The Way We Fall (Fallen World, 1) -Megan Crewe

Climate Fiction, death, diversity in YA, families, Series

Kaelyn narrates a virus outbreak through her journal entries intended for her former best friend.  Little did she realize beginning a journal-apology would act as a first hand account to an illness that soon begins killing off her friends and neighbors.

What starts with an itch and a cough leads to a hyper-hallucinating fever, with the end result being death.  Soon school is cancelled, and Kaelyn remains in her house with her family.  While her dad is one of the island’s doctors, he cannot explain what is happening.  When the government and the World Health Organization comes to town searching for answers, Kaelyn and her neighbors are left in the dark.  Things go from odd to worse with eventual Quarantine status for those left on the island.

Even though her current circumstances seem out of the ordinary, her friendship struggles are quite ordinary for teenagers.  Kaelyn’s family moved away years ago and only recently returned.  She tries to make new friendships, but is haunted by one from the past.  Her friend Leo who after being best friends for a decade, had a falling out, and now Kaelyn wants to make amends – only, this virus is keeping her on the island and him off.

Soon it’s been months, the island is still under quarantine, and more have gotten sick.  The Mainland isn’t helping other than drop offs by helicopter, but with a recent rogue gang taking things by force, the humanity of Kaelyn’s neighbors begins to disappear as would happen as fear and death increase while supplies decrease.  There’s also a light romance, but the overall focus is the disease and the island.

Being the beginning of a series, I grew tired of it expecting more action and story line progression. I’m a bit curious how the series moves forward once our characters get off of the island (which is the plot of the second), so I may finish this series eventually.


A great science/virus – apocalyptic plot like Life As We Knew It, The Living, Sweet, and H2O and other ClyFi or science conspiracy books.


Series Continues:

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The Midnight Star (The Young Elites #3) – Marie Lu

Action, alternating narration, death, diversity in YA, Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, gay characters, Series

Three different groups of people continue to fight for power and their desire to be the one ruler in the final installment following  The Young Elites and The Rose Society.

Adelina is where she wants to be after the first two installments of this trilogy and that is as the White Wolf ruler.  She has reversed all prejudice and killings of the marked (those with powers) and has reversed the hatred she and her people faced and now in pure revenge fashion, aims it towards her former perpetrators.  She, along with her Rose Society of warriors, ensures that all marked (those formerly dubbed the ‘malfettos’) are respected in society. Her anger, and the voices in her head, make her self-conscious, paranoid, and cruel.

A few countries away her sister Violetta’s health is failing and a  prediction given earlier that the Elites will lose their powers and die seems to be coming true.  Violetta is protected by a powerful group of Elites – the same group that used to work with Adelina.  The Daggers know Adelina has gone off the deep end with her quest for revenge. They are another group vying for power.

Then there is Queen Maeve, one of the best female characters since Lady Macbeth, who harbors the two men that she brought back from death – and not with their former humanity.  Enzo, the former Malfetto Prince is still as powerful, but will kill more easily and Maeve must realize that her youngest brother, the one she always protected, is now more harmful than she realized.  Better think twice before bringing people back from the Underworld.  So Maeve, her soldiers, and her half-dead violent men are the third group.

Soon all sides collide in a battle of skill, power, and death.  People are captured by the other side and no one seems safe from each other or from the new threat they all face as marked malfettos, but a larger issue faces the powerful marked leaders: they are losing their powers.  A prophecy that was shared in the second book of the series seems to be coming true and now these strong leaders and enemies must come together for their own survival.  As battles continue, more people die (seriously – it’s like a Game of Thrones season), we wonder who will survive, who will retain power, and who will be the last leader standing. As the Elites travel to find the Gods and into the Underworld in order to learn why their powers lessen, more die on their journey.  This is a conclusion to the series that was focused on power and ruling an empire, but resolves in characters finding forgiveness, peace, love, and loyalty.

