March YA Reviews

FOOLS GOLD by Lynn Lovegreen

Prism Book Group (Dec 2013)    4 Stars   Reviewed by Shannon’s SpaceFools Gold

This debut novel was a fun, sweet, new adult romance with an old-fashioned tone. Eighteen-year-old Ellie Webster sets off on the adventure of a life-time when she heads to gold rush Alaska with her younger brother to save the family farm. The young duo needs to raise money to settle a debt that their now deceased father incurred. Ellie doesn’t expect to fall in love along the way, especially not with a saloonkeeper. Duke Masterson may operate a saloon, but there is more substance to him than Ellie thinks. Slowly, she begins to realize she might have found the man of her dreams. Skagway, Alaska in 1898 was a wild, raucous place that comes to life in Lovegreen’s book. The reader gets a good view of everyday pleasures and problems, such as Soapy Smith, the con-artist determined to steal a fortune. When Ellie and her brother fail to make it to the gold-fields, she starts baking pies and selling slices to the miners. Ellie isn’t sure what she wants. Is it a husband or her independence? Does she want to share her life with the man who courts her or does she want to send him away? Well-developed characters and a beautifully described setting make the story come to life for the reader. Duke Masterson is a charming, wonderful, handsome hero. He could have used a few flaws. The way he chooses to earn a living really isn’t one of them since he won’t serve alcohol to underage drinkers, a bit of a stretch in 1898. He also doesn’t have saloon girls, or cheat his customers. He’s determined to earn a decent living by selling booze to the miners. Along the way, he helps people, not just Ellie. As a hero, he’s an all-around “nice” guy and Ellie is a very “nice” girl who reminds the Skagway locals of the women they left behind. That makes this book, a nice cozy romance with an old-time feel, the perfect way to enjoy a rainy evening, perhaps with a piece of apple pie.

INTO THE DEEP by Missy Fleming

Fire and Ice YA ~ January 2014    4.5 Stars    Reviewed by Shannon’s SpaceInto the Deep

Blurb: No one understands the fury of the ocean like Zoey.

Turning sixteen can be a watershed moment in any girl’s life, but for Zoey, it means discovering who and what she truly is – a mermaid. Wow, what a hook! The victim of a devastating accident when she was six, Zoey deals with a prosthetic leg and feels like she’ll never be accepted by her peers. Then a trip to the beach shows her a whole new world. She is a mermaid, a princess and she decides to explore what this actually means. She can talk to sea animals and makes a new friend, a dolphin that in turn helps her find the father that she’s always missed. She’s a princess in this new underwater realm, but it doesn’t make her life easier. Zoey soon learns that her royal family faces an enemy determined to destroy them. She wants to help them and along the way help herself. She needs to save not only this new world, but the one she left behind. She isn’t alone in this struggle. There are others who will help her like Nerio, a young mer that she finds as brave as he is handsome. He has issues with the fact that she is from a higher class than he is and attempts to keep his distance from her. However, being strong, smart and resilient, Zoey won’t back down from the challenge he represents. She can catch her mate and keep him, or not. It’s up to her and he’s in trouble. The sparks between them could definitely set the ocean on fire! They’re a fun couple. It’s always difficult to build a believable fantasy world, but Ms. Fleming manages this very successfully. When she describes the ocean, we see the garbage, the debris left by humans from a sodden diaper to an abandoned suitcase. Then, Zoey views the multi-dimensional colors of other sea creatures as well as herself. The descriptions don’t slow the pace of the story, but add to it. The same is true of the sharp, sassy dialogue which is never overloaded with tags. Still, there isn’t any difficulty in knowing who speaks. When Zoey visits her father, she learns that his marriage is a political alliance. Her stepmother and half-sister definitely have understandable issues with Zoey, but this becomes a bit contrived. Zoey is far too reasonable and polite with them for a sixteen-year-old girl. It would be more natural for her to express what she honestly thinks and then regret it later. The same is true with her assigned “maid” who has a very snarky turn of phrase. She rudely informs Zoey of what she needs to know and again she tolerates it to obtain the information. This level of maturity in a heroine is truly amazing, but somewhat unbelievable in a teenager who wasn’t raised in the royal environment. Yet, Zoey seems as if she could definitely lead the next generation of mer-people into the future and most readers will eagerly await the next installment in her adventures.

