Tag Archives: YA Urban Fantasy

Betrayals: A Strange Angel Novel – Lili St Crow
Book Reviews
November 17, 2009 posted by Nikki

Betrayals: A Strange Angel Novel – Lili St Crow

She’s no angel . . .

Poor Dru Anderson. Her parents are long gone, her best friend is a werewolf, and she’s just learned that the blood flowing through her veins isn’t entirely human. (So what else is new?)

Now Dru is stuck at a secret New England Schola for other teens like her, and there’s a big problem— she’s the only girl in the place. A school full of cute boys wouldn’t be so bad, but Dru’s killer instinct says that one of them wants her dead. And with all eyes on her, discovering a traitor within the Order could mean a lot more than social suicide. . .

Can Dru survive long enough to find out who has betrayed her trust—and maybe even her heart?

What I liked about Strange Angels (the first in this series) was that it wasn’t set in any kind of school for the creepy supernatural, like so many other YA paranormal books. So when I realized that Betrayals was set in a supernatural school for the kooky and the gifted, I was a little disheartened. But I was wrong to judge so fast. Let me clear this up right away, Betrayals is no high school novel and Dru is certainly no high school gal.

School never was her thing, so when Christophe dumps her and Graves at the Schola – a school for not so human folk – Dru wonders what he’s thinking. School? What’s the point? She can already fight. She already knows everything there is to know about all the beasties in the world … or so she thought.

Dru has never been great at following the rules, and decides that class can go stuff itself where the sun don’t shine, to hell with the consequences. And consequences there definitely should be. Everyone else at the Schola are severly punished for missing class, but not Dru. No one seems to even care that she’s skipping all the time. They’re not training her either, which is a worry because that was the whole reason she was dumped in this place to begin with. Christophe promised that they’d take care of her, help her refine her fighting skills. So far, all they’ve done is feed and house her.

Dru knows something is up.

Graves, on the other hand, loves his new home. He’s learning to fight, learning to control his new wolfy talents and somehow, he’s found himself in a position of power. He thinks Dru is just being stubborn, that she’s lived her life in fear for so long she doesn’t know any other way. Dru thinks Graves is drifting, distancing himself from her a little, but Dru is kind of blind sometimes. Perhaps Dru should be asking herself why Graves is spending so much time with others rather than whether he actually wants her around anymore.

And then there’s Christophe. Cryptic, tall, dark and handsome Christophe. If it weren’t for him, Dru and Graves would probably be dead by now. That warrants a certain amount of trust, right? But what does she really know about this guy (other than the fact that he makes her heart go thumpa thumpa)? Christophe is a bit of a ‘legend’ at the Schola and everyone seems to have an opinion about who he is and what he stands for. Will Dru be able to see through the stories and find the truth?

All the things I didn’t like about Strange Angels are no longer an issue in Betrayals. Where I found Strange Angels a little slow and disengaging, Betrayals is fast-paced, beautifully written, and masterfully suspenseful. Lili St Crow nails the art of writing action scenes, carving up the pages with just the right balance of description, dialogue and inner monologue. Where I was happy to take breaks reading Strange Angels, I was unable to put Betrayals down. I was found reading in the toilet, in the bath, at the dog park, in the supermarket. Everywhere I went, the book came with me.

As someone who didn’t like Dru much in the first novel, I was unbelievably happy with how her character developed in this instalment. Her rock hard exterior (which I found annoying and even a little unbelievable in the last book) softens somewhat in this novel and readers are privy to more of her personal, private thoughts. I feel I understand her more now and I found it difficult to dislike her. There were even times where my heart ached for her.  I didn’t care too much how her story played out after reading Strange Angels, but I’m happy to announce that I’m now completely invested in her trials and tribulations. I desperately want things to work out for her and I hope that she gets everything she needs to survive in this bitter and twisted world. Dru … you go get em girl!

Betrayals is a supernatural heart stopper full of all the best kind of paranormal beasties around. A must read for fans of Urban Fantasy fiction.

Rating:: ★★★★½

To read our review of Strange Angels, click here.

