Tag Archives: young adult

Book Review: The Fox’s Quest

Last year, I reviewed YA LGBT book The Fox’s Mask, the first in the Kitsune Trilogy, by Anna Frost. I really enjoyed it, and was interested in seeing how the story would progress.

I received a copy of the second book, The Fox’s Quest, and was really excited to jump in. I will do my best to talk about the book without giving away any spoilers! If you haven’t read the first book though, I recommend doing so before reading this review, because I have to talk about some things that happened there.

Okay, did you read the first book?

Did you?

Alright, I warned you!

The book picks up not far from where the first book left off. Sanae is dead, but for some reason her soul has stayed on, following around Akakiba and Yuki in her fox form, and helping them on their journey. Akakiba is very much suspicious of the spirit and doesn’t acknowledge who she claims to be, though he still follows her advice, which I find adorable in his stubborn willingness. The dragon Drac is also around, and it is immediately obvious that there is discontent because of the bond between Yuki and his dragon companion.

Nuuuu boys. /tears

Anyways, as the story goes on, we learn more about what is causing the magic to fade from the land, something that is of course detrimental to the Fox Clan and any other spiritual beings in the world. The quest to find the source leads to lots of interesting fights, new characters, and new twists in the story – it was really enjoyable because there were new layers being discovered throughout the book that showed that the plot was much deeper than “let’s kill the Fox Clan.”

What I liked:

  • You know, this time, I didn’t have any twitches to the individual voices of the characters. I thought they were all well done. Part of this might be that I am familiar with the characters now, so I am more comfortable with their voices.
  • I felt like Mamoru had more time within the story, and I like that this character had become such a major plot point.
  • Sanae torturing shinobi was pretty hilarious and amazing.
  • Akakiba did stay true to the gender he identified with – male. Anna had commented on my previous review saying that this would be the case, but I want to say that I really appreciated the dialogue between Yuki and Akakiba on the topic when it was broached. *applauds Anna*
  • Also the boys were just so cute when they finally talked things out *flails*
  • There were a lot of great fight scenes!
  • The story ends with a lot to still be discovered!

What I didn’t like:

  • This is totally my own thing, and I don’t think it’s something that Anna did wrong at all. But I really wish that the boys had resolved things sooner rather than later. BUT that leaves room for more in the third book, right? [RIGHT?!]

The book is already out, so make sure you get your hands on it! I can’t wait for the third one to come out. 🙂

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Review & Giveaway: “Clockwork Angel” manga adaptation

So you guys might remember that I basically threw my hands up in the air and let The Infernal Devices fandom suck me in. I regret nothing. But thanks to the talented artist Hyekyung Baek, they’re making a manga adaptation of the series, starting with the first book, Clockwork Angel. This volume covers the entire plot of that novel by Cassandra Clare.

It goes without saying that fans of the books will love the manga. The illustrations by Hyekyung Baek are gorgeous and the story remains true to the plot, managing to somehow get a lot of side-plots into the book even though it’s necessarily shorter. The manga keeps a lot of Clare’s jokes and wit, too, and they’re actually funnier with the visual aid. This cuts both ways, of course, and things like Jem’s illness are more striking with illustrations. But it’s a really fun way to reread the books and relive your love of the characters.

The best thing about the manga version is that it might appeal to people who otherwise won’t read the book, either because it’s in the YA section (don’t get me started) or because they prefer comics (nothing wrong with that). It’s a story that lends itself well to a visual format

Jem and his violin are my OTP.

The plot is, obviously, the same as the novel: Tessa arrives in London at the behest of her brother, or so she believes. But she’s taken by the Dark Sisters, who reveal that Tessa is a shape-shifter and they plan to use her for their own nefarious purposes and then marry her off to someone called The Magister. She’s rescued when Will Herondale and other Shadowhunters end up at the Dark Sisters’ house during a murder investigation. She stays at the institute where she meets Jem, the violinist with a secret, and Jessamine, who doesn’t want to be a Shadowhunter at all, as well as Charlotte and Henry, who run the London Institute. She agrees to help them and they agree to help her track down her brother. Turns out the Magister is trying to build an army of automatons which are very creepy and faceless.

Did I mention it’s gorgeously drawn? And that Will and Jem were basically born to be manga-bishounen? Because they were.