THE TYRANT’S DAUGHTER By J.C. Carleson

Random House Children’s (Feb 11, 2014)    Genre: Teens & YA Score: 5!    Reviewed by Donna KeihleThe Tyrant's Daughter

I was immediately drawn into this book. In the author’s note she refers to this as a “big story told in small details” and it was done perfectly. It is the story of Laila who was ripped from her country by the CIA during the coup that killed her father and dropped into America with little understanding of what happened. Shocked to discover the person she saw as a loving father is referred to as a tyrant and a dictator she seeks answers and understanding until she learns to everything there is a price. Carleson humanizes a complex situation and brings to light a point of view we seldom see in this country. It’s not a story you walk away from feeling good but rather enlightened. I highly recommend this book.

SECOND HEARTS and STORM SHELLS by G.J. Walker-Smith

Books 2 & 3 in the YA romance Wishes Series   (Amazon Digital Services, Inc 2013).  Reviewed by Donna KeihleSecond Hearts

When book 1 ended, Adam had returned to New York and Charli had left for her adventure. In book 2 she travels to New York to see if what she had with Adam was real. There this sweet young woman from Tasmania is introduced to New York high society. They were never the same after that. Charli is reminiscent of a series Storm Shellsof books I read decades ago called CLAUDIA with her sweet, naive steadfastness to remains true to herself. Adam turns out to not be quite the prince she fell in love with and at the end of book 2, well, things looked grim for this couple. In Book 3 Adam follows Charli back to Pipers Cove. Can two people who are so in love with so little in common find a way? This is a wonderfully written story, a must read for any age. The layers to the characters is amazing. The series is captivating and not one you want to miss but be sure you start with the first book.

GHOST HAND by Ripley Patton

Publisher: Ripley Patton    Genre: YA Paranormal    Rating: 5    Reviewed by Book BabblesGhost Hand

To understand the background of this novel it’s best to provide the blurb from the jacket: “Seventeen-year-old Olivia Black has a rare birth defect known as Psyche Sans Soma, or PSS. Instead of a right hand made of flesh and blood, she was born with a hand made of ethereal energy. How does Olivia handle being the girl with the ghost hand? Well, she’s a little bit morbid and a whole lot snarky. “ I loved the whole concept of PSS—one body part is ghostly (could be hand, arm, leg, nose)—and the different and strange powers that come along with PSS. I also enjoyed the storytelling. This action-packed novel grabs you from the first sentence and the story just keeps going as a group of PSS teens face a powerful organization of PSS haters and twisted scientists who have their own plans for the teens. Toss in a little potential for romance, some deceit, disagreement and tension between the PSS kids and this really becomes a real page-turner. There is suspense, mystery, action, and moments of heartbreak balanced by tears of joy. The second book, Ghost Hold, is already out and a third is on the way. I am definitely planning to read the entire trilogy.

WHAT IN GOD’S NAME by Simon Rich

Publisher: Reagan Arthur / Back Bay Books    Genre: YA Paranormal    Rating: 2.5   Reviewed by Book BabblesWhat in God's Name

I read this for book group. I was really looking forward to it because I knew that Simon Rich had written for Saturday Night Live and could be really funny. Unfortunately, though this book had some funny moments, for the most part I found it to be cynical and a slog. The premise is that God runs a corporation, Heaven Inc. The angels work for the cooperation, doing a variety of jobs for the cooperation, ranging from prayer triage to arranging miracles that are hard to detect, and to helping God open his own fusion restaurant in heaven. I had no problem with the premise and figured it would provide plenty of opportunity for funny commentary on the human condition. However, Rich decided to make Heaven Inc. the most pathetic, dysfunctional, and uncaring corporate environment ever. Even God doesn’t care about humanity anymore and wants to destroy them all and retire to run his Asian Fusion restaurant. The two “good” angels who actually do care are hopelessly immature, socially awkward, and are able to save the world completely based only on happenstance rather than any competent action. I think using one incident in human kind as pathetic could have been funny, as one angel could have been funny. The juxtaposition of competent people against the pathetic, hopelessly and forever lost ones might have yielded more laughs. For me the over-the-top dysfunctionality of both humans and angels, with God being the most dysfunctional of all was too much. In the end, I felt tired and depressed. I did laugh at a couple of bits. But the bits weren’t enough to carry the book. I felt like I was listening to a stand up comedian who had maybe 4 or 5 good jokes at the beginning that stretched too far. At the end I was smiling to be polite but no more laughs were to be had.

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