RSS

Tag Archives: YA

Book Review: Shadowshaper

Look at that stunning cover! I didn’t even care what the book was about, I knew I had to have it as soon as I saw that cover and I dived right in without even reading the blurb.

shadowshaper

Cassandra Clare meets Caribbean legend in SHADOWSHAPER, an action-packed urban fantasy from a bold new talent.

Sierra Santiago was looking forward to a fun summer of making art, hanging out with her friends, and skating around Brooklyn. But then a weird zombie guy crashes the first party of the season. Sierra’s near-comatose abuelo begins to say “No importa” over and over. And when the graffiti murals in Bed-Stuy start to weep…. Well, something stranger than the usual New York mayhem is going on.

Sierra soon discovers a supernatural order called the Shadowshapers, who connect with spirits via paintings, music, and stories. Her grandfather once shared the order’s secrets with an anthropologist, Dr. Jonathan Wick, who turned the Caribbean magic to his own foul ends. Now Wick wants to become the ultimate Shadowshaper by killing all the others, one by one. With the help of her friends and the hot graffiti artist Robbie, Sierra must dodge Wick’s supernatural creations, harness her own Shadowshaping abilities, and save her family’s past, present, and future.

Firstly, hooray for having a character of colour on the cover of a YA fantasy novel!! Like a million stars just for that. Secondly, hooray for a diverse YA urban fantasy novel! Have more stars! And this novel was written by a real life Puerta Rican from the very suburb in which the story is set. All the stars, book, have them all!! I’m a huge fan of diverse books and an even greater fan of diverse books written by diverse authors.

But okay, onto the story. This was a fun, colourful, different and refreshing read. I don’t read a lot of urban fantasy but I happened to really enjoy the books by Cassandra Clare and can definitely recommend this novel to fans of the City of Bones series. Shadowshaper, however, was a lot more awesome because it felt so fresh. This novel presents Puerta Rican mythology to the reader, something I sadly knew nothing about until I picked up this book. And, despite having been exposed to a great number of books, TV shows and movies set in New York city, this story took me to Latin suburbs I’ve never explored.

While the plot is good and definitely kept me turning pages, there were times in the first quarter or so that left me wondering about the stakes and wondering whether the characters should be more concerned. Turns out they should’ve been, but the story takes just a teeny tiny bit too long to get started. Once it does, however, it kicks into top gear and doesn’t stop until the very last page. I loved discovering the shadowshaping world along with our narrator Sierra, who, having been denied her own heritage, wakes up to who she is on a lot of different levels throughout the story with the help of her wonderful friends and Haitian love interest.

What I truly loved about this book was the characters and the portrayal of Latin, black and mixed-race characters – nothing smacked of tokenism, every character felt real and necessary and an organic part of the story. I also received a crash course in Spanish and NYC slang. The voice is strong but not off-putting and Sierra was extremely relatable. I loved that she took charge and didn’t hesitate putting others in their place when they deserved it, calling out her aunt on racism, her grandfather on sexism and so on. This book explores feminism within the Latin community and closer knit family as well as what it means to be a Latin teenager growing up in NYC. It opened my eyes to a lot of things I never even thought about.

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and am really looking forward to reading more by this author, particularly if his future works contain more Puerta Rican mythology. Fascinating premise, great characters and superb writing, this book scores 4/5 glorious ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

Advertisements
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on August 27, 2015 in Reviews

 

Tags: , ,

Book review: Sea of Shadows

It’s been a while since I’ve read an epic fantasy novel, YA or not. This week’s review is of Sea of Shadows by Kelley Armstrong and marks my first foray into a work by this prolific author. Not knowing Armstrong or any other works, I think probably helped me approach Sea of Shadows without any preconceptions or expectations.

armstrong

 

In the Forest of the Dead, where the empire’s worst criminals are exiled, twin sisters Moria and Ashyn are charged with a dangerous task. For they are the Keeper and the Seeker, and each year they must quiet the enraged souls of the damned.

Only this year, the souls will not be quieted.

Ambushed and separated by an ancient evil, the sisters’ journey to find each other sends them far from the only home they’ve ever known. Accompanied by a stubborn imperial guard and a dashing condemned thief, the girls cross a once-empty wasteland, now filled with reawakened monsters of legend, as they travel to warn the emperor. But a terrible secret awaits them at court–one that will alter the balance of their world forever.

