Monthly Archives: June 2013

Some great Teen/YA books coming out in 2014!

And here it is! Even though it’s only half way through 2013 publishers are announcing releases for the year of 2014 and there already seems to be a lot to look forward to. Again, much like my 2013 list, these are books that I have a personal interest in or have been recommended to me. It will be an evolving list as new books are announced or discovered, and more information becomes available about those already holding a spot. Check back often!

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Enders (Starters series) by Lissa Price – January 7, 2014

Enders picks up Callie’s story, freed from the clutches of the body bank called Prime Destinations but that doesn’t mean she’s completing free of danger. What about the chip embedded in her brain? And her younger brother suffering from a lung disease? And what will happen now that the divide between Enders (the wealthy and elderly echelons of society) and the Starters (poor young adults struggling to survive) has been so thoroughly exposed? Callie’s story is by no means over. I enjoyed the first novel (Starters) though I thought more could have been done with the interesting concept of the old using the youth of teens that Price developed. Second book to the rescue? Time will tell!

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Vitro (Origin series) by Jessica Khoury – January 14, 2014

From the few synapses I have found online it seems that while Vitro is listed as being Book Two of the series, following Origin, Khoury is introducing two brand spanking new characters; Sophie whom is searching for her mother and the daring charter pilot Jim who joins her on her hunt. While there doesn’t seem to be any sign of Pia from the first novel, the Corpus scientists who made her still play a major role, including Sophie’s mother who happens to be one. Sophie is determined to find her mother and during her search stumbles on two Vitros, test tube babies who have been endowed with inhumane qualities. While part of me wants to feel disappointed that Pia is not a main feature in the second installment, her story was complete in some ways and so I’m content to see where Khoury can take this new story of science vs. morals.

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Hollow City (Miss Peregrine series) by Ransom Riggs – January 14, 2014

Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children was one of the best reads of 2013 for me, one that caught me by surprise. The discovery that the second book was coming out in the new year made me giddy with excitement. I think it’s the combination of the story about a creepy but talented group of children and the mixture of pictures that illustrate that story that made it so enjoyable for me. Hollow City starts off right where the first book ends and this time around Jacob will learn first-hand just how dangerous being a “peculiar” can be when a person from Miss Peregrine’s past begins to hunt them down for reasons of their own. Rank this as one of the more anticipated releases for me!

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Into the Still Blue (Under the Never Sky series) by Veronica Rossi – January 28, 2014

I admit I have yet to read this series. However, I have a friend who swears by it and claims that it is a great follow up if you’re a fan of the Hunger Games and Divergent series. In Into the Still Blue, conclusion to the series, Perry and Aria have proven their worth, both to each other and to the Dwellers who are now looking to them for leadership. Their world is in shambles and whether they are ready for the responsibility or not, Aria and Perry must now face the upcoming challenges head on. This is on my list of must-reads (as are so many other books as well) but hopefully I can get my hands on the first two novels before this is published in the new year!

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Panic by Lauren Oliver – March 4, 2014

Oliver and her Delirium series is one of the few teen series that was based in love but didn’t make me to want to vomit from all the lovey-dovey goodness. I came to respect Oliver because she took love and showed how it came with gritty, destructive choices and outcomes. So when I found the announcement for Panic online, I got a little excited. Panic is a game that all graduating seniors in Carp are welcome to compete in to improve their means. Dodge has never feared the Panic while Heather has never seen any reason to compete. Yet when both find themselves competing nothing is what they expected and things will never be the same afterwards. The synopsis sings a lot like the Hunger Games and the thought of that premise draped in Oliver’s elegant and intriguing writing style makes me extremely excited for this one!

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Ruins (Partials series) by Dan Wells – March 11, 2014

Ruins marks the conclusion of the Partials series and the story of two separate but very similar races, humans and the humanistic robots they created. Over the course of the last two books (Partials and Fragments) Kira has learned the cures to keeping human babies from dying a few days after birth and extending the expiration date programmed into all Partials. Separated from Sam, her Partial companion and Marcus, her human boyfriend, all three will struggle to end the devastating war that has broken out between humans and the Partials. Salvation may very well come in the form of something new; a hybrid. I’ve really enjoyed the science theme of this series with the second book being a worthwhile adventure story, so hopefully Ruins will be a fitting conclusion to a great series.

UPDATE: I’ve now read and reviewed Ruins, so click the book’s cover image above to check it out!

