Review

Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson

Here's Claire L from our Teen Advisory Corps with some backlist love for Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson.

Emily was looking forward to spending the summer with her best friend, Sloane, until she realizes that Sloane has completely disappeared and only left behind a list for Emily. Though it is not the first list she has received, this one is different because it contains all the things that Emily had been afraid to do before. Usually not one to complete these lists, Emily convinces herself that the only she will see Sloane again is if she can complete each item. In the process, she meets Frank, Dawn, and Collins, who help her to find her courage and support her endeavors. With her new friends, Emily is able to discover new sides of herself in an unforgettable summer.

 

A story of friendship, Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson is an enjoyable read that I was unable to put down. I loved the whole premise of Sloane’s list for Emily. Though each item was a challenge, I admire the consideration that Sloane put into the list. Furthermore, I enjoyed seeing Emily become more confident with herself as she checked off items. I also loved the friendship that Frank and Emily have. Frank is such a charismatic and kind character who never failed to warm my heart. Moreover, all of the relationships featured in this story feel genuine and real—I would love to be apart of this friend group—and I appreciate Matson’s focus on friendship. Plus, Matson’s writing is wonderful as she is able to make you smile, laugh, and cry all at the same time (in the best way possible). Since You’ve Been Gone by Morgan Matson is a heartwarming story about friendship and newly discovered confidence.

The Black Bull of Norroway by Cat Seaton

Here's Marley from our Teen Advisory Corps charging in with a review of the graphic novel Norroway: The Black Bull of Norroway

Sibylla has always been prophesied to marry the black bull of Norroway, a knight so bloodthirsty he was cursed to live as a bull. When he shows up, claiming her as his wife and telling her to prepare for a long journey, she isn’t surprised. She is however, surprised to learn that there is more to his curse than is told. 

 The Black Bull of Norroway is the first graphic novel in the Norroway series. The plot is based on a Scottish fairy tale, and reminiscent of Beauty and the Beast. Short but very sweet, it was a very fun read, both through the art and the writing.

The art style alone is worth the read, it aided in making the entire book feel wonderfully whimsical. This could just be because Beauty and the Beast was on my mind, but the art definitely reminded me of Disney. The clothing looked very flowy and light, and every movement felt fluid. The characters were drawn amazingly, each design unique and detailed. The buildings were especially well drawn. There were a couple of drawings that I spent a couple minutes looking at the architecture and details of the buildings instead of actually reading the book. 

Adding to the great art, the storytelling is great. It’s a retelling, but it adds its own flavor and spice to the original. The characters were fleshed out in a new way and it felt like a completely new story. The personality of every character is thoroughly developed and explored. It doesn’t just retell the story, it adds much more to it.

I do have a very minor critiqu. The characters physical design was unique, but some of the characters felt cliche. They didn’t really offer anything unique from other books’ characters. Sibylla has a bit of a flat personality, which is kind of expected because there wasn’t much time to develop her character but I do hope that in the next book we will see that more. 

I really liked this one, and I definitely want more of it. It’s short, but still manages to progress the plot enough to invest readers. I think the next book has a lot to offer and I’m interested to see how it turns out. I’d give The Black Bull of Norroway a ⅘ and will be looking out for the second book.

Winterwood by Shea Earnshaw

Teen Advisory Corps Marren goes deep into the woods this time with Shea Earnshaws Winterwood

In the mountain town of Fir Haven rumors weave through the people like roots.

Some say rumors aren’t true, but deep down everyone knows that rumors are how we admit the terrifying truths that surround us. Like how on the night of a winter storm a boy goes missing, the power goes out and the only road down the mountain is snowed in. 

Nora walker and all her ancestors are rumored to be witches. Each one of them is born with a shadow side. The part of them that makes them different from everyone else. Nora is convinced she’s the only walker to ever be born without a shadow side, that is until she finds the missing boy in the woods and strange things start to happen. In order to save everyone she loves Nora will need to believe in herself and bring out her shadow side before it’s too late. 

