Tag Archives: young adult novel

Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth

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Escape From Witchwood Hollow by Jordan Elizabeth, e-book, 178 pages, published by Curiosity Quills Press in 2014.

After her parents are killed in the terror attacks of 9/11, Honoria moves to the rural town, Arnn, with her brother, aunt and uncle. The town is bordered by a forest, known as Witchwood Hollow. Over the years many people have wandered into the woods never to return. The legend of the witch is well known about town. Soon after arrival, Honoria is introduced to the woods by a couple of kids from her new school, but instead of being afraid, she finds a kind of peace among the trees. Could the witch help her reunite with her parents or will she become trapped forever?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow was an easy and fast read which I really enjoyed. The story was appealing and intriguing, while the characters were interesting and well-written. There was an undertone of sadness throughout the story, with many of the characters experiencing the loss of a loved one, or being lost themselves.

This book is not about witchcraft per se, it is more about historical occurrences becoming an urban myth, and the way that such a myth is regarded by locals and newcomers to the area. The story centres on Honoria, and her experiences in Arnn and the woods in 2001. However, it is also about Lady Clifford, an immigrant new to the Arnn area during the 1600s, and another English immigrant, Albertine, who arrives in Arnn in 1850. Both of whom entered the woods never to return. I liked the way the story spanned across and entwined the stories and times of the three young women.

I felt sorry for Honoria, given the tragic loss of her parents. Her behaviour felt realistic for the situation. Something good for Honoria from the move to Arnn was her burgeoning friendship with her neighbour, Leon. Proximity brought them together, but a shared interest in local history and the legend of Witchwood Hollow strengthened their bond. I really liked everything about Leon, he was my favourite character.

Something I found a little odd in the story was the obsession with clothing brands. It was weird, and completely redundant to the story, so why emphasise their fashion choices?

Escape from Witchwood Hollow is suitable for upper primary and high school students and is perfect for fantasy lovers.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Ferret by C.C. Wyatt

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Ferret by C.C. Wyatt, e-book, 418 pages, published by Me Myself Publishing in 2016.

It has been four years since Pia’s life was transformed by a sixteen hour disappearance from her Florida holiday home. She has no recollection of any part of those hours, but believes that she must have been kidnapped. Pia is plagued by anxiety, crippling panic attacks and hallucinatory visions. Her parents believe it is all in her head, but Pia isn’t so sure. When Pia returns to Florida she attempts to unravel some of the mystery surrounding her disappearance. She also hopes to investigate an island that only she can see in the ocean between Miami and Bermuda. On her first day back in Florida, she meets a mysterious boy, Cameron, who is a fellow sufferer of hallucinations. Could he hold the answers that Pia has been searching for?

It took me a little while to get into Ferret, but once I was in, it was a fast and engaging read. The plot was quite intriguing, with allusions to the Bermuda Triangle and alien abduction. I’ve always been fascinated by the Bermuda Triangle; missing planes, boast and people, navigational disturbances, unexplained lights. There have been plenty of theories, but they are all yet to be proved, which makes a wonderful scene for a novel about paranormal and supernatural activity.

Overall I enjoyed Ferret. The premise was great, execution was good, and the characters were interesting and believable. However, throughout the book, I noticed grammatical errors, repeated or transposed words and some spelling mistakes. Really, they were a minor nuisance, but they should have been picked up and corrected during the proof-reading process. I can get a bit distracted by things like this, and it did dampen my enthusiasm a little.

Without spoiling the end, I can say that it took an unexpected turn that I didn’t especially like. It was still written well, but it felt less real than the rest of the story. There was also very little resolved as it ended with “To be continued…” Ferret is the start of a series, but for over 400 pages, I would have liked to have seen Pia make a bit more progress on her mystery. There is still so much to uncover for Pia, Cameron, and even his cousin, Brian. Answers, I need answers! Luckily there is another book coming.

Pia and Cameron are both incredibly complex characters. They have issues and secrets from their pasts, along with a history of mental illness. They were drawn together, and we have to believe that it was fate that they meet. While they were fascinated by each other, they had to learn to like and trust one another. And believe, in each other and in themselves. This all happened in the space of a week, which is rather fast-tracked, but it made for an eventful storyline.

