Poison’s Kiss by Breeana Shields, Random House, 2017. ISBN: 9781101937822. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Imagine being tossed away by your parents, living in an orphanage as a very small child. How would you feel? Wouldn’t you attach yourself to someone, anyone who showed you the slightest bit of attention? This is what happened to Marinda. Her life became immensely complicated not long after. She was subjected to endless snake bites on her wrists and ankles, each one heightening her own poisonous, to a point where she become a Visha Kanya, lethal servant of the Raj, able to kill with a kiss.
By the time she realizes the web of control around her, it’s too late because her controller, Gopal, has brought her baby brother to her and every time she tries to rebel, Gopal threatens little Mani. His control only strengthens the one time she tries to run away and now Mani pays a daily price that forces Marinda to kill even though she’s seen things that start her down the path of doubt.
When she’s ordered to kill Deven, a boy she knows through his friendship with the owner of a bookshop she works in part time, that ramps up her questioning of the whole ‘I’m killing bad guys for good causes’ ethos because she knows he’s a very kind and caring boy.
Her doubt sets in motion a series of events that put her in serious peril, Mani in equal peril, costs the life of a friend and land her in prison. Teen lovers of myth-related fiction will follow Marinda, Mani and Deven as their paths cross on the way to solving the mystery of who she’s really been working for as an assassin and how she can free herself and her brother from such a scary and cruel life. The book ends in a satisfying ambivalence…Readers can imagine what happens next, or wait for what I hope is a sequel. In either case they won’t feel cheated. It’s an excellent choice for school and public library collections. The author’s notes at the end explaining where the idea for this story came from and how she developed it are enlightening.
Traitor to the Throne by Alwyn Hamilton, Viking Books for Young Readers (March 7, 2017). ISBN: 9780451477859. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
One hallmark of a good second book in a series is the ease with which a reader can slip into it. When the world, plot and characters are as complex as they are here, finding it easy to re-enter this world speaks highly of the story.
At the end of the first book Amani was intent on freedom and exploring her relationship with Jin. What she finds here is the loss of both for much of the story. Awakening from the effects of her bullet wound would have been enough trauma for most, but Amani isn’t like the majority of women in her war torn world. As soon as she’s able, it’s right back to fighting, using her Demdji powers to help free prisoners. Unfortunately, she soon becomes one herself and after being betrayed by a family member, is trapped in the sultan’s harem.
What happens there, who is an ally and who is a betrayer, not to mention what happens among the ever shifting alliances between the varied warring factions, makes for a gripping and often brutal read. While this is an excellent fantasy, it’s not for the faint of heart and will leave readers hungry for another installment. Prospective readers are encouraged to read Rebel of the Sands first in order to get full benefit from the story.
True Born by L.M. Sterling, Entangled: Teen (May 3, 2016). ISBN: 9781633753198. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Conjoined at their big toes at birth, Lucy and Margot Fox have grown up in a life that is both privileged and a virtual prison. Their father is a powerful government figure in a city ruled by fear and an odd caste system. The fear comes from a resurgence of the plague that has decimated society and, in the process, has led to martial law, desperation and near economic collapse. It’s a frightening time, made more so by guards, secrets and a growing threat from those who are angry and frightened.
The sisters are markedly different. Lucy is the responsible one, but is also more willing to question what she’s fed by her parents. Margot is a rebel, skipping school and meeting boys, ever certain that her sister will cover for her. Her desperation in the face of uncertainty leads her to make foolish and risky choices.
When the threat of violence suddenly escalates, their father brings in Nolan Storm, leader of what are known as True Born, people who seem to have throwback genetic material that allows them to resist the plague. It also gives them unusual traits, but I’ll leave those undescribed so you can read the book. Jared is a True Born assigned to guard Lucy and the more time they spend together, the more the attraction increases as do her questions about her own genetic mix as well as her parents’ honesty.
By the end of the book, readers will feel a bit like a wrung out load of wash as they follow what happens to Margot (hint: it isn’t pretty) and how Lucy feels (she’s not smiling). Readers are well set up for the next book which I hope comes soon.
Josie Griffin is NOT A Vampire by Heather Swain, Speak (September 13, 2012). ISBN: 9780142421000. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
If discovering that your boyfriend has been hooking up with your best friend behind your back, and your other best friend knew, but never told you wasn’t enough to knock you off the rails, then how about ending up in court? That’s what happens to Josie. Granted, she took a baseball bat to her cheating ex’s vintage car’s windshield, but she felt justified. Now she has community service at a home for runaway girls and weekly anger management classes. Humiliating, sure, but then things get really weird. Everyone in her group is different..as in not exactly human and it doesn’t help that she suddenly has the hots for a Greek god. Then there’s the disturbing stuff happening at the girls’ home, like teens vanishing and let’s not mention all the freaky billboards for a new clothing line featuring zombie-like female teens. Is there a sinister connection?
This is a funny and quite intelligent read and one that teens who like their paranormal with nice dashes of snark and romance will very much enjoy.
Glass Sword: Kneel or Bleed. Written by Victoria Aveyard. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin.
