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The Monster Librarian Presents:
Reviews of Paranormal Romance and Urban Fantasy for Young Adults
Just as paranormal romance and urban fantasy has taken off for adults, there has been a recent surge in paranormal romance and urban fantasy titles for young adults.
For those who enjoy My Soul to Take series Rhonda Wilson interviews the author Rachel Vincent .
We have an interview with Rachel Hawkins author of Hex Hall.
Ink Exchange is the second book in Melissa Marr’s YA Wicked Lovely series. The first book in the series told the story of Aislinn, an ‘ordinary’ high school girl who is stalked by fairies that no-one else can see. Ink Exchange tells the story of Leslie, one of Aislinn’s school friends, who also becomes ensnared in the world of the fey.
Like the first book in the series, Ink Exchange is a rather dark tale. Just as Aislinn had been dogged by traumatic experiences in her past, so Leslie is struggling to come to terms with horrible memories when her story begins. However, in many ways, Ink Exchange offers a more disturbing tale. Having been raped by drug dealer associates of her brother, Ren, Leslie decides to get a tattoo in an attempt to reclaim her body and her identity. Unwittingly, she chooses a tattoo parlor run by a half-mortal, half-fey named Rabbit. The design she chooses is the mark of the Dark King Irial, leaving Leslie tied and drained by the fairy.
Meanwhile, Aislinn (now the Summer Queen) is keen to protect her friend without revealing her new identity, and sends advisor Niall to watch over her. Niall forms strong feelings for Leslie, and has his own past history with Irial as well, creating a complicated love triangle between the mortal girl and fairy men.
Leslie’s (literal and metaphorical) attachment to Irial is described in terms that seem reminiscent of drug addiction – reminding me of Holly Black’s book, Valiant, in which the connection between drug-taking and fairy magic is also explored. At times, Leslie’s fate seems so bleak that it is hard to imagine how she is ever going to come through it. However, the resolution of her story is one of triumph, not of suffering, and her final destiny is one of the most empowering I have read in a YA urban fantasy.
Of all the Wicked Lovely books, Ink Exchange is definitely my favorite. It certainly goes to some very dark places, and is quite an emotional read at times, but this is a strength, rather than a weakness. While Leslie is, for the most part, a victim in this book, the way this is handled (and, finally, dispelled) is excellent. Melissa Marr’s choice of how to resolve a love triangle (so common, now, in YA fantasy) is both bold and moving.
I recommend this book to fans of YA fantasy, though it is more suited to older teen readers. It belongs alongside the other Wicked Lovely books, and the YA books of Holly Black and Carrie Need.
Contains: references to sexuality and sexual violence, drug use and death
Reviewed by: Hannah Kate
Marr *New Review
Radiant Shadows is the fourth book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA fairy series. It follows on from Fragile Eternity, focusing more on characters that have previously featured only briefly in the series. In particular, it tells the story of Devlin (High Court regent Sorcha’s ‘brother-son’), Ani (the daughter of Gabriel and sister of tattooist Rabbit) and Bananch (Sorcha’s twin sister and the embodiment of War and Discord).
Although the series began with a rather straightforward division of ‘humans’ and ‘fairies’, the books have gradually complicated this division with the introduction of new types of creature in each installment. I think that Radiant Shadows is perhaps the most complex version of the human/fey divide, as much of it concentrates on the story of a ‘halfling’ (born of a human mother and a fey father) and the shade of a once-human girl (who has technically died, but is kept ‘alive’ through her relationship with the fairy Devlin). Nothing is quite as simple as it first seemed in Wicked Lovely, with a number of newly-made fairies (who were once human) featuring prominently in Radiant Shadows.
This was not my favorite book in the series, and I’m not sure it quite lives up to the promise of Fragile Eternity and the earlier books. While Ani, Devlin and Rae are great characters, I didn’t find them quite as compelling as Sorcha (who was a central character in the previous book), Aislinn, Leslie, Donia or Keenan. Nevertheless, all these characters make an appearance, and I enjoyed the development of the characters of Irial and Niall (who featured in Ink Exchange). The final showdown also had me holding my breath, as Marr filled it with tension and high emotion. This series is a strong one, and Radiant Shadows is still a great piece of YA urban fantasy.
This book is recommended for fans of the earlier Wicked Lovely books, and belongs alongside other YA urban fantasy, particularly books by Holly Black and Carrie Need.
Contains: some references to sexuality, violence and death (not explicit)
Reviewed by: Hannah Kate
Marr *New Review
Fragile Eternity is the third book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA fairy series. While it follows Ink Exchange, it returns to the unresolved threads of the first book in the series and revisits Wicked Lovely’s heroine (Aislinn) who was made into a Summer Queen at the end of the first installment.
