Margin Notes: Recent YA!

I haven't been sharing my book reviews lately, so, I'm getting back into it! Here we go...

In no particular order... here we go with some YA I've read recently.

Far Far Away by Tom McNeal

Average rating: 3.92

It says quite a lot about Jeremy Johnson Johnson that the strangest thing about him isn't even the fact his mother and father both had the same last name. Jeremy once admitted he's able to hear voices, and the townspeople of Never Better have treated him like an outsider since. After his mother left, his father became a recluse, and it's been up to Jeremy to support the family. But it hasn't been up to Jeremy alone. The truth is, Jeremy can hear voices. Or, specifically, one voice: the voice of the ghost of Jacob Grimm, one half of the infamous writing duo, The Brothers Grimm.

Jacob watches over Jeremy, protecting him from an unknown dark evil whispered about in the space between this world and the next. But when the provocative local girl Ginger Boultinghouse takes an interest in Jeremy (and his unique abilities), a grim chain of events is put into motion. And as anyone familiar with the Grimm Brothers know, not all fairy tales have happy endings....

Young adult veteran Tom McNeal (one half of the writing duo known as Laura & Tom McNeal) has crafted a novel at once warmhearted, compulsively listenable, and altogether thrilling - and McNeal fans of their tautly told stories will not be disappointed.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I enjoyed this book, but the reason I just liked it and didn't love it was that the world didn't feel 3-dimensional to me. While interesting that some of the characters read like modern day kids and some like kids from a different land, that put me in a weird position of feeling like Jacob, Jeremy, the police officer, and the baker were all caricatures whereas Ginger, the boy she's friends with, and even Jeremy's dad were not. That made the story a little hard for me to fall into. I also would have liked a better sense of time and place--a little more background on the previous killers, a little more information about the show Jeremy goes on, a little more to help ground me in the time and place. I thought the premise was really great, the writing was strong, and the plot was interesting, which is why I gave it a three.

Champion (Legend #3)

Average Rating: 4.42
He is a Legend.

She is a Prodigy.

Who will be Champion?

June and Day have sacrificed so much for the people of the Republic—and each other—and now their country is on the brink of a new existence. June is back in the good graces of the Republic, working within the government’s elite circles as Princeps-Elect, while Day has been assigned a high-level military position.

But neither could have predicted the circumstances that will reunite them: just when a peace treaty is imminent, a plague outbreak causes panic in the Colonies, and war threatens the Republic’s border cities. This new strain of plague is deadlier than ever, and June is the only one who knows the key to her country’s defense. But saving the lives of thousands will mean asking the one she loves to give up everything.

With heart-pounding action and suspense, Marie Lu’s bestselling trilogy draws to a stunning conclusion.

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I still love the characters of this series, but for some reason I felt like this book was short--not much happened to the characters I've grown to know and love. Their characters didn't change / learn anything, and while the plot was interesting, I feel like this was just tying up loose ends rather than watching our characters do something important. Still good, still readable and interesting, just not what I was hoping for.

Escape from Mr. Lemoncello's Library
A New York Times Bestseller

Kyle Keeley is the class clown, popular with most kids, (if not the teachers), and an ardent fan of all games: board games, word games, and particularly video games. His hero, Luigi Lemoncello, the most notorious and creative gamemaker in the world, just so happens to be the genius behind the building of the new town library.

Lucky Kyle wins a coveted spot to be one of the first 12 kids in the library for an overnight of fun, food, and lots and lots of games. But when morning comes, the doors remain locked. Kyle and the other winners must solve every clue and every secret puzzle to find the hidden escape route. And the stakes are very high.

In this cross between Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and A Night in the Museum, Agatha Award winner Chris Grabenstein uses rib-tickling humor to create the perfect tale for his quirky characters. Old fans and new readers will become enthralled with the crafty twists and turns of this ultimate library experience.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I absolutely loved this book. What a gem!! It was a joy to read, entertaining, smart, thoughtful, and just generally wonderful. I think kids will absolutely love it. It has all the fun elements that make a book great--puzzles, teamwork, characters, friendship, eccentricity, justice, and of course, an amazing library with a great team behind it.
The 5th Wave 
Average rating 4.10
The Passage meets Ender’s Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Cliche, less than great writing, this felt like a bandwagon jumper who wanted to write a dystopian novel with teens as the main characters. Cassie's anger felt stale and old pretty quickly, the instantaneous love connection with a shady character was too sudden and perfect, the coincidences that just wouldn't end (i.e. Cassie's dad sending her away at the exact right moment, etc.) felt contrived. BUT, I didn't hate this book, I just am not a fan of it and won't be reading the next one in the series. There are much better books in this genre.

The Magicians (The Magicians #1)

Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything changes when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real.

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This book was a little odd for me. The characters weren't likable, it was a weird mix of fantasy and self-conscious adolescent angst which took me out of the fantasy part of the book and made me aware of there being an author, which I found distasteful. The writing wasn't my favorite, but the plot was interesting. It felt like the author was jealous of the kids in Narnia and always wanted to go there himself, so he wrote a story about making it happen. Everything felt a little fast for me, large swaths of time just passed without any description. I'm sure there are people this appeals to, but I'm not one of them. I was looking forward to this, so, it's a little sad for me. Oh well! Won't read book 2.

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