By Caragh M. O’Brien
Genre: Young Adult/Dystopian
“You can’t take my baby. She’s mine.”
“You’ll have others. You’ll get to keep some. I promise.”
“Please. Not this one. Not my only. What have I done?”
"You’ve provided a great service to the Enclave.”
In the future, in a world baked dry by the harsh sun, there are those who live inside the walled Enclave and those, like sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone, who live outside. Following in her mother's footsteps Gaia has become a midwife, delivering babies in the world outside the wall and handing a quota over to be "advanced" into the privileged society of the Enclave. Gaia has always believed this is her duty, until the night her mother and father are arrested by the very people they so loyally serve. Now Gaia is forced to question everything she has been taught, but her choice is simple: enter the world of the Enclave to rescue her parents, or die trying.
My Review: I wanted to enjoy this book, I really did. And I’m not saying that I completely hated it (Beautiful Creatures definitely trumps it in that department) but it just sort of fell flat for me as a whole. There were a couple of scenes that had me gripping my seat, two that made tears spring to my eyes, but when I finished the last page I was just sort of…meh. There were a lot of things that didn’t seem well thought out, or maybe I just didn’t get them. Like, why would everyone in the Enclave look completely down their nose at people from “outside the wall” when half of their population comes from the advanced babies that were born from those people? And why did almost everyone go out of their way to help Gaia, just so she could try to save her parents? Why did they care? There was nothing I noticed that made her special, well there was one thing, but it would be too big of a spoiler to talk about and, at the time, no one cared it was happening so why would they care if she prevented it? Confused much? Yeah, me too. The reason her parents were arrested in the first place didn’t fit well with me either. It wasn’t illegal, so why were they even trying to hide it? Seriously, WHY? I think I can feel some of my brain cells dying with the senselessness of it all.
There wasn’t much heat in the romance department, even though I felt like the author intended for it to be there. In fact the one time there is even a spark, they separate and the book ends about ten pages later. Honestly, I just didn’t connect well with a single character, in fact the most interesting character to me was Rita, and sadly, you are told almost absolutely no information about her or her life.
I could see this book having a stronger appeal to younger audiences, but for everyone else, if you have other things to read I would probably go with those first. I may be interested in reading the sequel, as there were several things left open, but I can see myself completely forgetting this book even exists before the end of the week so it’s a big maybe.
Guidance: 12-17 (bn.com). There is some pretty detailed birthing scenes (one in which the mother is dead) but other than that this is a pretty clean read.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first novel in the Birthmarked trilogy. The second book is titled Prized and the final book is titled Promised. There are also two short story e-books titled Tortured and Ruled.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $6.76-$8.99. You can also download chapters 1-5 onto an Amazon Kindle for free!
Born at Midnight
By C.C. Hunter
Genre: Young Adult/Paranormal
One night Kylie Galen finds herself at the wrong party, with the wrong people, and it changes her life forever. Her mother ships her off to Shadow Falls—a camp for troubled teens, and within hours of arriving, it becomes painfully clear that her fellow campers aren’t just “troubled.” Here at Shadow Falls, vampires, werewolves, shapeshifters, witches and fairies train side-by-side—learning to harness their powers, control their magic and live in the normal world.
Kylie’s never felt normal, but surely she doesn’t belong here with a bunch of paranormal freaks either. Or does she? They insist Kylie is one of them, and that she was brought here for a reason. As if life wasn’t complicated enough, enter Derek and Lucas. Derek’s a half-fae who’s determined to be her boyfriend, and Lucas is a smokin’ hot werewolf with whom Kylie shares a secret past. Both Derek and Lucas couldn’t be more different, but they both have a powerful hold on her heart.
