FREE YA book on Kindle — 11/8-12!

My friends over at Smith Publicity have alerted me to a freebie this week! The YA novel THE SAFFRON FALCON by J.E. Hopkins will be available FREE for your kindle from 11/8 through the 12th. Here’s what they sent me about the book:
In The Saffron Falcon (Unseen Worlds Publishing, 2013), author J. E. Hopkins uses fantasy and what he calls “Transition magic” to explore the unique challenges faced by adolescents as they reach adulthood.

A dark fantasy-thriller, the book takes place in our world in the near future. Children can use Transition magic for one month as they approach puberty, but they must use certain ritual words and the magic must be unique. If it doesn’t meet these requirements, the child doesn’t make it to adulthood. Few children attempt to use their power because the danger is too great, and most who do use it, die.

“Life in the book can be tough. Favorite characters can and do die. Children can and do die,” Hopkins says. “Magic wouldn’t be very interesting if kids could use it with impunity. Some manage to find a way, but that’s the rare exception.”

The Saffron Falcon features two parallel stories: in one, United States security agents try to recover an ancient codex that would eliminate Transition magic’s uniqueness requirement. If they fail, dark magic will be unleashed on the world. At the same time, the book tells individual stories of children throughout time who have used Transition magic to save themselves or someone they love.

“This is the story of flawed adults either trying to protect the world from magic or trying to use magic to dominate it, while children struggle with the knowledge that Transition will probably kill them,” Hopkins adds. “Unfortunately, some young characters face circumstances that make them feel as if they have no choice but to use their power, no matter the risk.”

J. E. Hopkins is the author of fantasy thrillers including The Scarlet Crane (March 2012) and The Saffron Falcon (October 2013). A life-long reader, Hopkins says his writing influences include J. R. R. Tolkien, Douglas Preston and Lincoln Child, Isaac Asimov, John Connolly, and Greg Bear, among others. The Saffron Falcon (Unseen Worlds Publishing, 2013) is available at http://www.amazon.com. For more information, visit http://www.jhopkinsbooks.com.
Sound good? I will be downloading myself a copy to read, too! 🙂

YA Review: MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER by Katie Alender

I saw MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER at the YA session at BEA but quite frankly, I walked past it. Marie Antoinette – serial killer?? It sounded rather absurd, plus the cover had a costumed girl with blood on her – ick (just a note here: looks like the blood didn’t make it to the final cover). However, when they were doing the session, they mentioned it as a good example of the “mash up” genre: part mystery, part historical fiction, part horror, part supernatural, part contemporary. The speaker recommended it, so I immediately slipped back to the table and grabbed a (free) copy. I have to say – I really enjoyed reading it!

MARIE ANTOINETTE, SERIAL KILLER starts with high schooler Colette Iselin preparing for a class trip to France. She is struggling with her parents recent break up and the family’s new, strained, financial situation. She can’t wait to get away with her (rather mindless and not very nice) friends, to explore the place where her family has its roots. Colette’s school group has barely gotten their feet on terra firma when they hear about a serial killer running loose – beheading victims, all of whom are from long-standing French/Parisian families. Colette sees a costumed young woman and realizes she is seeing Marie Antoinette’s ghost. As you might guess, Colette realizes she may be the next victim and needs to figure out the how and why of the murders in order to stop them. Along the way she is helped by their friendly teen tour guide (insert romance!), and she comes to realize that perhaps she has been spending too much time focusing on the things that don’t matter and less time on the things that do.

All in all, this was an enjoyable read and cleverly plotted. I’m a big fan of all things French, so I love reading about people strolling through Paris and seeing the places I love.

Highly entertaining!

Quick YA Review: RIPPED by Shelly Dickson Carr

I downloaded the YA novel RIPPED from Net Galley before our recent trip to Hawaii.  In this fast-paced and riveting story, teenager Katie Lennox discovers she can travel through time from present day London to the time of Jack the Ripper using the “London Stone”. Katie takes on the task of thwarting Jack the Ripper before he can do his evil deeds. She also holds in her heart the secret desire to see her deceased parents again. What Katie discovers is that changing history is no easy feat, and small events can have big consequences. The theme of “be careful what you wish for” is oft-repeated in this story.

I really enjoyed reading this novel!  I see that it has won several awards, which is not surprising as it is well-written and well researched. I love historical fiction and mixing it up with time travel just makes me love it more! It is a bit lengthy (over 500 pages in print), but eager readers should have no problem plowing through it.

