Tag Archive | YA Fiction

Jackaby

by William Ritter

The past year I’ve invested a lot of time seeking out new authors using social media.  Thanks to fellow bloggers and peeps on Twitter, I’ve managed to win many books and discover new talent I would never have come across.  There are pluses and minuses to this method of building a TBR list, but as long as you are open to adventures you might otherwise have missed, I’m finding this an excellent way to read some amazing works.

Jackaby by William Ritter was a novel I won, and to be honest, I entered the contest because of the gorgeous cover.  I rarely read the book descriptions and roll the dice whether the material will be my cup of tea.  I’d classify Ritter’s first novel as a detective fantasy work.  It is also considered a YA novel, but it easily crosses over to readers of all ages.  Set in 1892 New England, this tale features Jackaby, a Sherlockian detective with a flare for the paranormal and his new intrepid girl Friday, Abigail Rook, who is on the lam from her boring life seeking adventure.  I love these two characters together.  blog

The writing is witty and the characters are both charming and strong. A heroine who doesn’t faint in the face of danger, especially in a 19th century setting, is very much appreciated.  Despite fantasy and paranormal not being my regular choice of genres, Ritter created a story which was highly entertaining, and which I looked forward to returning to every day.

The small town of New Fiddleham is the stalking ground of a serial killer and between Jackaby’s knowledge of mythical underworld beings, and Abigail’s ability to notice everyday nuances, the team leads the reader on a very enjoyable adventure.

Although I’m not a huge fan of the Sherlock Holmes movies and television offerings of my youth (70s and 80s), I do like Benedict Cumberbatch as Sherlock and couldn’t help but see his face as I read Jackaby’s nonplussed reactions to a world most of us cannot see.

Ritter is an author to watch and the first chapter of book two of the Jackaby series, Beastly Bones, is included at the end of this novel.  Glad to know he is continuing the characters, but, of course, I didn’t read this teaser.  I prefer to open a book having no idea where I am to be led.

 

Into the Land of Snows

by Ellis Nelson

I read young adult novels.

At almost 52.

There, I’ve said it.

A book worth reading must make the reader feel a connection to the characters. When reading a legal or medical thriller, or contemporary women’s fiction, I relate to those characters in a way reflective of my current life.  I can commiserate with the struggling mom, worry for the cancer patient, feel anger for the victim in a lawsuit.  And that is good.  Empathy and understanding are traits which are necessary in our world.

What I enjoy most about YA fiction is returning to my younger self.  Not identifying with the middle aged mom but, instead, seeing the world through the eyes of the angst ridden teen; reflecting on my own childhood and feeling the pain and rooting for this younger soul at the start of their journey.  blog

“Into the Land of Snows” by Ellis Nelson is not your typical YA book.  One clear distinction is the lack of young adults in the novel.  Sixteen year old Blake, a child of divorce, runs into some trouble with drugs and is sent to spend time with Dad, a doctor with a climbing expedition at Mount Everest.  Blake talks about a friend from home, and one of the Sherpas seems to be young, but otherwise the novel is filled with (don’t be offended) old people, or at least older people than you’d expect in a YA book.

This is actually crucial to the growth Blake experiences during his travel.  The use of marijuana is the least of the issues with which he struggles. He is angry. His entire world collapsed when his parents divorced. And the icing on the cake was Mom moving him from his hometown to her childhood hometown.  She immersed herself in her own depression. Dad escaped to the Himalayas. Blake was left alone with his own sadness and no way to process his grief.

The trip to Everest was supposed to be an opportunity for father and son to reconnect, but after an unexpected climbing tragedy, and potential further danger, Blake is instead sent on a hike with Sherpa Ang, across the mountains to safety.  Opportunity for introspection, long discussions with wise Ang, encounters with Buddhist Monks, a truth which had been kept from him, all provide Blake with the tools he needs to move forward.

Nelson created a world which also allowed the reader to grow.  As a Christian, I admit to ignorance of Buddhism, and probably also an inability to accept a lot of their beliefs, but I did appreciate the opportunity to hear of their religion and culture and to think.  What struck me most about Blake’s travel in a world so completely different from the United States, was the civility he encountered.  Spend some time on social media reading the vitriol spewed right now about our presidential election and see that rich, first world, is not kind to one another.  I enjoyed the kindness shown by those who welcomed a stranger.  It was a respite of peace.

“Into the Land of Snows” is a journey worth taking.

 

Book #40 – Sunrise, Book 3 Ashfall Trilogy

by Mike Mullin blog

Man, I hate trilogies.  Trilogies mean you fall in love with characters, watch them grow, share in their lives and then they leave you.  Forever.  That said, I LOVED the Ashfall Trilogy.  I was honored to receive an advanced copy of Sunrise for review and highly encourage you to buy this one when it is released.  And if you haven’t had the opportunity to read the first two (reviewed earlier in this blog), run out and get those read now.

This is a realistic post apocalyptic series where bad things happen to good (and bad) people.  It is classified as young adult fiction, but as an almost 50 year old I can promise you the material is written for adults as well.  Mullin has the ability to present young characters without dumbing them down or making the dialogue and subject matter boring to older readers.  I especially thought that this third book, Sunrise, presented ageless characters rather than the “innocent” teens we met in book one.

