Category Archives: YA

Review of Altered by Jennifer Rush


Wow! Where do I start!? We always hear people talk about having the memory of an elephant – they never forget a wrong done to them, even if they do forgive that wrong. Well, what if you knew that you were wronged in some manner – living each day caged in a lab is your first clue – but you forgot exactly HOW you were wronged? Would you be able to forgive?

Sam, Nick, Cas and Trev are four young men imprisoned in a basement lab, with little to do but improve their minds and physiques. Their only links to the outside world are Anna and her father, who’s in charge of their care and testing. Anna is the only brightness in their lives, the only measure of sanity. And even she doesn’t know their true purpose.

When the powers that be at the Branch, the organization for which her father works, suddenly decide to remove the boys from her father’s care, Anna protests and is caught up in their escape, thrusting her into a violent world. Her father demands a promise from Sam to keep Anna safe, at all costs, especially from the Branch and Connor, its enigmatic, charismatic head. He also gives Sam the address of a safe house where they’ll be able to find help.

Upon reaching the safe house, they discover its occupant left in a hurry, and without warning. But when Anna discovers a framed picture of Sam’s birch-tree tattoo on the wall, and within the frame a cryptic message addressed to Sam, a desperate search for answers begins. Who are the boys? Why can’t they remember their pasts? How are they connected to each other, and more disturbing, how are they connected to Anna and why do they seem to not be able to resist the overwhelming need to protect her?

What follows is a race against time to discover their true identities and purpose, before the Branch discovers their whereabouts and erases their memories….again.

Jennifer Rush delivers an absolutely thrilling, heart-stopping, page-turning roller-coaster ride in her debut novel! And did I mention the manly torso-bearing scenes? This book is full of muscled hotties! As much as I enjoy YA fantasies, I can often accurately guess the outcome. This one pleasantly surprised me. As is common with a first-person narrated novel, there are many things the reader doesn’t know and may or may not learn during the course of the novel. But I have to say that Anna’s discoveries about her own identity and the betrayal of one of the boys were quite unexpected. While several questions – such as the boys’ connection to Anna and the truth about her own identity – are answered in the story, several more are raised, leaving the reader antsy for the sequel.

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Filed under Book Review, Debut Novel, Writing, YA, YA Authors, YA Novel

Review of Dust Lands: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

WARNING: If you haven’t read this book, there are spoilers ahead.

To escDust Lands - Blood Red Roadape, she will have to fight. To survive, she will have to lead.

I’d heard about this series from a few of the authors I follow on Twitter who’d tweeted about it a month or so ago. Of course I wanted to know what they’re reading, so I looked it up at Barnes & Several things drew me in: the two-line hook above, it was likened to The Hunger Games Trilogy, which I loved, and the cover, which even without the telling series header of “Dust Lands” lets you know that there’s a wasteland and seemingly insurmountable odds happening in this book, sort of a YA Mad Max with a female protagonist. I love that combination. Add in the summary of a young woman who must set off on her own through unknown territory to rescue her twin brother, well, that made this book irresistible to me.

Despite, or maybe partly because of Young’s unconventional use of dialect and lack of dialogue tags (quotations), this book sucked me in right away. It quickly became as addictive as my daily caffeine habit.

Eighteen-year-old Saba is dedicated to her twin Lugh to the exclusion of everything – and everyone – else. Her whole world revolves around him. He was born two hours before Saba, defining their relationship. She describes the two of them succinctly: “Lugh goes first, always first, an I follow on behind. An that’s fine. That’s right. That’s how it’s meant to be…He’s my light. I’m his shadow.” So it’s not surprising that when Lugh is captured by four men in long black robes and leather body armor, and their father killed while trying to prevent the kidnapping, Saba sets off in search of him, undaunted by the unknown, intending to leave their nine-year-old sister, Emmi, in the care of a family friend named Mercy. Saba resents Emmi, whom she blames for their mother’s death in childbirth. Mercy tells Saba about the Tonton, the men who kidnapped Lugh, and the dangers of Hopetown, where Saba believes Lugh’s been taken. Mercy also gives her a heartstone, which had belonged to Saba’s mother, and tells her that it will lead Saba to her heart’s desire. The closer she gets to what she desires, the hotter it will become.

But Emmi refuses to be left behind. She catches up to Saba, who is furious with her, especially when having to look after Emmi gets them captured and Saba sold as a cage fighter, while Emmi is held captive against Saba’s cooperation.

Saba discovers the “red hot” that allows her to survive. “…the red hot kicks in an at last I unnerstand what it is. It’s like animals. A animal will do anythin to live. Even chew off its own leg if it’s caught in a trap. That’s the red hot. An I’m gonna hafta learn to use it if I wanna survive in the Cage.”

