Tag Archives: young adult

Review of Splinters by Fiona J. R. Titchenell & Matt Carter

The Prospero Chronicles #1

Fion Titchenell and Matt Carter co-author the Prospero Chronicles. In book one Ben goes to a funeral of an old friend where he becomes an by Fiona Titchenell and Matt Carterunintentional participant in an alien species’ quest to take over the world.

We follow the story from both Ben and Mina’s perspective in 1st person. Each chapter clearly delineates the perspective, so there is not confusion.

The story is often told with tongue-in-cheek humor. In many ways this horror story is wrapped in humor, the young fresh carefree humor of youth.

Fiona Titchenell and Matt Carter Collaboration

Spliters is one of a series of three in the collaboration of Fiona J. R. Titchenell and Matt Carter. An interview on Smashwords with Titchenell describes the process they use to work together.

“When Matt and I are working on a project together, we construct the outline together and then mostly alternate the chapters between us, so we’ll be writing a pair of chapters concurrently, then we’ll trade them, make notes to each other, adjust accordingly, and continue on to the next pair… It usually takes us about four drafts to get a manuscript ready for an outside editor. Draft two fixes major continuity errors and adds in any parts we wanted to include but forgot in draft one. Draft three cuts the fat and smooths emotional continuity, and Draft four is usually down to fine-tuning.”

Bravo for their process and the results of their co-creating.

Chapter 1 Analysis

Many first chapters set up the challenge of the protagonist and give a good sense of the setting.  Splinters provides a solid setting, while it oozes with clues. Some clues may mislead the reader until they dive further into the book. The first chapter end leaves readers with a pile of questions to peak their interest…

An abundant use of commas pepper a multitude of run-on sentences. The commas can be distracting. Short sentences periodically break the run-on sentences up and help create much needed white space, but a cleaner punctuation style might work better.

Review of Splinters by Fiona J. R. Titchenell & Matt CarterSplinters by Fiona J.R. Titchenell, Matt Carter
Series: The Prospero Chronicles #1
Published by Createspace on June 6th 2017
Genres: Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 304
Goodreads

Under normal circumstances, Ben and Mina would never have had reason to speak to each other. He’s an easy-going people person with a healthy skepticism about the paranormal; she’s a dangerously obsessive monster-hunter with a crippling fear of betrayal. But the small Northern California town of Prospero, with its rich history of cryptid sightings, miracles, and mysterious disappearances, has no normal circumstances to offer.

When Ben’s missing childhood friend, Haley Perkins, stumbles out of Prospero’s surrounding woods and right into her own funeral, Ben and Mina are forced to work together to uncover what happened to her. Different as they are, their unlikely friendship may be the only thing that can save the town, and possibly the world, from its insidious invaders.

“A snapping, crackling, popping homage to classic horror.” —Kirkus Reviews.

“Whip-smart dialogue... genuinely terrifying Splinters, the descriptions of which will have fans of monster films utterly enthralled... A promising series opener, this will satisfy those readers who like their scary stories to be as clever as they are chilling." —KQG, the Bulletin of The Center for Children's Books.

“The stakes are high. The action is intense." —Washington Independent Review of Books.

Book Review, Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Sci-fi world building

Pierce Brown’s dystopian world is built on the brutal power of classes, each with their own color designation, with Golds in charge. Born as a slave in the Red’s mining community, Darrow is set on a course to free the world. A lofty challenge and common plot-line, not unlike Suzanne Collins Hunger Games.

As the story develops, a plethora of characters emerge. Brown had fun creating plot twist after twist. Some changes I anticipated, but many ingeniously altered my expectations, such as Mustang’s allegiance. None were out of character, however.

The action ramps up when Darrow competes in a deadly game against the elitist of Gold youths in order to establish their hierarchy. Obstacles come at Darrow from all directions.

Cliff-hanger chapter ending kept me at night. I forced myself to stop reading mid-chapter, rather than be propelled to the next chapter.

Sci-fi World Building in Red Rising

This novel is often sighted as an example of world building, so I had to read it. Brown creates a multi-layered world with individualized cultures, although his world is built around socio-political issues we know. Slavery becomes a key topic, as does the abuse of power.

