young adult

All posts tagged young adult

Never Say Die

Published October 12, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

Never say die cover

Review of Never Say Die by Will Hobbs

Overview from www.bn.com:

When the motto of your village is “never say die,” you have a lot to live up to. . . .

At home in Canada’s Arctic, Nick Thrasher is an accomplished Inuit hunter at fifteen. About to bring home a caribou for his ailing grandfather, Nick loses the meat to a fearsome creature never before seen in the wild. It’s half grizzly, half polar bear. Experts will soon be calling it a “grolar bear.”

Returning to his village, Nick receives a letter from the half-brother he’s never met. A former Grand Canyon river guide, Ryan Powers is now a famous wildlife photographer. He’ll soon be coming to Nick’s part of the world to raft the remote Firth River in search of huge herds of migrating caribou. Ryan also wants to learn what Inuit hunters are saying about climate change in the Arctic. He invites Nick to come along and help him find the caribou.

Barely down the river, disaster strikes. Nick and Ryan are both thrown into the freezing river and find themselves under a ceiling of solid ice. With nothing but the clothes on his back and the knife on his hip, Nick is up against it in a world of wolves, caribou, and grizzlies. All the while, the monstrous grolar bear stalks the land.

My Review:

Though this book was short (about 140 pages on my nook), I read it mostly to fill in the gaps between my usual fare and of course because it was a Free Friday offering. I thought the story line might have some promise but what really sold me was the description of it as being a kind of modern-day version of Call of the Wild by Jack London.

Nick is our half-white, half-Inuit narrator and is approximately fifteen years old if I did my math right when I calculated his age based on the age difference between himself and his half-brother who is also a main character in this story.

His troubles start with the appearance of the so-called grolar bear which is a half-grizzly, half-polar bear combination creature. The bear is ferocious, large, and downright evil and nearly kills him. He pops up a few more times again before the book is over.

Then he gets a letter from Ryan (the half-brother I mentioned earlier) who explains to him that he is taking a trip up to Nick’s neck of the wood to ply his trade. He is a wildlife photographer and writer. He wants to research the rumor that caribou are dying out due to climate change. He is also interested in the grolar bear though it is not the main point of his research. He hoped to convince Nick to tag along on his expedition that will take them to the Firth River and hopefully the caribou.

Nick agrees to go with him despite his misgivings and some of his differences of opinion with his only brother. Only interference from his dying grandfather persuades him in the end.

The trip does end up being wild, wonderful and scary all at the same time but along the way he develops a respect and camaraderie with his brother that along with their discoveries make it a trip of the lifetime.

I am not really sure that it compares all that favorably with the Jack London classic that I mentioned earlier but it was still an interesting read. It was not as one-sided on the issue of climate change as it thought it would be. There is some respect for the Inuit way of life as well as Ryan’s views. Of course I suspect that the author is leaning towards the environmentalist position but at least he doesn’t portray hunters as the menacing evil of the Arctic like I thought he would when I started reading.

This is also appropriate for younger readers though perhaps not too young. There is some wildlife type violence in here after all. I think probably fifth grade or above might enjoy it but I am no expert.

I also enjoyed it though it is not likely to become one of my favorites. Still it was better than what I was initially expecting.

Monsoon Summer

Published August 17, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

monsoon summer cover

Review of Monsoon Summer by Mitali Perkins

Overview from www.bn.com: Jasmine “Jazz” Gardner heads off to India during the monsoon season. The family trip is her mother’s doing: Mrs. Gardner wants to volunteer at the orphanage that cared for her when she was young. But going to India isn’t Jazz’s idea of a great summer vacation. She wants no part of her mother’s do-gooder endeavors.

What’s more, Jazz is heartsick. She’s leaving the business she and her best friend, Steve Morales, started—as well as Steve himself. Jazz is crazy in love with the guy. If only he knew!

Only when Jazz reluctantly befriends Danita, a girl who cooks for her family, and who faces a tough dilemma, does Jazz begin to see how she can make a difference—to her own family, to Danita, to the children at the orphanage, even to Steve. As India claims Jazz, the monsoon works its madness and its magic.

My Review:

I finally got a book for free that wasn’t a Barnes & Noble Free Friday book. This one came from a coworker and friend who got it for free at a library event of some kind. (Sorry, I didn’t really pay attention.)

My friend said that she saw this book on a table of free books and thought I would like it. She proved once again that she really understands my tastes because I loved it.