I found Pia’s parents to be very confusing. At times Pia seemed to be afraid of them, especially her Dad. I can understand that they were frightened by her disappearance and have continued to be concerned about her ‘episodes’, but they also seemed to be using that as an excuse to keep her under their thumb. I didn’t like them. Their reaction to her going behind their backs is extreme. As a parent myself, first and foremost should have come relief, not anger that she broke their trust. Pia did something in order to prove that she wasn’t crazy, but they didn’t appear to care what her motive was, or to want to re-assure her that they believed her. Maybe they will lighten up a little in the next book.

Ferret is most suitable for high school students. I think many mystery and paranormal fans would be interested in this series. The next book, Perseaus, is expected to be published later this year (2017).

 

*I received this book from the author (via @BookTasters) as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.

Valentine by Jodi McAlister

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valentineValentine by Jodi McAlister, paperback novel, 389 pages, published by Penguin Random House Australia Pty Ltd in 2017.

Four teenagers in the seaside town of Haylesford were all born on Valentine’s day of the same year. Pearl, Finn, Cardy and Marie have grown up together, but now they seem to be marked by the birthday they share. Who or what is after them? And why? Pearl is determined to find out what is really going on, but she might need a little help.

This book came in a book box from The YA Chronicles, and I knew nothing about it when I started to read. And wow! I probably wouldn’t have picked Valentine up myself, assuming that it was a romance novel, but I was pleasantly surprised to discover that it is actually a paranormal fantasy with some romance. And it is really awesome to boot!

From the first chapter, I knew I was going to have trouble putting Valentine down. The plot was intricate, weaving itself into a fast paced ride of darkness and delight. Every chapter’s end had me saying “just one more chapter…” And there’s another book coming in this new series! Yay! There is a short preview at the end of Valentine, which will have to sustain me until Ironheart‘s release next year.

Valentine is not a fairytale, but it is a tale of faeries. Real faeries who are cruel and unforgiving, and zealously pursuing their task without thought to its effects on the humans. They are ruthless and powerful, with some pretty neat tricks up their sleeves. There were two groups after the Valentine babies, the Seelie and the Unseelie, and while one lot was evil, the others weren’t that much better. The way the Unseelie controlled the black animals to frighten and torment was very creepy. I will never be able to see a black cat again without wondering about its evil intent.

I liked the way the story was told, though it took me a little while to catch up with some of the abbreviations in the lingo, such as PDA. That made me feel a bit old! Still, the plot was dramatic and engaging; a very satisfying read. There were some lusty scenes, which may not be everyone’s cuppa, but I thought they were well written, and appropriately utilised for the story.

Pearl was such an interesting and deep character; strong and passionate, I instantly liked her. Most of the characters were quite complex, and I enjoyed getting to know them all. I was amused by Pearl’s denial of her feelings for bad boy Finn, while crushing on Cardy, who is considerably different in personality and looks. She had a great relationship with her older brother and sister, who were also her guardians. I disliked Finn at the start, he just acted like such a jerk, but he improved. As I got to know him better, I realised that he wasn’t all that bad, much more sensitive than I expected.

Valentine is most suitable for middle to upper high school students and older.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan

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percy1Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief by Rick Riordan, paperback novel, 375 pages, published by Puffin Books in 2005.

Percy Jackson has issues. He is dyslexic with ADHD, and has been booted from six schools in six years. He doesn’t try to get expelled, he just seems destined to screw up at school. As the school year comes to a close, Percy yet again finds himself in trouble, but soon school is the least of his worries, as he and his mother are chased by a minotaur, and he discovers that he is not all human after all. Being half Greek god, monsters are trying to kill Percy, and the only safe place for him to go is to Camp Half-Blood, a camp just for kids like him; children of the gods. When he is presented with a hero quest, Percy embraces it as best he can, and along with his friends, Annabeth and Grover, he sets out across the country to find some stolen property and oust the thief.

I had been trying to convince my ten year old to try reading the Percy Jackson series for a couple of years now, but she was stubbornly refusing. So when I picked up a copy of Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief at my favourite secondhand bookshop (Canty’s), I decided to start reading it aloud to her. She very quickly became intrigued by the story, and began begging for more chapters. She is quite capable of reading it herself, but sharing books aloud is a lovely way to spend time with my children, so I kept reading it. We read some everyday, except for when my daughter was away on a school trip for three days, it was incredibly hard for me not to read the rest of the book without her! Once she arrived home, we finished the book quite quickly. About five seconds after finishing Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief, she asked could we start the next one, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. Luckily I had it on hand to get started!