Brown endeavors to create not one setting, but three very different aspects of his world. The world of enslaved Reds functions deep within mines. For me, this was the best part of the book, as Darrow shows us his world, from inside a slave colonies perspective.

From there Darrow finds himself a pawn of a ‘carver’ who recreates him physically, but at the premium price of working for the rebellion by infiltrating the world of Golds. The novel really takes off when Darrow competes for his place among the elite of the elite Golds.

Although each world came to life for me, Brown used extensive first person exposition to inform his readers of all aspects of culture and environs. This interested me, because exposition is exactly what teachers advise students not to do when world building. Brown uses his explanations well however. It’s in the details he chooses to tell about settings that keep us engaged.

I’m tempted to continue with the series, but I have got other books on the shelf for now.

Book Review, Red Rising by Pierce BrownRed Rising (Red Rising, #1) by Pierce Brown
Series: Red Rising #1
Published by Del Rey (Random House) on January 28th 2014
Genres: Dystopian, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 382
Goodreads

"I live for the dream that my children will be born free," she says. "That they will be what they like. That they will own the land their father gave them."

"I live for you," I say sadly.

Eo kisses my cheek. "Then you must live for more."

Darrow is a Red, a member of the lowest caste in the color-coded society of the future. Like his fellow Reds, he works all day, believing that he and his people are making the surface of Mars livable for future generations.

Yet he spends his life willingly, knowing that his blood and sweat will one day result in a better world for his children.

But Darrow and his kind have been betrayed. Soon he discovers that humanity already reached the surface generations ago. Vast cities and sprawling parks spread across the planet. Darrow—and Reds like him—are nothing more than slaves to a decadent ruling class.

Inspired by a longing for justice, and driven by the memory of lost love, Darrow sacrifices everything to infiltrate the legendary Institute, a proving ground for the dominant Gold caste, where the next generation of humanity's overlords struggle for power. He will be forced to compete for his life and the very future of civilization against the best and most brutal of Society's ruling class. There, he will stop at nothing to bring down his enemies... even if it means he has to become one of them to do so.

Book Review, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King

A. S. King gives us a well written coming-of-age story in Please Ignore Vera Dietz. Vera struggles with more than any teenager should. Her mother abandoned her, her father struVera Dietz by A.S. Kingggles with life, her best friend’s father beats his mother and love seems always out of grasp for Vera. Pressures from the gang at school demean Vera and when her best friend and love of her life rejects her, her world implodes.

A difficult story for me to read, because everyone makes bad decisions, one after another. They never seem to make a good decision. No reprieve appears in sight. Even King’s ending laid a heavy hand on the heroine.

Undoubtedly, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an important depiction of how life for many teens works. For those more fortunate, the story depicts issues some teens face, however, it hurts to visualize such a bleak life as completely as King depicted Vera’s.

Vera Dietz comes to life with style

King writes in a familiar first person perspective that suits the story well. Written in Vera’s voice, the style is believable and carries you into her world.

Book Review, Please Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. KingPlease Ignore Vera Dietz by A.S. King
Published by Ember on April 10th 2012
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 326
Goodreads

Vera’s spent her whole life secretly in love with her best friend, Charlie Kahn. And over the years she’s kept a lot of his secrets. Even after he betrayed her. Even after he ruined everything. So when Charlie dies in dark circumstances, Vera knows a lot more than anyone—the kids at school, his family, even the police. But will she emerge to clear his name? Does she even want to? Edgy and gripping, Please Ignore Vera Dietz is an unforgettable novel: smart, funny, dramatic, and always surprising.
From the Hardcover edition.

Book Review, The Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr takes us into the world of classical piano competitions in The Lucy Variations.  At the beginning of the story, we find  that Lucy walked off stage at one of the highest level competitions. Her Sara Zarrfamily did not take it well. From there, Lucy must navigate within her new world, a world without playing piano.

Although her family pushed her beyond her emotional limit, Lucy’s passion for music remains clear. Her life doesn’t feel complete without it. While struggling to determine her own compass among the adults who control her life, she befriends her brother’s teacher. His affect on her life, a gift or a burden, we must read to determine.

