Review: My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent

6763961For a book all about death, demons and soul selling, My Soul to Save isn’t that dark of a book. The second book in the Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent, it again follows Kaylee, a bean sidhe (banshee) by birth who is quite new to her powers. Still sensitive to her habits of screaming uncontrollably when someone is about to die, and how that leads to time in mental wards despite that it’s completely normal for her, Kaylee is now in bean sidhe lessons with her boyfriend’s mom (an 80 plus year old bean sidhe) Harmony. She’s also finally living with her dad, who has sacrificed a higher paying job in Ireland for an attempt to raise his daughter.

But no one approves when Kaylee discovers and decides to help a pop star (and ex-girlfriend of her boyfriend’s brother) who has sold her soul to hellions and only has four days before she dies (and her soul is sentenced to eternal torture for the hellions’ pleasure). While bean sidhe do have powers, and can walk into the demonic Netherworld, they aren’t exactly big guns there, their powers put them directly in opposition with most of the Netherworld creatures and Kaylee herself is so new at being a bean sidhe she still smells like the packaging.

My Soul to Save is off beat compared to the larger slice of urban fantasy YA books out there. No vampires, no teen family angst, no torn between multiple boys, popularity issues, etc. Kaylee has a pretty good head on her shoulders. She’s clever, sweet and smart. Her biggest failing is not using the knowledge of the adults around her and instead trying to do everything herself. While Vincent does imply that asking for help might not have gotten the plot resolved, one can’t help seeing how Kaylee does put herself in incredible danger, out of not just naivety, but at times a refusal to believe things are as dangerous as they are. To Kaylee this adventure is dangerous, but something she has to do. To the adults, and even the more knowledgeable teens, Kaylee’s actions are DANGEROUS. The difference leads to readers wondering if Kaylee just doesn’t understand, or isn’t listening about the danger she’s putting herself in.

In a way this is the opposite of many UF tales, where the tension and danger are part of the story drama. Kaylee ends up with a very white knight feel, noble, but mere steps away from being high -horsed (if she developed a chip on her shoulder, or had the thought of her actions making her better than the people around her) or naive to the point of stupidity (if she doesn’t learn anything from her very close brushes with death in this book). Overall there’s a feel of idealism to Kaylee and this series that will appeal to readers who might be tired of dark, nihilistic paranormal adventures, but there’s also real danger which will appeal to readers tired of convenient plots or fluffy paranormal worlds.

The Soul Screamers series is different from the popular styles today, so readers really should take advantage of Vincent’s free prequel novella on her website before deciding whether to continue the series or not. The books are good, but are poised to shift the focus of what’s popular in the YA genre rather than following or expanding current trends. As such readers stuck in the popularity mindset might not find the Soul Screamers as appealing at this point, but the writing and story are there and quite enjoyable.

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Review: Runaways volume 2

43612On the run from their murderous parents (who framed them for the murder) teens Alex, Chase, Gert, Karolina, Molly and Nico have tons to learn. They aren’t exactly close friends, they have pretty…,um, classic views of superheros and villains, no clue about their own abilities and there are dangers other than The Pride out in the streets they’re trying to save.

Reading Runaways v 2 and New Mutants v 2 back to back was a bit jarring because while New Mutants is busy and chaotic Runaways is in it for the long haul. There is a lot more time spent building up these characters and the full extent of their situation (and toying with their hopes via a cameo from street-rats-turned-superheroes Cloak and Dagger).

Irritatingly enough there seems to be more readers don’t know than they do know. Including that there’s a mole inside the teens’ haven feeding The Pride information.

I like the stories so far, and especially the kids. They seem to have good heads on their shoulders and a practical, if naive, view of their situation. And I love the sly stabs at other current popculture icons. Definitely fun.

Recommended for comic fans.

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Review: New Mutants volume 2

downloadPoor New Mutants. Professor X just “rescued” them from their homes to train them to control their mutant powers and their first field trip finds them lost in the Amazon, taken captive by a secret city modelling itself after Rome and battling it out in the Colosseum. All alone, with no adults to depend on they have to face down a murderess sorceress, the family of one of their team mates setting them up to die, the dark demonic secret of another teammate and being kidnapped by a rival mutant school.

The issue with graphic novels is that these tales were originally published across monthly issues, and in this case, under multiple titles. Pieces of the story are missing because they appeared in X-Men titles. The two cons combine to make this novel…a bit of a mess. There isn’t a overarching plot, unless you think of the New Mutants as a bunch of kids trying to have their coming of age stories, while being constantly sidelined by secret organizations, demons and adults who are too busy to really seem to care.

That is actually a pretty interesting aspect of these tales. The New Mutants consistently find that they cannot trust the adults around them, not even Professor X. Some adults, like Sunspot’s dad and Emma Frost seem to be outright toying with them and plotting their deaths for the most dramatic effect. This theme is reinforced when it’s the students at Frost’s Massachusetts’ Academy who help them escape.