All in all after a violent, power hungry series, the Elites all finish mostly happily – if they were lucky enough to survive – and it’s a sweet ending, full circle all the way.

Wither – Lauren DeStefano

Dystopian, Fantasy, Female Leads

In a future where science has resulted in men dying at the age of 25 and women at the age of 20, life rules have changed and what is legal has certainly changed. Previous generations tried to create a super-race, but instead have given early death sentences to future generations.

The Gatherers, a group of men who kidnap women to be young brides only to procreate before their deaths and help the human race survive, have captured Rhine.  She now faces a future away from her brother and as a new bride in a house that feels more prison than “starter home.”  Along with her are two other teenagers.  These are her future sister wives.  This is part dystopian and part Mormon family lifestyle.  While their groom Linden seems to actually be considerate, Rhine soon realizes he is in the dark on how the girls were captured and sent to his mansion.  At the patriarchal lead is Linden’s dad Vaughn, who even though he is one of the first generation doctors, there is a sinister side to him and what goes on in the basement of the mansion.  Is he really working on a cure that will let people live past their 20’s?

Rhine must deal with her spoiled captivity and fights against it the full time she’s in the mansion.  Her sister wives are opposites and while young Cecily is eager for the marriage, Jenna approaches this kidnapping as a place to die.  Friendships among the ladies occur, but their differences are always apparent in how much they give in to the marriage and inner resistance.    Rhine wants to escape and must find a way to escape, under the noses of Vaughn and Linden, but also find her way back to her brother.

There’s mystery, love, relationships, and enough questions left unanswered that the series is worth a read.


The Chemical Garder series continues with Fever and Sever

Serafina and the Black Cloak

Action, Fantasy, Female Leads, Young Readers

A setting similar to Downton Abbey with the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina,  a girl who is so sneaky many don’t know she exists, and a man who makes children disappear into smoke.  This is a dark mystery [with a happy ending] with a brave girl as its protagonist.


 

Biltmore-Estate

The real Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina


Serafina lives in the basement of the Biltmore Estate with her Pa, who is the handyman.  The Vanderbilt’s do not know of her existence or that they live in the basement.  One night while Serafina is sneaking around as the rat catcher, she witnesses a young girl being chased by a man in a black cloak, who later makes the little girl disappear and come after Serafina herself.  As Serafina investigates Clara’s disappearance she looks at the servants, Vanderbilts themselves, and at the guests wondering how to look at people and see if they are honest and how to tell truth from lies.

When her Pa tells her she is not his blood daughter, but a newborn babe he found in the woods, after a creature of dark magic left a mess of babies she realizes the world is not fair to those who do not look like them. Just because she has gold eyes, her spine was twisted, and because her body was deformed, many townspeople and even the nuns did not want to help her Pa save this baby.  At such a young age, little Serafina has seen injustice and mystery.  When another child goes missing, Serafina and the young Master Braeden being to investigate.  She believes she knows which guest is the mysterious man in the black cloak who takes children and she is determined to find them and stop him.  There is also a bit of mystery to her own past as well that she discovers.

This is a bit of fantasy and a lot of mystery.  There is the power of the cloak and also a shapeshifter involved, but more importantly is the lesson of a little girl who doesn’t quite look like everyone else, but who is good and kind.  Good conquers evil; Appearances do not matter; People who are different from one another can be friends.

“Character isn’t defined by the battles we win or lose,

but by the battles we are willing to fight”

Serafina realizes that being a part of the world is much better than just observing it.  She also thinks multiple times about how being judged on appearance or being treated because she looks differently is not fair, but that it’s character that matters.  She and her Pa both do not fit the norm of the Vanderbilt’s guests’ appearance or manners, but they are good people who, in the end, work hard, help others, and are rewarded.

I am a little surprised this is Juvenile (Serafina is 12) due to the scary encounters Serafina has with the man in the black cloak and the whole children disappearing thing.  But there is a happy ending so maybe that’s why.  Kids who like mystery and a little fantasy will enjoy it ans Serafina is a quality character.