Monsoon Summer is the story of girl, Jazz (Jasmine) Gardner who is half Indian and half American but never feels totally at home in either culture. Though she does well at school, sports and even has her own business on the side, she doesn’t quite feel like she fits in with most of the other girls from her school.

The only person she does feel comfortable with is her best friend since grade school, Steve Morales. At least she used to. Now that she has fallen for him but is afraid to tell him, she’s not quite so comfortable with him either.

Then the bomb drops. She and her family are going to India for the summer. This is the last thing she wants since it will mean leaving Steve and the business they have set up.

But Jazz is not selfish. She knows it has always been her mother’s dream to go back to the land of her birth and Jazz would never let on that she would rather stay home in Berkeley and keep the other girls from her school from trying to take Steve away from her.

Like many others who travel to India, she discovers a whole new world of people and situations, many of them that break her heart. She wants to make a difference in the lives of those who are less fortunate and give them the same opportunities she has had but is afraid of making another big mistake. Along the way she must learn to let go and realize that she has a lot more to offer than she thought possible.

I liked this story for a lot of reasons but I am sure that one of the things that I liked about the story was that Jazz goes to the same city that I went to when I visited India. I recognized a lot of my own trip in hers. Of course I was older but I don’t see how anyone with a heart could not feel for people who welcome foreigners into their homes and their hearts with such a generous spirit as I felt when I was there. Their lives were mostly worse than mine yet rarely was I greeted by any of my hosts without a big smile.

The poverty is heart-breaking. That was the worst part. So what better place for Jazz to initiate one of her own “giving opportunities” that her mom is always encouraging her to do than in India?

I also liked how the story showed how much girls and even grown women undervalue is ourselves. Never is this more evident than in a place like India. We can learn, like Jazz does, that the most important thing we can give to another human being is to give of ourselves. We can make a difference.

The Lost Code

Published July 13, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

the lost code cover

Review of The Lost Code by Kevin Emerson

Overview from www.bn.com:

Kevin Emerson’s The Lost Code, first in the Alanteans series, tells the story of a near-future earth ravaged by global climate change. Owen Parker is about to learn that it isn’t the first time the planet has been near destruction. Owen’s ancestors were part of an ancient race whose advanced technology once almost destroyed the world.

With the help of a mysterious, enchanting girl named Lily, Owen will have to understand his history and his genetic code to prevent global annihilation. He will also have to leave the bio-dome that keeps him safe and brave the post-apocalyptic wasteland beyond.

Teens fascinated by the dark dystopian world of Divergent and mythology of the Percy Jackson series will want to read The Lost Code.

My Review:

It has been awhile since I ventured into the world of Young Adult and this time when I do it I am also returning to the world of Sci-Fi. It is not a world that I visit often.

Well, to be fair, The Lost Code is really more of a Sci-Fi/Fantasy I think as it combines elements of the two. The summary I read from Barnes & Noble described it I think as dystopian. I had to look up exactly what that word meant to be sure and if I understand correctly it is the opposite of utopian.

But back to the book. Our story features a young guy named Owen. He lives about one hundred years into the future or thereabouts if I remember correctly. When we meet him he is at summer camp. Yep, they still have summer camp in the future apparently but it is not exactly the same as most summer camps most of us have been to I’m guessing.

Here they have archery and swimming but they also have games like “Predator/Prey.” I think you can figure out what that is about.

Anyway, it is during a swimming competition that we first see Owen. He desperately wants to win the contest because it will give him more camp privileges but at the same time he will have the chance to impress Lilly, an older girl who is sort of in charge of their group.

Problem is: Owen doesn’t swim well. In fact, he hardly swims at all. But surprising all goes well until he gets to the butterfly stroke and then he goes under. He nearly drowns. Lilly saves him but, as he finds out later, he had managed to survive underwater for eleven minutes. How did he do that?

The answer is as it turns out later, he has grown gills. And it turns out that a handful of kids at this camp have already grown gills. They find out about him and take him under their wings, or gills. Together they try to find out why they are changing and what they should do with their gills when the camp is invaded and Owen starts seeing things. Now, he is forced to take sides and find answers about his heritage.

This story is the first in a series called “The Atlanteans.” I believe book two just came out which is the reason for this being a Free Friday offering I presume. I might decide to read book two in the future but I am not sure yet. It was a good story but I don’t know if the budget will allow me to continue with the next one. We’ll see.

I liked the characters of Owen and Lilly. I even liked Evan and Leech who were mostly antagonists. The view of the future that is presented here is of course not the best one but it seems like it might get better now that Owen knows what he has to do.

