Tag Archives: young adult

cemetery boys

Book Review: Cemetery Boys, by Aiden Thomas

Aiden ThomasCemetery Boys has been on my radar for a while. I finally got around to borrowing an audio version of it from the libarary

cemetery boys

Yadriel has summoned a ghost, and now he can’t get rid of him.

When his traditional Latinx family has problems accepting his gender, Yadriel becomes determined to prove himself a real brujo. With the help of his cousin and best friend Maritza, he performs the ritual himself, and then sets out to find the ghost of his murdered cousin and set it free.

However, the ghost he summons is actually Julian Diaz, the school’s resident bad boy, and Julian is not about to go quietly into death. He’s determined to find out what happened and tie up some loose ends before he leaves. Left with no choice, Yadriel agrees to help Julian, so that they can both get what they want. But the longer Yadriel spends with Julian, the less he wants to let him leave.

my review

I have been intending to read Cemetery Boys for a while now. I’ve only put it off because I’m always afraid of books that have gotten too much hype and because I have to be in a particular mood to tolerate young adult literature with character on the younger end of the scale. (I’m 43-years-old, after all.)

I’m happy to say Cemetery Boys lived up to the hype and was very good. Sure I personally thought some of the school bits and much of the general teenage angst was tedious (not the trans self-consciousness, that was different) . But that’s just a symptom of being old. I loved how immersed the reader is in the Brujx and Latinx cultures. I appreciated that, though Yadriel’s family struggled with his trans-ness, it was obviously not out of cruelty or a lack of love. And who wouldn’t adore Yadriel and Julian’s fierce dedication to one another by the end?

I did struggle a little with Yadriel’s father’s sudden acceptance. If felt a little too pat, but more importantly, I felt like he accepted the external confirmation that Yadriel was a Brujo, while I saw no evidence that he would have accepted him as a man on his own otherwise. I also guessed the end at the halfway mark. So, the mystery isn’t super hard to figure out.

All in all, however, I’m glad to have finally given this one a go.

Prince Ewald the Brave

Book Review: Prince Ewald the Brave, by Dylan Madeley

I accepted a copy of Prince Ewald the Brave, by Dylan Madleley, from the author for review.

prince ewald the brave cover

Meet the Kenderleys, the wealthiest and most powerful family in the world.

The youngest, Prince Bonifaz, takes his lessons and trusts no one. The middle child, Princess Isabel, sneaks away to a secret regency of her own making. Their mother, Queen Dulcibella, watches out for her children just as readily as she watches over them. Their father, King Jonnecht, is a capricious tyrant who hopes to control his family as strictly as he does the largest empire, and his violent rage threatens all under his rule.

Then there’s Prince Ewald, eldest and heir to the throne. No one is more aware of what threat his father poses to everyone. No one has better legal standing to do anything about it. How can he save everyone he loves while upholding his mother’s kind values? He must learn the lessons required to be the best regent, choose allies wisely and earn their trust, and enact a thoughtful and detailed plan.

And even if he succeeds in all that, can one who draws the line and conducts a plan with honour defeat one whose rage, selfishness, and deceit know no bounds?

Can Prince Ewald stop his own father?

my review

I want to start with a discussion that might not be relevant for review, but I think is to readers. I accepted this book for review from the author with the understanding that, despite it’s cover, it is an adult book. (I don’t accept YA titles for review.) The author’s initial email to me said, “It’s intended for an Adult audience, but should be safe reading for 16+ up.”

I sat on that request for a while before agreeing to review the book. I was skeptical, and I said so to the author in my email response. In honesty, discovering if it truly was an adult book was part of what tipped the skeptical scales in favor of taking the author’s word for it and agreeing to read it. I couldn’t imagine it would be in any author’s best interest to mislead a reviewer about the content of the book they’re requesting a review of. That seems a recipe for a bad review.

I won’t contradict the author. As the author, he can place the book in any genre he chooses. However, if you asked my reader’s opinion, I’d tell you this is a LOWER YA or UPPER MG book. (Which I suppose, in fairness, is “safe reading for 16+ up.”) I took the book around to my family, spread throughout the house, and asked each, “Given this cover, knowing nothing more about this book, how old would you guess the intended audience is?” My husband said 14, which is what I would have guessed too. My 10yo said 14, and my 13 (almost 14yo) said 14-16. If the book is an adult book, as the author claimed, that cover is a liar. Rather, I think the cover is perfectly appropriate for the content of the book and the author passed me inaccurate information, purposefully or not.

I call it middle grade or young adult because, though the children’s ages aren’t actually stated, they feel like young teens at most. The book reduces what should be politically seismic events to a petty domestic matter, equates the two, essentially making home matters feel as all encompassing and important as international ones. I’m not trying to downplay domestic abuse, but the book uses it to support the vileness and ineptitude of the king in uber simplified ways. He hits his kid = he must be a bad man and therefore a bad king.

The king is cruel (and therefore evil) for the sake of cruelty. There is no depth to his character or notable motivation. Nothing he is shown to do is true grounds for removing a king. He’s mean and not a good leader, sure, but that’s not the same thing as being unfit to a degree that the machinery of bureaucracy would take the near miraculous step of actually changing tracts. Bureaucracy being a complication Madeley opted to leave out, further simplifying the plot for younger readers. The narrative style is un-elaborate and the dialogue stiflingly stilted in a manner I’d equate to ‘fantasy speak’ and feels unsophisticated (i.e. young). What’s more the whole last page or so wraps up with the language of fairy tales. This is a young adult or middle grade book, in my opinion.

