Archive for the ‘Teen Fiction Review’ Category

Audiobook Review of My Lady Jane, by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows, performed by Katherine Kellgren

Saturday, June 16th, 2018

My Lady Jane

by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows
performed by Katherine Kellgren

HarperAudio, 2016. 13.75 hours on 11 discs.
Starred Review

I’ve already reviewed this book in print form, but oh, Katherine Kellgren’s performance makes it so much fun!

We’ve got alternate history England, featuring Lady Jane Grey, who was queen for nine days. In this version, many people have the magic power to turn into an animal. In the course of things, Jane finds out she is one, which is how she escapes losing her head.

The story is funny and clever and twists history just enough to be terribly fun. And Katherine Kellgren’s brilliant vocal abilities are perfect to bring out all the humor in the situations.

By now, I’ve become Katherine Kellgren’s fan. In a story set in England that was already outstanding in an over-the-top humorous sort of way, her performance puts it even more over the top. Now when I recommend this book, I’m going to suggest listening.

harperaudio.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Blood Rose Rebellion, by Rosalyn Eves

Wednesday, June 6th, 2018

Blood Rose Rebellion

by Rosalyn Eves

Alfred A. Knopf Books for Young Readers (Penguin Random House), 2017. 407 pages.

I’m getting used to alternate histories with magic, but this was an alternate history of something I didn’t know much about in the real world – the Hungarian revolution in 1848.

Anna Arden doesn’t mean to break other people’s spells. But sometimes, especially when her emotions get stirred up, this happens spectacularly, and people get hurt. After she ruins her sister’s debut, she’s sent off with her grandmother to stay in Hungary for awhile at her grandmother’s childhood home.

But various people find out about Anna’s unusual abilities. Would she be able to break the Binding spell – the one that confines magic to the nobility, the Luminate class? And what are the motives of the people who want to use her in this way? But at the same time, what would be the cost? Would this break the power of the Circle, so that common people can have access to magic? But what will the Circle do to stop her?

Anna’s confused as to what she should do. Meanwhile, there’s a handsome Romani young man whom Anna would like to teach her Romani magic. Maybe if she can’t do Luminate magic, maybe she could do Romani magic, which is so different.

Romance and adventure, magic and danger – all put into the context of the actual history of the Hungarian rebellion from the Hapsburgs.

randomhouseteens.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Thanks for the Trouble, by Tommy Wallach

Tuesday, May 29th, 2018

Thanks for the Trouble

by Tommy Wallach

Simon & Schuster, 2016. 276 pages.
Starred Review

This book opens as Parker Santé is in a hotel, looking for something to steal. He sees a girl with silver hair pay for her coffee.

She reached into her purse and pulled out the fattest stack of hundreds I’d ever seen in real life. I’m talking a hip-hop video kind of wad, thick as a John Grisham paperback. She peeled off one of the bills — (I see you, Mr. Franklin) — and handed it over. “Keep the change,” she said. The waiter nodded a stunned little bobblehead nod, then peeled out before the girl could think better of her generosity, leaving her to tap idly at the top of a soft-boiled egg in an elaborate silver eggcup. I stared at her staring off into space, and counted the many ways in which she was incredible.

He’s attracted to the girl, but that doesn’t stop him from stealing the wad of cash when she leaves her purse behind. However, he makes a fundamental mistake, a mistake that reminds him of the myth of Orpheus.

But my dad said it was the most perfect myth ever written, because it represented the most fundamental human error: we all look back.

When I did, I saw that the silver-haired girl had returned to her seat. In spite of the fact that her purse was open and half its contents had spilled out across the tablecloth, she wasn’t screaming or crying or scrambling around, looking for the culprit. Why, you ask? Because she’d been distracted by something else. By what, you ask? Well, by my journal, of course! I’d left it behind when I tore off with all that money. It had my name in it, and my e-mail address, and an incredibly embarrassing story I’d recently written called “The Most Beautiful Girl in the Kingdom,” which she was now reading.

They get to talking. Or, I should say, the girl talks and Parker writes. Parker hasn’t been able to talk since the accident when his dad died.

But the girl tells him her plan:

“I am waiting for a phone call. And when it comes, I’m going to give this money to the first needy person I see. Then I’ll take the trolley to the Golden Gate Bridge and jump off it.”

Parker doesn’t like the sound of that. So he negotiates. He thinks he’s talking her out of jumping off the bridge, but they end up with the deal that she’s going to spend all that money on him (and with him), and he is going to apply to and attend college.

As their adventure takes off, they get to know each other better. When Parker tries to find out more about Zelda, she tells him that she was born in 1770 in Kassel, Germany. She doesn’t age.