After discovering that she is the true Summer Queen, Aislinn struggles to come to terms with her new fey existence, as well as with the fact that she has been thrown into a relationship with the seductive Summer King, Keenan. However, unlike Wicked Lovely, this book is not strictly Ash’s story. Fragile Eternity, in fact, follows the story of Seth, Aislinn’s mortal boyfriend. Though he does love her, Seth finds it hard to understand the new pressures on his girlfriend, and both find it difficult to deal with the fact that, while she is immortal, he will one day grow old and die. Seth is also troubled by the close relationship Ash has to share with Keenan, and becomes jealous of the powerful (and physical) bond between the Summer King and Queen.
As a central character, Seth is likable and sympathetic. However, for me, the ‘star’ of Fragile Eternity is, without doubt, Sorcha, the Queen of the High Court. The eternal and ‘unchanging’ queen, who is responsible for the entire creation of Faerie, is at once an imperious and threatening figure and a vulnerable and lonely woman. The choices Sorcha makes defy all human logic, but Marr’s writing skillfully draws us into the world of this frightening fairy, so we are able to have some level of understanding and sympathy. Fragile Eternity also develops the fairy world of the first two books, and explores the tricky relationship between the fey and mortal realms – as well as the dangers to be faced when the balance between these realms is disturbed.
Unlike Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange, this book takes place mostly within the fairy world. The once mortal characters of the first two books are now embracing their fey identities. This shift in focus is interesting, and promises to take the series in a new direction. Fragile Eternity also ends with several storylines unresolved, pointing ahead to the final two books in the series.
This book is recommended for fans of YA urban fantasy, particularly the fairy novels of Holly Black, Aprilynne Pike and Carrie Need. It is highly recommended for fans of Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange.
Contains: some references to sexuality, death and violence (not explicit)
Reviewed by: Hannah Kate
Marr *New Review
Darkest Mercy is the fifth and final book in Melissa Marr’s Wicked Lovely YA urban faery series, and is a finale to a number of the plotlines that have run through the other books.
The book begins where Radiant Shadows ended. Summer King Keenan has left, former Dark King Irial is injured after a confrontation with Bananach, and the veil between Faerie and the mortal realm has been closed. From the opening pages, it is clear that Darkest Mercy will move towards an inevitable showdown, which will put the lives of all the characters at risk. Added to this, Marr revisits the love triangles of previous novels in the series (Niall-Irial-Leslie and Aislinn-Seth-Keenan – though this is more of a square, with the fourth corner occupied by Donia) and offers some satisfying conclusions to these.
Like all the books in the series, Darkest Mercy has some romantic moments, but also some dark ones. There is violence and death is all the books of the series, and the final installment is no exception. However, this is balanced by compelling and sympathetic characterization, which allows the reader to understand the ‘difficult’ moments through the experiences of likable protagonists.
The Wicked Lovely books are a strong series. Marr’s faery world is a fascinating creation, peopled by callous, cruel, seductive and charming fairies – all of whom are bound by both ancient laws and their own strong desires. Darkest Mercy is a fitting conclusion to the series. As well as resolving some of the plot-threads, there is development of central characters and some new additions as well. Almost all the central characters from the various books in the series (with the exception of Sorcha, Devlin, Ani and Rae) are brought together for the dramatic conclusion. I think the epilogue, particularly, will make avid fans of the series smile.
Compared with other books in the series (especially the earlier ones), Darkest Mercy is not as clearly urban fantasy. While Wicked Lovely and Ink Exchange told the story of ordinary ‘human’ girls, with one foot in the ‘real’ world and one (reluctant) foot in the supernatural, Darkest Mercy is set almost entirely in the fairy world. This isn’t a criticism as such, but it does remind us how much some of the characters have given up during their stories.
Darkest Mercy is recommended to fans of urban fantasy, and is highly recommended to those who have enjoyed the rest of the Wicked Lovely series. It belongs alongside the YA fairy novels of Holly Black, Aprilynne Pike and Carrie Need.
Contains: references to sexuality, death and violence (not explicit)
Reviewed by: Hannah Kate
Any Witch Way by Annastaysia Savage*New Review
Available new hard cover
Sadie has spent the last three years of her life in foster care due to her mother’s death in a car wreck. However, Sadie doesn’t believe her mom is dead….and has suffered the ridicule of her classmates over it. Now, on her thirteenth birthday, Sadie has a very strange dream and awakens to find magical creatures surrounding her and ultimately having to take her into hiding.
Sadie is a witchling, and an organization called The Syndicate is out to kill her. The Syndicate is made up of humans whose mission is to destroy all magical creatures. Recently The Syndicate has gotten more daring and ruthless, and time is running out for Sadie and the other magical creatures of the world. Sadie will eventually learn her family legacy, what she is, and what really happened to her mother—all while facing down some very dangerous people.
Any Witch Way is a well-done book with very good character development. It is a sweet yet scary story about what it means to grow up. There are plenty of interesting characters and a solid fantasy world has been created by Ms. Savage. There is definitely a message here for tween girls and it’s a good one, delivered in a very entertaining fashion.