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Dreams of Gods and Monsters (Daughter of Smoke and Bones series) by Laini Taylor – April 8, 2014

The first book in this series, Daughter of Smoke and Bone, is one of the best books I have read from the genre this year. I know what the teen genre is about but there are a few authors out there that write Young Adult novels that are mature and intricate in their development. Maggie Stiefvater comes to mind and now she will be joined by Laini Taylor. I have yet to read the second installment of the series Days of Blood and Starlight as I’m saving it for the right moment. In an effort to not ruin the second for myself I haven’t read the summary for Dreams of Gods and Monsters but if I could recommend any book (and any series) it would be this one. Karou has been raised by what anyone else would consider monsters but she only sees them as a family she loves. Akiva is a warrior angel who has made himself emotionless and cold, results of a devastating loss in his past. They are from two completely different worlds but find themselves drawn to one another for unknown reasons. It is beautifully-written story of magic, the unknown and choices. Please, please, please, for your own good, read the first two before this comes out in April!

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Frozen (Taken series) by Erin Bowman – April 15, 2014

With the completion of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series room for a new popular series has become available and this might just be the series to step in and fill that literary void. In the first novel Taken Gray Weathersby has escaped the Heist, the moment when all boys in Claysoot mysteriously disappear on the eve of their eighteenth birthday. Along with Emma, he has climbed the wall and survived, only to discover a world outside that is fractured, caught between numerous opposing sides. In Frozen Grey has proven himself a valuable member of the rebels and will embark on a journey that will take him to the Test Group A, formally thought to be extinct but now showing signs of life. These individuals may hold knowledge and talents that can turn the tide of revolution and give them an advantage against Frank and his army. Grey will face a more personal challenge as well, as both Emma and Brie will accompany him on this voyage. I loved Taken because we have a hero, male not female which so often seems to be the case in the teen genre now, who young male readers can now relate to. It has the feel of the Divergent and Hunger Games series – deception, social rebellion and survival- while still staying unique. This will certainly be an exciting read when it comes out in April.

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The One (Selection series) by Kiera Cass – May 6, 2014

The One finishes the Selection series and will finally reveal that one last choice that fans of the series have been waiting for. America has kept herself in the competition for marriage to the young prince Maxon, though her reasons for doing so have changed since her arrival. The previous book, The Elite, saw America as one of the final six and even as the numbers dwindled the competition has not become any easier. If anything America is beginning to see a side of society, and of Maxon, that has her questioning her reasons for staying and the state of her emotions. Cass has written America as the lowly, poor girl who could change the world for the better, but it will be interesting is that is indeed the course the final book takes. Though Cass has upped the anti as far as the serious tone of the book, it still retains love as its main theme. For anyone who loves the idea of becoming a princess and the changes, positive or negative, this brings, the Selection series is an entertaining read!

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Raging Star (Dustlands series) by Moira Young – May 13, 2014

This is the book I have been waiting for. Blood Red Road (the first book) is one of the best teen novels I have read in years. The Dustlands series follows Saba, a rebellious, stubborn young woman fighting (quite literally) for those she loves and securing them lives that are worth living. Despite victory against DeMalo and his Tonton army in the previous book, Saba will continue to lead a resistance against DeMalo’s new social order while harboring a secret of her own. I loved the Saba from Blood Red Road and I really hope Young reverts back to this version and leaves the common-sense abandoning, emotionally-volatile Saba of Rebel Heart behind. I have really high expectations for Raging Star so fingers crossed it ends the series with a memorable bang!

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City of Heavenly Fire (Mortal Instruments series) by Cassandra Clare – May 27, 2014

While I have read the first book, City of Bones, my attention wasn’t grabbed enough to continue reading the rest of the series as they were released. However, there is no denying the popularity of the Mortal Instruments series with the first novel being made into a movie and this being the sixth, and final, book. I can’t think of too many series that reach beyond three or four books, so for that mere fact alone I will put City of Heavenly Fire on this list. The Shadowhunter society is crumbling and Clary, Jace, Simon and their friends must band together one last time to stand against an unbeatable foe, Clary’s own brother. This final act will demand sacrifices made in another world. No doubt fans around the world are rejoicing and mourning the arrival of the final book in this series.

