that I love these books. Both of them. Crooked Kingdom did not disappoint, though I thought perhaps the construction of Six of Crows was a little stronger. Sometimes the pacing of Kingdom seemed to slow in just a few too many places. Matthias also appears to have completely changed his attitude toward Grisha. I do understand that he had a life changing experience at the Ice Court, and that he knows he loves Nina. But sometimes it seemed a little too easy. I did appreciate the guest appearance of Sturmhond and some of the other characters from the Grisha series. In places, the writing is breathtakingly beautiful. And of course, I still love that this is a series about a group of misfits taking on the rich and the powerful. I think Bardugo has created some wonderful, complex, memorable characters in Kaz, Inej, Jesper, Wylan, Nina, and Matthias. I certainly enjoyed the series and enjoyed the romances of Jesper and Wylan, Nina and Matthias, and Inej and Kaz. Each one non-traditional in some aspect.

I definitely recommend this series! No mourners, no funerals.

 

 

 

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