YA Reviews for April 2014

THE HERE AND NOW
By Ann Brashares
Random House Children’s  (Apr 8, 2014)
Genre:  YA    Reviewer:  Donna Keihle

Blurb:  This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve not from a different country but from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness have mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.

Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth. But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

This is from Ann Brashares, the #1 New York Times bestselling author of The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants series and it is a complex, thrilling mystery of two teenagers compelled to find out thetruth in a world where the adults aredetermined to keep it a secret.

This is an excellent read with deep layers, several surprises and a bitter sweet ending.  I hope this isn’t the last we’ll see of Prenna and Ethan.

 

NO MORE GODDESSES
by Kim Baccellia
ZUMAYA THRESHOLDS,
May 2013  3.5 Stars   Reviewer:  Shannon Kennedy

Blurb:

Jordan Lake discovers an ancient bracelet in her grandmother’s house and uncovers a family mystery that links her favorite actress, Audrey Hepburn, a romantic movie, and an aunt she never knew. Jordan hopes the bracelet will bring her love. Instead, it brings one nightmare after another, unleashing Hathor, the Egyptian love goddess, who decides it is fun to mess with the McKnight High School social scene. Jordan holds the key to vanquish Hathor, but will she figure out what it is in time to save her school, one of her best friends, and get a date to the Valentine’s Day dance?

 Review:

Fifteen-year-old Jordan Lake longs for romance with the guy of her dreams, McKnight High School basketball star, Ethan Taylor. She desperately wants him to invite her to the Valentine Dance. However, she has a problem. How does she catch his attention when he barely knows she’s alive? Her best friend tries pushing Jordan into Ethan’s path, but that doesn’t work either. Will finding a magic bracelet at her grandmother’s do the trick?

Maybe, but Jordan soon learns that magic comes with a price. She may be able to see the future and which guy and girl should get together, but this isn’t her power. It’s borrowed from Egyptian love goddess, Hathor who enjoys playing pranks. These escalate with each passing day and Jordan needs to find a way to defeat her new nemesis.

This is a sweet, cozy fantasy aimed for more of a middle-grade than young adult audience. Fast paced, it needs more description so the reader will feel more of a connection to the ensemble cast. The characters are nice kids, but somewhat one-dimensional. Jordan is cute and has a bratty younger brother who loves animals and cookies. He can be bought with Oreos – better keep a package handy. Ethan, the object of Jordan’s love actually was a nice kid who wasn’t particularly interested in any of the girls who wanted him. It would have been wonderful to learn who he did like, but this was a gap in the story. Best friend, Selena was fairly well drawn and the reader learns a few facts about her Mexican-American culture. Andrew, the guy with the locker next door, was a sweetheart – a bit too sweet for his own good. Even the antagonist, the clichéd mean girl and her hangers-on needed more depth.

The link to actress Audrey Hepburn and Egyptology should fascinate readers. It adds to the setting, but doesn’t overpower it. Yet, the gaps in the family history should have caught Jordan’s attention before. It wasn’t just the mysterious great-aunt, but other unanswered questions came to mind as well. We never learn what happened to Jordan’s grandfather. Who is he and what happened to him? Does her dad have any stories about his father? What does Andrew look like?

Other than these gaps, this was a nice introduction to a heroine who deals with the unexpected and one can hope that Jordan returns in another fantasy adventure.

WATCHER OF THE WORLDS

by Brinda Berry 

Renegade YA ~ December 2013 – 5 Stars   Reviewer:  Shannon Kennedy

Blurb:

Senior year should bring fun, friends, and happiness. Not portals, treachery, and murder.

Seventeen-year-old Mia Taylor, gatekeeper to an inter-dimensional portal, wants nothing more than to heal from her romance gone wrong. Illegally falling for her co-worker Regulus had been a huge mistake. But when Regulus goes rogue to hunt down a murderer, Mia must forget her broken heart and use her unique abilities to save him. Traveling across dimensions, she enters a strange and hostile world where a rebel faction holds the key to their escape. Her gift of synesthesia is in high demand, and a secret organization of the otherworldly kind has her in their sights. But sabotage and murder may be the least of her worries. Her ex-boyfriend wants a relationship. Her dad wants her to act normal. Her friends want her to stop moping. Who knew faking happy would be the easiest part of senior year?