I am thrilled that my daughter loves Percy Jackson as much as I do. It is an exhilarating ride full of adventure, action, monsters and heroes. I felt like we were given a good lesson on Greek Gods and mythology while we read too, which is fascinating. The story is obviously well researched, my only complaint is that the Greek names really stretched my pronunciation skills! The plot was intricately weaved and fast-paced; I loved the action scenes. There were a few surprises along the way as we followed Percy’s journey with great enthusiasm.

The characters are complex and realistic, flawed and special. Grover was probably my favourite. He is always so worried, but he comes through when required. He is an excellent friend to Percy, and helps keep him safe. Annabeth is also a great friend, but she performs her role with more sarcasm and bluntness. She is quirky and valuable, and while a little prickly at times, she is also a lovely person who cares for her friends. Percy is very lucky to have such friends by his side. We really liked Percy too; thrust into a life he never imagined, he battles through and works hard to right a wrong and prevent a war. I’m looking forwards to seeing how he progresses as a character through the series.

It was interesting discovering some of the Gods and their personalities. Most displayed a high level of arrogance and self-importance, which I suppose can only be expected after thousands of years of immortality and rule. They were also pretty scary, and I am glad that I don’t have to face any of them, especially Ares and Hades. Even scarier, though, were the monsters sent to stop Percy, truly nightmare inducing.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief is most suitable for middle primary school and high school students (and up!). We have already started the next book in the series, Percy Jackson and the Sea of Monsters. We will definitely be reading more of these awesome books.

 

 

Unfinished by Kendra C. Highley

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unfinishedUnfinished by Kendra C. Highley, e-novella, 56 pages, published 2014.

Quinn is an “artificial”, a fake human, designed with enhanced intelligence and capabilities. Now his creators are making him a friend; the same type, but this time, a girl, Lexa. Together they will train, learn and grow, and prepare for their greater purpose, whatever that might be. The head of the project, Maren DeGaul is a harsh and feared woman, who is willing to do anything to get what she wants. She believes Lexa is flawed and should be terminated, but Quinn is determined to keep Lexa alive.

I started reading this story not realising that it is a prequel to a book series, Unstrung. I was quite taken with Unfinished; it did not take long for me to read, nor did I want to put it down. I am quite keen to read more of the story in Unstrung, when Quinn and Lexa are grown up.

Fascinating and compelling, Unfinished, is an entertaining piece of science fiction. Beings that look and grow like humans, with human DNA, but also with enhancements and controls; very interesting indeed. Could this or something like it, be in our future? The lower models are considered as slaves by “real” humans and are often treated poorly, and with disdain. It’s an appalling situation, the master has total control over their slaves, including administration of punishment and even termination for any perceived misconduct. One of DeGaul’s henchmen, Piers, is particularly brutal to the artificial. He enjoys meting out punishments, especially when he is able to torture Quinn, who is but a child for the majority of this story. I found the adults of the story to be mostly despicable and immoral, with the exception of Doc Mendel, who really tried to help Quinn and be his friend.

I liked both Quinn and Lexa. They exhibit some truly amazing abilities, well beyond the levels that ordinary humans can accomplish in the same fields, such as speed and strength. Lexa is quite fiery, as well as being a phenomenal climber and sneak, while Quinn is more level-headed with advanced strength and camouflage skills. He is capable of being perfectly likeable and agreeable in order to obtain his objective. Together, they like to have fun playing pranks and causing trouble for their creators and masters. They are capable of the full spectrum of human emotions, including love and empathy. This gives Quinn hope that he is more than just a manufactured artificial human.

There were murmurs of political and social unrest outside of DeGaul’s facility that were not addressed in any depth. These issues were applying pressure to the artificial project, as DeGaul seems to be an important member of society. These rumblings are probably described and explained more thoroughly during the book series, so it may have been prudent to read the series and then the prequel for a better understanding of the situation into which Quinn and Lexa are brought.

Unfinished does contain some violence and abuse, and is most suitable for high school students.

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison

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angusAngus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging by Louise Rennison, paperback, 239 pages, first published by Piccadilly Press Ltd in 1999, this edition published by HarperCollins Childrens Books in 2005.

Georgia Nicolson is a teenager, and as such, her life is full of problems. Nose size, kissing, school, family, friends, frenemies, boyfriends; Georgia tackles it all. Along for the ride is her best friend, Jas, her little sister Libby, and her unusually large and vicious cat, Angus.