I look forward to more novels from Ms. Carr, and I see she lives locally, so perhaps our paths will cross.

Thanks, Net Galley and New Book Partners Publishing, for my copy!

YA Review: PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL by Kara Taylor

I grabbed this book on a whim off Net Galley. If you read me you know I love YA and I have a special spot in my reader’s heart for stories that take place in boarding schools. I’m rather critical of these story lines since I’ve worked in independent schools since the 80’s, and quite honestly, if the administrators were as clueless/useless/evil/unavailable as they usually are portrayed, well, they’d all have gone out of business long ago! I was prepared to not really like this book – to be honest the title put me off – so I was surprised by how much I really enjoyed reading it!

PREP SCHOOL CONFIDENTIAL, which is the first in a series, starts with protagonist Anne Dowling getting expelled from her toney Manhattan private school for (accidentally) setting a fire. She is shipped off to a New England boarding school in the Boston suburbs where her first order of business is to rearrange the pecking order and get herself to the top of the social hierarchy. Anne’s a tough nut to crack – she’s feisty, tough, and fearless. At the same time, though, she’s sincere and has integrity (which is more that can be said about some other characters). She quickly forms her friends and enemies. Then her roommate goes missing and is found murdered. Anne seems to care more than the administration does about finding Isabella’s killer, so she starts her own “investigation” to figure out how and why Isabella was killed.

I’m a tad embarrassed to admit it, but I couldn’t put this book down. I thought the mystery was cleverly plotted and I liked the character of Anne. I often laughed out loud at her sarcasm and humor. I would have absolutely loved this book when I was in high school. I think Ms. Taylor did well with her independent school portrayal, and I wonder if she maybe attended a school very like Wheatley in real life!

I’m looking forward to the next book in this series which will be out in 2014.

Thanks, Net Galley and St. Martin’s Press for my copy.

Kids/YA Review: TWERP by Mark Goldblatt

Another Net Galley find, TWERP is the story of Julian Twerski: a boy growing up in NYC (Queens) in 1969. Julian’s made a major error in judgment and has gotten suspended for bullying another kid (eventually revealed through the story). When he returns to school, his English teacher suggests that  he keep a diary of his life and events and tell the story of what happened through his own words (and if he does the journal, he gets out of writing a report on Shakespeare!).  Through Julian’s diary we get to know him, his pack of friends, his family, and what life is like for him. He’s a typical sixth grader with a slightly annoying but sometimes helpful older sister. His friends are a garden variety of boys who get into scrapes. He has a crush on a girl in his class (but so does his friend!). He even holds the title of “fastest kid in sixth grade”, but is finding that he might lose that honor this year. All in all, this book made for a great kids’ read: sometimes serious but often funny. I’d happily get it for our school library for our 4th-6th graders. I haven’t read Mr. Goldblatt’s other books (which are for adults) but you can tell he put his heart – and a piece of himself – into Julian’s story.

Thanks, Net Galley and Random House, for my copy!

Quick YA Review: “It’s Not All Black and White – Multiracial Youth Speak Out” by St. Stephen’s Community House

I downloaded the electronic version of this book through Net Galley into my Adoble Digital reader.

This book is a compilation of short papers, poems, interviews, etc. of teenagers who are biracial or multiracial. They write of their experiences, their journeys to identity, their run-ins with ignorance and prejudice, and, basically, their innermost  feelings of who they are. This was a great read, in my opinion, and one which I think many young people (and adults for that matter) would find interesting and eye-opening.

FYI – St. Stephen’s Community House is located in Toronto.

Thanks, Net Galley and Annick Press, for my free copy!

YA Review: “Beautiful Lies” by Jessica Warman (releasing 8/7/12)

Tomorrow “Beautiful Lies” comes out. I got this book as an ARC through Net Galley a few months ago. It is thrilling YA fare: identical twin sisters Alice and Rachel share everything (or do they??). When one twin goes missing, some think she’s run away, but her sister believes she’s in trouble, and she has the physical manifestations to prove it. This supernatural, creepy, at times disturbing and confusing book kept me guessing (and reading) to the last page.

I love a good YA read, and this was no exception. However (and this is a SPOILER ALERT), I was confused at times. The twins are switching identities, yet people are calling them by their other twin’s name, but not all people are; and then there is the whole what is real and what is imaginary and what are ghosts theme that was profoundly confusing at times. It’s the kind of book that I like to read twice so that I can go back and pick up clues the second time through.

