The Gate Guardian’s Daughter by K.T. Munson. Book Review.

This prequel to a young adult fantasy series will give you a good idea if the novels would be to your liking.

The main character is intriguing and charming. Elisabeth is a mysterious creature about to transform from a child into something wondrous. She is cared for in a secluded home by a variety of “monsters.” She is not allowed to have contact with outsiders or to leave the premises but when a human boy climbs the tree on the border of the property things change.

The pace and story line are enjoyable to read although there is a tendency at times to add a necessary qualifiers which slow the pace. Shaking his head, he went straight to his seat as well.

The story focuses well on Elisabeth encounter with a mysterious boy and the fallout from her innocence.

We have one odd info dump which leads to nowhere:

“Later, when the Gate Guardians met, Malthael could discuss it with them. No doubt Meredith of Tym Resh would be displeased. He wondered if Brandon in Hystera would threaten the Det Mor Clan again. That could be amusing. Young Stella of Oran would no doubt remain as stoic as always. He had no idea how Yennifer would respond in Lyreane. She was always a hard one to read. All in all, he and Meredith would fight for everyone to keep a level head.”

but otherwise the text flows smoothly.

The prequel ends with both a resolution of the current crisis and an opening to a larger dilemma. I was intrigued to know what the future holds for Elisabeth.

The series promises to be filled with wonder, mystery, and likable unique characters.

(I would recommend a different font for the cover as this one is difficult to read.)

Julia Unbound by Catherine Egan. Book Review.

I won this book in a giveaway and didn’t realize until I received it that it was part three in a series. There was a lot of backstory that I had to figure out which made it difficult to connect with the main character. I suspect I would have enjoyed it a lot more if I had read the first two books.

The writer provides extensive detail into both the landscape and the history encompassing this novel. Her world-building is complex  and rich. Thankfully there is a detailed map and the city and a list of the thirty-nine terms and characters introduced in this book. Again, someone who had read the first books would probably be familiar with most of these.

The major premise of the story focuses on Julia who, in order to save her brother, has agreed to allow a parasite to slowly infect her body and take over her brain. She has only a short time to defeat her enemy, remove a sabotaged bomb from her brother’s chest, and pull out her parasite before it  takes over her mind. She has a watchdog reporting back all her movements to her enemy and must secretly fight against him or her brother will be killed even sooner.

Julia becomes embroiled in a fight for the throne involving witches  and other powerful beings. To complicate matters, she develops a fondness for the rightful heir while being forced to support a false claim. But Julia has  a special magical skill of her own which gives her a chance to navigate through the complex and deceptive political forays.

Perhaps because the story was so detailed and I had not read the first books, I found it difficult to connect with Julia and took quite a long time to finish the novel and tackle this review. Your experience, especially if you read the first two in the series, may be different. Eden is an excellent plotter and world builder. If you enjoy complex fantasies, this series is worth looking into.

 

 

Beware That Girl by Teresa Toten. Book Review.

Teresa Toten is the author of a remarkable book I have previously reviewed, The Unlikely Hero of Room 13B. This novel is quite different in style and substance.

Toten certainly  knows how to use plot twist in creative ways. The book veered off into unpredictable situations that built the tension of  this psychological  thriller exponentially. The first third of the book was rather slow but the last third was riveting.

Toten reveals just enough about the two main characters, Olivia and Kate, to build our curiosity and suspense as the story progresses. These girls are in their senior year and aiming for Yale University. We know that something has happened to both these girls to damage them deeply in different ways. We know that they are both keeping secrets. We know that they are both afraid. We know that something isn’t quiet right with the handsome Mr. Mark Redkin who takes an interest in them.

The author cleverly reveals snippets of Kate’s life that makes us question whether she is the hero or the villain in this drama. She uses people. Does she care for them at all? The answer is as complex as the plot itself.