Contains: some violence
Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund
Mercy is the first book in a new paranormal romance series, and the name of the narrator of the story. At first, one is uncertain who or what Mercy is, however, it may well be that Mercy is either an angel or a fallen angel. Either way, she travels from person to person, occupying their bodies and assisting them with accomplishing otherwise impossible tasks.
Mercy is in love with Luc, another angel, who she is prevented from joining with by his 8 brothers, known as ‘The Others’. The mystery of who the others are and who Luc actually is, will only be lightly touched upon in this first book. Rather, Mercy is far more concerned with a missing girl, Lauren Daley, and assisting the highly talented teenaged singer Carmen Zappocosta – whose body she currently is in – to perform as well as she can in her high school choir. The primary plotline deals with the kidnapping or murder of Lauren Daley, which has been unsettling the people of the small town of Paradise for the past two years. Everyone in town has given up finding her except her twin brother Ryan. It’s through his psychic connection to Lauren that Carmen/Mercy will succeed or fail. I found the book was a little slow to start, but once the story set itself into place, this was a great read. Highly recommended for fans of paranormal romance, angels, and ghost stories.
Contains: profanity and violence, evidence of torture, brief gruesome image.
Reviewed by: Benjamin Franz
Blood of my World Trilogy by A.P. Fuchs
Coscom Entertainment 2011
Available: New Paperback and Kindle
I’m not the biggest fan of paranormal romance, especially with the release of books such as The Vampire Diaries and the Twilight series (which I do not consider horror). However I was intrigued by a YA novella trilogy by A.P. Fuchs who is perhaps best known for writing about zombies.
Blood of My World consists of three novellas—Discovery of Death, Memories of Death, and Life of Death—that tell the story of high school sweethearts Zach and Rose. Zach has unexpectedly disappeared, leaving Rose in a state of confusion and worry. Zach has become a vampire, without any memories of his former life, including Rose. One fateful night Zach is taken out to feed by his vampire mother, Mira, and kills Rose’s mother. Experiencing his victim’s memories, Zach is confused by the people he sees and what his connection to them may be. In the meantime, in the wake of her mother’s death, Rose discovers that she comes from a long line of vampire slayers.
While dealing with the funeral and her training, Rose sees Zach and knows what he has become. Rose’s father Marcus also knows what Zach has become, and instructs his daughter to stay away from the cemetery. Marcus explains that vampires have no feelings or emotions for anyone in their former lives, which is what makes them such effective killers. Zach tries to understand what is happening to him, and what Rose meant to him. Zach’s vampire family seems ready to accept Rose, even though she’s a human. Ultimately, Zach will be forced to choose between his vampire family and Rose, and truths will come out that help Zach determine where his loyalties lie.
Fuchs has written a very good story in Blood of My World. The characters are well-developed and his vampires’ characteristics are quite interesting. I enjoyed the Shakespearean story of the young lovers from different and clashing worlds—vampire and slayer. What I also liked about this trilogy is that it doesn’t have the creepiness that most other vampire romances targeting young girls have. Zach is only a vampire for a few weeks when he and Rose meet again. He’s not a hundred-plus year old vampire “in love” with a teen girl. In other words, Zach isn’t a dirty old man, he’s still just a kid. The horror elements are really good, too. The vampires have ulterior motives that ultimately drive the story—they aren’t an afterthought. The romance aspect is a bit intense at times, so if paranormal romance isn’t your thing, then this is not the trilogy for you, but overall, Blood of My World is a really good read for its target audience. Recommended.
Contains: nothing objectionable for YA readers
Reviewed by: Colleen Wanglund
Trying to find your place in life is a daunting task, and being a college freshman seems to exacerbate the journey. When supernatural occurrences begin happening on campus, Ansley is forced to question everything she knows about life, and about herself, all while trying to save her own skin.
Arcane Sunflower is a fast-paced dark fantasy novel that pits shape-shifting werewolves hungry for blood against college students, and well, a few vampires thrown in the mix. Interlaced among the excitement is a bit of romance between Ansley and the mysterious vampire, Morgan, and as Ansley begins to learn about life’s supernaturally dark secrets, she starts discovering some within her own muddied past.
Summerlin’s voice is fresh, on point, and straightforward. Her tone is light and engaging, and she has an amazing style of gripping the reader within the first few pages. While this novel is self-published and would benefit from a professional editor to pick up several homonym and grammatical errors, it is a great first novel for Summerlin, and I look forward to her next installment. Young adult dark fantasy fans will welcome Summerlin’s unique take on the idea of vampires, werewolves, and magic among us. She has embarked on a new direction for dark fantasy that will help keep the genre fresh, alive and kicking.
Reviewed by: Kelly Fann
Leap Books, 2010
Available: Used and New
Eryn is new to Redgrave. She is also part wolven, but tries to hide this from her friends as well as herself. Redgrave, however, is a town that has quite a bit of paranormal activity going on, and it gets harder for Eryn to control the bloodlust within. Her closest friends are the Delacroix boys, who seem to have secrets of their own. The police chief's son, Wade, has warned her to stay away from the Delacroix boys, saying that they are bad news, but then again, they say the same thing about Wade. Who is telling the truth? With both Alec Delacroix and Wade trying for her affections, who will she choose?
