Tag Archives: adventure

Defy the Stars – another stellar YA SciFi read 

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Defy the Stars – another stellar YA SciFi read 

Claudia Gray’s Defy the Stars is another amazing addition to the YA SciFi genre.  If you enjoyed Ami Kauffman’s Illuminae, you definitely want to give this book a look.  I gave this book my rare five star rating because it grabbed my imagination and high jacked my evening from the first chapter.


Goodreads Summary

Noemi Vidal is a teen soldier from the planet Genesis, once a colony of Earth that’s now at war for its independence. The humans of Genesis have fought Earth’s robotic “mech” armies for decades with no end in sight.

After a surprise attack, Noemi finds herself stranded in space on an abandoned ship where she meets Abel, the most sophisticated mech prototype ever made. One who should be her enemy. But Abel’s programming forces him to obey Noemi as his commander, which means he has to help her save Genesis–even though her plan to win the war will kill him.

Together they embark on a daring voyage through the galaxy. Before long, Noemi begins to realize Abel may be more than a machine, and, for his part, Abel’s devotion to Noemi is no longer just a matter of programming.

My Thoughts

What a great read!  Plenty of action and suspense kept me glued to this one for a straight read through.  There is attention and detail given to the building of characters and a fascinating new world.  I cared about these characters and the conflicts that drove them.  I liked the fact that the relationship between the main characters is believable despite the seeming impossibility of feelings and AI. It is also a timely read – Westworld has us questioning what it means to be a human while current political debates have us thinking about isolationism, terrorism, and the environment.  This book does a great job of giving readers room to consider these issues in a thoughtful way without ruining the story for those who just want a good escape read.  I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library wishlist, and I have already seen it in our high school library (but it won’t be there for long once I start talking it up).  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 9+, but it will appeal to adult readers of YA as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Shadow Run – Her Ship. His Plan. Their Survival

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Shadow Run – Her Ship. His Plan. Their Survival

When you put the idea out there that a book is for fans of Firefly and Dune, there is going to be a lot of expectation and some skepticism.  I have never gotten through Dune – I tried, but I thought it was boring.  I do, however, drop everything when Firefly or Serenity show up on the TV.  Don’t expect a Captain Tightpants, but it is pretty shiny.  I gave Shadow Run 4 stars.


Goodreads Summary

They can steal her home. They can attack her ship. But they cannot touch her crew.

Nev just started as the cargo hauler on the starship Kaitan Heritage. His captain, Qole, is the youngest-ever person on Alaxak to have her own ship. She’s brassy and bold, and she brooks no argument from her crew of orphans, fugitives, and con men. Nev can’t resist her, even if her ship is a rust bucket.

As for Nev, he’s handsome and impetuous—and Qole and the crew have no idea that he’s actually a prince in hiding. He thinks Qole holds the key to changing galactic civilization, but when her cooperation proves difficult to obtain, he resolves to get her to his home planet by any means necessary. Word of Nev’s presence on board spreads quickly to other ships, however. Soon a rival royal family is after Qole, and they’re more interested in stealing her abilities than in keeping her alive. Before he knows it, Nev’s mission to manipulate her becomes one to save her.

To survive, she’ll have to trust her would-be kidnapper. Nev may be royalty, but Qole is discovering a deep reservoir of power of her own—and stars have mercy on whoever tries to hurt her ship or her crew.

My Thoughts

Shadow Run is a  great read from beginning to end. I loved the action, which felt pretty non-stop.  It is surprising how much character development actually made it into the story considering that the crisis mode is on continually.  I will say I didn’t connect with the female narrator until the second half of the book, but the male narrator is a pretty solid anchor until that point.  Fans of Firefly will find the tightknit crew and the complete inability to do anything the easy way very satisfying.  Themes of honesty, integrity, and finding your real home add nice depth to the adventure.  I’m definitely adding it to my high school classroom library and recommending it to fans of Amie Kaufman’s Illuminae, Tessa Elwood’s Inherit the Stars,  and other fast-paced action reads.  Language and situations are suitable for grades 8+, but adult readers of YA will find it enjoyable as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

If you liked Red Rising, give Jenny Moyer’s Flashfall a look

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If you liked Red Rising, give Jenny Moyer’s Flashfall a look

Jenny Moyer’s Flashfall had a premise that reminded me of Red Rising, one of my favorite books, so I was pretty excited to get my hands on it.  I wasn’t disappointed.  I definitely got vibes of both Red Rising and The Hunger Games from the opening scenes and the initial situation, but I’m also glad to say that this story really did have something new to offer fans.  There is all the rebellion, action, and adventure I crave, but there is also a fresh storyline with some unexpected developments.  I gave Flashfall four stars, but the more impressive endorsement is that I have had a hard time keeping it in my classroom library.  I recommended it to one kid, and I haven’t seen it on the shelf since – word of mouth has kept it in high demand.  I’m really surprised there hasn’t been bigger buzz about this one, so if you missed it when it published in November, it is worth your time to check it out.