So this blurb just about gives away the entire story. Really. No spoiler warning required because it’s all in the blurb.

I enjoyed Sea of Shadows, although I often found myself wondering why. Most of the book is spent partly with Ashyn as she bumbles through the wastes with her thief turned protector confronting monsters, and partly with Moria as she bumbles through the wastes with her obdurate guard turned friend confronting different monsters. At times, I just wanted the girls to get to court, because that’s where the secret and intrigue awaits, but it’s literally only in the last couple of chapters that the girls make it to court. Granted the ‘secret’ – aka plot twist – is pretty clever and does throw quite the curveball, but the book ends where the blurb does and left me feeling cheated and rather disappointed. I knew this was a trilogy, but I did expect more story and less traipsing through the wastes in the first installment.

Why did I like it then? The characters, or more specifically, the character interactions. The girls are superbly teemed up with boys who act often as foils and sometimes as mirrors. Ronan is a thief who challenges Ashyn’s rather black and white perspective on the world. He’s also been around the block, which makes for some funny and blush-worthy banter between him and the ever so innocent girl. Moria is the antithesis of her sister: brash, opinionated, argumentative and far more open if no less experienced in the ways of the world. Her guard is an equally opinionated warrior, and their scathing repartee (which of course develops from animosity into affection) makes for entertaining reading. I read this book for the characters and I will probably return to finish this trilogy because I have come to care deeply about this foursome.

The weak point in this book is the world-building. We have a forest of restless souls, which come back as the walking undead called shadow stalkers, and these shadow stalkers are only kept at bay by warriors of the North. If it sounds familiar, I guess that’s because GRR Martin called dibs on anything undead strolling around the North. The world also seems to be somewhat influenced by Asian culture with character names like Kitsune and Tatsu and a scene that hinted at the use of chopsticks rather than knives and forks. I really liked the Asian aspects but they seemed few and far between, with the girls – the main heroines – being described as pale, red-headed northerners. There are other characters, however, with darker skin and ’tilted’ eyes. The description of the architecture also seemed odd to me – going from pretty standard Castle Black-like villages to something that called to mind the white-washed abodes of Greece and then perhaps something resembling the Forbidden City. I’m all for a non-Western, non-European fantasy, but this felt like it couldn’t quite make up it’s mind about whether the influences were Western or Eastern. Perhaps the rest of the series will flesh out the world-building a bit more. I hope so, although I’m not sure that will save it from feeling a little derivative.

Come to think of it though, can any epic fantasy these days survive being compared to Martin or Tolkien? Some of the most cliched elements of fantasy are the reasons I love the genre!

Sea of Shadows is a highly enjoyable YA fantasy read with characters you can really care about even if the plot isn’t terribly exciting in this first book. I’m definitely going to read book 2 so Sea of Shadows scores 3.5/5 ink splats from me.

3.5 inksplats

 
1 Comment

Posted by on April 21, 2015 in Reviews, Uncategorized

 

Tags: , ,

Book Review: My Chemical Mountain

Sometime last year, I read a little known YA novel called My Chemical Mountain. To be honest, the title caught my attention because of its similarity to the band name My Chemical Romance. I wasn’t quite sold given the blurb below, but I loved the cover so thought I’d give it a try anyway.

mountain

Rocked by his father’s recent death and his mother’s sudden compulsion to overeat, Jason lashes out by breaking into the abandoned mills and factories that plague his run-down town. Always by his side are his two best friends, Charlie, a fearless thrill junkie, and Cornpup, a geek inventor whose back is covered with cysts. The boys rage against the noxious pollution that suffocates their town and despise those responsible for it; at the same time, they embrace the danger of their industrial wasteland and boast about living on the edge. 

   Then on a night the boys vandalize one of the mills,  Jason makes a costly mistake–and unwittingly becomes a catalyst for change. In a town like his, change should be a good thing. There’s only one problem: change is what Jason fears most of all.

While I have read many disaster-apocalypse novels and a good few dystopians, this was first foray into ‘ecopunk,’ in that the book explores the consequences of pollution, corporate indifference and the effects of industrial waste on the environment. This story has stuck with me not least of all because of the grim, gritty, dark world the story is set in. This is neither a true post-apocalyptic nor a real dystopian story, but rather portrays the reality for many existing industrial towns right now. This is a very scary reality indeed, albeit exaggerated for the sake of fiction, and in many ways reminded me of the Chernobyl disaster and how the surrounding area was and is still affected by radiation today. Oh how I’d love to read a novel set in that vicinity!