Marvel missed some chances here, but of course the 80s weren’t really a time of long term story arcs. The New Mutants does offer a uniquely diverse character base for its time period. And, of course, there’s the delightful utter lack of Jean Grey-based story lines.

Recommended for younger teen comic fans.

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Review: My Soul to Take by Rachel Vincent

6315602Kaylee is a bean sidhe (read “banshee”), a herald of death, though she learns this on the edge of a mental breakdown over her mysterious panic attacks that come when she is close to someone who is about to die. If it wasn’t for class hottie Nash, she would still think she’s crazy, since even though they know her secret her guardians, her aunt and uncle, refuse to tell her anything, and in fact, once locked her up in a mental hospital to try to “help” her.

But something is happening around Kaylee. The people around her seem to be dying, before their time and with no cause at all. When whatever is poaching souls begins to target Kaylee’s friends she and Nash must act to save the people who death is coming for, long before their time.

The two most stand out elements of this book from other YA novels is 1) no vampires and 2) while the adults and teens have issues, none are abusive or negative at their core. In fact, for a refreshing change, Kaylee’s family is (for the most part, there is teen rivalry, but it’s not past “mean”) loving, supportive and caring, it’s the plot that forces her to step up and act instead of letting the adults handle things.

My Soul to Take is simultaneously morbid and beautiful, balancing the dark subject matter without being crushing or nihilistic. In fact, family is a strong theme of this story, making it an excellent book for teen readers’ collections.

While the book does seem slow at times, it builds a textured web of character and world support for the story, setting this series up for a rich future life. For curious readers Vincent has a free prequel story available, My Soul to Lose, on her webpage.

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Review: Zombie Youth: Book 2: Borrowed Time by H.E.Goodhue

zombieyouth2Zombie Youth: Borrowed Time is a masterful example of the way a work can defy target audience and genre: a true crossover for fans of horror, armageddon, and coming of age (with zombies). By intertwining several survival factions, each with a predictable agenda and hierarchy, Goodhue realistically emphasizes the strengths and shortcomings of several generations. Thus, he captures sympathy and animosity from any reader’s perspective.  These various groups use natural, reasonable, age appropriate ways as they create their own comfort and safety zones, but eventually it is apparent to all that the only way to survive will be to construct a new paradigm and work together. 

          Dealing with more than just survival and the horrors of zombie carnage, Goodhue proposes philosophical discussions about which learned social behaviors humans will reject in favor of survival instincts, and which we’re not willing to part with. Some characters hold tighter to cooperative strategies, others feel stronger alone when faced with danger, and still others take every opportunity to seize power. I found this analysis of human nature to be interesting and realistic, definitely adding credence to the apocalyptic plot, which is necessarily a stretch for the reader.

          Book one of the series, Zombie Youth, Playground Politics, led the reader along a complex zombie destruction path that ended with an introduction to a mysterious sect; a true “other” which both chilled and intrigued. This sect, headed by a uniquely obscure and deeply threatening leader becomes the focal point in book 2. The other survivors must unite, despite their desire to promote their individual agendas. Goodhue has created a unique enemy, and one that is deceptively simple, making her all the more frightening.

          The series is gripping. The years between books have definitely added polish to Goodhue’s style and handling of complex human interaction. The gore is unique and extremely graphic, and verbal tension is palpable. I prefer a bit more comic relief in my horror, but enough exists in his work to cast this series into a really good read for those who love of complexity in plot and character. Highly recommended for readers with a strong stomach, ages 14 and up.

Contains: Graphic zombie gore, profanity, mild sex.

Reviewed by Sheila Shedd

 

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Review: Any Witch Way by Annastaysia Savage

anywitchwaySadie has spent the last three years of her life in foster care due to her mother’s death in a car wreck.  However, Sadie doesn’t believe her mom is dead….and has suffered the ridicule of her classmates over it.  Now, on her thirteenth birthday, Sadie has a very strange dream and awakens to find magical creatures surrounding her and ultimately having to take her into hiding.

Sadie is a witchling, and an organization called The Syndicate is out to kill her.  The Syndicate is made up of humans whose mission is to destroy all magical creatures.  Recently The Syndicate has gotten more daring and ruthless, and time is running out for Sadie and the other magical creatures of the world.  Sadie will eventually learn her family legacy, what she is, and what really happened to her mother—all while facing down some very dangerous people.

Any Witch Way is a well-done book with very good character development.  It is a sweet yet scary story about what it means to grow up.  There are plenty of interesting characters and a solid fantasy world has been created by Ms. Savage.  There is definitely a message here for tween girls and it’s a good one, delivered in a very entertaining fashion.

