Posts Tagged ‘YA Books’

Revolution: A YA Historical Fiction Novel

 Revolution

Jennifer Donnelly
Hardcover, 496 pages
Random House Children’s Books
October 12, 2010
*Thanks to Random House for the ARC!

Andi and Alexandrine live worlds apart, but the miles and centuries that separate them do nothing to lessen the connection that Andi feels when she discovers Alex’s secret journal written in the final days of the French Revolution.  As the daughter of a Nobel prize-winning geneticist, Andi is used to a life of privilege, attending a highly prestigious prep school where her classmates are the children of the rich and powerful. 

But ever since the tragic death of her little brother, Truman, Andi has all but given up on life.  She’s tormented by guilt and plagued with suicidal thoughts that the high dosage of antidepressants she pops like candy can’t dispel.  Her only remaining passion is music, but even that doesn’t seem to help anymore.  When her quasi-estranged father gets a call from her school informing him that she’s dangerously close to failing out, he insists that Andi accompany him on a business trip to her mother’s native Paris during Christmas break so he can make sure she finishes the outline for her senior thesis. 

More depressed than ever after her mother is checked into a psychiatric hospital back home, Andi throws herself into her thesis research on 18th century French composer Amadé Malherbeau and makes a deal with her dad that if she finishes her outline to his satisfaction she can hop on the first flight back to the U.S. 

Her dad is just as engrossed in his work as she is in her research and though she sees little of him during the day, he fills her in on what he’s working on.  G, a historian and old friend of his, has enlisted him to do DNA tests on a human heart believed to belong to Louis-Charles, the child of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette who was walled up alive during the Revolution.   While staying at G’s house Andi stumbles upon a journal hidden in a secret compartment of an old guitar case, along with a small portrait of the very same doomed prince her father and G spoke of.

Andi is filled with a sense of dread the instant she opens the weathered pages, but something compels her to discover their secrets.  She soon finds herself drawn into a world where the guillotine never rests, the streets of Paris are awash with blood, and its citizens live in constant fear.  The author of the diary is Alexandrine, a street performer employed by the king and queen to keep their morose son happy and entertained.  Alex can’t believe her luck when she catches the queen’s eye by making Louis-Charles laugh and she soon finds herself living at Versailles, surrounded by wealth and luxury.  Planning to use the boy as a means to rise to fame and fortune on the stage, she devotes all her skills to making him adore her. 

But now the king and queen are dead and Louis-Charles is locked away in the tower, being held captive in horrible conditions and left to die, alone and afraid.  Alex grew to love the young prince while he was in her care and refuses to stand aside and do nothing while he suffers.  Knowing his love for fireworks, she risks life and limb on the rooftops of Paris, shooting off rockets that light up the sky so Louis-Charles knows that he’s not forgotten. 

Andi feels an overwhelming connection with Alex and naturally equates the young prince’s death with her brother’s.  As she delves deeper into Alex’s story, the line between reality and fantasy begins to blur and she soon learns that the past is a lot closer than she thought.

I love reading books with parallel stories and Revolution was no exception.  It was exciting and mysterious while highlighting this tragic period in human history, when so many lives were lost in the name of liberty, equality, and fraternity.  The historical aspect was fascinating and it really made me want to learn more about the French Revolution. 

I would have preferred more chapters devoted to Alex’s story in general.  As a character I found her much more engaging than Andi, who really irritated me at times.  I think she might appeal to a younger audience, since that’s who the book is directed toward in the first place.  It wasn’t just the teenage angst that got on my nerves (and I had to give her a break on that since she was mourning her brother after blaming herself for his death), but her personality and attitude as a whole.  She had a huge chip on her shoulder and there was an arrogance about her that rubbed me the wrong way.

But that was a minor blip in the grand scheme of things.  I loved all the connections and coincidences throughout the book, like how fate seemed to lead Andi to the diary (which was entwined in her father’s DNA case) or how she got to meet the subject of her thesis face to face and teach him the musical genius of Jimmy Page.  So many questions were left unanswered (Did Andi really see the dead like Alex?  Was her journey back in time real or a hallucination brought on by a drug overdose?), but in the end it didn’t really matter because ultimately the story was about learning to let go of grief and, despite all the cruelty and brutality in the world, finding a way to heal and get on with life.

Have you read Revolution?  What did you think?  I would love to get other French Revolution historical fiction recommendations!