So if you haven’t read The Infernal Devices and you like manga and comics, you should check this out. If you have read them, I assume you’re already a rabid fan of Will or Jem or Tessa or Magnus Freaking Bane, and therefore I don’t have to tell you get yourself a copy. You probably already have 50 and are now using it to wallpaper your room. I mean… I’m certainly not doing that….why do you ask? That would be insane. Speaking of, I HAVE AN EXTRA COPY! You know what that means! GIVEAWAY!

To enter to win one (1) new copy of the Clockwork Angel manga vol. 1, just leave a comment on this post by Wednesday, Oct. 31st. I will have Magnus Bane use his warlock magic (and/or use a Random Number Generator if he’s unavailable) to pick one winner.

Rules: Winner must live in the US or CA. The winner will be drawn on Thursday, November 1st, and posted here in the afternoon. The book will be happily shipped to the winner as soon as possible after they send me their address. Void where prohibited and all that jazz. Entries must be posted by midnight PST on Halloween, 10/31/12. Any comments after that are not eligible. If you comment and do not wish to enter, please say so and I will merely draw a new number (or have Magnus pick a new winner) if it lands on you.

Good? Good.

FTC Disclosure: A copy of this book was provided to me by the publisher for review. Nothing else was exchanged.

Book Review: The Fox’s Mask

I don’t consider myself a reader of YA novels. That’s not because I have anything against the genre, though. I just generally tend to lean toward books that are more *clears throat* adult in content.

Okay look, I like some smutty stuff, I admit it. It’s not all I read, but these days my time for reading is limited, and maybe I’m drawn more to smutty fiction than anything else.

The only YA book I have previously read [aside from the Harry Potter series] is Cinder, by Marissa Meyer [Tori did a review of it you can check out here]. I keep walking past the young adult section of my local Barnes & Noble, eyeing all the different novels, slightly overwhelmed, and also not quite sure if I will find something that really catches my interest.

And I’m babbling. What I mean to say is, I was pleasantly surprised when I was sent a review copy of The Fox’s Mask, by Anna Frost. This book is labeled as young adult, but it is also labeled as being LGBT, and set in an alternate reality feudal Japan. I was instantly curious and excited and jumped right in. I am also an anime fan, so this book seemed to promise a beautiful mix of things I enjoy.

I have to admit that there is one theme in particular that I really want to talk about in my review, especially if anyone else reads it and wants to discuss it further. The problem is that one element is a huge spoiler. So most of this review will be spoiler-free, until that moment.

The book is written in third person but from the points of view of different characters. The text doesn’t shift how it looks to show who is talking, but it is still generally clear whose point of experience we are hearing the story from. I enjoyed Anna’s style of writing – there is a lot of dialogue and inner monologue, but also great descriptions of settings. Though I was immediately picturing a Rurouni Kenshin setting in my mind, it was just the base for the world she described. The dialogue of the characters flowed nicely, and only every once in a while was I jarred slightly when an internal monologue sounded extremely “teenage-angst-ish.”

The main characters are Akakiba and Yuki. Akakiba is Yuki’s tutor, teaching him the way of demon hunting. Akakiba is 18, and Yuki is only 15. The prologue shows that their meeting was unfortunate, but for some reason Yuki has stayed with Akakiba for three years at the time of the first chapter. Akakiba is a very smart-mouthed character who reminded me slightly of Edward Elric – so of course I liked him right away. Yuki was tough, but not as loud as Akakiba. I liked the balance of their personalities and how they worked together.

With the introduction of demons, it is obvious that this story will have a lot of magical/spiritual elements. Anna weaves in a lot of symbolism and words from the Japanese culture that I appreciated – though she used the Japanese terms to describe some things, I felt like it was always obvious what she was talking about. I’m always on the fence about using different languages to describe things within a story, but this is an instance where I feel like it mostly worked. There were only one or two times I had to think about what was being referred to.