Also, I liked how the story was mostly clean yet entertaining. There were a few four-letter words and some violence but nothing like some of the other books B & N has given away. I recommend for anyone fourteen and above. It’s a great read and it’s not too heavy.

Contains: some violence and language

For further information you can click on this link and watch the trailer. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzCeUGHm_3A

I would post it myself but I can’t seem to figure out how to do this.

Sweet Venom

Published January 12, 2013 by myliteraryleanings

Sweet Venom coverReview of Sweet Venom by Tera Lynn Childs

Overview from http://www.bn.com:

Three teenage descendants of Medusa, the once-beautiful Gorgon maligned in myth, must reunite and embrace their fates.

Grace just moved to San Francisco and is excited to start over at a new school. The change is full of fresh possibilities, but it’s also a tiny bit scary. It gets scarier when a minotaur walks in the door. And even more shocking when a girl who looks just like her shows up to fight the monster.

Gretchen is tired of monsters pulling her out into the wee hours, but what can she do? Sending the minotaur back to his bleak home is just another notch on her combat belt. She never expected to run into this girl who could be her double, though.

Greer has her life pretty well put together, thank you very much. But that all tilts sideways when two girls who look eerily like her appear on her doorstep and claim they’re triplets, supernatural descendants of some hideous creature from Greek myth, destined to spend their lives hunting monsters. . . .

My Review:

Sweet Venom is a book that in some ways lives up to the title hints that it is a story about snakes—but not really. Because the only the snakes involved would probably be the ones on Medusa’s head, though the story never touched on that I can remember. There was quite a bit about the lady/monster herself since three of our main characters are her descendants but not about the snakes so much.

So then, the next logical question would be: What venom are they referring to and how is it sweet? The answer is the venom is something that the three “huntresses” are able to inject into a bothersome monster’s vein which will then send him or her back to the monster world where he or she belongs. The venom comes out of the huntress’ fangs that come out automatically when needed. And the sweet refers to the taste of the aforementioned venom. We know that it is sweet because one of the main characters, Grace, tastes and tells her sister Gretchen that it is. Weird, I know.

So now that we have got that out-of-the-way I can tell you my verdict. I liked it a lot. I liked the characters, especially Grace, and the story was certainly unique. The idea is that Medusa has gotten a bad rap down through the centuries due to the goddess Athena’s jealousy and has actually been keeping us mere humans safe from the monsters that want use and devour us. Well, later it’s her descendants that do it but you get the idea.

The descendant part brings us to Grace, Gretchen, and Greer who are the descendants mentioned. They were separately adopted at birth in hopes that they would come together when the time is right which of course is where the story starts. Gretchen is the one who has been fighting the creatures the longest so she becomes the mentor after her mentor Ursula mysteriously disappears.

Grace runs into Gretchen at a club and is literally carried off by her—eventually to be trained as a monster huntress herself. Then, shortly after Grace’s training is complete, they track down Greer who is more worried about her social standing than anything else.

This book is the first in a trilogy so the there are many unanswered questions for both the characters and the reader. I get the hint that some of the characters know more than they have divulged in this book but I guess if I want to know more, I’ll have to read the next book.  That of course the idea. There’s no third book yet but obviously there will be at some point.

In the meantime, I am thinking about actually purchasing the second book (this one was a Free Friday offering) since I enjoyed this one so much. I just got a Barnes & Noble gift card from a couple of people so I think I might use it towards that book and some others I have been wanting to buy. I recommend this one for both adults and teenagers.

Contains: some monster violence

Alice in Zombieland

Published December 15, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

alice in zombieland coverReview of Alice in Zombieland by Lewis Carroll and Nickolas Cook

Overview from www.bn.com: They were indeed a queer-looking party that assembled on the bank-the birds with draggled feathers, the animals with their fur clinging close to them, and all dripping wet, cross, and uncomfortable. All of them were covered in Alice’s now cold and congealed blood, which made them even tastier looking to poor hungry Alice.

When little Alice follows the Black Rat down into the gaping darkness of an open grave, she falls and falls. And soon finds herself in an undead nightmare of rotting flesh and insanity. Venturing further into this land of zombies and monsters, she encounters characters both creepy and madcap along the way. But there’s something else troubling poor Alice: her skin is rotting and her hair is falling out. She’s cold. And she has the haunting feeling that if she remains in Zombieland any longer, she might never leave.

