Blood Scion

Author: Deborah Falaye

Series: Blood Scion #1

Publisher: Harper Teen

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

An interesting debut that was brutal, bloody and full of action and complex characters.

Sloane lives with her grandfather after her mother disappeared. She has a deep secret inside that if revealed would be the end of her. She is a Scion, a descendant of the ancient Orisha gods. If her emotions run high, she can incinerate her enemies; so, keeping her powers hidden has kept her alive while the Lucis’, those that rule the country, hunt the scions down and kill them. On her fifteenth birthday, Sloan is drafted into the Lucis’ army and uses this as a way to get on the inside and destroy them from within before they hurt anyone else she cares about.

Blood Scion is one of those unique books that was a bit of a slow start with the world building but once it got me, I didn’t want to put the book down. This was definitely a dark book at times and not one for a young audience; even though it is marketed as a YA book I would keep this to the older teen market as much as possible with some of the more mature themes. Sloane is an interesting character and developed really well throughout the course of the book. I would love to see more from her in future novels in the series, so I got really excited when I found out this is a duology. The story does wrap up nicely at the end but is left open for more to come when the author decides to expand on this storyline. There were several characters that played smaller roles that I would like to see expansion on their character arc, each of these minor characters really helped pull the story together. While the premise overall was unique to me I did notice hints of other stories throughout, especially the Divergent series, just minor moments here and there that made me think of the other series. Overall, I would recommend this to older teen readers that enjoy a good fantasy read that has lots of action and adventure.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Search for the Astral Dragon

Author: Bryan Davis

Publisher: Wander Press

Release Date: March 8, 2022

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A Young Adult novel that has themes of Star Wars and other science fiction novels that is full of action and adventure.

Search for the Astral Dragon follows a young girl, Megan, who is on a search across the planets to find her mother. While searching for her mother, Megan witnesses horrors throughout the planets causing her to join with a group of teens to fight and become a voice for those in need. Together they will race to help each other and those around them before it is too late.

I wanted to like this book, I really did, but I had a really hard time getting into it and staying engaged with the characters and story. I have read others by Bryan Davis and enjoyed them but for some reason couldn’t get into this one. Even though I had trouble getting into this one I do think it is a good one for young readers that are big into science fiction and fantasy type novels. Megan is an intriguing protagonist, if the story had been a little quicker picking up speed to get me engaged, I would have been more likely to keep reading. While it wasn’t the right fit for me, I do believe young readers will enjoy this clean read, which is something I think is important with so many books incorporating mature content while still aimed at a young audience.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Court

Author: Tracy Wolff

Series: Crave #4

Publisher: Entangled Teen

Release Date: February 1, 2022

Rating: 5 out of 5.

For what I once thought was going to be the end, it sure does a fantastic job setting up more to come for fans of this fantastic series. Even when I want to stop reading, I can’t put the book down! Too good!!!

Just when things started to calm down, everything falls apart again for Grace and her friends. Flint is about to lose it; Jaxon is changing by the day and Hudson is shutting himself off from Grace as they are about to face their biggest battle yet. To survive, they are going to need an army of their own, the Gargoyle Army. The only problem is they have been frozen in time for a thousand years. The group works together to battle the most dangerous villain around, but with every battle they take on, they are faced with more and more challenges and not everyone is going to make it out alive.

I must give Tracy Wolff a hand, it is hard to write a book over 700 pages and keep the reader interested and even aching for more after turning the last page. Plus, the woman must write like a fiend with the next two coming out later this year also, insert happy dance! This series came to my attention last year and I have been hooked since. If you are fan of teen fantasy, especially books such as Twilight, Hunger Games and even Harry Potter, you will love these. There is more language and other adult themes than I would prefer, especially being marketed to teens, but if you can look past those aspects while reading it will be a fun series for you.