Now her second husband is dying of old age, and she’s had enough.

But whether or not he believes her, Parker has some things to show her about life.

And she has many things to teach Parker.

I like all the questions this book opens up. What would it be like not to age? What would you do?

I wasn’t crazy about the framing — It’s supposedly Parker’s college application essay. I didn’t actually believe you’d be able to submit a book-length manuscript online. Though that does add to the fun because you don’t know if it really happened to the character. Though it certainly supports how dramatically his life changed.

An entertaining book that you can think about for a very long time.

tommywallach.com
simonandschuster.com/teen

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Sword and Verse, by Kathy MacMillan

Monday, May 14th, 2018

Sword and Verse

by Kathy MacMillan

HarperTeen, 2016. 376 pages.
Review written October 2016.

This book starts on the day the palace Tutor-in-training is executed for teaching other slaves to read. Raisa is one of the Arnath slaves who cleans the palace friezes, but she is chosen to be the new Tutor-in-training.

Only the Qilarite nobles are allowed to learn to read, and only the royal family learn the Higher Order symbols, which they use to write to the gods. No one in Qilara knows that Raisa has a piece of writing given to her by her father, one of the Learned Ones of Arnath, where they believed that all should be given knowledge. Before their village was raided and he was killed, her father gave her her heart verse, written out on a soft piece of paper. Raisa hopes that when she’s taught to read, she will be able to understand what that valuable piece of paper says.

But as Raisa is studying with Prince Mati, learning the word-based writing system of Qilara, the prince begins seeking quiet moments with her, and she can’t resist.

But he is a prince and she is a slave. He needs to marry for political gain.

Raisa does remember enough to know the Arnath writing system is sound-based, so it’s going to take some work to decipher it. And if anyone finds out she’s saving any writing from one day to the next, she knows she would be executed.

All these threads are woven together in such a way that not only Raisa’s romance, but the whole kingdom lies in the balance. Prince Mati is to be the next king, and he talks about putting an end to slavery, but there are powerful forces in the Council who won’t let that happen. Meanwhile, Raisa’s being contacted by members of the Rebellion who want to put an end to it their way.

It all leads to Raisa being embroiled in dramatic political upheaval and even needing to request help from the gods.

This book is absorbing and well-written, and was a lovely way to start my reading retreat. I did enjoy that it was a stand-alone fantasy novel rather than a trilogy – but I’m afraid it did feel like it all wrapped up too neatly.

It’s hard for me to root for a romance between a prince and a slave, hard for me to believe that he’s actually a good guy she can trust, and hard to believe they would really end up together.

The author did have the enslaved people from Arnath be the fair-skinned blondes and the ruling Qilarites be dark-skinned with curly hair. It would have been nice to be a little more subtle there, but at least it was a reversal of American history.

I was recently faulting a different book because in it, the protagonist taught herself to read a sound-based writing system, which isn’t actually possible. In this book, Raisa does have verbal cues to start with, and she is taught the word-based writing system, so it was more plausible. I did like that the author made clear it took her a lot of work to figure out the Arnath sound-based system, but she was rather vague about how that could actually be done.

But those are quibbles. I enjoyed reading this book, and was personally glad Raisa got a happy ending, even if the skeptical side of me thought it was a little too neat. If you’re looking for a cautionary tale about not trusting a powerful young man who wants to have sex with you, don’t look here. But if you’re looking for a fun story about daring to learn and daring to shake up the status quo and trusting your heart – this book is absorbing reading and will leave you smiling.

kathymacmillan.com
epicreads.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/sword_and_verse.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of The Rose and the Dagger, by Renée Ahdieh

Thursday, May 3rd, 2018

The Rose and the Dagger

by Renée Ahdieh

G. P. Putnam’s Sons, 2016. 416 pages.
Review written in 2016.

The Rose and the Dagger is the conclusion to the story begun in The Wrath and the Dawn. I enjoyed this volume even better than the first. It was a little less confusing, a little easier to believe and understand who was in love with whom.

Anyway, in this volume, Shahrzad and her caliph Khalid are separated after the storm that blew apart his city. But Shahrzad is learning that she has magic of her own. She needs to learn to use it. And that starts with a flying carpet.

This book involves Shahrzad learning magic and trying to break Khalid’s curse. But his kingdom is also in danger, and there are shifting loyalties and treacheries around them to navigate.

Can they break the curse and simply live together in a peaceful kingdom? Or is that too big a dream?

