Solace

SolaceSolace

By: Therin Knite

knitewrites.com

(YA/Time Travel)

317 pages (ebook)

 

Corina resents the father who had the nerve to die, far off in a war torn country, without ever getting the chance to know her, that is, until a mysterious stranger gives her the chance to meet him. Insert time travel superpowers here.

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I really think we need more YA books like this. No deadly, yet mysterious, hot guys, no supernatural love triangles, just a girl getting to know her father. Now, I wasn’t really looking to read another young adult novel so soon after the Gemma Doyle disappointment, but I received a free, no-strings-attached, digital copy of Solace from the author, and since I wanted to break in my brand new Nook, I thought I’d give it a read. While I’ve purchased Therin Knite’s other two books Echoes and Othella (which I haven’t quite gotten to yet) I probably wouldn’t have picked up this one on my own, so I’m happy this freebie got me to read it, because it is a wonderful story.

It was surprisingly good, not that I had any reason to think it would be bad judging by how much I liked Echoes, but the premise sounded a little depressing, and being a young adult novel, I thought it might not be what I was looking for. In reality, it was ultimately more uplifting than it was depressing, and while it was certainly emotional, it wasn’t sappy or melodramatic. The characters were fun. I loved their attitudes and frankness. And there was far more action than I expected, making it a very quick read, and never boring or slow.

I only have one complaint.

Generally, I like the author’s use of short sentences to give punch and immediacy to the story. There’s no excessive verbiage to navigate through, just the right amount of description to know what’s going on, which is especially effective in a first-person novel like this one. However, there were quite a few occasions where those sentences seemed incomplete, like fragments. Now, I’m no expert, and maybe that’s just a style issue, but sometimes I just really wanted to string two sentences together with a comma…really badly. I only mention this because I didn’t notice this in Echoes, so I’m not sure why it happened here.

Overall, I really liked this story, and those little writing issues didn’t detract from the enjoyment of it at all. If Terry Brooks can use “wordlessly” ad nauseam, Therin Knite can have potentially fragmented sentences. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

 

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A Great and Terrible Beauty

A Great and Terrible BeautyA Great and Terrible Beauty

By: Libba Bray

libbabray.com

(YA/Victorian/Fantasy)

403 pages (Hardcover)

Sixteen year old Gemma Doyle discovers her own magical abilities after the mysterious death of her mother.

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Boy was this book disappointing! I’m really surprised at just how bad it was. Maybe that was too harsh? I hate writing reviews about books I didn’t like. I wish I loved every single thing that I read, but I suppose I can’t like everything.

I picked up book three in this trilogy at the last book sale. The cover was so pretty I couldn’t resist, plus what’s not to like about Victorian boarding schools and magical powers? Sure it’s a young adult novel, but it can’t be that bad…right?

The biggest problem with this novel, in my opinion, is that it could have used some serious fleshing out. The basic outline of something good is there, but the author didn’t really fill in the details. For example, the secret order of women with the ability to use magic is just known as “The Order”. Really? That’s a bit generic, and since this order seems to have only female members, why not a sisterhood of something at least. Gemma is instructed not to use her magic, but never given any reason why, so naturally she uses it anyway. There are realms, but we only see two of them, and their existence isn’t really explained. Are there more of them? Why are they important? There are no rules to the magic, obtaining it only requires touching a crystal, and there are no real consequences, until the very end, that is, when they pile on all at once.

The characters in this book are mostly horrible, bratty children. At first I thought that Gemma befriending the mean girls was an interesting twist, that she would defeat them from the inside, but instead she essentially becomes one of them, while still largely opposing what they do. She never chooses a side and most of her actions don’t seem to have any real substance behind them. Then we are expected to believe that these people are her closest friends sharing a deep bond, but in reality, everyone was only pursuing their own selfish ends.

That brings me to Kartik. Involving a handsome and mysterious Indian boy in all of this is really a no-brainer given this is YA historical fantasy, but he’s just so awful. He stalks and threatens Gemma, telling her not to use her abilities without giving any reason, and in spite of this she’s rather obsessed with him. What makes it worse, is a lot of the story focuses on how sexist Victorian society was and how these poor girls would just be married off to the first suitable husband their parents could dig up. Gemma thinks that’s horrible, but she’s going to chase after a guy who stalks and threatens her?

Between her mean-girl friends and her slightly disturbing interest in Kartik, this story provides a horrible example of what relationships can be, glorifying the most superficial aspects of both friendship and romantic relationships. I really wish these novels would stray from the blueprint Twilight created, and instead, entertain young adults with stories of deep friendship and loyalty, not the mysterious, but abusive, hot guy. Just because he’s hot, doesn’t make it ok.

And to top it all off, it took the main character so much time to come to basic realizations. When she noticed that the class photo of the year the mysterious fire happened was missing, it took her nearly the entire book to check behind the photo of the previous year to find it. A lot of the supposedly interesting plot points were extremely predictable and cliche. However, there was a bit of a twist at the end that was a little interesting, but it was really far too little too late.