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ARC Review: Infinite Days

Infinite Days

Rebecca Maizel  
Paperback, 336 pages
St. Martin’s Press
August 03, 2010

 

I was lucky enough to win an ARC of Rebecca Maizel’s debut novel Infinite Days, the first in her Vampire Queen series, from St. Martin’s Press and once I started reading it was difficult to put down.  It tells the story of Lenah Beaudonte, a 500-year-old vampire with an insatiable appetite for death and destruction.  She’s ruthless, uncontrollably violent, and lacking any sense of compassion or humanity.  She’s the queen of the coven she’s created to provide her with eternal protection and companionship and her rules are followed without question. 

But even though she’s surrounded by opulence and every luxury that money can buy, her only desire is to become human again, to escape the constant pain and misery from which only blood can provide temporary relief.  Her maker, Rhode, learns of a ritual that will give Lenah her wish but only at the cost of his life.  When it’s done, Lenah has awoken to a new life where she can truly live as she’d been meant to in the 15th century before Rhode set his sights on her and turned her into a monster.

Her new life is that of a sixteen year old student attending a prestigious boarding school on the East coast of the United States.  Though at first she has some trouble adjusting to her new, mortal state, she soon gains the friendship of an art student named Tony who helps her adjust to life in the 21st century.  With her soul back, she no longer finds comfort in violent thoughts and begins to at last find peace and happiness in her new home.  Things start to get complicated when Lenah catches the eye of the popular and gorgeous Justin Enos, whose girlfriend Tracy won’t give up without a fight.  Still mourning the loss of Rhode, Lenah is hesitant at first but finds that she is inexplicably drawn to Justin despite the problems their relationship could cause. 

But her social life is the least of her problems and Lenah knows that soon her coven, expecting her to rise from her one hundred year hibernation on Halloween night, will begin to search for her.  The magic that binds them together will ensure that they will stop at nothing to find her and bring her back to their home in England.  But unbeknownst to them, their queen is human again and Lenah fears for her mortal life and the lives of those she’s come to love at her school.  She knows what her beloved coven will do to them once they’re found, because only a short while ago she would have done the same things herself and taken great pleasure in it.

Infinite Days is a thrilling, touching, and enthralling book, and quite unique in its take on vampires (just when you thought the subject had been exhausted, right?).  Maizel’s vampires are animated by the oldest of black magics.  Immortality and great power are small and insignificant benefits compared to the endless suffering and pain they experience night after night.  Bringing death and destruction to others is the only short relief they can find.  And though their senses are heightened, they cannot truly feel anything they touch except for the smallest hint of texture or temperature.  All they can smell is blood, heat, and fear.  They are numb to everything else and can’t even experience the release of weeping.  Small wonder they’re evil by nature. 

Another unique component to the story that I was fascinated by was Lenah’s love of herbs and flowers and their various magical properties and uses.  There’s a scene that I loved that takes place in the greenhouse on campus where she’s explaining some of these properties to Justin.  When she comes to a particular edible flower he leans in and opens his mouth so she can place it on his tongue for him to swallow.  Fabulous.

For someone who’s relatively new to the YA genre (and can’t take too much of it at once), I was relieved to find a welcome respite from all the teenage schoolyard drama during all the chapters from Lenah’s vampire past that are woven into the story.  We get to learn a little about the men that she chose to join her in the ranks of the undead and serve her in the coven, and it leads nicely into her search for redemption after centuries of causing pain and bringing death to countless innocents.  Plus it was nice to have a main character who’s a vampire for a change (are there really no more Lestats out there?  Say it isn’t so…).

I was very excited to read this book and I loved each and every page.  I was very attached to the characters and actually a little torn about how I wanted everything to turn out in the end.  I highly recommend it to fans of vampire fiction (especially of the YA variety) and I’ll be waiting impatiently for the next Vampire Queen book.

Book Review: Brighid’s Quest

Brighid’s Quest

P. C. Cast  
Paperback, 544 pages
Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
February 23, 2010

* I received a complimentary ebook from the publisher via NetGalley.

Brighid Dianna has fled her homeland of the Centaur Plains, casting aside her destiny to become the herd’s next High Shaman and choosing instead to join Clan MacCallan as its Huntress.  Though she misses running free across the fields of her childhood home, she becomes comfortable with her new life and tries to forget the demanding and power-hungry mother she left behind.  She grows close to Elphame, the Clan’s Chieftain, and volunteers to embark on a journey to retrieve her grieving brother, Cuchulainn, who has traveled to the Wastelands to lead the winged half-blood race of New Fomorians to Partholon.