The premise behind the series is the eruption of the supervolcano Yellowstone and the chaos which quickly ensues.  As society breaks down, small groups form, the remaining government becomes as evil as you can imagine in a world without controls and heroes arise.  Book one introduced us to our two main characters, young teens Alex and Darla.  Immediately it is clear Alex is pretty naive and Darla is a well-prepared brain for this new world.  Watching the evolution of these two as Alex matures and rises to leadership, and Darla is crucial not only for her engineering skills but also as a level-headed partner for Alex, was interesting as a reader.  I found myself totally able to see how this new world either makes you or breaks you.

As I spent two nights awake reading and reading because Mullin writes books which can’t be left on the bedside table once begun, I found myself getting angry.  As I said earlier, bad things happen to good people.  Several times in this final book, I found myself very mad at Mullin.  Just absolutely astonished at some of the turns taken for my two friends.  But then I realized, wow.  Mullin is good.  He made me angry because first he made me care.  I love these two teens.  I was invested in their future and I wanted rainbows and unicorns.  But in a post apocalyptic future, rainbows and unicorns are the first things to die.

The worst part of the book Sunrise is that it ended.  Knowing this was the final part of the story is sad for a fan and I’m hoping that perhaps one day…..maybe….book four????  Please.

Book #38 – The Maze Runner

by James Dashner blog

I came late to this party of Dashner books, but the benefit of that is the sequels are already written.  Young friends bought and delivered me this book to read – that is high praise.  For teenagers to not only love the material, but purchase it and encourage others to enjoy it, is impressive.  So glad for the gift of a book as well as a new favorite series.  Even before finishing Maze Runner, I downloaded book two for a seamless continuation of the story.

This is a futuristic, dystopian young adult novel set in a world created by unknown people for unknown reasons.  Populating the world are  boys/teenagers who appear at regular intervals, delivered in a mysterious “box” and without memories of themselves or previous lives.  The boys have created their own society, and operate in a system which requires working to maintain their lives, but also to determine a way out of this maze in which they live.  Unlike the chaos which naturally developed in the classic “Lord of the Flies”, this society maintains order and all serve a purpose.

I have enjoyed YA novels for years, and when my own boys were growing up, we frequently listened to them on audiobooks for long car rides.  This ended, however, when they were old enough to realize most YA books feature young girls.  Their vehement protests that they were not interested in teen girls saving the world led us away from fiction and to non-fiction.  Not a terrible thing, but what I liked about Maze Runner is that this was a book young men could read.  Girls can enjoy it as well, but it was just nice to have male characters featured who were not vampires in love.

4.5/5 Stars

 

 

Book #37 – Ashen Winter

by Mike Mullin   book

I stumbled on this great new series, Ashfall Trilogy, a few weeks ago and was so pleased that the second book, Ashen Winter, was already waiting for me at the end of book one.  Sadly, book three won’t be out for months.

Mullin’s tale involves a world devastated by a super-volcano in Yellowstone.  His two main characters, Alex and Darla, are older teens who not only rise to the occasion, but show pretty awesome survival skills in a world gone mad.  This is an action packed tale where man not only battles the environment and circumstances surrounding them in a world covered by ash, but also must overcome the expected decay of civilization which happens quickly.  What I was struck by is the growth of Alex in this 6 months time.  It felt realistic and believable.

As an adult reading YA material, sometimes the dialogue can feel stilted, or the characters stereotypical.  Mullin has mastered the art of writing a YA book which crosses the age gap.  Not only should teens find this material worthwhile, but it is crafted in such a way as to capture adults who appreciate dystopian fiction.

As a reader I also breathed a sigh of relief that book 2 was as good as book 1.  I often find in a trilogy that book 1 sets the stage, introduces the characters and runs at full force to engage the reader.  Book 3 is the culmination of all the action, suspense and drama for the characters we have come to love.  Typically, for me, book 2 is just the time filler between those two dramatic events.  Not so with Ashen Winter.  This one also kept me up reading and reading and grateful to have found a new favorite author.

In case you want to take a look at the review for book 1, Ashfall, please follow the link https://eyesandearsbooks.wordpress.com/2013/07/13/book-32-ashfall/

5/5 Stars

http://mikemullin.blogspot.com/2013/08/announcing-darlas-story-and-one-of-kind.html

Book #36 – The Compound

by S.A. Bodeen book

I loved this post apocalyptic fiction book very, very much.  Imagine Bill Gates x10 with money and the knowledge that the world is about to end.  He creates an underground compound for he and his family and we get to see how they live and survive in the apocalypse.  But, unlike all those doom and gloom apocalypse predictions, these people live waaayyyy better than most of us live now.

Until………

I am all about NOT spoiling a book by telling you too much.  I really dislike those book reviews that read like grade school book reports spelling out exactly what happens and why.  So, sadly, to avoid being a big mouth, I now have to stop writing.

But you should go get this book if you are a PA fan and also enjoy YA books.  And if you don’t know what those letters mean, you can always just watch television.

5/5 Stars