Sequel: Serafina and the Twisted Staff                                     sera 3

 

The Gathering – Kelley Armstrong

diversity in YA, families, Fantasy

A teenage girl lives in a community owned by a pharmaceutical company and the town thinks nothing of it (#1 mystery foreshadow).  Oh yeah, her best friend – a great swimmer – drowned last year (#2 mystery foreshadow) and she can heal animals faster than the vet. It isn’t until a newcomer comes to down, an old lady calls Maya a witch – and that’s why her biological parents left her (ouch! They just met), and she begins to have fainting spells does Maya think her life may not be as normal as it seems.  Lots of mysteries thrown in this first book of Darkness Rising.

She also seems to connect closely with animals, mostly the cougars who live on the park her dad manages.  Yeah…. she thought this was a normal life.  Although I guess when you live in isolation your idea of ‘normal’ needs to be put in perspective. So this is fantasy and clearly the real reason all of these scientists and families live isolated will come out, but what begins at a normal teenage party results in the realization that skinwalkers (shape shifters) exist and a certain birthmark identifies you as such.  Have I mentioned that all of these teenagers excel at some athletic ability: swimming, boxing, running?  And the company which owns the town sends a team of doctors once a year to do physical check ups on these kids. Part Native American folklore and part Science Fiction, the story incorporates many creative elements to keep the mystery going nearly to the end.  And as it’s the first of a series….. the mystery clearly continues past shape shifters, strangers with guns, and the reason the town has to be evacuated.

Other topics: folklore, adoption, love, death, and communicating with animals.   So far this series is safe for younger readers – minus one incident with a drink being drugged, but nothing happened.


Series continues with The Calling and The Rising.

 

It’s Not Summer Without You – Jenny Han

death, families, love

Well I picked up this audio CD without knowing it was a 2nd in a series.  That’s OK, I like Jenny Han and I caught on.  It’s a story about loss and how one moves on from loss.   In this case it’s our narrator, Belly (guess I should have read the first of the Summer series to know why her nickname is ‘Belly’).  Anyway, her pseudo aunt has died and left many heartbroken, but she is also recovering from the breakup with Conrad, Suzanne’s son, and summertime childhood friend turned fling after many years.

A good amount of teenage questioning occurs such as how, as we age relationships change.  Conrad struggles with the loss of his mom and turns everyone away, while his brother Jeremiah is happy to rekindle his old friendships – especially when Conrad disappears for a few days. The kids have an unrealistic few days at the summer “Cousins” beach house (unsupervised), but it’s a nice coming of age / grieving / growing up that any teen reader will enjoy due to those days of freedom.

What is significant in this novel which deals with death is that the question of how one grieves is brought up numerous times.  Sometimes even to question whose grief is more important than other person’s grief – the sons, the best friend, the ex-husband?  How everyone reacts to death is different not only based on the relationship, but based on each individual, and Belly finds out that its not whose grief that is most important, but that it is dealt with properly in a way to heal and move on.

Still, I prefer (and loved) To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before also by Jenny Han, which also offers a great coming of age story, but a bit more comical.

The ending though totally makes me want to read the third book – it’s years later and Belly runs out on her own wedding…..what!?!

Series: The Summer I turned Pretty 

the-summer-I-turned-pretty

The Rose Society – Marie Lu

Action, Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, gay characters, Read-a-Likes, Series, Young Readers

So. Excited. For. This. Sequel!!!!  There are some awesome females in this series:  “Right now, what I want is the throne.  Enzo’s power.  A perfect revenge.  And all the Inquisitors, queens, and Daggers in the world won’t be able to stop me.” (196)   —— Boom ———

Adelina is strong and she and her sister immediately begin their search for other Elites.  In hiding their powers, they sneak among society, but ever fearful of being caught by the Inquisitors ruled by Teren and Queen Giulietta – those who fear the malfettos (aka: gifted people after the fever left them with powers.  Those with the strongest powers are the Elites).  This sequel immediately keeps the plot moving and character’s personalities grow.  I may just prefer the sequel to the debut, something that I haven’t done since Catching Fire from the The Hunger Games series.