The overarching plot of the story is that for some reason, magic seems to be fading from the land. Healing spirits aren’t around their shrines, there are fewer dragons, and even fewer demons, so it seems. The additional points of view are of Akakiba’s younger sister, Sanae, who adds a different view as trouble starts to emerge within the Fox Clan, and also offers a chance to show some of the traditions and special abilities of the group. Other main characters whose views are used are Mamoru and Jien. Mamoru is from a rival clan, and his story eventually reveals how deep the demon problem is becoming. Jien is a friend of the family, a monk who Akakiba had helped save, and often the comedic relief.

What I liked:

  • The feudal Japan style setting
  • The incorporation of a cultural background with the supernatural, spirits, demons, and dragons felt natural with the story line
  • The undertones of attraction between Yuki and Akakiba
  • I was actually caught off guard with how the story progressed and the ending of the book
  • There wasn’t a love triangle o/

What I didn’t like:

  • Sometimes the inner monologue of the characters sounded jarringly younger, which might just be a personal preference
  • While I liked what Mamoru offered in his chapters, I almost wish there was more – I felt like the balance of points of view was weighted heavily on the two main characters, and having multiple points of view I feel should be well rounded

Recommend if: You like anime set in a feudal/Japanese universe, and supernatural type stories. I could see this being an anime, or a manga, any day.

The book comes out tomorrow, Friday October 19!

Okay, if you have read the book or don’t mind spoilers, here is the part I really want to talk about.

No seriously, spoiler ahead, just stop now if you don’t want to be spoiled for an end of the book reveal.

….you got it?

 

Okay…

 

Continue reading

Review: Bloodlines by Richelle Mead

It’s no secret that I love vampires and always have, and will basically devour anything about vampires at all* but there is so much vampire media out there, I have to draw the line somewhere or I would never sleep again. So I never picked up Vampire Academy. Because.. I mean.. I’m sure it’s great, Mead is awesome and hilarious, but the name put me off. I don’t really care for the vampires-in-school thing. Suffice to say, it’s on my reading list now, so mea culpa.

Bloodlines  drew me in because it was about an alchemist and I love alchemy. Bonus vampires? Sold. That was all I needed. And then I met Adrian.

Adrian Ivashkov is like if Daniel Molloy and Will Herondale somehow combined their DNA. He’s sweet and caring deep down, sure, but he’s sarcastic, doesn’t seem to take anything seriously, and lives on gin and cigarettes. (And blood. Obviously.) *waves fangirl flag*

The story is about Alchemist Syndney Sage, who has to go to a boarding school with a vampire princess, Jill, to keep her safe, since alchemists in this world live to cover up the existence of vampires and nasty things from mundane people. Jill is also being threatened by vampires for political reasons. And Adrian is just there as far as Sydney knows, at least at first, because he has nothing better to do.

Syndey is book smart and OCD and happy to go to this boarding school posing as a senior, because she’s never been to real school and it’s as close to college as she feels like she can get. She is less good at fitting in with other students, particularly when one of them thinks her golden alchemist tattoo is making her smarter, because there’s an illegal tattoo operation in town that’s giving students unfair advantages for the right price.

I did take issue with a scene in beginning where Sydney is fitted for a uniform and spends a lot of time whining about her size. She’s like.. a four I think? She talks about how fat she is, and I really loathed that. I get that teenagers (hell, people) can obsess about size, and it’s in character for her being so OCD and perfectionistic, but all the same it really bothered me at the time, because man, if she’s a cow then I’m like a Humpback Whale, so thanks there, chica. However, it’s sort of forgivable because it is so much a part of her character, and in the second book [spoiler] Adrian even calls her out for having a serious eating disorder, which we see in glimpses as the series continues, so it’s not treated as a healthy behavior but all of the same[/spoiler].

I have no idea how this stacks up to VA since I haven’t read any of them, but I enjoyed both this and its sequel, again, because Adrian makes me giggle like a mad person. It does sort of run on vampire politics which can get old quickly, but I don’t know if there’s much I can’t forgive for Adrian, particularly maybe the funniest thing I’ve read in a long time, which was [spoiler]The Adrian Hunts for A Job Scene… just.. I was in stitches, especially when he drinks the martini at the bar interview… such a bad idea but so hilariously played, Adrian![/spoiler]

I also liked that Mead has clearly built an in-depth vampire world, and then writes stories from the perspective of Sydney, who isn’t really keen on magic and whose up-brining makes them weird about vampires, even the good non-murderous ones. It’s an interesting twist to have a YA heroine who not only lacks magical powers but would not take them if they were offered.

