Fair Coin by E.C. Myers
Ephraim Scott arrives home from school to find his mother passed out in the kitchen, after trying to kill herself with alcohol and pills. But her reason for the attempt is what shocks Ephraim. She was told that Ephraim had been killed, his body identified at the morgue. His mother’s purse contains the dead boy’s personal effects which surprisingly holds his own library card and a strange coin. After receiving mysterious instructions to flip the coin and make a wish, Ephraim wishes that his mother never went to the hospital and that she was more mothering. The coin grows warm and seems to grant his wish, as he returns home to a drastically different mother. Then, the coin grants his wish that his crush would like him back. But the coin has changed other things too, and not all for the better.
Ephraim is sixteen, with a geeky and somewhat annoying best friend. His crush is Jena who is pretty, smart and popular. While Ephraim is a relatable, good kid, the power of the coin quickly begins to have a negative effect on his friend, turning him dark and disturbing. The suspense continues to build to a heart-pounding finale. Impossible to put down, this fast-paced scifi adventure is laced with teen angst and humor. An impressive debut, Fair Coin is a non-stop thrill ride with plenty of unexpected twists.
Beyonders: Seeds of Rebellion by Brandon Mull
Jason is back home, after returning from his adventures in Lyrian. But knowing Rachel is still there and in possible danger, Jason manages to cross back to Lyrian the same way he got there last time – through the mouth of a hippo. Meanwhile, Rachel is developing her magical talents, and it’s soon apparent she has more potential than anyone thought possible. The two Beyonders must eventually meet up with the Blind King and start a quest to bring together sympathetic kingdoms to rebel against Maldor.
Second in the Beyonders trilogy that began with A World Without Heroes, Seeds of Rebellion brings back many familiar characters as well as some new that quickly became favorites. Mull’s creative world of Lyrian has a fantastic array of unique races, some familiar with a new twist. A favorite character is Ferrin, a displacer who can remove body parts at will without harm, who is completely honest about his traitorous tendencies yet wants to remain loyal to Jason.
This quality epic fantasy is geared towards a younger crowd but can be enjoyed by readers of all ages. A quest-based fantasy, the adventure is even-paced and woven with complexity. Plenty of mystery, suspense, magic, and humor make this sequel even more enjoyable than the first. As a fan of Mull’s Fablehaven series, I can’t get enough of his bold characters, amazing worldbuilding, and quality storytelling. The novel ends with a cliffhanger and plenty of build-up that will leave readers with high expectations for the third and final installment.
Mortal Engines by Philip Reeve
Apprentice Tom Natsworthy rescues his mentor Valentine from a gruesomely, scarred girl bent on revenge. When the would-be assassin, Hestor, is thrown from the moving city of London, Tom is pushed after her. Both want to get back to London, so they make an uneasy alliance after Hestor tells her story of Valentine’s dark past. Meanwhile, the officials in London have an ancient, secret weapon that could prove unstoppable against any city in their path.
First in the Predator Cities Quartet (also known as Mortal Engines Quartet), Mortal Engines is set in a future world where most of our knowledge of technology has been lost and cities have been made mobile and hunt each other to grow and survive. Reeve’s dark, cut-throat world includes desperate and eccentric characters that are completely engaging. This highly entertaining steampunk world is written for middle grade, but can be enjoyed by adults as well. Full of adventure, intrigue, and drama – this fast-paced story is impossible to put down.
Mortal Engines will be re-released in the US by Scholastic Press on June 1, 2012.
Adventurers Wanted: The Horn of Moran by M.L. Forman
Young wizard-in-training Alex Taylor is asked to join a second adventure with some familiar friends and new. The kingdom of Norsland is threatened by war when the current king is challenged for the throne. The only way to prove the rightful heir to the throne is the Horn of Moran, which can only be used by the true king. But the horn has been lost. So, Alex and his small band of adventurers must journey through an enchanted forest and frozen wastelands, face a horde of goblins, and brave the mysterious guardians of the Tower of the Moon to find the legendary horn and prove the rightful heir.
The second novel in the Adventurers Wanted trilogy, The Horn of Moran follows Alex on another quest in a foreign land of magic and fantastic creatures. Friends from Alex’s previous adventure are joined by a couple new adventurers, Val being the most mysterious and a new elf friend who bonds quickly with Alex. Alex is a humble yet confident young man, growing in his magical powers and is always open to learning and doing the right thing. He is incredibly giving and honest. And while some of the characters the adventurers meet along the way are evil, the generous and selfless races of magical creatures put the human characters to shame. The morality of good versus evil is evident and wholesomeness makes for an easy recommendation for any young reader.
Though marketed for middle readers, the fun, fast-paced adventure will appeal to all ages – even adults. This quest-based fantasy is ripe with intriguing characters and an exciting, action-packed story. I enjoyed this installment just as much as the first. Mystery, suspense, magic, and light-hearted humor makes The Horn of Moran impossible to resist.
