Saturday, March 15, 2014


by Mindee Arnott
****4 of 5 stars

Balzer & Bray
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Genre: YA, Science fiction, Fantasy, Space
Pages: 432
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

A ragtag group of teenage mercenaries who crew the spaceship Avalon stumble upon a conspiracy that could threaten the entire galaxy in this fascinating and fast-paced sci-fi adventure from author Mindee Arnett. 

 Of the various star systems that make up the Confederation, most lie thousands of light-years from First Earth-and out here, no one is free. The agencies that govern the Confederation are as corrupt as the crime bosses who patrol it, and power is held by anyone with enough greed and ruthlessness to claim it. That power is derived from one thing: metatech, the devices that allow people to travel great distances faster than the speed of light. 

 Jeth Seagrave and his crew of teenage mercenaries have survived in this world by stealing unsecured metatech, and they're damn good at it. Jeth doesn't care about the politics or the law; all he cares about is earning enough money to buy back his parents' ship, Avalon, from his crime-boss employer and getting himself and his sister, Lizzie, the heck out of Dodge. But when Jeth finds himself in possession of information that both the crime bosses and the government are willing to kill for, he is going to have to ask himself how far he'll go to get the freedom he's wanted for so long. Avalon is the perfect fit for teens new to sci-fi as well as seasoned sci-fi readers looking for more books in the YA space-and a great match for fans of Joss Whedon's cult hit show Firefly.

Plenty of action scenes, space, and a gang of teenage mercenaries make this book entertaining and fun. The plot twists in the second half of the book, along with a bit of romance thrown in (sometimes a bit obviously) keeps things interesting. Because it's told in third person mainly from the perspective of Jeth, you can see that the other characters have secrets and hidden motives, which creates some great suspense throughout the story. 

An advanced copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review. 

The Scar Boys
by Len Vlahos
****4 of 5 stars

Edgmont USA
Release Date: January 21, 2014
Genre: YA, Music, Realistic fiction
Pages: 256
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

A severely burned teenager. A guitar. Punk rock. The chords of a rock 'n' roll road trip in a coming-of-age novel that is a must-read story about finding your place in the world...even if you carry scars inside and out. 

The first defining moment: the day the neighborhood goons tied him to a tree during a lightning storm when he was 8 years old, and the tree was struck and caught fire. Harry was badly burned and has had to live with the physical and emotional scars, reactions from strangers, bullying, and loneliness that instantly became his everyday reality. 

The second defining moment: the day in 8th grade when the handsome, charismatic Johnny rescued him from the bullies and then made the startling suggestion that they start a band together. Harry discovered that playing music transported him out of his nightmare of a world, and he finally had something that compelled people to look beyond his physical appearance. Harry's description of his life in his essay is both humorous and heart-wrenching. He had a steeper road to climb than the average kid, but he ends up learning something about personal power, friendship, first love, and how to fit in the world. While he's looking back at the moments that have shaped his life, most of this story takes place while Harry is in high school and the summer after he graduates.

Anyone who is into bands or music will really be able to connect with this book. Also well done is how the main character Harry becomes aware of himself and his self-pitying tendencies, and tries to work it out. He's got kind of a rough deal but the people in his life--the friends, the Obi-Wan Kenobi-like mentors, as well as the cathartic, empowering presence of music help him through those rough things and that is what makes this story work.

Sure, it's insightful as it examines feelings toward self and bullying, but really the best parts are how it gives you a taste of rock-band life, and how anyone who has ever felt like a song (or music in general) just spoke to them at a certain time in their life will get that from this book.

Dark Eden
by Chris Beckett
***3 of 5 stars

Broadway Books
Release Date: April 1, 2014
Genre: Sci-fi, Fantasy, Dystopia
Pages: 448
Amazon | Indiebound | Goodreads

On the alien, sunless planet they call Eden, the 532 members of the Family shelter beneath the light and warmth of the Forest’s lantern trees. Beyond the Forest lie the mountains of the Snowy Dark and a cold so bitter and a night so profound that no man has ever crossed it. 

 The Oldest among the Family recount legends of a world where light came from the sky, where men and women made boats that could cross the stars. These ships brought us here, the Oldest say—and the Family must only wait for the travelers to return. But young John Redlantern will break the laws of Eden, shatter the Family and change history. He will abandon the old ways, venture into the Dark…and discover the truth about their world. 

 Already remarkably acclaimed in the UK, Dark Eden is science fiction as literature; part parable, part powerful coming-of-age story, set in a truly original alien world of dark, sinister beauty--rendered in prose that is at once strikingly simple and stunningly inventive.

On a sci-fi and kind of Avatar mixed with Lord of the Flies level it worked really well: how free &; critical thinking change things, and how stories shape and change society. Those were the most interesting parts, and the times when the plot had the most action and excitement. The big moment at the end is revelatory, but doesn't solve every little thing--which was surprisingly not disappointing at all but rather an organic conclusion of the story.

But, it felt like it was mis-marketed. It seemed to be a YA book, but after getting not that far into it I started feeling like all the content (relationship and some language), while showing an interesting picture of a somewhat primitive society, was taking away from the story and would not fit for younger YA audiences. The continual and heavy-handed emphasis that the author put on the primitive society's promiscuous approach made this book seem better put in a more mature category. I was left with too uncomfortable of a feeling at some parts to enjoy it much, but some readers might not care. Overall it was a fascinating story.

An advanced copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review.


Other new books with a male POV that sound interesting (that I haven't read):

Phoenix Island
by John Dixon
This one sounds like a mix of X-Men and Percy Jackson. Got you interested? Just the first part of the book blurb had me curious: A champion boxer with a sharp hook and a short temper, sixteen-year-old Carl Freeman has been shuffled from foster home to foster home. He can't seem to stay out of trouble, using his fists to defend weaker classmates from bullies. His latest incident sends his opponent to the emergency room, and now the court is sending Carl to the worst place on earth: Phoenix Island

Zom-B Gladiators
by Darren Shan
Part of the Zom-B series by Darren Shan, this thrilling and gory sounding book is supposed to be one of the best in the series . . . if action and zombies are your thing--I can see some readers loving this stuff.

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