Review: Bloody Horowitz by Anthony Horowitz

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 Bloody Horowitz is a collection of short, scary stories by Anthony Horowitz, author of the Alex Rider books.  It is a little dark and, at times, a little gory.  But it also had me cracking up. From the forward (“Why Horror Has No Place in Children’s Books”) to the editor’s note at the end detailing all of the cuts they planned to make in the manuscript (before suspecting Anthony of being a serial killer), it’s pure dark humor.  The first story in particular is a must-read for every Cirque Du Freak fan.  It’s entitled, “The Man Who Killed Darren Shan.” There are also killer mp3 players, a GPS you should never listen to, and a game show you’d give anything to win. Not to mention that I’m NEVER going to ride the subway in New York.

I highly recommend this book for every library. It is the perfect book to give to every teenage boy who loves horror or the Alex Rider series.

Contains:  Blood, violence, some themes that may be disturbing for children under the age of 13.

Reviewed by: Cherylynne W. Bago

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Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5thwaveThe Others are coming.  In five waves, they have been laying waste to everything we are and think of us as nothing more than annoying insects, or a disease that needs to be eradicated.  The first wave crippled the world.  The second obliterated much of it in a heartbeat. The third took much longer but left the most bodies in its wake. The fourth became a much more up and close encounter of the deadliest kind.

The fifth will end humanity – unless people can find a way to stave off extinction.

Cassie Sullivan is an average sixteen-year-old girl, ignored by the guy she has a crush on, who carries a stuffed bear and a Luger M16 everywhere she goes.  Her family gone, she searches for her five year old brother, who was taken from her, leaving her holding onto his bear and a promise to never give up on him.  This is her story – and a strong one. Cassie finds herself laid up, injured, in a farmhouse, nursed back to health by a farmboy who is the only survivor from his family.  He seems like a dream to a girl who has never caught the eye of a good-looking guy, but he also harbors a secret.

Yancey also establishes a second narrative, told from the point of view of Ben Parrish, the guy who never knew Cassie fell for him.  Ben was the high school kid everyone loved, and with good reason. He’s a nice guy, good looking, and had the world at his feet–until the world was turned upside down.  He finds himself inside a military base where the personnel “rehab” the wounded and displaced, yet nobody seems to be over 18– except for the officers and trainers. When Cassie and Ben uncover what the 5th Wave truly is, horror grips them– making for a fast-paced, intriguing YA novel that does not slow or falter.

While this YA novel is targeted to tweens and teens, there’s very little that is juvenile about it.  Rick Yancey has created a wondrous book will have parents fighting their kids for their copies and will likely find its way onto the big screen sometime soon.  It might just be the best YA novel published since The Hunger Games.

David Simms

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Review: Ashfall by Mike Mullin

ashfall1I first learned of Ashfall in November of 2011, and I should have reviewed it long before now. It was chosen by more than one professional journal as one of the best young adult novels written in 2011, and I definitely agree with that, and now it has just been nominated as one of the Best Teen Novels Ever Written by NPR. I’m not sure I can agree with that- there are many, many quality books for teens, and the history of YA literature goes back for decades. I can say with certainty, though, that Ashfall does stand out from the crowd of apocalyptic, post-apocalyptic, and dystopian fiction that has been crowding the shelves lately.

 Teenage Alex is on the outs with his parents, who have left him home alone while they visit relatives in another state, when a supervolcano under Yellowstone National Park erupts, covering everything in huge quantities of ash, killing the ability to communicate over long distances, making transportation nearly impossible, and causing general chaos, despair, and violence (although there are still a few people working hard to survive and help others). In the face of this disaster, Alex decides to leave home and search for his parents. The general plot isn’t all that original- there are a million disaster stories where kids and their parents journey through, or after, a disaster, to reach each other.  However, the imagination, detail, character development, and matter-of-fact storytelling make Ashfall unique.

 It’s refreshing to find an apocalypse in YA fiction that doesn’t include zombies or weapons of mass destruction, and it’s clear that Mullin did research to create a storyline that reflected the effects of such a massive natural disaster on both the environment and on human invention. A detail I really appreciated was the early mention of Alex’s tae kwon do skills, as it’s common in similar kinds of books for characters to suddenly possess survival skills they have had no chance to learn. Characters were also drawn in detail and included in a natural fashion types that normally are presented as outside the norm, such as the gay couple in Alex’s neighborhood that initially save him when the ash begins to fall, and Darla, a tough and competent teenage girl who rescues him (instead of the other way around). It’s also interesting to see the way the relationship between Alex and Darla evolve on both an emotional and physical level.