Probably one of the aspects that impressed me the most is Wolff’s ability to create this world and characters in a way that made it so believable unlike many of today’s authors can come close to. In this fourth installment, readers see Grace in even more trouble and dealing with her feelings for Hudson; the way this relationship is written got me in all the right places. Grace is the perfect female protagonist with amazing secondary characters to keep the story moving at a remarkable pace. Again, to write a book over 700 pages and keep the reader’s interest shows her talent and she obviously listens to her fans and gives them what they want with this story and these characters. Readers do need to be aware of the mature themes throughout and subject matter that is not appropriate for younger readers in my opinion. For the older readers that enjoy this type of fantasy series don’t miss this one.

Steelstriker

Author: Marie Lu

Series: Skyhunter #2

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Release Date: September 28, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Steelstriker is a fantastic follow up to Skyhunter with all the drama, action, romance, and suspense I’ve come to expect from Marie Lu!

After Mara has fallen to the Karensa federation, Talin is under the Premier with her mother, held captive, and used against her to make her do whatever the Premier wants her to do. Her friends and other Strikers are dead or in hiding as she is transformed into a Skyhunter, one of the deadliest war machines ever. Red is hiding out with the other Strikers waiting for the time they can free Talin and help free the other countries held under the federations power. Talin and Red still have a connection from their time together and try to use their link to help them go against the Premier. With challenges at every turn, they are going to have to fight harder than they ever imagined to come out on top and set those they love free.

By the time I finished this book I found myself comparing many aspects of it to other well-known YA dystopian series. If you have read one in particular, you will fully understand what I mean by this. One of the best aspects of this novel for me was the dual point of views so we got to see more of what was happening as opposed to just seeing the view from Talin’s eyes. It was easy to feel all the angst that Talin and Red were going through at every turn with the beautiful writing Marie Lu put on the pages. This series, along with other series I read by Lu, really get me in the feels with the main characters and what they go through. I have a real empathy for them, and it only works because the writing in this genre by this author. Young Adult Dystopian can be hard to write and write well but Marie Lu does it so good. I love a Dystopian novel if it is done right and this one was. The only exception I have is the use of a few adult themes throughout the book when it is marketed to Young Adults. The relationship between two of the male characters doesn’t go too far but it isn’t my favorite aspect of a book for young adults. I realize that many adults read these books as well and it will be no issue for many, but I don’t like it pushed in books for kids. The story flowed well and I think readers that enjoy the Dystopian genre will not want to miss these books.

Skyhunter

Author: Marie Lu

Series: Skyhunter #1

Publisher: Roaring Book Press

Release Date: September 29, 2020

Rating: 4 out of 5.

A perfect fit in the YA Dystopian category that is Marie Lu at her best! I loved the first series I read by her, and this is going to rank right up at the top!

In the future, the world is a very different place. Strikers are some of the deadliest weapons around with the best fighting skills and loyal to defend Mara, the last free nation left. Talin is a Striker, but also an outcast; she wasn’t born in Mara but fled with her mother after her homeland was invaded. She has no voice after fumes from fires destroyed her vocal cords leaving her to communicate with signs and work to be accepted as a Striker to help destroy the evil Federation who uses mutated humans called Ghosts to win their battles. When Mara captures a changed soldier from the Federation, he turns out to be the answer to their prayers after Talin works to keep him alive and convinces him to work on their side against the Federation. Together they will have to work to try and save them all or die trying.

It has been a while since I have read a great YA/Dystopian that really caught my attention and held it. Marie Lu is great in this genre and really knows how to write in a way that captures readers’ attention and keep it until the very end. It can be hard to write a character that doesn’t speak; Talin lost her ability to speak when she was young and starts communicating through signs. Once she meets Red and has a connection with him, they start communicating through their link and it makes the story flow very smoothly. Each character in this book carries a certain amount of the story and it takes all of them, even the ones that are not very likable, to make the story come together the way it does. The only thing I didn’t like was the few adult themes that I thought weren’t right for a book in the YA section, but they were pretty subtle and not enough for me to not recommend to my kids when they get to the point of reading these books. This is the type of story that I think both girls and boys will enjoy, even though the main character is a female it will appeal to both boys and girls. I recommend this to readers that are fans of Young Adult Dystopian novels with lots of action and drama throughout.