 

Goodreads Summary

Orion is a Subpar, expected to mine the tunnels of Outpost Five, near the deadly flash curtain. For generations, her people have chased cirium—the only element that can shield humanity from the curtain’s radioactive particles. She and her caving partner Dram work the most treacherous tunnel, fighting past flash bats and tunnel gulls, in hopes of mining enough cirium to earn their way into the protected city.

But when newcomers arrive at Outpost Five, Orion uncovers disturbing revelations that make her question everything she thought she knew about life on both sides of the cirium shield. As conditions at the outpost grow increasingly dangerous, it’s up to Orion to forge a way past the flashfall, beyond all boundaries, beyond the world as she knows it. 

My Thoughts

Orion is a strong female protagonist with an admirable goal and a strong protective drive for the people she loves. She is easy to empathize with, and she is flawed enough to be believable.  The relationships in the story are engaging, and the romance is developed slowly enough to feel right.  I think the biggest draw for readers, though, will be the fast pace of the story – the action is pretty constant and the threat is real.  While I feel like the overarching world building is a bit fuzzy – I never quite understood exactly why Orion and her family were being used to mine this particular substance, or even where or when the story was set – I was still quite happy to just enjoy the story.  I will definitely be on the lookout for the sequel.  Fans of dystopia won’t be disappointed.    Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+, but adult readers of YA can enjoy it as well. 

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Jeff Hirsch’s Black River Falls – Memories can be a blessing or a curse

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Jeff Hirsch’s Black River Falls – Memories can be a blessing or a curse

Jeff Hirsch has a knack for engaging middle and high school readers (and some adults, too) with his post-apocalyptic scenarios and believable characters.  Black River Falls is no exception.  If the memory stealing virus doesn’t grab you, the tale of Cardinal and his family will.

Black River Falls publishes Tuesday, July 5, 2016.

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Goodreads Summary

Seventeen-year-old Cardinal has escaped the virus that ravaged his town, leaving its victims alive but without their memories. He chooses to remain in the quarantined zone, caring for a group of orphaned kids in a mountain camp with the help of the former brutal school bully, now transformed by the virus into his best friend. But then a strong-willed and mysterious young woman appears, and the closed-off world Cardinal has created begins to crumble.

A thrilling, fast-paced work of speculative fiction for teens, from a bestselling author, Black River Falls is an unforgettable story about survival, identity, and family.

My Thoughts

I really enjoyed this book, and I think lots of YA readers will as well.  Cardinal, the narrator is easy to connect with, and the slow unfolding of his past is perfectly paced to maintain interest.  There is a lot of tension, sometimes warranted, and sometimes not, throughout the story, which made the turns of the plot hard to predict.  The entire premise was fascinating, particularly the subplot that brought in the comic books that Cardinal’s father created.  It paralleled nicely with his own struggle to be a hero, and I liked the way that sometimes his journey went into the gray areas.  It was his faults and failures that made him feel like a real person and not just a character.  I did struggle a bit with the transitions between scenes – there was a bit too much of Cardinal suddenly finding himself somewhere, and sometimes the action was a bit blurry, but it wasn’t a deal breaker.  I think my guy readers will find this story very engaging, but themes about memories and forgetting and the way those things shape us add some depth that means a wide audience can appreciate this story.  It’s definitely going on my high school classroom library wish list.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 7+.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Francesca Haig’s The Map of Bones 

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Francesca Haig’s The Map of Bones 

If you are a fan of post apocalyptic YA, you should give Francesca Haig’s The Fire Sermon series a try.  If you are hesitant because of the twin thing, just know that it is a lot less bizarre and a lot more believable than the premise makes it sound.  The second book, The Map of Bones, was one of my most anticipated reads this year.  I won’t lie – it started way too slow for my liking, but, oh, when it picked up, it really picked up.

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Goodreads Summary

Book Two in the critically acclaimed The Fire Sermon trilogy—The Hunger Games meets Cormac McCarthy’s The Road in this richly imagined post-apocalyptic series by award-winning poet Francesca Haig.