 Mullin’s storytelling ability is evident, and I found enough meat in his book to read it more than once, It’s a great coming-of-age tale, with enough action and adventure to satisfy adults. An original, compelling, and memorable novel, it’s worth adding to any YA collection, and a great recommendation for readers of both genders who love a good adventure. Highly recommended for ages 15 and up. A sequel, Ashen Winter, will come out in October 2012.

 Contains: violence, language, animal killings, gore, implied rape, mild sexual situations

 Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski

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Review: Cinder by Marissa Meyer, read by Rebecca Soler

CinderCinder is a retelling of the classic fairy tale, but it is not the “Cinderella” from your childhood or from the landmark animated film.  It is the first of four books in The Lunar Chroniclesseries; future volumes will deal with “Little Red Riding Hood”, “Rapunzel”, and “Snow White.”  Meyer’s debut novel includes all the relevant elements of the original fairy tale: a teenage girl trying to find herself while dealing with a cruel stepmother and step-sisters, a missing ‘shoe’(sort of), an upcoming royal ball, and a romance-minded prince who doesn’t know who the main character really is.  But the story also deals with prejudice, plague, and politics, all taking place on a futuristic Earth more than 100 years after a devastating World War IV.

Cinder is a 16-year old cyborg mechanic in New Beijing, capital city of the Asian Commonwealth, which is suffering from economic difficulties and a deadly plague.  Not only are cyborgs considered second-class citizens, but Cinder is the unwanted legal ward of Audrey, a woman with two daughters of her own.  Audrey is the widow of Garan, the scientist who found, repaired, and adopted Cinder as a child.  Shortly before the highly anticipated royal ball, Prince Kai, future ruler of the Commonwealth, asks Cinder to fix a family android.  Kai seems attracted to her but Cinder knows he would reject her if he knew she was a cyborg, so she doesn’t enlighten him.  Kai has his own problems to deal with; his father is dying from the Letumosis plague and he is in the midst of tense interplanetary negotiations with the kingdom of Luna.  He must contend with the powerful, cruel, and ambitious Queen Levana who is intent on marriage to seal the pact.

The publisher provided a digital advanced listening copy to review before the January 3rd release.  The narrator is Rebecca Soler, who some may recognize from other YA audio titles such as Angel: a Maximum Ride Novel by James Patterson and Monster High: Freaks & Shrieks by Lisi Harrison.  Soler provides Cinder with an appropriate young voice and gives subtle, yet distinctive voices to the other characters with her fully-voiced reading.

Cinder is a strong female character, and the political trials of Prince Kai lend appealing complications.  The chapters are short, the pacing is fast, and Soler’s reading is entertaining and effective, but I found the mystery behind Cinder’s origin rather obvious.  The intended audience is teens, age 13 and up but I believe adults will also enjoy the story and I recommend it for all public libraries. 

Similar alternate fairy tales might be the ABC television series “Once Upon a Time”, and the YA titles “Midnight Pearls: a Retelling of ‘The Little Mermaid’” by Debbie Viguie and “Troll Bridge: a Rock ‘n’ Roll Fairy Tale” by Jane Yolen.

 Contains:  n/a

Reviewed by: Lucy Lockley, the RAT Queen

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Review: The Raven Boys by Maggie Stiefvater

theravenboysBlue is the only non-psychic in a household of psychic women, and all of them have predicted with certainty that when she kisses her true love, he will die. On St. Mark’s Eve, when the veil between the world of the living and the dead has lifted, she sees her first ghost, who identifies himself as Gansey before fading away. Her aunt, Neeve tells her that beca

 Gansey turns out to be a student at Aglionby, an expensive private boarding school for boys with a raven as its mascot, obsessed with finding Glendower, a Welsh king he believes was transported near where the school is located. He has drawn his friends into his search: Ronan, another wealthy and very troubled boy; Noah, an insubstantial boy; and Adam, a town boy who works to pay for his schooling. When Blue and Adam become involved, she begins to spend her free time with the boys searching for Glendower and magical places of power that might lead to him. Gansey and Blue recognize each other from their encounter on St. Mark’s Eve, but she does not enlighten him as to what that means. Their search leads them to what they suspect is a possible “spirit road” that could lead them to Glendower if they can wake it with the right ritual.  

