Mini Reviews: A YA Potpourri

Mini Reviews

I haven’t had a lot of time for reviews lately, but I did manage to squeeze in a few reads.  Nothing was absolutely terrible, but I did find a new favorite or two.  If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you thought about them in the comments!


2 A Song for Ella GreyA Song for Ella Grey by David Almond
Genre: Young Adult Magical Realism
Publication Date: October 2nd 2014
ARC Provided by Netgalley and  Hodder Children’s Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: “I’m the one who’s left behind. I’m the one to tell the tale. I knew them both…knew how they lived and how they died.”

Claire is Ella Grey’s best friend. She’s there when the whirlwind arrives on the scene: catapulted into a North East landscape of gutted shipyards; of high arched bridges and ancient collapsed mines. She witnesses a love so dramatic it is as if her best friend has been captured and taken from her. But the loss of her friend to the arms of Orpheus is nothing compared to the loss she feels when Ella is taken from the world. This is her story – as she bears witness to a love so complete; so sure, that not even death can prove final.


Christal’s Review – 2 Skulls – D

A Song for Ella Grey has an interesting premise — reinterpreting the myth of Orpheus and Eurydice — but the execution just didn’t work for me.  Told in free-flowing prose by Ella Grey’s best friend, there was very little room for character development.  Even though we were in Clarie’s head, it never felt like we got to know her.  There were a lot of redundancies and overflowing descriptions that could have been eliminated to make the story tighter.  I feel like David Almond intended for this story to be meaningful, but everything about it just came off as shallow.  I can’t recommend this book, but I can recommend another adaptation series that I feel is far superior, All Our Pretty Songs and Dirty Wings by Sarah McCarry.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

Thank you to Netgalley and Hodder Children’s Books for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


7 The FallThe Fall by Bethany Griffin
Genre: Young Adult Horror
Publication Date: October 7th 2014
ARC Provided by Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: Madeline Usher is doomed.

She has spent her life fighting fate, and she thought she was succeeding. Until she woke up in a coffin.

Ushers die young. Ushers are cursed. Ushers can never leave their house, a house that haunts and is haunted, a house that almost seems to have a mind of its own. Madeline’s life—revealed through short bursts of memory—has hinged around her desperate plan to escape, to save herself and her brother. Her only chance lies in destroying the house.

In the end, can Madeline keep her own sanity and bring the house down? The Fall is a literary psychological thriller, reimagining Edgar Allan Poe’s classic The Fall of the House of Usher.

Christal’s Review – 3 Skulls – C

Another reimagining, The Fall worked a little bit better for me.  Bethany Griffin has previously adapted Edgar Allen Poe’s Masque of the Red Death, but this time she tackled a story I wasn’t familiar with — The Fall of the House of UsherThe Fall told the story of Madeline Usher and her family and how they were all ruled by the curse of Usher House.  This book could be very spooky at times, but the POV sometimes felt off.  Madeline is the narrator, but each chapter was her at a different age and they were not sequential.  Things would be getting good in the current timeline and then the chapter would end abruptly.  The next chapter wouldn’t continue the current timeline necessarily; we might end up transitioning to an event that Madeline experience at age 9.  It could get very frustrating.  The ending was what really bothered me though.  The reader puts all this time and effort into Madeline’s story, but we are left with a rather open ending.  I understand Ms. Griffin is paying homage to Poe and his original story, but I personally don’t feel the payoff was worth the read.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

Thank you to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!


8 Rebel BelleRebel Belle by Rachel Hawkins
Book #1 in Rebel Belle
Genre: Young Adult Paranormal
Publication Date: April 8th 2014
Book Borrowed from Local Library

Synopsis from Goodreads: Harper Price, peerless Southern belle, was born ready for a Homecoming tiara. But after a strange run-in at the dance imbues her with incredible abilities, Harper’s destiny takes a turn for the seriously weird. She becomes a Paladin, one of an ancient line of guardians with agility, super strength and lethal fighting instincts.

Just when life can’t get any more disastrously crazy, Harper finds out who she’s charged to protect: David Stark, school reporter, subject of a mysterious prophecy and possibly Harper’s least favorite person. But things get complicated when Harper starts falling for him—and discovers that David’s own fate could very well be to destroy Earth.

With snappy banter, cotillion dresses, non-stop action and a touch of magic, this new young adult series from bestseller Rachel Hawkins is going to make y’all beg for more.

Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B+

I really enjoyed Rebel Belle!  I actually read it all in one sitting as it is rather short, completely engrossing, and an easy read.  Harper Price starts off as a character you love to hate, but you soon find out just how damaged she is and the pain she’s hiding behind her perfect veneer.  Neither of the guys hit it out of the ball park for me — David turned me off a bit with his “be mean to Harper to hide you like her” act and Ryan was a little too “charmingly” clueless — but, I am very interested to see how the three of them will work together in the next book.  This book definitely felt like a setup for the series, but it was still very enjoyable.  I do think the next volume will be better now that the mythology is established and we’ll hopefully get more character development for the boys, the big bad, and the super secret council.  Rebel Belle is like a cold glass of sweet tea on a hot day and I highly recommend it to those looking for a cute read.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

Best of Para


9 Falling Into PlaceFalling Into Place by Amy Zhang
Genre: Young Adult Contemporary
Publication Date: September 9th 2014
ARC Provided by Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books

Synopsis from Goodreads: On the day Liz Emerson tries to die, they had reviewed Newton’s laws of motion in physics class. Then, after school, she put them into practice by running her Mercedes off the road.

Why? Why did Liz Emerson decide that the world would be better off without her? Why did she give up? Vividly told by an unexpected and surprising narrator, this heartbreaking and nonlinear novel pieces together the short and devastating life of Meridian High’s most popular junior girl. Mass, acceleration, momentum, force—Liz didn’t understand it in physics, and even as her Mercedes hurtles toward the tree, she doesn’t understand it now. How do we impact one another? How do our actions reverberate? What does it mean to be a friend? To love someone? To be a daughter? Or a mother? Is life truly more than cause and effect? Amy Zhang’s haunting and universal story will appeal to fans of Lauren Oliver, Gayle Forman, and Jay Asher.

Christal’s Review – 4 Skulls – B+

Falling Into Place was a very powerful novel and I was surprised when I learned the author wrote this while in high school.  It makes sense though — who better to write about high school students than one of them?  This story focuses on popular mean girl Liz Emerson and her attempt at suicide.  As Liz lays in a coma, the people she loved and the people she wronged remember their experiences with her through an omnipotent narrator’s voice.  I pretty much figured out who the narrator was the first few chapters in and it worked for me; we were able to get different perspectives and secret moments that an outside narrator wouldn’t be able to provide.  Liz was a very hard character to sympathize with because of everything she did to other people, but you slowly learn more about the events that shaped her into someone who tries to take her own life.  There is no excusing what she did, and Falling Into Place never tries to make light of her actions, but you do start to feel bad for her by the end.  The other characters in the story were also well-developed and you connect with each of them and their pain as the story develops.  I enjoyed this one immensely and highly recommend it as well.  Readers should be aware that it does deal with very serious subject-matter like suicide, bullying, and drugs & alcohol, so don’t go in expecting a light read.  It is emotional and moving though and I will definitely be checking out whatever Amy Zhang writes next.

Rating: ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠  ☠ 

Best of YA Contemp

Thank you to Edelweiss and Greenwillow Books for providing an ARC copy of this book in exchange for an honest review!



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