My major criticism of this book would be that the dialogue clunks in places and seems artificial and flat at times. As well, there are moments when the point of view is muddied. Although this is a suspense novel, character plays a major role and believable dialogue is essential. The two brilliant girls did made some very stupid choices.

Although it doesn’t have the genius of 13B, I think this would make a great suspense movie with the right script writer and director. All in all, it was a very enjoyable read.

 

Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton. Book Review.

This  young adult book is about a middle grade student who has experienced  sudden onset severe schizophrenia. He has been moved to a new school for fresh start. His parents demand that the staff keep his medical condition secret. Adam falls in love with an intelligent and strong young lady named Maya. He is terrified that when she finds out about his illness, she will drop him.
Adam is on a trial drug because the standard medications do not work to control his  hallucinations which can be so severe that he has acted on them in the past including severe self injury. To complicate matters, his father has abandon him and his stepfather is nervous around him. Add to the fact that his mother becomes pregnant and we see that there are no simple solutions to a complicated issue.
The story was deeply introspective and this made it a little difficult to connect with the other characters who seemed flat in comparison.
This book is sure to elicit discussion and disagreement but it is also extremely informative as far as getting inside the head of a young man trying to cope with a extremely challenging condition. Adam is a likable and decent young man who deserves a better break than what life has given him. No matter how you feel about his family’s decisions with regard to Adam’s care and inclusion, you are bound to empathize and feel great compassion for this individual.

S.T.A.G.S. One Deadly Weekend by M.A. Bennett. Book Review.

S.T.A.G.S. stands for St. Aiden the Great School name for a Saint who made a stag invisible so the hunters couldn’t kill him. I couldn’t decide if it was ironic or deceptive that the school was called S.T.A.G.S. because the halls and rooms were filled with animal heads and the wealthy students participated heavily in a hunting for “sport” culture.

The protagonist, Greer, comes from a modest  background and is one of the targets of the Medievals, upperclass, traditional, anti-technology students who seem to run the school. Inexplicably, Greer receives and invitation, along with two other shunned students, to a weekend at the Medieval leader’s home for “Huntin’ Shootin’ and Fishin”. The wording struck me as odd since tyhese people prided themselves on being upper class and traditional but it may have been a touch of snide subtly directed at the three students being invited.

The three main characters, the bullied ones, we’re likable, understandable, brave and hopeful, the way real teens are. I especially liked Shafeen, an East Indian prince, who gave the villains their real challenge. Greer was well written, naive but smart, courageous but flawed, and mature enough to interest adult readers.

Although the plot was a little predictable, the author kept our suspense. Even though we had a pretty good idea of what the three teenagers would have to overcome, we did not know how this would unfold and whether they would all survive. The tension was built well but the ending went in the expected way. I would’ve preferred a less obvious twist.

While it seems believable and a small group of people could indeed engage in psychopathic behaviour it seems a little far-fetched that so many people were involved and so a large part of the community supported and covered for them. There seemed little purpose for it all.

In spite of my questions, if you’re looking for a suspenseful and scary book, this is a great read. I kept turning those pages long into the night.

Buy link http://a.co/ipBSzyi

My Favorite Five Young Adult Books I’ve Read in 2017

These are my favorite five young adult books I reviewed this year. They are listed in no particular order. Click on the title to go to the review.

Are You Seeing Me? by Darren Groth.

Both the major characters are engaging, complex, and selfless. I read this book in one night as I could not put it down. I loved both Justine and Perry. Both have big hearts, protective natures, a sense of humor, and courage.

 

Goodbye Days by Jeff Zentner.

Zentner understands survivor’s guilt at the deepest level. This is a story about the tragic deaths of three teenagers and the impact it has on the fourth friend and their families.

 

Trell by Dick Lehr.

This young adult book is told from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old girl named Van Trell Taylor whose father, Romero, is in prison. She was a baby when he was convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old girl in a gang/drug related crime where someone else was the target. Trell’s mother, Shey, is confident that, even though her husband was a drug dealer and petty criminal, he was not capable of murdering anyone. Trell enlists the aid of a new lawyer and burned out journalist to find the truth about her father.

