July 17

Nymph by Tonya Alexandra

1384925790952Have you ever been tired of reading about murder, destruction, and depression? Sick of vampires, zombies and the like? I certainly got that way earlier this year and then this book came across my desk. Judging a book by its cover, this was bound to be different.

Greek goddess Merope is in trouble. Zeus has agreed to her marriage, but she doesn’t even like Orion. So as punishment, she is sent to live on Earth for a year to consider her future. Not the ancient Greek Earth, but a modern Australian city. In order to fill her time, she is required to attend an everyday secondary school. Imagine a Greek Goddess in your class!

This is a light and entertaining romance novel, a great change from all the dystopian fiction so prevalent in YA today. But it is a real beach read. Don’t look for literary allusions or symbolism in this simple and straightforward story. Just read it to enjoy the fun of an all powerful god trying to blend in with modern teens.

This is not Percy Jackson, but is still fun in it’s own way.

January 9

Every Day by David Levithan

Review #4 – 100 to go

I had heard lots of good things about this book. Reviewed for both young adults and adults alike, and every comment outstanding. So I went digging through my backlog of books and dragged it to the top. Verdict? This is by far one of the best books I have read from the 2012 publication list, and it is going to take something fantastic to remove this from my top read of 2013 shelf.

Just in case you haven’t heard already. A is a lost soul. Every single day he wakes up inside a different body and lives as that person until midnight. There are only two ‘rules’ – the body is the same age as he is and lives roughly within 100 miles. His life has been like this since he was a baby, and along the way he has established a few personal guidelines to avoid disaster. But one morning he wakes up as Justin and meets Justin’s girlfriend Rhiannon. By midnight A is in love and has an immense problem, how can he stay nearby? He can’t.

Who would believe him if he explained the reality of his life? How can a relationship grow if every day the two people are different? Sometimes promises can’t be kept when you life is totally beyond control. If somehow he can convince Rhiannon that he is really the same spirit inside another boy’s body, how is she going to feel when he wakes up as a girl? And then there is Nathan who realises he has lost a day and wants to find out why….

There aren’t superlatives enough for this book. I could not put it down, and was reading well into the wee hours of the morning. Levithan has always had a wonderful understanding of young people, but sometimes he can be a little ‘average’ in his plot and character ideas. Not this time.

Thanks for a fantastic reading experience.

July 6

Until I Die by Amy Plum

About a year ago I reviewed the first book in this new YA series. I will admit I loved it. This was a refreshing change from the dark vampire romances, but still well within the supernatural romance genre. Somehow it felt much better when the girl was falling for a guardian angel rather than a vampire. So as soon as book two arrived, it leapt to the top of the reading list. Where was Plum going to take this story?

Kate and Vincent have to make sacrifices in order for their relationship to work. Vincent has to fight his very nature and Kate is so caught up in this supernatural world that friends and family are taking a distant second place. But she is making friends in Vincent’s world and like an innocent abroad, she assumes everyone loves her. Unwittingly she gets involved in a fight that has been going on for centuries and all her efforts to help Vincent just lead to more death and destruction.

Like most middle books of a trilogy (and yes a third book is due next May) this one ends in overwhelming darkness and despair. It seems all hope is lost and our lovers have no future. But then why would there be a third book?

Once again this was a quick and easy read, probably best in one sitting although I did take a few. I didn’t like it as much, but that is probably because of the hopelessness throughout. Well, that is until the last page. I am still trying to figure out exactly what that hint was all about. I think I know, but will have to wait until next year to find out.

 

December 13

Small Blue Thing by SC Ransom

One of the first tasks when I start a review is to decide the genre. Sometimes this isn’t as easy as it seems. This book is part love story, part ghost story, part historical novel and part psychological thriller. And written for 12-15 year olds! Very unusual, and very good.

