Sunday, August 25, 2013

Entertaining, But Far From Serious Literature

Source: Goodreads
Dawn of the Knight by Robert L. Beck (Self-Published, 2013, 247pp.)

Lance Rock, a Canadian teen, has been home-schooled since he was a child—but the education he has received is far from ordinary. Scott, his mentor of 12 years, is a former CIA operative. He has trained his young pupil in a broad range of subjects, such as multiple languages, computer hacking, and martial arts. But at 18, Lance is tired of his “training” and eager to live a “normal” life like his public school friends. He breaks off his training—and his relationship with his mentor—to travel to a high school in California as a foreign exchange student. Here, he meets his host family, Stacy Muller, a single mother, and her two teenaged daughters, Shannon and A.J. There’s also an assortment of new classmates, including Reina, a sultry female exchange student from Japan. Once lodged with the Mullers, however, he quickly comes to realize that this semester will be far from the “fun” he was seeking. His new school happens to be crawling with bullies (most of them from the football team). He also discovers that his host family is being terrorized by a group of mystery men—and Stacy, his host-mother, wants to keep their predicament under wraps! How will Lance, former home-schooled student, face up to the social protocol of public high school? And who is the gang tormenting his beloved host family? Beck’s novel traces Lance’s high school experience, from taking on the high school goons, to defending his host family’s household from sadistic strangers.

To be honest, I really wasn’t quite sure what to think about the story. I wasn’t sure if the author was poking fun at the martial arts genre, or writing a serious story. Some of Lance’s good-guy gestures are so grandiose as to be borderline satirical. After he frees the student body from the tyranny of the football team, the rejoicing he describes that follows is equal only to “Moses free[ing] the Hebrew slaves from Egyptian bondage…” (164). Then there’s Reina, Lance’s classmate, who also specializes in martial arts and affectionately refers to him as “Lance-san” and “Samurai-san.” However, these complaints aside, I actually found the novel to be rather fun in a mindless, corny sort of way. So, my verdict? An entertaining read, but far from serious literature. Recommended for Ages 16-18.

Saturday, August 17, 2013


Anatomy of a Single Girl (Anatomy #2) by Daria Snadowsky (Delacorte Books for Young Readers, 2013, 240pp.)

A year after she’s dumped by her first boyfriend, Dominique Baylor, now a pre-med major at Tulane, is officially single—and not at all sure how to feel about it. Then she meets Guy, an attractive physics student who's as nerdy about science as she is. When they decide to have a summer fling (each agreeing to go their separate ways in the fall), Dom finds out just how complicated “no strings attached” relationships can be.

Anatomy of a Single Girl
is the follow-up to Anatomy of a Boyfriend, a novel that deals with first-time relationships (and all the baggage that comes with them). Single Girl, on the other hand, debunks more advanced issues like sexual health and non-traditional girl/guy relationships. Although the novel works as a whole, there are some scenes that read more like a primer on sexual health and gynecology visits than as a work of fiction. Despite this, however, the novel's message itself is enough reason to check it out: it’s perfectly okay for a guy to remain a friend. Recommended for Ages 16-18 for sexual content.


Anatomy of a Boyfriend (Anatomy #1) by Daria Snadowsky (Delacorte Press, 2007, 264pp.)

When high school senior Dominique meets Wesley Gershwin, a devoted member of the track team, it’s pretty much love at first sight. Ordinarily Dominique, who plans to become a doctor, is only interested in making good grades, but after getting to know Wesley, she quickly goes mad for him. Fortunately for her, the feeling’s mutual. They quickly begin a sexual relationship, but are worried about what will happen when it comes time to apply for colleges. Will their infatuation be able to survive a long-distance relationship?

Full of much-needed wisdom for teens of today, Anatomy of a Boyfriend gives the skinny on first-time relationships and how they so often fail to meet expectations. (No, your first boyfriend probably won’t be your last, your love does not outshine the sun, and your first time at sex will most likely be uncomfortable and disappointing.) It also focuses on anxiety-ridden issues like college life, personal identity, and brings to light the horrifying realization that, at 18, you may still have no idea what you want to do with your life. Although neither Dominique or Wesley are particularly memorable characters, their short-lived romance will serve as an enlightening experience for young adults. Recommended for Ages 16-18 for sexual content.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

A Fresh and Engaging Read

Thrall (Daughters of Lilith #1) by Jennifer Quintenz (Secret Tree Press, 2012, 297pp.)

Braedyn Murphy wakes up one day to learn that she is far from an normal high school sophomore—she is, in fact, a demon. Odysseus called them sirens. Harry Potter calls them Veela. Braedyn’s brand of demon is called Lilitu. To the ordinary human eye, they are beautiful, irresistible women. But the Guard, a centuries-old organization dedicated to fighting these demons, knows better: the Lilitu are succubae that use their beauty as a tool to lure their prey and then drain them of their life-force. A kiss can be draining to a human; sex itself can be deadly.

Braedyn’s father, a member of the Guard, explains to her that although she is a demon, the Guard intends to use her as a force for good, a spy of sorts, to infiltrate the Lilitu and learn what they’re up to. When she meets Lucas, a fellow classmate at school and the only other teen member of the Guard, it’s love at first sight. But there’s only one problem: Lucas doesn’t know she’s a Lilitu, and harbors a particular grudge against her species for killing his brother. 

Thrall is a fresh and engaging read. Parents of readers worried by the mention of sex needn’t worry. Although sex is the ultimate “power-up” for the Lilitu, no sex actually appears in the book. Braedyn and Lucas have one or two kissing scenes, but that’s about all in turns of “mature” content. Recommended for fans of urban fantasy, and readers ages 16-18.

Click on cover for image source.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Very Readable and Enjoyable, But Still Needs Work

Cuspian (Cuspian Saga #1) by DC Hall (Self-Published, 2013, 348pp.)
“The destiny of the world is laid out in the stars. Each man, woman, and child’s life. The struggles, successes, the major and minute details are written out in the skies of the heavens, concealed from mankind.”
A tale told by a pair of fraternal twins, Cuspian tells the story of Kennedi and Kendal Myles, two close-knit siblings who find their lives shattered when their mother is murdered. After their father, who abandoned the family years ago, arrives to take custody of them, strange things begin happening. Kennedi can suddenly hear other people's thoughts, while her brother, Kendal, is plagued by a force that threatens to cause serious injury those around him. Then they learn that they’re Cuspians, individuals born during the period of time when one astrological sign is receding, while another moves into prominence. As one character explains it, “[Cuspians] are born on the cusp between the stars with two destinies: one of unspeakable good or unimaginable evil. ... Cuspians have abilities to help them fulfill their true destinies.” 

Cuspian, the first in a series, is ultimately engaging, and ends with a tense, cliff-hanger ending. You know, the “Oh-my-God-when-is-the-next-book-coming-out?” kind. The mystery surrounding the origin of the twins’ powers is intriguing, and although the narrative voices aren’t really that distinct from each other, the author is still able to develop the twins into two distinct personalities. However, I certainly wouldn’t call this book a finished product, just yet. It could use a lot of trimming and tightening of certain elements. More specifically, pacing is inconsistent throughout the novel, and tends to lag in between big events and important revelations. Some events that occur are confusing, and the cliffhanger ending leaves some questions unanswered that may annoy some readers.

The verdict: very readable, but not the best it could be. The story is dark, and gets pretty bloody and graphic towards the end, so I’d recommend this for fans of dark fantasy only. Recommended for Ages 16-18.

Click on cover for image source.