 

Optimists Die First – Life Ahead: Proceed with Caution by Susin Nielsen.

17-year-old Petula De Wilde is plagued with guilt over her accidental contribution to her baby sister’s death. In addition, she has become obsessed with the idea that anything less than constant vigilance can result in tragedy, leaving her parents with no children at all. As a result, she will not shake hands, walk anywhere near construction sites, get in elevators, or do anything that remotely endangers her safety.

 

Avians by Timothy Gwyn.

Timothy Gwyn has built a fascinating and completely believable world in his first 416 page young adult science-fiction novel. His expertise with flying gives authenticity to the events without overwhelming the reader with technical jargon. Girls whose lives are miserable may be able to escape by joining the avians, an aeronautical group of young women fiercely loyal to each other and in love with flying glider planes used for commercial delivery and rescue missions.

THIS WEEK

Monday – Favorite adult book

Tuesday – Five Favorite Young Adult Books

Wednesday – Five Favorite Middle Grade Books

Thursday – Seven Favorite Nonfiction Picture Books

Friday – Fifteen Favorite Fiction Picture Books

Trell by Dick Lehr. Book Review.

This young adult book is told from the viewpoint of a 13-year-old girl named Van Trell Taylor whose father, Romero, is in prison. She was a baby when he was convicted of the murder of a 13-year-old girl in a gang/drug related crime where someone else was the target. Trell’s mother, Shey, is confident that, even though her husband was a drug dealer and petty criminal, he was not capable of murdering anyone. Trell enlists the aid of a new lawyer and burned out journalist to find the truth about her father.

Although the story is action-packed and suspenseful with a plot filled with twists and turns, it is also an insightful and empathetic study of Trell and Shey. The impact of having a father or husband in jail colors the family’s entire life. Trell and her mother visit Romero in prison every week. Trell’s bedroom mirror holds a picture of her with her father in prison on every birthday. She keeps her father’s history as private as she can from classmates and copes with overbearing and assuming teachers with no true understanding of her family or life.

As the story progresses, the reader becomes more and more invested in the lives of this trio. We suffer with Trell as she learns of her father’s shady past and the evidence against him. It becomes apparent that, while Romero made some bad choices in his past, he is now a mature, responsible adult and loving father. The reader shares Trell’s concerns and increasing hopefulness for her father’s release.

What blew me away was the author’s note. The story is closely based on a true incident in Boston and the writer was the investigating journalist who broke the case wide open! Whenever I read the story of this type, I wonder how many men have been imprisoned (or in some countries, executed) for crimes they did not commit. Dick Lehr gives us some insight into the repercussions of these terrible events.

Personal note: This is one of many reason why I will always be grateful there is no death sentence in Canada as improved DNA tests have shown the imprisonment of the innocent is not as unusual as we think.

This book would interest anyone 13 and up and would be a catalyst for important discussions. Highly recommended.

Buy link http://a.co/4VBsxVo

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Suess. Book Review.

 

I remember when this book first came out. Every principal and vice principal who had to MC a high school or elementary school graduation ceremony latched onto this book as a holy text. It was read to classes year after year and then continued to be spread by parents gifting it to their children. There is a reason it resonated so well.

Not only does this book contain sound advice for any young person heading out into the world but it serves as a reminder to us all of our possibilities and our challenges. It can be applied to the beginning of any new venture. I realized, because my granddaughter has a rather large vocabulary, that this book was suitable to read to her before beginning junior kindergarten. Although the message certainly wasn’t internalized on the first read through, the book launches well into discussion.

Everyone worries, whether they are beginning kindergarten, being promoted to the head CO, starting their own business, or leaving the nest, whether they will find their place and fulfill their potential. This book has a perfect combination of positive expectations and reality. “You’ll pass the whole gang and you’ll soon take the lead.” is followed with “except when you don’t. Because, sometimes you won’t.” Note the word sometimes. The door is wide open. The possibilities are there.

