Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Last Star by Rick Yancey

The enemy is Other. The enemy is us.

They’re down here, they’re up there, they’re nowhere. They want the Earth, they want us to have it. They came to wipe us out, they came to save us.

But beneath these riddles lies one truth: Cassie has been betrayed. So has Ringer. Zombie. Nugget. And all 7.5 billion people who used to live on our planet. Betrayed first by the Others, and now by ourselves.

In these last days, Earth’s remaining survivors will need to decide what’s more important: saving themselves…or saving what makes us human.

–back cover of The Last Star by Rick Yancey

An alien invasion isn’t exactly a unique story. Whenever I go to tell someone about this series I feel kind of silly saying, “Yeah, aliens come and take over the world, but um…I promise it’s more interesting than that!” And it really is; I have genuinely enjoyed reading this story, but I felt a little let down with the last book.

The first book was amazing, so when I heard that it would be turned into a trilogy, I didn’t expect them to surpass the first book, and they did not, until the ending of The Last Star. The devastating–um, I mean beautiful–ending was possibly the most powerful part of the whole series, and that made some of the slowness from the second and third book worth reading.

The Last Star was an entertaining read overall. It kept me interested, but I did feel like some of the timeline was off and that some things from the third book did not add up to the second book. There was nothing major, just some elements of inconsistency.

As always, I love this author’s writing style. I love the short chapters, which is totally a matter of personal opinion, but the short chapters always make me so happy. Sometimes switching between points of view every few chapters would confuse me. I would miss that the point of view had switched–despite the obvious indicator–and get confused and have to backpedal.

Now, onto characters.

I was so disappointed with Cassie. She turned from a strong female character into a whiney and weak character. It was like she was a completely different character in this book, and I did not enjoy her point of view chapters.

Ben and Marika were developed excellently in this book, and I really grew to love them, but Sam is the one that I will never forget. He was just a baby, but he was so strong, and some of the things he had to do even adults would not be able to do. He is the character that will stick with me for a long time.

The sci-fi aspect of this last book was, at best, confusing. I had trouble following it at some points, and I think that if Rick Yancey would have kept it like the first and second books made it out to be it would have made a lot more sense.

And finally, the part of the book that drove me absolutely crazy…the romance. I am not one that needs romance in a story to begin with, but if it is done well, I don’t mind it, I may even enjoy it, but then there is this book. This quote sums it up: “My face is hot. I’m thinking of the night I landed on the shores of Evanland and planted my flag upon that sculpted beach.” The romance does not improve beyond that.

The book could have been written better in many places, but it is worth reading, because if nothing else it gives closure. I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

The war between humanity and Faerie devastated both sides. Or so 15-year-old Liza has been told. Nothing has been seen or heard from Faerie since, and Liza’s world bears the scars of its encounter with magic. Trees move with sinister intention, and the town Liza calls home is surrounded by a forest that threatens to harm all those who wander into it. Then Liza discovers she has the Faerie ability to see into the past, into the future, and she has no choice but to flee her town. Liza’s quest will take her into Faerie and back again, and what she finds along the way may be the key to healing both worlds.

Janni Lee Simner’s first novel for young adults is a dark fairy-tale twist on apocalyptic fiction as familiar as a nightmare, yet altogether unique.

Bones of Faerie by Janni Lee Simner

Bones of Faerie was really very dark, so here is your official content warning. If the death of children or abuse are subjects that you would not want to read about, this is not the book for you.

In the first page, it becomes evident that the main character Liza’s father had burned her baby sister to death. Throughout the book, this type of content comes up again many times. The book, however, is good, very interesting, and it kept me up way too late when I was reading it. It’s the type of book that you know is kind of twisted, but you just have to know what happens next.

I thought that the characters were strong and interesting. Liza was the main character, and I liked seeing her develop her powers. Overall, there was just a cast of good characters; in addition to Liza there was Matthew, Kate, Allie, and Caleb. Matthew surprised me with how he turned out to be. Allie was the perfect portrayal of a child, which was nice to see. She wasn’t overly tough or overly annoying–she was just a child.