Even though Kylie feels deeply uncertain about everything, one thing is becoming painfully clear—Shadow Falls is exactly where she belongs…
My Review: If you’re a teenager and into paranormal, read this book. If you’re an adult and into paranormal, don’t read this book. Seriously. I feel as though my fifteen-year-old self would’ve really enjoyed this book. However, adult me thought it was mostly boring in a “been there, read that” kind of way, and the main character, Kylie, was way too whiney for my taste. I feel like the entire book was her saying “Ohmagerd! I, like, totally don’t wanna be a supernatural! I, like, really super hope I have a brain tumor instead. I, like, so don’t want anything to do with these goth freaks.” I get it, you’re going through a hard time, your parents are getting divorced, your life is unfair, and you see ghosts. My teenager self would’ve been all for it. Mostly because I’m pretty sure my teenager self was just as whiney and self-pitying as Kylie, that is the natural way of teenagers after all. But my adult self says Get. The. Heck. Over. It. For goodness sake, there are people in the world who are dying. And personally, I’d choose being supernatural over a brain tumor any day. And for someone who is so against getting too intimate with boys Kylie sure doesn’t mind making out with three of them within a two-week period, which peeved me. I didn’t hate this book, but I literally didn’t think about it once after finishing the last page—until I started this review. I even had to go back and look because I couldn’t remember what the title was. The best thing I can say about it is that I, surprisingly, did not see the twist at the end coming. And it was a welcome reprieve from the monotony I had inadvertently become accustomed to.
Guidance: 13-17 (bn.com). There is some mild profanity used throughout the book as well as some detailed kissing scenes and implied intimacy.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first book in the Shadow Falls series. The next books in the series are as follows: Awake at Dawn, Taken at Dusk, Whispers at Moonrise, and Chosen at Nightfall.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $2.99-$8.80.
By Ellen Hopkins
Genre: Young Adult/Drama
Life was good, before I met the monster.
After, life was great.
At least, for a little while.
Kristina is the perfect daughter: gifted high-school junior, quiet, never any trouble. But on a trip to visit her absentee father, Kristina disappears and Bree takes her place. Bree is the exact opposite of Kristina—she’s fearless.
Through a boy, Bree meets the monster: crank. And what begins as a wild, ecstatic ride turns into a nightmare as she struggles for her mind, her soul—her life.
My Review: Ok. This is a tough one. This book is based on the author’s own daughter’s struggle with crystal meth addiction. I had heard this book was big among teens right now, and as someone who has never been introduced to such a life, I was curious. And whoa. When I first started reading this book I was thinking there was no way I would ever let any teenager of mine read it. The first half of the book is filled with excitement, drugs, language and sexual references, content, innuendo, & experimentation and, at that point in the book, the danger of it all seemed thrilling (or very well could, to a teenager). But as I kept reading, I discovered the second half of the book was completely loaded with the consequences of a life on drugs. One of the things I found interesting was that she went to visit her dad after years of almost no contact and was disgusted by the way he looked and lived, and she was smart enough to realize it was from his years of substance abuse. Yet, on that same trip is where she lets herself be introduced to “the monster” and where it begins to rule her own life. She even forms a sort of “alter-ego” as a way to separate herself and stay in denial. You see the downward spiral she’s sprinting towards and are helpless to stop it. It’s heartbreaking, really. She’s blind to its impact on her own mind and body, not to mention her family. Addiction affects much more than just the person addicted, and this book also portrays how, more often than not, family and friends are just as much in denial as the addict herself. You see Kristina go from being a polite, kind-hearted, straight-A student, to “Bree”, who is always using the monster or trying to, failing school, lying to her parents, sneaking out, sleeping around, getting thrown in juvie, and eventually becomes a drug dealer herself. This story was captivating and left no room for sugarcoating. It gives you a blunt, monstrous, and completely raw foray into addiction.