Four hundred years in the future, the Earth has turned primitive following a nuclear fire that has laid waste to civilization and nature. Though the radiation fallout has ended, for some unknowable reason every person is born with a twin. Of each pair, one is an Alpha—physically perfect in every way; and the other an Omega—burdened with deformity, small or large. With the Council ruling an apartheid-like society, Omegas are branded and ostracized while the Alphas have gathered the world’s sparse resources for themselves. Though proclaiming their superiority, for all their effort, Alphas cannot escape one harsh fact: whenever one twin dies, so does the other.

Cass is a rare Omega, one burdened with psychic foresight. While her twin, Zach, gains power on the Alpha Council, she dares to dream the most dangerous dream of all: equality. For daring to envision a world in which Alphas and Omegas live side-by-side as equals, both the Council and the Resistance have her in their sights.

My Thoughts

I was expecting a fast paced and action packed follow up.  I was a little annoyed when I didn’t initially get what I wanted.  The first half of this book is slow going.  Political maneuvering and the emotional fallout that Cass faces in dealing with the death of her friend and lover take up a good part of the book.  It wasn’t until I had almost given up that the story began to pick up steam.  The second half definitely delivered the action that I was looking for, and I have to say I didn’t see where this plot was headed until it was hitting me square in the shocked (happy) face.  I think this would have been a more engaging book if the author had taken less time to develop the characters and the political climate, but I think that the series would have ultimately suffered for it.  If you liked The Fire Sermon, I think you owe it to yourself to pick up the sequel.  I encourage you to persevere through the first half, because it is definitely worth it.  Myself, I’m beginning the impatient watch for book three.  Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but adult readers of YA will enjoy the series just as much.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Girl From Everywhere

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The Girl From Everywhere

I am generally a sucker for time travel or pirates, so I was pretty sure I had hit the jackpot with this book, which combines both.  But I wasn’t convinced I had a five star read on my hands until the end.  Then my brain exploded. There is a lot of set up to this story that really pays off in the last third of the book. Don’t misunderstand, the first part of the book is still engaging, but it really comes together when all the pieces fall into place in a very satisfying way.

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Goodreads Summary

Nix has spent her entire life aboard her father’s ship, sailing across the centuries, across the world, across myth and imagination.

As long as her father has a map for it, he can sail to any time, any place, real or imagined: nineteenth-century China, the land from One Thousand and One Nights, a mythic version of Africa. Along the way they have found crewmates and friends, and even a disarming thief who could come to mean much more to Nix.

But the end to it all looms closer every day.
Her father is obsessed with obtaining the one map, 1868 Honolulu, that could take him back to his lost love, Nix’s mother. Even though getting it—and going there—could erase Nix’s very existence.

For the first time, Nix is entering unknown waters.

She could find herself, find her family, find her own fantastical ability, her own epic love.

Or she could disappear.

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My Thoughts

Nix is the narrative voice in this story, and it is easy to feel empathy towards her plight.  She is also smart and resourceful, but she still manages to make the mistakes and have feelings that teen readers will find believable.  The cast of secondary characters is diverse and entertaining, and they have back stories that book lovers and history enthusiasts will adore.  While the romantic relationships fell a little flat for me, I think it reflects both Nix’s own inability to make big decisions until her fate is decided, and her formative experiences with Earth-shattering love.  I wasn’t bothered when they didn’t sweep me away, but some readers will be disappointed.  I think it is more important to consider all the messages about love – the kind you feel for your family, your friends, and even places that you hold sacred.  Those are all thoughtfully touched on in this work.  The biggest draw for me, though, is the concept.  It really grabbed my imagination – time traveling pirates (of a sort) on a quest that takes them to places real and imagined with the help of maps and faith-fueled magic.  While some readers might find the rules a little limiting, I thought the idea was sublime. It takes some time to really establish how the idea works, it is so worth the effort.  It is also worth your time to read the author’s notes at the end, especially if some of the literary and historical references elude you (I’m an English teacher, and I still found it enlightening).  Overall, I think this is a book that will appeal to dreamers and readers with the souls of adventurers, and I have plenty of those in my high school classes.  This is definitely going on our classroom library wishlist.  Language and situations are appropriate for grades 8+, but it will hold appeal for adult readers as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The Shadow Queen – You haven’t seen a Snow White like this

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The Shadow Queen – You haven’t seen a Snow White like this

This reimagining of Snow White added a few important twists to the story that I really felt brought new life to a tired fairy tale.  There are no dwarves. Thankfully. There is a huntsman, but he has a lot more riding on capturing the wayward princess than he ever has before.  There is magic – big magic – tied to land and intentions and heart.  And this pretty princess with skin as white as snow?  Well, she doesn’t need a rescue.  She is a hardcore warrior in her own right, and this version of the story makes it clear that her courage is the real thing that packs a punch and not some idealized virtue that sounds nice in a eulogy.