2021 Top YA Fiction

Our next category needs no introduction as the grounds for young readers entertainment. But make no mistake, even lifelong readers will find these stories enjoyable and maybe even a new author or two!

The Box in the Woods by Maureen Johnson

Who doesn’t love a good thriller? And when you can bring teens and young adults into the genre, it makes it even better. We couldn’t put this one day and it was our favorite of the year!

Read the full review!

Easy Target by Tim Shoemaker

A perfect, high-paced read for young adults dealing with bullying and the difficulties they face in school and the complications of social media. Easy Target starts out nice and slow, but in the best way, there isn’t too much action right away and for a YA/middle grade audience it has a nice pace. 

Read the full review!

Millie Maven Series by Ted Dekker

Ted Dekker is a name several readers know for his suspense thrillers that bridge into the supernatural. His new middle grade series Millie Maven will bring young readers into his world and might even learn a thing or two.

Read the full review for Millie Maven and the Bronze Medallion.

Read the full review for Millie Maven and the Golden Vial.

Read the full review for Millie Maven and the White Sword.

Heartless Heirs by MarcyKate Connolly

A fantastic follow up to one of our favorite books from last year. So much action, drama, tension, and character connection to love!

Read the full review!

Escape from the Everglades by Tim Shoemaker

A fantastic thriller for young adults that is fierce, gripping, and full of more suspense and less fluff, making for a wonderful read! We loved the action and suspense, especially for a young adult. 

Read the full review!

Wolf Soldier

Author: James R. Hannibal

Series: Lightraider Academy Volume 1

Publisher: Enclave Escape Publishing

Release Date: October 26, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A perfect fantasy for young adults to read that will send them on a fantastical adventure full of magic, dragons, and an all-knowing Rescuer.

It’s been nearly two generations since the Knights of the Lightraider order disappeared and now the Keledan have gone behind the barriers and the Dragon Lands are taken over with darkness. The Rescuer freed them long ago, but the people forgot what the Rescuer did for them and turned their backs on him. Connor Enarian works on his family’s farm as a shepherd until he and three other young initiates are called to the Lightraider Order to cross mountains into Tanelethar and stop the dark invasion. Connor and his friends make it into the Dragon Lands and find a missing Lightraider and a talking silver wolf that is the key to saving them all.

James Hannibal has crafted a fabulous journey full of magic, adventure, dragons and so much more. A lot of fantasy novels can be hard to follow because of the world building that happens to make the story the way it needs to be set up. Hannibal did a fantastic job of creating this world, but not bogging down the pages with information that isn’t needed. I must admit, I’m not usually a fan of fantasy, (I’ve never read any of the Lord of the Rings books and have no desire to). But something about this book and the way James Hannibal writes appealed to me. Hannibal has a way with words and crafts a story that is entertaining and engaging all while being unique to others out there. This isn’t the type of story that can be read quickly or not paying attention to all the little details, if you do, there will probably have to be some rereading. I encourage other readers to give him a try if you are looking for something new, either this new fantasy series or even his suspense novels, you won’t be disappointed.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

The Falling Girls

Author: Hayley Krischer

Publisher: Razorbill

Release Date: October 5, 2021

Rating: 3 out of 5.

A story about the hardships of growing up as a female and trying to fit in and survive in the ever-changing world!

Shade and Jadis are closer than any two best friends could ever be. They share everything, clothes, toothbrushes and more. One day Shade decides to join the cheerleading team. She has always been into gymnastics and now wants to become part of the “in” crowd. Jadis sees her friend slipping further and further away the more time she spends with the cheer girls. When one of the cheerleaders dies under suspicious circumstances, Shade takes it upon herself to discover what really happened. She is afraid Jadis might have had something to do with it, and if it’s true, Shade feels she will somehow be responsible as well.

