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.



Six of Crows -Leigh Bardugo

Fantasy, Female Leads, Young Readers

Continuing the YA trend of teens with special powers comes Six of Crows, a recently published book that I am reading within a month of being published and hope I’m ahead of the popularity – I predict it to become another YA popular book.

Chapters alternate between characters who hide their powers, are taken advantage of for their powers, and characters who are fighting for survival and those who have secret pasts in which they are trying to forget.  In other words —– exciting!  We have narration of male and female characters, but all are strong in mental ability or physical strength and in the first 10 chapters I just kept wanting them to get together already and become a force of rebels with superpowers like X-men.

I had to wait…… and wait.   Disappointingly long for any real action to get going. (Did I mention the wait?)

Kaz is sort of a gang ruler of misfits, thugs, and survivalists.  It’s a time where groups clash, powerful people are taken and locked away, and politics decide who survives.  As he gets together a group in a sort of Oceans 11 coming together to pull of a heist, readers slowly learn more of each of the six and of the heist.  It’s good enough with some action, but not near as much as I expected.  I kept thinking it would build.

Inej is a strong, confident, female – a loner for sure.  Jesper

Wylan is the out of place character, later to find out his sole purpose is to be a hostage against his powerful father…. until his power saves the crew.

Nina is respected and feared, and both quick and as silent as a cat.

Matthias is their captured hostage with a past with Nina, one in which both of them wish to alternate between loving and killing the other.

Trying to keep it all straight – me too. Finally around page 150 I was enjoying it.  Still, I couldn’t make myself finish it at this time.  Maybe later….. other people seem to like it so maybe I was just interrupted too often with this book and holidays got in the way – but I couldn’t force myself to finish it.  There were good parts so I was hopeful, but I’ve decided to let this one go.



Frozen (Heart of Dread #1) – Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston



In the future, the Earth is a frozen wasteland.  New Vegas still runs on casinos and crime, but is covered in ice.  Power is no longer held by politicians and government, but by criminals and underground markets.  Natasha (Nat) hides her power for fear of persecution like all the others who are marked with special abilities.  She must rely on others to flee New Vegas she comes across a team, the Runners, willing to smuggle her out – at a cost.

Wes, the team’s leader, doesn’t know that Nat is stronger and smarter than just a basic blackjack dealer when he agrees to take this job.  He is out of heat credits and running low on food and has his team to think of so once again he takes the job of as a Runner and tries to find the mysterious Blue.  Nat was given a necklace that seems to be the key to the Blue – both an oasis for those with special powers and also an environmental oasis away from the frozen land.  As the crew begins their journey, Nat’s secret is exposed causing division among Wes’ group.  Soon old members are gone and new ones join the ship.  With the addition of a woman with supernatural powers and a homosexual little person couple the crew is a bunch of misfits unlike the trained soldiers Wes is used to dealing with.

Wes’ past continues to haunt him both with internal guilt he can never let go and in everyday life as he runs into military officials and other seamen breaking laws.  Nat’s search for an oasis and Wes’ struggle with survival soon brings them together when Nat realizes their pasts are intertwined. Soon the slavers get a hold of the newly formed crew and though they are separated, our characters remain strong.

As the climax begins we learn Nat is much more powerful than even she knew.  We learn the answer to what the voice is in her head and how she has been able to survive extreme circumstances.  Though she finds answers to why she was used as a weapon in her past, the realization brings more questions about her future.

I think the authors set up a good premise for the second book, but I’m doubtful I will continue with this series.  The action did increase with the battles against the slave ships and the realization of Nat’s powers, but it’s not enough to keep me reading the second installment….. maybe.  Some quotes I find are building up Nat’s strength ….and I always like a Kick-Awesome YA female character.

Heart of Dread on Tumbler

Still, for readers who like fantasy and those especially who like adventures at sea it could be a good series.  Not a lot of romance in this one even though it’s a plot point so it’s (so far) safe for the younger YA readers – though the types of torture are a bit intense and the Flesh Markets are dark. I also give props for sneaking in the homosexual couple to a YA book.

Series continuation with Stolen and Golden.