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Push (The Games series) by Eve Silver – June 10, 2014

Push follows the first book of the series, Rush, in which Miki Jones was pulled into a world where fighting an alien race called the Drau might be much like a video game if not for the fact that players don’t get multiple lives. It is an escape of sorts for Miki however, who seeks to forget the grief that clouds her everyday life. In Push the game takes a new turn and Miki will begin to question the game’s overseeing force, the Committee, as it begins to lose hold on the very rules that give the game structure. And it is when the game begins to creep into Miki’s life that she will truly begin to understand what is at risk. Rush was a fresh story and it seems Silver will continue this with the release of Push!

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Sinner (Shiver series) by Maggie Stiefvater – July 1, 2014

This book will fall under the category of novels that I have yet to read but have heard nothing but great things about the series. Couple that with the fact that I believe Maggie Stiefvater is one of the best Teen novel writers at this time explains why Sinner has found its way onto this list. In the Shiver series the main character Cole St. Clair has a secret, one many believed was due to his stardom and subsequent downfall, but only a few truly know its source. Isabel was one of those few and even though she was a keeper of this secret a love grew between them. It was not fated however and they soon slipped from one another’s lives. But things have changed once again and now Cole has returned to Isabel’s life and his presence will attract the same dangers it did before. The release of Sinner may be just the thing to prompt me to read the series leading up to this release.

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The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave Series) by Rick Yancey – September 16, 2014

In one of the more popular releases from 2013, The 5th Wave, Cassie Sullivan wandered alone, constantly avoiding the human look-alikes called “Others” who have taken over the planet with deadly speed and intentions, while still holding out on the hope that she is not the last human left. In The Infinite Sea Cassie’s defiance, coupled with the insubordination from small group of human survivors, will provoke the wrath of the Others in a way she could never imagine. This is a series I have not yet read (believe me, my piles of to-read books are only getting higher and higher!) but the reviews, from both professionals and every day readers, have praised the first book The 5th Wave as a must read. If you enjoyed the first book, May 6th will be an exciting day for you!

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Mortal Heart (My Fair Assassin series) by Robin LaFevers – November 4, 2014

2014 seems to be full of books bringing series to their ends. Mortal Heart concludes the My Fair Assassin series with the story of Annith who has been guarded and kept safe to become the coveted Seeress of the convent of St. Mortain. It is not necessarily the life Annith has hoped for, watching her fellow sisters be trained and sent out into the world to kill. Despite her future obligations Annith will defy what is expected of her and escape the walls of the convent into a world she barely knows or understands. I gained a new respect for this series after reading Dark Triumph which restored my faith in the concept mostly due to the feral and cold character of Sybella. Annith has always seemed somewhat innocent in the previous two books but maybe LaFevers has a few more surprises up her sleeve. With a good mixture of historical fiction and strong female leads, I’ll be sure to scoop this one up quickly when it finally comes out!

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Blue Lily, Lily Blue (Raven Cycle) by Maggie Stiefvater – November 1, 2014

Yes, I may be fangirling a bit at the moment. As mentioned previously, Maggie Stiefvater is one of my two favourite Teen authors and any time I see her name I get extremely excited. Especially in anticipation of what new elements Stiefvater will add to this series. As the previous books have focused on Gansey and Ronan, it is exciting (and no surprise really when the title is taken into consideration) that this novel will dive deeper into Blue and all the interesting things going on in her mind. I cannot stress how much I am looking forward to this release!

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Dark Triumph by Robin LaFevers

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“I have done what I was told to do, what I promised I would do. I have risked much and ventured back into my worst nightmares, all because I believed the abbess- believed that even though she did not like me, her service to Mortain would ensure that she would be truthful with me, see me as a useful tool, if nothing else. But clearly I have been duped and have allowed myself to be the worst kind of pawn.
Even worse, I wasn’t able to accomplish the one thing that would have made it all worthwhile- killing d’Albret.”

For those of you who have read the first book in this series, Grave Mercy, get ready for an even better story and more impressive heroine in Dark Triumph. If you who haven’t read the first installment and this is your initial foray into the His Fair Assassin series, get ready for a dark ride through a medieval world full of tension, schemes and action.

In this second addition to the series, Sybella is the leading lady assassin who has been forced back into the midst of her family by the Abbess of the convent where she serves Death, which is as good as being thrown into a nest of snakes. She is driven to the brink of insanity by her past but must now face those memories on a day to day basis as she tries to thwart the plots of the Duke d’Albret and his efforts to corner a young Duchess into marriage to lay claim to her lands and right to the throne. All of this changes when she rescues the Beast of Waroch, a man who is different than her in every way possible from size to temperament. As they journey back to the Duchess’ court Sybella finds salvation in the most unexpected of places and gathers the courage to finally put an end to guilt of her past.