And, authors, the need for the previous 450 words is why you’re honest with your reviewers about the genre of your book when seeking reviews. For those of you randomly picking up the book, without discourse with the author, trust the cover. It’s a good one and won’t steer you wrong. (Though I think there’s a similar but new version of the cover available on Amazon, that looks like it’s aged Ewald up a little. He looks about 13 on this cover, but might pass for a little older on the new one.)

two ewalds

As I didn’t set out to read a MG/YA book it’s hard for me to truly judge the book’s credit at that level. (Which is part of why I don’t accept lower YA/upper MG books for review. I don’t feel as confident in  my own assessments. So, here I’ve been put in an additional uncomfortable position.) As an adult, I found the whole thing scattered and dull. There is no true central character and more of the book is dedicated to military and political events than to the characters themselves. But without that character involvement, I was left reading about a series of military decisions for countries that I knew and cared little about. Random country goes to war, yawn.

However, if I was a 13yo reader, I probably wouldn’t have the same expectation. I would likely feel the father’s betrayals more strongly than an adult and be more able and willing to overlook that they and his political betrayals are not one and the same or interchangeable. All in all, for a young reader I think this could be a winner. For an adult, it’s readable, competently edited, etc, but there is little here to keep you interested.

prince ewald the brave

aurora cycle

Book Review: Aurora Rising & Aurora Burning, by Amie Kaufman & Jay Kristoff

I borrowed an audio copy of Ami Kaufman and Jay Kristoff‘s Aurora Rising from the library. When they didn’t have an audio copy of Aurora Burning, I borrowed an ecopy.

Description from Goodreads:

The year is 2380, and the graduating cadets of Aurora Academy are being assigned their first missions. Star pupil Tyler Jones is ready to recruit the squad of his dreams, but his own boneheaded heroism sees him stuck with the dregs nobody else in the Academy would touch…

A cocky diplomat with a black belt in sarcasm
A sociopath scientist with a fondness for shooting her bunkmates
A smart-ass techwiz with the galaxy’s biggest chip on his shoulder
An alien warrior with anger management issues
A tomboy pilot who’s totally not into him, in case you were wondering

And Ty’s squad isn’t even his biggest problem—that’d be Aurora Jie-Lin O’Malley, the girl he’s just rescued from interdimensional space. Trapped in cryo-sleep for two centuries, Auri is a girl out of time and out of her depth. But she could be the catalyst that starts a war millions of years in the making, and Tyler’s squad of losers, discipline-cases and misfits might just be the last hope for the entire galaxy.

They’re not the heroes we deserve. They’re just the ones we could find. Nobody panic.

my review

These days, I go into Young Adult books hoping for the best and expecting to be disappointed. But Aurora Rising not only didn’t disappoint me, it was an all-out pleasant surprise. I had a lot of fun with it. I laughed frequently, liked the characters and diversity, and was invested in the plot.

Yeah, I thought there was some predictability and a few cliches. But I also liked the unexpected nature of some of them. The heroine doesn’t fall for who you’d expect, for example. All in all, I liked the book and raced out for book two. (OK, ‘raced out’ means I went online to digitally borrow the next book. But you know what I mean.)

As to the audio, I thought the narrators did a great job. I only had one irritant. As much as I liked all the character voices, I couldn’t figure out how three people who grew up in the same place (knew each other from Kindergarden) would end up with drastically different accents. Or rather one of them would sound completely different from the other two. Even if your parents are from different places, you’d still sound like where you’re from…all of you.

aurora burning

Description from Goodreads:

First, the bad news: an ancient evil—you know, your standard consume-all-life-in-the-galaxy deal—is about to be unleashed. The good news? Squad 312 is standing by to save the day. They’ve just got to take care of a few small distractions first.

Like the clan of gremps who’d like to rearrange their favorite faces.

And the cadre of illegit GIA agents with creepy flowers where their eyes used to be, who’ll stop at nothing to get their hands on Auri.

Then there’s Kal’s long-lost sister, who’s not exactly happy to see her baby brother, and has a Syldrathi army at her back. With half the known galaxy on their tails, Squad 312 has never felt so wanted.

When they learn the Hadfield has been found, it’s time to come out of hiding. Two centuries ago, the colony ship vanished, leaving Auri as its sole survivor. Now, its black box might be what saves them. But time is short, and if Auri can’t learn to master her powers as a Trigger, the squad and all their admirers are going to be deader than the Great Ultrasaur of Abraaxis IV.

Shocking revelations, bank heists, mysterious gifts, inappropriately tight bodysuits, and an epic firefight will determine the fate of the Aurora Legion’s most unforgettable heroes—and maybe the rest of the galaxy as well.

my review

As is so often the case with second books, especially when they’re also middle books, I didn’t like this as much as the first. That isn’t to say I didn’t still enjoy it, but not quite as gleefully. I missed having the crew together and all the banter that went with it. And I thought the predictability in the plotting stronger here too. I still like the characters though. I’m still interested in seeing how it all plays out, and look forward to book three. Unfortunately, it’s not out yet. Which I didn’t realize when I picked the series up. If I had, I might have waited a few more months to start it. Oh well, now I have to wait. But I will, because I do want to read it.