House of Night series by P.C. Cast & Kristin Cast.

First Book Published in 2007

In the House of Night world, vampyres are just a fact of everyday life. As a teenager, you may become marked, which means you are going to go through the change and turn into a vampyre (or you may just die). Then you go to a special school for blood suckers to train to become an adult vampyre. There’s a heavy focus on a higher power. In this case, it’s the vampyre goddess, Nyx. There are high priestesses and lots of ceremonies and stuff.

Zoey is our main gal. She’s just been marked and moves to the house of night school in her city. She is more special than your average vampyre fledgling. She quickly makes friends, love interests and enemies while learning about vampyre stuff and battling evil.

I’ve no doubt that you would have seen the House of Night series around. Maybe you’ve even read some of them. I bought the first three at the same time, and if I had only bought the first one then I doubt that I would have kept going. To begin with, these novels are pretty frustrating. There’s a shameless amount of name dropping, silly replacement swear words, annoying characters and ridiculous romance elements – that’s right, there isn’t just one guy after Zoey, there’s three!

But after book three, it improves a lot. Everyone seems to mature, the love square disintegrates and the plot is a lot better too. There’s ten books out so far, with more to come. I’ve only read the first seven or eight, but I’m going to catch up one of these days.

So if you gave up early on in the series, then why not give it another go – I promise it gets better!

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Starcrossed by Josephine Angelini.

9462795Book One in the Starcrossed series

487 pages

Published 31st May, 2011 by Harper Teen

Helen Hamilton is tragically beautiful, only she doesn’t like people noticing. She slouches and tries not to draw attention to herself. She also has a several strange traits that hides from everyone – including herself – like inhuman strength and speed, and the way she heals very quickly.

Her weirdness only gets worse when a new family moves to town – the Delos’. For some reason whenever she sees them – specifically Lucas – she wants to kill them. Like literally kill them – her hands were actually trying to squeeze the life out of him in the middle of the school hallway.

When Lucas and Helen manage to stop these murderous urges, Helen learns some impossible truths about herself and the Delos’. They are demigods, descended from ancient Greek gods. But even as the two teens grow closer, there is still something keeping them from being together romantically.

A Love written in the stars. A Feud started in ancient Greece. A Curse not even the gods can break.

I must say, this is probably the best supernatural young adult book that I’ve read in a long time. The tension between Helen and Lucas is fantastic – obviously they wanted to be together, and I wanted them to be together, but it seemed impossible. Meanwhile, there’s a second tier couple in the background – Lucas’ cousin Jason and Helen’s best friend, Claire – who I was rooting for just as much as the main characters. I wouldn’t mind reading a novella or something about those two.

As far as the validity of the all the Greek mythology goes, I have no idea how close to true it is, but I also don’t care all that much. It was a good story. Don’t let mythology snags ruin it.

Straight away I noticed some uncanny similarities with Twilight. The Delos family dynamics, for example (also kind of similar to My Blood Approves, for that matter). Or the fact that Helen lives alone with her father (her mother left them when Helen was very young). But I actually love that strange ‘lots of people who aren’t your typical family but live together anyway because there is obviously something different about them’ vibe. No accusations or complaints here.

It took me a fair while to get around reading Starcrossed, so anyone who is into the supernatural stuff has probably already read it. But if not, here I am giving it a solid recommendation.

Additional: I have now read the two sequels to this, Dreamless and Goddess, and thought that they were also really good. Unfortunately it was during my seven month absence, and I don’t want to give them incomplete reviews. But seriously, they were of a much higher quality than some other very popular series in the YA genre. I gobbled them up!

Graceling by Kristin Cashore.

 

ImagePaperback, 370 pages

Published September 3rd, 2009 by Gollancz

IBSN: 9780575085305

Katsa is a strong, independent woman, who kicks serious butt. She has a strange graceling – a gift – that enables her to kill people very well. Her uncle, King Randa, takes advantage of this, essentially using her as a trained attack dog – someone who travels around and threatens or kills his enemies. Katsa resents this, and has founded a secret council, who’s job it is to undermine and ruin her kings nasty plans.

It is during one of the councils missions to rescue Prince Tealiff – the father of the Lienid KIngdom’s King –  that Katsa meets Po, who is also graced, but with fighting (I’ll just tell you now – he is the love interest (and a good one, at that!)). But who kidnapped the elderly prince? and why? Katsa’s council work on unravelling the mystery, while Katsa plans of leaving her Uncle Randa’s court, and his power over her.

So, the gist of a graceling: it’s basically an ability that some people have. It can be anything: fighting, swinging from trees, baking, reading minds, etc. A graced person can be identified by their two different coloured eyes, which settle in months after birth (your baby’s born like any other baby, but watch those eyes – that baby may just turn out to be a graceling soon!). I love this premise, by the way. Kristin Cashore follows through with it fantastically.

There is such beautiful imagery in Graceling. An awesome kings and queens type backdrop. This is a lot of fun to read. I will go one step further and tell you that it’s a delight to read. I don’t think I could fault it if I tried – not that I would want to! The characters are great, the story (which expands and changes from what you gather from the blurb), the setting – everything is great! Listen to me: I’m gushing! See the exclamation marks?!

