Posts tagged relationships
Review based on an Advanced Reading Copy (ARC).
Let me start off by saying if you’re not familiar with Kristin Cashore’s Graceling series, go here first to read our review of the first book, Graceling, in this companion book trilogy. It’s a great fantasy adventure with an active, feisty female protagonist, and both Ruby and I loved it (and all consequent books!). If you have read Graceling and it’s companion Fire, carry on.
Bitterblue is, obviously, the long-awaited third book in Cashore’s fantasy world of the Seven Kingdoms. While Graceling focuses on Katsa (a young woman with a killing grace) and Fire goes over the mountains and into the past to show us the Dells and a human monster named Fire, Bitterblue focuses on the young queen of the same name. (Never fear, Katsa and Po fans: they, along with other familiar faces, are woven throughout the pages and in Bitterblue’s life.)
It has been eight years since Bitterblue’s father, the mind-controlling graceling King Leck, was killed, and she has been growing up under the title of Queen of Monsea. Surrounded by old advisors who would like to pardon all crimes under Leck’s horrific reign and pretend those decades never happened, she finds herself under a mountain of paperwork, governing a land she does not feel she knows. At first Bitterblue trusts her advisers’ judgment, but her growing frustration and a sense of ignorance about the reality of her father, his reign, and the people and society of Monsea makes her realize that she has much to learn. In a moment of exasperation, Bitterblue sneaks out of the castle one night in servant’s clothes and finds herself in a crumbling city full of thieves–some friendly, some dangerous–and finally realizes that the “truths” she is being told in her castle are not real. Through her budding relationship with two thieves and printers, Bitterblue slowly learns about her kingdom through her disguise and starts to uncover the fog that Leck left on his subjects, as well as the deceit and misinformation making its way to her palace. As her own mind wakes up to the realities of her kingdom–both beautiful and tragic–and she starts a secret project to uncover who Leck really was and how she can bring her people back to the light. Bitterblue is more of a mental adventure than its predecessors, but it still holds the key ingredients that have made all of Cashore’s books a success, including romance, adventure, suspense and intrigue, and difficult, sometimes philosophical questions about self and others. I loved Bitterblue, and my only (minor) regret is that I didn’t re-read the companion novels before diving in. (more…)
Grave Mercy by Robin LaFevers (His Fair Assassin, book one)
Why be the sheep when you can be the wolf?
Seventeen-year-old Ismae has had a harsh life: born the daughter of death, her “mortal” father fears and hates her, and after years of beatings and abuse, she is sold into an arranged marriage. When strangers help her to escape, she finds herself taken to the convent of St. Mortain, where she learns that she is not only Death’s daughter but also a tool of Death’s revenge. At the convent Ismae becomes strong, learning everything from poisons and hand-to-hand combat to societal etiquette and effective spying techniques. Over the years, she develops friendships, new skills, and a place she calls home. (All of this takes place in 15th-Century Brittany.)
Several years later and in the midst of her first assassination assignment–her job is to find a man “marked” with Death’s fingerprint and perform His will–she encounters a handsome but frustrating nobleman, Duval, and he becomes a complication that follows her into her next trip and provides riddles as to the protection of the Duchess of Brittany, Death’s true intent, and the way the world truly functions. As the political intrigue grows, Duval and Ismae grow closer, supposedly working together while struggling to trust one another. When the convent determines it is Death’s will that Duval be assassinated, Ismae finds herself in an emotionally tumultuous position, unsure of her loyalties and her developing feelings. All the while Brittany is threatened by attack from France and the young Duchess is in ever-growing danger and in need of Ismae’s protection. Without giving away too much of the plot or romance, let’s just say it’s a really good page-turner! (more…)
The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan
But hey, I loved the books! (Also, I’d rather review The Son of Neptune than clean my room.)
On the off chance that nobody here has read (or heard of) the Percy Jackson series, here’s a brief overview: ancient Greek gods and goddesses are real, and they never disappeared–they’ve followed the rise of Western culture and currently reside on Mt. Olympus over the Empire State Building. Percy Jackson–main character, obviously–discovers he’s a “hero” or Greek “demigod”, a half-mortal, and his father is Poseidon, which turns out to be problematic. After a brief time at Camp Half Blood, he and his new friends are off on a quest full of mythical beasts, minor deities, and worldwide catastrophe. It’s rollicking good fun, incredibly smart, and impressively accurate on the ancient history/mythology level. Alas, after five books, the series was done.