Review:

Christmas should be a happy time of year, but not for seventeen-year-old Mia Taylor, a girl with strong synesthesia. She can sense portals to other dimensions and see the truth that others try to hide. In this third book of the Whispering Woods series, Mia struggles to deal with the hand that life dealt her. She knew that falling in love with Regulus, an Enforcer from another dimension, wasn’t allowed, but couldn’t help it. After a “memory cleanse”, he barely remembers their romance and she has to deal with the heartache of losing her first love. Worst of all, he’s still active in her world and only sees her as a friend. As if that isn’t a big enough issue, she’s being tormented by a stalker. If she won’t give him her undivided attention, he’ll kill what she loves and that includes her family, friends and ex-boyfriend.

Of course, Mia links up with her friends to track down this disgusting piece of humanity – whoops, he isn’t “human” by our lights since he’s a visitor from a different realm. When he crosses dimensions, she connects with friends and her ex to track down the killer. However, simply by entering a new world, she discovers that she has broken more than one law. Now, her new allies will turn out to be lawbreakers and Regulus works for the very government they fight. What can she do? What will she do to survive?

This book probably should be read as the third in a series, not as the introduction to Whispering Woods. However, that being said, it was impossible to stop reading this smoothly paced, well-plotted story. Mia is multi-faceted. Yes, she grieves over her former relationship, but she is determined to stand on her own. When the stalker attacks, she stands up to him and doesn’t wait for Regulus to rescue her. However, it must be said that this antagonist crosses certain boundaries that won’t be acceptable to younger readers. The book is definitely for older teens because it has more of a New Adult slant than a Y/A tone. The same goes for the dialogue which always advances the action – no unnecessary verbiage here. Everything that’s said is important. What’s understated is equally as crucial.

The supporting cast of characters seemed realistic, especially Mia’s older brother. Like her friends, he had his struggles and flaws, but it was possible to relate to him. Mia’s single-parent father was especially sympathetic. He loves both his kids and readers should be able to see the way he tries to “give them roots and give them wings.” The world-building in any fantasy novel needs to support the plot and Ms. Berry makes sure that the earthly and other dimensions mesh, but are totally different. This is an author’s job, but a skilled one like Ms. Berry allows her protagonist to reveal the nuances of each realm. We see what Mia does when she visits this new dimension and face the dangers with her.

Again, this is the third book in the series and while it can stand alone, it would be even better if it was read after the first two, The Waiting Booth and Whisper of Memory. After visiting Whispering Woods in those novels, it will be even more enjoyable to return to Watcher of Worlds. Knowing the backstory will make this book even more appealing.

AJ Nuest Interview

AJ NUESTImage

Born in northern Wisconsin as the middle child or three girls, AJ now calls Northwest Indiana home, along with her husband, two children and several pets.

Her works include SHE’S GOT DIBS,  JEZEBEL’S WISH and THE GOLDEN KEY CHRONICLES releasing in April.

Q:  Tell us about your new release.

The Golden Key Chronicles is a time-travel fantasy romance that was originally released in four installments through HarperImpulseUK—Rowena’sKey, Candra’s Freedom, Caedmon’s Curse and Braedric’s Bane. On April 17, 2014 the series is being released as a whole under the title The Golden Key Chronicles and includes a FREE bonus story! Whoo Hoo! I also just found out the book is going to print in May of this year! As you can see, I’m very excited!

Q:  What led you to write this book?

Well, I’ve always had a deep love for the fantasy genre, and fantasy with elements of romance in particular. That’s the genre I gravitate toward when looking for something to read. I knew I would eventually write a fantasy romance, but wasn’t quite ready to tackle the world building and complex layering that are inherent in the genre when I first started out. After working as an content editor for a few years and writing two contemporary romance novels, I finally felt ready, so one day I just sat down and began the story. What I didn’t count on was having it turn into this epic story with a spin-off and four more installments in the works.

Q:  Have you had an interesting experience in the research of one of your books?

I did, actually. With Rowena’s Key I had a really cool research experience. When I first began the story, I knew right away I wanted to use the name Rowena for my heroine. I have no idea why—other than I wanted a unique name and something that sounded timeless since she travels between modern day Chicago and 14th Century England. It wasn’t until I was about halfway through the story I found myself researching her name to find the etymology behind it. Turns out, there’s a famous Rowena from history, a beautiful femme fatale who won the Saxons a foothold in Kent by seducing the British King Vortigern. However, because of the lack of information surrounding her character, most historians regard her as fictitious. She’s also credited as being the original evil step-mother and the inspiration behind several fairy tale characters such as the witch in Hansel and Gretel, and the Arthurian sorceress Morgan Le Fay. When I read that, I knew I had to use it in my story. I took certain elements from the legend and wove them into the plot so that I didn’t mar the history, and I also gave a second side to the story. It was fabulous!