Guidance: 14-17 years (bn.com) I would disagree with this age recommendation. I wouldn’t let anyone under the age of 16 read this book. There is bad language, sexual talk and acts, rape, and constant talk of drug use and partying. In fact, if it weren’t for the book eventually showing how Kristina/Bree has completely wrecked her own life due to her drug use, I wouldn’t recommend it for teens at all. But there are probably more teens than I’d like to think about who are struggling or will soon be struggling with these same problems, and if this book can give just one of them hope, or make just one of them see the consequences enough to change their mind, then it has done its job. Which I believe was the author’s entire reason for writing it. I feel like, had I read it as a teen, it would definitely have steered me in the opposite direction and terrified me of trying a drug like this in any way, shape, or form. But in honestly, my advice to all parents is to read this book first, before letting your teen read it. It’s a very controversial book and topic, and you will only be able to make an informed decision if you read it yourself. As a mother, this book terrified me, but I can’t help but feel just a touch more prepared than I did before reading it. Even though it is 537 pages, it is a verse novel, so it is really like reading 300 or so regular pages.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first book in the Crank trilogy. It is followed by Glass and then Fallout.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $8.29-$9.93.
Daughter of Smoke & Bone
By Laini Taylor
Genre: Young Adult/Fantasy
“Once upon a time, an angel and a devil fell in love. It did not end well.”
Around the world, black handprints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky. In a dark and dusty shop, a devil's supply of human
teeth has grown dangerously low. And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.
My Review: Want to build a world? Ask Laini Taylor for advice, first. Because she’s a dead-gum pro at it. The world she’s built is imaginative, beautiful, and captivating. I loved Karou, her best friend, and her “monster” family. Karou is smart, funny, and spunky. Not nearly as ditzy and empty-headed as many heroines seem to be as of late. I mean, come on, she has blue hair, is covered in tattoos, speaks hundreds of languages (not all of them human), actually learns from her mistakes, and she’s hilarious. What’s not to like? I loved the small wishes she made and the mystery surrounding her and her life. Mystery that the author painstakingly keeps up until almost the very last page. I can’t count the number of times I asked myself “what in the world is up with all of these dang teeth?!” And I did find out…eventually. But I had no clue what to expect. And I loved it. It was a very refreshing take on angels and demons, which isn’t easy to do in a genre that is so overdone. But, unfortunately, the second half of the book didn’t seem to connect as well with me, not the parts involving Karou anyway, which is unusual, since it was almost entirely about the romance between her and Akiva. And I love romance! I really do! But I don’t know, I just didn’t get the infatuation she felt for him, regardless of his impossibly beautiful perfection. I didn’t feel the chemistry. It didn’t tug my heartstrings, if you know what I mean, and I found myself making this face ----------->
on more than one occasion. It seemed to drag out too long, for one. But maybe that was because I was listening to it on audiobook (something I seem to be saying a lot these days). I almost want to pick up the book and read it over, to see if I can relate to the relationship more through my own internal narrative. But my negative feelings only pertain to the love-story that involves Karou. The other love story I was enthralled with. And Akiva. Oh, Akiva. I love you. I hate you. I kind of want to punch you in the face, but maybe I’ll kiss you instead. Who knows?! It’s something that made me feel stress in my life, which isn’t normal.
But I still loved this book and if you’re into the paranormal/young adult book scene in any way, shape, or form, pick this one up. You won’t regret it.
Guidance: 14-17 years (bn.com) Not a clean read, but neither was it overly explicit or graphic. Language throughout first half, but it drops off in the second half. Implied intimacy but without details.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first in the Daughter of Smoke & Bone trilogy. The second book is available and titled Days of Blood and Starlight. The third and final book is titled Dreams of Gods and Monsters and will be released on April 8th, 2014. There are also some short story e-novellas available.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $8.99-$10.00.
By Rachel Caine
Genre: Paranormal/Young Adult
Summary: College freshman Claire Danvers has had enough of her nightmarish dorm situation. When Claire heads off-campus, the imposing old house where she finds a room may not be much better. Her new roommates don't show many signs of life, but they'll have Claire's back when the town's deepest secrets come crawling out, hungry for fresh blood. Will she be able to face the town's terror or will she drown like everyone else?
My Review: When to NOT pick up this book: If you’re looking for an adult and realistic book in which the characters are smart and always make the right choice.
