Tag Archives: YA/Teen

Emma Maree Reviews: Good Omens

Book: Good Omens by Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction/Fantasy

An angel (who owns a bookstore) and a demon (who owns a Bentley) work together to try and stop Armageddon, while a witch hunter and a witch do the same, using prophecies that are hundreds of years old. The Anti-Christ grows up in a small English village. That’s about the size of it.

Just in case you’re new to this blog: Hi, I’m Emma. Terry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman are two of my favourite authors. My review of this book is unlikely to surprise you. Okay, now that’s over with…

I loved this book.

The entire cast is amazing, from the Horsemen of the Apocalypse (with a badass, redheaded journalist starting wars everywhere she steps), the book-loving angel Aziraphale (“gayer than a treeful of monkeys on nitrous oxide”) and the demon Crowley (“An Angel who did not so much Fall as Saunter Vaguely Downwards”).

Strangely enough, my favourite character wasn’t the dark-humored but kind-hearted demon Crowley. It was a much more minor character, the humble package delivery man who loyally brings packages to help bring about the end of the World.

If you’re a fan of either or both author, pick this up ASAP and find out what you’ve been missing.

 

Emma Maree Reviews: Heart-Shaped Bruise

Book: Heart-Shaped Bruise by Tanya Byrne

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Psychological/Crime Fiction

They say I’m evil. The police. The newspapers. The girls from school who shake their heads on the six o’clock news and say they always knew there was something not quite right about me. And everyone believes it. Including you. But you don’t know. You don’t know who I used to be.

Who I could have been.

Awaiting trial at Archway Young Offenders Institution, Emily Koll is going to tell her side of the story for the first time.

“Heart-Shaped Bruise” is the diary of young criminal Emily Koll, written from her prison — a young offender’s institute in England.

This book has some balls: we’ve got a hard-to-categorise story (is it crime? mystery? psychological? contemporary?) with a hard-to-like protagonist who’s in jail for something horrible. It’s a daring book, and I love it.

I was worried that I wouldn’t be able to relate to Emily, who’s bitter about her imprisonment, difficult to talk to, and cold to her fellow inmates. But how can I not like a girl who talks about her grief like this:

“It was like a blackness that crept into the corners of my life until everything was grey and dirty. My insides felt burned out, like if you cut me open, all you would find would be smoke. No heart. No bones. There was nothing left, just the anger.”

I spent my time reading it and highlighting lines that resonated: Yes, Emily, I know that blackness. I know your pain. Your betrayal. Your black, unstoppable fury. If I’m being honest, I think it’s difficult to be a woman and not know exactly how she feels. She makes it so easy to understand her story.

Even though what Emily does might be unimaginable to some of us, the pain she goes through to reach that breaking point is something most of us can relate to.

If you’ve ever tried to write an unlikable character, it’s worth picking up this book as an example of how to do it right without losing your character’s edge.

Emma Maree Reviews: The Knife of Never Letting Go

Book: The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness

Series: Chaos Walking, Book 1

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Sci Fi/Dystopian

Prentisstown isn’t like other towns. Everyone can hear everyone else’s thoughts in an overwhelming, never-ending stream of Noise. Just a month away from the birthday that will make him a man, Todd and his dog, Manchee — whose thoughts Todd can hear too, whether he wants to or not — stumble upon an area of complete silence. They find that in a town where privacy is impossible, something terrible has been hidden — a secret so awful that Todd and Manchee must run for their lives.

But how do you escape when your pursuers can hear your every thought?

If you’re a reader: prepare to have your heartstrings torn apart. This is a fast-paced story, with a vivid dystopian world, plenty of action and dangling plot reveals galore to keep you reading even when you want to give Todd a good kick in the shins.

“You’re tearing me *apart*, Patrick Ness!”

If you’re a writer: prepare to have your heartstrings torn apart, and your writer-brain given a good education. Want to know how to make a difficult-to-like (ignorant, bull-headed prejudiced, angry) character loveable? Want to know how to write a convincing male character, from teenage mood swings to some words being misspelled cuz he ain’t had much of an educayshun? Want to know how to reveal information slowly without frustrating your readers? Step right up and get reading.