First off, I loved Sybella. In my eyes she was an immense improvement as the main heroine compared to Ismae from the first book. Despite being a handmaiden of Death, Sybella is haunted and scared, devoid of any true concern for herself but seeking atonement for past sins by doing every miniscule thing she can to stop the Duke (and the man that society believes is her father). There’s a darkness to her that I thought was completely missing from Ismae in Grave Mercy. What can I say, when I read about an assassin I want to see some edge and obscurity to them.

Overall, the whole book had a much more sinister feeling then the first one did, which is what I would expect from a book about assassins and young women who are the enact the justice of Death. There are some really dark issues in this book; emotional manipulation, murder, incest. There were some points where I was surprised that LaFevers went as far as she did in some directions, especially considering this is a book for young adults and even more so with how light-hearted the first book seemed in reflection. But Dark Triumph seems to be jam packed with darker issues, making up for some of the disappointment from the first novel. The time period of the book is also one that I hold close to heart (I have a Masters in Medieval Studies) so when I think of conniving courts, oppressive lords and peasant society taken to the extreme in fiction, this is what I hope to read.

I was also impressed to see that love and the act of falling in love didn’t become such a central focus until later in the story. It is a teen novel after all so I knew love would enter into the thick of things sooner or later, but I was pleased with LaFevers for holding off as long as she did. I liked Sybella being hard and cold, and to have her fall head over heels in love like some fainting princess would have cheapened her character. And ultimately, after reading the horror story that has been her life, you can’t help but want love for Sybella in the end.

I was somewhat skeptical after reading the first book, Grave Mercy, because it seemed to lack the deadly luster I had been hoping for but Dark Triumph as just as dark as I had hoped for. That darkness is the series redeeming factor for me. I can only hope that it continues in the third book Mortal Heart which is due out in the spring of 2014. If you like a story full of action and a heroine that is dangerous as much as she is flawed, Dark Triumph is a great place to satisfy that itch.

Devon – athousandbooklife

Other books by Robin LaFevers: Grave Mercy (2012) and the Lowthars Blade trilogy

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Starters by Lissa Price

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“She placed one foot in the car, but before she could get inside, a single white spore floated down between us.
It landed on her forearm. She started at it. We both did.
She died a week later.”

Starters by Lissa Price depicts a world where the young no longer have the protection and guidance of their elders and instead find themselves caste to the bottom of the social ladder, unless their youth can benefit the elders who now hold all the cards. Price has certainly taken some steadfast themes of teen- disease, poverty, authority- and written something with a fresh face and interesting plot twists.

Callie is a Starter, a teenager trying to survive in a world where only the very young and the very elderly survive with all people between thirty and sixty killed by genocidal spores, as only the very young and very old received the vaccinations against it. Unfortunately it is the elderly who have claimed all the luxuries of life, leaving those like Callie and her brother Tyler, who suffers from a lung disease, to struggle on the streets and scrounge for even the most simple of necessities. Callie soon discovers the Body Bank, a place where the elderly can “borrow” the bodies of young teens to enjoy their youth and signs a contract to hand her body over to be rented when she sees the financial gains and how it could change the life of her brother for the better. Unfortunately things take a turn for the worse when the Elder renting her body decides to use it for something that clearly goes against the contract and will dramatically change their lives, and the lives of countless others.

When I first heard about Price’s book I was excited. There were multiple aspects of it that intrigued me, particularly the idea that the middle age group was completely gone, which would leave many teenagers without any parents and immediate family members, though you learn at certain points that there is also a select group of privileged teens who live the high life with their grandparents. But the fact remains that a large population of teens are left alone and without the protection of adults, living in the streets because the Elders suppress them, keeping them jobless and constantly on the run. And while the idea of older people going to such extremes to relive their youth might seem outlandish it’s a creative goldmine for a writer, one which Price explored and used with great inventiveness.

Price also did a great job of highlighting the differences in life styles between the Elders and the Starters. She points out how materialistic society can become, even when a large portion of it is suffering and living without the most basic of their human needs being met. Most of the time when the Elders do rent a teen body, they drive fast cars, go to outrageous clubs and use their young bodies to play sports and do extreme activities (like bungee jumping) that their own aging bodies can no longer handle. She also includes some great plot twists, especially the shocker that comes right at the conclusion of the book. Like many teens books there is an aspect of revolution in this story as well, so it is certainly a fast-paced book.