When TO pick up this book: Anyone looking for an action-packed, brainless, PG-13 rated vampire fun book. WHICH I am NOT ashamed to admit, I WAS. About five years ago. When I first really got into reading. I saw this book on Audible for $0.99 and was looking for something fun and full of action after listening to Watership Down. And it didn’t disappoint. But there were also things that struck me as annoying now, that I don’t remember bothering me before. For instance, Claire moves off campus because she is being threatened by a group of mean girl bullies in her dorm. And when I say mean girls, I mean MEAN girls. These girls make the girls from the movie Mean Girls look like Mary Poppins. Two of them are textbook sociopaths. They literally almost kill her. Actually, they TRY to kill her, but she won’t call her parents and transfer schools or even skip class because she’s “not a quitter”. Yep. You read that right. There’s nothing wrong with your eyes.
There are implications of future love stories, but they take a backseat to the action in the book. And there’s no love triangle! Yay! Because sometimes love triangles stress me out more than paying taxes.
I would definitely recommend this book to teenagers, especially girls, in jr. high and high school. Or anyone looking for action, pretty decent story and plot, without too much thinking.
Parental Guidance: 12-17 years (BN.com). Meh. I probably wouldn’t recommend it to anyone under 13 or 14 years old. There are some sexual references as well as mild-moderate profanity throughout the book. There is violence in the form of extreme bullying and the type of violence that come from vampires.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first book in the Morganville Vampires series. Fifteen books have been published in the series to date, as well as several short e-book novellas.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $5.98-$6.29.
Don’t Die, My Love
By Lurlene McDaniel
Summary: “If it’s possible to send a message from Heaven, I’ll get one to you.”
Julie and Luke are both young, beautiful, and popular. At seventeen they’ve been in love forever and “engaged” since 6th grade. But when Luke can't shake what he thinks is a virus, Julie persuades him to see a doctor. Luke's test results are alarming, but Julie believes their love is stronger than anything. Can love survive, now and forever?
My Review: I picked up this book around three years ago, and I must’ve have been feeling masochistic whenever I did. Why else would I PAY to let this author stab a knife in my heart, twist it around, jerk it out and then stomp all over it? Figuratively speaking, of course. Just saying, this book WILL make you cry. And I don’t mean a singular tear will discreetly roll down your cheek. I mean it will turn you into a sobbing, runny nosed, blubbering mess. It will make you wake up your loved one at 3 a.m. (which is when you’ll finish the book, since you won’t be able to put it down at 10 p.m. like you were supposed to.), wrap them in your arms, squeeze them uncontrollably, and get your snotty, slobbery, downpour of tears all over them because you just love them THAT much. (Needless to say, my then three-year-old who happened to be sleeping next to me wasn’t thrilled).
This book strongly resembles the popular John Green novel, The Fault In Our Stars, except McDaniel kept the tragedy…well, tragic, and didn’t incorporate humor in the way that Green did. I'm not sure which way I prefer (does it matter? They both felt like an emotional roller coaster) but I did feel like Julie’s way of grieving was much more real and believable than that of Hazel in TFIOS.
This book is both beautiful and heartbreaking and leaves no doubt for the amount of love that Luke and Julie feel for each other, regardless of their age, experience, or anything else working against them.
If after this review you feel brave enough to give this book a whirl, I say go for it. But stop and pick up a box of Kleenex first. (And what do ya know, you can grab a box of Puffs at McClain’s for $1.49. Just saying! And maybe go for the plus lotion kind, since your nose is sure to be a little raw.)
Guidance: 12 years (bn.com) I was a little surprised by this age rating, just because this book seems a little deep for a twelve-year-old to want to read it, but maybe that’s not true. Other than that, this is a clean read.
Stand Alone or Series: This is a stand-alone book.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $6.29-$7.52.
By Tammara Webber
Genre: New Adult/Romance
Summary: He watched her, but never knew her. Until thanks to a chance encounter, he became her savior…
The attraction between them was undeniable. Yet the past he’d worked so hard to overcome, and the future she’d put so much faith in, threatened to tear them apart.
Only together could they fight the pain and guilt, face the truth—and find the unexpected power of love.