 Gansey and his friends are not the only ones seeking Glendower, though. Blue’s ambitious Aunt Neeve and Barrington Whelk, an unsavory teacher at Aglionby who sought the power of the spirit road when he was a student there, are also planning to attempt the ritual before Gansey and his friends can wake the spirit road.   

 The Raven Boys has been nominated for a Stoker Award for Best Young Adult Novel, but I’m not sure why that is. While it does have supernatural activity, it’s not actually scary. In fact, it’s not even suspenseful, because we know that Gansey is Blue’s true love from the very first pages, so the angst she feels over getting involved with Adam seems forced. The relationships between the women in Blue’s home and between the “raven boys” were the highlight of the book.  

 I didn’t find Blue to be an especially sympathetic, likable, or well-developed character.  I can’t tell if this is on purpose or not, because Stiefvater did a great job of developing Gansey, as well as the supporting and minor characters, often with just a few sentences. As this is the first in a trilogy, I am hoping she’ll do a little more with Blue in the next book, give Gansey some challenges his money can’t overcome, and reveal a little more about the ongoing conflict between Ronan and his brother. The Raven Boys is a nicely readable and entertaining urban fantasy, but teen horror readers looking for a good scare will be disappointed.   

 Contains: Violence, the supernatural 

 Reviewed by: Kirsten Kowalewski

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Contest! Win a Copy of Suspicion by Alexandra Monir!

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Isn’t it gorgeous? And we have a copy for YOU! all you have to do is comment on this post and one winner will get a free print copy of Suspicion! Contest goes until Friday 12/12/14 and the winner will be announced Saturday!

Here’s our review and below is the press release.

“Intensely dramatic, fast-paced, and twisty, Monir’s mystery ticks every gothic suspense box. The combination of paranormal elements with a star-crossed romance between almost-royals should keep readers rapt.” Booklist

“A terrific read that will keep you looking out for Imogen as she goes through her trials and tribulations. And the ending…WOW! The ending is a huge surprise that no reader should miss.” Suspense magazine

“Take The Princess Diaries and add magic, murder and mystery, and you’ve got Suspicion. A delightful read!” –Amy Plum, author of the international bestselling Die for Me series

“If Alfred Hitchcock had directed Downton Abbey, the result would have been this book. Alexandra Monir takes us on a gripping, nonstop thrill ride with just the right amount of supernatural and an ending that you definitely won’t suspect. I devoured it in one sitting.”

Jessica Brody, bestselling author of the Unremembered trilogy

Alexandra Monir has captivated legions of fans with her YA time travel romances, Timeless and Timekeeper; critics have praised the books as “fun read[s] filled with romantic suspense and mystery” (USA Today), “music for your heart” (Justine), and a “perfect blend of quality content, romance and heart-pounding adventure” (Savvy).

Now, Monir offers a modern-day, young adult twist on the classic gothic novel, Rebecca, with SUSPICION, an enthralling supernatural thriller to be published by Delacorte Press in hardcover on December 9, 2014.

Rockford Manor is a sprawling English country estate of nearly two hundred rooms, grand columns and towers, and acres of manicured gardens. For seventeen-year-old Imogen Rockford, it’s her family’s summer home since the 18th century – and the site of her childhood’s greatest pain: her parents’ death by a mysterious fire in the maze garden. After the tragedy, she was whisked away to New York by her guardians and in sorrow turned her back on her older cousin Lucia and her neighbor and childhood crush Sebastian Stanhope. But she’s haunted by her father’s last words: that there’s something important hidden in the Maze, and she’ll know when the time comes to find it. Then a letter arrives that forces Imogen to return to the manor and face both her aristocratic roots and a stirring supernatural power she can’t control. She soon discovers that dark and long-buried secrets lurk behind Rockford’s stunningly beautiful facade. Imogen herself is caught at the center of them—as is her cousin Lucia, and Sebastian, the boy she never stopped loving.

Inspired by Monir’s longtime passion for the gothic suspense novels of Daphne du Maurier, the psychological thriller films of Alfred Hitchcock, and the upstairs-downstairs world of Downton Abbey, SUSPICION offers romantic suspense, sinister intrigue, and a shocking twist no one will see coming. And at the same time, it’s a universal story of a young girl in the midst of all the changes that come with growing up, who is trying to find her place in the world and navigate loss, love and redemption.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Alexandra Monir is an author and recording artist. Suspicion is her third novel published by Random House. Her debut was the popular time-travel romance, Timeless, followed by the 2013 sequel, Timekeeper. Alexandra currently resides in Los Angeles, where she is at work on her next novel, while also blogging for The Huffington Post and composing an original musical. Her music can be found on iTunes.

