Here's another I found on the Ya Ya Young Adult Books Facebook page.
"Children Shouldn't Play With Dead Things" by Martina McAtee
The first thing about it that caught my attention was that it was free for a few days. I looked on Amazon tonight as I am recording this and it is still free. So if you hear this when it goes live and it sounds good to you, you may still be able to get it free. If you wait too long you're going to have to pay for it.
The second thing to catch my eye was the cover. Let me see if I can describe it. There is a silhouette of a grave yard with tomb stones and leafless trees. Above it are swirling storm clouds. Except the scene is upside down. Hanging from the ground, at the top of the page, is a swing, and sitting on the swing, filling most of the page is a girl in a white sleeveless, knee length, cotton dress. She is bare foot and her straight brown covers her face, neck and upper chest.
So, the price was right, I liked the title and the book cover, so I bought it without reading the Amazon description.
It looks like it was published by the author in August of 2015. The second book in the series just published on the 15th of this month, (July of 2016), maybe that's why the first book is free right now.... The second book is called "Dark Dreams and Dead Things".
The first book has 64 customer reviews with a 4.9 star average.
Here is the Amazon description:
17 year old Ember Denning has made an art of isolating herself. She prefers the dead. She spends her days skipping school in old cemeteries and her nights hiding from her alcoholic father at the funeral home where she works. When her own father dies, Ember learns her whole life is a lie. Standing in the cemetery that’s been her sanctuary, she’s threatened by the most beautiful boy she’s ever seen and rescued by two people who claim to be her family. They say she’s special, that she has a supernatural gift like them…they just don’t know exactly what it is.
They take her to a small Florida town, where Ember’s life takes a turn for the weird. She’s living with her reaper cousins, an orphaned werewolf pack, a faery and a human genius. Ember’s powers are growing stronger, morphing into something bigger than anything anybody anticipated. Ember has questions but nobody has answers. Nobody knows what she is. They only know her mysterious magical gift is trying to kill them and that beautiful dangerous boy from the cemetery may be the only thing standing between her and death.
As Ember’s talents are revealed so are the secrets her father hid and those in power who would seek to destroy her. What’s worse, saving Ember has put her cousins in danger and turned her friend’s lives upside down. Ember must learn to embrace her magic or risk losing the family she’s pieced together.
A lot happens in this description. Let's see where the first chapter takes us.
The only bones I have to pick with this first chapter is:
1) The author implies that people often stare at Ember, or shy away from her, possibly from the way she looks. Yet we don't get a good picture of her as to why that would happen. Her hair is "Maybe too orange". Is that her natural color or did she die it tangerine, or fluorescent orange. I've met some people with naturally orange hair and while it was noticeable, it didn't make me feel the person was in some way unnatural.
Her eye color is unusual, but the events are taking place in New Orleans where the unexpected and alarming are qualities that can be considered positive. She even sees people dressed up for the day of the dead on her way to the funeral. As far as the author has shown us, these characters are no more or less alarming in appearance than our main character.
2) My second concern may actually be with the synopsis from the Amazon page. We are told so much that happens in the story and in the first chapter so little of it happens. Knowing what is going to happen doesn't encourage me to read further to find out HOW it happens. I know what will be and I want to get past it, find out what the new conflicts will be, and grow with the character. The Amazon synopsis is almost like a movie preview that shows all the great parts. We've all seen the preview that when it's done we say, well, I don't need to watch that one now.
In conclusion, if I forget the Amazon synopsis, I'm intrigued by the change/seizure Ember has at the funeral. Something is happening to her that I'm hoping will develop her character and give me a reason to root for, and care about, her. We've met a mysterious character on the roof of the mausoleum. Is this the too-beautiful-boy who we are told not to trust in the synopsis? I would rather have developed my own distrust of this character through his behavior and interactions with Ember, but at this point, I willing to read further to see how they relate to each other.
I give this book a strong four stars to read three or four more chapters and see if I start to learn more about the character than I've been told in advance. As I said in the beginning, there are a whopping 9 chapters in the Amazon preview, so you have the opportunity to read a lot of the story before deciding if you want to buy it. But then, while it remains free, it's well worth the cost.
Episode 49 - First Chapter review of Varient
Varient is written by Robison Wells and published by Harper Teen
in October of 2011
283 reviews with a 4.2 star average
Here's the Amazon book description
Benson Fisher thought that a scholarship to Maxfield Academy would be the ticket out of his dead-end life.
He was wrong.
Now he’s trapped in a school that’s surrounded by a razor-wire fence. A school where video cameras monitor his every move. Where there are no adults. Where the kids have split into groups in order to survive.
Where breaking the rules equals death.
But when Benson stumbles upon the school’s real secret, he realizes that playing by the rules could spell a fate worse than death, and that escape—his only real hope for survival—may be impossible.
You can get the first two chapters on the Amazon preview.
Here is chapter 1.
If you heard my interview with Robison, you know I loved this story. It kicks of very fast at the end of the first chapter and doesn't slow down except for a few short places for the reader to catch their breath. I give this story a hearty five stars to continue reading past the first chapter.
If you've listened to the preceding two book reviews, I want to tell you that I finished "My Lady Jane" and thoroughly enjoyed it. I recommend the story with five stars. The characters are varied and endearing. I wanted to take the lot of them home with me for a big family dinner. To me it slowed down just a bit in the last ten minutes of the audio. but then, under it all, the story is a romance and it needed some romantic touches to tie the story up completely. I got used to the narrator after about an hour of the audio, and she only irritated me a few times after the first couple chapters.