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Goodreads Summary

Lorelai Diederich, crown princess and fugitive at large, has one mission: kill the wicked queen who took both the Ravenspire throne and the life of her father. To do that, Lorelai needs to use the one weapon she and Queen Irina have in common—magic. She’ll have to be stronger, faster, and more powerful than Irina, the most dangerous sorceress Ravenspire has ever seen.

In the neighboring kingdom of Eldr, when Prince Kol’s father and older brother are killed by an invading army of magic-wielding ogres, the second-born prince is suddenly given the responsibility of saving his kingdom. To do that, Kol needs magic—and the only way to get it is to make a deal with the queen of Ravenspire, promise to become her personal huntsman…and bring her Lorelai’s heart.
But Lorelai is nothing like Kol expected—beautiful, fierce, and unstoppable—and despite dark magic, Lorelai is drawn in by the passionate and troubled king. Fighting to stay one step ahead of the dragon huntsman—who she likes far more than she should—Lorelai does everything in her power to ruin the wicked queen. But Irina isn’t going down without a fight, and her final move may cost the princess the one thing she still has left to lose.

My Thoughts

I have to admit that I’m almost done with fairy tale revisions, and I had to take a break before starting over and giving this book my real attention.  I’m glad I took that break.  This book does deserve to be savored rather than devoured simply because the relationships are complex, the dangers feel real, and just when you want to cover your eyes or slam the book closed, another turn of events keeps you in the game.  Lorelai, the protagonist, is easy to connect with, and a strong female protagonist I believe my high school readers will admire and enjoy.  There is a bit of romance, and the author nicely sidesteps the dreaded insta-love by providing a deeper connection.  I think most readers will be quite pleased with their relationship and the relationships throughout this book.  It reminded me of Princess of Thorns a bit, and if you enjoyed that book, I feel sure this one will grab you as well.  I’m adding it to my classroom library wish list and recommending it to all my readers who like their ladies tough and true.  Language and situations are appropriate for middle and high school readers, but adult readers will enjoy it as well.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

The 13th Continuum

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The 13th Continuum

The 13th Continuum is another YA dystopian, meaning it didn’t add much to the genre.  Weak characters and a lack of logic made for a rather dull read.  Die hard dystopian devotees will still probably find it hard to pass up, but if you are over it, you won’t miss much here.  As usual, there are other reviewers who thought it topped sliced bread, but I gave it three stars.

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Goodreads Summary

One thousand years after a cataclysmic event leaves humanity on the brink of extinction, the survivors take refuge in continuums designed to sustain the human race until repopulation of Earth becomes possible. Against this backdrop, a group of young friends in the underwater Thirteenth Continuum dream about life outside their totalitarian existence, an idea that has been outlawed for centuries. When a shocking discovery turns the dream into a reality, they must decide if they will risk their own extinction to experience something no one has for generations, the Surface.

My Thoughts

While I liked the idea of this book, I didn’t actually like the book. First, it didn’t feel polished. In particular, the pacing seemed off. I’m not sure if it was the amount of detail that was included in the social structure of the world or if it was really the result of trying to establish relationships between characters, but the fallout was that it slowed the story to the point that I began to lose interest. I thought it was smart for the author to incorporate the second colony because the appearance of Aero recaptured my interest for a while.

Second, the plot was problematic for me. I was never really clear about what motivated Aero’s colony, so I struggled to find the logic in the conflict.