But wait! There’s more! (more…)
The Future of Us by Jay Asher & Carolyn Mackler
When former best friends Emma, 17, and Josh, 16, discover they can look into their futures via Emma’s computer, dealing with their findings will strengthen or sever their relationship forever.
If you could uncover facets of your life fifteen years in the future would you? Two high school students may have stumbled upon a way to do just that. It’s 1996 and thanks to the AOL CD-ROM Josh gave her, Emma’s internet connection mysteriously links her to her 2011 Facebook page. After exploring the future, she sets out to change her prospects, a cheating spouse and possible depression, while Josh welcomes the possibility of his future marriage to the high school “it girl”.
Small actions have big effects and anything is possible in this seamlessly co-written tale. The authors alternate points of view. Asher tells Josh’s story and Mackler Emma’s, but the narrative flows effortlessly. The characters and their ideas are relatable for teens today as well as those who lived through their adolescence before the digital age. While Josh and Emma explore who they are and what they really want, they question what friendship really means, and if destiny exists. Quirky characters and entertaining twists will keep the pages turning until the satisfactory ending.
The book will be released on November 21st, 2011.
Also available as an eBook.
Image from www.goodreads.com
Huber Hill and the Dead Man’s Treasure by B. K. Bostick
(Digital ARC received from Cedar Fort Publishers.)
Huber Hill is having a rough time. At home his parents are always fighting, and at school he has no real friends and gets picked on daily by Scott, a bully whose life mission seems to be to destroy Huber. To top it all off, Huber’s twin sister, Hannah, is seemingly perfect, an athlete with good grades and tons of friends. The only time Huber feels truly happy is when he and Hannah visit Grandpa Nick, who tells them stories of his youthful adventure days and the hunt for Spanish treasure buried in mines in the mountains. When Grandpa Nick suddenly passes away, he leaves the twins a secret gift: a box with an old journal, a centuries-old map, and a single gold coin. The treasure is real!
In the meantime, a school conflict unexpectedly brings Huber and Scott together, and they start to build a strong friendship. When Huber’s parents announce a temporary separation, all three kids agree that it’s time to get away–time to search for buried treasure!
Unbeknownst to their parents, the three kids hike into the mountains on a camping trip to start the search, trying to decipher faded Spanish notes with the help of Grandpa Nick’s journal and slowly working their way closer to Tesoro de los Muertos. But no good adventure story would be complete without a bad guy: meet Salazar, a scarred, creepy, and blood-thirsty Spaniard who traveled across the world to claim the treasure for himself. (more…)
“He was a death deity. I was a senior in high school. This was never going to work.”
Life in a new high school can be hard, especially after you’ve died. Luckily for Pierce, she was resuscitated, but not before she makes it to the Underworld and unwittingly catches the eye of John Hayden, a dark and broodingly handsome guy who just happens to be the death lord in charge of the traveling souls of the deceased.
In a modern-day twist on the Greek myth of Persephone and Hades, Cabot has created a dark and interesting drama between a girl who is not quite the same since she drowned and a death deity who is unwilling to let her go, even in life. As Pierce finds herself in unwittingly dangerous situations, John follows her and protects her (often rather destructively), much to Pierce’s chagrin. Unsettled by his presence every time he’s near, she’s both afraid and captivated, unsure how to escape him for good and somewhat unwilling to do so. Avoiding John becomes especially difficult when Pierce and her divorced mom move to the equivalent of the Florida Keys to make a fresh start, which just happens to be a direct portal to the underworld. Oops. (more…)
Acting Up by Ted Staunton
In this coming-of-age novel, Sam Foster is an eleventh-grade boy trying to face the ever-changing life in his small, Canadian hometown of Hope Springs. Maturity is the ever-important word as Sam tries to convince his parents that he can handle the responsibilities of a driver’s license and house-sitting, all the while trying to balance his spunky, anarchist girlfriend; his goofball buddies; school work; volunteer time at the library; and a coerced participation in the school play. At times funny (and can you say hilarious-but-awkward?), Staunton strikes a believable chord as the characters develop. The situations Sam finds himself in are realistic, hilarious, and embarrassing all at once, and even the adults in the book have are wacky enough keep the reader interested. Teenagers–guys especially!–will relate to Sam’s mishaps, crazy cohorts, and even crazier adult mentors as he struggles to find balance in the turmoil of becoming a so-called “grown up”.