Q:  What books have most influenced your life?

Tough question! Pretty much everything I read influences me one way or another. Here’s the thing. When a person becomes an editor, they don’t read the same way they used to. Everything within a story is given more scrutiny, more attention, if you will. When I read now, I pay close attention to POV, verb usage, dialogue, plot, characterization, GMC, you name it. If I like what I see I make notes about how the author crafted a certain scene or the set up to the conflict, etc., and try to emulate those qualities in my own stories.

Q: If money were not an object, where would you most like to live?

My husband and I have discussed this topic at length. I think I’d like to live near Lake Tahoe. That location has everything. A person can go sunbathing and snow skiing all on the same day. And those views! WOW! Living in the mountains near a clear lake sounds like the idyllic spot to me.

Q: What is the one question you wish an interviewer would ask you?

 What it’s really like being an author. It’s not at all what people imagine. At least, it’s not what I imagined prior to becoming an author. There is zero glamour involved—unless I decide to throw glitter at the screen. I spend most days glued to the computer in my bathrobe. I mutter to myself a lot and have a hard time concentrating on conversations because I usually have a stream of dialogue running in my head…and, according to my eleven year old daughter, I rarely finish my sentences. Sleep goes out the window. Forget sleep. Those days are behind you. These days, authors are basically responsible for running their own business so, besides the creative aspect, we also handle marketing, promotions, sales, contractual obligations, edits and deadlines. Then there’s the rejections, the reviews, the overall angst involved in waiting for a release. You must have the skin of a rhino and be slightly demented if you plan to succeed as an author.

To learn more about AJ visit her website at:

Paty Jager Interview

 Historical/Adventure author PATY JAGERPATY JAGER

Growing up in the Northeast corner of Oregon, riding horses and reading were Paty’s favorite pastimes. She  spent hours roaming the Wallowa Mountains on her horse, Junebug, and making up stories in her head. Her school lunch hours were spent reading anything she could get her hands on, usually Victoria Holt and Phyllis Whitney.  After reading LaVyrle Spencer’s,Hummingbird, she knew she had to write historical western romance.

Along with writing, she also teach writing workshops online, at writers meetings, and at writing conferences. She enjoys helping others learn the craft of writing. She especially enjoys going in the classrooms with other members of the local writing group to promote the 4th Grade Picture Book contest and help the children learn how to write and illustrate a good story.  A good part of her summer is spent traveling around the state judging 4-H and open class county fair textile and foods exhibits. A perk from being a 4-H leader for over twenty years and a 4-H program assistant for nearly ten.

Q:  Tell us about your new release.

A: Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star is the third book in the Isabella Mumphrey series. Isabella is a doctor of anthropology specializing in Native American Cultures. In the first book, Secrets of a Mayan Moon, she was lured to the Guatemalan Jungle with the chance to make a discovery that would help fund her department. But instead she found drug traffickers, artifact smugglers, and a sexy Venezuelan DEA agent.  In the second book, Secrets of an Aztec Temple, Isabella travels to Mexico City and infiltrates the very drug lord her hot Venezuelan has sworn to avenge and becomes caught up in a struggle of power between cartels and DEA agents. In book three, Secrets of a Hopi Blue Star, Isabella is engaged to the sexy Venezuelan who is now a border patrol agent and they are living in Phoenix, Arizona. Her aunt, who is Hopi, asks Isabella to visit and explore a newly found cave with carvings. Her aunt has an ulterior motive; imparting information she has about a human trafficking ring. Isabella leaves the reservation believing she is about to find a kiva that has to do with the Hopi Fourth World exodus: Instead she finds a traitorous DEA agent from their Mexico mission is out to kill her and her lover, her family isn’t what she thought it was, and she stumbles upon a human trafficking operation.

Q:  What led you to write this book?

A: The first book was dreamed up and written on a dare. I complained a book that was toted a female Indiana Jones had been misrepresented. A writer friend asked me how I would write one and Isabella Mumphrey was born. I’ve had a wonderful time stretching my intelligence to fit her genius status and make a fun action-packed read that is believable and entertaining. When I started the series, I had planned to send Isabella all over North, Central, and South America using her knowledge of Native American cultures as her means of traveling. I brought her to Arizona in this book to have her connect with her Hopi roots and to continue the progression of the drug trail into the U.S. and to show the connection of drugs and human trafficking. While I like to write fun entertaining stories, I also like to show justice happening even if it is only fictional.