My only complaint with the characters is that most of them weren’t very memorable. The two that I’ll probably remember are Caleb and Liza’s father. I’ll only remember Liza’s father because he was so horrible, but Caleb was fascinating and I am excited to see what happens to him in the rest of the trilogy.

Overall, this book was well-written, had a good set of characters and an interesting, compelling plot. I give it 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou

When mortal enemies Veronica and Heather get hit by a bar code scanner while fighting over the last copy of a hot fantasy novel, they are transported into the novel. Having accidentally killed the book’s heroine, Vero and Heather have no choice but to try to save the land of Galma from the Twilight Queen.

— back cover of The Wizard, the Witch, and Two Girls from Jersey by Lisa Papademetriou

This lighthearted and refreshing book was a quick and fun read. I was intrigued by the blurb and the author did not let me down. Hasn’t every reader imagined what it’d be like to live in their favorite book world before? Now imagine actually being taken there, but not just taken there–you accidentally kill the main character and now your real-life nemesis takes their place.

This book is meant to be fun, so I don’t feel as if we can expect to get too attached to the main characters. Veronica and Heather were good characters, and they were entertaining to read about although I don’t think they are all that memorable. They serve their purpose: to make you laugh and enjoy the story. They are not the type of characters that are unforgettable, but sometimes a story as light as this one has its own type of magic. My only complaint is that, at times, Heather could be very annoying.

The plot was intriguing and held me captive until the end.

The writing style was good. There wasn’t anything too exciting about it, but it did not distract from the story, and, in my opinion, if it doesn’t distract from the story it is a good writing style.

I give this book 4.5 out of 5 stars. I’d suggest it to anyone who is looking for a fun fantasy read.
Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: A Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn

As 14-year old Christy leaves her family’s Wisconsin farm to spend the summer at her wealthy aunt and uncle’s beach home in Newport, she realizes this could be the best season of her life. Through it all, will Christy keep her promise to her parents not to do anything she’ll regret?

–back cover of A Summer Promise by Robin Jones Gunn

There are some parts of this book that are good and some parts that could be improved, but overall this was a pretty good read for the right audience. I think that this book is definitely for younger teens, and I also think that it may be more so a book for Christians than for those of different faiths. I think that some things said in the book may have been said in an offensive manner.

I think that Christy is a great representation of a fourteen-year-old girl. It shows the awkwardness and insecurities that often come with this age. Christy experiences self-image issues and an aunt who is so concerned about Christy’s appearance passes down some of that fear to her. This can happen so often in families, and I think that Gunn portrayed this wonderfully.

That being said, her aunt drove me crazy. I think that she was unnecessarily cruel throughout the whole book. I loved her uncle’s carefree approach to life though. Todd, the love interest, occasionally drove me crazy, because he didn’t seem that interested in Christy. He seemed more interested in leading her to God and controlling her. He could be inconsiderate and a bit of a jerk at times, but he could also be really sweet when he wasn’t being a jerk. Overall I found him immature and annoying.

The two characters that I liked the most were probably two of the secondary characters, Tracy and Allissa. Tracy wasn’t in this book much, but she seemed like she was a lot more well-rounded than the other characters, and a lot less judgemental. Allissa seemed to be one of the more interesting characters because of her lifestyle. It was like she was being shamed by the author for being sexually active, though, and I did not appreciate that.

As for the writing style, I felt as if she had done a great job. I have no complaints here, really. She did well.

The plot was interesting, especially around the climax. The author held my attention throughout the whole book, but I think that the plot was used as a tool to preach to people. I understand that in Christian fiction there will be Christianity, but I think that this went too far. It wasn’t intricately woven into the plot; it was literally a character standing in front of others speaking to them in a preachy manner. There were also strong undertones of, “if you don’t believe, you will be thrown into hell.”

For the right audience, this book would be enjoyable, but I still found some issues with it despite that. So, I give it 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button.

