August 31, 2012

Mini-Reviews of Young Adult Debuts

EnchantedENCHANTED by Alethea Kontis
Available now from Harcourt (Houghton Mifflin)
Review copy courtesy of Ashleigh of The YA Kitten

In ENCHANTED, Alethea Kontis takes almost every fairytale you've every read, mashes them together, and comes up with something new.  Sunday is the seventh daughter of a seventh daughter (and a seventh son), and thus destined for something special despite being named as nothing more than "blithe and bonny and good and gay."  Her life takes a turn for the magical when she meets a frog in the woods, with whom she falls in love.  Turns out he's the prince who got her older brother killed.

ENCHANTED is an uneven read.  I don't know if this was fixed in the final copy, but a couple of scenes came out of nowhere.  But I love fairytales enough that I could ignore any problems pretty well.  Kontis leaves things open for the return of Jack, and I'd be willing to read another story set in this world.

Of Poseidon OF POSEIDON by Anna Banks
Available now from Feiwel and Friends (Macmillan)
Review copy courtesy of Sarah of The Book Life

Galen, the prince of the Syrena, acts as a sort of ambassador between the humans and his people.  Well, the humans don't know the Syrena exists, but Galen keeps tabs on them.  One of his contacts tells him about Emma, a girl who can speak to fish.  But when he tracks her down, she has no clue what she is.

I got really into OF POSEIDON.  I thought Anna Banks created a terrific world - I wanted to know even more about the Syrena and their politics.  I loved Galen's stubborn denial of his feelings for Emma.  I liked Emma being utterly confused and frustrated by his denial.  But I hated how abruptly OF POSEIDON ended.  I was convinced my copy was missing the last thirty pages.

Seraphina SERAPHINA by Rachel Hartman
Available now from Random House
Review copy

SERAPHINA is a high fantasy novel about a young girl in the kingdom of Goredd.  The humans and dragons have been at peace for forty years and there's about to be a delegation celebrating that anniversary.  But a prince was just murdered, and it looks like a dragon did it.  Seraphina wants to solve the mystery, but she must hide that she is half human, half dragon.

I am so happy Rachel Hartman has already confirmed that there will be a sequel to SERAPHINA.  This is a terrific book filled with mystery, romance, and music.  The differences between humans and dragons are clear, and the balance between them is delicate.  Seraphina must be clever and brave to save both of her peoples.  It's clean enough for younger readers and layered enough to appeal to adults.  SERAPHINA is nothing short of a masterpiece.

Lies Beneath LIES BENEATH by Anne Greenwood Brown
Available now from Delacorte Press (Random House)
Review copy

Calder White and his sisters long to avenge themselves on Jason Hancock, the man responsible for their mother's death.  The Whites are merpeople, surviving on the positive emotions of humans.  LIES BENEATH takes the popular set up of a human girl falling mutually in love with the mysterious, dangerous new boy and twists it by making the narrator the boy.

I really enjoyed spending time in Calder's head.  He's done some nasty things and he might be nicer than his sisters, but he's still willing to hurt people to get what he wants.  Lily Hancock, the love interest, is definitely foolhardy.  But she's got good instincts and doesn't immediately fall for Calder's charming stalker act.  The plot is standard fare, but Calder's inhuman point of view is what separates it from the crowd.  LIES BENEATH is a creepy, romantic read perfect for YA paranormal fans.

The Vicious DeepTHE VICIOUS DEEP by Zoraida Córdova
Available now from  Sourcebooks Fire
Review copy courtesy of Wendy of The Midnight Garden

I think THE VICIOUS DEEP might be my favorite of this year's mermaid books that I've read.  Tristan Hart is a lifeguard who gets sucked into an epic wave when trying to save someone.  When he's found alive and well three days later, he can't remember anything except a silver mermaid and he's a little . . . different.

Zoraida Córdova may be a debut author, but she already knows how to write an absorbing story.  I cannot wait to read THE SAVAGE BLUE and find out what happens next to Tristan, his best friend Layla, and the rest.  And let me say that this book has some awesome female characters.  The girls know what they want and they're willing to work to get their desires.  They certainly aren't going to put up with Tristan at his dumbest moments.  But even though Tristan can be dumb at points, he's a good guy who wants to keep people safe.  That's a very good quality in a prospective king.  THE VICIOUS DEEP is a great choice for those who want a mermaid story with a lot of action.

Insignia INSIGNIA by S. J. Kincaid
Available now from Katherine Tegen Books
Review copy

It's no secret that I've been craving science fiction lately, and INSIGNIA hit the spot.  In the not to distant future, war is fought by children controlling ships in space with their brains.  If that doesn't sound awesome to you, INSIGNIA may not be your kind of book.  Tom Raines travels throughout the country with his gambler father, but he's getting tired of hustling unsuspecting gamers for a living.  When he's offered a position at the military academy to become one of the few, super important Combatants, he jumps at the chance.

I loved the character details in INSIGNIA.  Teamwork is useful when fighting a war, but while Tom makes friends he isn't good at working with others.  But he has a talent for attack that most of his classmates lack.  I loved Wyatt, one of the girl recruits, who is also one of the few who is proficient at programming.  (Programming is the one subject where the recruits can't be helped by machines.)  I am also in love with the unconventional romance storyline.  I cannot wait to see what happens to Tom's ill-advised courtship in the next novel.  INSIGNIA introduces an intriguing new voice in young adult science fiction.


  1. Well, that clinches it. I’ve been seeing good things about Seraphina and Insignia in the blogosphere from people I trust, and I have been intrigued by these titles for a while. Added to the massive TBR pile!
    Thanks for sharing these mini-reviews – I love them.

    1. Glad I could help you reach a decision!

      The mini-reviews are pretty fun to write, and great for helping me to clear my to-be-reviewed pile. I've done them before with success and really should do them more often.

  2. I LOOOOVED Of Poseidon!! And you have listed some great books here! I'm reading Insignia right now and I am excited for it!

    1. I hope you enjoy Insignia! I thought it got even better as it went on.

  3. I'm back, and I've read Seraphina! So glad I heeded everyone's advice and finally got around to it. Loved the world building! And I'm excited to see where the story goes in the sequel.


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