Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

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In the second book of the Lunar Chronicles, Cinder finds herself trapped in prison and scheduled for execution at the hands of Lunar queen, Levana. What’s more, she was recently told that, not only is she Lunar, but she is (allegedly) the lost Lunar princess, Celene. In another part of the world, Scarlet Benoit is searching for her grandmother. She finds a mysterious stranger, Wolf, who claims he wants to help, but the more involved he becomes, the more complicated Scarlet’s path gets. Scarlet finds that her grandmother has secret ties to the Lunars, a discovery that only confuses her more. As Scarlet attempts to connect the threads of her grandmother’s past, Cinder struggles to break out of prison and find the truth in her identity. Unbeknownst to each girl, their paths will soon cross in most unexpected ways.

Can’t lie — this was NOT my favorite book in this series. I LOVE Cinder, but Scarlet was just so boring to me.  I really needed less of her chapters. Once their paths start to intertwine, things start to pick up and get much better, but it takes a while to get there. However, as much as I was bored with Scarlet, I loved reading the parts with Levana. She’s just so evil! I’m very excited to see what happens with her in the next books. It will be quite satisfying to see Cinder bring her down. So, while I wasn’t impressed with this one, I care about the characters enough to keep going.

Rating: 3.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

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The Night Gardener by Jonathan Auxier

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Separated from their parents, Molly and Kip are Irish immigrants who struggle to survive on the streets of England. When Molly finds employment at an old manor house, she believes their fortunes may have finally changed. But, upon arrival, the house is not all it appears to be. Dilapidated and crumbling, it’s clear from the house that its owners may not be the wealthy landowners they claim to be. What’s more, when cleaning the house each morning, Molly finds the same set of dirty footprints tracking the floors — footprints that couldn’t belong to any of the family members. Molly and Kip soon find that there’s more to the house than they bargained for, and they must do everything they can to escape their situation with their lives.

If you like spooky ghost stories, this one is pretty good. BUT, it’s not the best I’ve read. To me, it seemed like the plot dragged a bit, especially after the big secret reveal. There’s plenty of action, though, and the characters are all really well done. Pick this one up, especially, if you’re a fan of historical fiction. It’s a good one — just not my absolute favorite.

Rating: 3.5/5

*ALA Notable Children’s Book, 2015

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

 

The Screaming Staircase by Jonathan Stroud

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Britain has a ghost problem. Beset by spirits once the sun goes down, the people of England employ teenage ghost hunters in order to be free of their nightly visitors. Lucy Carlyle is one such hunter. Having lost her position at a high-ranking ghost-extermination firm, Lucy finds herself working for the eccentric and reckless Anthony Lockwood. Unfortunately, after accidentally burning a client’s house down, the firm finds itself in financial (and legal) trouble. Lockwood and Co. needs a case, and a big one, in order to save their reputation and continue hunting ghosts. Luckily, one such case comes along. Unluckily, everyone who has attempted to solve the case has died in the process.  

I loved this one! Think British Ghostbusters with teenagers. It’s got great ghost stories, plenty of scares, an excellent mystery, and is just all-around awesome. What really impressed me was that this book managed to pull off being so entertaining without having a love story. So, if you’re not a fan of “mushy” books, give this one a read for sure. Though the storyline can occasionally lose focus, the mystery is interesting enough that it makes up for the meandering. The ending is a total cliff-hanger as well, so, if you love it, make sure you reach for the next in the series. I definitely will!

*Lonestar List, 2014

Rating: 4.5/5

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

Revolution by Deborah Wiles

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Told from contrasting viewpoints, Revolution follows Sunny, a twelve-year-old white girl living in Greenwood, Mississippi, and Raymond, a black teenage boy also living in Greenwood in the 1960’s. Though they are roughly the same age and live in the same city, Sunny and Raymond’s experiences are vastly different. Sunny gets to go to the air-conditioned movie theater, swim in the city pool, and live in a nice house. Raymond is not allowed anywhere that white people go, and is not even able to play baseball on a field with lights. Amid this disparate setting, Freedom Riders arrive in Greenwood. With the mission of supporting integration and the newest Civil Rights act, these young people bring a storm of trouble to Mississippi. Sunny and Raymond are witness to this storm, and, over the course of the summer, their lives change forever.