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that.

–back cover of We Are the Ants by Shaun David Hutchinson

I really wasn’t sure what to think of this book. It was incredibly intense, and I think the whole thing needs a content warning for sexual content, a graphic rape attempt, and severe bullying.

I felt as if a lot of the book was just dramatic for the sake of being dramatic, and I really felt as if the whole alien thing talked about within the first few chapters had a disappointing let down later in the book. It just seemed like it was there for the sake of being there, and the book wasn’t at all how I anticipated it being.

The characters were okay. They were entertaining enough to read about, but they aren’t characters that will stick with me for long after the read.

There were some very good aspects of the book though. I thought that they portrayed a teen boy in a normal, healthy light, compared to how boys are often portrayed in the media. He was allowed to have emotions and feelings. It also showed that sexual harassment isn’t something that just happens to girls, and I think that this is a concept that needs to become as normal as girls being victims, because it is sadly true.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Endlessly by Kiersten White

Kiersten White’s New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy comes to a breathless conclusion with a signature mix of wit, romance, paranormal creatures, and a truly original heroine.

In Endlessly, pink-loving, butt-kicking Evie has way too much on her to-do list. Paranormals are begging her to open a faerie gate so they can leave the human world, something Evie’s not sure she has the power to do. The Dark Queen is torturing humans and must be destroyed.

On top of all that, Evie’s prom is coming up. She’s not sure what to wear, and, oh, yeah, her shape-shifting boyfriend, Lend, has been cursed so that he falls into an enchanted sleep whenever he and Evie are in the same room…and even Evie’s ex-boyfriend, the faerie Reth, can’t reverse the dark magic.

An epic battle is looming, and the choices Evie makes will determine the fate of whole paranormal world—and her own life.

–back cover of Endlessly by Kiersten White

Endlessly provided a great end to the Paranormalcy series. The book was captivating and interesting, from the plot, to the characters, to the writing style.

Oftentimes I feel unsatisfied with trilogies for one of two reasons: I feel as if they drag out the series too long or too many questions are left unanswered. I think that this ending provided the perfect balance. I wasn’t left with any questions, just with a sense of fondness for the series.

The character in the series can be a bit of a hit-or-miss in my opinion. For the most part, I love Evie, even though being inside her head can be a little annoying at some points. I think her thought process is pretty realistic. Although realistic isn’t a bad thing, it can be annoying to read it in fiction sometimes. I like Raquel and the paranormals because they’re unique and have strong voices. I think that the twist on the paranormals in this trilogy is great. I like Evie’s friend Carly too. While all of these characters are good, my two favorites are Lend and Reth. I think that Lend is fascinating, and he is so kind. I have loved him from book one. Reth was not the character that I expected to become my favorite character, but he did. In this book, he gets quite the redemption arc. There is one character that drives me crazy though: Jack. I think he’s pretty cringeworthy, but I think he’s supposed to be cringeworthy.

The author’s writing style and voice remained unique, and I finished the book quite satisfied with the series.

While not perfect, it is a great trilogy which I highly recommend. I give the final book 4.5 out of 5 stars.

Articles, Book Reviews, Young Adult

Ten Underrated YA Books

There have been plenty of times that I have picked up a book from the library solely because of the hype it’s gotten on social media, but I have found that nine out of ten times I have not enjoyed these books as much as I expected to. I still read the books because it’s fun being able to talk about books with other people, but I feel like a lot of really good books are underrated while a lot of really okay books are overrated. I don’t want to write about the overrated books today, but I do want to give you what, in my opinion, are the top ten most underrated books.


1. The Rest of Us Just Live Here by Patrick Ness

Read our review of The Rest of Us Just Live Here

This book is so ridiculously beautiful, and I really wish that every YA reader would read it. This book makes a point to be original, even poking fun at some common tropes, and I really love that. It is so refreshing and original that I wish it would become as big as The Hunger Games was, but I also hope that it doesn’t, because I love this book so much and God forbid it gets turned into a movie.