Perception by Kim Harrington
Clarity (Clare) Fern is a junior in high school, and unused to the attention she’s been getting now that everyone knows she has a psychic gift. By touching an object, Clare can sometimes see visions of people in the past who have touched it. Clare has two boys interested in her: Justin, her ex-boyfriend, and Gabriel, the new boy who seems to understand her. But when someone starts leaving her notes and flowers, it seems Clare has a secret admirer as well. But when a missing schoolmate shows up dead, Clare wonders if her secret admirer has sinister intentions.
Clare is a quiet and reserved girl, confused about her feelings for the young men in her life and worried about her brother’s stranger behavior at home. Clare comes from a family of psychics, both her mother and brother run a business taking full advantage of their gifts. This is a sequel to the series debut, Clarity. So, there are many references to the first novel that weren’t fully explained. I haven’t read Clarity yet, but Perception worked really well as a standalone story. I wasn’t lost at all, yet I’m intrigued enough to want to go back and read the first now.
Blending paranormal fantasy and murder mystery, Perception is a spine-tingling adventure that I couldn’t put down. Of course, being of the YA genre, there is a bit of romance and teenage angst, but the teen drama pales in comparison to the intensity of Clare’s creepy stalker. Full of suspense and plot twists, mystery readers of all ages should enjoy this exciting novel.
The Galahad Legacy by Dom Testa
In the distant future, a passing comet has left behind a deadly pollutant in Earth’s atmosphere. Bhaktul’s disease is fatal for all humans, but only takes effect in adulthood. In the search for a cure, one scientist devises an idea to send a group of young people to another planet where they can live free of the deadly disease and allow a future for humanity. Only 251 teenagers are sent in the impressive ship Galahad. Together, these teenagers must survive and thrive in order to reach their destination and keep humanity alive.
Triana Martell has just returned from her trip through a wormhole, and with her an alien representative of the Dollovit. Radiation is destroying the Galahad’s shields, so time is running out to reach their destination of Eos. The Dollovit aliens have offered a rescue and a choice of new homes. But their offer comes with a price.
The Galahad Legacy is the sixth and final book in the Galahad series. (Yes, the cover says #5. It’s a typo.) Testa has taken his readers on a wild ride through space with unique aliens, malicious saboteurs, high tech wonders, and an artificial intelligence with a sense of humor. As it would in high school, relationships have changed and developed in unexpected ways among the teens. Though, in regards to their jobs, the teens have been forced to mature and some have gained wisdom beyond their years. Self-sacrifice is more the norm than Merit’s constant (and annoying) lust for power.
There are numerous plot twists and surprises along the way. And this latest installment is the most exciting yet. Full of adventure, mystery, suspense, teenage angst, and tough choices – The Galahad Legacy is a fantastic conclusion to a series I didn’t want to end. It felt like the adventure was just beginning.
Partials by Dan Wells
After war with the Partials (genetically engineered beings that look like humans) humanity is the endangered species. An engineered virus called RM wiped out most of humanity, and has killed every baby born since the war. Sixteen-year-old Kira is in medical training and is tired of the countless births without one baby that lives. The government is forcing younger and younger young women to get pregnant without hope of saving the babies. Now a violent revolution is looming because of opposition to the pregnancy laws. Kira decides to find a cure to RM using any means necessary, even if it means risking her life to save humanity.
Wells’ dystopian world is dark and seemingly hopeless, with the youngest known person a young teen. Humanity is dying out, no one seems safe from violent revolutionary attacks, the Partials and their goals are still a mystery, and soon Kira will be forced to get pregnant before she even knows what she wants to do with her life. Kira is a very sympathetic character, mature yet knows she isn’t ready for marriage and her own family yet. The setting and subject matter reminds me quite a bit of the Hunger Games. Though, Partials is slower-paced and more dramatic than action-packed.
I was hooked from the start with this surprising new YA debut. First in a trilogy, Partials has a creative hook on the post-apocalyptic setting with the mysterious Partials and the added horror of humanity dying out. Dark, and full of suspense, I loved every minute of this addicting YA novel. Science fiction fans of all ages should enjoy this intense futuristic adventure.
Partials will release from Balzer + Bray (Harper Teen) on February 28, 2012.
Balthazar by Claudia Gray
When Skye is attacked while riding her horse in the woods, Balthazar appears just as suddenly to rescue her from a blood-thirsty vampire. Skye has a new psychic power after she let a ghost possess her back at Evernight Academy. And Redgrave, the ancient vampire who turned Balthazar, is pursuing Skye and seems to know something about her gift and wants to use it for his own gain. As Balthazar vows to protect Skye from the person he hates most, Balthazar and Skye begin to develop feelings for each other that go beyond just their immediate attraction.
This offshoot story follows events in the last Evernight novel, Afterlife, and Evernight Academy is no more. The charming and ever-gallant Balthazar has been a fascinating character in Gray’s former novels, so I was excited that he got his own story. Balthazar’s backstory is told in a jumble of flashbacks, bouncing around in time till we finally see the whole of his tragic past. With diverse and intriguing characters and an intense plot, this book was completely riveting. This vampire novel involves situations for a mature young adult readership, following a similar vein as the previous novels in the series. Dark and suspenseful, with plenty of violence, mystery, and romance – this standalone novel is a must for Claudia Gray fans.
Balthazar will release from HarperTeen on March 6, 2012.