Wendy Archibald

Archive for the ‘YA’ Category

Slayers By C.J. Hill

In C.J. Hill, Fantasy, Reviews, YA on September 27, 2011 at 8:48 pm

This amazing book comes out today! I was lucky enough to win an ARC (advance reader’s copy) on C.J. Hill’s blog last week, so I’ve already read it.

And loved pretty much every second of it.

Tori Hampton, the sixteen-year-old daughter of a senator, has to talk her parents into letting her go to St. George and the Dragon Camp. She’s wanted to go for years, but once she’s there, well, she’s not sure she really wants to stay. First of all, the camp is a little primitive. When the camp director sends her off with a couple of buff boys to the advanced camp–hidden in the trees two miles away, complete with its own stable, gun range, and mysterious large building–the only way she decides to stay is to prove herself to the other advanced campers who somehow have it in their minds that she’s pampered and unable to handle the rigors of advanced dragon camp.

Even after Tori finds out about the other campers’ special powers she still isn’t convinced she’s where she wants to be, and it goes double when they tell her that dragons really do exist and, oh, by the way, she’s got special DNA from her ancestors that makes her a dragon slayer.

Not exactly what she was looking for in a summer camp.

While dragon camp wasn’t exactly what Tori was looking for, this book is exactly what I was looking for.

It has all the things I look for in a great book: a strong voice, interesting characters, a little magic, and kissing. There were some unexpected twists in the plot that were believable and enjoyable, as well as some awesome fight/battle scenes. And a dragon, naturally. This is the first book in the series, so be ready for a conclusion that isn’t entirely conclusive, as well as a couple of major plot points/mysteries that carry on to the next book (which I am already anxiously awaiting).

This is a great YA fantasy pick. Simply thumbing through it to refresh myself with a few details to write this review made me want to start from the beginning and read it again.

Paranormalcy By Kiersten White

In Fantasy, Kiersten White, Reviews, YA on June 30, 2011 at 4:25 pm

I stole this picture of the book cover (very cool cover, no?) from Kiersten White’s website, although she makes it sound as though her blog is the real place to be. Since I’m having trouble remembering to feed my children three meals per day (is lunch really necessary?) I haven’t blog-surfed for awhile, but after reading her book I’m pretty sure I’d like what I found there.

Paranormalcy was fast, fun, funny, and [quickly thinking of another ‘f’ word . . . ] fantastic. I had picked it up a few weeks ago, but every time I went to read it I ended up grabbing something else instead. I’ve become a bit burned out on the whole YA paranormal genre–I mean, I liked the Twilight series just as much as the next person, but the glut that flooded the market there for awhile made me long for regular old teenagers without any special abilities.

So . . . I was intrigued by the cover and the premise, but I couldn’t bring myself to start reading it for the longest time. Once I started it, though, I burned through that puppy in a matter of hours. As I said before, fast, fun, funny, and fantastic. (Hm. That joke was okay the first time around, but not so much the second time.)

Our heroine, Evie (short for Evelyn, naturally) works for the International  Paranormal Containment Agency. Besides being tough, smart, and pretty, she has a tazer. Which is enough for your average reader to completely fall in love with her, right?

Evie “tags and bags” various paranormals–werewolves, vampires, the occasional hag–and lives at the IPCA center with her best friend (who happens to be a mermaid–thank goodness for language-translating technology, right?). Evie’s own special talent of seeing through glamours makes her assistance invaluble. But when a new paranormal is captured, and large numbers of paranormals are turning up dead, Evie makes a discovery about her own classification that makes her question everything her life has been built on.

Again, the spoiler thing. I don’t want to say too much. I will say that I loved all the characters; they rang completely true. Beyond that, the entire book was fresh (ooh, another ‘f’!) and had a twist to the standard paranormal fare that I completely enjoyed. The book was serious and scary, but not dark. Evie always has hope, even when things look bleakest.  I love that about a main character.

Another thing I love is that the second book, Supernaturally, is out in less than a month. In fact, the only thing I would like better is if the entire series was already written so I wouldn’t have to wait.

 

[I just checked out Kiersten’s blog despite needing to pack for a three-week trip to my homeland. It’s hilarious and awesome. Add some paranormalcy to that and you’ve got her book: um, Paranormalcy.]