Upon receiving this book my initial thoughts were "lame cover art" and "REALLY lame interior art work", but I'm glad I looked past those things. Judith Graves’ first book in the Skinned series is a great read for both teens and adults. I must admit that I did feel a touch of Twilight deja vu while reading about the love triangle between Wade, Alec, and Eryn, but this book is loads better than Twilight! Beyond the blossoming romance in this novel, there is also the mystery of what is causing all of the paranormal activity in town. Waiting to find out the cause of kids going missing, and the animal attacks, makes Under My Skin a page-turner from beginning to end. The romantics out there will want to know who Eryn is going to end up with. This is a great first novel from Graves and I am truly looking forward to see what happens in the next installment of this series. This book would make a great addition to all libraries. Recommended.
Contains: Kissing, Mild Violence
Reviewed by: Rhonda Wilson
Feiwel and Friends, 2011
Available: new (hardback) and multiformat digital
Enclave starts on the naming day of Deuce, a young woman who has been training her whole life to be a Huntress, a protector and food gatherer for her clan which lives in an underground enclave. The tunnels mean a hard life, snaring what food can be caught, scavenging what remainders of society can be found and staying endlessly on guard against other clans and the horrific, cannibal Freaks who roam the tunnels. At her naming, a passage from child to adult, Deuce starts to learn that all is not as it seems in the Enclave. Before she's ready to embrace the true role of a hunter she has to make a choice about what's right and wrong, and suffer the ire of those in power.
Enclave is a perfect pot pie of a story. Take one kick-butt, but not over-done heroine, add in a hunky, tortured love interest, mix together in a savory post-apocalyptic sauce and bake until golden brown. Aguirre has done just that. Anyone who's seen Life After People will be completely satisfied with Aguirre's setting. Fans of her adult UF or SF series will find Deuce, Fade, and all of Aguirre's character just as solid and complex as they've come to expect. Paranormal YA fans will find much to rave about in Enclave, which is dark and gritty, but maintains a fierce level of hope in the form of its survivor leads and their sheer determination. Highly recommended for public collections: this is the kind of book that keeps people engaged and reading. It grabs readers by the throat and refuses to let go.
Contains: violence, frank attitude toward sex & reproduction (but no graphic scenes)
Review by Michele Lee
What started off as “Harry Potter goes bad girl” jumps ahead from Magical Reform School drama to Major Magical Uprising in this second book from Rachel Hawkins. In Hex Hall, main character Sophie Mercer learned she wasn't just a witch, but that she was also a demon, when she had to battle her own summoned grandmother. In Demonglass, Sophie leaves Hex Hall to spend summer vacation with her father, head of the Prodigium Council. She's supposed to learn more about her powers and strengthen her shaky relationship with her dad. Instead, she learns someone is creating demons (by sacrificing Hex Hall students) to start a war against other magical sects.
While it starts out slow and ends in a cliffhanger, and Sophie is dragged into the mystery rather than finding her own way in, Demonglass is a great paranormal read. Sophie is engaging, not obnoxious, a lead character whose specialness is a source of conflict and caution, not angst. Highly recommended for libraries seeking a strong YA base, and a bridge between the Twilight and House of Night books to keep readers engaged.
Contains: mild language, alcohol, fight scenes
Reviewed by: Michele Lee
If you haven’t heard of J.L. Bryan yet, you’ll definitely keep an eye out for his other works after you read Jenny Pox, the compelling story of a girl who can’t touch anyone because she passes plague and death onto them.
The novel begins interestingly enough with a seemingly ordinary girl, Jenny, who turns out to be not so ordinary- her touch spreads plague and death. It’s particularly heart-wrenching when Jenny, who is a small child when the novel begins, learns from her father that snakes are poisonous and thus dangerous, and she identifies herself as poisonous, saying “poze-nuss,” which, although it’s cute, is ultimately heartbreaking.
Like Rogue of the X-Men, Jenny realizes that she can never have a normal relationship with a boy–any boy–because of her “ability,” for lack of a better word, and she especially can’t touch them, which means kids definitely aren’t in the future. Except Jenny is worse off than Rogue, because while Rogue’s touch can steal powers temporarily, or kill if she holds on long enough, Jenny’s just gives people the Plague. Then she meets Seth, a boy with the opposite power, a healing touch. Unfortunately, Seth has a girlfriend, Ashleigh, with a dangerous power of her own.
Jenny instantly wins the reader’s attention, sympathy, and heart, because despite her relative simplicity, she’s a very compelling character, even though she’s so young. Kudos to the author for getting children’s dialogue right, by the way.
