Sherlock Holmes: The Legend Begins: Rebel Fire by Andrew Lane
Sherlock Holmes is excited to have his brother Mycroft home for a visit. But when Mycroft pulls Sherlock’s tutor Amyus Crowe aside for a private conversation. Sherlock discovers that Mycroft’s visit wasn’t just to see him. News has come that presidential assassin John Wilkes Booth may be not be dead, but hiding out nearby in England. Despite warnings from both his brother and Crowe, Sherlock decides to investigate. His latest adventure takes him on a wild ride across the ocean to America where Sherlock uncovers a massive conspiracy.
Fourteen-year-old Sherlock still has a lot to learn. But he’s brave and extremely resourceful. Once again, his adventurous spirit gets Sherlock and his friends in all sorts of trouble. With plenty of danger, suspense, and intrigue – this fast-paced thrill ride is less of a whodunit mystery like Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes and more of an Indiana Jones-style adventure. I listened to the audio version of the story (thanks to Macmillan Audio), and noticed there was quite a bit more gruesome violence than most young reader novels. I doubt it would be as cringe-worthy just reading a novel, but when narrated by the talented Dan Weyman the action is much more engrossing. Once again, Weyman does an excellent job of capturing the diverse characters and their accents. Though, his female American accent is still a bit muddled. Sherlock Holmes fans will get a kick out of this creative new series with eccentric characters, exciting exploits, and a bit of history blended for an extremely enjoyable story.
Predator’s Gold by Philip Reeve
Tom and Hester have been living aboard the airship they confiscated. But danger soon follows after they pick up a passenger in a hurry to leave the area. When they come under fire, they seek refuge in Anchorage, a city that barely survived a devastating plague. Anchorage heads for America, a dead land rumored to be green again. But they have unknown stowaways on board, as well as several people who want to stop Tom, Hester and their passenger at any cost.
Predator’s Gold is the second book in the Predator Cities quartet. Hester once again shows her darker side in some of the decisions she makes in response to jealousy. Tom is still a good natured young man, who gets caught in a love triangle. And the relationship between Tom and Hester is certainly put to the test. Technology isn’t so much the focus in this story, as character development and relationships. This installment in the fantastic steampunk series is another fast-paced adventure with plenty of suspense, drama, and intrigue. I can’t get enough of Philip Reeve’s stories.
Predator’s Gold will be redistributed by Scholastic Press on June 1, 2012.
Enchanted by Alethea Kontis
Sunday is the youngest of seven sisters – all named after days of the week. All of her sisters have special gifts, but Sunday’s is the most dangerous as whatever she writes down in one of her stories comes true. And the results are rarely predictable. Sunday loves to write stories, but her family rarely has time for her. So when she happens upon an enchanted frog in the forest who actually wants to hear her stories, they instantly become friends. Each time that she leaves him to return home, she gives him a kiss in hopes he returns to his human form but nothing changes. After time their friendship grows, and one day after kissing him goodbye, the frog changes back into his original human form – Prince Rumbold. Unfortunately, Sunday’s family holds the prince responsible for the death of Sunday’s eldest brother. But Prince Rumbold has fallen in love with Sunday, and will try to win her heart. But both of their families hold powerful secrets that may stand in the way of their happiness.
Sunday is a likeable girl with a good heart. Her romance with Rumbold is straight out of a fairy tale – instant and all-consuming. It doesn’t work in real life, but it somehow makes sense in a fairy tale. Kontis has brilliantly woven together many well-known fairy tales into one fantastic story that is both inspired and riveting. Readers of all ages will enjoy this eclectic and exciting novel. Full of magic, mystery, and colorful characters – Enchanted is a heartwarming and beautiful tale. This is definitely one I’ll want to read again and again.
Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore
Since the death of her parents eight years ago, Bitterblue has been the Queen of Monsea. Buried in paperwork, she longs to see more of her city and hear stories from local taverns. But following the reign of her evil father Leck, Bitterblue must deal with the aftermath of his mind control over the entire realm. With everyone around her, including her closest advisors, acting a bit crazy at times, Bitterblue decides to get to the truth behind what all her father did during his reign. But someone is desperate to keep the secrets hidden and will even murder to keep the past buried.
Bitterblue is an extremely likeable young woman, with a good heart eager to make her country whole again. Though, she never quite feels like a queen – as she doesn’t command enough authority or assertion. She’s meek and humble – which is great for a storybook character but not believable as queen. I enjoyed her friendship with the two thieves she meets while exploring the city on her own and in disguise. Though the romance with Saph never comes close to the level of the main characters in Graceling and Fire. Which worked here. There was too much conspiracy, danger and confusion going on for her to form an actual relationship with someone like Saph and have it be rational. Bitterblue puts her country and its people above everything, even her happiness at times.
Fire (book 2) seems to stand apart a bit and was somewhat of a prequel to Graceling (book 1). And Bitterblue (book 3) is a direct sequel to Graceling. It may seem confusing to those that haven’t read them! Yet by the end of Bitterblue the storyline of Fire is woven in wonderfully. This YA fantasy is an epic adventure with complex codes, mystery, and suspense. The colorful characters and fast-paced story was thoroughly enjoyable and captivating. Bitterblue is a fantastic conclusion to an inspired trilogy.