 

The Last True Poets of the Sea by Julia Drake

Teen Advisory Corps member Marren was carried away by the evocative work by Julia Drake, The Last True Poets of the Sea. She says:

16 year old Violet believes their family is cursed to “wreck” because of the mysterious perseverance of her great-great-great grandmother Feidlia. Who was the lone survivor of a shipwreck called, The Lyric . She becomes even more frightened of her theory when her younger brother Sam attempts suicide. Soon after Violet is sent to her mother’s childhood home in Lyric, Maine. The town founded by her great-great-great grandmother. While Sam braves a treatment facility in Vermont, Vi faces her own demons only a couple hours away. With the help of friends and a new-found love, Violet searches for the remains of The Lyric, hoping that if she can piece back together what happened to Feidlia, it will be enough to piece together her family. 

    THE LAST TRUE POETS OF THE SEA is a deeply honest book about putting the wreckage of your mistakes behind you and finding the courage to truly live. 

 

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed.

Teen Advisory Corps member Claire L enjoyed Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed. 

Jamie and Maya were close in pre-school, but have since found new interests. Aspiring politician, Jamie, has his summer booked: volunteering for a state senator candidate’s campaign. However, though he would love to canvas, his work has mostly been behind the scenes due to his worries about public speaking. Maya on the other hand, was prepared to spend the summer with her best friend, who is going to college. When her friend becomes too busy to spend time with her, Maya’s summer suddenly has an opening. Not wanting her daughter to be moping around all summer, Maya’s mother suggests that she canvas with Jamie. Never having cared that much about politics, Maya is unconvinced. But as Jamie and Maya spend more time together, it turns out that canvassing can be fun when you have the right person to canvas with.

 

Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is an inspiring story about two teens trying to make a difference in their community. First of all, I am so happy to see two young adult authors addressing politics with their story; it is not often that politically active teens are showcased in young adult books. Especially considering that Jamie and Maya are unable to vote, I am glad to see the story focuses on the other ways you can become involved with a campaign. In addition, I loved Jamie and Maya’s unexpected friendship. Though they were friends when they were younger, they have since learned more about themselves and who they want to be. But throughout the book they discover that their ambitions overlap more than they expected. Yes No Maybe So by Becky Albertalli and Aisha Saeed is a hopeful story that exudes optimism for the future of the nation.

Pre-Order your copy today, and check out more from our Teen Advisory Corps below!

Speak Easy, Speak Love by Mckelle George

Beatrice is studying to become a doctor, so when she was kicked out of her boarding school, she is unsure of what she will do next. Hearing of her expulsion, Beatrice’s uncle, Leo, invites her to come live with him. Little does she know, Leo runs a speakeasy, Hey Nonny Nonny, in their basement. As Beatrice is introduced to the other residents, she unravels more about Hey Nonny Nonny and the business of running a speakeasy. One resident, Benedick, a writer-hopeful, leaves his boarding school to get away from his father’s ideal future for him. Accepting bootlegging as a better destiny, he resorts to Hey Nonny Nonny, his second home. When they first meet, there is a curiosity sparked between the two, but each of Beatrice and Benedick’s conversations seem to end negatively. Despite this, there is an allure that draws the two towards each other.

Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George transports you to the roaring twenties. Following six residents of Hey Nonny Nonny, you see glimpses and exploration of the varying aspects of the 1920’s including prohibition, women’s rights, jazz, and gangs. I adored the dialogue and banter, especially between Beatrice and Benedick. Not only is the dialogue fitting for the time, but it also feels relevant today. In addition, I enjoyed the balance between light-hearted relationships to more serious issues pertaining to operating the speakeasy. Furthermore, the multiple themes contributed to the drama and intrigue of the story. Speak Easy, Speak Love by McKelle George is a fun and delightful story about the glamorous (and not so glamorous) 1920’s.