Can Alice escape Zombieland before the Dead Red Queen catches up to her?

My Review:

Forgive me for this one if it’s not to your liking but I decided to step a little out of my comfort zone for this one. I had been curious about these books that seemed to come out of nowhere about three years ago.

It seemed to have started with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies but then I quickly noticed a whole slew of this new type of genre that combines the works of the classic author with some type of horror story. Zombies didn’t seem to predominate but I think there were also some that featured vampires.

I couldn’t believe anyone could murder the classics I had grown up with in this way but I have always believed that someday I should read one of them myself and give it a fair shot. Who knows? I might like it.

When I saw this book offered one Friday as a freebie, I figured it was a good of time as any to give it a shot. Still I put off reading it for a while until this week when I wanted a short book to finish out my week.

So what did I think? Well, I am not sure if I would exactly recommend it. It is not really my style. Zombies just don’t interest me that much. I don’t know why but I think it because they give me the creeps and eat brains–though this author’s zombies seem to prefer dead limbs instead.

Still I can’t say that it wasn’t educational. I finally have an idea of how these novels are done. I won’t say that I understand why people like to read them, because it certainly wouldn’t be my first choice of genre to read. However, I could have found worse ways to spend my time.

If you’re looking for some light entertainment and you’re not too grossed out by blood and dismembered limbs, this might be just the thing for you. However, don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Contains: blood, violence and some scary illustration—might not be suitable for young children

Peaches

Published August 11, 2012 by myliteraryleanings

Review of Peaches by Jodi Lynn Anderson

Overview from www.bn.com:

Three Georgia peaches are in for one juicy summer . . .

. . . but Birdie would rather eat Thin Mints and sulk in the AC.

Leeda would prefer to sneak off with her boyfriend, Rex.

And Murphy just wants to cause a little mischief.

Together these three very different girls will discover the secret to finding the right boy, making the truest friends, and picking the perfect Georgia peach.

My Review:

Two words come to mind when I think of this book—Birdie Poopie. I know it sounds weird but Birdie and Poopie are the names of two characters from this book who actually live together in the same house. And if that doesn’t get you to break into a laugh or a smile, I don’t know what will. Perhaps the rest of the book. Although this book isn’t all laughs, there are some funny parts.

In case you’re wondering about who these two characters are, I will give a brief description. Birdie is the teenage daughter of Walter Darlington, proprietor of Darlington Orchards, which is known for growing some of the best Georgia peaches around. Though the orchard now belongs to Darlington, Birdie can hold her own in running the place now that her mother has left.

However, Birdie is not alone in her task. The Darlingtons have the help of Poopie Pedraza, a Mexican immigrant who essentially serves as her housekeeper and much more. These two names put together by another character, Murphy McGowan, give us the name Birdie Poopie. When Murphy mentions this, all three of the main characters can’t help but laugh at this.

And who is the third character you might ask? That would be Leeda Cawley-Smith, Birdie’s cousin who is sent to work on the orchard by her parents for Spring break and then later choses to come back for her summer break as well. And why would a beautiful and popular young girl want to spend her breaks at a peach orchard? Well, that’s complicated. If I told you that I would also be giving away too much of the plot.

Murphy on the other hand is not at the orchard by choice, either for Spring Break or for the summer. She is there as part of a deal a local judge made with her mom and Walter Darlington. In exchange for keeping Murphy’s record free of mentioning certain crimes she’s committed, Murphy has been assigned to help the Darlingtons.

How these girls come together to become friends and make their breaks memorable and even fun is almost a miracle since they have little in common. The how is the fun of the story. What they learn from the experience though, will carry them through the rest of their lives. The weird names and funny expressions, like “hooptie,” for example, are what kept me entertained. The story is interesting too and worth checking out. It would be a great addition to any summer reading list.

13 Little Blue Envelopes

Published August 7, 2011 by myliteraryleanings

13 Little Blue Envelopes by Maureen Johnson

Review from www.bn.com:

Inside little blue envelope 1 are $1,000 and instructions to buy a plane ticket.

In envelope 2 are directions to a specific London flat.

The note in envelope 3 tells Ginny: Find a starving artist.

Because of envelope 4, Ginny and a playwright/thief/ bloke–about–town called Keith go to Scotland together, with somewhat disastrous–though utterly romantic–results. But will she ever see him again?

Everything about Ginny will change this summer, and it’s all because of the 13 little blue envelopes.

