Hades – Alexander Adornetto

love, religious, Series, Uncategorized

This is the sequel to Halo and while I normally don’t read religious focused YA, I was curious as to how the angel got kidnapped and into  Hades.  The story continues with Beth, an angel sent to Venus Cove with her fellow angels covering as her older brother and sister.  She still is in the relationship with Xavier, a human who knows all about the angels.  As the students return to school the struggles of an appeared teen suicide still haunts Beth and her friends.  On Halloween, the girls decide to do a seance – and thus, evil returns to Venus Cove.

The story is actually entertaining, if juvenile in how relationships are perceived and the stereotypes of activities in Hades occurring.  Yes, Adornetto even goes so far to not use the word “hell”, but Hades even though vocabulary is mature and violence takes place.  It’s an odd combination of innocence with Beth’s point of view on love, but then with a very obscure and impressive vocabulary.  Juvenile in plot and story – but with writing of someone who knows how to use a thesaurus!  I think this is why it’s a safe series and I have middle school girls reading it.  The romance is interesting to them and the overall point is to be more good and angelic than bad and unkind.

We do meet Lucifer (who the demons call “big daddy”) and witness traditional sins, learn the history of fallen angels, and that a glimmer of hope causes some Hades to break loose in Hades. Beth does have a few other lost souls trapped who try and help her and once she learns how to witness and connect with Xavier and her siblings, the plot continues with the angel and human brigade (my words, not the author’s) trying to find a way to rescue their angelic Beth.  So with portals to and from hell, I mean Hades, an archangel, a seraphim, and a nun to assist, and two teenage humans, the struggle for the angel who may start the apocalypse by being in Hades is real and a unique plot.

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Truthwitch – Susan Dennard

Action, Fantasy, Female Leads

The concept of being able to “read” people takes on a variety of abilities through the witches in this fantasy.  There are many who hold magical power that different groups want to master: the ability to know whether someone tells the truth, the ability to “smell” and find any foe, and the ability to see the threads that connect people to one another and understand the making of your enemies and friends.

Safiya and Iseult are witches on the run, after a robbery gone wrong against a powerful man and his Bloodwitch bodyguard, the one who can “smell” true witches powers.  In other words, he is on the hunt for Safi – a Truthwitch.  The larger plot is a 20 year truce about to be lifted between different empires.  This is where readers meat Prince Merik, the son of a King, but one who holds no real magic.  He is, therefore, an ostracized disappointment and his sister will be the powerful Queen, and skilled in magic, after their father dies.

The women must separate for survival and each begin a separate journey which they must overcome stereotypes, arranged marriages, and true power.  Once reunited you would hope for an easier journey for the friends, but that is not the case.  As they are hunted, they must rely on new partnerships – even though they are only contracts for money.  Still adventure abounds, even with the occasional confusion of “Now which witch is this?”


Series The Witchlands continues with not two, but three planned sequels.

The Glass Sword -Victoria Aveyard

Fantasy, Favorites, Female Leads, Series

Oh conflicted Mare Barrow, power-hungry and deceiving Maven, and crazy Shakespearean Queen Elara….. how I’ve been waiting for your return!

Aveyard picks up right where our beloved rebels within the Scarlet Guard left off – rescuing Mare and taking Cal prisoner – but the newly crowned KING Maven is on their tails with the Silver army and declaring Cal a murderous traitor and Mare an enemy to be killed.  Maven no longer hides his power hungry persona or distain for the Reds and now, with the crown, he holds the power to strengthen the attack on the Reds.  Since he also knows that Mare is not the only Red with powers he wants to capture any powerful Newbloods as well as the Scarlet Guard. Speaking of the Scarlet Guard, it is stronger and smarter than Mare realized and Farley, although strong and a good leader, is not the leader at all.

Like previous series, this second installment is full of action and the plot progresses from the very beginning.  The second is often my favorite of series from titles like Catching Fire and The Rose Society and this one continues that favoritism.

Our strong and conflicting characters now realize they must rely on one another as Mare, Captain Fairley, Cal, and Shade break away from one group of captors and into the clutches of another.  It seems Maven’s power has stretched through the land showing  the false story he created of Cal’s treachery in manipulating the truth for his gain.  With the lists of Newbloods (the same list Maven is using to kill Reds with power), the crew flies among villages to try and build an army of Reds with power against Maven and the silvers. Mare struggles with no longer being the Mare from the Barrows, nor the pretend Silver of the palace.  As she finds the rebellion leader within her, she struggles with what she has lost of her home-life, but also benefiting from traits and skills she learned from the Silvers.  How can she find her true self when her drive for justice contradicts her ideals?  Was her time with the Silvers actually helpful to the leader she has become?