All in all, a page-turner that I enjoyed!

And thanks, Net Galley and Walker Children’s Books, for my copy to review!

Quick YA Review: “Hanging by a Thread” by Sophie Littlefield

Fitting in with my YA supernatural powers reading kick was this novel by first time author Sophie Littlefield. “Hanging by a Thread” is the suspense story of Clare Knight: new teen in town with the power to capture people’s emotions and memories from the clothes they wore. Clare has a gift for fashion and starts her own business designing and making over second-hand fashions. However, the town has a few dark secrets – such as what happened to Amanda Stavros, a teen who disappeared without a trace. Is Amanda dead? And if so, who killed her? When Clare discovers Amanda’s jacket in a bin of used clothes and starts getting emotions from it, she becomes determined to unravel the mystery – even if it means uncovering a murderer.

I really enjoyed this story, which was a quick read for me. The mystery was well-plotted and Clare was a likable character. It won’t release for a few months yet, but you can pre-order it on Amazon. I look forward to more from this author!

Thank you, Net Galley and Delacorte Books, for my copy to review!

Quick YA Review- Titanic: The Long Night by Diane Hoh

From Net Galley I received this teen romance/page-turner, telling the story of several teens on board the Titanic for its ill-fated voyage. Elizabeth is a bored, wealthy teen, who seeks to rebel against the conventions of her family and her class (including an impending engagement). Max, another teen, is also in first-class, but has been living the bohemian life as an itinerant artist in Europe (Elizabeth finds him irresistible). Katie has travelled from Ireland with two brother friends: Patrick and Brian (a bit of a love triangle ensues). More characters are met on board as the ship sails toward that fateful night and disaster.

I really enjoyed this read! I found it quick and easy and with accurate details of the disaster.

Thank you Open Road and Net Galley for my download!

What Age Should Read “The Hunger Games”? And my thoughts on book #3: “Mockingjay” by Suzanne Collins

If you read me regularly, you know I’ve recently read The Hunger Games trilogy because: 1) I was possibly the only blogger who hadn’t, and 2) countless friends who hadn’t read it were asking me if they should let their children read it. With the movie opening last weekend, this series is EVERYWHERE right now. Full Disclosure: I haven’t seen the movie yet due to my odd personal need to avoid crowded movie theaters. I like to wait until the crowds have petered out, or watch at home. However, I heard on NPR that the movie was not graphically violent so that it could garner a PG-13 rating as opposed to R, which supposedly it would have been if it had been filmed as written. So parents, keep that in mind.

Here’s my opinion – and PLEASE know this is MY OPINION, your own may vary. The bottom line is: YOU, the parent, are the expert on your own child (and believe me – it really is okay to say “no” or “not yet” to reading it, even if everyone else is saying “yes”).

EVERY CHILD IS DIFFERENT. Ask yourself: is my child less than 13? Are they troubled by things they see on the news? Do they have nightmare easily? Then waiting to read these books is suggested. Believe me, they are not going anywhere. On the other hand, a parent friend asked me about her son reading them: 6th grader, interest in military history and military maneuvers, not easily scared or troubled, very “grounded” and mature, a good reader. I suggested she go ahead – and optimally read it with him (or at the same time as him) so that they could discuss it. Several of my friends have told me that if they had the times to read the Hunger Games themself, then they wouldn’t be asking me. If this is your situation, then may I suggest you read the very short (less than 4,000 word) story “The Lottery” by Shirley Jackson as a starter and ask yourself if your child could handle the themes and implications of it. Read it free online at:

http://www.classicshorts.com/stories/lotry.html

This piece is conceptually similar to The Hunger Games, but Hunger Games is obviously longer, futuristic, and has graphic violence.

One of my points here is that reading Hunger Games, or any book for that matter, is more than a matter of reading level. It is more than getting through the pages. It is understanding the concepts behind the novel and being able to reflect on them. A well-written book can change the way you think about life. If your child reads this book at ten years old, will they glean as much from it as they would if they were fourteen or fifteen?

As for my thoughts on “Mockingjay”, while I found it sad and disturbing (similar to “Deathly Hallows”), it was very good and I enjoyed it. The story is continued and concluded with the rebels fighting the government with Katniss as their mockingjay. Peeta is recovered to them, but has been mentally “hijacked”. Katniss continues to fight for her family, while trying to decide just who it is she loves. It was a very satisfying conclusion to the series.

I got my copy from the Amazon Prime borrow-for-free program.