After her school exams, Alex and her best friend are wandering along the banks of the Thames when she sees a swan caught and distressed. During the rescue she discovers an opal bracelet, too valuable to leave behind. She cleans it up and, fascinated by the blue stone, puts it on. Almost immediately the shadows appear. At first they are only shadows, but on a visit to St Paul’s Cathedral one becomes ‘real’ and actually speaks to her. His name is Callum and he tells her about the ghosts of the river’s dead. One of these is his ‘sister’ Catherine, and soon Alex is in contact with her as well. But each are pulling her in different directions. She loses touch with her ‘real’ life and friends and is quickly caught up in this ghostly world.

OK a love story where the object of affection is a supernatural being. That story has been done before, and will be again. Most of those are entertaining reading, but have little or no substance. This book is shorter, missing the black and red cover, and I think it has a lot more substance to offer the reader. There is a strong sense of history, and the conflict is far more psychological than physical. The reader has to become involved in the story rather than simply going along for the ride.

As an aside, I would like to mention the publishers. Nosy Crow is a new publishing company that appears to be embracing both the new and old technologies. They publish both apps and books. The apps appear to be reading and story related and focussed on very young readers. Hopefully they will quickly adapt and get involved in the ebook market that is quickly developing.

Anyway, I really liked Small Blue Thing. It appears the sequel has been released and hopefully it will be my review bundle for next year.

October 13

About a Girl by Joanne Horniman

I will admit that I read this ages ago, in fact it could even have been a year ago. But the problem is that I read it from my eink reader, and unless the book hits my review pile, it gets left until I have time. Now I have time, but how much can I remember?

I chose to read this because it had very controversial content. Other reviews indicated that this book could be a real problem in school libraries. Then the CBC shortlisted it for this year! But they have never been afraid of controversy.

The book is purely a love story. A young couple meet, fall deeply in love, but one partner is more in love than the other. In this case the narrator is the partner most in love and when left alone, is inconsolable. Sounds totally appropriate for teens, right? Well, I’ll say totally appropriate for some teens. Because this relationship is between two girls. The love and the pathos is right there on the page, and totally believable, but some teens will find it difficult to take seriously.

I’m not surprised that this book did not win the Older Reader’s prize. It is well written with strong characters and all that, but still too many schools set reading tasks based on the CBC winners, and this one has too much risk.

October 4

Kiss of Snow by Nalini Singh

Just so you clearly understand, not all the books I get sent are great literature. In fact last year I spent a week totally immobile and reading bodice rippers. Never heard that term, well it is an old fashioned term for the totally over the top romance genre. Nowadays that genre simply has to be set in some sort of supernatural world and at least one of the objects of lust has to have supernatural powers.

The plot is simple, boy meets girl. Instant chemistry, dark brooding eyes, etc. Eventually, and how much time it takes does vary, boy and girl kiss. But their power of their supernatural natures threatens their happiness. Some massive outside trauma forces them to realise that they are stronger together. Big sex scene. Happy ending.

In this book both of the lovers are supes. He is a changeling, more commonly known as a werewolf. She is a psychic, and her talent is in channelling energy. She has been told from childhood that one day she is going to go up like a bomb and take most of the continent with her. Guess what the trauma is – the Psy council want her back to be their ultimate weapon at about the same time as she can feel herself ‘going critical’. Will she be forced to leave her wolf lover? What do you think?

At this stage you are suspecting that I hated the book. Actually it wasn’t that bad. I found the supernatural world very comfortable, well at least I have read many far worse. And the battle scene was fantastic! Just the right amount of tension to keep the pages turning without getting silly. And I loved the ‘valve’.

But a suggestion, upload the ebook. You don’t want to be caught in public reading anything with this cover.

August 27

Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

I finished this book a few weeks ago, so details might be a little sketchy. But then again, for a romance novel, who cares about details? It is all about the romance, the will he/won’t he, will she/won’t she. And I’m not going to be the one to offer a spoiler here.

Anna was all set for her senior year at her old school with her old friends, but her father insists that she attend her final year of high school at a stuffy old boarding school in France. Imagine, 17 years old and forced to live in Paris. What a hardship! But for Anna it is. She is a creature of habit and she want’s her old routines, including the almost romance that was just beginning when she left town. Inevitably she makes friends, and in her new group there is one very interesting boy. Unfortunately, he is already semi-permanently attached, or so it seems.