Jessica’s Guide to Dating on the Dark Side by Beth Fantaskey
Jessica Packwood spots a mysterious stranger on the way to school one morning. Lucius Vladescu has arrived from Romania claiming Jessica is his betrothed. And a vampire princess. Jessica thinks he’s crazy, until he makes a miraculous recovery after getting kicked by a horse. But by the time Jessica realizes her feelings for Lucius, it might be too late. As a malicious classmate has already claimed Lucius for her own. Jessica must get Lucius back on track and marry him in order to stop a vampire war and save her people.
Jess and Lucius have a fun chemistry. Jess is attracted to him, but his bizarre behavior and talk of vampires make him seem a bit too insane. Then there’s the part of being betrothed that Jess rebels against immediately as well. Jess is likeable and relatable. I liked that she doesn’t fall head over heels with Lucius immediately. And the book Growing Up Undead: A Teen Vampire’s Guide to Dating, Health, and Emotions that he gives her is just too funny. In fact, I would have loved to see more excerpts from the guide come into play. The humor really sets this vampire romance apart from other YA fantasies. Fantaskey blends vampire romance with a fairy tale-like reluctant princess that I thoroughly enjoyed. Full of drama, laughs, romance, and suspense – I flew through this surprising and entertaining read.
Hemlock by Kathleen Peacock
Mackenzie’s best friend Amy was murdered, just one in a string of serial killings. But this serial killer is apparently a white werewolf. Lupine syndrome is a virus spreading across the country by just a scratch or bite from a transformed werewolf. But when a dangerous posse called the Trackers come to town, no one is safe from the self-appointed werewolf hunters. So, trying to protect those she loves from the Trackers, Mac decides to investigate Amy’s murder on her own. But as she investigates, she discovers all of her friends have been keeping secrets.
Mac is a brave girl who puts her friends’ needs in front of her own. Having come from a rough early life, she tries desperately to keep her closest friends Jason and Kyle from harm. Often in spite of their bad choices.
Peacock’s urban fantasy world is set in the present day where werewolves are real and multiplying every day. Werewolves are treated with prejudice and, if reported, are sequestered to internment camps to protect the general public. This YA fantasy is incredibly captivating and full of suspense. With plenty of drama, mystery, and romance – this fast-paced adventure is a highly enjoyable read for older adults as well as young. First in a new trilogy, this impressive debut was pleasantly surprising.
A Confusion of Princes Garth Nix
Prince Khemri is training to be the next galactic Emperor, along with ten million other hopefuls. As a Prince, he has been augmented to be stronger and smarter than other humans. And if he dies, he could have the opportunity to be brought back again and again. But as Khemri quickly learns, he’ll need all of his abilities to protect himself against the other scheming Princes assassination attempts. When Khemri is sent on a secret mission to further his advancement, he discovers an Empire secret and meets a young woman named Raine who will show him what it means to be human.
Nix’s universe is full of advanced technology and a unique government shrouded in mystery and violence. Khemri is book-smart but naïve when he first enters the real galaxy as a full Prince. Then, when he is forced to briefly live life as a human, he has to relearn how act and think – kind of a second childhood. At times the story seemed to lag with descriptions and confusion with so many characters and their bizarre names. But for the most part, it’s fairly fast-paced with plenty of adventure and excitement. There’s a thin line between YA and adult novels, and this story could be marketed for either. But at its heart, A Confusion of Princes is a coming of age story. Unpredictable and often surprising, Nix has created a fascinating universe with unforgettable story. This YA space opera has plenty of drama, action, and techno-babble for most science fiction fans.
A Confusion of Princes releases from Harper Teen on May 15, 2012.
Of Poseidon by Anna Banks
Emma literally runs into Galen at the beach on vacation. Emma is embarrassed at her awkwardness, especially after seeing how attractive Galen is and his piercing, familiar eyes. Galen isn’t human. He’s Syrena prince (just don’t call them mermaids). Galen has been looking for someone that supposedly can communicate with sea life. But he isn’t sure Emma is the one he’s been looking for until a violent shark attack where Emma proves that she has the gift of Poseidon. According to legend, Emma has the power to save his people, but his attraction to her may be a problem as a treaty states she must marry his older brother, the king.
Banks’ Syrena/mermen blend a bit of legend into modern day, with intriguing results. I’m a sucker for stories about mermaids and fairy tales, and I was happily won over by this fantasy world and tale of forbidden love. Emma and Galen have a natural and easy connection and attraction. Yet both try to hold the other at arm’s length for fear of heartbreak. Emma’s mother bothered me, and wasn’t really believable. She acted overprotective at times, then allows Emma to spend the night at Galen’s house when she had never met his “mother” and knows nothing about Galen. Bizarre is the only word to use for her. But Galen’s sister and friend have a fun relationship that adds a light-hearted humor to the story.
There is plenty of romance, teen angst, and mystery in this new YA fantasy. Engaging and even paced, Of Poseidon was hard to put down. This charming story is an impressive debut from a talented new author. Events build to a surprising cliffhanger that will leave readers eager for its upcoming sequel.
Of Poseidon releases from Feiwel & Friends on May 22, 2012.