Hush Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick
Book Reviews
November 1, 2009 posted by Nikki

Hush Hush – Becca Fitzpatrick

For Nora Grey, romance was not part of the plan. She’s never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how much her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch came along.

With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Nora is drawn to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora’s not sure who to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is, and to know more about her than her closest friends. She can’t decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For Nora is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen – and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost her life.

When Nora is partnered up with the new guy in biology, she knows instantly that there is something a little off about him. He’s cocky, for one, but that’s not all. The thing that really creeps her out is that he seems to know so much about her. And not just stuff he could have found out by sneaking a peek at her school record, or asking around on campus. No. He knows personal things about her, things that she barely knows about herself. And it’s more than a little terrifying.

Interestingly, though, after Nora gets over the initial shock that he seems to know every possible thing about her, the thing that bothers her the most about him is this weird, niggling feeling she gets every time he’s near. Is it fear? Anger? Or maybe it’s something much, much worse… but what could be worse than fear and anger? I think we all know what I’m talking about. When you’re a teenager, love can be worse than everything.

Although its totally obvious that Nora is right to be creeped out by Patch, his persistence, his arrogance, and his mysterious bad boy persona is extremely attractive. Becca Fitzpatrick didn’t need to work very hard to convince me that Patch is one hell of a character. He’s got sex appeal, he’s other-worldly, and he’s got just enough bad mixed in with all the mystery to make him oh-so-good. Patch had me at hello, and I’m almost certain he’ll have all of you, too.

But be warned, readers. Looks and first impressions can be deceiving, and there’s more than a little deception going on in Hush, Hush. The hard part is figuring out where it’s all coming from.

Nora is no idiot, and although she’s beginning to work out that those weird zappy feelings she’s having in her stomach whenever Patch is around are actually warm fuzzies, she keeps her guard up. How can you trust someone you know nothing about? How can you trust a locked vault? Patch won’t tell her anything, and when creepy, unexplainable things keep happening in his presence, Nora is smart enough to know that he’s linked to all the craziness.

Nora’s character is totally believable. She hesitates for just the right amount of time, and her natural sense of curiosity motivates her in just the right kinds of ways. Unlike so many other characters in young adult novels today, Nora totally acts her age and I bought every single aspect of her personality. She’s strong and independent, but not so strong that she is without a sense of teen innocence. She’s an awesome role model for teen girls everywhere.

Becca Fitzpatrick’s prose is effortless, and a real pleasure to read. By the end of the first page, I felt like I was sitting front and centre at the local cinema, rather than on my couch with a book in my hand.

This is teen urban fantasy at its best. It’s got romance, supernatural goodness (and badness), thriller, mystery, and just a splash of realism. When heaven and earth collide, all hell will break loose. Patch and Nora are characters that you’ll love to lose yourself in, and their crazy supernatural world is one that you’ll want to revisit over and over again.

Two very enthusiastic thumbs up!

Rating:: ★★★★★

Author Interview: Sarah Rees Brennan
Author Interviews
August 18, 2009 posted by Nikki

Author Interview: Sarah Rees Brennan

The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan is our Book of the Month here at yaReads. Sarah added to her already huge stack of awesomeness this week and agreed to an interview with us for your reading pleasure. Enjoy.

So, since we’re running a contest that offers both the UK and the US covers as prizes, I have to ask: which one is your fave cover and why?

My favourite cover out of all my covers? Definitely my Japanese cover! Check it out: http://www.sarahreesbrennan.com/japancoversmall.jpg Is it not the greatest cover in the world? I’m having it made into posters to pass out when I am on tour with Scott Westerfeld in October. (Yes, you heard that right. Imagine that phone call as ‘You free to go on tour with Scott Westerfeld?’ *scream* *crash* *gurgling sound of someone trying to both faint and have hysterics* ‘… Yes, that sounds acceptable to me.’)

I like both my UK and US covers: I love how noir and dangerous the UK cover looks, and how the boy on the US cover is good-looking with just a hint of something dark in the eyes – and that underneath the US cover there’s a Secret Cover.

The Demon’s Lexicon world is kind of a mash of a whole bunch of urban fantasy genres. You’ve got everything magical in there. Was that a conscious decision or did it just kind of happen naturally?