Episode #48 The Paper Magician, Book One of the Paper Magician series. by Charlie N. Holmburg
To get this weeks episode I went to the Kindle top 100 Young Adult books. The number 1 book didn't sound Young Adult at all to me, so I skipped that one. the next six were either from the Harry Potter Series or from the Hunger Games, so I ended up with book #8. Eighth place is nothing to sniff at when you consider those in the first seven places.
Brandon Sanderson give this recommendation “Charlie is a vibrant writer with an excellent voice and great world building. I thoroughly enjoyed the Paper Magician.” —Brandon Sanderson, author of Mistborn and The Way of Kings
Paper Magician was published in September of 2014. The second and third books in the series are available and it is at 160 overall in the Kindle store, so you know it is getting daily sales. It has 3373 reviews with a 4.0 average.
Here's the Amazon book description.
Ceony Twill arrives at the cottage of Magician Emery Thane with a broken heart. Having graduated at the top of her class from the Tagis Praff School for the Magically Inclined, Ceony is assigned an apprenticeship in paper magic despite her dreams of bespelling metal. And once she’s bonded to paper, that will be her only magic…forever.
Yet the spells Ceony learns under the strange yet kind Thane turn out to be more marvelous than she could have ever imagined—animating paper creatures, bringing stories to life via ghostly images, even reading fortunes. But as she discovers these wonders, Ceony also learns of the extraordinary dangers of forbidden magic.
An Excisioner—a practitioner of dark, flesh magic—invades the cottage and rips Thane’s heart from his chest. To save her teacher’s life, Ceony must face the evil magician and embark on an unbelievable adventure that will take her into the chambers of Thane’s still-beating heart—and reveal the very soul of the man.
From the imaginative mind of debut author Charlie N. Holmberg, The Paper Magician is an extraordinary adventure both dark and whimsical that will delight readers of all ages.
Short-Listed for the 2015 ALA Fantasy Reading List
I read the whole first chapter to prepare for the episode and wanted to read the whole thing for you, but it is around 25 pages and almost 10% of the book. The Amazon preview doesn't even give you the whole first chapter, so I'm going to read you about 12 pages
So, this is as far as I'm going to read for you. Using the magic of editing, I have actually listened to the preceding portion of the book before I record this followup and recommendation. I recorded a recommendation after I recorded those pages but there was a problem with the recording and it got all chopped up somehow. I'm glad, because I actually like the story more today, after listening to what I read. I got a better feel for the flow of the story listening to it, more than I did while recording it.
I'll be honest and tell you that I think it's a little slow getting started. There's no major conflict leading from page one. The preview tells us the major conflict of the story, and we've yet to see it happen. I'll give you a minor spoiler...we don't get into the conflict in the first chapter.
Dave Wolverton AKA David Farland, and author and writing teacher tells that one of the major draws of fantasy is the sense of wonder. I think that is what carries this first chapter. I think there is good characterization, the description and prose are beautiful, but what carries us along is discovery and wonder. All the aspects of magic, the paper folder's mansion, the paper flowers, the skeleton, and even Magician Thane create a sense of mystery and wonderful magic.
Last night when I recorded this I gave it a four star recommendation to continue reading, now I'm pushing that up to 4.5. I'm looking forward to hearing this one on audio. In fact, right now I'm listening to the book from last week, "My Lady Jane" on audible.com and while the book is wonderful, the writing terrific, I hate the narrator. She's doing this over the top British theatrical voice that to me is overly dramatic and almost juvenile in it's interpretation. I'm a couple hours into it and will give it another couple hours tomorrow, but if I don't get used to the narrator by then, I'll just drop it and go on to "The Paper Magician".
As usual, thanks for listening, and I'll see you next week.
The comical, fantastical, romantical, (not) entirely true story of Lady Jane Grey. In My Lady Jane, coauthors Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and Jodi Meadows have created a one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.
At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
Like that could go wrong.
Published June 7th of 2016 by Harper Teen it has about 58 customer reviews with a 5.4 average. and has a price point of $9.99 for the kindle version.
The cover shows a portrait of a young woman in historical costume, from the shoulders up. I assume this is Lady Jane Grey. the title is in block letters. In cursive there are three quotes written in like a student's graffiti on a book cover with little arrows pointing to the woman's face with the sayings, "sometimes history gets it all wrong", "it isn't easy being queen", and "off with her head".
The amazon preview includes the Prologue, which actually makes reasonable sense in this story, and into the second chapter. I will read a ways into the first chapter. The authors use parenthesis liberally. I won't point them out as I read. That would be tedious. I'll try to change my tone of voice to an explanatory inflection. We'll see if you can tell the difference.
Here's the story...
I found this book on the Goodreads Young Adult news letter among the five most popular YA Books of June. I was drawn to if because of it's comparison to "The Princess Bride". I consider myself a Princess Bride snob, not because I've watched the movie a hundred times, but because I first read the book as a teenager in the seventies. I've read it twice since. If you didn't know there was a book, I would recommend it to anyone who liked the movie. I wouldn't say the book is better than the movie, except that there is so much more of it. I thought the movie did a great service to the original work.
My goal in reading this book was to see if it would hold up to the princess bride. Any time you make a comparison like that, I'm going to judge you harder than I would have if the blurb just said something like, "Light hearted, absurdly non-historical," or words to that effect. As far as I read, I still think "The Princess Bride" is head and shoulders above.
I liked it though, and will probably get the Audible version to be able to finish the book in comfort. Hopefully their English accents are better than mine.
Having only read into the first chapter it's not apparent how the three authors work together, if they confer with each other about the plot, if they write together on each chapter, or if they take on separate characters. It would be interesting to hear from one or more of them how they went about writing it together.
I think the characterization is great and engaging. The writing is beautiful and the voice is clearly one that the young adult audience should, and by the reviews, does love.
I give My Lady Jane a five star reccomendation to continue reading.