What Brighid finds when she tracks down Cuchulainn is a complete surprise – instead of the evil, demonic creatures who’d been responsible for the rape and enslavement of countless Partholonian women and the murder of Cuchulainn’s beloved, she finds herself surrounded by a swarm of bright, caring children.  Won over by their innocence and inquisitive nature, Brighid dedicates herself to protecting the New Fomorians as they make the dangerous journey to their rightful home.  

On the way she tries to coax Cuchulainn out of his withdrawn period of mourning and discovers that his soul was shattered when he lost his love, Brenna, and is only existing as a shadow of the warrior he once was.  Now the only way to save him is to tap into the power of the High Shaman inside her and journey into the spirit world to bring back the shattered pieces to make him whole.  And in the process she’ll accomplish much more than saving the life of her Chieftain’s brother.  Her quest will force her to come to terms with who she really is, and in the process, prevent a disastrous war between the two lands she calls home.

When I started reading Brighid’s Quest, I didn’t know it was a continuation of another story (Elphame’s Choice), so in the beginning I was somewhat distracted by all the backtracking.  But once I got a handle on the inner workings of Partholon and the basic history of the relations between humans, Centaurs, and the demon Fomorians, I settled into the story and connected with the characters. 

Brighid and Cuchulainn are both striking and powerful figures, and I love the banter between them that grows into the strong bond they share after Cu is made whole once more.  The New Fomorian children are adorable, despite their never-ending energy and ceaseless chatter, and I was intrigued by the discrimination of humans by the centaurs of Brighid’s herd (which leads to some horrific events).  For a YA novel, I was surprised by a few of the more graphic scenes and details, but it added to the story and none of it seemed gratuitous. 

This was my first time traveling into the world of Partholon and I’m happy to say it won’t be the last.  This book was a lot of fun to read and it had a few truly badass scenes that really make the adrenaline kick into gear.  While it can definitely be read as a stand-alone book, I think I’ll check out Elphame’s Choice before the next one comes out.

Author Q&A and Giveaway with Maria V. Snyder

Today I’m very excited to have Maria V. Snyder, author of the award-winning Study and Glass series, with us today to answer some questions and host a giveaway of her new book, Inside Out, which hits the shelves today!

Maria, thanks so much for taking time out of your busy schedule to join us.  And without further ado…

Jamye – Yelena and Valek are wonderful characters.  Do they feel like old friends by now?  Many writers say that they’re emotionally invested in their characters.  Does it upset you when you have to throw obstacles in their way for the sake of the story?

Maria – They are old friends and I think of them often 🙂  It doesn’t upset me to make their lives difficult – otherwise there wouldn’t be conflict and we’d all be bored.  Sometimes when they need to make a hard decision, I struggle with them and am upset with them, but I don’t feel bad for putting them in that situation.

Jamye – Have you ever considered writing a prequel to Poison Study, maybe from Valek or Commander Ambrose’s point of view?  I would love to read more about the start of their friendship and the creation of Ixia under his regime.

Maria – Yes I have!  I would like to write about the Commander and Valek before the take-over.  I would think the story would be from both of their point of views, alternating chapters.  I just don’t know when a book like that will fit into my schedule 🙂

Jamye – Your book covers are gorgeous!  After the title, the cover was what first made me interested in checking out Poison Study.  Did you have any say in what they looked like?  Happy with how they turned out? 

Maria – I don’t have a lot of say in the covers.  I fill out an art fact sheet for my publisher’s art department and that’s it.  Sometimes they ask my opinion.  Like for Inside Out – in an early draft of the cover, the girl wasn’t looking straight at the reader, but off to the side.  I didn’t like that and mentioned it to my editor.  She sent me a bunch of photos of the model looking straight and I picked the one I liked and they used that!  Otherwise, I haven’t had much input, but I’ve been very happy with all my covers.  They are gorgeous!

Jamye – You took some glass blowing classes in preparation for Fire Study and your Glass series.  Have you done any other research for your books?  Do you enjoy it? 

Maria – Yes, I do research for all my books.  Hands on research is my favorite – it helps me to translate an experience–the sights, smells, feelings, and how things taste or what they feel like–for the reader.  If I experience it myself, then I can draw a better picture for the reader. Some of the research I’ve done is learned how to ride a horse, learned how to taste food, and recently I spent a day at a maximum security prison for Spy Glass.