I feel magic is like chocolate – adding it makes everything better. I’m never really able to believe that just one fantastical thing is true (witches are real but nothing else is, vampires are real but nothing else is) and I wanted to have a secret world that was believable, and magic that was used in a dozen different ways. Including using it for profit!

Nick is a very fierce character. Please explain.

Well, Nick has a lot to be upset about… Heh. I kept seeing characters who were watered-down versions of the mad, bad and dangerous to know type like Rochester and Heathcliff, and I really wanted to write a character who was mad, bad and dangerous to know – but from the inside, so nobody was distracted by the smouldering good looks (well… not very distracted) and so I could see how that character really ticked, make it clear that this kind of behaviour didn’t come from a good place and also (with some luck!) write a character who was still compelling despite all that.

I’m always interested in how authors choose names for their beloved characters. So, how did you choose yours?

Honestly I am always freaked out by characters with bizarre names in books. So many people with strange names like Faraday Moonfeather, so few explanations like ‘My parents were vampire elders/hippies/thought being beaten up on the playground would build moral fibre.’ So I knew I wanted really normal names for my characters, in order to fight the trend. So, Nick and Alan, normal names that I like. Plus it amuses me that Old Nick is one of the names for the devil, and it seemed a good fit for my slightly villainous hero.

Mae and Jamie, the other two main characters, were chosen to be not so strange and yet say something about their characters: Mae calls herself Mae after Mae West, truly one of the most awesome old movie stars ever (a couple of Mae West quotes: ‘Marriage is a fine institution… but I’m not ready for an institution yet’ and ‘Used to be Snow White, but I drifted’) and Mae Jemison, the first African-American woman in space, which says a lot about Mae, and Jamie goes with a cute, non-threatening nickname rather than ‘James.’

Of course then I found out that ‘Jamie’ can also be a girl’s name in America. I’m so sorry, Jamie!

Did your plot, or your characters for The Demon’s Lexicon come first?

I knew the end of the book first, so you could say that plot came first, but the plot is really bound up with the characters: things only pan out the way they do because the people in the book are the people they are – a compulsive liar, a power addict, someone with an anger management problem and someone with a huge secret – so it’s very hard for me to disentangle the two.

How long did it take – from start to finish – to write The Demon’s Lexicon?

From having the idea to being totally finished, with revising it myself, revising it with my agent, revising it with my editor and copy edits done? Two years. (But I was writing other stuff by the time I was in copy edits… like the sequel!)

You were a Librarian before you were a writer. Do you miss it?

I was a library assistant, not even as fancy as a librarian. 😉 I will tell you one thing I miss about it – story hour at the library every Wednesday. I love reading aloud and running around, and we’d read Where the Wild Things Are and then scream ‘LET THE WILD RUMPUS BEGIN!’ and jog around the children’s space as we all screamed and threw up our hands.

… My bosses never need to know this about me.

You lived in New York for a short period. What did you love most about that? Why did you decide to move back to Ireland?

Well, I moved back to Ireland because I only had a year’s visa as an intern, and the Law asks Questions of a young lady who stays on when her visa is expired…

But I did live in New York, yes, and I loved it. Part of it was just how different life is over there. ‘And what do you call this?’ ‘Mac and cheese…’ ‘Ah, MAC and CHEESE. Mmm, exotic.’ ‘And this delicacy?’ ‘Meatloaf.’ ‘Today I sampled the dish known as the Meat Loaf, Mother. I have as yet suffered no ill effects!’

And partly it was that New York is one of those sprawling, wonderful cities full of discoveries to be made. like a street with quotes written on every paving stone, and biker gangs who end up adopting you (long stories) and friends who don’t abandon you even though you shame them in your paroxysms over bubble tea.

As a first time novelist, is being a writer lived up to everything you thought it would?

I don’t think I ever had a clear idea of what it would be like: I spent years and years having it be a dizzy dream – I wasn’t able to think past publishers saying yes before they did, and when they did I didn’t spend any time thinking: I spent my time either ecstatically dreaming of huge success, or coldly fearing terrible failure.