Finally, I never really connected with any of the characters. Myra was an adequate character, but she didn’t really have any sparkle or wit about her. I liked her dedication to her family, but she was bland. Aero was a little more interesting because he was contemplating the negatives in his society but he was also able to show the advantages he felt he gained from the system. I found that much more intriguing than a character placed in an obviously flawed society. The relationship between these two was way too accelerated and I didn’t understand the logic behind that. Overall, this just wasn’t a book I connected with, and I don’t think it is engaging enough to keep my high school students interested, though the premise will certainly catch their attention. Language and situations are appropriate for middle and high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

 

A World of Ash – Justin Woolley’s zombies, crazed nuns, and valiant underdog do it all over again

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A World of Ash – Justin Woolley’s zombies, crazed nuns, and valiant underdog do it all over again

If you’ve read the first two books in Justin Woolley’s The Territory series, you won’t want to miss A World of Ash.  The final book in the trilogy is exactly the conclusion I wanted for this series.  If you haven’t read this engaging and endearing series, you have missed out on a quest just as good as the one that stupid Potter boy went on, and this one has zombies.  Start with A Town Called Dust, and proceed with glee.

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Goodreads Summary

Trapped in a city no one knows exists, Squid lies dying as Nim fights for their lives. With every minute, their hope of getting the vaccine back to civilization is fading. From the brink of death and the edge of the world, Squid must once again conquer dangers even more sinister than the undead – the future of humankind depends on it.

But Squid’s efforts will be wasted if Lynn cannot keep the people of Alice safe until he returns, and Lynn is now a hostage of the Holy Order. Forced to face punishment at the hands of the High Priestess, Lynn is at the mercy of the mad cult, as beyond the wall the undead horde continues its relentless approach.

Caught between madness and mindlessness, the odds are stacked against Squid and Lynn. Will they triumph or do they already walk in a world of ash?

My Thoughts

This book really does close the circle on Squid’s evolution, but it does so in way that stays true to the character I have come to love.  While Squid comes into his own, many of the characters were in need of some redemption after book two – I’m pointing at you, Lynn – and this book is really about redemption for this society and for this group of people.  While the character development is important to me, many readers will be looking to see if this installment is up to the action standards we have come to expect.  Yes.  There are several sequences of action that are just as exciting as the battle in Dust, and this time, readers don’t have to wait forever to get there.  Things pick up right where A City Called Smoke left off – you know, at that almost unbearable cliffhanger! Lots of zombies, lots of guns, and a surprising revelation about the cure that Squid has been seeking all happen in just the first chapters.  I did feel like the author chose to skirt a big conflict that he set up in ACCS, and some fans will be disappointed by that because, well, you know people – can’t please everyone.  Glad it pleased me, though.  Overall, I’m really satisfied by this series, and I think other fans will be as well.  Language and situations and interest levels are appropriate for middle school and high school readers.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

Kurt Dinan’s Don’t Get Caught is an awesome mix of The Breakfast Club and Ocean’s Eleven

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Kurt Dinan’s Don’t Get Caught is an awesome mix of The Breakfast Club and Ocean’s Eleven

This is an awesome read. It isn’t often I think a book can live up to a blurb like “Ocean’s Eleven meets The Breakfast Club,” but Don’t Get Caught really, really did!  I adore a good con story, and this one has all the twists and turns I expected, and a few I didn’t.  I gave it five stars, and I can’t wait for you to discover the fun that is Don’t Get Caught.

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Goodreads Summary

10:00 tonight at the water tower. Tell no one. -Chaos Club

When Max receives a mysterious invite from the untraceable, epic prank-pulling Chaos Club, he has to ask: why him? After all, he’s Mr. 2.5 GPA, Mr. No Social Life. He’s Just Max. And his favorite heist movies have taught him this situation calls for Rule #4: Be suspicious. But it’s also his one shot to leave Just Max in the dust…

Yeah, not so much. Max and four fellow students-who also received invites-are standing on the newly defaced water tower when campus security “catches” them. Definitely a setup. And this time, Max has had enough. It’s time for Rule #7: Always get payback.

Let the prank war begin.

My Thoughts

Max is a narrative voice that will draw in guys and gals, YA’s and adults.  He has the same impulses as anyone when he feels pushed, but he also has a thoughtful conscience that makes me proud to introduce him to my high school readers.  There is a bit of romance, but it is light enough not to bore those who don’t want serious love interfering in their heist stories.  There is a nice blend of action and character development, and the plot is paced to keep readers glued to the pages.  I finished it in a few hours because I was enjoying myself so much that I just couldn’t put it down.  I was most impressed with the heart in this book.  Themes of friendship, justice, integrity, and grit add a nice bit of depth, but most readers will be so engaged they won’t know they are getting the broccoli with their dessert until it’s too late.  I really can’t wait to share this book with my students, particularly to those who enjoyed Con Academy and Losers Take All. Language and situations are appropriate for high school readers, but I think adult readers of YA will find it just as compelling.

I received an ARC from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.