There are so many secrets in this story that you want to find out the answer to. You know the secrets are there because Todd is constantly doubting and second-guessing his info and other characters are fighting not to spill the beans.

So Ness keeps feeding you important information, big shocking reveals, while putting obstacles in the way to stop you finding out the whole picture all at once. For instance: in a world where everyone can hear your thoughts, knowing too much is a liability so a lot of info is kept from Todd so that it can’t be overheard.  And a lot of the important  info is in a book Todd carries everywhere, but he’s illiterate and too proud and defensive to admit he can’t read it.

Patrick has an impressively strong grasp of how to withhold information without it feeling forced or unrealistic, and how to ‘drip-feed’ important information to the readers without overwhelming them.

Either way: This is an interesting and dark dystopian that breaks out of the genre box and takes a lot of risks. While these risks (the misspelled narration, the constant dangling of plot info in front of your face) might lose it a few fans, it’ll earn Patrick Ness many, many more.

I’ll definitely be picking up the sequel, though after the emotional throat-punch that was this book I might have to take a break in-between.

Road Trip Wednesday: Which Divergent Faction Are You?

Today, for their Road Trip Wednesday question for bloggers, YA Highway asked: What Faction Are You? In honor of their Book of the Month, Veronica Roth’s INSURGENT, we want to know which of the five factions in the DIVERGENT series would you choose? Here’s a great breakdown of the five factions, and if you’re on the fence, you can even take the quiz for a hint!

This one was a clear-cut choice for me.

  • Back when I reviewed Divergent, I had trouble putting myself in the reckless, foolhardy Dauntless group’s shoes, so  clearly don’t have the balls (or the lacking brain cells ;P) for that.
  • I focus a lot on my own goals (WRITING WRITING WRITING) so I’m too self-centered for the selfless Abnegation.
  • The quiz gave me Candor, and while I do love small doses blunt honesty I think I’d hate their tactless methods of deploying it.
  • Erudite, land of the bookworms and intellects, is the one calling to my inner Ravenclaw self. But they focus on reading non-fiction, and my passion lies with fiction.
  • So it was a clear-cut choice: Amity, the soft touches who think friendship will solve everyone’s problems. They’re basically the hippy faction, but they’re also the only faction that encourages the creation of art. And without art, I’d go mad very fast.

Now I really want to go read Insurgent…

 

Cover Reveal! “Daughter of Smoke and Bone” UK Paperback

On 16th August Hodder Books will publish the paperback edition of Laini Taylor’s brilliant YA fantasy novel “Daughter of Smoke and Bone”.

The book itself is wonderful, and you can find my review and the hard back cover over here. I have a bias towards the original cover, because it’s the cover I own and love — and I adore designs that use feathers. but there’s plenty of interesting aspects in this new cover. It seems to be aiming at an older audience (crossover?), reminding me a lot of some women’s fiction covers while still keeping the story elements obvious, and I like that the font is almost identical to the original.

Emma Maree Reviews: Divergent

Book: Divergent by Veronica Roth

Series: The Divergent Trilogy

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Sci-Fi/Dystopian

In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Divergent is set in a world where Society has divided into five factions in order to avoid war in the future. This is a bit of a love-it-or-hate-it concept, and I’m on the side of the room that loves it and the way it slightly echoes Harry Potter houses.

I particularly loved that Dauntless, the daredevil faction designed to protect the city from an unknown enemy, is visibly falling apart and straying from its roots. It did push past believability at times, though. Jumping from a moving train across a drop that actually kills a new initiate on your first day felt unrealistic. Punching each other into unconsciousness to prove you’re brave felt unrealistic. Blatantly ignoring a murder felt unrealistic.

A possibly fatal jump (with a net at a bottom) and computer simulations forcing you to face your fear made sense. They tested initiate’s nerve while still being in a controlled environments for trainees. But if you’re taking actions that are going to kill your new members, your system is broken.

It takes a lot for me to actually stop and say ‘this feels unrealistic’. It means the world-building isn’t holding up enough for me to believe life could be this bad, and it makes it harder to relate to the world and the characters. It didn’t stop me from enjoying the book, but it frustrated me.