Raffaele Laurent Bessette is a new leader of the Dagger Society and a former consort, and former confidant to Prince Enzo – an Elite himself who was killed by Teren, (the self hating Elite who works and loves Queen Giulietta, the sister of Enzo) —- a very connected group of characters for sure.  While Raffaele is taken under a new Queen’s charge he struggles with the loss of Enzo.  Maeve, the Malfetto Queen and ally to Enzo with her vengeance and violent tendencies, has recently risen to power and has no problems using Raffaele as a tool, even if it means his death.  She fights and has a ferocious white tiger and I keep thinking of Lady MacBeth, yep – she’s sort of that frightening as a newly crowned young Queen.  Her power is one of the darkest.

Lots of secrets and trickery, but a fast moving plot and unlike Six of Crows, which has similarities, this one is easier to follow.  Maybe it’s just that  we’re following 3 groups instead of 6 backstories, but it flows better.  And as far as sequels go, it keeps you reading and I almost want to reread it.

Another side of the plot’s maturity deals with love, the disappointment with it (not in a teenage sappy love story).  It covers the gut wrenching loss of a confidant, the cruelty given by a parent, and true abandonment.  Not to mention our characters have to choose between friends, choose who suffers pain (even death), and who to let go.  Adelina certainly comes to understand how her ideal of love has changed.

“I’m suddenly angry.  Why must I lose everything that I care for? Why is love such a weakness? I wish, for an instant, that I didn’t need such a thing.  I can win the same things in my life with fear, with power.  What is the point of searching for love, when love is nothing but an illusion?”

I think what really makes this book stand out is the darkness that comes through for many of the characters, Adelina mostly who struggles with a desire of revenge and power, but also of the prejudice towards the malfettos.  Eventually her drive for power, and the whispers in her head overtake her initial goal of justice and it’s a glorious spiral out of control.  One that is very Shakespearean or Game of Thrones like.  Not a typical depth found in Young Adult Literature and one Marie Lu covers so well.  You will not put this book down for the last half, I promise.

Sadly, I must now wait for the third book, but at least we’re already into 2016 right?   I love this series and recommend it to male and female students and also to adults.  It does not disappoint in action, plot, creativity, and characters.

The Unwanteds – Lisa McMann

Fantasy, Favorites, Safe Bets, Series

The cover proudly quotes Kirkus Reviews describing the book as  “The Hunger Games Meets Harry Potter” and that is a pretty accurate statement.

Children, teens, and adults will all enjoy this 7 (about to be 8) book series where children are determined to be “Wanteds”, “Necessaries”, or “Unwanteds” based on intelligence vs. creativity.  For Alex, an Unwanted, he assumed he’d be executed after the Purge – as that is what has occurred for decades, but instead all of the Unwanteds are rescued each year and live peacefully hidden away in a magical part of the forest run by an elected official, who is supposed to execute the very children he protects.

In Artime, the children are encouraged and taught to express themselves and their creativity.  Those with talent for acting, writing, painting, and drawing being to hone their talents.  As they master basic levels, they then begin their magical training [see how Harry Potter-esque this is.]  After about 6 months, their skills have advanced, but Alex still misses his twin brother (a Wanted) and finds a way to communicate with him.  At the same time Mr. Today informs the student body, professors, and magical creatures and statues that he fears someday in the near future they will be found and will be forced to defend one another and Artime.

In a magical, hidden forest, where creativity is encouraged and slam poetry or splatter painting can be magical defenses, who wouldn’t find enjoyment in this story?

Very enjoyable both for the magic and the politics between Quill and Artime.  Only a few deaths in the battle at the end, but similarly as Harry Potter, I suspect it gets darker as the series continues.