What I truly loved about this story, and found so refreshing, was the all-boy main cast when having a strong, female lead is usually prerequisite for any YA novel. Along with the all-male cast, the emphasis in this novel is most certainly on male friendship instead of romance, which is also rare in YA. While I did appreciate this different approach, I must admit that at times this book felt more MG than YA because it was lacking certain tropes I’ve come to expect from YA. I think this novel might appeal more to younger readers, especially boys around the 10-13 age, but can be enjoyed by adults as well. Not that who the target audience should be really matters given how engaging these characters are. There was something so charming about Charlie’s reckless confidence, something endearing about Cornpup’s righteousness and something just undeniably lovable about Jason’s compassion – these are all characters I’ll definitely have a hard time forgetting. While the plot is rather straight forward without many twists or turns, I found the boys’ struggle against their toxic environment and the corporations that govern their lives totally compelling and alarming.

If you’re looking for a short, sci-fi light read with a refreshing focus on boys, friendship and the power one individual can have against a tyrant, then I strongly recommend this book! My Chemical Mountain gets 4/5 ink splats from me.

4 inksplats

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on November 25, 2014 in Reviews

 

Tags: , , , ,

Spotlight: Obscura Burning by Suzanne van Rooyen (YA / LGBT)

Hey everyone, I’m back with another Spotlight post, this time focusing on a title from a South African author, Suzanne van Rooyen. 🙂

suzanne obscura

The Author

Suzanne is a tattooed story-teller and peanut-butter addict from South Africa. She currently lives in Finland and finds the cold, dark forests nothing if not inspiring. Although she has a Master’s degree in music, Suzanne prefers conjuring strange worlds and creating quirky characters. When not writing you can find her teaching dance and music to middle-schoolers or playing in the snow with her shiba inu.

Suzanne is represented by Jordy Albert of the Booker Albert Agency.
Suzanne is also Publicity Manager for Entranced Publishing.

Here’s the blurb:

Kyle Wolfe’s world is about to crash and burn. Just weeks away from graduation, a fire kills Kyle’s two best friends and leaves him permanently scarred. A fire that Kyle accidentally set the night he cheated on his boyfriend Danny with their female friend, Shira. That same day, a strange new planet, Obscura, appears in the sky. And suddenly Kyle’s friends aren’t all that dead anymore. Each time Kyle goes to sleep, he awakens to two different realities. In one, his boyfriend Danny is still alive, but Shira is dead. In the other, it’s Shira who’s alive…and now they’re friends with benefits.

Shifting between realities is slowly killing him, and he’s not the only one dying. The world is dying with him. He’s pretty sure Obscura has something to do with it, but with his parents’ marriage imploding and realities shifting each time he closes his eyes, Kyle has problems enough without being the one in charge of saving the world…

And here’s the Book Trailer:

And for your reading pleasure, an excerpt from the novel. 🙂

Enjoy!

***

1.

Cornflakes; scraps of yellow cardboard polluting perfectly good milk. I wash them down with orange juice, dribbling a little from the corner of my mouth where my lips no longer form a smooth crease. From his cross fixed to the kitchen wall, an emaciated Jesus glares at me, making the cardboard cereal even more difficult to swallow.

I drag the paper over and skim the headlines: Obscura panic despite government reassurances that the world probably won’t end. Department stores got ransacked in Albuquerque amid fears of price gouging. People are really starting to freak out. There’s a snippet on page two about the situation in Iraq, how a bunch of American soldiers are demanding flights home to see family before Armageddon. A picture of the Eiffel Tower lit up with candles and strewn with flowers; a phallic offering to whichever god tossed Obscura into the sky. There’s a whole segment on what Obscura might be doing to the weather. Meteorologists predict the worst hurricane season in centuries, increased seismic activity resulting in more tsunamis and volcanoes. The world might not end, but that doesn’t mean humans won’t get wiped out anyway.

“What are you doing today, son?” Dad asks around the edges of the sports section. He should be scouring the classifieds for a job, not that there’d be much point if the world ends.