The only thing I can’t complain about is the writing, that part of the story was perfectly fine. I just wish the author had taken more time in crafting the story behind it. Maybe I’m just too old for a book like this, maybe I’m being too critical, but I don’t think that’s the case. I’m usually pretty forgiving, especially if I really want to like the book. A lot of people really love this series (almost 4 stars on goodreads), and they’re even planning on making it into a movie, just like every other moderately successful YA series these days. I wish I could have liked it, but I just can’t get over how disappointing it was. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

The Hunger Games Trilogy

The Hunger GamesCatching FireMockingjay

The Hunger Games Trilogy

By: Suzanne Collins

www.suzannecollinsbooks.com

(Dystopian/YA)

374 – 391 – 390 pages

I finally read The Hunger Games, and now I feel silly for putting it off for so long. I wasn’t expecting much from the series, largely because I have a tendency to be extremely prejudiced against YA books. When the first movie came out I thought I’d see what all the fuss was about, and after a significant period of procrastination, I got around to reading the first one. These books are amazing. I got completely sucked in and that really doesn’t happen often. First person narratives are always more compelling, but there was a simplicity to it that made the words fly by. There were no super fancy phrases or big words to distract from the story. While I had my doubts about Katniss before reading the series, I found that I really loved her character. I feel like our personalities are a bit similar, so I could sympathize with her reactions and decisions. The rest of the characters were no less captivating, my favorites being Cinna and Finnick, and rounded out the story very nicely. You know a book is good when you wish you could somehow spend time with these people in real life.

Part of what made the characters so wonderful, was real emotion. None of the characters were too cool to freak out and fall apart, and given the horrible things they go through their powerful emotions are more than justified. There is some pretty heavy stuff in these books. Truly horrible things happen, and not everyone survives, in fact quite a lot of people die, but their deaths drive home the point of the story. As with most dystopian tales, this story is a warning. Part of what makes it so powerful is how easily our world could become something like this.

The theme of the Games persists throughout the series, and I really liked those parallels. The game never really ends, and that really tied all three books together. I was happy with the balance of the ending. It ended as happily as it could have without diminishing the impact of the tragic events before it.

This is a powerful story and an important one. I couldn’t stop reading, and the books moved quickly. Every chapter ends with some insane turn of events that easily propels you forward. You may want to keep a box of tissues handy with this one, but for every sad moment there is a kind or inspirational one to balance it. I absolutely loved this series, and I think you will too. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Shadowmancer

ShadowmancerShadowmancer

By: G. P. Taylor

http://www.gptaylor.info/

(YA/Historical/Fantasy)

How do all the Christian books keep finding me? Yup, that’s right, I did it again. I really need to be a bit more careful at book sales, but how could I pass up something called Shadowmancer? It certainly didn’t seem Christian to me at first glance. It also happens to be a young adult novel, which I also happened to overlook, since I only read the back cover and not the inside jacket. I really need to be more discerning in my book sale choices. While it is tempting to grab anything that looks at all appealing, maybe I could rein it in a few notches.

The tale of an overzealous Vicar, evil by nature, and willing to go to any lengths for absolute power, was appealing at first. Classic good versus evil. Taking place in the eighteenth century also added a nice twist, and overall it was a perfectly decent story, but not quite what I was looking for.

The religious aspects of this book were not nearly as preachy as Ted Dekker’s books, or a retelling of biblical stories. At first I didn’t mind it. G.P. Taylor’s version of God, known in this story as Riathamus, was more on track with the kind, but powerful entity I had in mind. It was all about the support and force of God in the face of evil. I can work with that. But once it was suggested that anyone worshiping pagan gods were essentially worshiping evil, or that tarot cards were the tools of the devil, I lost some of my interest. My mind is just a little too wide open for that.

The two main characters are thirteen, so it’s on the young end of the YA spectrum. It felt a little more like a children’s book to me. It had its charming moments with a connection to the folklore of the time and the area, but in the end, the plot seemed to work out a little too simply in places. Now, that’s perfectly fine for this book’s target audience, but I would have liked something a bit more complex.

Ultimately, this was just the wrong book for me. Wrong age group, wrong religion. Christian, YA, fantasy novels are just not my thing, but I think, with the right audience, this would be an enjoyable read. I certainly didn’t hate it. From now on though, I will be checking a book’s religious affiliations before I grab it…even if it is only a dollar. Until next time…

Happy Reading!

Incarceron

Incarceron

By: Catherine Fisher

www.catherine-fisher.com

I tend to stay away form books in the young adult category these days, since I most definitely don’t belong to that age group anymore, but I heard good things about this book, and the cover art was fascinating, so I had to give it a try.  This is one of those books that is enjoyable regardless of age, even with the main characters being around 16, and I really enjoyed it.   The characters were likeable and interesting with the Warden’s daughter who doesn’t like to follow the rules, and the boy-prisoner with no memory of who he is.

The story’s setting carries some steam-punk elements, both in the outside world as well as the prison itself, making the setting of the story as interesting as the adventure itself.  At the beginning of each chapter is a different italicized snippet of information that slowly informs the reader about the world and the prison and how they came to be, which I found to be far more refreshing than an introduction or character just laying it all out there in one go.

The whole story wraps up with a nifty twist of an ending that some may see coming if they are particularly observant.  Over all, I think it was a great quick read for readers of nearly any age and I definitely recommend it.  If you happen to read a lot of YA fiction, I suggest looking into the many other books written by this author, even if I have yet to read them myself.  There is also a sequel to Incarceron out now entitled Sapphique.

Happy Reading!