I loved the author's gift for descriptions--they reveal so much about Jenny's character. The way that the narrative is structured is brilliant when it comes to characters--Bryan leads you down one path and makes you think one thing but then completely pulls a 180 on you and surprises you--genuinely. There's so much more to each character than you think.
This is one of the best novels of the year I’ve read so far, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The ending has a satisfying resolution, and I think that Bryan is one of the most talented writers I’ve had the privilege to read. Take a chance and read the first two chapters–you’ll be absolutely compelled to know what happens next. It’s a great story, one that I think should receive a lot of attention. If you haven’t already, consider becoming Jeff’s Facebook friend by clicking here; please visit his website here. And please read Jenny’s own blog here.
Reviewed by: Darkeva
Beautiful Dead: Jonas by Eden Maguire
Source Books, 2010
Darina thinks she's going crazy. She's seeing her dead boyfriend everywhere and having visions of beating wings and death's head masks. If she's off, though, the whole town is too. Four teens have died suspiciously in the past year, and the most recent was her boyfriend, Phoenix, who was stabbed during a fight. While the teens have died, though, they haven't left. Instead, they’ve returned to a strange house in the woods as the Beautiful Dead. The Beautiful Dead have come back for answers to their untimely deaths and Darina, trying to get as much time with Phoenix as possible, has agreed to help them. First is Jonas, who died in a motorcycle accident that also paralyzed his girlfriend, Zoey. With only a few days until Jonas’ time on earth is done for good, Darina must find out what exactly happened to Jonas and Zoey on the road.
Beautiful Dead is more like J. O' Barr's The Crow series than a traditional zombie tale. It is full of beautiful prose, has a good mystery, plenty of emotion and a rather intense love story. The zombies are as far removed from the Romero classics as Edward Cullen is from Dracula.
In fact, between the intensity of the love story and the juxtaposition of the morbid and dark with a lovely setting and the lovely writing it bears a semblance to the Twilight world and is very likely to catch the interest of Twilight fans. Recommended for YA collections, librarians should keep in mind that with the high number of mystical powers and lack of appetite of the book's zombies it's more appropriate for lovers of dark fantasy and paranormal romance than hardcore horror fans.
Review by Michele Lee
Available: New after April 1, 2010
In Trella's world, things are black and white. She is Inside. Outside is a mythical place that doesn't exist, a tool used to control her and her fellow Lowers, scrubs who are jam packed into large dorms, fed slop, and endlessly doing the most menial jobs. Above them are the Uppers, people the Lowers aren't allowed to interact with, who live comfortable lives in families that serve as overseers of Inside. Trella is Queen of the Pipes, a pipe cleaner who finds more of a home in the maze of heating and air ducts than with her fellow scrubs. It's this reputation that draws her into a plot by Broken Man, a paralyzed prophet from the Uppers. Trella doesn't believe him, until she finds the discs he smuggled from the computer systems, discs that hold the location to the Gateway, the way Outside.
Inside Out is a very well-spun science fiction tale, in the spirit of Bradbury, Huxley and Orwell. Snyder creates an uncomfortable, overcrowded, paranoid and repressed society with far too many questions than answers and plenty of conspiracy. This is no ordinary YA Harlequin novel, rather, it's a new dystopian tale for a new generation of readers. Inside Out walks a razor's edge between stifling readers with its dystopian elements and offering hope of change, and answers to all the questions it raises. There is a love story, but it is by far not the focus of the story. The weight of Inside Out is on the people themselves, the crew of rebels and faceless scrubs, with their surprising depth and drive.
Inside Out is absolutely a must read for speculative fiction fans, a valuable addition to public and private collections and easily has wide spread appeal for capturing adult and teen audiences. Easy to digest, modern and designed to appeal to teens, Inside Out would also be an excellent tool in classrooms to teach the concepts traditionally learned through books like Brave New World, Fahrenheit 451, and 1984.
Contains: Mild cursing
Review by Michele Lee
Michele interviews author Maria V. Snyder here.
Check out the Inside Out official book site.
Oxford University Press, 2010
The Demontide is an event that threatens the world once every generation, and all that stands between us and the oncoming flood of demons is the Hobarron Institute and its elders. The Hobarron Institute is a covert organization created to find a permanent solution to the Demontide. For generations they have had to sacrifice children to prevent the demonic flood. Now they plan to use technology. The problem is that the Demontide is imminent, but their technological solution isn’t ready, and the Crowden Coven of witches is desperately trying to make sure that it never gets finished. This is the whirlwind that Jake Harker is caught up in. He is scheduled to be the next sacrifice if the machine isn’t ready when the Demontide occurs. Only Jake can find the solution to the Demontide that will save his own life as well as the lives around him.
Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide is a fast paced story that sucks the reader in and doesn’t let them go until the end, leaving them ready to start the next book in this trilogy. It’s a story that takes several surprising turns, and the good guys and bad guys are often hard to tell from one another - showing that even the most noble of causes can be twisted when the means comes to justify the ends. The story is also full of magic and history that any fantasy reader will thoroughly enjoy. Witchfinder: Dawn of the Demontide would make a fine addition to any fantasy/dark fantasy collection.