Visit her website at www.alexandramonir.com and follow @TimelessAlex on Twitter. 

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Review: Darkest Mercy by Melissa Marr

darkestmercyDarkest Mercy is the fifth and final book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA urban faery series, and is a finale to a number of the plotlines that have run through the other books.

The book begins where Radiant Shadows ended. Summer King Keenan has left, former Dark King Irial is injured after a confrontation with Bananach, and the veil between Faerie and the mortal realm has been closed. From the opening pages, it is clear that Darkest Mercy will move towards an inevitable showdown, which will put the lives of all the characters at risk. Added to this, Marr revisits the love triangles of previous novels in the series (Niall-Irial-Leslie and Aislinn-Seth-Keenan – though this is more of a square, with the fourth corner occupied by Donia) and offers some satisfying conclusions to these.

Like all the books in the series, Darkest Mercy has some romantic moments, but also some dark ones. There is violence and death is all the books of the series, and the final installment is no exception. However, this is balanced by compelling and sympathetic characterization, which allows the reader to understand the ‘difficult’ moments through the experiences of likable protagonists.

The Wicked Lovely books are a strong series. Marr’s faery world is a fascinating creation, peopled by callous, cruel, seductive and charming fairies – all of whom are bound by both ancient laws and their own strong desires. Darkest Mercy is a fitting conclusion to the series. As well as resolving some of the plot-threads, there is development of central characters and some new additions as well. Almost all the central characters from the various books in the series (with the exception of Sorcha, Devlin, Ani and Rae) are brought together for the dramatic conclusion. I think the epilogue, particularly, will make avid fans of the series smile.

Compared with other books in the series (especially the earlier ones), Darkest Mercy is not as clearly urban fantasy. While Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange told the story of ordinary ‘human’ girls, with one foot in the ‘real’ world and one (reluctant) foot in the supernatural, Darkest Mercy is set almost entirely in the fairy world. This isn’t a criticism as such, but it does remind us how much some of the characters have given up during their stories.

Darkest Mercy is recommended to fans of urban fantasy, and is highly recommended to those who have enjoyed the rest of the Wicked Lovely series. It belongs alongside the YA fairy novels of Holly Black, Aprilynne Pike and Carrie Need.

Contains: references to sexuality, death and violence (not explicit)

Reviewed by: Hannah Kate

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Review: Radiant Shadows by Melissa Marr

radiantshadowsRadiant Shadows is the fourth book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA fairy series. It follows on from Fragile Eternity, focusing more on characters that have previously featured only briefly in the series. In particular, it tells the story of Devlin (High Court regent Sorcha’s ‘brother-son’), Ani (the daughter of Gabriel and sister of tattooist Rabbit) and Bananch (Sorcha’s twin sister and the embodiment of War and Discord).

Although the series began with a rather straightforward division of ‘humans’ and ‘fairies’, the books have gradually complicated this division with the introduction of new types of creature in each installment. I think that Radiant Shadows is perhaps the most complex version of the human/fey divide, as much of it concentrates on the story of a ‘halfling’ (born of a human mother and a fey father) and the shade of a once-human girl (who has technically died, but is kept ‘alive’ through her relationship with the fairy Devlin). Nothing is quite as simple as it first seemed in Wicked Lovely, with a number of newly-made fairies (who were once human) featuring prominently in Radiant Shadows.

This was not my favorite book in the series, and I’m not sure it quite lives up to the promise ofFragile Eternity and the earlier books. While Ani, Devlin and Rae are great characters, I didn’t find them quite as compelling as Sorcha (who was a central character in the previous book), Aislinn, Leslie, Donia or Keenan. Nevertheless, all these characters make an appearance, and I enjoyed the development of the characters of Irial and Niall (who featured in Ink Exchange). The final showdown also had me holding my breath, as Marr filled it with tension and high emotion. This series is a strong one, and Radiant Shadows is still a great piece of YA urban fantasy.

This book is recommended for fans of the earlier Wicked Lovely books, and belongs alongside other YA urban fantasy, particularly books by Holly Black and Carrie Need.