*Not Twilight. But then, to be honest, I did read Meyer’s short novella about Bree Tanner, in which the titular character thought she was a real vampire and not a sparklepire, and it wasn’t terrible, so… you know. Also Vampire Baseball. That will never stop being hilarious to me.

Recommended if: You like supernatural stories set in boarding schools, and/or can forgive that for a handsome, snarky, gin-drinking vampire. Which, I mean, what can’t you forgive for that?

Common Mistakes YA Dystopian Novels Make

In MY first YA Dytopian novel, animatronic dinosaurs take over and people have to fight the robot dinos to survive. In Space.

I was talking to a friend the other day about all of the recent dystopian novels that have come out and tried to tout themselves as “The Next Hunger Games!” It’s a silly, but understandable marketing tactic, because people are always looking for the next big THING.

The Next Harry Potter or the Next Twilight or whatever THING is going to be the year’s newest break out money-machine. It’s impossible to predict, of course, and the fact that so many dystopian YA novels came out recently is less due to The Hunger Games than weird market trends and coincidence. Besides, the next THING is never the same as the earlier THING (Twilight was not like Harry Potter, really at all).

But it got me thinking about all of the Dystopian Books I’ve read in the last year or so, and why some work better than others. Obviously, this is a list of what didn’t work for me as a reader, and is no way meant to be universal. These are just the same gripes I tend to have with a lot of Dystopian Books (and, sometimes, in the whole YA market). I would love to hear what elements worked or didn’t work for you, especially if any of them are deal breakers.

Book One Lacks An Ending

This is the new biggest sin awful trend in the YA world if you ask me. Not only are lots of books coming out that are super short because they’re the start of a series that could probably be one novel, but they’re coming out with cliff hanger endings that don’t bother to conclude the first part of the story. There’s nothing wrong with leaving some loose ends and unanswered questions, especially in an intended series. I’m talking about books that literally lack an ending. They might as well print the last page with the words “DUN DUN DUN….” It happens a lot in dystopian novels, especially, and this is a problem there for one main reason (besides, you know, the fact that a book has no end):

Leaving dystopian novels with a million questions hanging in the balance creates the feeling of shoddy world building. It doesn’t matter if the author has maps and entire histories for this Awful Future charted out on their wall. When none of the reader’s questions about how, when, why are answered in the first book, it makes the book feel hollow and lacking.

Characters Raised in the Dystopian Society Still Oddly Shocked & Awed By It

This is a personal pet peeve of mine, but it comes up in so many dystopians that it breaks my brain. A character who’s lived their entire life under the Evil Overlord who makes everyone where Pink Sweaters on Tuesdays is not going to be outraged by the fact that mom set out a pink sweater for Tuesday morning. They just won’t.

And yes, anyone might be alarmed when something that happens all of the time to strangers–say, being arrested quietly in the middle of the night–happens to their own friends or family. But when someone is used to drills or spot checks or whatever has a Fit of Righteous Indignation during one of these, I get irked. As a writer, I think what these authors are trying to do is  show what a moral center the character is by detailing their outrage at the Bad Guys. But it often doesn’t jive with how the protagonist should react, at least until they have some larger revelation about the world they live in. Say what you will about Matched, but at least Cassia’s mindset made perfect sense given the world she was raised in.

Alternatively, you have characters who, by all rights, should be extremely genre savvy, like kids who have grown up surrounded by zombies/rebels/robots/random bad future thing and should know how to survive in such situations. Like, it’s probably taught in their schools (if they have schools). But then you end up with characters like Mary, from The Forest of Hands and Teeth, who literally cuddles a zombie baby and then taunts the zombies beyond the fence. TAUNTS THEM. I mean…. I just… That is Too Stupid to Live territory from a girl who knows better because she knows what zombies are and how they happen.

A Love Triangle Romance That’s Wedged in Is Really Not Necessary

I know, I know. Romantic tension is awesome and the love triangle thing has worked so well. But really, if it doesn’t happen naturally as you start drafting your characters, and even if it does, you have to ask yourself if it’s really crucial to the book. Because if no one cares whether Lucy ends up with James or Thomas, but are forced to read pages and pages of Lucy trying to decide whether she likes James’ aloof and quiet demeanor more than Thomas’ quick wit and sexy lips, they will toss the book out the window.

