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: “Snakeroot (Nightshade Legacy #1/Nightshade #4)” by Andrea Cremer


17372472Title: “Snakeroot (Nightshade Legacy #1/Nightshade #4)”

Author: Andrea Cremer

Genre: Fantasy, YA, PNR

Publication Date:  December 10, 2013

Source:  Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Fans asked for it, and now they’ve got it!

Andrea Cremer is continuing the story she began in in her internationally bestselling trilogy: Nightshade, Wolfsbane and Bloodrose.

Bosque Mar haunts the dreams of both Adne and Logan, trying to escape for the Nether, where Calla, Shay and the other Guardians trapped him in the final battle in the War of All Against All…

Will he turn Adne to the dark side? Will Logan reclaim his birthright? And will darkness take over our world?

☆: 4/5 stars – Will definitely satisfy hardcore fans of the series!

Review: Fair warning here, folks: this review is going to have a lot of spoilers for the “Nightshade” trilogy (and its novellas/prequels). I thought and thought on how to do a review for this book without spoilers and then realized that it just wasn’t going to happen. So, fair warning, folks. “Snakeroot” is apart of the new “Nightshade Legacy” continuation series (not sure if “Captive”, “Rise”, and “Rift” are in this continuation/expansion but I’ll throw them in there anyway), not focusing on the main characters of our trilogy, but instead on the fringe characters we met throughout the journey of the trilogy. While “Snakeroot” definitely satisfies, it leaves us on a cliffhanger with no definitive promise that this series will continue. And I sincerely hope it will.

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Review: “The Beautiful and the Damned (The Hollow #4)” by Jessica Verday


17334497Title: “The Beautiful and the Damned (The Hollows #4)”

Author: Jessica Verday

Genre: YA Contemporary, PNR, Paranormal

Publication Date: October 1, 2013 (Simon Pulse – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Cyn’s blackouts have deadly consequences in this sexy, suspenseful spinoff to the New York Times bestselling Hollow series.Cyn and Avian are far from a perfect match. She’s a witch who casts spells on men so she can steal their cars. He spends his time being judge, jury, and executioner to the truly evil in the supernatural realm.

When the blackouts Cyn’s been having ever since her time in Sleepy Hollow start escalating, she finds herself unable to remember where she’s been or what she’s been doing. Frightened, she seeks guidance at a local church, and it’s there she meets Avian.

The unlikely pair soon discovers that her blackouts are a side effect of what she truly is—an Echo—a conduit for souls of the dead. The only way to prevent Cyn from losing complete control is to return to Sleepy Hollow and vanquish the source of her power—but she may not survive the process. And if she does? She won’t ever be the same…

☆: 3.5/5 stars – A good standalone, but may lose people who haven’t read the original trilogy.

Review: Fair disclosure – I haven’t read the original “Hollow” trilogy, to which this book is a companion. But even so, “The Beautiful and the Damned” is a tightly-written, nice, short, companion book which gives the audience a small taste of the original “Hollow” world while creating an entirely new world with elements that were introduced or hinted at in the original text. Even if you haven’t read the original trilogy, if you’re looking for a read to devour in a short amount of time, I recommend “The Beautiful and the Damned”. Even if you may get a bit confused.

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Review: Witchstruck by Victoria Lamb


WitchstruckTitle: Witchstruck

Author: Victoria Lamb

Genre: Historical, YA Paranormal, Witches

Publication Date: September 24, 2013 (Harlequin Teen)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: If she sink, she be no witch and shall be drowned. If she float, she be a witch and must be hanged.

Meg Lytton has always known she is different;that she bears a dark and powerful gift. But in 1554 England, in service at Woodstock Palace to the banished Tudor princess Elizabeth, it has never been more dangerous to practice witchcraft. Meg knows she must guard her secret carefully from the many suspicious eyes watching over the princess and her companions. One wrong move could mean her life, and the life of Elizabeth, rightful heir to the English throne.

With witchfinder Marcus Dent determined to have Meg’s hand in marriage, and Meg’s own family conspiring against the English queen, there isn’t a single person Meg can trust. Certainly not the enigmatic young Spanish priest Alejandro de Castillo, despite her undeniable feelings. But when all the world turns against her, Meg must open her heart to a dangerous choice.

The Secret Circle meets The Other Boleyn Girl in Witchstruck ,the first book of the magical Tudor Witch trilogy.

2.5/5 stars – The longer it goes on, the more the romance takes over

Witchcraft alongside the intrigue of Tudor-era England sounds fun, right? According to most of the reviews, it is. I can agree with that! Sadly, the most entertaining elements of Witchstruck fall by the wayside and can do very little to redeem this ultimately frustrating novel.

Most Tudor-era YA historicals are set during King Henry VIII’s reign, but Lamb sets it during Princess Elizabeth’s confinement  in 1555/1556. I honestly thought this was AU at first because I had no idea about it! A good Tudor-era scholar I am not. Despite the frustrations that slowly built up as the novel went on, it’s easy to care a lot about where Meg and her story are going, especially since female friendships/the powers and rights of women are thoroughly emphasized. Most of the characters are merely okay, but Elizabeth shines in all of her appearances. If only it were the same for Meg and Alejandro, our main characters.

Alejandro is by far the more grating of the two as he falls in love with Meg over the course of 70 pages and a handful of conversations. After that, a choppy time-skip tells us Meg has gotten closer to him, she loves how he’s such a good conversationalist, etc. and we’re expected to take this poor relationship development as-is. Not in this house! The development he gets closer to the end is appreciated, but it’s not enough to make up for everything that bothers me about his character.