We Speak in Storms by Natalie Lund

On October 7th, 1961, a tornado touched down at the drive in theatre in tiny Mercer, Illinois, killing dozens of teens. Almost fifty years later, on the anniversary of the tragedy a tornado tears through the exact same spot. Soon after the shocking event, three teens' paths start to cross. With everyone on high alert from the recent tornado the three of them start to notice some mysterious occurances, all while their own lives are spiraling out of control. We Speak In Storms is a rich and insightful book with a lot of emphasis on the characters's journeys as friends and as individuals. The story is told from the perspective of three teens; Callie, Joshua, and Brenna. Sprinkled through the book you get a couple mysterious and resonating paragraphs from the kids who were killed by the tornado fifty years prior. These short chapters are really enjoyable because they add some contrast to the style of the book. Over all the aspect of the novel that stood out the most was the unique voices and journeys of the characters. 

Romance Recommendations Halloween Edition

 Something Old 

Jeaniene Frost is one of the best paranormal authors out there. So let’s start at the beginning – her debut novel – with HALFWAY TO THE GRAVE – A Night Huntress Novel.

Cat is half vampire, half human, who hunts vampires. Bones is a vampire bounty hunter. When they team up it’s out of necessity, but neither of them can deny the chemistry between them. Bones helps Cat see that not all vampires are evil, and neither is she as they race to rescue innocent enslaved girls.

An entertaining, sexy, action-packed adventure into the darkness where everyone is neither all good nor evil.  

 

 Something New 

Start a new magical series with Ilona Andrews BURN FOR ME – the first book in their Hidden Legacy series.

Tough, determined, ready to take on any challenge, Nevada teams up with a seductive, dangerous man to find her next target to save her detective agency. Rogan knows how dangerous magic can be – and so can love.

A magical society, powerful families, a strong female lead, an enemies-to-lovers romance, and a compelling mystery kept me enthralled and turning the page.   

 

Something Borrowed

I was so excited – and star struck – when Jeaniene Frost emailed me with her favorite paranormal books…

The most recent paranormal romance I read and loved was SAPPHIRE FLAMES by Ilona Andrews. This is another continuation of her hugely popular Hidden Legacy series, this time featuring new leads, Catalina and Alessandro. With smoldering tension, non-stop action and laugh out loud humor, I loved everything about this book. 

I'm also a huge fan of Nalini Singh's Guild Hunter series, most especially the books featuring Elena and Raphael. The most recent one is ARCHANGEL'S PROPHECY, but fans like me won't have long to wait until Elena and Raphael's next adventures in ARCHANGEL'S WAR.  If you haven't yet discovered this mesmerizing paranormal world of angels, vampires, vampire hunters and forbidden love, start with ANGEL'S BLOOD, book one in the series. Careful, though - Nalini's writing is addictive!

Check out Jeaniene’s new series! SHADES OF WICKED is out now!

 

Something Blue-ish

HOW TO MARRY A MILLIONAIRE VAMPIRE - I love this cover. It’s kind of creepy, but still has the promise of a happy-ever-after – literally in this case because vampires live forever!

What’s a vampire to do when he loses a fang? Find a dentist to fix it before his natural healing abilities leaves him a one-fang vamp with only half a bite. Too bad Shanna has the Russian mob after her, making it even more difficult for Roman to get his chomp back. Lucky for Shana, she’s found the one man who has the power, strength, and determination to keep her alive – because he wants her for himself.

Action, humor, a millionaire vampire – Highlander vampires! – and a romance between an unlikely couple make this a really enjoyable read.

I hope you enjoy all of these recommendations.

 

 

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

Marly B from our Teen Advisory Corps reviewed We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal. One of this summers buzzy titles heres whta Marly had to say. 