By placing Lucy in the world of competitive music, which few of us are familiar with, Zarr creates a coming-of-age story that takes you out of your world and yet is very understandable. We can all relate to the pressures Lucy feels, the betrayals she confronts, and her struggle to do what she knows is right for herself. Lucy works through her issues like a true heroine, someone we’d like to emulate if we were in a similar situation.

Accolades for Sara Zarr

Sara Zarr writes stories with strong female heroines. She received the National Book Award Finalist for Story of a Girl. The National Book Foundation conducted an interview with her after the award.

POV questionable at times, written in 3rd close but sometimes I questioned whether it was 1st because

Book Review, The Lucy Variations by Sara ZarrThe Lucy Variations by Sara Zarr
on May 7th 2013
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult, Coming of Age
Pages: 309
Goodreads

Lucy Beck-Moreau once had a promising future as a concert pianist. The right people knew her name, her performances were booked months in advance, and her future seemed certain.
That was all before she turned fourteen.
Now, at sixteen, it's over. A death, and a betrayal, led her to walk away. That leaves her talented ten-year-old brother, Gus, to shoulder the full weight of the Beck-Moreau family expectations. Then Gus gets a new piano teacher who is young, kind, and interested in helping Lucy rekindle her love of piano -- on her own terms. But when you're used to performing for sold-out audiences and world-famous critics, can you ever learn to play just for yourself?
The Lucy Variations is a story of one girl's struggle to reclaim her love of music and herself. It's about finding joy again, even when things don't go according to plan. Because life isn't a performance, and everyone deserves the chance to make a few mistakes along the way.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson Book Review

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline WoodsonMany people write memoirs, but few compare to Jacqueline Woodson’s Brown Girl Dreaming. Woodson’s story of a girl growing up in a broken home during the turmoil of 1960s Black America is a compelling story told in bites to cherish. She captures the pain, confusion and compassion of youth caught in the middle. 

Woodson presents each incident and idea as a poem to savor. Some poems run a couple pages and provide scene as well as emotion. Other poems provide snippets of thought captured in haiku. The poetic style creates  a dreamy, dramatic and thought provoking read, yet the story moves along with personality and intent.

As a young African American during the political unrest of the ’60s, Woodson presents a unique perspective on racism. It’s a sensitive portrayal of black issues, as she moves from Ohio to Greenville, N.C., to Brooklyn, N.Y.. 

The story is not just about racism although that message is clear. Woodson’s childhood view of family, moving to new places and surviving the pain of a broken home are universal.

Awards for Jacqueline Woodson

Woodson received many awards for Brown Girl Dreaming. The John Newbery Medal in 2015. The National Book Award for Young People’s Literature in 2014. And the NAACP Image Award for Outstanding Literature in 2015.

Teachers may appreciate the Brown Girl Dreaming Lessons Plan Book.

Brown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson Book ReviewBrown Girl Dreaming by Jacqueline Woodson
Published by Nancy Paulsen Books on August 28th 2014
Genres: Young Adult, Memoir, Coming of Age, Middle Grade, Non-fiction
Pages: 337
Goodreads
four-half-stars

Jacqueline Woodson, one of today's finest writers, tells the moving story of her childhood in mesmerizing verse.
Raised in South Carolina and New York, Woodson always felt halfway home in each place. In vivid poems, she shares what it was like to grow up as an African American in the 1960s and 1970s, living with the remnants of Jim Crow and her growing awareness of the Civil Rights movement. Touching and powerful, each poem is both accessible and emotionally charged, each line a glimpse into a child’s soul as she searches for her place in the world. Woodson’s eloquent poetry also reflects the joy of finding her voice through writing stories, despite the fact that she struggled with reading as a child. Her love of stories inspired her and stayed with her, creating the first sparks of the gifted writer she was to become.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi

Redd Becker Book Review

The True Confessions of Charlotte DoyleThe True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle, a coming-of-age adventure, leads the way with a dynamic heroine. Avi portrays Charlotte as smart, courageous and ‘willing to make things right’ when she makes mistakes. But as Charlotte faces a world more convoluted than her protected girl’s school had been, her moral compass requires fine tuning.