Meg is the textbook “okay” heroine. She has something of a personality, she doesn’t hate other women, she’s admirably loyal to Princess Elizabeth, and all the mistakes she makes are forgivable. Sounds good, right? Yet her heavily flawed first-person narration makes it easy to let the flaws of the prose reflect back on her.

One of her worst narrative sins is how maddeningly repetitive she is. She thoroughly details why she hates Marcus Dent twice in a single chapter and tells us a few details about a person but then proceeds to repeat those few details about them almost every single time they come up. It almost seems like she thinks the reader has about as much memory as a dead bird. As if we could easily forget Marcus is a cruel, wealthy man and Joan is the simple girl who called Meg a witch after bringing them up so many times!

The ending’s deus ex machina with Meg’s sudden superwitch powers after surprisingly little witchery beforehand eased few of my issues and doesn’t encourage me to stick around for Witchfall. It’s easy to recommend to fans of Jessica Spotswood’s books and anyone who unabashedly loves witches, but others may want to be cautious.

Review: “3:59” by Gretchen McNeil


15836516Title: “3:59”

Author: Gretchen McNeil

Genre: Multiverse/Alternate Universe, Sci-Fi, YA contemporary

Publication Date: September 17, 2013 (HarperTeen – North America)

Source: Publisher-provided ARC

Synopsis: Josie Byrne’s life is spiraling out of control. Her parents are divorcing, her boyfriend Nick has grown distant, and her physics teacher has it in for her. When she’s betrayed by the two people she trusts most, Josie thinks things can’t get worse.

Until she starts having dreams about a girl named Jo. Every night at the same time—3:59 a.m.

Jo’s life is everything Josie wants: she’s popular, her parents are happily married, and Nick adores her. It all seems real, but they’re just dreams, right? Josie thinks so, until she wakes one night to a shadowy image of herself in the bedroom mirror – Jo.

Josie and Jo realize that they are doppelgängers living in parallel universes that overlap every twelve hours at exactly 3:59. Fascinated by Jo’s perfect world, Josie jumps at the chance to jump through the portal and switch places for a day.

But Jo’s world is far from perfect. Not only is Nick not Jo’s boyfriend, he hates her. Jo’s mom is missing, possibly insane. And at night, shadowy creatures feed on human flesh.

By the end of the day, Josie is desperate to return to her own life. But there’s a problem: Jo has sealed the portal, trapping Josie in this dangerous world. Can she figure out a way home before it’s too late?

☆: 3.5/5 stars – a fun multiverse tale, but could have been better.

Review: The multiverse books just keep on comin’ in YA, and that’s a happy, happy thing. I love reading about multiple dimensions and alternate histories or universes, so “3:59” was definitely on my TBR list. And while it didn’t quite live up to my expectations, it was still a fun book, and I think a lot of people (especially those just getting used to the idea of reading multiverse lit) will enjoy it. If you’re looking for a good rainy day book, or a book to consume in one day, make it “3:59”.

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Review: The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater


The Dream ThievesTitle: The Dream Thieves

Author: Maggie Stiefvater

Genre: YA Paranormal, Magical Realism, Mystery

Publication Date: September 17, 2013 (Scholastic Press)

Source: eARC from the publisher via NetGalley

Synopsis: The second installment in the all-new series from the masterful, #1 NEW YORK TIMES bestselling author Maggie Stiefvater!

Now that the ley lines around Cabeswater have been woken, nothing for Ronan, Gansey, Blue, and Adam will be the same. Ronan, for one, is falling more and more deeply into his dreams, and his dreams are intruding more and more into waking life. Meanwhile, some very sinister people are looking for some of the same pieces of the Cabeswater puzzle that Gansey is after…

3/5 stars – A generally well-written but not always entertaining sequel to The Raven Cycle

Maggie Stiefvater is one hell of a writer. Her other books either don’t appeal to me or embody all the cliches I can’t stand, but this particular series really hooks me and goads me into putting aside my personal feelings about her for a while. Fans who loved everything The Raven Boys had to offer will love The Dream Thieves just as much, especially when it comes to Ronan.

The plot–especially its focus on Ronan, his ability to produce objects from his dreams, and who he really is–picks you up and takes you on a fun ride, however slow or poorly pathed out it can be due to too many extraneous details and a very strange plot line involving hit man Mr. Gray romancing Blue’s mother Maura. Things could happen more quickly than they do, but I love that I’m expected to put the many, many pieces of the world together myself instead of just being handed the completed puzzle.

Unfortunately, the good stuff doesn’t always feel worth it because about half the book is a dull read. What it does during that half is important, true, but there has to be a way to get the important stuff in without boring readers into putting down the book for days! Sitefvater is a competent writer and her riff on secrets in the prologue is one of my favorite passages in the entire book, but sometimes, it seems she’s trying too hard. The result of that is ridiculous prose like “He was attracted to her like a heart attack (ARC p. 59)” and dialogue I can’t imagine anyone ever saying.

But really, this is Ronan’s book 100%. He’s got the spotlight, the most interesting plot line, and a lot more depth than I imagined. Adam, my darling favorite, isn’t afraid of the spotlight either! The dark places this book takes him makes me wish Blue were into him instead of Gansey. Speaking of our fated duo, it seems like no real effort is made to create a connection between them this time around. It’s almost like we’re expected to cheer them on and believe in their love (which hasn’t even developed yet!) solely because they’re each other’s true love. Fate is not an excuse for poor development.

Readers should also beware because this has another cliffhanger ending, but it’s not the sort of “Ronan admits he pulled a living, breathing bird out of his dreams” ending like in The Raven Boys. Still a painful one for invested fans, though. I might stick around for book three, but I’ll need a while to think about it. A year is good enough, don’t you think?

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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