 

Sean Griswold’s Head by Lindsey Leavitt

In Lindsey Leavitt, Reviews, YA on June 22, 2011 at 12:31 am

(Picture stolen from Lindsey Leavitt’s website.)

I hadn’t heard of Lindsey Leavitt two months ago; I read Sean Griswold’s Head and rapidly inhaled all the other books she’s written (of which there are two, and of which I may post another review in the coming weeks) within a two week period–and that was only because I had to wait for one on the hold list in the library.

Sean Griswold’s Head is Young Adult Literature at its finest. Payton, the narrator, has a wonderful voice. It’s distinct, it’s believable, and it’s real. Her reactions and her growth in the book are spot on.

In the book, Payton discovers–in a not-so-great-way–that her beloved father has MS. It’s not only Payton’s journey into looking deeper at the relationships she has, but her ultimate acceptance of what she can and can not do about things that happen in her life.

I am purposely vague when writing reviews because I hate reading reviews where the story gets spoiled, SPOILER ALERTS notwithstanding. But I feel like I can say a few of the things that I loved about this book:

  • There are no mean girls. When I was in high school, there wasn’t a clique of popular, mean girls who tried to spoil everything for everybody else. Our cheerleaders were not only nice, they were super nice. Instead of having a stock mean girl character, Ms. Leavitt pulls some other interesting characters out of her head that make the story that much more believable.
  • There is a brother her best friend tries to flirt with. Having five brothers of my own, I know that this does indeed happen–but generally only with newer friends, since the friends that knew my brothers in junior high weren’t all that impressed with them later.
  • There aren’t mean girls, but there is a fight with her best friend. And she has to agonize over the resolution. I like it.
  • A mangled cat toy given as a gift. Need I say more?
  • And then, there’s Sean’s head. And Sean. Ahh. Seriously, you need to read this book.

Wait, did you read that last sentence? Seriously, you need to read this book. You can thank me later.

How Not to Spend Your Senior Year by Cameron Dokey

In Reviews, Romance, YA on March 5, 2009 at 12:09 am

Cameron Dokey has quite a few re-written fairy tales out there that are quite lovely. (I just read The Storyteller’s Daughter and loved it.) In fact, that’s what I was searching for on the library’s website when I found this book and thought I’d give it a try. With her other books, Dokey has a gentle, magical storytelling voice, so I was doubly impressed that she handled the chick lit genre so masterfully.

Jo O’Connor and her father move a lot. No, really–a lot. Jo switched school three times every year in grade school. It isn’t until she’s older that she realizes this is odd. But by then, her father has slowed down some, and has promised Jo she’ll be at one school for her entire senior year.

Because of all these moves, Jo has perfected the art of blending in and being unnoticable. Except–on her first day at Beacon High–she gets noticed. By what she calls a “big man on campus”. It isn’t long before she’s fallen hard for Alex (and he for her) and has actually made a few friends.

Just when things are going so well–and right after Alex asked Jo to the prom–her dad tells her to pack her bags.

When Jo refuses, her father tells her why they’ve had to move so often in the past–it’s kind of a homemade witness protection program. A trial is coming up, one where her father is supposed to testify, so they are in danger because the thug in jail has connections. So–Jo and her father (with the help of Detective Mortensen) fake their own deaths in a car accident.

However, when Jo arrives at Royer High in her new identity as Claire Calloway, she’s assigned to a inter-city student exchange for her journalism class . . . at Beacon High School.

I’m not summing it up very well, so let me just say this: it’s very funny.

I want to read it again before I take it back.

[Note: There are several instances of mild profanity.] 

Highly recommended for teenage girls.

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

In Reviews, Sci-fi, YA on January 27, 2009 at 5:26 am

I heard about this book awhile ago, and I’ve been on the library’s hold list for months waiting for it. When I finally got it, though, I didn’t read it right away. I was pretty sure that once I started reading it, the book would basically possess me until I finished it.

I was right.

I picked the book up a few nights ago and read the entire thing from cover to cover, even though it wasn’t the most judicious thing to do.

Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old living in the 12th District of Panem, hunts daily beyond “the fence” to feed her mother and sister. The book opens on the day of the reaping, a yearly occurence where a boy and a girl from each district is chosen by lottery to travel to the Capitol to compete in the Hunger Games. When Katniss’s younger sister, Primrose, is chosen, Katniss volunteers to take her place.

