Review: “Teen Spirit” by Francesca Lia Block


18054018Title: “Teen Spirit”

Author: Francesca Lia Block

Publication Date: February 4, 2014 (HarperTeen – North America)

Genre: YA, paranormal

Source: Publisher-provided finished copy

Summary: After Julie’s grandmother passes away, she is forced to move across town to the not-so-fancy end of Beverly Hills and start over at a new school. The only silver lining to the perpetual dark cloud that seems to be following her? Clark—a die-hard fan of Buffy and all things Joss Whedon, who is just as awkward and damaged as she is. Her kindred spirit.

When the two try to contact Julie’s grandmother with a Ouija board, they make contact with a different spirit altogether. The real kind. And this ghost will do whatever it takes to come back to the world of the living.

☆: 4/5 stars – a refreshing standalone that harkens back to the days of “Weetzie Bat”.

Review: This one was fun, guys. The writing style and light yet dark feeling to “Teen Spirit” left me with the feeling I first felt when I picked up the “Dangerous Angels/Weetzie Bat series” omnibus when I was 12. I fell in love – though it’s not to say I never fell out of love with my mentor’s writing style. “Teen Spirit” is very similar to “Weetzie” in that sense of light reading, yet heavier (and in this book), somewhat darker content for the reader adjusted for easy digestion. I think a lot of “Weetzie” fans dissatisfied with recent efforts might really like this one. Regardless of where you stand, Block’s newest effort is gorgeous, haunting (no pun intended), and will leave you with a sense of utter peace once you turn that last page.

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Review: “The Year of Shadows” by Claire LeGrand


13129136Title: “The Year of Shadows”

Author: Claire Legrand

Publication Date: August 27, 2013 (S&SFYR – North America)

Genre: YA, MG, Contemporary, Paranormal, Tough Stuff, Awesome

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Olivia Stellatella is having a rough year.

Her mother left, her neglectful father — the maestro of a failing orchestra — has moved her and her grandmother into his dark, broken-down concert hall to save money, and her only friend is Igor, an ornery stray cat.

Just when she thinks life couldn’t get any weirder, she meets four ghosts who haunt the hall. They need Olivia’s help — if the hall is torn down, they’ll be stuck as ghosts forever, never able to move on.

Olivia has to do the impossible for her shadowy new friends: Save the concert hall. But helping the dead has powerful consequences for the living . . . and soon it’s not just the concert hall that needs saving.

☆: 4/5 stars – a book that MG desperately needs right now!

Review: This is a book that older MG/young YA desperately needs right now – a book that helps explain what Legrand calls “The Economy”, and how it’s affecting kids. “The Year of Shadows” is a book that is not only just a ghost story, but is also a very real story about kids in that late tween/early teen age range that is learning to deal in a new world that’s let them down, a new reality that has reset everything they’ve learned thus far about their lives, with some ghosts and a metaphor about moving on mixed in along the way.

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Review: “The Weight of Souls” by Bryony Pierce


The Weight of SoulsTitle: “The Weight of Souls”

Author: Bryony Pierce

Publication Date: August 6, 2013 (Strange Chemistry/Angry Robot – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Genre: YA contemporary, paranormal, PNR, mystery

Summary: Sixteen year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her…

She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.

But then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… and where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death.

Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him?

And what happens if she starts to fall for him?

☆: 3.5/5 stars – a fun urban fantasy adventure that will leave you wanting a sequel!

Review: Do you like strange curses? High school mean girls? Bringing killers to justice? Urban fantasy? “The Weight of Souls” is definitely a read you should check out – it has all of this and more. While I was a bit conflicted by the ending of the book (and the pairing that happens with it), I still enjoyed this read quite a bit. If you’re looking for a new spin on ancient family curses, give “The Weight of Souls” a try. There might be a few spoilers in this review, so you’ve been warned.

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Review: “Flicker & Burn (Cold Fury #2)” by TM Goeglein


16101039Title: “Flicker & Burn (Cold Fury #2)”

Author: TM Goeglein

Genre: YA contemporary, paranormal, mafia, thriller, urban fantasy, AWESOME, NIGHTMARE STAG OH GOD

Publication Date: August 20, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Sara Jane Rispoli is still searching for her missing family, but instead of fighting off a turncoat uncle and crooked cops, this time she finds herself on the run from creepy beings with red, pulsing eyes and pale white skin chasing her through the streets in ice cream trucks; they can only be described as Ice Cream Creatures. They’re terrifying and hell bent on killing her, but they’re also a link to her family, a clue to where they might be and who has them.