This yarn will keep you absorbed with its twists and turns. A tale of love and magic and treachery and loyalty in the desert.

reneeahdieh.com
penguin.com/teen

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of We Are Okay, by Nina LaCour

Tuesday, April 24th, 2018

We Are Okay

by Nina LaCour
read by Joyeana Marie

Listening Library, 2017. 5.5 hours on 5 compact discs.
Starred Review
2018 Printz Medal Winner

While I’m reading for the Newbery, I’m trying not to listen to any audio versions of eligible books – since we don’t want to bias our opinions by good or bad readers. This leaves my commute time open to listen to the award winners from last year that I didn’t get read.

We Are Okay begins with Marin saying good-by to her roommate for Christmas break. She’s about to be the only person in the dorm for a few weeks – in a cold part of upstate New York. But she’s expecting a visitor – Mabel, her long time friend, has told Marin that she’s coming – and didn’t give her a chance to refuse the visit.

We gradually find out why Marin is there alone, why she would plan to be all by herself when everyone else has gone to visit family. We learn what happened to Gramps, whom she used to live with. We learn that Marin ignored hundreds of texts from Mabel – but that now Mabel has come to see her anyway.

Once there, the girls get caught in a snowstorm that puts the power out, but they aren’t in danger, since the groundskeeper, who was meant to keep an eye on Marin, helps them out. Something about the snow and the situation help Marin start to open up about what happened.

We also find out that Marin and Mabel were more than friends. The memories of that aspect of their relationship are woven into all the feelings about Marin’s disappearance and Mabel’s search for her. (I always feel I should warn audiobook listeners that there are some sexy times. Why is it more embarrassing to listen to sexy passages than to read about them? Well, at least you wouldn’t want anyone else to be in the car.)

When I was almost to the end of this audiobook, I had almost decided that the whole book was far, far too sad. That I would not be able to recommend it because the situation Marin had come through was almost too much to bear.

However, to my surprise, the author pulled off a happy, tear-jerking ending. With just the right touch, she brings great big hope despite and even because of all that went before. By the time I finished, I’m a huge fan of this book – a tender and compassionate story about fragile people and family and belonging.

Just beautiful.

ninalacour.com
listeninglibrary.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/we_are_okay.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of One Dark Throne, by Kendare Blake

Friday, April 6th, 2018

One Dark Throne

by Kendare Blake

HarperTeen, 2017. 448 pages.

I read Three Dark Crowns last year for the Cybils awards, so I wanted to find out what happened next. Unfortunately, I had trouble remembering all the characters and all the situations – the author doesn’t do a whole lot of reviewing.

This fantasy series is a cross between a typical fantasy kingdom and The Hunger Games. In this world, each generation three queens are born as triplets. When they come of age, they have a year to kill each other. The one queen remaining at the end of the year will rule the island under the Goddess until she gives birth to triplets herself.

One Dark Throne is the story of what happens after the competitive year starts. Katharine, who has been brought up with the family of Poisoners, the family that has controlled the throne for generations, has drastically changed because of the events at the end of the first book. (I won’t say more, but it’s partly because I didn’t completely remember them.)

Arsinoe, who has been brought up with the naturalists, has surprised everyone – but she is harboring a secret. And Mirabella, who was once considered the certain winner, seems at a disadvantage.

Since the author has made you care about all three queens and the people surrounding each one, the reader definitely doesn’t want any of the queens to die. But they must.

This story was a little more confusing to me, because of the aforementioned forgetting of details from the first book. I’m not crazy about this bloodthirsty island. I’ll say only that people you care about die in this book. However, the story is not finished.

The author has spun an inventive fantasy, a world that’s unique and complex, however bloodthirsty. Because you’re seeing the world of each one of the three queens, there is a large cast of characters, though – which is what makes it difficult to remember details after a year away.

There’s lots of intrigue going on, and she does make you want to find out what happens next. I think I almost want to recommend reading these books when the series is finished, so you aren’t prone to forget the previous book when you start the next – then take them all up in one binge of reading. I do hope that the final volume will make the journey worth it. And I probably won’t be able to resist finding out (depending on how much I’ve forgotten by then).

kendareblake.com
epicreads.com

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Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of William Shakespeare’s The Jedi Doth Return, by Ian Doescher

Tuesday, March 20th, 2018

William Shakespeare’s

The Jedi Doth Return

by Ian Doescher

Quirk Books, Philadelphia, 2014. 168 pages.
Review written in 2016.

This third volume in William Shakespeare’s Star Wars was published quite some time ago – but I finally finished reading it because my son graduated from college and is living with me again for awhile.

These books simply must be read out loud! I loved the way my son did the various voices – It’s awfully amusing hearing Darth Vader and the Emperor speak in Shakespearean English. I think my own Chewbacca voice isn’t too bad.

Ian Doescher knows his Shakespeare. There are many references to Shakespeare plays in the text – most of which, I’m sure I didn’t pick up on.