Even now, there have only been a few moments where I could quietly process what’s happened: when I’m sitting down writing a book that I know someone besides my Great-Aunt Jemima will read, or reading a lovely email from someone who enjoyed the book, or curled up with tea and copy-edits. And then I think ‘Wow, I am so lucky’ and try to think about something else fast lest the luck be broken.

What is your fave fantasy novel?

I absolutely cannot pick one. I love far too many. But possibly my favourite fantasy novelist in the world is Diana Wynne Jones, who makes fantasy both funny and believable all the time, and ties it into issues like fantasy, love, family and betrayal in a way that hits all my fantasy-loving buttons at once with a massive hammer.

Do you get into contemporary/realist fiction?

I get into every kind of fiction there is! I love historical, crime, classics, romance, and everything in between. An extremely brilliant contemporary novel I’ve read recently is Jaclyn Mitchard’s The Deep End of the Ocean, about a young boy stolen from his family, and how his loss affects both his mother and his rebellious older brother. (It’s obvious at this point that families in fiction are one of my favourite things!)

You did an MA in Creative Writing. Is this something that you would recommend to all aspiring writers?

It would depend on the course, and also what they wanted to write. My tutor Liz Jensen (The Ninth Life of Louis Drax) was awesome and taught me a lot, but there were also a few people who thought fantasy was a waste of time. On the whole, I’m really glad I did the course, but I think it’s something everyone has to think over very carefully and then decide for themselves.

Which do you prefer…

Coffee or tea?

Tea. You might think this means I don’t have a problem, but tea actually has more caffeine in it than coffee, and I am on a good thirteen cups a day. Tea is my heroin. baby.

Summer or winter?

Summer! I love the sunshine. Which is sad for me, as the Irish summer lasts approximately three days.

Carrot or icecream?

How can you even ask me that? What do you take me for? Ice-cream! I just had burnt sugar and butter ice-cream while I was in Massachusetts, and honestly I still dream about it.

London or New York?

Oh. That one is really, really tough. I will say New York, because America has being exotic going on for it, and there is always something fun and strange happening in New York (though there’s mostly something fun and strange happening in London.) Still, given the Victorian tea parlour that’s secretly a bar, the library that’s secretly a bar, the underground spyhole that’s secretly a bar, the beauty shop that’s secretly a bar (What… I’m IRISH) I’ll have to go with New York. But I love both!

Demon’s Lexicon Giveaway
August 4, 2009 posted by Nikki

Demon’s Lexicon Giveaway

For those that may not have figured it out yet, The Demon’s Lexicon by Sarah Rees Brennan is our book of the month for August here at yaReads. Just in case you’re not familiar with the book yet, here’s a synopsis from amazon:

Nick and his brother, Alan, have spent their lives on the run from magic. Their father was murdered, and their mother was driven mad by magicians and the demons who give them power. The magicians are hunting the Ryves family for a charm that Nick’s mother stole — a charm that keeps her alive — and they want it badly enough to kill again.

Danger draws even closer when a brother and sister come to the Ryves family for help. The boy wears a demon’s mark, a sign of death that almost nothing can erase…and when Alan also gets marked by a demon, Nick is des-perate to save him. The only way to do that is to kill one of the magicians they have been hiding from for so long.

Ensnared in a deadly game of cat and mouse, Nick starts to suspect that his brother is telling him lie after lie about their past. As the magicians’ Circle closes in on their family, Nick uncovers the secret that could destroy them all.

This is the Demon’s Lexicon. Turn the page.

As part of this, Sarah has been kind enough to donate two books for giveaway to our loyal readers.This month, though, the giveaway has a little bit of a twist. We’re giving away one book with the US cover:

And one copy with the UK cover:

We’ll be drawing the competition on August 30 via an online random selector, so please don’t ask to be entered into the draw for a specific cover. To enter, all you have to do is leave your details and your name in the comments below.

Stay tuned for my review of the novel, an interview with Sarah herself, and a guest review by Sarah.

August 3, 2009 posted by Nikki

Third Chaos Walking Title Revealed!

As promised, we have the title of the third Chaos Walking book for you right here!

As announced on author Patrick Ness’s blog, the title of the third and forthcoming novel in the series is …

Monsters of Men

To read more about the title, click here