Tag Archives: young adult

Harnessing the Dragon Within

Book Stats: Eon

Author: Alison Goodman

Age group: 15-19

Best place to buy: Barnesandnoble.com

Length: 544 pages

Rating: 9 out of 10

So, I lied, I finished one last book before finals week really started. I couldn’t help it, it was impossible to put down. It was all I could think about and I knew I had to finish it before I got any real work done. I can hardly wait for the sequel to come out in April.

Summary: Eon by Alison Goodman is a long book, but a fast read. Eon is a candidate to become a Dragoneye apprentice and eventually a Dragoneye. Dragoneyes have a connection to the twelve energy dragons that control their own point of the compass and each have their own year of increased power. The energy dragons help to keep balance in the land and bring good fortune to the people. Candidates are boys born in the year of the dragon they hope to connect with. They undergo training before the New Year celebration, during which the dragon chooses the next apprentice.

Eon is unlike the other candidates, not just because of a crippled hip. Eon is really Eona, a sixteen year old girl masquerading as a boy because girls are not allowed to use dragon magic, something she already shows an affinity for. Her master, a former Dragoneye, has placed all his fortune and hope on her being chosen by the Rat Dragon.

Eon must struggle to hide her secret; if found it would result in her death. This becomes harder as she is thrown into a fight for the empire, the Dragoneye way of life and her identity. Will she have the bravery to own her true identity? Pick up this must read to find out.

Reasons for the rating: As I mentioned earlier, I found this book hard to put down. From page one I was hooked and wanted to know more about this girl desperately trying to make it in a man’s field, as a man. I think one reason I liked this book was how it reminded me of Tamora Pierce’s series, Song of the Lioness. The main character in that series starts out taking her brother’s place in training to become a knight, hiding her feminine identity. It also interested me to see a quote from Pierce, saying how much she liked it, on the front of the book. I really enjoyed Pierce’s books when I was younger and I was interested to see a book endorsed so enthusiastically by her. Eon has a voice reminiscent of Pierce’s earlier books while still holding its own.

This book has elements very reminiscent of Chinese culture. Where Pierce bases her books in the time of knights in the medieval period; Goodman bases hers in the dynasty age of ancient China.  Goodman takes the Chinese calendar and uses the concept of the twelve animals to represent the energy dragons of the story. The empire and palace are quite like something one would find in the dynasty age of China, complete with a guarded harem, eunuchs and extravagant design. It is obvious a great deal of research went into this book but she finds a balance between description and plot movement.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to older teens and young adults. There are some mature parts in the book that I know most moms wouldn’t want their 12-year-old reading. Also, given the length, older teens tend to have a slightly longer attention span. This is a great way to learn a little more about an ancient culture (of course much is fictional) and enjoy a great plot at the same time. Fans of Tamora Pierce and new readers alike will love this book. I can see myself reading more by Alison Goodman and going back to my favorites of Tamora Pierce.

*Note: This book is apparently known under three other names; Eon: Dragoneye Reborn; Eon: Rise of the Dragoneye and The Two Pearls of Wisdom

Elizabethan England with a Magical Twist

Book Stats: Snow White and Rose Red

Author: Patricia Wrede

Age group: 15-17

Best place to buy: BarnesandNoble.com ($8.09)

Length: 288

Rating: 8 out of 10

Duh Duh Da! I read book number 4. Actually I finished it last week but this week is the week before finals, when all the big projects are due. I’ve been focusing on that, but now it’s crunch time because I still need to have 20 posts by next Thursday. Sorry, but next time we will be back to books I read before this semester until after finals when I will have time to read again. We’ll get through this together.

Summary: Snow White and Rose Red, written by Patricia Wrede, is another classic fairy-tale retold in an imaginative way. The widow and her two daughters live outside their village at the edge of the woods. The widow is an herbalist and she uses her daughters, Blanche and Rosamunde to gather the herbs.