When children are inheriting a dying world with ecosystems being destroyed and pollution, including the dumping of nuclear waste, completely out of control. With wars on going and wars threatening. With obesity and heart attack hand-in-hand with poor diet and factory farming. With climate change bringing desertification, tornadoes and floods and who knows what else. With inner-city violence and the shadow of terrorism. On and on and on. Children need to have confidence and feel empowered but also realize that they will not be able to fulfill every dream or every goal.  Some things are beyond their control. What amazing discussions this book can trigger for any age.

I would say, don’t wait till university graduation or even high school graduation. Get this book into your child’s hands as soon they are able to comprehend it. Then again, you might want to save it for that moment of doubt when he’she faces difficult choices.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Avians by Timothy Gwyn. Book Review.

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Timothy Gwyn has built a fascinating and completely believable world in his first 416 page young adult science-fiction novel. His expertise with flying gives authenticity to the events without overwhelming the reader with technical jargon. Girls whose lives are miserable may be able to escape by joining the avians, an aeronautical group of young women fiercely loyal to each other and in love with flying glider planes used for commercial delivery and rescue missions.

The girls are as unique as their reasons for joining. However, not everyone will make it through training. So many girls are washed out or killed that the older flyers don’t bother to learn their names until the recruits have proven themselves. Even experienced aviators can fall victim to an accident. Then, they may be “converted”, a mysterious and frightening prospect.

Gwyn juxtapositions two girls from the same household, Raisa, heiress to a rich and influential silk empire and Mel, a servant in her household who detests Raisa. Both girls wind up in the same squad. The opportunity to sabotage Raisa is not lost on Mel. It seems likely that only one of these girls will make it, but which one?

Girls and women are the heroes of this novel and, not for a moment, are they dependent on men to reach their true potential. The rivalries are genuine as is the sisterhood. Science fiction readers of all ages will enjoy this book but it will especially connect with those who are interested in flight or empowering young women.

Buy links

Barnes and Noble 

Amazon

Timothy Gwyn will be interviewed tomorrow on this blog.

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Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages

Munro vs. the Coyote by Darren Groth. Book Review.

 

Munro Maddux has a serious problem. Since his little sister died, his inner voice has taken control of his life. He calls it the coyote since it tricks and torments him relentlessly. It undermines his confidence, shames him, and encourages him to make psychologically and socially unhealthy choices. Munro decides he needs a dramatic change in his familial and social landscape in order to subdue the coyote. So, he leaves Vancouver, Canada for a six month exchange student arrangement with a family in Australia.

His host family and his high school are not informed of Munro’s struggle with anger, guilt, and depression but it soon becomes apparent that something is wrong. Fortunately for Monro he has a supportive and compassionate host family, new friends, and school administration. But, it is his volunteer work with the inhabitants of “Fair Go Community Village” that get past his barriers and enable him to face the truth about the coyote.

At times, I felt frustrated by Monro’s behaviour. So many people were available to support and cheer-on his recovery that his self-sabotage was confusing until the true version of his sister’s death was revealed.

Although Monro is not as loveable as Justine and Perry, Groth’s major characters in Are You Seeing Me?, and the voice of the coyote tends to distance the reader at times, I was anxious to see how Monro would rid himself of the negative inner voice. I did feel that he bordered on schizophrenia and should have been under the direct care of a psychiatrist while in Australia. His treatment seemed a bit casual for someone with borderline hallucinations.

The characters from Far Go Community Village stole the show. Monro’s two families and friends were nice but these people were rich, unique, insightful, and sometimes hilarious.

The loss of a sibling impacts differently on people. Not only due to the nature of the relationship but also because of the circumstances of the death. Groth examines this with sensitivity and a light touch. Well recommended.

I was given an advanced ebook copy to review.

Click here or on the cover for more info on Munro vs. the Coyote (purchase link)

Bonnie Ferrante: Books For All Ages