Thursday, February 28, 2013

4 YA Books Worth Your Notice

A few months back I started a new blog site called Spellbindings. I use this site to promote others’ books. Some of them I review and add my opinion and many have rafflecopter giveaways included. Here are just a few of the better books I’ve read lately and thought you might enjoy.

A Cast of Stones
By Patrick W. Carr

An Epic Medieval Saga Fantasy Readers Will Love

In the backwater village of Callowford, Errol Stone's search for a drink is interrupted by a church messenger who arrives with urgent missives for the hermit priest in the hills. Desperate for coin, Errol volunteers to deliver them but soon finds himself hunted by deadly assassins. Forced to flee with the priest and a small band of travelers, Errol soon learns he's joined a quest that could change the fate of his kingdom.
Protected for millennia by the heirs of the first king, the kingdom's dynasty is near an end and a new king must be selected. As tension and danger mount, Errol must leave behind his drunkenness and grief, learn to fight, and come to know his God in order to survive a journey to discover his destiny.

My Opinion, for what it's worth:
This is the best book I've read in a year of reading excellent and not-so-much fiction. The tension begins in the first paragraph and continues nonstop as you sit on the edge of your seat, anxiously turning pages to see what will happen next to little Errol. And the writing is exquisite. I'm a real stickler for proper grammar, well-worded sentences and paragraphs and "show don't tell". This book lives up to ALL of those expectations in spades. Reading it on my Kindle Fire, I highlighted descriptions or battles or scenes I found particularly well done. Often I found myself highlighting several pages at a time!!

Jack Templar: Monster Hunter
by Jeff Gunhus

Orphan Jack Templar has no memory of his parents and only the smallest details from his Aunt Sophie about how they died. The day before Jack's fourteenth birthday, things start to change for him. At first it's great: A sudden new strength helps him defend his nose-picking friend "T-Rex" from the school bully, and even his crush, Cindy Adams, takes notice. But then a mysterious girl named Eva arrives and tells him two facts that will change his life forever. First, that he's the descendent of a long line of monster hunters and he's destined to be in the family business. Second, that there's a truce between man and monster that children are off-limits...until their fourteenth birthday! Jack has only one day before hundreds of monsters will descend on his little town of Sunnyvale and try to kill him.

As if that weren't enough, things get even more complicated when Jack discovers that the Lord of the Creach (as the monsters are collectively known) holds a personal grudge against him and will do anything to see that Jack has a slow and painful death. To stay alive and save his friends, Jack will have to battle werewolves, vampires, harpies, trolls, zombies and more. But perhaps the most dangerous thing he must face is the truth about his past. Why do the other hunters call him the last Templar? Why do they whisper that he may be the "One?" Why do the monsters want him dead so badly? Even as these questions plague him, he quickly discovers survival is his new full-time job and that in the world of monster hunters, nothing is really what it seems.

Review of Jack Templar: Monster Hunter

What a fun book this was to read! I tore right through the pages as the tension built with monster battle after battle and one surprise twist after another. This would be a terrific book for Middle Grade boys but even girls will enjoy the adventure.

Jack Templar, the last in his famous lineage of Monster Hunters, has a few surprises in store as he prepares to turn fourteen. But the monsters he’s due to hunt have even more surprises in store than he could imagine.

One word of caution about reading this book, however. Once read, you are a target for all of the monsters in the world—so be prepared or don’t read the book.

Elanraigh: The Vow
By S.A. Hunter

Only Thera of Allenholme hears the voice of forest-mind…and heeds its warning . Thera doesn’t know why the Elanraigh forest-mind chose her, of all the Allenholme folk, to hear its voice and to awaken her gifts of mind and spirit. The Elanraigh sends a warning dream; black sails swooping toward Allenholme from across the western sea—the Memteth, an ancient enemy, armed with blue fire that hungers to consume life. As Thera awakens to her gifts of bonding with raptor birds and reading hearts, the knowing; she also awakens to love. Will she choose Chamakin the young Ttamarini warrior who is a kindred in spirit to her, or the polished young nobleman who covets her beauty even more than her estate? Forest-mind is aware she is yet too young for such power and responsibility. It has no choice—the lives of all Thera’s people and the existence of the Elanraigh Forest itself, depend on Thera fulfilling her destiny. Can she learn what she must of gift, and heart, to survive what comes their way? 

My Review:

Wow! By the time I was twenty percent into this
story I knew I would love it.

And I did.

I have to say this is one of the best-written books I’ve
read lately. The writing is so descriptive and poetic it had me in tears at
several points. Read on my Kindle Fire, I highlighted huge passages I want to
go back and review to see how S. A. Hunter came up with such exquisite wording.
Look at this example:

“Here, far from the pearly mists of Bridal Veil
Falls, the sunlight slanted through the evergreens like sheets of molten
copper, illuminating the mossy trunks of the largest trees Thera had ever seen…She
approached the nearest forest giant. Its base was so wide that all of the
troop, finger-tip to finger-tip, could not have spanned its width. The sitka’s
huge base spread to grip the earth like the paw of some mythical beast.”

The story was cool, too.

I really enjoyed the mixture of Native cultural concepts
with Mythology and Wicca and Druidism and Fantasy. S. A. Hunter obviously did
her share of research in order to design such plausible cultures and rituals. I
felt every bit of the love Thera felt for the forest and the elementals, the
animals and plants.

But it wasn’t sappy. Thera is a genuine bad-ass
teenaged character with a lot of charm and … character. I wouldn’t mind knowing
her … or being her mother. She held her own in some pretty nasty battles and
the antagonists were truly disgusting.

Overall I flew through this book in a matter of
hours because I couldn’t stop turning the page to see what would happen next.

To get your copy of Elanraigh: The Vow please check out the following Amazon links:

by Debbie Brown

Fleeing their homes in the city, three teens find themselves on the run with little kids in tow. As people vanish and buildings crumble, they seek shelter in the nearby mountains. Survival depends on their ability to adapt with nothing more than the items pilfered from a crumbling store. Hovering in the background is the constant threat of being discovered by the aliens, adding to the pressure the teens feel having no shelter, a limited supply of food and the well-being of three children to ensure. They must come up with some creative solutions before the inevitable onset of winter, while attempting to remain “invisible” to avoid capture. Being mature and responsible is no longer optional as they deal with their individual personalities, traumas, and learn to raise a baby. Unaware of the extent of the alien destruction, they can’t help but wonder if all their efforts are in vain.

Rebecca’s Opinion:
The book, Rebirth, kept me turning pages one after another as I wondered how this group of children would fare on their own. Their city destroyed, families gone, they find one another and form a tight bond while surviving the Montana winter in the mountains and figuring out what happened to turn their lives upside down.
I enjoyed the characters very much and thought they reacted realistically in such a dire situation. It was fun having an infant included in the plotline, which was very unusual. I think my favorite character was six-year-old Ally. She’s one tough and smart cookie.
I also enjoyed the survival knowledge included throughout the story. I thought the character of Aleksei, the oldest kid and the one with all of the survival knowledge, was a good combination of smarts and confusion.
My biggest problem came in the second third of the book when things started coming together and the reasons for everything were revealed. It felt too preachy and forced. I think the message the author was trying to get across could have been said once or twice instead of the thick layering.
This book would be excellent for Middle Graders and I think they would enjoy the survival aspect as well as the adventure. I think readers of YA fiction would find it too slow and preachy.

To get your copy of Rebirth please check out the following Amazon links:
UK: Rebirth
USA: Rebirth

Rebecca Ryals Russell
MG/YA Fantasy Author

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