Special powers, love and hate, thrilling adventures, self-revelation and fear. If these themes appeal, then this 440 page fantasy (written in a small font) may be just the the book you are looking for. It is an engaging summer read.
Mare Barrows feels separate from the others, and not just because she is royalty. She possesses silver blood and amazing magical abilities to control nature. At first Mare believes she is alone but when she realizes there are others of her ilk, she attempts to unite both the red and silver blooded people in an effort to overcome those that seek to oppress them.
This is a sequel to the New York Times bestseller, Red Queen, and there are a couple of prequels for fans of the series.
Rebel of the Sands by Alwyn Hamilton, Viking, 2016. ISBN: 9780451477538. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Take some 1001 Arabian Nights, add a cup of wild west and a healthy dash or two of dystopia, sprinkle a pinch of romance on top and bake slowly. That’s what you have when you open this book. Amani Al’Hiza is poor, orphaned and female in a desert town where all three are major liabilities. She witnessed the man posing as her father be killed by her mother who was quickly hanged. She’s on tenterhooks most of the time because she lives with her mean uncle and aunt who would like nothing better than to marry her off and make a bit of money. Lucky for her she’s spent countless hours practicing sharpshooting with a pistol. Gunpowder is cheap because it and weapons are the only industry in town.
When she competes in a shooting contest against Jin, a boy who is definitely not a local, she hoped winning the prize will get her enough money to leave town and find her aunt far away. Instead it’s the beginning of an adventure that will involve rebellion, a horrible weapon, love, death, magical creatures, trust and the realization she’s far more than she ever imagined.
There are some pretty neat twists in here as well as plenty of action and interesting characters. Yes, there’s violence, but it is integral to the plot and shouldn’t be a problem when considering adding it to any library, school or public. I greatly enjoyed reading it.
Parallel Jump by Cameron D. Garriepy, CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (March 6, 2012), ISBN: 9781470138981. Reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Young teen Jack is hurrying across Boston Common, late for baseball practice, when he sees two kids fall from a tree. They ask for his help in freeing a strange cord that is tangled in the branches. When he climbs up and works it free, he’s pulled into a parallel dimension. What happens when he gets there, involves bad guys, unknown relatives and a mystery or two. This is a fast, fun read, perfect for adventure loving reluctant readers as well as younger teens liking an enjoyable light fantasy.
Thanks For the Trouble by Tommy Wallach, Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers (February 23, 2016). ISBN: 9781481418805. reviewed by John R. Clark, MLIS.
Disconnection isn’t unusual in your teen years, but Parker Sante has taken it well beyond casual or episodic. He hasn’t said a word in five years. That was when his writer dad was killed in an auto accident. His mom is frozen in her own mix of grief, lost love and anger over his death, something that’s pretty much crippled any meaningful parenting going on. Parker feels invisible at school, preferring not to be there and spends more time sitting in hotel lobbies, watching the guests and seeing what he can pilfer. He’s gotten good at both theft and people watching while writing stories in endless notebooks.
When he spots a silver haired girl with strange eyes sitting in a hotel dining room, he’s intrigued. After stealing the wad of cash from her purse, he tries leaving, but something makes him return and give back the money. This out of character act is the beginning of one of the more unusual literary journeys you will encounter. It involves secrets, belief, lots of sadness, some unexpected growth and is an impressive and memorable adventure, one that’s perfect for teen readers who have suffered loss or really like stories which stretch their imagination while inviting them to reflect after closing the cover. A definite suggestion for all libraries both school and public.
The League of Beastly Dreadfuls. Written by Holly Grant and illustrated by Josie Portillo. Reviewed by Cheryl M Coffin.
This volume is stylistically similar to the Series of Unfortunate Events books. The protagonist is an eleven-year old orphan “rescued” by her aunts and locked away within their Victorian mansion, an old insane asylum that is “protected” by attack poodles with metal jaws.
Anastasia quickly discovers that things are not as they appear. The crazed gardener with a birdcage over his head is really a “shadow” boy, and the elderly aunts are actually part of a larger conspiracy of evil doers, responsible for the disappearance of numerous missing children throughout time.
Children who like humor, fantasy and the supernatural will most likely embrace this book. The characters and storyline have potential but the storyline seems somewhat uninspired and ill defined, and therefore the story never realizes its full potential.
The Last Apprentice: Fury of the seventh son. Written by Joseph Delaney. Reviewed by Cheryl Coffin. This is book thirteen, the final volume in the Last Apprentice series. In this volume, the spook’s apprentice, Tom Ward, rallies supporters to fight against the fiend and his minions in a violent, culminating battle. This ultimate conflict will determine the fate of people, the world over.
I have to admit that I literally breathed a sigh of relief when I realized that the story of Tom Ward continues on in the trilogy known as The Starblade Chronicles. Having said that, I am happy to recommend this excellent series to teens and young adults who enjoy fantasy, supernatural and/or adventure. The entire series is a must-have for any middle-school, high school or public library’s YA section. Due to the explicitness of the violence and some adult situations, this book is not recommended for younger children. The ideal age is 12/13 and up.