I started this section with love triangles, but really it applies to all romances that feel forced or weird, especially when they come at the expensive of actual plot/interesting things happening around them. I’d really rather read about the Robot Army laying seige to the Dragon Lord’s castle than why Sir Allen has the best hair and tastes like strawberries due to his love of fruit gum.

And I say this as a pathetic, full-on shipping fangirl who will sink with the Good Ship Tamani in the world of Wings before I ever accept David might have been the right dude. I like romance! I even like good love triangles! But not when it feels forced in for the sake of having one.

The World Building Does Not Exist or Makes No Sense

Look, a book set in a future where Alien Unicorns have taken over the world and burned all of our technology except digital watches and make us grow rainbow colored hay to ward off the evil SeaHorses who are allergic to the color red might be the Best New THING to hit book shelves. But if the reader can’t believe how the Alien Unicorns took over without opposable thumbs (let alone built space ships), it won’t work. And yes, that’s a ridiculous example, and this goes back to the first point, but seriously. Leaving the entire world situation vague and unexplained does not make it suspenseful, it makes it frustrating.

Eve does this: a generic “plague” decimates the populous and a strange government with a King of America is set up in under 30 years. Despite the pointless years Eve spends in school (until she’s 18) she never even gives the reader the government’s official version of events, and we’re left wondering what happened. (Maybe Once, its sequel, answers more questions, I haven’t read it yet.)

It also has to make sense. Pledge is set hundreds of years in the future and we’re never given so much as a hint about why the only acceptable government leader is a Queen, or how America became divided by class languages. Even just a few lines about the ancient past of our present day would make the experience so much richer, rather than plunking down the system and saying “Eh! It’s in the future. Who knows how it happened?”

The best books, regardless of genre, have detailed and thoughtful worlds built into them to give the story depth, but it’s so important in a dystopia to show how the world of present day got to The Evil Awful Future.

 

So now you have some of my thoughts. And I am out of thoughts. Time to watch The Glee Project and see if I can avoid crying when whoever is sent home has to do the Sad Walk Away.

Review: Of Poseidon by Anna Banks

Yes. It’s a book about mermaids. (Okay, Syrena.) I know what you’re thinking. Or at least, I know what my close friends are thinking which is probably along the lines of, “Dear god, this is going to be like Wings and the faeries isn’t it?” Possibly they’re already planning an intervention.

The truth is, I didn’t expect to love to Of Poseidon by Anna Banks. I figured it’d be a short and sweet paranormal romance that would be fun if I could just accept mer people as a premise. And it’s not easy. I don’t know why I have no issue with demons or vampires or wizards but mermaids cross some line beyond my suspension of disbelief. Except that Banks pulls it off. Beautifully, if I may say so. But it’s not only the world building or Syrena ability to blend (effectively camouflage in the water, like an octopus). No. It’s that Banks is freaking hilarious. She’s great at telling a story, developing characters, and all of that good stuff, but her narration had me from page 2.

For example, we meet Emma, the protagonist, at a beach in Florida where she’s just run face-first into a stranger who happens to be a hot teenage guy (Galen, whom we later learn is a Syrena). Emma is mentally running through her options of what to do since she’s basically been standing there like an idiot against him for a very long, awkward moment:

“Option 2: Pretend I’ve fainted. Go limp and everything. Drool, even. But I know this won’t work because my eyes flutter too much to fake it, and besides, people don’t blush while unconscious.
Option 3: Pray for a lightning bolt.”

Here’s the other thing that basically blows my mind about this book: it has so much in common with your standard paranormal romance–no, scratch that. It has so much in common with Twilight--that if I’d ticked off those points, you’d probably groan and put it on your shelf of lost causes. But it works. Because unlike so many other similar premises, this Girl-Discovers-She’s-Special story is built on characters that feel real and behave like sane, normal people. Emma doesn’t stay out of the water when Galen tells her to with vague comments about keeping her safe. And it’s not because she’s needlessly defiant; it’s because he doesn’t give her real reasons and he’s not the boss of her. Emma is awesome.