Written in diary style, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, chronicles Georgia’s life in all its glory (and missteps). It is a rollicking ride through teenage angst and innovation that had me laughing. It exposes many of the realities that teenagers face, though I think Georgia often tries to solve her problems in an especially unique way. Her poor eyebrows! And kissing lessons, oh my. I was left shaking my head at her solutions, but also chuckling at the outcomes. I don’t remember being that crazy as a teenager, but then, I also didn’t have a giant half-Scottish-wildcat as a pet either!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging is a pretty relaxed read that I flew through. Most of the diary entries are short, so there are plenty of logical places to stop for a break, which also makes it more accessible for slower or struggling readers. Georgia provides a glossary of terms at the end of the book, in case you don’t speak English teenager. Though I didn’t have an issue with any of the words or phrases in the story, Georgia’s explanations were worth reading for their humour.

As a character, Georgia, was well written and developed. She is reasonably self-centred, like many adolescents, I suppose, but likeable enough. Her obsession over the size of her nose was amusing, and a refreshing change from teens that think they are just “too fat”. Georgia’s friends, aside from Jas, were all pretty generic, and I couldn’t really tell them apart. Everything about Georgia’s sister, Libby, however, was hilarious. Three year olds are really very special, especially when they have the opportunity to speak to your crush!

Angus, Thongs and Full-frontal Snogging contains references to sex, sexuality and sexual development, which lend it to a more mature audience. I think it is most suitable for high school students, though kids in upper primary school might also enjoy it.

Holding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven

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holdingHolding Up the Universe by Jennifer Niven, paperback novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2016.

Libby used to be morbidly obese, and she’s still a big girl, but now it’s time for her to leave her house again and start high school. There she meets Jack, a popular, good looking boy with a secret he is hiding at all costs.

A touching love story, Holding Up the Universe made me feel, made me hope, made me smile. It also kept me up late as I found it difficult to stop reading. I flew through the story, taking every step and every stumble with Libby and Jack. My heart lurching and singing, my mind whirling over the difficulties that they both faced.

Holding Up the Universe covers themes of bullying, grief and obesity, but also explores a disorder called prosopagnosia or face-blindness. This was not something I was particularly familiar with, but was quite an interesting topic, and obviously well researched. I certainly learnt a lot during this novel.

The story is told from the alternating perspectives of Libby and Jack. I find this to be an excellent way to explore the depths of the characters. Libby is an amazing person; smart, brave, strong, empathetic. She is complex and beautiful, and she deserves so much more than her peers are capable of giving. Jack is also a complicated character, but I didn’t like him as much as I liked Libby. There were moments when I just wanted to smack him for his stupidity! By hiding his problems with face recognition, he comes across as being a jerk, which isn’t really him. And his choice of friends was questionable, until I realised that shallow and self-interested friends are the only ones that he could have hidden his issues from for very long. I’m surprised his family didn’t realise something wasn’t right.

Holding Up the Universe is suitable for high school students and beyond. I feel that it would be a good read for all teenagers and their parents as it examines a lot of issues relevant to adolescent life. I also recommend reading All the Bright Places, which is another poignant story of adolescence by Jennifer Niven.

All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

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allthebrightplacesAll the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven, novel, 388 pages, published by Penguin Books in 2015.

Theodore Finch is singled out at school as a “freak”, and he has a tendency to get into trouble. His family life is not ideal, and he is battling some pretty strong inner demons. Violet Markey is part of the popular crowd, but she lost her sister in a car accident the previous winter and can’t seem to move forward. When the two meet at the top of the school bell tower an unlikely friendship is forged.

All the Bright Places touched my heart and made me cry; it spoke to me, it moved me, it reminded me that every day could be my last, so I should really live.

This poignant tale is a bit of a modern day Romeo and Juliet. It is intensely emotional and incredibly difficult to put down. Told through the alternate views of Finch and Violet, the story is beautifully written, complex and and wonderful.

The characters are rich, and honest, unique and deep. And heartbreakingly tragic. Violet and Finch, Finch and Violet, I can’t stop thinking about them. I desperately wanted to swoop in to fix all of their problems. And the pages flew by as I became invested in them, both as individuals and as a couple. I loved the wandering Indiana project as a way to discover the state, and to give this unusual pair time to really get to know one another. Quirky Finch, I am a little in love with you, and beautiful Violet, I’m a little in love with you too. Where were you when I needed you in high school?