 


2. What Happened to Goodbye by Sarah Dessen

Read our review of What Happened to Goodbye

Sarah Dessen is a well-known YA romance author, but it seems like this book is so often overlooked. It is by far my favorite Sarah Dessen book. It is quietly powerful with vibrant characters and a compelling plotline. It isn’t full of much conflict, which is why it may be overlooked, but it is one of those books I could read over and over again.


3. The Host by Stephanie Meyer

Most people don’t seem to be aware that Stephenie Meyer has more out there than the Twilight saga. The Host has been made into a movie, but it never got as much hype as Twilight. Really, The Host consists of what most people will claim Twilight lacks: an interesting plot, good characters, and healthy relationships. Also, no characters sparkle!  The Host is really all-around better, but most people don’t even know that it’s out there.


4. Paranormalcy by Kiersten White

Read our review of Paranormalcy

I think everyone should be obsessed over this paranormal book. It’s one of the best, most creative paranormal books that I have read, and I think that most YA readers would enjoy this. It may even make a good movie if it was done right–but how often are books turned into movies done right?


5. Waterfall by Lisa T. Bergren

Read our review of Waterfall

This is another book that I don’t think many people know exist, but it really is one of the most entertaining stories I have ever read. I fell in love with the characters–some more than others. This book is where I met my first book crush. If anything, just read this book for the oddly attractive characters.


6. Shatter Me by Tahareh Mafi

This book is amazing. The story is intense and well done and so captivating. Can we just replace the rest of dystopian books with this one, please? That’d be great.


7. The Alchemy of Forever by Avery Williams

Read our review of The Alchemy of Forever

This book is addicting. The concept is fascinating, and the characters were so relatable. I was pretty much in love from the first chapter. I’m actually shocked that this book isn’t more popular because it seemed like something that would become huge. Regardless, I really love it.


8. This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer Smith

First of all, can we just take a moment to appreciate this gorgeous cover? I think it’s beautiful, just like everything else about this book is beautiful. The love story made me love the characters and want to read more and more. This is saying a lot because I am not one who needs or even really wants romance in a story, but I loved this book.


9. Bitter End by Jennifer Brown

Read our review of Bitter End

Every list like this has to have a totally depressing book added to it, right? Bitter End is definitely it. Jennifer Brown, the author, is generally underrated. She writes really good books.


10. The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

I know. At this point, you’re probably a little bit infuriated that I have included two books by Stephenie Meyer, but this book– technically a novella–was quite amazing. Whether or not you liked the Twilight saga, you might be interested in this new outlook on the story. I felt like this 200-page book was better than the rest of the series combined.


Books get a lot of hype for a reason–the majority of people like them, but if you’re like me, maybe you’ll enjoy some of these options a bit more than what is mainstream.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: A Whisper and a Wish by Robin Jones Gunn

Christy Miller is convinced dreams do come true! What other explanation could there be for her family’s sudden decision to move from Wisconsin to California? But Christy soon learns there’s another side to this new life, which leads her to – A Whisper and a Wish

Fifteen-year-old Christy is thrilled that her family is moving to California! She’ll be right back at the beach with all her friends from last summer. But her dreams of a beach reunion are dashed when she learns her family will be living in an obscure town farther inland. Christy has to start all over again, meeting new friends and trying to fit in.

At first, things seem to be going well. She is accepted by a group of popular girls, which launches her social life, and one of the most gorgeous guys at school seems interested in her. But while her new friends are fun, some of them are facing problems that Christy doesn’t know how to deal with including a run-in with the police. As disappointments grow and things spin out of control, will Christy turn to God for help? Will her dreams and wishes come true?

–back cover of A Whisper and a Wish by Robin Jones Gunn

A Whisper and a Wish is the second book in the Christy Miller series. The author kept up the innocent, yet fairly preachy, feel that the first book had. This book had a significantly less amount of religion being shoved down people’s throats, so while I still think it would be for a younger audience, people of different religions besides Christianity may find this book enjoyable.