Within the woods lies the border of Fairy, the magical world where fairies dwell.  The Fairy Queen’s two sons, John and Hugh, are half mortal but John feels more connection with the mortal world than Hugh. The daughters gather some herbs from Fairy for their special properties.

Two local wizards use All Hallows Eve to conduct a spell on fairy, affecting one of the fairy brothers. The other brother searches desperately for a cure for the spell that turned his brother into a bear and stole his fairy powers.

The Bear, forgetting his new form, comes to the door of the widow’s cabin. With their experience with Fairy, the widow and her daughters allow the strangely intelligent bear to spend the evenings in their home, warm while winter swarms outside.

The Widow reveals that she knows some witchcraft, the benevolent kind, spurring her and her daughters to work to find a cure for the bear themselves. They unknowingly pit themselves against the wizards who cast the original spell.

Finding a cure turns out to be too much for this humble witch and her daughters. They must face failure, unexpected collaborations and even fairy interference. Will they ever help the bear return to his original form and find their way to the fairy-tale ending? You will have to read it to find out.

Reasons for the Rating: This book was a good escape for me from homework into a land of fantasy. It was interesting to have this tale set in Elizabethan England, a time that usually reminds me of Shakespeare. Patricia Wrede definitely did her homework about the time period, even using period dialog.

The story is imaginative and detailed, down to the herbs used for the spells. That may be a hindrance in some ways, making the plot move slowly and taking more time to read. Once I edited a manuscript with a scene that included desert snakes in a pit. Little detail was given, yet when I verified the facts, the writer was right on. In other words, writers should do the research but they don’t have to share every little detail with the reader.

Outside of that flaw I enjoyed the book. I tend to enjoy Patricia Wrede and her writing style. We all go overboard sometimes, right? One small problem does not ruin a book. Besides, I might just be a bit impatient.

Recommendation: I would recommend this book to both young adult readers and even some older ones. I think everyone can enjoy a good fairy tale once and a while. So, go out, read a fairy tale, escape the world, and enjoy a happy ending. Maybe it will melt some of the stress away.

Assassins, Betrayal and a Splash of Romance

Book Stats: Aurelia

Author: Anne Osterlund

Age group: 14-18

Where to buy: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com

Length: 246

Rating: 7 out of 10

My third choice of book was inspired by a viewing of a fairy tale movie that came out in theaters this last week. I wanted a princess story and lucky for me I had already bought one in my shopping spree.

Aurelia is the willful and outspoken crown princess of Tyralt. While she worries about an itchy ankle at her sister’s coming out party something much more sinister goes on behind the scenes. The body of Aurelia’s taster is quietly taken away, another assassination attempt kept from the princess.

The next day the son of the king’s former spy master returns to the palace to investigate the attempts on her life. Robert once went to school with Aurelia in the palace and easily renews their friendship. Most importantly he is determined to protect her and discover who is behind the plot on her life.

Soon he is forced to tell her of the danger just to get her to stop foolishly putting her life in danger. Yet even with her help will he be able to discover the culprit before it is too late?

Betrayal comes from the most unexpected places in Anne Osterlund’s first novel. The plot will keep you guessing even as a tentative romance develops between Aurelia and Robert.

I enjoyed this book for the most part. Osterlund shows her story telling abilities well in this novel, weaving a mystery that does not reveal itself until the last moment. The romance felt a bit forced to me and the changing perspectives between Robert and Aurelia was sometimes confusing.

The part that probably bothered me the most was Aurelia’s habit of running away when something bothered her. Everything from an unintentional insult to an unexpected kiss sends her running. I wished to see her grow up a bit more in the course of the book.

Thank goodness Osterlund wrote a sequel, to come out in April of next year. Otherwise I would want to toss the book at a wall for the way it left so many questions unanswered.