The story is loaded with action and adventure, and the main character Tris is a really awesome, strong young woman whose struggles and conflicting thoughts are clearly shown as she tries to adapt to a very different new life.

The smart ways Tris dealt with people being harsh and cruel towards her was brilliant, and she’s refreshingly different from other YA protagonists in that she can be self-centred, manipulative, and cold. To the point where her viciousness towards a genuinely nice, but troubled character made me want to put down the book.

But on the flip side, there were so many things I loved. The book is very ‘clean’ – it’s hugely violent, and filled with action and romantic tension, but there’s no swearing or sex. I think this might be due to the author’s religion, hinted to be Christian in the acknowledgement, but the book has only minimal subtext and I really like how well the book managed to stay within the lines.

The romance is sweet and slow-moving, with no love triangle in sight, and the plot had more than enough twists and turns to keep me on the edge of my seat.

Despite all the conflicting feelings I had about the story, I was hooked from start to finish. I love the action, the adventure, and the world enough that I can look past my issues. It’s far too easy to overthink a story when you get that wrapped up in it, I think.

I’d recommend this book to any fans of YA dystopian fiction who like the concept of the world being split into factions, and who enjoy action-packed plots like The Hunger Games and City of Bones. I’m looking forward to picking up the second book in this trilogy, Insurgent, which comes out this year.

Top 10 Covers of 2012

After seeing this idea up on Jaime’s blog from The Broke and Bookish’s Top Ten Tuesday, I had to join in.

“Throne of the Crescent Moon” by Saladin Ahmed

Just look at that cover by one of my favorite artists, Jason Chan. It’s beautiful.  Such a variety of awesome looking characters.

‘Mockingbird’ by Chuck Wendig

Loved the Blackbird cover, and love this one as well. Both remind me pleasantly of Death from The Sandman. I still need to read these.

“Shadow and Bone” by Leigh Bardugo

Beautiful, Russian-inspired cover art.

‘The Fault In Our Stars’ by John Green

Deceptively simple, but instantly recognisable. Click the link above to read a review.

“Article 5” by Kristen Simmons

An all-round wonderful sci-fi YA cover.

‘Tempest’ by Julie Cross

There’s something wonderfully tense and dramatic about this scene. I adore the colour of the sky as well, and the slight “Hush, Hush” style to the poses.

‘The Statistical Probability of Love At First Sight” by Jennifer E. Smith  

Super-cute, love the restricted colour scheme and how neatly they worked in such a long title.

“Wonder” by R.J. Palacio 

This is the story of a boy with an abnormal face. What a tricky book to think up a cover for, but this simple image really blows the concept out of the water.

“What’s Left Of Me” Kat Zhang

This is a brilliantly illustration – it captures the title perfectly.

“Thief’s Covenant” by Ari Marmell

To finish things off, another Jason Chan – and this time it’s the story of Widdershins, a young thief. This is another cover which uses a restricted set of colours to beautiful effect, as well as negative space. I really like how confident and intelligent the young thief looks.

A few runner-ups that didn’t make the cut:

“Cinder” by  Marissa Meyer. The cover sums up the story perfectly: Cinderella, with cyborgs.

“The Way We Fall” by Megan Crewe. The bright, bold yellow really grabs me here — and I’m a sucker for image-inside-text covers like the original Delirium cover.

“A Million Suns” by Beth Revis. “Across the Universe” had a fantastic cover, and it’s sequel is just as artistically well-off. This spells out the sci-fi and romance clearly, and the covers fit well with the previous book’s cover.

February Book of the Month

Today, for their Road Trip Wednesday question for bloggers, YA Highway asked: What was the best book you read in February?

This is, without a doubt, Veronica Roth’s “Divergent”.

I’ve actually been completely conflicted about this book–I got so immersed in the world that I over thinking elements, which meant I started over thinking my review, so I froze up and stalled and avoided hitting ‘publish’ on the review because I was blowing up everything out of proportion.

And that’s how I know I loved it. I got ridiculously, unconsciously invested in the world.