“To rise. And rise alone.” It echoes like the howl of a wolf.  “I see you as you could become, no longer the lightning, but the storm. The storm that will swallow the world entirely”   (306)

As Mare and team gather more Newbloods, she hears others are being killed and tortured by Elara’s mind control and are even facing fighting for the Silvers.  Mare takes on the pressure of leadership and fear takes its toll on Mare.  As her confidence and pride succumbs to grief and guilt, she realizes all too late that a leader can still trust the people near her.  With plans of an attack and a path of justice, she is caught off guard and her future is uncertain once she reunites with Maven.  It’s still a battle between the Scarlet Guard and the Silvers, the difference now is that Mare is willing to risk herself to protect those she loves – even at the cost of herself.

“If I am a sword, I am a sword made of glass, and I feel myself beginning to shatter” (250)

 

As with any political struggle and a sudden rise to fame, Mare has soon lost the closeness of her inner circle as she has made decisions they do not believe were right nor necessary.  Only when a trusted person returns to her life does Mare realize how she can still maintain some of her ideals and values she had in the Burrow even as she takes on a new  role with command in the Scarlet Guard.  She is told

“No one is born evil, just like no one is born alone.  They become that way, through choice and circumstance.  The latter you cannot control, but the former…” (411)

The sequel ends with Mare in the lowest place she could find herself and it appears the Scarlet Guard cannot help.  Oh, and of course the side plot of Maven’s to bring down the Reds and Newbloods…. the 5,000 teenagers being sent to battle that now are without Mare’s rescue.  Who will win the next power struggle between the Silvers and the Scarlet Guard?  Will the Newbloods continue to be accepted and protected by the Scarlet Guard or will Maven achieve his genocide of these Reds with power?  Then there’s Mare herself, now at full control of her enemies.


The series continues with Book 3 and Book 4, both untitled.  But to quench your thirst, Aveyard has created two prequels that are already published:

Queen Song (The Red Queen #0.1) and Steel Scars (The Red Queen #0.2) which give us background to the first queen, Queen Coriane and Fairley, respectively.  A continuation of strong female characters I’m sure.

 

The Rest of Us Just Live Here – Patrick Ness

Action, diversity in YA, families, Fantasy, Favorites, gay characters, mental illness

This is a funny combination of fantasy and realistic fiction for a group of seniors in high school whose town seems to face some type of fantasy end-of-the-world scenario every few years: vampires, ghosts, mystical deaths. Besides trying to survive strict parents, these teens need to simply survive.

In the heart of the novel is Mikey and his family – overbearing mom with dreams of becoming a US Congresswoman, alcoholic dad, a recovering anorexic sister, and a little sister who all adore and is a typical 10 year old in love with a boy band.  His school friends are a small group consisting of the missionary’s beautiful African-American daughter whom he has liked for years, a gay friend with a Goddess as a grandmother and who has the ability to communicate with all felines and also has healing powers, and his older sister Mel who is repeating senior year, due to the anorexia the previous year.  This is a mix of the quirky, well written, TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer’s fantasy elements and a modern story of families and friends. Trying to survive high school cliques and demanding parents is hard enough, but with the occasional mystical mystery, teenagers dying far too frequently, and hoping the high school isn’t blown up (again) makes this a comical read.

The group takes on a few newcomers as more weird things occur across town: dead dear coming back to life, blue light shooting through the sky, and more Indie kids die each day.  I love how the chapters bounce between Mikey’s narration of his high school life and family and a factual account of how the Immortals invade the town – and the Finns, Satchel, Kerouac, etc find their demise.  As they get closer to graduation, the weirdness and deaths continue and finally Jared admits not everyone can be a hero and perhaps the friends should just survive and get out of town after graduation.

Other elements: alcoholic father, anorexia, OCD, gay characters.  After graduation, as the friends sit observing their high school burning after the Immortals blew it up, a touching realistic thought comes from Jared, you know – the 1/4 God who can heal animals and people – and that is that everyone has stuff in their lives to deal with, whether it’s illness, being one of the Indie kids, or being a deity.  Since Ness can bounce between reality and this sort of fantasy element so well, it comes off light and humorous at times, but there is a deeper lesson.   Teenagers who feel out of place, will find a comfort in this group of friends and the town that seems to have unfair luck with soul eating ghosts, vampires, and Immortals.  I laughed a lot, I found the friendships real and loyal, and I also enjoyed the plot-within-a-plot of the Immortals and Indie kids.