Contains: some references to sexuality, violence and death (not explicit)

Reviewed by: Hannah Kate

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Review: Fragile Eternity

fragileeternityFragile Eternity is the third book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA fairy series. While it follows Ink Exchange, it returns to the unresolved threads of the first book in the series and revisits Wicked Lovely’s heroine (Aislinn) who was made into a Summer Queen at the end of the first installment.

After discovering that she is the true Summer Queen, Aislinn struggles to come to terms with her new fey existence, as well as with the fact that she has been thrown into a relationship with the seductive Summer King, Keenan. However, unlike Wicked Lovely, this book is not strictly Ash’s story. Fragile Eternity, in fact, follows the story of Seth, Aislinn’s mortal boyfriend. Though he does love her, Seth finds it hard to understand the new pressures on his girlfriend, and both find it difficult to deal with the fact that, while she is immortal, he will one day grow old and die. Seth is also troubled by the close relationship Ash has to share with Keenan, and becomes jealous of the powerful (and physical) bond between the Summer King and Queen.

As a central character, Seth is likable and sympathetic. However, for me, the ‘star’ of Fragile Eternity is, without doubt, Sorcha, the Queen of the High Court. The eternal and ‘unchanging’ queen, who is responsible for the entire creation of Faerie, is at once an imperious and threatening figure and a vulnerable and lonely woman. The choices Sorcha makes defy all human logic, but Marr’s writing skillfully draws us into the world of this frightening fairy, so we are able to have some level of understanding and sympathy. Fragile Eternity also develops the fairy world of the first two books, and explores the tricky relationship between the fey and mortal realms – as well as the dangers to be faced when the balance between these realms is disturbed.

Unlike Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange, this book takes place mostly within the fairy world. The once mortal characters of the first two books are now embracing their fey identities. This shift in focus is interesting, and promises to take the series in a new direction. Fragile Eternity also ends with several storylines unresolved, pointing ahead to the final two books in the series.

This book is recommended for fans of YA urban fantasy, particularly the fairy novels of Holly Black, Aprilynne Pike and Carrie Need. It is highly recommended for fans of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange.

Contains: some references to sexuality, death and violence (not explicit)

Reviewed by: Hannah Kate

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Review: Ink Exchange by Melissa Marr

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Ink Exchange is the second book in Melissa Marr’s YA Wicked Lovely series. The first book in the series told the story of Aislinn, an ‘ordinary’ high school girl who is stalked by fairies that no-one else can see. Ink Exchange tells the story of Leslie, one of Aislinn’s school friends, who also becomes ensnared in the world of the fey.

Like the first book in the series, Ink Exchange is a rather dark tale. Just as Aislinn had been dogged by traumatic experiences in her past, so Leslie is struggling to come to terms with horrible memories when her story begins. However, in many ways, Ink Exchange offers a more disturbing tale. Having been raped by drug dealer associates of her brother, Ren, Leslie decides to get a tattoo in an attempt to reclaim her body and her identity. Unwittingly, she chooses a tattoo parlor run by a half-mortal, half-fey named Rabbit. The design she chooses is the mark of the Dark King Irial, leaving Leslie tied and drained by the fairy.

Meanwhile, Aislinn (now the Summer Queen) is keen to protect her friend without revealing her new identity, and sends advisor Niall to watch over her. Niall forms strong feelings for Leslie, and has his own past history with Irial as well, creating a complicated love triangle between the mortal girl and fairy men.

Leslie’s (literal and metaphorical) attachment to Irial is described in terms that seem reminiscent of drug addiction – reminding me of Holly Black’s book, Valiant, in which the connection between drug-taking and fairy magic is also explored. At times, Leslie’s fate seems so bleak that it is hard to imagine how she is ever going to come through it. However, the resolution of her story is one of triumph, not of suffering, and her final destiny is one of the most empowering I have read in a YA urban fantasy.

Of all the Wicked Lovely books, Ink Exchange is definitely my favorite. It certainly goes to some very dark places, and is quite an emotional read at times, but this is a strength, rather than a weakness. While Leslie is, for the most part, a victim in this book, the way this is handled (and, finally, dispelled) is excellent. Melissa Marr’s choice of how to resolve a love triangle (so common, now, in YA fantasy) is both bold and moving.

I recommend this book to fans of YA fantasy, though it is more suited to older teen readers. It belongs alongside the other Wicked Lovely books, and the YA books of Holly Black and Carrie Need.

Contains: references to sexuality and sexual violence, drug use and death

Reviewed by: Hannah Kate

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