Illuminate by Aimee Agresti
Haven Terra is just turning sixteen and given the opportunity of a lifetime. She and two other top students have been granted internships at a luxurious, high profile new hotel in Chicago. Haven immediately sees something different about the hotel staff (dubbed The Outfit) – they’re all model-beautiful with little personality. Haven quickly forms a crush on the gorgeous second-in-command Lucian, who barely looks out of high school himself. But with information given from a mysterious book, Haven soon realizes the hotel staff has a dark plan – trading souls to the devil. Now, Haven and her friends are all that stand against the evil threatening the souls of Chicago.
Agresti’s debut novel is impressive and surprising. Marketed for young adults, the subject matter is age appropriate yet dark and suspenseful enough for older readers as well. The hotel management and Outfit are incredibly ominous and creepy. Yet Haven’s innocence and goodness seems unshakable. While some of the outcomes are predictable (especially since the big mystery for Haven is unfortunately given away on the back cover), the suspense is not lessened in the least. While the novel is lengthy, the story didn’t seem to lag, keeping an even pace and steady character development. The characters were completely engaging, and the story had me hooked from beginning to end. Don’t miss this recent release from a talented new author.
Adventurers Wanted: Albrek’s Tomb by M. L. Forman
Alex Taylor joins his third adventure to find the long-lost dwarf Albrek and his magical ring that helped the dwarves find land rich in minerals to mine. Alex now has a staff and is no longer an apprentice, but has full wizard status. But the group of adventurers is in for variety of trials and obstacles before they discover what happened to Albrek and his final resting place.
Alex has matured and grown more confident in his abilities, yet still seems doubtful when he hears about his potential. The adventure and excitement are even greater in this third and final installment in the Adventurer’s Wanted trilogy. Though, there seems to be endless stories to tell, so I hope Forman continues to write more in exceptional fantasy world. His worldbuilding and unique characters are fascinating and engaging. A thrilling, quest-based fantasy – this world has its share of evil, but the majority of characters uphold honor and charity above greed and material wealth. Which is funny considering that on the surface an adventurers’ career goal seems to be accumulating wealth. I highly recommend this light-hearted, epic fantasy trilogy to readers of all ages.
The Calling by Kelley Armstrong
A forest fire forces Maya Delaney to flee town in a helicopter along with the mayor, and several other teens. But she’s sure the fire was set on purpose, and her fear is justified when the teens are kidnapped. But a helicopter crash helps them to flee deep into the woods of Vancouver Island. With their would-be captors hot on their trail, the group must rely on their wits and special abilities to see them home.
The second installment in the Darkness Rising trilogy, The Calling centers on a select group of teenagers and their wild adventure trying to find a way back to civilization, knowing they can’t trust anyone. Maya has a secret – that she’s a skin-walker, just one of the gifts that have been bred into the teens.
Though the trilogy must be read in order, there is a convenient, brief review of events from the first novel that I found extremely beneficial since it’s been a year since the last release. This novel reads like a survival thriller film – an abundance of suspense, adventure, and pulse-pounding excitement. While the first laid the foundation with the characters and was engaging, this sequel was darker with non-stop danger and suspense. This fast-paced, young adult fantasy trilogy is entirely captivating. I’m not sure how all the loose ends will tie up in just one more final installment, but it promises to be a wild ride.
The Calling releases from Harper Teen on April 10, 2012.
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.