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.

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.

 

 

The Red Queen – By Victoria Aveyard

Uncategorized

Mare, no not like a horse, but like an impoverished teen living in a caste society, faces a bleak future with her life already mapped out: to go fight in a war when she turns 18.  In doing so she follows her brothers into a never-ending war.  The Reds are the poor who must do as the Silvers command.

Her world soon turns upside down when her family loses some financial security, her best friend loses his apprenticeship and faces going to war, and she meets a kind stranger who gets her a job in the Palace.  Soon Mare discovers more about a rebellion as well as a power she didn’t know she had.  Secret powers a’la The Young Elites .  The King and Queen are shocked and angered that a Red has powers, which they believed only Silvers were given – being the superior and more prestigious people.  They cannot lock up Mare or kill her as there were too many witnesses who saw “little lightening girl” and Mare ‘s ability to control electricity.  Instead, they create a new backstory for her and engage her to their younger son Mason.

Mare begins living the lie knowing one mistake will be her death.  Living among her enemies, she finds a few friends who do not trust the King and Queen or the decades long war the Silvers force the Reds to fight.  As a rebellion begins, Mare understands more of her power, and friends and foes take on new roles, she must decide how far she is willing to go for the good of her people or her own safety.

This has the personal drama of Game of Thrones (with less of the political storylines, and adult content of course) and is more dark than The Selection, but fans of both would enjoy this for some of the wicked characters.


Sequel: Glass Sword (and she is working on a third)

The Young Elites – Marie Lu

Uncategorized

young

We begin with the pending execution of 16 year old Adelina.  Sounds promising right – in a dystopian, Shakespearean, Europe a ‘la 1400s and torture….sadly, this story fizzled for me.

After an illness, there’s a small group of Malfettos who have grotesque scars, but amazing powers. The Reaper, Magiano, The Wind Walker, and The Alchemist are The Young Elites.  They are fighting for survival against the Inquisitor.  Of course Adelina is rescued by them and in an X-men sort of way, learns about this group of Elites and learns about her personal powers.  Together – they fight injustice, try to help the innocent….. wait, I’ve been watching too much of the Avengers.  But they form a group surrounded by the Royal Malfetto-inflicted Prince Enzo (see why it’s Shakespearean?)

With guilt of her dead mother and abandoned sister, Adelina doesn’t know whether she should trust the world she finds herself or should run on her own.  She begins training with the Young Elites, but soon after she feels secure in her new surroundings,  something must shake that up.  In this case, it’s the Queen’s evil (self-hating Malfetto) Teren who has kidnapped Adelina’s sister and is holding her hostage.  Only Adelina’s divulging secrets of the Young Elites will save her sister.

This was a mix of Mortal Instruments and Game of Thrones to me, maybe that’s why I couldn’t get totally into it.  I kept visualizing the Queen as Cersei and Adelina as Clary, but neither female is as strong as the woman each reminded me of.   The story line finally picks up when Adelina is no longer able to keep both sides thinking she is true to them and thankfully, action begins.  I’m not surprised it needs to be a series since it began so slowly.  Truth be told, I wasn’t impressed with the Legend series either so maybe Marie Lu and I just aren’t meant to have an author-reader relationship.

Still, the teens will dig it, especially those that liked Mortal Instruments and that like tales of Royalty with a little Shakespearean murder.

Steelheart (Reckoners #1) – Brandon Sanderson

Uncategorized

steelheart

It’s not often I am into a book within minutes….. this is one of them.  Popular with some of my students – the preteen boys especially – I felt it was time to try and I’m glad I did.

Think magic transformers who have the strength of superheroes taking over mankind and destroying the world as they (the Epics) fight among themselves for the most power.   Epics do not care much for humans and have quickly become stronger than any government or the military.  David, our narrator, has been studying Epics for 10 years ever since his dad was killed by Steelheart, the strongest of the Epics who runs the city, the newly steel heavy Chicago.

David finds the Reckoners, the squad of humans who hunt the Epics.  This has been his other goal for the last ten years: To join the Reckoners and kill Steelheart.  The ultimate revenge.

As David trains and shares his research with the Reckoners, he realizes fighting the Epics will be more difficult than he imagined.  Yet, he has a skill for the technological tools “Prof” shows him, he seems to have a quick instinct that saves them on numerous occasions, and he develops a hard crush on Megan.

This is a great  story – very action heavy, very futuristic, and very appropriate for preteens seeking some adventure without a lot of romance.

I will continue.  The Sequel: The Reckoners.