My Review: I’ve been pretty into the new “New Adult” genre as of late (for those of you who don’t know, ‘new adult’ is a new genre written for college aged kids and mostly about college aged kids) and have been seeing this one pop up on the ‘popular’ list for months. Now normally, I probably wouldn’t review this book for the paper, because the content is a little on the mature side. This book started out with a rape attempt in which the heroine was saved by a hero, who of course beat the guy senseless, but then the heroine seemed like she was going to be hunky-dory and everyone would pretend like it never happened (which I hate!) But it didn’t take long for me to realize that that wasn’t the direction it was going to take and that Webber obviously takes the topic of rape very seriously, which is what made me decide to review this book after all. I know that rape is a highly sensitive subject, but I think Webber nailed it perfectly—realistic, but not so caught up in the victim’s depression and self-blame that the story becomes completely focused on the trauma itself. She writes a very clear message (one that had me doing a fist-pumping, girl-power dance) that rape or even attempted rape is never something to be tolerated or excused, no matter who it is or what anyone else says. It was mega female-empowerment. Hoorah!
Now, taking a step back, the romance portion of the book was good and believable. Webber gives almost too good of a backstory for Lucas, providing him with more than enough reason to be the way he is and know what he knows. He’s like the perfect guy: a bad boy in some ways, but a good one in every way that counts.
I absolutely adored her best friend Erin. She was loyal to a T, standing beside her friend from beginning to end and never came even close to wavering. Seriously. If you don’t have a best friend like Erin, get one.
There was also another high-school related message in this book I found invigorating, and though it’s not nearly as serious as the main one, I still think it’s an issue girls of all ages deal with: losing their identities to their boyfriends. In the book, she attends a college that would do absolutely nothing for her musical ambitions simply because that’s where he was going, she even started going by Jackie instead of Jacqueline because he liked it. And once he broke up with her, she realized that her entire life revolved around him, she was taking a class that she wasn’t even required to take just so they could have a class together and 99% of her friends were really his friends and they dropped her like she had the plague. It was refreshing once she realized this to watch her gravitate away from him and their old life and work on finding out who she really was and find her way in the world, which is a big part of what college is all about, after all.
All in all, this book was a good read with a believable romance and real-life issues and positive reinforcement that I think anyone could benefit from.
Guidance: Barnes & Noble didn’t have a recommended age for this book, but I definitely wouldn’t recommend it for anyone younger than 11th grade. The attempted rape is a bit violent and told in some graphic detail, as well is some of the more intimate moments between Jacqueline and Lucas. If it weren’t for the empowering message, which I think older high school girls as well as college-aged girls would benefit from reading, I probably wouldn’t have reviewed this book publicly due to the content.
Stand Alone or Series: This book is followed by Breakable which was just released May 2014. I’m not sure if any other books are scheduled to be released or if it will just be a two-book series.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $4.99-$10.61.
By Mira Grant
Genre: Dystopian/Young Adult
Summary: “Alive or dead, the truth won’t rest. My name is Georgia Mason, and I am begging you. Rise up while you can.”
The year was 2014. We has cured cancer. We had beaten the common cold. But in doing so we had created something new, something terrible that no one could stop. The infection spread, virus blocks taking over minds and bodies with one unstoppable command: FEED.
Now, twenty years after the rising, Georgia and Shaun Mason are on the trail of the biggest story of their lives—the dark conspiracy behind the infected.
The truth will get out. Even if it kills them.
My Review: This book has zombies in it, obviously, but to call it a zombie or even a horror novel does it an injustice. It’s more a book about journalism, the right to information, and freedom of speech. With occasional zombie action.
This may not necessarily be considered a young-adult novel. Not because of anything inappropriate, but because the themes it addresses are difficult and it sometimes go into “info-dump” mode that drags out for paragraphs and, regardless of how necessary all the information is, it has the potential to bore anyone.
Georgia Mason is the main character and narrator of the story and she is a butt-kicking heroine with a huge amount of integrity and courage. Her funny, teasing brother added a bit of comedic relief to offset her serious personality and the two made a great duo.