The Falling Girls had a great premise but fell a little flat for me. I know it has been a while since I was a teenage gir,l but the vapid shallowness of the characters running throughout the story really annoyed me. I grew up in a small West Texas town, sports were a big deal, which meant cheerleading was a big deal. But I never remember any of it being remotely close to this. Shade and Jadis were both very annoying, almost as annoying as the three Chloe’s on the cheer squad. Which also became very confusing having three characters with the same name.

I know this book is classified as a young adult, but I have a hard time recommending it to young readers because of the language and other mature content. There is plenty of high school drama, cliques and the power of friendship shown throughout the pages. There is also too much drama, irritation, annoying characters, and an overall flat storyline that just didn’t connect with me. If you are into high school drama in an exaggerated setting with lots of toxicity then this is the book for you, otherwise I wouldn’t recommend.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Poison for Breakfast

Author: Lemony Snicket

Publisher: Liveright

Release Date: August 31, 2021

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Anyone who has ever read a Lemony Snicket book will know the witty, philosophical quirkiness experienced within the pages of Poison for Breakfast.

Lemony Snicket has investigated many suspicious things over the years but none as suspicious as his own death. One morning after breakfast he receives a note telling him he has had Poison for Breakfast. Now he has the unpleasant task of figuring out what was poisonous and who would want to poison him. It is not a task Mr. Snicket is going to enjoy, but nonetheless, he has no choice but to solve this mystery.

I have always been a big fan of the Lemony Snicket series, even though it has been many years since I read the original books. When Poison for Breakfast came out, I was excited to dive into another Snicket adventure. It may be that it has been many years since I first read them and I am older now, but the magic of the Snicket universe just wasn’t there for me this time. My attention wasn’t held as well as I would have liked which is probably mostly due to the narrative style of storytelling. I do think this is a good, fun story for a certain group of young adults. If you are looking for a good, satire book, this is for you. It is mostly narrative which can slow the story down considerably. While this wasn’t a favorite of mine, I do think others will greatly enjoy it.

I received a complimentary copy of this title from the publisher.  The views and opinions expressed within are my own.

Heartless Heirs

Author: MarcyKate Connolly

Series: Twin Daggers #2

Publisher: Blink YA Books

Release Date: August 10, 2021

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A fantastic follow up to one of my favorite books from last year. So much action, drama, tension, and character connection to love.

After rescuing her sister from the dungeons and technocrats, Aissa and her friend Remy flee to the woods for safety. At one time, Aissa and her twin, Zandria were closer than two sisters could hope to be. After being trapped in the steel helmet and tortured, Zandria is having a hard time understanding how Aissa could fall in love with Aro, a Techno prince when they are the very enemy they are trying to take down. Remy still sides with his father, a Magi leader who refuses to believe his spymaster is a traitor. Their mission is now to find the secrets of the Alchemist Alliance and the key to healing the divide between the Technos and the Magi after centuries at war. The bond between Aro and Aissa grows with each day, and if they don’t find the answers, all they hold dear will be threatened.

I have been eagerly awaiting the release of this since I turned the last page on Twin Daggers. I quickly fell in love Aissa, Aro, Zandria and the rest of the characters. The connection between Aissa and her twin and then Aissa and Aro was the driving force to the page turning story. With the bond between the twins strained, the story took a different yet interesting turn, would they be able to regain their trust in one another or would the torture they both endured turn them against one another? Being able to establish the connection between the characters the way Connolly did kept me engaged with the story and what would happen to the characters. That relationship is more important to me than a strong plot. When I find characters, I love, I enjoy the story even more which is what happened with these books. Every conversation, fight and tense look was enough to make me nervous for what would happen and keep me envisioning myself in the room with the characters. This was a perfect two book series with just the right amount of character development, world building and magic. I recommend this book to those that love a good YA fantasy with characters that are easy to cheer for to succeed.