Review by Bret Jordan
by Rachel Hawkins
Sophie knows she's a witch, but that's about all she knows. She's never met her warlock father. Her human mother tries, but can help her very little. When Sophie tries to help a classmate with a love spell, and it goes horribly wrong, she is sent to Hex Hall by the Council that rules the Prodigium, which consists of recognized magical species like fairies, vampires, and shifters. Part boarding school, part juvenile detention center, Hex Hall is filled with soured, entitled magical beings who resent their imprisonment, all of whom seem to hate Sophie from the moment she arrives. When Sophie learns why, and what Hex Hall means to her family, her life is sent into a tailspin.
Hex Hall has a familiar feel that paranormal readers will love. Rachel Hawkins has done an excellent job of world-building, and creates characters just a bit on the other side of dangerous. Although it may have its roots in books like the Harry Potter series, Hex Hall focuses specifically on the fragile teen sense of self-identity. It’s refreshing that Sophie isn’t a “chosen one” with special powers- rather, she’s the magical equivalent of a reckless teen in trouble Why is everyone around her purposefully keeping her in the dark? What makes someone a monster? What counts for more, blood or actions?
The strength of writing and likability of the lead characters combine for a fast-paced, quite digestible tale. Hex Hall is a great choice for library collections that seem unable to keep up with demand for paranormal YA titles, and would be a valuable (and likely popular) addition to public libraries.
Review by Michele Lee
Soul To Save by Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, 2010
Available: New and Used
My Soul To Save starts off
with our heroine, Kaylee Cavanaugh, and her boyfriend, Nash, attending the
concert of pop star, Eden, with free tickets from Nash's brother, who had once
dated Addison Page, Eden's opening act. During Eden's act, she collapses on
stage. Kaylee prepares for one of her screams to tear out of her, but notices
it's not coming and assumes Eden is going to live, but a grim reaper then
appears. Kaylee doesn't understand why she has no scream until she realizes
that Eden has no soul. After this discovery she finds out that Addison will be
the next victim to die without a soul, and they work together to keep death from
taking her before her soul can be returned to her body.
Much darker than the first book, My Soul To Keep, this novel has the characters exploring the Netherworld, home to numerous new demons for Kaylee and friends to contend with. Kaylee has had to learn a lot over the course of just a few months to prepare herself for her new life as a bean sidhe, banshee. Vincent details this character growth in vivid detail as she deals with the challenges she faces in order to save Addison as well as typical teen problems, such as arguing with her dad and being grounded. I thought the changes in Kaylee in this book definitely moved this series forward and will make it stronger as a whole. I'm looking forward to what lies ahead for our heroine and her friends in Vincent's next release. Highly recommended!
Contains: Mild Adult Language, Teen Death Scenes
Review by Rhonda Wilson
Harlequin Teen, 2010
One of Meghan Chase’s most vivid memories is of her father disappearing at the park when she was six years old. His shoes were found at the edge of a pond. Searches by the authorities were fruitless- he simply disappeared without a trace. Meghan is tortured by visions of her father walking into the pond.
Fast forward ten years. Meghan and her mother have moved to a small "hick" town, and her mother has remarried. Meghan is about to turn sixteen, an important age for a young girl. Yet her mother and step-father barely acknowledge this monumental event. The only one who seems to remember is her half-brother Ethan, who, at four years old, has fears of the boogeyman hiding in his closet. What if the boogeyman was real…
When Meghan returns home from school to find her mother unconscious on the floor with Ethan standing over her with an evil, mischievous grin, she knows something has gone awry. She soon learns that her life isn’t what it seems. Her brother has been abducted and replaced with a Faery changeling. Her best friend Robbie is more than he seems as well. Turns out his real name is Puck, and he’s not your typical teenager. With Puck’s help, Meghan must travel to the world of Never Never to rescue her brother.
Fans of Fae will be enthralled by this book. Yes, every other book released lately seems to be about the Fae, but Kagawa puts a completely different spin on it. The author also impressed me with the cast of strong main characters. Typically when a book has too many main characters it can get overwhelming. In this case, it did not. Each character was developed very well and I was surprised at how quickly I liked each of them. One of my favorites was Grimalkin, a talking cat who reminded me of The Cheshire Cat from The Adventures of Alice in Wonderland.
The Iron King has it all, a lot of action and a little romance. I’m anxiously awaiting the second book in the series The Iron Daughter, due out in August.
Harlequin Teen, 2008
Aden Stone isn’t your typical sixteen-year-old. Instead of spending his time playing games on his Xbox 360, he’s dealing with the four souls that share his body. One is a time traveler, one can see the future, one can raise the dead, and one can possess the body of another human. Aden speaks to each of the souls and this has forced Aden to move from foster home to foster home, from one psychiatric home to another. The voices in his head never seem to quiet. Then he meets Mary Ann. Her presence alone brings him the peace and serenity he has craved all his life. While Aden seems to attract the supernatural, Mary Ann suppresses it. This peace doesn’t last long, for Aden’s supernatural “magnetism” has drawn all sorts of creatures in to town, including vampires, shapeshifters, and faeries. Aden and Mary Ann join forces with a shapeshifter and a vampire princess to face impending doom .