Q:  Have you had an interesting experience in the research of one of your books?

A: I could have had an interesting experience if my husband would have been on board with me traveling to Guatemala and Mexico City… L I wanted to travel to the two places to help enhance the flavor of the stories, but he felt it was too dangerous. Instead, I used google maps, YouTube, and meeting people who had been to the countries as my “eyes” in those countries to make the stories sound like I’d been there. For this book the interesting thing I ran across was an elite team of Native Americans who help patrol the Tohono O’Odham Indian Reservation looking for illegals and drug runners coming over the border from Mexico. They’re called Shadow Wolves had are part of Immigration Customs Enforcement (ICE) and Department of Homeland Security. They’ve been used in the Middle East to track down militants and are used in Arizona to track the drug runners. I was fascinated and wish I could have learned even more but what I did learn I used and had my own elite team I named Shadow Eagles.

Q:  Are there any new authors that have grabbed your interest?

A: Lately I’ve been reading books by my author friends and most of them are established. I have such a limited amount of pleasure reading time that I tend to stick with the writers I know and love. Ninety percent of my reading is done for research for the book I’m writing or the next book.

Q: What do you hope readers take with them after reading your work?

A: I hope readers put my books down and feel they were on an entertaining journey that took them away from any troubles they were having and made them smile and possibly chuckle once in a while. And if they learned something that’s a plus. I try to put as much history in my historicals as I can for the time and place, and detail and information in my contemporaries to not only make the story believable, but also maybe also enlightened the reader just a bit.

Q:  Which character would you like to be friends with in RL?

A: Which of my characters? I like all of my heroines. They each have a feistiness that makes them fun and unpredictable.  Along with that is a caring, loyal side that would make them good friends.  But if I had to choose just one…I think it would be Isabella. While she’s brainy, she’s also a bit naïve and trusting.  Watching her use the items in the survival tin would be fun to see. Did I not mention that earlier? Isabella has an Altoids tin filled with survival items that she uses to get out of tight situations. It’s part of her character and who she is.

For more info on Paty and her body or works visit:

www.patyjager.net           www.patyjager.blogspot.com

 

Winner Graphic - No Horse-2

Review – CALLER OF LIGHT by TJ Shaw

CALLER OF LIGHT
by T J Shaw
The Wild Rose Press (Nov 2012)

Reviewer:  Laurel Newberry

It is such a joy to find a book that has everything,  one that lives up to its back-cover blurb. T. J. Shaw offers an exciting new spin on familiar story lines that include a touch of Cinderella crossed with  Katniss from The Hunger Games.

Carina McKay is an outsider. With one parent of royal blood,    she’s not nobility, yet not a servant either. The only comfort        In her mundane existence is her love of Critons, the large        fire-breathing creatures that protect the border of her         homeland. But her destiny changes forever the day she catches the eye of King Marek Duncan.

Marek’s heart is closed to love. After an arranged marriage      withers to a bitter end, he dedicates his energy to      protecting his kingdom. Yet he’s searching for something     more–the Caller of Light, the one who summons Critons.

Carina’s beauty and willfulness intrigue Marek, and he’s determined to have her. When his enemies try to come          between them, he discovers just how much he will endure       to protect her. Together, they can unlock a love that binds their souls, but only if they find the strength to follow their       hearts.

Carina, our heroine, is the illegitimate daughter of King McKay who secretly spends time with the Critons, the dragon-like creatures who are at the base of the kingdom’s power.  McKay also has a legitimate daughter, Marissa, whom he is offering as bride to King Marek Duncan of Stirrlan.

Marek Duncan is not the typical handsome prince, riding to the rescue. He is a divorced King who is seeking a way to strengthen his holdings by forming an alliance with McKay. And since Marissa is rumored to be the next Caller of Light, a woman who draws the Critons (dragons), he has come to court her.  When he meets Carina on his way to the palace he is intrigued by her, and

Since I don’t want to offer any spoilers I’ll simply say that Caller of Light offers a world of adventure, dragons,  mystery, a handsome young King, and diabolical betrayal. The writing is lovely, the pacing is excellent, the twist and turns are delightful, and the characters are beautifully drawn.  I whole-heartedly recommend Caller Of Light, and will be anxiously awaiting more from T.J. Shaw.

 

Blood on the Moon DQC