So, this book is LONG. I’m a huge fan of historical fiction, but it was long even for me. It’s split up so that it has two narrators (and sometimes a third, omniscient, storyteller) and non-fiction pieces are interspersed throughout the book. While I thought the non-fiction parts were pretty cool for the most part, I did feel like some of them were too long. For example, I don’t need an eight page biography on Lyndon Johnson when he’s not even in the book that much. I did like some of the testimonials from real Greenwood citizens, but some of those sections could have been cut out or shortened. Aside from its length and occasional boringness, this was a solid piece if you’re into the 1960’s and/or Civil Rights. Have patience with it (or just skip the non-fiction if you’re bored with it).

Rating: 3.5/5 

*National Book Award Finalist for Young Adult Literature, 2014

*YALSA Best Fiction for Young Adults, 2015

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner

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Gen, a thief who takes great pride in his profession, is finally caught — left to rot in a jail cell at the king’s command. Though he fears a worse fate than imprisonment, Gen is approached with an interesting offer. The king’s right hand, the Magus, informs Gen that the king wishes him to steal a priceless item. Succeed, and Gen will become the King’s Thief, a coveted title and a way out of prison. Fail, and die. For Gen, both the choice and task seem easy enough — he is, after all, the best thief in the kingdom. But soon, even Gen’s expert abilities will be put to the test, and he must succeed to survive.

Good not great. I heard a lot of complaints that Nielsen’s The False Prince ripped off this book, but I just don’t see it. The two are similar, but not so much that I felt like I was reading the same book. If you’ve read False Prince and liked it, definitely give this one a shot. Keep in mind that it is an older book and has a bit of a slow pace, but it is entertaining. For me, it was just nothing special. If you like fantasy, adventure, and books with plot twists at the end, give it a try. I’ve heard the other books in the series are great.

Rating: 3/5 

* Newbery Honor Book, 1997

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

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Thomas wakes up in a steel box, knowing only his name. Everything else — who he is, where he’s from, what he’s doing — is forgotten. He soon finds himself surrounded by teenage boys in a similar situation, all living in an area called “The Glade”. Beyond the Glade lies the Maze — a dangerous, shifting puzzle inhabited by monsters. The boys are sure of only one thing: if they want to go home, they have to solve the maze. Thomas must work with his new companions as they struggle to survive and to find something, anything that will give a clue as to how to beat the maze. But, despite his desire to help, Thomas is met with suspicion by the others, for, as soon as he arrives, life in the Glade changes forever.

This book was … pretty much like every other dystopian novel I’ve read. Maybe if I’d read it before I read Hunger Games, I would have liked it more. But it was just meh to me. I honestly read it because the movie came in my Netflix, and I decided to read the book first. The movie was terrible though! It took unnecessary departures from the book, and was generally just not as enjoyable. The book, though it wasn’t the best book I’ve read, was much better. My only real complaint is that the slang used in the book super annoyed me — I felt like the author was trying too hard to avoid using strong language. But, there was a ton of action and the ending actually surprised me. If you liked Hunger Games or other post-apocalyptic novels, definitely give this one a shot. You may like it more than I did. Also, it’s a movie!

This one also has a pretty good book trailer too!

Rating: 3/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here. 

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

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The conclusion of the Ruby Red trilogy finds Gwen struggling, as ever, with discovering the secret of the Circle of Twelve and her love for her time-travelling companion, Gideon. In the final installment, Gwen must attempt to secretly discover the count’s plans, after finding out that Gideon had been manipulating her from the beginning. But as Gwen draws closer to the truth, nothing in her life turns out to be as it seems and it appears that closing the circle will only be the beginning of Gwen’s true journey.

So I was pretty disappointed in the second book of the trilogy, Sapphire Blue, but this one makes up for it. So. Many. Twists. I consider myself a pro when it comes to predicting plot twists in YA novels, but some of these really surprised me. Aside from that, I loved seeing more of Xermius, and imagining myself in Gwen’s dresses. As with the second book, I didn’t like how helpless Gwen was or how much she depended on Gideon. I miss the Gwen from the first book — the one who made her own decisions and took action! Other than that, this book was a solid finish to the series and I recommend them all!

Rating: 4/5 

For full analysis (including flags and SPOILERS) click here.