“The usual.” There isn’t a hell of a lot to do in Coyote’s Luck. Last couple of summers, Danny and I passed the days out by the dam near the reservation with Shira, or worked odd jobs around town, sometimes even helping out at the ranches farther away. This year we’d both been set for working at Black Paw, an eatery sporting kitsch Indian decor and a Mexican menu. Then the fire happened.

“Didn’t you have a job lined up?” Dad folds the paper and looks at me. His gaze doesn’t linger too long on my face before he’s studying his checkered napkin. Mom usually mediates conversations like this one, but she worked the night shift and is still passed out upstairs.

“You really think they’re going to want me serving kids their tortillas?”

“Why not?” Dad still doesn’t look up.

“You can’t even look at me, Dad. How the hell do you think some kids are going to order food and not end up puking on the table when they see my face?” I smash my bowl in the sink and stomp out of the kitchen, slamming the screen door behind me. Dad calls after me, but I ignore him. Nothing he can say will change my scars.

2.

Scrabbling under my bed, I retrieve an A3 drawing book and bag of colored pens. The first few pages are half-finished comics, a story yet unfinished waiting for my imagination. Then there’s a multicolored map scrawled across several pages, denoting my life: pages filled with boxes, each dated and timed, connected by lines as I try to make sense of what’s happening to me.

With a ruler and green pen, I draw a new box, jotting down the details since waking up at Shira’s.

I glance at my watch just to be sure. Tuesday, 21:47, June 26.

The map is a spaghetti mess of interweaving lines and text boxes. I’m not sure when my life got so complicated. Maybe when I was bandaged in the hospital, delirious in an opiate-induced haze, or maybe in those first few days after Danny’s spinal fusion, days I spent pacing the halls waiting to find out if he’d ever walk again.

My starting point is marked in red. April 6. The night of the fire.

I stash the book under my bed and strip naked. The stink of sex clings to my skin. Girls smell different, ripe and cloying. It’s a smell that gets everywhere. Even my hair reeks of girl-musk.

The tiles are cool against my back as I stand beneath a jet of cold water. Although my burns have healed, the scars are still sensitive. If the water is warmer than tepid it feels like I’m on fire all over again.

Running a hand over my mangled flesh, it’s as if I’m feeling the strange surface of some weird planet. Caressing Obscura perhaps. Her cratered and shale-smeared crust probably looks a lot like my skin. At first it was terrifying, the bubbles and swaths of too smooth flesh, the pink knots and swollen ridges slithering down my belly. Now it’s fascinating, all the warped shapes and odd textures. Surreal really, like it’s not my body that got deep-fried.

Not sure what the big deal is about me not being able to have kids. My left ball only looks a little more wrinkled than before, less hairy and more like a prune. The plumbing works just fine. Sex doesn’t feel the same, but then with a girl, how could it?

***

To order copies of Obscura Burning, check out the following links: Amazon US, Barnes and Noble, OmniLit, The Book Depository. If you’re a member of Goodreads, make sure to add the title at this link.

Check out Suzanne’s website here, and you can also connect with her on Pinterest, Twitter and Facebook

There we go – another interesting title to add to your shelf! 🙂 And thanks to Suzanne for offering the excerpt of her novel. 🙂

Until Friday,

Be EPIC!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on January 22, 2014 in Excerpt, Spotlight

 

Tags: , , , , , ,

 
LAUREGALIE

BOOK REVIEWS

C.T. Phipps

Author of horror, sci-fi, and superheroes.

M.D. Thalmann

M.D. Thalmann, a novelist and freelance journalist with an affinity for satire and science fiction, lives in Phoenix, Arizona with his wife, children, and ornery cats, reads too much and sleeps too little.

Greyhart Press

Publisher of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Thrillers

Joseph D'Lacey

My pen is my compass. I appear to have lost my pen.

This Is Horror

The Voice of Horror

reviewsm8

Book, comic and sometimes film reviews

The Talkative Writer

Musings by speculative fiction author Karen Miller

Cohesion Press

The Battle Has Just Begun

Indie Hero

Brian Marggraf, Author of Dream Brother: A Novel, Independent publishing advocate, New York City dweller

Paws in the Porridge

'She is like a muse...who kicks people in the face.'

Matthew Sylvester

father, author, martial artist

meganelizabethmorales

MANNERS MAKETH MAN, LOST BOYS FAN & PERPETAUL CREATIVITY.

Shannon A Thompson

You need the world, and the world needs good people.