I found this a nice enough read. A bit of froth and bubble, but certainly not literature. However, it has made the Inky’s longlist, which means a lot of teens like it a lot. It is nice to see that a more traditional romance is popular. One without the faintest trace of a vampire or werewolf.

July 15

Good Oil by Laura Buzo

resized_9781741759976_224_297_FitSquareIt’s not very often that I don’t finish a book. I figure that an author is going to spend months or even years on a book, I can at least do him/her the courtesy of reading it all before I form an opinion. I was so tempted several times to simply put this book aside, and it was only this principle that kept me turning the pages. And am I glad I did. The finish simply changed my whole perspective and this became one of the best books I have read this year.

Amelia is 15, just, when she takes a job at Woolies as a check-out chick. Her trainer is Chris, 21, finishing uni, and very easy on the eyes. Instantly Amelia falls for him with the worst school girl crush you can imagine and 80% of this book is Amelia going through all the anguish that any girl with an inappropriate crush endures. That bit of the book has been done before, often with a lot more humour.

What makes this book different is the other part. Buzo has included two sections from Chris’s diaries. Through these chapters the reader learns about Chris and his life, including his guilt when he discovers that the only girl who seems to make any sense in his life is the youngster. It seems that he is in an impossible position and there is no happy escape. Thankfully Buzo provides us all with one. Personally, I think her final pages are a brilliant solution.

This could all too easily become a silly romance, an unreal fantasy, or a dark and depressing story of power, control and manipulation. Buzo avoids all of that very artfully without losing that touch of reality that made so much of this book uncomfortable to read.

Personally, I would list that among my top 10 YA for 2010.

May 4

Die for Me by Amy Plum

9781907411021I have been reviewing books for Hachette for years now and only very rarely do I get a copy of the book pre-publication. Sometimes I get uncorrected proof copies, but usually they don’t arrive until after the publication date. I unpacked this weeks ago, and set it aside until closer to the publication date. Then the Twitter feeds started showing great enthusiasm for this new author to the YA market.

Georgia seems surrounded by death. Her parents have recently been killed and she and her older sister move to Paris to live with her grandparents. The loss of her home, friends and family is almost too much to bear and she escapes into a world of books where life is a lot more secure. When her grandmother encourages, even pushes her to leave the house, Georgia starts taking her reading to a cafe. Gradually she begins mixing with humanity again (good idea Gran) and begins to create a new life for herself. Part of this new life includes Vincent, an absolutely gorgeous 19 year old French boy who somehow keeps appearing wherever she goes. Whenever she is with Vincent, suddenly life feels a lot more safe and secure.

But Vincent has his secrets, and Georgia is unwilling to let him keep them. She is after a relationship based on honesty. Then again some secrets are better kept.

This is a new variation on the supernatural romance theme that has been popular with teen girls for so many years. No this isn’t another vampire romance, in spite of the hints in the blurb. And you would think by now that I would be heartily sick of the whole genre. I swear I have read dozens of them. However, Plum put a fresh twist to the story. This is a book far more about doing things for others rather than serving oneself.

Plum has also written an engaging story. I read it in virtually one sitting. The book may be 300+ pages, but the time seemed to fly. I love the whole idea and I most certainly hope that Plum returns to the saga of Georgia and Vincent soon.

April 18

The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer

9781907410369Every now and then I am warned that a book is particularly bad. Several people advised me to not waste my time with this side story to the Twilight series. But I thought, it sold millions of copies world wide and it is less than 200 pages long. How bad can it be?

For fans of Meyer, they will all know that Bree Tanner was important in fighting the Cullen family during Eclipse. And they may even know or think they know more. Anyway this little novella is narrated by Bree and covers her ‘life’ since Victoria made her a vampire until the big battle scene. Naturally there is a love interest and all kinds of stories about how miserable existence is for all vampires except the Cullens.

Sorry, but as I finished this thing, my only thought was ‘Who Cares?’ It was certainly a waste of an evening. I can only assume that the publishers put Meyer up to this and I worry that we are going to be subjected to dozens of these stupid spin-offs of Twilight.

But I won’t be reading any more of them.