The Hunger Games themselves are the epitome of barbarism: two teenagers from each of the twelve districts are put in some sort of environment to fight.

To the death.

While the entire country is forced to watch on a twisted reality show.

Suzanne Collins’s writing is masterful; I identified and sympathized so completely with the characters I had already cried before page 25. Katniss and her internal struggles were completely believable–from annoyance to rebellion to fear to love to confusion, her voice was absolutely true to her character. While the subject is horrifying, Collins did not dwell on violence. There were no pages I felt like I had to skip because it was too graphic.

I don’t want to say any more, since I don’t want to spoil anything for you. Let me just say this: I can’t wait for the sequel to come out.

Highly recommended for older teens and adults.

I also read the Underland Chronicles by the same author last year, beginning with Gregor the Overlander. Geared for a younger audience, they are fast-paced, well-written, and believably fantasical. I thoroughly enjoyed them. I’d recommend the series for readers ages 8 and up.

Princess of the Midnight Ball by Jessica Day George

In Children's, Fantasy, Reviews, YA on January 23, 2009 at 10:20 pm

Let me start out by saying how I excited I was to discover this new author last year. Not only because she writes great books (because she totally does) but because I know her! I feel a teensy bit famous or something. Forget seven degrees from Kevin Bacon–I’m ONE degree from Jessica Day George! She and I played in orchestra together, had the same speech class, and graduated from high school together. We were friendly aquaintances although I was always jealous (in a nice, small way) of her incredibly gorgeous red hair. I wonder: if I had incredibly gorgeous red hair would it make me write great books?

Answer: nope. That part only comes from being talented and working hard, which scientists have shown has no direct correlation to hair color. But I will continue being just a little bit jealous (nicely) and enjoy her magical writing.

Princess of the Midnight Ball is a retelling of the fairy tale “The Twelve Dancing Princesses.” Our hero, Galen, comes home from the war–except it isn’t really home, as his entire immediate family perished some way or another in the conflict. He makes his way to the capital city to find the family of his mother’s sister, whom he has never met. This aunt and uncle allow Galen to stay with them, and Galen begins working with his uncle in the palace gardens.

There are differences between the fairy tale I’m familiar with and this retelling, but the story is strongly told. I loved Galen right from the start. I mean, who doesn’t love a man that knits? (My brother knits, and trust me–it’s much manlier than you think.) Jessica also did a great job of giving the princesses–all 12 of them, and all with flower names–distinctive characteristics. Of course, in the end Galen marries Rose, but it wasn’t all just magic that saved the day–besides wool and herbs, Galen uses his brain (!) and the help of the princesses to defeat the King Under Stone and his 12 creepy sons.

Jessica has written three other great books–Dragon Slippers, Dragon Flight, and Sun and Moon, Ice and Snow. They are all beautifully written, wonderful fantasy reads. Great job, Jessica!

I recommend this book for ages 8 and up.

My Fair Godmother by Janette Rallison

In Fantasy, Reviews, YA on January 23, 2009 at 10:19 pm

I have to start out by saying I’m a big fan of Janette Rallison. I have loved all of her books. She has a way of writing that is both concise and witty. Her latest book did not disappoint.

Savannah Delano was dumped by her boyfriend in order to date her older sister, Jane–after Savannah bought a prom dress.While in the throes of her despair, Savannah somehow summons a fairy godmother. Unfortunately for Savannah, Chrysanthemum Everstar (and, yes, I know how to spell ‘chrysanthemum’ from watching Anne of Green Gables) wasn’t particularly studious at fairy school, and so she’s only fair at this godmothering/wish granting business.  Savannah’s wishes are disastrous, sending her first back to the Middle Ages to work for weeks as Cinderella, luckily escaping before being stuck with a decidedly uncharming prince. Then, as Snow White, Savannah learns it isn’t enough for her to be adored as beautiful but brainless. Savannah’s final wish–to have a real prince to take her to prom–is the worst of all, sending a boy from school to the Middle Ages. Savannah, who lived in the Middle Ages for both her prior wishes, feels terrible and sets out to rescue Tristan.

Comedy, romance, and a plot that twists surprisingly until all ends are tied (except Chryssy–which I hope means we’ll see her again in another book) made for a highly enjoyable read.

Thank you, Janette Rallison! I loved My Fair Godmother.

I highly recommend this book for teenagers.