It is an interesting coming of age story with a good mix of mystery, intrigue and romance. Aurelia sees more and more in the story how she would like to lead her country and how tradition can sometimes stand in the way of progress. She grows some but I am interested to see how she will grow in the sequel to come. I’ll have to let you know how I feel after I have a chance to read it.

Until then I would still recommend this book. I think many young readers can enjoy the writing style of Osterlund and her development of the plot. By April I hope to not be the only person awaiting the publication of the sequel: Exile.

Move Over Mr. Darcy, Here Comes Captain Williams

Book Stats: I Was Jane Austen’s Best Friend

Author: Cora Harrison

Age group:14-18 (or older)

Where to buy: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com

Length: 342

Rating: 7 out of 10

Book number two of six has been read. I decided to read I was Jane Austen’s Best Friend by Cora Harrison next, partially to get in the spirit for the Jane Austen Yule Ball Saturday next. (That’s Austen speak for the Saturday after this one.)

I have long loved Jane Austen’s works and the movie adaptations. What girl doesn’t love an old fashioned romance? Obviously Cora Harrison is a fan herself; it was the inspiration for writing this book.

Not much is known about Jane Austen’s teenage years, only clippings of her writings from that time and details of a few key events. One such event was an illness she suffered while at boarding school in Southampton. Her courageous cousin Jane Cooper (changed to Jenny in the book for clarity’s sake) went against the orders of the headmaster to tell Mrs. Austen of Jane’s illness. Without the intervention of her mother, it is believed, Jane could have died from this illness.

In the book Jenny is not just disobeying orders but goes out past midnight to deliver the letter to the post. In her adventures on the street she meets a dashing young captain by the name of Thomas Williams. He escorts her to the post and back, keeping her safe from the riffraff that roam the streets that time of night.

For the rest of the book a horrible fear plagues Jenny, if her midnight adventure were to be discovered her reputation would be ruined. Yet even with this fear she enjoys many of the exciting opportunities chronicled in Austen’s books.

Jenny and Jane share a room and gossip over their pillows. They go to balls, choose new dresses and wonder which men will take an interest in them. Many of the people and events in this book are true to actual history, including Captain Williams, who comes back later in the book.

While the book was sometimes a little slow moving I found it quite enjoyable. It added a modern flair to Austen’s style of writing. I personally think all of Jane Austen’s books take a bit of time to get to the exciting things so in that regard Cora Harrison had it spot on.

This book would make a great introduction for teen girls into the world of Jane Austen. It explains some of the customs and attitudes of the time which would make understanding Jane Austen easier. I would still recommend it to older teens though, mostly because younger teens might not understand the obsession with marriage that was so ever present at that time. Mature young teenagers may also be able to handle it.

Cora Harrison has produced a work about real people in a slightly fictional situation, written in a way that Jane Austen could be proud of. Austenites and regular folks alike can enjoy this book. I know I did.

Frozen in an Internal War

Book Stats: Wintergirls

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Age group: 12-20

Where to buy: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com

Length: 278 pages

Rating: 9 out of 10

The first book I chose to read out of my six book shopping spree was Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson. Anderson continues her great work of bringing important but often sensitive subjects to a wide audience. She has a gift for making these subjects something that everyone can relate to, even if they have never gone through it.

The subject of this book is one every young girl should know about, eating disorders. Eating disorders are very hard to explain to people who have not been through it or known someone who has. There are many misconceptions and snap judgments made about people with these disorders.

Lia is an 18 year old girl struggling with anorexia. The book opens as she finds out about the death of her best friend, Cassie, who died due to complications from bulimia.

Could Lia have saved her?

“You’re not dead, but you’re not alive. You’re a Wintergirl…”

Will Lia have the strength to save herself?

Haunted by the ghost of her friend and fighting an evil cycle of self hate and deception, Lia must find a way to live, before it is too late.

Nothing anyone says can save her, until she chooses to save herself.

The Miami Herald is quoted on the back as saying, “If you’re a teenage girl, Wintergirls might just save your life.”