Recommended

Contains: some violence

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund

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Review: Mercy by Rebecca Lim

mercyMercy is the first book in a new paranormal romance series, and the name of the narrator of the story. At first, one is uncertain who or what Mercy is, however, it may well be that Mercy is either an angel or a fallen angel. Either way, she travels from person to person, occupying their bodies and assisting them with accomplishing otherwise impossible tasks. 

Mercy is in love with Luc, another angel, who she is prevented from joining with by his 8 brothers, known as ‘The Others’. The mystery of who the others are and who Luc actually is, will only be lightly touched upon in this first book. Rather, Mercy is far more concerned with a missing girl, Lauren Daley, and assisting the highly talented teenaged singer Carmen Zappocosta – whose body she currently is in – to perform as well as she can in her high school choir. The primary plotline deals with the kidnapping or murder of Lauren  Daley, which has been unsettling the people of the small town of Paradise for the past two years. Everyone in town has given up finding her except her twin brother Ryan. It’s through his psychic connection to Lauren that Carmen/Mercy will succeed or fail. I found the book was a little slow to start, but once the story set itself into place, this was a great read. Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance, angels, and ghost stories. 

Contains: profanity and violence, evidence of torture, brief gruesome image.  

 

Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz

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Help us with our Zombie Book Database!

We are working on all our book lists and we need your help! You can view our zombie-themed YA book list here. I know we’ve missed a number of books, so you can comment here, email us at monsterlibrarian@monsterlibrarian.com tell us about it on Twitter (@monsterlibraria) or add it yourself!

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Review: Blood of My World by A.P. Fuchs

bloodworldI’m not the biggest fan of paranormal romance, especially with the release of books such as The Vampire Diaries and the Twilight series (which I do not consider horror).  However I was intrigued by a YA novella trilogy by A.P. Fuchs who is perhaps best known for writing about zombies.

Blood of My World consists of three novellas—Discovery of DeathMemories of Death, andLife of Death—that tell the story of high school sweethearts Zach and Rose.  Zach has unexpectedly disappeared, leaving Rose in a state of confusion and worry.  Zach has become a vampire, without any memories of his former life, including Rose.  One fateful night Zach is taken out to feed by his vampire mother, Mira, and kills Rose’s mother.  Experiencing his victim’s memories, Zach is confused by the people he sees and what his connection to them may be.  In the meantime, in the wake of her mother’s death, Rose discovers that she comes from a long line of vampire slayers.

While dealing with the funeral and her training, Rose sees Zach and knows what he has become.  Rose’s father Marcus also knows what Zach has become, and instructs his daughter to stay away from the cemetery.  Marcus explains that vampires have no feelings or emotions for anyone in their former lives, which is what makes them such effective killers.  Zach tries to understand what is happening to him, and what Rose meant to him.  Zach’s vampire family seems ready to accept Rose, even though she’s a human.  Ultimately, Zach will be forced to choose between his vampire family and Rose, and truths will come out that help Zach determine where his loyalties lie.

Fuchs has written a very good story in Blood of My World.  The characters are well-developed and his vampires’ characteristics are quite interesting.  I enjoyed the Shakespearean story of the young lovers from different and clashing worlds—vampire and slayer.  What I also liked about this trilogy is that it doesn’t have the creepiness that most other vampire romances targeting young girls have.  Zach is only a vampire for a few weeks when he and Rose meet again. He’s not a hundred-plus year old vampire “in love” with a teen girl.  In other words, Zach isn’t a dirty old man, he’s still just a kid.  The horror elements are really good, too.  The vampires have ulterior motives that ultimately drive the story—they aren’t an afterthought.  The romance aspect is a bit intense at times, so if paranormal romance isn’t your thing, then this is not the trilogy for you, but overall, Blood of My World is a really good read for its target audience. Recommended.

Contains: nothing objectionable for YA readers

Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund

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Review: Vamplayers by Rusty Fischer

11161444Lily is a vampire sister, a special kind of vampire who ferrets out Vamplayers–that is the egomaniac monsters who turn whole high schools and leave towns with piles of corpses. And she hates it, because why would she stay a lowly sidekick wen she could be a super savior/hero instead? She’s sure she’s better than playing the tramp on their latest mission too, but there’s something ore to Nightshade Academy than a would-be teen Dracula building his harem of brides.

Vamplayers is a rip on every high school vampire/vampire finishing school book out there. The mythology of vampire is downright wishy-washy, but hey, teen angst plus vampires plus hot boys and popularity battles. And bullying! Fischer’s tone is great, equal parts action and wry, tired-of-this-bs humor. Fang-in-cheek without too much goofiness, it’s a fun read, especially if you can’t help loving vampire books despite certain long winded teen vampire series that make your eyes roll.

Contains: language, gore, sexual language & situations

 

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