We read one Act at a time – which ends up being approximately a half-hour of reading, just enough that our voices didn’t get too tired. I grant you there aren’t a lot of female parts, but we mostly alternated characters. There are Five Acts, so once we got restarted (We read Act One months ago.), it took us about a week to finish.

I still say these would be magnificent plays for a middle school to put on, or for a middle school or high school English class to read aloud in conjunction with studying a Shakespeare play. There’d be plenty of food for discussion about Ian Doescher’s adaptation, and I’m guessing students wouldn’t complain about the archaic language when they already know the story.

This is another brilliant installment. I admit I was losing steam and wasn’t sure I was going to get it read – but the opportunity to read it aloud reminded me what fun this series is.

IanDoescher.com
Quirkbooks.com
Starwars.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/jedi_doth_return.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Peas and Carrots, by Tanita S. Davis

Tuesday, March 13th, 2018

Peas and Carrots

by Tanita S. Davis

Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 2016. 279 pages.
Starred Review

Here’s a contemporary novel about a teen in foster care. It’s been years since Dess has lived with her baby brother. She got kicked out of her last foster home and has been in group homes ever since. But now, when she asks to see her brother – she ends up getting placed in the home he’s in. There’s even a sister who is fifteen, just like Dess.

Just because two teens are the same age doesn’t mean they’ll get along. The book alternates perspectives between white-skinned Dess and African-American Hope, her new foster sister.

Here’s their meeting from Dess’s perspective:

The girl looks right at me, and her eyes get all wide. She’s darker than Foster Lady and shorter, but thick like her, with a crinkly mess of puffy hair in a sloppy bun. She’s all baby fat and big cow eyes, which I’m about to slap out of her damn head if she doesn’t stop staring at me.

“What are you looking at?” I snarl at the same time that she blurts out, “Um . . . I’m Hope. Hi.”

And here it is from Hope’s perspective:

So this was Austin’s real sister – his birth sister. This girl, with her pale-blue eyes and dragon-lady nails, looked nothing like Austin, whose skin was a sandy brown, whose eyes were a dark hazel, and whose hair was tightly furled golden-brown curls. Hope searched for any trace of resemblance to Austin’s sharp-chinned, round-headed adorableness in the single wary eye, ringed hard with liner, that glared out at her from beneath the sweep of stiff, blond bangs. Half siblings could still look alike, but . . . no, nothing.

Dess isn’t used to a loving family, and is skeptical of the “rule” of acting with kindness. Hope isn’t used to having a foster sister her own age who isn’t, actually, very nice to her. Then at school, Dess seems to be able to make friends more easily than Hope, which is completely disorienting for Hope.

But eventually, through the ins and outs of everyday life, the girls learn to care about even someone so different.

This story had me reading until far too late in the night. Your heart goes out to Dess, with her tough family situation, but also to Hope, just trying to be kind but also wanting to be noticed in a family that is so much about service, sometimes Hope gets overlooked.

The people, the friendships, and the school situations felt true to life. You’re pulled into caring about these girls. The reader gets to see both perspectives, and it’s beautiful to watch them slowly inch toward each other.

TanitaSDavis.com
randomhouseteens.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/peas_and_carrots.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library book from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

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Review of Thick as Thieves audiobook, by Megan Whalen Turner, performed by Steve West

Monday, March 5th, 2018

Thick as Thieves

by Megan Whalen Turner
performed by Steve West

HarperAudio, 2017. 8.75 hours on 7 discs.
Starred Review

This is now the third time I’ve read Thick as Thieves, and I don’t get tired of it. As with all of Megan Whalen Turner’s books, I discovered a few more nuances each time.

But the audiobook version has the advantage of being read by my new narrator-crush, Steve West, discovered when he read Strange the Dreamer. I could (and do) listen to his voice for hours. He delineates the characters well with different voices. Although the audio version doesn’t have a map, I didn’t feel like it was dragging as I listened to his narration – it made each episode that much more interesting.

And there’s probably not much more I need to say. This is the fifth book in one of my very favorite series. It’s got adventure and danger and characters you root for. And has an outstanding narrator as well. I do recommend reading the books in order, beginning with The Thief, but let me say that they also make outstanding family listening.

harperaudio.com

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Find this review on Sonderbooks at: www.sonderbooks.com/Teens/thick_as_thieves_audio.html

Disclosure: I am an Amazon Affiliate, and will earn a small percentage if you order a book on Amazon after clicking through from my site.

Source: This review is based on a library audiobook from Fairfax County Public Library.

Disclaimer: I am a professional librarian, but I maintain my website and blogs on my own time. The views expressed are solely my own, and in no way represent the official views of my employer or of any committee or group of which I am part.

What did you think of this book?