Avi mixes historical details well in this mystery adventure. Written in first person, Charlotte shows us the world of the high seas. Our thirteen year old heroine finds herself caught between captain and crew, when she transverses the Atlantic as the only female on a ship ripe for mutiny. Her naivety as a privileged girl, schooled at Barrington School for Better Girls in 1832, gets her in trouble when she does what they taught prudent. Their advice backfires and Charlotte finds herself an outcaste on a ship of ruffians.

In her desire to fix things, Charlotte joins the ship’s crew. She regains their respect because she’s willing to work hard, but she quickly finds herself accused of murder. The story and mystery of who committed the murder progresses with no shortage of action.

Charlotte Doyle’s story is a fun read, but thematic meanings are never far. The heroine’s innocence, due to gender and class, limits her at first, but she learns quickly and tries to make amends–regardless what it costs her. An unconventional ending leaves readers satisfied that the life lessons she learned will go to good use.

Newberry Book Honor Award for The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle received a Newberry Honor Book Award. Sometimes Newberry Honor books are overly literary, but Avi’s tale depicts a strong heroine in a fun, swashbuckling adventure. This makes it great to read in classrooms. Action keeps young readers engaged, while life messages lurk beneath the surface.

Schmoop provides a wonderfully insightful critique on the book, even if you don’t agree with all of it.

The True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by AviThe True Confessions of Charlotte Doyle by Avi
Published by HarperCollins on August 10th 2004
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 229
Goodreads

A vicious captain, a mutinous crew and a young girl caught in the middle. Not every thirteen-year-old girl is accused of murder, brought to trial, and found guilty. But I was just such a girl, and my story is worth relating even if it did happen years ago. Be warned, however: If strong ideas and action offend you, read no more. Find another companion to share your idle hours. For my part I intend to tell the truth as I lived it.

The Goose Girl, a retelling by Shannon Hale

Redd Becker Book Review

Goose GirlGoose Girl retells the fairy tale of a princess done wrong, who struggles to regain her rightful place on the throne. Her mother, the queen, exiles her daughter to another country in an arranged marriage. This remains one of my least favored plot lines, but this retelling enchanted me.

Hale tells the story in a style I refer to as literary light. Her use of language to create the princess’s world demonstrates empathy with all facets of the story. Scrumptious descriptions of landscapes, ancient cities, village life, woodlands, palaces and markets fill every scene, but the descriptions don’t over power the story or characters.

At a time when movies, TV shows and novels maximize action, conflict, fear and dark imagery, Goose Girl provided relief. Struggles were clear, but not harsh. They entertained without causing angst.

Goose Girl as Fairy Tale and Fantasy

Technically Goose Girl fits the fantasy genre, because the princess possesses the ability to talk to animals and manipulate the wind.  Hale so adeptly integrates these qualities that the magic appears naturally human in the characters.

Subplots lace the main story line and Hale takes care to develop them. Many of her characters grow and change, as they encounter new circumstances. A fun band of helpers who tend animals for the palace gather around the princess.

Wikipedia provides a nice synopsis of the original German fairy tale.

Hale’s rendition of Goose Girl gained much recognition including: A New York Public Library ‘100 Titles for Reading and Sharing’ Book; A Josette Frank Award Winner; A Texas Lone Star Reading List Book; A Utah State Book Award Winner (YA); and A Utah Speculative Fiction Award Winner.

The Goose Girl, a retelling by  Shannon HaleThe Goose Girl (The Books of Bayern, #1) by Shannon Hale
Series: The Books of Bayern #1
on January 1st 1970
Genres: Adventure, Fantasy, Magical Realism, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 383
Goodreads

Anidori-Kiladra Talianna Isilee, Crown Princess of Kildenree, spends the first years of her life under her aunt's guidance learning to communicate with animals. As she grows up Ani develops the skills of animal speech, but is never comfortable speaking with people, so when her silver-tongued lady-in-waiting leads a mutiny during Ani's journey to be married in a foreign land, Ani is helpless and cannot persuade anyone to assist her.
Becoming a goose girl for the king, Ani eventually uses her own special, nearly magical powers to find her way to her true destiny. Shannon Hale has woven an incredible, original and magical tale of a girl who must find her own unusual talents before she can become queen of the people she has made her own.