I related to Finch like no other fictional character I can recall. I know his pain, his joy, his fear, I know him, I’ve been him. Thank you Jennifer Niven for creating Finch, I will never forget him. And thank you for Violet, I hope their lives will help others.

All the Bright Places contains themes of mental illness, domestic violence, death and suicide. If you or someone you know is experiencing any of these issues, please seek help, you could be saving a life. Know that you are not alone. There are lists of places to get help at the end of this book for a number of countries, including Australia; Beyond Blue and Lifeline can help.

All the Bright Places is suitable for high school students and beyond. I highly recommend it to all high schoolers and their parents.

 

Crossing by Catherine Norton

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crossingCrossing by Catherine Norton, paperback novel, 192 pages, published by Omnibus Books in 2014.

Cara has lived behind the Wall her entire life. She knows nothing but food shortages, and responsibilities beyond her years. When Leon and his family move into the top floor of Cara’s apartment building, she gets a glimpse of how things could be different.

Crossing was a fast, captivating story of a different life. The city in the story is nondescript, and could be anywhere in the modern world. However, the Wall is reminiscent of the Berlin Wall in Germany, and the lifestyle also had elements of socialist Russia during the Cold War. Everything about the city made me think of the colour grey; the clothes, the streets, the buildings, even the sky. The city felt defeated, along with all its residents. Their lives were full of hardships, but the loss of freedom felt particularly oppressive to me, especially when observing the view over the Wall from Leon’s apartment.

Growing up with such restrictions and deprivations was tough enough, but Cara also had to cope with her parents’ mysterious work trips, and the responsibility of caring for her younger sister, Lilith, during those times. Even when her parents were home, they didn’t appear to take much interest in Cara anyway, with most of their focus on Lilith, as she showed promising aptitude for computers that would make her useful and valuable for the government. Cara was quite isolated even within her family unit. I felt quite sympathetic towards Cara, and I was glad that she found a friend in Leon.

The story jumped from past to present quite a lot, and it was sometimes not clear when the time had changed. Otherwise, the story was good. It did end a little faster than I had expected, and I was left pondering a few unanswered questions, which is not necessarily a bad thing. This can be a creative opportunity for the reader! Overall I liked Crossing.

Crossing is most suitable for upper primary school and lower high high school students. My fifth grader read Crossing in one sitting, and told me afterwards that it was a good read for her. She felt that she read about a life vastly different to hers, and it made her appreciate her own situation and family more.

 

Wondrous by Travis M. Riddle

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wondrousWondrous by Travis M. Riddle, e-book, 388 pages, expected publication on January 17th, 2017.

In an attempt to block out his parents’ arguing, nine year old Miles hops into bed and tries to go to sleep. When he opens his eyes, instead of being in his room, he is in a strange, damp forest, in a land that is being torn apart by civil war. Rompu is also being ravaged by an evil dragonish creature conjured from another world. Could Miles be the only one strong enough to defeat it?

There was virtually no introduction to this story. I would have preferred a little more background, and setting of the scene before diving into the fantasy world of Rompu. My impressions of the story  improved as I continued to read, and I came to really like it.

The characters were detailed and interesting. Each main character was meticulously described, and I felt like I got to know them all. Miles was a confused and complex child with some issues mostly stemming from his parents’ divorce and his grandmother’s death. His discomfort in Rompu is apparent, but he endeavours to be brave and to move forward into what must seem a terrifying experience for him. Mortimer and Jaselle were kindly characters with a bit of attitude, but it was Kriket that made me laugh the most!

There was a lot of action, some of it quite violent. At times, one action scene bled into another, moving so fast I felt like I wasn’t catching it all. Within the first two chapters alone, Miles had already been in several altercations, including two where some of the creatures were burnt. A few of these sequences contained confronting and graphic violence.

During the story, there would be scenes from Miles’ home life, before he ended up in Rompu. These scenes just flowed straight on from the rest of the story, and sometimes it took a moment for me to realise I was reading about a memory of Miles’, as there was nothing to separate the text between the scenes. I did get used to the way the scenes from Austin and from Rompu integrated, but I feel like a younger reader could become easily confused by the lack of distinction between the present and the past. I had a strong sense that Miles was simply having a rather vivid dream whilst trying to avoid the reality of his fighting parents.

I think a little polishing would transform Wondrous from great to awesome. Wondrous is suitable for upper primary through to high school students.

 

*I received this book from the author as a digital copy in exchange for an honest review. I did not receive any other remuneration, and the review is composed entirely of my own opinions.