Jamye – Did you work out the plot for all the books in your Study and Glass series ahead of time or take it one book at a time?

Maria – One book at a time 🙂  I’m a pantser (a seat of the pants writer) and get myself into all kinds of trouble.  But I think that helps with keeping the writing fresh and in surprising the readers 🙂

Jamye – You got your degree in Meteorology and decided it wasn’t for you.  Was it then that you discovered writing or had it been a longtime passion?

Maria – It was when I was bored in work that I discovered writing.  I hadn’t written any fiction before, but I always had a good imagination and use to daydream a lot!  My family was so shocked I started writing.  Before, I avoided it.

Jamye – You recently did a mini book tour in the UK.  How did it go?  Do you enjoy the promoting side of being an author?  Do you ever get nervous at book signings?

Maria – I had a wonderful time in the UK!  It went well and I wrote all about my trip on my website and included some pictures.  You can read all about it at: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/UK.php   I do enjoy promoting my books and I love hanging out with my readers – they’re so fun!  I don’t get nervous at book signings, but I sometimes get nervous before a presentation.  When I was invited to the Library of Congress to do a talk, I about died!  It was so intimidating!  But it went well and I’ve been back 3 more times and now I’m not so nervous 🙂

Jamye – If you could give one piece of advice to aspiring writers, what would it be?  Is there anything about the business that surprised you when you were starting out?

Maria – Persistence is my biggest advice. I’d been writing for ten years and submitting for eight before I sold anything. Learn the craft of writing as well as the business of writing and attend writer’s conferences and classes if you can. Consider that time an apprenticeship. Be wary of predators, if someone is asking you for money proceed with the utmost caution. Get feedback on your stories from fellow writers before submitting. Joining a critique group is very helpful. I also find that if I let a story sit on my desk for a few weeks I can pick out all the problems, typos and inconsistencies easier. And I agree whole heartily with Stephen King’s advice in his book, On Writing. He wrote, “If you want to be a writer, you must do two things above all others: read a lot and write a lot.” And don’t give up! Ever!

I also have a whole web page of writing advice on my website – aspiring authors are welcome to go to the page at: http://www.mariavsnyder.com/advice.php.

Jamye – What was your most challenging writing moment?  Most triumphant?

Maria – I’d have to say writing Spy Glass was the most difficult book to do and encompasses all my most challenging writing moments!  Nothing about that book came easily and I don’t know why.  As for the most triumphant, is when I write my two favorite words: The End 🙂  Finishing a book is always a triumph, and I celebrate for a few days before starting revisions.

Jamye – Your new book, Inside Out, is being released today by Harlequin Teen.  Can you tell us a little about it?

Maria – Inside Out is about Trella. Trella lives in Inside, and she has a very jaded and hard view of her metal world. Along with thousands of other “scrubs” who live in the lower levels, she cleans the pipes and ducts that crisscross her world and keep them all alive.

In order to escape the noise and presence of so many scrubs, Trella prefers to be by herself in the ductwork. She has explored almost every region of Inside and has the ability to go to any level without being detected by the Pop Cops (Population Control Police). Because of her expertise, she is recruited by a prophet to seek a gateway to Outside. As she searches for the gateway, she’s pursued by Pop Cops, and upper level workers (those who control the government and mechanical systems), but she’s also aided by a few unlikely sources which make her realize she’s been a little too critical of her world.

Jamye – How different is it to write a Young Adult book?  Do you find that you change your style significantly or is it just the content that changes?

Maria – I wrote the book the same as all my others.  The only difference is Inside Out is shorter.  The interesting thing about my books is they appeal to all ages.  I’ve had emails from readers as young as 9 years old and as old as 81 years old. I wrote with adults in mind at first, but when my niece read Poison Study in one weekend (she was 14 at the time and before I found a publisher), I realized that maybe young adults would enjoy my stories as well.

Jamye – So what’s next for you?  Are you currently working on anything that you can tell us about?

Maria – After Inside Out is published, Spy Glass will be coming out in September 2010.  I just finished revisions on Spy Glass and am going to start Outside In, which is a sequel to Inside Out.  After that…I don’t know. I have a few book proposals to send to my editor and we’ll see what she likes 🙂 

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Be sure to check out the website for Inside Out, www.whatsinsideout.com, to read the first three chapters, take a personality quiz, and other fun goodies!

Just leave a comment to enter for your chance to win a signed copy of the book (U.S. and Canada only please)!  The contest will end April 6th so make sure to check back to find out if you’re the lucky winner. 