Within a month, the populace of Hopetown has dubbed Saba “The Angel of Death.” She’s never lost a fight and is kept segregated from the other female fighters. She meets Epona, a fighter of her own caliber and the first real hope for escape. Epona is a member of the Free Hawks, a band of female warriors, and their leader, Maeve, partners with Saba to free all the cage fighters, rescue Emmi, and escape Hopetown. While planning their move, Saba meets Jack, a fighter on the boys’ side, who stirs unfamiliar feelings within Saba, and makes her heartstone burn, something it’s never done before.

It soon becomes apparent that Emmi doesn’t just favor Saba in looks, she’s also Saba’s mirror in personality, writ small. Though Emmi is a captive herself, she manages to pass messages between Saba and Maeve, and aids in the coup that sets the Cage and Hopetown afire. Literally. When Saba once again attempts to leave Emmi behind, this time with the Free Hawks, Jack intervenes. He’s decided to accompany Saba to Freedom Fields where Lugh is being held, and stubbornly insists that Emmi must come too.

When they reach Freedom Fields, Jack, Saba, Emmi and their friends must face the Tonton, who serve the mad king who has declared that Lugh – a boy of eighteen years born at Midwinter – must die to rejuvenate his majesty. Upon rescuing Lugh, Saba and Jack discover that Emmi has been captured by the Tonton. Fortunately, the sisters’ relationship has evolved from mutual hostility into friendship and Saba is just as determined to rescue Emmi as she was to rescue Lugh.

Colors and shades play major roles in this novel. The black of the Tonton’s uniforms, the soft pink of Saba’s heartstone, Jack’s moonlit eyes, Lugh’s light, Saba and Emmi’s dark. And the red hot that fills Saba when she fights. The red hot changes Saba, tempers her obstinate personality while sharpening her survival skills.

Saba is a heroine to be reckoned with. If you loved The Hunger Games, you’ll adore the Dust Lands series. Blood Red Road is so much grittier, starker and hopeful than The Hunger Games. Dust Lands series is the next big thing in the YA Dystopian realm.


Filed under Book Review, Dystopian, Writing, YA, YA Authors, YA Novel

Book Review – Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & BoneForget everything you’ve ever believed about angels and demons…

As readers, we search for those sometimes elusive books that stay with us and resonate long after we’ve read the last page and closed the cover. Those books we return to again and again for that special something that grabbed hold of our psyche and refused to let go. For me, one of those special books is DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE by Laini Taylor.

If the eye-catching cover hadn’t been enough to draw my attention, the title sure was. It hinted at something mysterious, something painful yet hopeful. And it didn’t disappoint.

This is the poignant tale of a young woman on the cusp of adulthood, a brilliant artist in a modern world, yet the only family she’s ever known exist Elsewhere and though she visits them often, entering through common doors around the world that are enchanted, her life is permeated with unanswered questions about who she really is and where she comes from. Because the hamsas in her palms and the chimaera she calls family aren’t part of the typical human teenage experience. And there’s no reason for the bone-deep attraction and comfortable familiarity she feels around a coldly beautiful, mysterious fiery-winged seraph … is there?

Karou, which means “hope” in the chimaera language, is a seventeen-year-old artist living in Prague. She’s also the courier for Brimstone, the enigmatic chimaera who raised her, a collector of teeth. But what he does with the teeth is what Karou burns to know.

When she enters the forbidden, shadowy door at the other end of Brimstone’s office that has been left uncharacteristically unguarded, her life and the lives of her chimaera family change in ways she never could have imagined and the truths she’s spent years wishing and searching for bring to mind the proverb “Be careful what you wish for.”

A fantastical blend of romance, myth, magic, and the search for one’s true self, this YA fantasy novel struck a cord in my imagination that’s still strumming today, a year after I first picked it up and devoured the words within.

Through Taylor’s mastery and obvious devotion to imagery, my love for the English language was renewed. I envisioned Prague, a city suspended within the grasp of history, and hosts of chimaera danced their way through my imagination. I laughed and cried, raged at Akiva for his heartbroken acts of vengeance and Karou’s insatiable, mistrustful curiosity. And I exclaimed with dismay when I read the last word, realizing that it’d be 12 WHOLE MONTHS before I could continue reading Karou and Akiva’s story!

Somehow, I survived, reread DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE after the release of the sequel, DAYS OF BLOOD & STARLIGHT, which cover and title are equally compelling, and fell in love all over again! And now I have to survive ANOTHER 12 months until the final, as yet unnamed, book in this trilogy is released. Oy vey!

If you haven’t read this book, stop what you’re doing and go buy it now. It doesn’t matter if you buy the printed or e-book version. Just get it and read it. And then read the sequel. Repeat. If you don’t love both books, there’s no hope for you as a reader.

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Filed under Book Review, Fantasy, Literature, Writing, YA