Wait, I do have one problem, and that lies in the quote on the front cover that mentions Twilight. Ugh. I like Twilight. I love The Hunger Games. But I have an issue with the way that critics always say: ‘read this if you liked [insert name of latest young adult book/series to hit the big time and get a movie deal here]’. I wouldn’t mind it if the two books are actually similar (I recommend books in this way as much as I can), but saying Graceling is for fans of Twilight is a joke, because they are so different. They are literally worlds apart. I suppose that these critics mean well – getting the non readers to read more books by mentioning the books that non readers happen to read (if that makes sense). Generally, I ignore quotes such as these, but it remains a pet peeve of mine.

So check out this amazing, rich, adventurous, fantasy. Especially if you enjoy books like the Narnia series, or P.C. Cast’s Goddess series (particularly the first book, Goddess by MIstake, and the two young adult companions, [who’s titles I seem to have forgotten]). Or if you enjoy fantasy in general, or even if you haven’t dabbled in fantasy much, read it anyway.

Slide by Jill Hathaway.

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Paperback, 250 pages
Published March 1st, 2012
IBSN: 9780007446377

Vee Bell was diagnosed with narcolepsy years ago. Which, as it turns out, is not cute and hilarious – think Rowan Atkinson in Ratrace – but basically like passing out. But here’s the thing about Vee’s narcolepsy: when she passes out, she finds herself in someone else’s head, seeing what they see. She calls it ‘sliding’ and she’s never really thought of it as more than a hindrance.

I can never get used to the feeling of looking through someone else’s eyes. It’s as if each person sees the world in a slightly different hue. The tricky part is figuring out who the person is. It’s like putting together a jigsaw puzzle – what do I see, hear, smell? Everything is a clue.

Sliding isn’t just random, Vee has to be touching something that the person she slides into has imprinted on emotionally. Nobody knows. When Vee tried to tell her dad, she got psych sessions. Her best friend Rollins thinks that she has severe OCD. She is all alone with her big secret and everyone else’s icky little secrets that she is unwillingly privy to.

Until the night of the cheerleaders death, Vee didn’t think her gift could be of any real use. Everyone says that the cheerleader killed herself, but Vee was there – behind the eyes of the killer – and she is the only one who knows that it was murder. Now, despite the police being involved, she is determined to find the real culprit. She already has a few suspects . . .

Slide is Jill Hathaway’s first novel and I enjoyed her writing style. Vee is a likeable character who has had to deal with some horrible stuff, both in her actual life and the things she witnesses when she slides. She seems real and her gift was always written about in a believable way.

As well as the thriller aspect of things, you also have a little romance, a couple of mean girls and some family dynamics thrown in. My only issue with the plot was with the resolution of the killer. I think it was maybe too easy, a little too neat. But for a novel that’s only two hundred and fifty pages long, that’s okay.

I am a little dubious about this being a series – especially if all the books are about Vee tracking down murderers. It’s one of those situations where I think: how many times can one high school girl realistically run into psychopaths? I had similar feelings about the Body Finder series, but that power is different because it has everything to do with dead bodies, unlike Vee’s. But I will have to hold judgement until I have read them. If nothing else, it will be interesting to see Vee develop her gift – and the newfound aspects of her ability.

Read this young adult thriller if you enjoyed The Body Finder by Kimberly Derting or Switch by Carol Snow. If you feel like going the extra mile, throw on some nineties music – Oasis, Pearl Jam, Nirvana – to match Vee’s tastes.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf by Ambelin Kwaymullina.

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Paperback, 395 pages

Published July, 2012 by Walker Books Australia

IBSN: 9781921720086

“There’s a word,” she told me, her pale face serious, “to describe people who believe so fervently that illegals are a threat to the Balance that they can do the kinds of appalling things to us Neville is supposed to have done.”

“There’s two words,” I said. “Nasty. Bastards.”

She smiled and shook her head. “No. Mad.”

It’s a future where the Earth has been broken by our abuse and all the continents have become one. No one cares about race or skin colour anymore. People with ‘abilities’ – supernatural powers – have emerged, but they are deemed a danger to society. If you have an Ability, you are either put into a detention centre, or you run away.

Ashala Wolf is the leader of a group of children with Abilities who have run away to avoid life as a detainee. They are illegals, living as a tribe in the forest. Using their abilities to help make life easier, they have a pretty good set up.

But Ashala has trusted the wrong guy and he – Justin Connor – has betrayed her to the authorities. Now she is being held against her will at a detention centre where the Chief Administrator, Neville Rose, and his team subject her to the Machine – a device designed to seek out and display its victims memories on a screen.

Neville is set on breaking Ashala and finding the information that he needs. Is she strong enough to resist? Can she save her Tribe?

First up, the cover looks great. It’s hard not to be drawn in by that eye. But every book has an awesome cover these days, right? That old saying about not judging a book by it’s cover has never been more true than now, with young adult books that look amazing and yet don’t read so well, all over the place. Thankfully, Ashala Wolf suits the cover nicely.

The world building was quite enjoyable, with little bits of information being fed to you here and there amongst the current goings on. People as a whole – and the Illegals especially – seem to have more of a oneness with the Earth and it’s creatures than we do now. Like a native tribe, I suppose. I was reminded a little of Avatar and the Chaos Walking trilogy at times. Even the Abilities seem to be more an extension of the Earth and/or it’s elements than anything else.

The Interrogation of Ashala Wolf is easy to get into and pretty quick to read, with a nice plot flow throughout. If you are still stuck under the supernatural umbrella, but want something fresh, check this out.