It also does that thing that usually annoys me where it’s first person for one character and then third person for another. I don’t know why Banks did that, since I’m sure she’s talented enough to make them sound different. Heck, they do. Galen’s narration is his own, even though he’s stuck in 3rd person. But again, it works. Maybe Banks sold her soul to the Magic Narration Fairy.

So yes. This is a novel about mer-people, where one of them goes to high school in human form(!) His twin sister is bratty and suspicious and his best friend Toraf is your standard nice guy. They have to figure out how not-human Emma is. There are some Syrena politics at play(!), and there’s even, hand to god, a “This Love is Complicated By Lack of Communication” plot line between Emma and Galen(!).

And still, still it’s an awesome book. I care about the cast, it’s laugh-out-loud funny and though I think it’s a series, the end is satisfying.

Recommended for: People who want a fun and yet suspenseful paranormal romance. People looking for an entertaining and hilarious quick read. People who like other mermaid/merpeople books.

Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Monument 14 is a novel about fourteen children (from teens to kindergarten) who are stranded in a Big Box Store during a chaotic national disaster that involves earthquakes, tsunamis, and a poison gas that’s leaked from a nearby military base.

Laybourne looked familiar to me when I saw her at the Fierce Reads tour, but it wasn’t until later I realized why. We’re long lost sisters. So now she can get me a publishing deal, right? No? Okay, that’s not true. But she is an actress, and she’s been in movies with Will Ferrell and other SNL alumni, as well as the Upright Citizens Brigade. So I had seen her face previously.

I mention this more because writing an ensemble cast of 14, even if there’s one narrator, is no easy feat, and Laybourne manages to give every single kid their own personality and flesh them out. I highly suspect her experience acting and getting inside character’s heads helped this process, because for a debut novelist, she has it down. I can tell you one thing about every single one of the fourteen and that’s pretty impressive.

Plot! On their way to school, two school buses that were driving near each other crash during a hail storm. One of them drives straight into the store and the other is felled by hail (its engine, we later learn, is top side, while the other bus had an engine on the bottom so it was protected from the hail). Bus one explodes and several people are killed by hail to the head. Some make it into the store, including Mrs. Wooly, the first bus driver. But after the hail subsides, she leaves to find them help, putting the older kids (Dean, Jack, Astrid, Josie, Brayden, Niko) in charge until she gets back. (Spoiler: she never gets back.)

The book is set just a few years in the future, but by then the internet/wi-fi is just The Network, and The Network is down. From an older television, they learn about the tsunamis and the poison gas cloud, and how bad things are. (And this poison gas cloud is military evil – it affects each person based on their blood type, so some people get hives, others turn blood-thirsty, and others are fine. Talk about Pandemonium Gas.)

Overall, it’s a haunting and scary book, and yet in a lot of ways it’s fun. Maybe I’m a giant weirdo but I cannot tell you how many times I’ve wandered around Target or Fred Meyer and thought of how I’d set things up if I were living there in the midst of a zombie outbreak or post-apocalyptic scenario. So I loved reading about how the kids set things up, from the way Dean–our first person protagonist–realizes he can outfit the Pizza Shack with real cooking equipment from the shelves, to the Bunks/Cabins that Josie builds in the dressing rooms. I also like that despite some disagreements, the kids don’t go all Lord of the Flies or anything.

Also, I’m kind of a sucker for first person narration that’s justified in text. (Granted, many of my favorite books are first person and not justified, I just think it’s kind of neat when we know why “I” is telling the story.) In this case, it’s Dean, who gets old notebooks and writes down what happens every day as an act of catharsis. Also it’s guy narrator, which is less common in YA (especially a sole-first person narrator).

There are a few things that bothered me but I’m having trouble putting my finger on them. Like there’s something niggling at the back of my brain but I can’t figure out what. And I guess I find it hard to believe that in giant store, there aren’t more old style AM/FM radios that Alex, the genius, couldn’t tune up to emergency channels, although maybe it’s just enough in the future that those things wouldn’t exist anymore. Really, I highly enjoyed it and I look forward to the sequel, if there is one, and Laybourne’s future books.

Recommended for: People who enjoy realistic responses to disaster scenarios. People who have dreamed about the world ending so they can hole up inside a Walmart.