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unwanteds

Halo – Alexandra Adornetto

death, religious, Series

I usually don’t read angel books, but this came recommended.  Angels are coming to Earth to try and get humanity on the right track.  This is less about going to church and more about stopping violence so I thought that was a good enough reason to begin reading.  It’s the first of a trilogy so who knows how into religion it goes, but considering the following titles are Hades and Heaven, I’m guessing it gets deeper.  What I like about this series so far is less the idea of angles and more the budding love story between Bethany (the teen angel) and Xavier.  He is School Captain and overall nice guy, but still guarded after the death of both his girlfriend and best friend.  Odd things have occurred in this town, which is why Bethany and her two siblings – both Heavenly and as a cover story for their Earthly presence – were sent.

As Bethany learns the ways of a small town and stereotypical high school experiences, she sees the good in humanity.  It isn’t until the (obvious) introduction of the mysterious, cute, British rebel that the storyline isn’t all rainbows and goodness.  It’s obvious from the beginning of meeting Jake Thorne that he will be a demon or something to counter the good (and lazily named) sibling trio, whose chosen last name is Church.

twilight_book_cover

I kept thinking this shared the obvious, and overly too perfect for each other love of the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer.  Two beings, from different worlds, are both drawn to one another and in a far, too dramatic in teen angst, but too mature in adult reasoning and relationship revelations type of love relationship.  In these two books, the ability to process such complex relationship issues as one would have if loving an angel from Heaven or a vampire from hundreds of years ago is not a realistic ability in maturity of the typical 17 year old.  But why try to draw reason in these plots when the series is so clearly for preteen girls just beginning to think of relationships and wanting the never-ending love that they believe is the love story waiting for them?

This has an OK storyline.  It certainly won’t offend most parents since it involves angels and at least in this first segment, it’s not too religious to offend this laid back Episcopalian.  Jake eventually gets a following and brings some demons to earth and our angels must intervene, but I am sort of curious about the next in the trilogy…… alluring most readers with the title of Hades and with the promise that a spurned and angry Jake (demon) Thorne is returning.

series

Overall, this is just as over the top teen love and high school driven plot as many YA novels where the love story is between a mortal and immortal being.  Not sure how religious it goes, but it is not subtle in showing how decisions (drinking, dating, sex, grades, responsibility) affect one’s life, which is probably a lesson many preteens need to be reminded of and one most parents wouldn’t mind this angle-mortal love story teaching.

Deadweather and Sunrise (The Chronicles of Egg) – Geoff Rodkey

Action, Fantasy, Series

Adventure, pirates, mystery, and a girl…… This is an exciting story, the first of the series, about 13 year old Egg (Egbert) who lives with his father and two older, crass and cruel, siblings.  Their father is a fruit plantation owner who employees pirates on a miserably hot island where rude behavior is the norm.  Only when the family goes to Sunrise island (a more civilized city) and Egg meets Millicent does he feel he has found someone to talk to who treats him kindly.

After a freak hot air balloon accident, Egg finds himself without his uncaring and crass family.  For the next few weeks he stays with Millicent and Mr. Pembroke and thinks his life has changed for the better.  Sadly, that is not the case and in a similar feel as the Lemony Snicket series things continue to go from bad to worse for our friend Egg.  From nearly being murdered in a ruse for his land to being a prisoner aboard a pirate ship, Egg finds he is truly alone and must think quickly, act alone, and not trust the various gangs of pirates he’s grown up among.  Once he realizes Pembroke was behind his family’s death, he returns to Sunrise with a new sidekick, the quest to rejoin Millicent and tell her the truth, and to claim his family’s plantation.

This is juvenile adventure and certainly safe for most readers – other than the dead family bit – and the pirate adventure, hidden treasure, and sailing the sea is more adventure than a lost love story (be the lost love from his family or Millicent).  A good time, and probably an entertaining conclusion to the series.

egg.jpg