I think this book is a must read for all teenage girls. Little is said about eating disorders yet girls are constantly bombarded with images of skinny models, weight loss tricks and diet fads. If asked would any girl know the causes or symptoms of an eating disorder?

Laurie Halse Anderson has brought this subject to her audience in an easy to understand way. Awareness may just be the key to keeping our youth from following others down this destructive and dangerous path. Even I, an overweight young adult, felt myself connect to Lia and her struggles. Imagine what this book could do for a girl about to go over the edge.

All I can really say is read it!

The Forbidden Shopping Spree

From Left: Aurelia by Anne Osterlund, Snow White and Rose Red by Patricia Wrede, Eon by Alison Goodman, Virals by Kathy Reichs, I was Jane Austen's Best Friend by Cora Harrison

I decided this weekend to get some new books to read over Thanksgiving break. I had to make a special trip to the nearest big town to visit the mall there.

Before I went down I did some research and chose a few books I would like to read. When I got to Barnes and Noble (the biggest bookstore in the town) only two of the books were in the store, I hadn’t noticed the release dates on the other two. (They don’t come out for another couple of weeks.)

Since those books weren’t there it opened me up to the Achilles’ heel of book lovers, browsing. How I can I resist the aisles of the young adult section? The bright colors, the interesting titles, favorite authors and the amazing displays. It is a wonderland.

My fingers itched to pull every book off the shelf and read them right there. I had to control myself, fighting my desires, in order to find the perfect books to review. I also wanted to keep the costs down a bit since I am a typically poor college student.

Even with my budget I found it hard to stop myself from picking books. By the time I made it to the checkout counter I had reduced the pile to six books; only two of which were hard cover.

I still cringed when I saw the total but with a laugh of self deprecation I handed my card to the nice pregnant lady behind the counter. A moment later I walked out of the store with my bag full of (hopefully) exciting books.

I haven’t worked in over a week (no surveys to call people with), I eat out way too much and last night I spent way too much money on books. From now on, shopping sprees are forbidden until I am earning money again.

In the meantime I will read the six books I bought and enjoy a relaxing week off from school. After I get through this next week of course. I should go get some homework done.

“You shall be Ordinary”

I think we shall try (as much as possible) to review/suggest two books a week. They mostly will be a long time favorites of mine that I have read more than once. My current schedule is rather packed with school reading so I don’t have time for much else.

Book Stats: The Ordinary Princess

Author: M.M. Kaye

Age Group: 9-14

Where to buy: Amazon.com

Length: 112 pages

Rating: 8 out of 10

“You shall be Ordinary”

The words jump off the back cover of my 1986 version of The Ordinary Princess by M.M. Kaye.

Even as a nine year old girl those words gripped me from look one.

I had heard the classic fairy tales, the ones with the helpless female and heroic prince, and was dissatisfied with how much the princess had to rely on others for help. For the first time in my life the woman was more than just a helpless damsel trapped in a tower, Princess Amy took life into her own hands.

At her christening Princess Amethyst Alexandra Augusta Araminta Adelaide Aurelia Anne, the seventh perfect princess in a line of perfect princesses, was “cursed” by a powerful fairy to be ordinary. From that day on she was nothing like her six blonde sisters and when the time came no one would marry her.

Her parents in their desperation to marry off their final daughter decide to hire a dragon to attract princes to win her hand.

When Amy hears this plan she finally does what she has wished to do for years, she runs away. A series of forest adventures, followed by dark days in a castle kitchen lead to the traditional happy ending.

As someone new to the genre of girl-power fantasy this book is a great introduction to a nontraditional fairy tale that maintains the childlike innocence of a Disney retelling.

For those of you looking for a fun easy read or a great recommendation for a growing girl look no further.

Personally this book will always be a classic on my bookcase, something I hope to one day read with my daughter as I teach her about the joy of reading.