While she battles these new pursuers, she’s also discovering more about her own cold fury and more about the Chicago Outfit, how the past misdeeds–old murders and vendettas–might just be connected to her present and the disappearance of her family. But connecting the dots is tough and time-consuming and may finally be the undoing of her relationship with the handsome Max–who’s now her boyfriend. But for his own safety, Sara Jane may have to end this relationship before it even really starts. Her pursuers who’ve shown her her mother’s amputated finger and the head of the Chicago Outfit who’s just whistled her in for a sit-down make a romance unthinkable. The only thing that matters is finding her family and keeping everyone she loves alive.

☆:  5 stars – an absolute knock out of the park, and better than book one!

Review: WOW. What is it with you, sophomoric books of 2013? You’ve all been more or less amazing, if not really good. If you guys thought “Cold Fury” was good, just wait until you get your hands on “Flicker & Burn”! Seriously. Every bit of tension that Goeglein had in “Cold Fury”, every stake? It’s been upped about a hundred times. This book has turned from paranormal into parascience, which is awesome, and I really can’t wait for book three. Another one of my favorite sophomoric effort of 2013, “Flicker & Burn” definitely leaps off the page and sears itself into your brain. Let’s just say I’ll never look at “healthy” ice cream the same way again.

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“A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Strange #2)” by Susan Dennard


13624584Title: “A Darkness Strange and Lovely (Strange #2)”

Author: Susan Dennard

Genre: YA, alternate history/parallel universes, zombies, steampunk, paranormal

Publication Date: July 23, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: Following an all-out battle with the walking Dead, the Spirit Hunters have fled Philadelphia, leaving Eleanor alone to cope with the devastating aftermath. But there’s more trouble ahead—the evil necromancer Marcus has returned, and his diabolical advances have Eleanor escaping to Paris to seek the help of Joseph, Jie, and the infuriatingly handsome Daniel once again. When she arrives, however, she finds a whole new darkness lurking in this City of Light. As harrowing events unfold, Eleanor is forced to make a deadly decision that will mean life or death for everyone.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – a sequel that shines brighter than its first book!

Review: I think I can honestly say that this sequel(and what looks to be a middle book in a trilogy?) is stronger than its initial first book in this series. Seriously. “Strange and Lovely” builds upon everything set up in book one, but it also has a lot more tension (almost tension on every page), and we get more worldbuilding, more new awesome characters, and a sea change in everyone we got to know in love back in book one. If you’re looking for one of the best sophomoric efforts this year in YA, look no further than “A Darkness Strange and Lovely”.

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Review: The Weight of Souls by Bryony Pearce


The Weight of SoulsTitle: The Weight of Souls

Author: Bryony Pearce

Genre: YA Paranormal, Mystery

Publication Date: August 6, 2013 (Strange Chemistry)

Synopsis: 16 year old Taylor Oh is cursed: if she is touched by the ghost of a murder victim then they pass a mark beneath her skin. She has three weeks to find their murderer and pass the mark to them – letting justice take place and sending them into the Darkness. And if she doesn’t make it in time? The Darkness will come for her… She spends her life trying to avoid ghosts, make it through school where she’s bullied by popular Justin and his cronies, keep her one remaining friend, and persuade her father that this is real and that she’s not going crazy.

And then Justin is murdered and everything gets a whole lot worse. Justin doesn’t know who killed him, so there’s no obvious person for Taylor to go after. The clues she has lead her to the V Club, a vicious secret-society at her school where no one is allowed to leave… And where Justin was dared to do the stunt which led to his death. Can she find out who was responsible for his murder before the Darkness comes for her? Can she put aside her hatred for her former bully to truly help him? And what happens if she starts to fall for him?

3/5 stars – Fun and thorough, but it’s not without its issues

Well, this is difficult. For days, I’ve been bouncing back and forth on how I feel about The Weight of Souls. It’s been a while since a book left me so conflicted and unable to write a review without wanting to slam my head into a wall. There are some definite strong points to the novel that make it worth reading, but Taylor and some of her less-thought-out actions turn it into a mixed bag.