The only person who has ever been able to navigate the Arz is Zafira. Not only does she return from the magical forest, she returns with food and animal skins. Zafira has been feeding the villages closest to the Arz for years, becoming a hero to the locals and a legend beyond that, known widely as the Hunter. When returning from a successful hunt one day, she is stopped by a mystical witch who slips a letter into her bag. The letter invites her to help save all of Arawiya by venturing into the island of Sharr, known for being used as a prison and the last place besides the Arz that still holds magic. She is sent to retrieve the Jawarat, a book that will prevent the Arz from consuming Arawiya and return magic to the five caliphates. However, she quickly realizes that she isn’t alone on the island, and some of the people she shares the ground with aren’t unfamiliar with taking lives. 

    We Hunt the Flame is Hafsah Faizal’s debut novel, and there’s not a lot to complain about! The setting, characters, pacing and plot were all very well written. 

    We Hunt the Flame is a fantasy book based off of ancient Arabia. It adds elements I haven’t seen in many fantasy books before and makes it stand out against others. I personally enjoyed the incorporation of turbans into common garb and use of sandy settings, for no other reasons other than it was a nice change of scenery for a fantasy novel. The setup of the caliphates was also a nice bit of variety that I appreciated.

    This book also does a nice job of having characters with different personalities. Despite introducing tons of characters at the same time they were easy to keep track of because of how varied their traits were. They were described very consistently which was great for remembrance, but also helped to really be able to know and understand them. The only complaint I have in this area is Kifah. She didn’t seem distinct from the other characters, and I can’t remember anything important she did to advance the plot. I don’t think the book would have changed all that much if she wasn’t written into it. 

    The story itself moved at a reasonable pace. A large part of the book is traveling and camping out, and Faizal did a great job of keeping even mundane things readable. The characters were well written so even when nothing was happening it was entertaining. The interactions between the characters and learning more about the magic system and history of Arawiya was interesting. 

I actually didn’t mind the romantic subplot in this book, which shouldn’t be taken lightly because most of the time I would rather eat nails than subject myself to that sort of torture (that might be slightly dramatic but only slightly). First off, the relationship developed fairly naturally. Insta-love was avoided and the characters stayed true to how they were written even as they became more attached. Faizal also avoided pushing the main plot of the story to the side in favor of the romance. She didn’t slow down the plot to let the relationship develop and didn’t add in pointless scenes to progress the relationship. Basically, the romantic subplot was actually subplot and didn’t hinder the story which I don’t usually see in fantasy or YA. I don’t think I’ve read a book that does romantic subplot as well as We Hunt the Flame does. 

We Hunt the Flame is a pretty darn good book, I do have a couple minor complaints though. Faizal describes a plethora of magical creatures throughout the novel, but there were only three creatures I can remember the characters interacting with, and only one of those we heard of more than once. Faizal did an amazing job of creating interesting creatures, I just wish I was introduced to more of them. 

The magic in the book caused some issues for me. For a book centered around magic, we don’t actually see it used a whole lot. I would accept that if there was an explanation on why. Are some things harder to do than others? Is there time limits between uses? Does it sap energy from the user? More clear ideas of the limits of magic would have been nice. It was hard to be impressed with the idea of limitless magic when there really wasn’t any idea of what magic with limits would be like. 

    I would give We Hunt the Flame a 3.75/5. I don’t think I want to read the second book, but I would definitely read another book by Hafsah Faizal. Her writing style is already fantastic and I can only imagine it will get better in her future books. 

The Kingdom of Back by Marie Liu

Teen Advisory Corps member Claire R was entranced by Marie Liu's forthcoming The Kingdom of Back about Mozart's mysterious and largely forgotten sister.

The Kingdom of Back was an inspiring story that will make you want to learn about Wolfgang Mozart's sister, who quite clearly was almost forgotten. Marie Lu brings her into the picture, and displays her struggles as a female composer in the 18th century. But there was also a magical part of the story, the Kingdom of Back. There is another plot line intertwined in real life, involving her desire for fame, and toying with the ideas of imagination and reality. The Kingdom of Back is a perfect story for music and fantasy lovers, and you just might learn something as well.

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