I just love to read. I couldn’t write if I didn’t read. Reading other authors’ books inspires me, teaches me, and sometimes makes me weep because I’ll never write that well.
Today we’ve got a review roundup featuring a few good books I’ve read recently.
Because I spent too much time reading to write a real blog post.
This (reviewing books) is something I’d like to start doing again with some regularity. Because of that, I’ve grouped today’s selections into books starring young people. I’ve got a trio of “shiver” book reviews in my drafts folder for a future review roundup.
One thing I want to say up front is this: I wholeheartedly recommend every one of these books. They are awesome reads, each excellent in its own way. I hope you’ll consider giving them a try.
Firelands by Piper Bayard
I almost skipped this book because I don’t read science fiction. That would have been a minor tragedy because FIRELANDS is a worthwhile, gripping read. So if you’re unsure about this because of the science-fiction classification, don’t be. The science part is not overwhelming.
I’d classify this novel’s genre as New Adult Dystopian.
If you’re wondering what dystopian means, don’t feel bad. I actually had to look up dystopian after so many books began carrying the classification. According to dictionary.com dystopian is “a society characterized by human misery, as squalor, oppression, disease, and overcrowding.”
New Adult is a fairly new genre. It stars heroes and heroines slightly older than those in YA (Young Adult) books and may have more mature themes. To read a little more about New Adult as a genre, click here.
Set in the not so distant future, FIRELANDS takes place in a world where a natural disaster has messed up the earth’s ecosystem. A religious sect has come into power, using violent executions as a means for controlling the population. Women are the target for these executions. Burning them alive is part of the purification process for sinners. Spooky, huh?
The people who operate within the laws of this system are Josephites. The people who live outside it are the Secs (short for Secular). Though the Secs live outside Josephite society, they still fall under Josephite authority, living in a situation I can best describe as tenant farmers. The Secs are used, abused, and, occasionally, murdered on the whim of Josephite military types.
The book’s narrator is a twenty-one year old Sec who is her community’s hunter. She is called Archer because of her skill with a bow and arrow. Archer is a tomboy who maquerades as a man when the situation calls for it. She’s tough, resourceful, and confident…and courageous. These qualities get her into trouble as much as they help her out of trouble. She is a narrator I’d love to read about again.
The driving force of FIRELANDS is a plan Archer conceives to bring down the Josephite ruling system. The question is will she succeed? Or will she get everyone she knows and loves killed?
I had a hard time putting this book down. I needed to know how things worked out for Archer. Her bravery and loyalty stole my heart, but the realistic consequences of her actions kept me turning pages. The pacing is fast. The secondary characters are well drawn. And I could really see the setting. Thumbs up!
Purchase links for FIRELANDS:
Family Magic by Patti Larsen
This YA paranormal has the expected cast of supernatural characters–witches, vampires, fey, and demons. However, it has none of the staleness I sometimes find in this genre. This gem of a book was unexpectedly addictive and exciting.
Family Magic is predominately about witches. Sydlynn Hayle, the main character, is the daughter of a demon and the leader of a witch coven. She is destined for coven leadership one day, but guess what? She wishes she could do anything other than be a witch.
Sydlynn is one of the most un-putdownable characters I’ve read about in a while. Her experiences with the school mean girls were believable and elicited my sympathy. Her feeling “apart” from the world into which she was born could have been trite and overdone, but it was fantastic. By the end of the book, I had formed a bond with Syd and didn’t want to leave her world.
(And that’s saying a lot because I don’t read much of this genre any more. I used to love it but got overloaded with the same old-same old.)
Syd’s dislike of her heritage is challenged when someone begins trying to harm her family. Things get worse when Syd’s lack of training in magic causes her to make a few blunders. Can Syd pull it together enough to save not just her family’s legacy but their lives?
Family Magic is book one of a twenty book series. Book twenty is set to release in the next few months. Now’s a great time to get started on the series.
Almost Kings by Max Doty
I’d classify this YA novella as a coming-of-age story. It has been made into a movie, which I’ve not seen.
Almost Kings is the story of Bug’s (aka Ted Wheeler’s) fall semester as a high school freshman. Bug is the younger brother of Truck (aka James Wheeler). Truck and a few of his football buddies make up a loose clique called “The Kings.”
As seen through Bug’s naive eyes, The Kings are hulking, tough demi-gods of their rural high school. Being heroes of the football field affords them golden ticket passage through high school. The girls desire them. The other boys fear them. They are untouchable. They are Bug’s heroes.
But Bug’s perception of the world around him is limited. Reading between the lines in this short novel, the truth emerges. High school administration sees The Kings as bad kids, troublemakers, brawlers. The Kings are sexual predators. They drink too much. Even Truck, the leader of The Kings, comments none of The Kings have much of a future ahead of them.
Over the course of a few months, Bug discovers the truth about his brother and the other Kings. The explosive lesson he learns will mark him for life.
The author’s presentation of these kids could be interpreted as stereotyping of an entire high school or town, but I don’t think it is. Kids like the ones in this novella are part of every high school social structure. This peek into their world–through Bug’s eyes–is intimate, poignant…and harrowing. I’ll remember the way this story made me feel for a long time.
It reminded me of people I knew and things I saw growing up.