Taylor herself is well-developed and despite her rougher edges and how she alienates the people closest to her to keep them safe when she doesn’t need to (she gets better), it’s hard not to feel for her when people are being outright racist to our half-Chinese heroine time after time. All she can do is take it and wait for the people doing it (usually James and Tamsin, two of the most popular people in their popular-person group) to get what’s coming to them. And oh, do James, Tamsin, and co. get what’s coming to them. Thank goodness!

As smart (sort of) as she is, Taylor’s perfectly functional brain seems to shut down toward the end. That she lets a killer escape is acceptable due to the circumstances, though it feels like a bit of a plot contrivance meant to keep someone around for a while. Her hare-brained plan to sacrifice herself, as she would have realized had she thought about it, would have not helped her or the person she wanted to help. It would have merely screwed them both over. It’s sheer luck that keeps her sacrifice from succeeding.

Of all the places I expected this novel to go as Taylor works to avenge Justin and get the Mark off herself before the Darkness comes to take her in the killers’ place, secret society territory was the last place, but voila, figuring out what happened to Justin before he died takes Taylor into the heart of a good old-fashioned secret society with members in the police force, a university they’ll get into no matter their grades, and jobs they’ll be given by older members. It may be me, but having secret society shenanigans in my paranormal is a little odd.

Regardless, Pearce keeps the main plot front and center for the most part. Some developments come about slowly (one was due to a ghost who didn’t want to accept his death–yes, I’m looking at you, Justin) and that makes the book feel longer than it is, but it’s not hard to get swept up in Taylor’s current quest for ghost-demanded vengeance or her tales of past vendettas fulfilled, how she came to inherit her curse, and what it means for the rest of her life.

The romance Taylor has is where one of my greater problems happens. Let’s just say I don’t subscribe to the train of thought that a guy who like someone will bully their crush and let their friends be racist little pieces of crap to their crush for years. All romances that start off that way fail on me. As someone with plenty of bullies in my past, more than a few of which friends and family hypothesized had a crush on me (and as someone who bullied boys she had a crush on back in elementary school), I know anything that starts like that isn’t going to work. At least, not for me.

The ending has a strong hook for the sequel and the promise of more nefarious happenings (like what Anubis is up to with his army and the possibility of being freed from the tomb priests sealed him in), but I’ll need time to think about if I want to continue on because though Taylor is getting better as a person, if the same issues that plagued The Weight of Souls plague book two, it won’t be quite as much fun.

Review: “Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)” by Fiona Paul


13399046Title: “Belladonna (Secrets of the Eternal Rose #2)”

Author: Fiona Paul

Genre: YA, historical, paranormal, retellings, AWESOME

Publication Date: July 16, 2013 (Penguin – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Summary: In Renaissance Italy, love, lust, intrigue and secret societies converge to stunning results!

In the second in the stunning Secrets of the Eternal Rose series, Cassandra Caravello is trying to forget Falco, the wild artist who ran off with her heart, as she grows closer to her strong, steady fiancé, Luca. But Luca seems to have his own secrets. When he’s arrested by soldiers in the middle of the night, Cass’s life is once again thrown into chaos. She must save Luca, and that means finding the Book of the Eternal Rose—the only evidence that will prove he’s innocent.

So begins her journey to Florence, a city haunted by whispers of vampirism, secret soirees and clandestine meetings of the Order of the Eternal Rose. And home to Falco, who is working for the Order’s eerily stunning leader, the Belladonna herself.

Can Cass trust her heart to lead her to the truth this time?
Nothing is as it seems in this seductive thriller, where the truth may be the deadliest poison of all.

☆: 4.5/5 stars – an absolutely AWESOME followup to book one!

Review: Okay, guys, if you liked “Venom”, you’re going to totally fall head over heels for “Belladonna”. “Belladonna” builds upon “Venom” in every single way, and ups the stakes to every single extreme. There’s also a bit of a potential bit of a retelling of a real-life person, and it’s just…awesome. We also get a semi-resolution of the love triangle posed in book one. This review may have spoilers for book one, so if you haven’t read book one, you might want to hold off on reading this review. Either way, if you haven’t already, you simply MUST give the “Eternal Rose” series a try – it’s one of my favorite YA historical paranormal series out there today.

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