Overall, Intertwined was an engaging read. However, I do think it would be better served if it were split into two separate books. There seemed to be so much going on at one time that it got confusing in parts. I think the character development was sacrificed in order to tie everything up into one book. I would have liked to have learned more about the souls residing in Aden’s mind. I did note that a sequel, Unraveled, is scheduled for release in the fall of this year. and I’m hoping readers will learn a bit more about Aden and his souls in the second book. Teens that are fans of Twilight and other supernatural tales will enjoy Intertwined. Recommended for YA library collections.
Review by Jennifer Lawrence
Aislinn has the Sight. She sees faeries everywhere, and faeries are terrifying enough that she spends most of her life trying to make sure faeries don't notice her. Unfortunately, she comes to the attention of the Summer King, Keenan, who must convince her to become his queen. Keenan is bound to play out a scenario set by his mother, the vicious Winter Queen, which requires the chosen girl to take up the Winter Queen's staff at his request, at the risk of becoming her pawn. Without the Summer Queen, the world will descend into a permanent, killing, winter. The last girl to take up the staff, Donia, must convince the new girl to reject the staff, but things are changing. Aislinn is different from the girls who have failed- she resists falling under his spell. And she has backup- a grandmother who also has the Sight, and takes the risk seriously, and Seth, a friend who lives in a steel train car where she is safe from faeries, and who is becoming much more than a friend.
Aislinn is a strong protagonist. Caught in events outside her control, she uses her Sight, her knowledge, and her stubborn independence to shape the effect those events will have on her life. She is also loved, and believed, and Seth's steadiness, resourcefulness, and support are critical to her holding on to her core. The resolution of events is surprising and satisfying, although it's clear there are still dangerous conflicts ahead, and readers will be eager for the next installment. It's difficult to believe Aislinn and her friends are teens, or that her Grams, who is portrayed as very strict, gives her the leeway to travel alone through some pretty awful urban areas, much less spend the night with Seth, who is several years older, but readers will forgive the dissonance that creates in favor of letting the story, especially the intertwined love stories of Donia and Keenan with Aislinn and Seth, sweep them away. The first book in a series, Wicked Lovely is followed by Ink Exchange and Fragile Eternity, but Wicked Lovely stands alone, and is clearly the standout of the series. Highly recommended for public library YA collections, and for high school library media centers, and for fans of urban fantasy.
Review by Kirsten Kowalewski
Harlequin Teen, 2004
Available: New and used
Elphame, the Chosen of the Goddess
Epona, is half-centaur and half-human. She
leaves the luxury of home, and her mother, the Goddess Incarnate, to travel
to a crumbling castle. Elphame is determined
to revive the site, once the scene of slaughter, and find her place in the
world. When she arrives, she finds the half-breed descendants of the
Fomorians, the demons who destroyed the castle
in the first place, recognizes one of them as her
Elphame's Choice is not horror, or even dark fantasy, but will still reach some readers in those audiences, particularly those who enjoy the kind of fantasy found in the Twilight books. Some readers, however, will find the pace slow and repetitive, the prose purple and the characters too perfect. There's little tension here, little question that all will end well, and little action that explains why the characters deserve the adoration and love they seem to get. But there's also no question that this kind of fantasy has an audience among teens and adults alike. As for the place this novel deserves in a public library collection--there are certainly worse books already to be found on the shelves, but there are more enchanting choices as well.
Contains: Explicit sex, masturbation
Review by Michele Lee
MonsterLibrarian.com Editor's note: Elphame's Choice was initially
published for an adult audience. P.C Cast is also the co-author of the
popular young adult vampire series The House of Night, so readers of those
books may pick this up due to its location on the shelf. When
considering reader's advisory, librarians should be aware that the level of
mature sexual content in the book has caused some controversy.
Soul To Take by Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, 2009
The adventures of Kaylee Cavanaugh continue on from Rachel Vincent's prequel story, My Soul to Lose, in this first novel of the Soul Screamers series. Kaylee thinks she's died and gone to heaven after sneaking into an eighteen-and-over-club and earning the affections of one of the hottest guys in school, Nash Hudson. But then someone really does die, and ironically, it is someone that Kaylee had predicted was going to die, before Nash and her best friend, Emma, pulled her out of the club during a "panic attack". Somehow, Nash knows that it was not just a panic attack, and is able to soothe Kaylee when she was on the verge of shrieking, but how? Shortly after the first girl dies, a second does. Kaylee feels like there is something seriously wrong going on and that she should somehow try to stop it. Of course, Nash wants to help out and for whatever reason, he seems to know even more about what is going on than Kaylee.