Acting Up is the third in a trilogy focusing on Sam’s town and the people in it, a further development of Sam’s character as a growing teenager. Mostly comic with relate-able, embarrassing situations and a cast of characters trying to figure out what they want and how to communicate with one another, it also has a few deeper notes that lend some weight to the story. Though the theme of “maturity” is often overpowering and the outcomes of some plot points are a bit predictable, Staunton’s overall story and creative collection of teenage adventures and catastrophes makes it a good, solid read. Sam is every-guy in any-town (albeit Canadian), and his miscommunications, misunderstandings, and personal goals relate to the shared experience of teenage life. If you enjoy “real world” fiction, this will make a good summer read. (more…)
Wither by Lauren DeStefano (Book One in the Chemical Garden Trilogy)
Several generations ago, the human race was genetically perfected: genes were cleared of tendencies to cancer, viruses, disease. But something went horribly wrong, and all subsequent generations have stunted lifelines, girls living until age twenty and boys living until age twenty-five. The short lifelines of all those who aren’t “first generation” means a stagnation of humanity, and the divide between rich and poor grows ever deeper as the remaining dystopian world is filled with orphans, crime, and fear. Some search for a cure to this terrible genetic curse. Others despair that one cannot be found.
Sixteen-year-old Rhine and her twin brother, Rowan, are children of first generation parents who died in a terrorist attack at the genetics lab where they worked to find a cure. Left alone, Rhine and her brother maintain their home and find what work they can. And then, one day, Rhine is stolen away by Gatherers, men who make a living kidnapping and selling young women as wives to wealthy men, a means of forced procreation.
Scared and bitter, Rhine is sold to Linden, her twenty-one-year-old husband, along with two new sister wives, Cecily–age thirteen–and Jenna–age eighteen. (They are the lucky ones: the rejected girls were shot and left on the side of the road.) While Cecily, who grew up in an orphanage, is giddy to love her new husband and plush, comfortable lifestyle, Jenna and Rhine are miserable and seething, though only Rhine is determined to escape. Her only solace, besides the library, is a servant of the house, Gabriel, and a friendship between them blossoms into something unnamed and forbidden. (more…)
Enclave by Ann Aguirre
The only life Deuce has ever known is in the enclave, one of many underground villages where those who survived the apocalypse now dwell. Lives are shorter now–a person is lucky to reach twenty years–and if a “Brat” makes it to age fifteen, they undergo a naming ceremony and join their chosen job. Deuce, a newly named huntress, has trained for her position for years and desires to serve her people as best she can, both providing food and protecting her home from the mutant and cannibalistic “Freaks” who lurk in the broken-down tunnels.
Her first day on the job provides a sharp new look at life as her hunting partner, a dark and brooding outsider named Fade (who becomes a romantic interest as the plot thickens), shows her the horrors and violence beyond the enclave. As Deuce learns more about her society–elders kill the innocent to survive, and information that threatens stability is withheld–tension builds until she and Fade are suddenly exiled to Above where it is rumored that survival is impossible. Afraid but stubborn, Deuce and her partner rise to the surface to find a broken and perilous city, though very different from what they had come to expect. A continuing journey takes them across new lands and constantly changing dangers as they search for a place Fade’s father knew, safety in “the north”. (more…)
In Amsterdam in the middle of World War II, two Jewish families–the Franks and the Van Pels–hide away in an annex above an office, praying for survival and the downfall of the Nazis. In Annexed, Dogar has created her vision of what it was like in the annex with Anne Frank from Peter van Pels’ point of view. To take a time and character so closely scrutinized by the world and so well documented–by the world-renowned diary of Anne Frank–is a challenge, to say the least, but Dogar has done a good job at not over-sensationalizing the material. She also manages to stay true to what she believes might have gone through the mind of a teenage boy in a time of personal and world-wide crisis. Following Peter from the morning before seclusion to his death (potentially, according to records, in a concentration camp sick bay), readers see the hope and the despair, two sides of many moments he experienced as his memories are shared in the book.
Full of hate and fear, love, shame, sexual longing, wavering faith, and all the “why” questions one could ponder, Peter examines life both inside and outside the walls of the annex and tries to make sense of it all, all the while experiencing the morphing relationships inside the hideout as tensions flow between the families and genders. Why, Peter asks, must I hide instead of fight? Why do we have to be the chosen people? Why does being Jewish have to define everything about me? Will I ever experience life beyond this point? (more…)