In the meantime, here’s the book trailer.  Enjoy!

Book Review: Inside Out

 

Inside Out

Maria V. Snyder 
Paperback, 320 pages
Harlequin Enterprises, Limited
April 01, 2010

Note: I received a complimentary copy of this ebook from the author.

Welcome to Inside, where everything from water, food, air, temperature, and human population is carefully controlled and society is broken into two distinct groups – uppers and lowers – the former being the ruling class over the latter, who live and work in overcrowded and inhumane conditions their entire lives until they die and are fed to Chomper to be recycled into fertilizer.  17-year-old Trella is a scrub, and she knows every duct and pipe in the lower levels of Inside that she’s assigned to clean.  That knowledge, along with her antisocial personality, has earned her the less  than honorific title of Queen of the Pipes. 

Trella isn’t exactly thrilled with her lot in life.  While upper children are raised by their parents and enjoy freedom and precious space and privacy, lowers are raised by Care Mothers in groups of ten (with no knowledge of their families) until they reach maturity and begin working.  Ten hours on and ten hours off.  Every day is exactly like the day before. 

That is, until Trella’s only friend Cogon takes her to meet a prophet called Broken Man who claims to have knowledge of the whereabouts of a Gateway to Outside.  The Population Control Police, or Pop Cops as they’re known to the lowers, spew propaganda regularly about the mythical world of Outside, a place that is only attainable after a lifetime of hard work and obeying the rules.  But Trella doesn’t believe a word of it.  When Broken Man asks her to retrieve disks that contains information about Gateway, she only does it to prove that the prophet is a fake and to convince Cogon that Outside doesn’t exist, saving her friend from getting his hopes dashed.

But a run-in with the Pop Cops ends with Broken Man being captured and Trella and Cog risk their lives to save him before he’s interrogated and recycled.  Now Trella is under suspicion and a powerful Lieutenant Commander is watching her like a hawk, waiting for her to make one wrong move and reveal the whereabouts of Broken Man and the disks. 

Trella finds help from a young upper named Riley, who wants to improve the living conditions of the lower levels and bring down the ruling Trava family who controls all of Inside and fosters the animosity between uppers and lowers to keep both groups from rising against them. 

It becomes a race for the rebels to locate and open Gateway before more people are arrested, tortured, and recycled by the Travas.  But once Gateway is open, what will Trella find on the other side?

I was thrilled by this book.  It was fast-paced, exciting, and most of all, different!  The world of Inside that Snyder creates is unlike anything I’ve encountered before.  It’s a sci-fi, futuristic dystopia that’s filled with fear mongering and social stratification, where the Travas encourage lowers to rat out their peers by offering a better life in the upper levels and their hate-breeding propaganda is believed by both groups. 

The whole concept of a world encased in steel walls, pipes, and ducts, where Outside is thought to be nothing but a myth concocted by the Travas to keep the lowers in line was fascinating to me.  I was anxious for Trella to dodge the Pop Cops and find Gateway so I could see what was on the other side.  And I loved the allies she picked up along the way, including Logan and Anne-Jade, the Tech Nos who use junk parts to create all kinds of wonderful high-tech gadgets, and Jacy, a scrub who has a network of spies and informants at his disposal, and of course, Riley (who turns into a lot more than an ally). 

All the little social and cultural details kept me intrigued throughout the story, like how everything is made up in multiples of ten, time is measured in weeks (and deciweeks) instead of years, and the difference between the uppers’ and lowers’ beliefs and values (at one point Trella is confused by an upper woman’s devastation when she’s forced to give up her newborn baby).  Even the constant references to scrubs as sheep (and an adorable stuffed animal sheep named Sheepy) or idioms like “Thank the air!” all added to my overall enjoyment of the book. 

And the ending totally blew me away.  Out of all the things that kept me guessing, I never saw this one coming, and it tapped into one of my longtime irrational fears (which I won’t get into now so as not to give too much away) enough to make me shiver. 

I’m definitely looking forward to the sequel, Outside In, and am excited that I finally found a YA book that I wasn’t constantly rolling my eyes through (I think it’s mostly YA because of Trella’s age and the language is toned down.  I know I would be shrieking a few choice expletives if I were caught in some of her sticky situations).  I would recommend this book to fans of sci-fi, dystopia or action/adventure fans.

And be sure to stop by on March 30th for a Q&A with Maria V. Snyder and a giveaway of a signed copy of Inside Out!