Rachel Vincent has been on my "must read immediately upon release" list for a while now with her Shifters series and having now read both My Soul to Lose and My Soul to Take, I think it'll just be any books that come out by her that go on that list. Vincent is an amazing writer who is coming out with creative new plot ideas for the paranormal genre. There are plenty of vampire, werewolf, and zombie stories out there, but Vincent is going beyond those, picking out and using some of the less common elements. I applaud her for that, and appreciate it, as some of the others, while enjoyable, can get stale at times. My Soul to Take allows us to get to know more about what is going on with Kaylee as she learns about herself. There are some emotional scenes in the book both for Kaylee, getting a handle on who she really is, and also due to the deaths that are taking place within the book. This novel crosses over many genres... paranormal, mystery, romance, and horror, so it is a good blend. Young adult readers, as well as many adults, will find Soul Screamers a unique and fascinating series and will be eagerly awaiting the next book. I know I am. Highly Recommended.
Contains: Mild Adult Language, Adult and Teen Death Scenes
Review by Rhonda Wilson
Now for another review of My Soul to Take here is our take two review by Kakari
I'll be honest, the summary on the back of My Soul to Take the book didn’t pull me in. It sounded like any other YA paranormal romance out there in the market these days. As I started reading, the first hundred pages were a mixture of boredom and absurdity to me. It was obvious that the author was trying to build suspense and induce curiosity in the reader. The book's premise is that Kaylee, a teen girl, is having premonitions of others' deaths. However, Vincent details the deaths of the victims and the panic of the heroine to such length that it becomes a bit tiring. I found myself searching for excuses to take a break after every five pages or so. During this time, I also had trouble with Nash, the "mysterious and gorgeous" love interest, as a believable character. Why would the hottest guy in high-school –also known as a player –have an interest in the heroine? A genuine interest as a matter of fact, especially after experiencing her psychotic breakdown? How does he so easily calm Kaylee down during her premonitions? Why do the two protagonists have such a strong connection after meeting just once? Why do his eyes change colors according to his mood? All these questions screamed Gary-Stu to me.
Fortunately, I kept reading, and once I hit the second part of the book, I couldn’t stop. The plot suddenly became fast-paced and intense. The mythology Vincent weaves into the story about banshees is exhilarating. Not just that, she throws in a couple of more surprises, as well as an ending you’ll never see coming. As a bonus, the romance was sizzling –without the sex. Every question I asked earlier about Nash was explained thoroughly. The reader will find out he isn’t a Gary-Stu after all. I now realize the beginning of the book is essential background information of Kaylee’s lifestyle and the people around her. Besides the introduction of a new paranormal creature into the YA genre, what most impressed me about My Soul to Take was Vincent’s prose. She writes in a way that connected me to the main character. Furthermore, never at any point in the story was I annoyed with the heroine, which is extremely rare for me.
My Soul to Take is recommended for all YA paranormal romance fans. Please do not be put off by the mediocre summary on the back cover; the story is a hidden gem. I will definitely be looking out for the sequels, My Soul to Save and My Soul to Keep. Don’t forget to read the short prequel too, My Soul to Lose. If you’re looking for similar books, check out the Daughters of the Moon series by Lynne Ewing.
Contains: Mild language and death scenes
Review by Kakari
Editor's note: For those unfamiliar with the term "Gary-Stu", it is the male equivalent of a "Mary Sue", a character who is idealized and "special" beyond the point at which the reader is able to suspend disbelief.
Soul To Lose by Rachel Vincent
Harlequin Teen, 2009
Available: New (e-book only)
My Soul to Lose is the prequel to Rachel Vincent's new novel My Soul to Take. At the start of My Soul to Lose, Vincent introduces us to Kaylee Cavanaugh and her best friend, Emma. They are on a trip to the mall and plotting revenge on Kaylee's ex. Unfortunately, while wandering around the mall, Kaylee has what Emma assumes was a "panic attack". Emma pulls her away from the crowds of the food court where the attack first hit her and led her down to Sears. Kaylee was feeling better until she spotted a boy in a wheelchair who appeared to have shadows wrapped around him and then she began to shriek. Next thing Kaylee knows, she finds herself in a psychiatric ward, trying to find a way out and also a way to explain the shadows to herself.
Having been a fan of Vincent's adult Shifters series I was curious to see how her writing style would hold up in the young adult genre, and I have to say I am quite impressed. My Soul to Lose is a great introduction to the Soul Screamers series and leaves you wondering what is going on with this girl, Kaylee. It is also a great introduction to Rachel Vincent that may eventually lead younger readers to discover her adult books. This is a novella, but has a lot packed into it. Several characters in the Soul Screamers world are introduced and you get a bit of background on what has been going on with Kaylee. Readers don’t need to read this prior to reading My Soul to Take, but I think it helps you get more in touch with the characters. Highly Recommended.
Contains: Mild Adult Language
Review by Rhonda Wilson
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