I’ll pop the review up tomorrow. 🙂

What did you choose for your response? Drop a link to your answer in the comments!

 

Emma Maree Reviews: Shiver

Book: Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater

Series: The Wolves of Mercy Falls

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Paranormal Romance

For years, Grace has watched the wolves in the woods behind her house. One yellow-eyed wolf—her wolf—is a chilling presence she can’t seem to live without. Meanwhile, Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human… until the cold makes him shift back again.

Now, Grace meets a yellow-eyed boy whose familiarity takes her breath away. It’s her wolf. It has to be. But as winter nears, Sam must fight to stay human—or risk losing himself, and Grace, forever.

One thing that surprised me about Shiver was that I really liked the protagonist, Grace. She’s a beautiful blonde, oblivious to her own good looks – but she’s also clearly, visibly smart, and not just because she talks about reading books. She knows Sam’s a werewolf about three chapters in, she works out what happened to a recently changed ‘victim’ on her own, she even works out a few of Sam’s secrets before he gathers up the guts to tell her. After reading so many YA romances with female leads that leave me wanting to scream at the stupid girls, this was such a refreshing change – and the surprises didn’t stop there.

There’s no drawn-out waiting for Sam to ‘reveal’ his supernatural secret – she works it out, the story moves on. After so many books with drawn-out “Say what you are.” “Vampire”-style reveals, slow-to-happen first kisses that shake the heavens, and heavy hints to mysteries that main characters can’t work out, it all feels very fresh. I don’t have any problem with these tropes (I like working out the mysteries, and slow lead-ups to first kisses can be done well) but it’s nice to have something different.

I also love the way Stiefvater does chapters – they’re scenes, as long or short as they need to be, swapping between characters with a temperature reading to hint at the ever-so-important outside temperature during the chapters. The short scenes add a lot to the pacing, and they help the story to zip-along even in the mundane day-to-day moments.

There are a few slower moments in this book – family drama, school drama, day-to-day life. It gives the book a nice touch of reality, but it can slow down the pacing a bit. About half-way through the story I got a little tired of the constant romantic drama and wanted some action – this is a werewolf story, damn it, give me epic wolf fight scenes or even just ominous confrontations.

In the end, the slower pacing was all that stopped me making that jump from enjoying this book to loving it. I really wanted more action, but this series’ is focussed on the romance first, then the characters, and the action last of all. I went into it with the wrong expectations, but if it’s a paranormal romance you’re after, this book will tick all of your boxes.

Emma Maree Reviews: The Graveyard Book

Book: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Genre: Fiction/Young Adult/Childrens/Paranormal/Horror

After the grisly murder of his entire family, a toddler wanders into a graveyard where the ghosts and other supernatural residents agree to raise him as one of their own. Nobody Owens, known to his friends as Bod, is a normal boy. He would be completely normal if he didn’t live in a sprawling graveyard, being raised and educated by ghosts, with a solitary guardian who belongs to neither the world of the living nor of the dead. There are dangers and adventures in the graveyard for a boy. But if Bod leaves the graveyard, then he will come under attack from the man Jack—who has already killed Bod’s family . . .

If you’ve ever read Gaiman’s “American Gods” (and you should) you’ll have an idea of what to expect here. Neil Gaiman is a goldmine of mythology and history, and his knowledge leaks into the pages. Everything is infused with accuracy and research, everything is referencing old gods and famous moments in history. They call it a kids book, but as an adult reader you can get so much more out of all his subtle little nods to history.

The story starts out with each chapter being a self-contained ‘snippet’ from the main character Nobody’s life in the graveyard, following him as he grows up and makes friends with witches, steps through portals into other worlds, and deals with a teacher who might not be all that she seems.  Towards the end of the story, all the individual sections start to come together as the man named Jack picks up Nobody’s trail once again…

Neil has a real gift with characters. The Graveyard residents are made memorable with only a few lines of text, and they’re all so likeable. I didn’t even realise how attached I was to these characters, until 2am on Christmas Day rolled around and I was still reading, still desperate to know what happened next and what these poor characters were going to have to go through.

This is a great fantasy novel – an easy, fast-paced read with a lot of depth and appeal to all ages.