Christy continues to be a relatable character for girls around 15. She is like most fifteen-year-olds that I know–fun-loving, a bit insecure as they find who they are becoming, and wanting to be accepted. I think that she would resonate with people of that age. In this book, we also get to meet Katie who becomes one of my favorite characters throughout the entire series. She is fun and quirky and overall a great friend to every character that she meets.

Overall, the plot of this book was good. It was interesting and entertaining. When the girls are arrested it is dealt with in a realistic way.

There are two different things that I think readers should be aware of. For one, the “gorgeous guy” that she meets has abusive tendencies that are not addressed as abusive tendencies. They are looked on as normal when he really is not a very great guy. This book also deals with an eating disorder in one of the side characters. I do not feel like this was portrayed in a good way. It is not very accurate, and this is one of those issues that really needs to be portrayed accurately.

I give this book 3 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: The Impossibility of Tomorrow by Avery Williams

The immortal Seraphina is forced to face the darkness of her past—and risk losing the love of her life—in this second novel in the Incarnation series.

Seraphina has been living for centuries, thanks to a special method of alchemy, but only recently has she really felt alive. She’s finally broken free from her controlling boyfriend, Cyrus, and after years of swapping bodies to preserve her immortality, is happily settled into a life worth sticking with. Because in this life, she has Noah.

But Noah might not be as trustworthy as he seems. After he delivers an ominous message that could only come from Cyrus, Sera is worried that her new friends and family will find out her secret. And as her suspicions extend beyond Noah, Sera is forced to wonder about her new friends as well: Could her old coven be disguising themselves right under her nose?

Will Sera have to move to another body—and take another life—or can she find a way to keep what she’s got, forever?

–back cover of The Impossibility of Tomorrow by Avery Williams

With sequels, it feels like it is hit or miss. This sequel was wonderful, and the only complaint that I really have is that there currently isn’t another book out. I need this story to continue!

The first book ended on a cliffhanger and the second picks up later in that scene. The book started out so intense that I didn’t want to put it down from the very start. I devoured the first few chapters. This book had some seriously creepy parts. I was so attached to Sera and Noah that not knowing who Cyrus was driving me crazy, but in the type of way where I could not put the book down.

I just fell more in love with the characters. Sera becomes even more developed, and in this book I really began to relate to Noah. He seemed so similar to me, and I loved learning some more of his backstory. My only complaint with the characters is that I was not a fan of Reed and Rebecca. I think that they weren’t meant to be all that likable, but I found them annoying most of the time. This was such a small set back though, and I really think that this was a matter of opinion above anything else.

This fast-paced and suspenseful book made a great sequel. If this book sounds interesting to you, make sure to check out The Alchemy of Forever first. Both are great reads.

I give this book 5 out of 5 stars.

Book Reviews, Young Adult

Review: Wolf Moon by C.D. Gorri

It is so hard to find a new take werewolves and shifters. But C.D. Gorri does an excellent job in her young adult paranormal novel Wolf Moon. This is an excellent coming of age story that deals with the problems a young girl faces not only becoming a young woman but also a powerful werewolf.

Graze, at the beginning of the novel, is fifteen and living the life of an ordinary normal girl. She faces problems with her home life, at school and dealing with her first crush. As that wasn’t enough, she suddenly finds out she is also a werewolf. That sets her on a new path of self-discovery and learning. By the end of the novel she has transformed into a solid, strong female lead that could potentially carry a reader through multiple further books.

There are some interesting twists in the plot and a romantic triangle that is set up for future books. Any young adult reader will gobble this up and want more. I look forward to future reads about the forthcoming war between witches and werewolves.

Warning: There is a bit of religion used in the book (Catholic) which may not suit all readers. I would advise readers to take that part with a grain of salt if you decide to read the book – this is a work of fiction after all.

A solid 4 out of 5 stars ~ Recommended read for all Young Adult book fans.