However, when I finished reading Starters I felt like I didn’t really connect with the characters. There was no doubt that Callie was a strong-headed and interesting character, but many of the other characters are only present for such short encounters that you never become emotionally involved in their well being. I found the story slightly disjointed as well, due to some of the gaps in Callie’s memory and the pivotal plot developments that occur during those times which she then has to rediscover later. The last quarter of the book also seemed somewhat rushed to me, with so much happening at once that I was still struggling to digest what was happening when something else vital to the plot took place almost immediately afterwards.

That said, I still enjoyed Starters and believe Price has pulled some extremely interesting themes together and infused them with some great twist and turns. No doubt the little bumps will be smoothed out in the second book of the series Enders which will be released in the new year. Give this book a read if you enjoy the dystopian genre, but are looking for something with a bit of a unique twist!

Devon – athousandbooklife

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The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

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“And one final thought came into her brother’s head as he watched the hundreds of people in the distance going about their business, and that was the fact that all of them – the small boys, the big boys, the fathers, the grandfathers, the uncles, the people who lived on their own on everybody’s road but didn’t seem to have any relatives at all – were wearing the same clothes as each other: a pair of grey striped pajamas with a grey striped cap on their heads.”

As a historian you gain an intimate familiarity with the more sensitive topics in our past. The Holocaust and the horrors of World War II is one of the more recent tragedies that the modern population is aware of and is remembered because of how many people and families it touched. I’ve always been a firm believer that while it happened over half a century ago, it must be remembered and recognized. How this is done in literature is often a touchy subject, particularly when trying to teach the younger generations. John Boyne has written a wonderfully, but respectfully, touching story of two young boys, Bruno and Shmuel, who live on different sides of a fence.

This review won’t be as in-depth as those that I have written previously. And I won’t be reviewing The Boy in the Striped Pajamas as much as giving a nod of my head to Boyne for handling such a sensitive issue with such humility and integrity, while still weaving a story that is educational in the reality of how worlds collided during that trying time and how a young boy might have seen it.

Much as I have always believed these stories need to be told, I also firmly believe that one of the more appropriate ways to do so in through the eyes of a child. It allows a way of relaying events of a serious nature but with the innocence that allows it to be read by a younger audience. When reading the Author’s Note Boyne makes a statement that resonated with me:

The issue of writing about the Holocaust is, of course, a contentious matter, and any novelist who explores it had better be sure about his or her intentions before setting out. It’s presumptuous to assume that from today’s perspective one can truly understand the horrors of the concentration camps, although it’s the responsibility of the writer to uncover as much emotional truth within that desperate landscape as he possibly can.

Throughout the writing and rewriting of the novel, I believed that the only respectful way for me to deal with this subject was through the eyes of a child, and particularly through the eyes of a rather naïve child who couldn’t possibly understand the terrible things that were taking place around him.

He wrote Bruno as that naïve child. The German son of the camp’s overseer has no idea of what sits outside his window and even when he meets a young Jewish boy named Shmuel he can only make childishly appropriate explanations for the differences in their appearance and situation. As the reader, who is aware of where Bruno lives and what is happening to Shmuel, you cannot help but be slightly annoyed with Bruno’s selfish concerns but that, in itself, is the mind of a child.

The age group this book is intended for certainly varies. Adults could read it and respect the seriousness of what was happening even though the eyes of a child. Teens (which is the category where this book is usually found) could read it and learn about a dark time of our history without some of the more horrific details found in other venues. Whether or not this is suitable for younger readings, such as twelve and under, is a judgment call. The book is written in a simple manner and so in regards to the reading level it would acceptable. However, the topic itself might make it appropriate only for a reader who has a sense of maturity and could handle the more serious elements of the story, which while masked by a child’s naivety, can still be detected.

John Boyne has taken a sensitive approach to a truly sinister element of history in The Boy in the Striped Pajamas and written a story that teaches about this time while still being respectful for the lives lost during it as well. For the reader the fence represents the division between two very different worlds, but for Bruno the fence was merely something that kept him from playing with another small boy named Shmuel who for some reason always wore grey striped pajamas.

Devon – athousandbooklife

Other books written by John Boyne: He has published numerous books for both adults and younger readers.

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