My Review:

Please excuse this departure from my usual style.  I normally start with my own summary of the book as well as quoting the overview from www.bn.com, which I did above.  This time however, instead, I wanted to begin with a quote from the book that I think sums it up better than the above one from www.bn.com did.  Also, I am not sure if my summary could do as good of a job conveying the plot of this book as well as the character of it as this one quote from the book.  Tell me what you think when you’re done reading.

“Aunt Peg was simply gone.  Then came a few postcards, basic assurances that she was doing well.  They were postmarked from a variety of places- England, France, Italy- but they contained no explanations.

So Aunt Peg was exactly the kind of person who would send her to England alone, with a package from a Chinese restaurant.  That wasn’t so odd.

The odd part was that Aunt Peg had been dead for three months.” p. 13

Thus begins Ginny’s odyssey across Europe beginning with London where she meets Aunt Peg’s London roommate, Richard.  Were they just friends or something more?  This is one of many questions that Ginny wants to uncover as she follows the instructions left for her by her late Aunt Peg inside of thirteen different little blue envelopes.

I have to say that I loved this book.  It had some downsides to be sure, and I will be glad to list them later.  But overall, it was a fun ride.   Although I have been to some of these countries already, I learned some things I never knew about some of them.  The best part about this whole book was two-fold.  First, the wacky characters that Ginny meets up with as she travels.  Second, always wondering what Ginny’s zany aunt would want her to do next.

The instructions were always in the next blue envelope but there were two rules.  Ginny was not allowed to open the next one until Aunt Peg said it was ok which was usually right after she completed her task in the previous envelope, and she was not allowed to communicate electronically with anyone back in the USA.

After showing up on Richard’s doorstep to ask him what he sold to the queen, she is told to sponsor an artist.  Seems easy, right?  However, finding a worthy candidate proved to be more difficult than she thought.  She eventually finds her man in a local arts student who produces, writes and stars in “Starbucks the musical.”

This tidbit cracked me up, especially when one of the main characters get shot repeatedly yet never dies.  I thought to myself that it sounded stupid and that maybe Ginny had picked the wrong candidate.  Yet for better or worse, he’s her guy and his name is Keith.  She helps him break a school record by making him the first person to sell out the school auditorium in the school’s entire history.  He wants to pay her back by buying her a beer at a pub and is somewhat shocked that she is allowed in.

After this first episode in the bar, Ginny realizes that she has a crush on Keith.  So when Keith invites her to go up to his show in Edinburgh she doesn’t hesitate.  As it turns out, this is the very place Aunt Peg is sending her to next.  After meeting a surreal artist in Edinburgh, she heads off to Rome, the next place Aunt Peg is sending her and then to Paris.  The funny thing is she doesn’t seem to go to the these places in any particular order.  Just like her aunt’s travels, Ginny flits back and forth across Europe.

Ginny’s haphazard travels remind me of the first downside that came to mind as I read this book- she doesn’t seem old enough to be travelling alone.  I mean isn’t there some kind of a law that you must have a note from your parents or something when you’re under age and going abroad?  Maybe not.  I guess I wouldn’t know though since I was not able to travel out of the country until I was much older.  The book relates Ginny’s shock that Keith’s roommate’s girlfriend can decide to do pretty much anything she wants despite her young age.

“Who just decided they were going to work in Spain?  Ginny hadn’t even been allowed to get a job until last summer, and that was only at the SnappyDrug down the street…. And here was Fiona, who couldn’t be much older than she was, running of to sunny Spain.  Ginny tried to imagine that conversation.  I’m so sick of the mall… Think I’ll go get a job at that Gap in Madrid.

Everyone’s else’s life was more interesting than hers.”  p. 62

There were some other parts two that were a little too risqué for me.  Maybe I am not hip or with it, but there were certain moments that were uncomfortable for me to be reading and imagining.   But what saved it for me was that they were brief and not overdone.  The book touched on some serious moments but thank God they were not too heavy-handed to ruin the fun attitude of the book.

The book also had some disappointments  a guy who she was supposed to meet in Holland turned out to be MIA and one of the blue envelopes got lost but Ginny took it all in stride.  Of course I guess she had to since she couldn’t really do anything about it.

I also found out something cool when I went to www.bn.com.  The book has a sequel that came out in 2010.  As you might have guessed if you read my other posts- I got this as a free e-book on a Free Friday from Barnes & Noble but I think I just might shell out the money for the next book in the series myself.  I enjoyed it that much and would love to go on another adventure with Ginny.  I think most anyone else who read this book would say the same thing.