While the villain was surprisingly easy to spot there were other plot twists and a heart-wrenching ending that made me able to make peace with that. I had early, anxious worries about how the book would end, and I still was not ready for the lump that formed in my throat and the tears that blurred my vision. In fact, most of the scenes that had any kind of emotional impact hit with a gigantic wallop. Prepare yourself accordingly, my friends.
I’m still not sure whether or not I’ll be checking out the sequel. I’ve been really bad about starting sequels lately and usually if I don’t immediately start the next one after the first one ends then I’m probably not going to at all. This book was a little slow for me, even though I did enjoy it. And I think it would appeal greatly to a bunch of people.
Parental Guidance: 14 and up. There isn’t much gore in this book, compared with other zombie books and no intimate scenes. There is a bit of foul language although it is pretty few and far between.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first book in the Newsflesh trilogy. The second book is titled Deadline and the final book is titled Blackout. There are also two short e-books titled Countdown and Fed.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $0.01-$9.00.
I Hunt Killers
By Barry Lyga
Genre: Young Adult/Crime
Summary: It was a beautiful day. It was a beautiful field. Except for the body.
Jasper “Jazz” Dent is the son of the world’s most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, “Take Your Son to Work Day” was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could—from the criminal’s point of view.
But, even with Jazz’s father in prison, bodies are piling up in Lobo’s Nod. Again. Jazz must work with the police to prove to them, and to himself, that murder doesn’t run in the family.
My Review: This book was both fantastically written and horribly disturbing. To me the psychology was even more compelling than the actual mystery. I loved being in the mind of a serial killer. There, I said it. Is that weird? As terrifying as they are, you have to admit that there is something fascinating about them. The way they think and see the world. Don’t get me wrong, they are without a doubt complete sociopaths, but in most cases they have very high IQs, making them very interesting to study. In my expert opinion, anyway.
Jazz is a really complex character, he doesn’t actually want to kill anyone, but he has been raised to do so, trained how to do it and do it well. It’s a constant struggle for him and he is always fighting a war within himself, terrified he will become a serial killer one day like his dad wants. And, frankly, a lot of the sinister thoughts that went through his head had me worried as well. But whose to say those thoughts aren’t simply a given due to his sociopath dad schooling him in the art of murder, grooming him to be his protégé, for as long as Jazz can remember? Guess I can’t judge. Most reviewers found him sweet and charming and all that other jazz (pun intended) but, though I liked him, I also thought he was manipulative, cold, and his thought processes could be gruesome and downright disturbing at times. But he is also insanely smart and surprisingly funny. It was amazing how the author switched this book from light and humorous to dark and gory in the blink of an eye without it becoming silly or unbelievable.
But the trio of characters surrounding Jazz are the ones who really won me over: his hemophilic best friend, his kick-butt girlfriend, and his senile, Alzheimer’s-bound grandma, whose crazy antics will both disturb you and make you snort with laughter. Really snort. Like a pig. In front of people. It’s embarrassing.
If you are squeamish then this book may, no make that will, bother you; if not from the intensely detailed scenes of death-by-serial-killer then possibly from the unnerving first-person insight into the serial killers mind. Those are usually the scenes that disturb me most, more than the actual gory details.
I Hunt Killers was a fantastic read that will leave you shuddering and the ending drops a twist that will have you scrambling for the sequel.
Guidance: 15-17 (bn.com). I would probably push for 16 and up. There is moderate to heavy profanity and heavy violence. There are several tortures and murders described, both in first person and discussed crime scenes, as well as disturbing serial killer lessons that Jazz remembers his father teaching him before he was caught. There are a couple of moderately intimate scenes between Jazz and his girlfriend, minimum sexual innuendo, and some detailed pictures painted for the murder victims who were sexually assaulted.
Stand Alone or Series: This is the first book in the series, it is followed by Game and then Blood of my Blood. There are also several e-book short stories for the series told in other character perspectives.
Price: I found copies new, used, and e-book on Amazon from $7.99-$10.00. Or you can be like me and download the Audible (must have app) audio book for only $5.95!