Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Chaos Unleashed

Chaos Unleashed by Alec Sillifant (Meadowside Children’s Books, 2009, 352pp.)

When juvenile delinquent Jake Highfield is arrested yet again for some petty crime, the last thing he expects is to be recruited by the powers that be for his top-notch thieving skills—yet this is exactly what happens. In order to repay his debt to society, he is brought to St. Margaret’s, a special secret school that turns talented young lawbreakers into trained operatives, ready to risk life and limb for queen and country. Although Jake initially resists his integration into school-life, he soon settles down to a better life than he could have ever imagined. However, St. Margaret’s is not entirely what it seems. When rumors begin circulating that operatives are starting to disappear in the field, Jake doesn’t pay them much mind—until his best friend, Angel, finds evidence that suggests that he may be the next to vanish!

Chaos Unleashed is an entry that belongs to the “special school” genre of YA literature. Although the supporting cast leaves something to be desired, Jake and his friend, Angel, are finely drawn characters in this fast-paced novel. Recommended for fans of spy adventure, and Ages 15-Up.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Secret of the Phoon

Secret of the Phoon (The Phoon #1) by Corinne Foster (Self-Published, 2013, 169pp.)

The Unloved have lived in the ancient walls of Domina for as long as anyone can remember. Domina is a haven for spirited girls who have found their families’ patriarchal views incompatible with their own. They are watched over by Avira, their solitary leader who controls a powerful, deadly force called the Phoon. It is forbidden to mention the Phoon to outsiders, and anyone who breaks this one rule will find themselves forever shunned—and for good reason. When the careless Shastia leaves Domina to start a new life as a tradesman’s wife, she brags about the power of the Phoon to one of her husband’s chauvinistic clients. Soon, word of this mysterious force reaches two warring factions, each who desire to harness the Phoon for their own nefarious purposes. While I feel that the characters could have been a little more well-developed, it’s still an interesting read full of intricate world-building detail. Recommended for Ages 16-Up.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

No Alligators in Sight

No Alligators in Sight by Kirsten B. Feldman (Self-Published, 2013, 233pp.)

When 13-year-old Lettie is caught shoplifting, her father sends both her and her younger brother to live with their estranged mother for the summer as punishment. Their mother Gertrude, who left the family when her children were very young, is now living in Florida and married to control-freak Orlando. It’s a recipe for disaster as the head-strong Lettie clashes with both adults, all the while struggling to figure out where she fits in as a teen who’s much too old for her age. Although the novel starts out slow, Lettie’s journey as a character is well-developed, and should appeal to fans of realism and coming-of-age fiction. Recommended for Ages 14-16.

A Quirky Supernatural Adventure for Teens

Source: Author Website
Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent by Kate Welshman (The Writer’s Coffee Shop, 2013, 204pp.)

When Anais Butt is kicked out of yet another boarding school for her delinquent behavior, her parents have finally had it. They send her to stay with her paternal grandmother, Nanny Bette, until they have time to come and deliver her to her next destination: the family-owned riding school run by her ball-busting maternal grandmother, Nanny Pam, in the backwater town of Glenorie. The hope is that a few months under Nanny Pam’s reign of terror will straighten her out. While she awaits the arrival of her nasty parents, Anais discovers that Nanny Bette has taken on a boarder, a young man by the name of Shannon Ferguson. The problem? Shannon’s, er…sort of different. Although quite easy on the eyes, he smells unpleasantly like a wet dog, a fact due to an unfortunate secret his family has carried down through the generations.

Filled with enough quirkiness to rival the imaginations of both Roald Dahl and J.K. Rowling, Anais Butt and the Hairy-Handed Gent is the newest offering in the teen-supernatural-love story genre. Although my first thought is to compare it to Twilight, it really is nothing like it. Those who disapprove of Twilight’s bland Bella Swann will definitely find an appealing heroine in Anais Butt. Recommended for Ages 15-Up.


Divison by Karen A. Wyle (Self-Published, 2014, 350pp.)
In the distant future, Johnny and Gordon Blake, conjoined twins, are living a quiet existence with their friends and family. Gordon is perfectly happy with their lives. Johnny is not. When a revolutionary new cloning procedure is invented, allowing persons to safely have their brains transplanted into new bodies, Johnny is eager to get a body of his own so he can live his own independent life. He resorts to legal measures to have himself emancipated from the body he shares with his twin, and threatens to destroy his family’s happiness and security.

While a bit unusual, it’s definitely a great story. I have no idea if the science fiction elements here are valid, but that’s not the novel’s real focus. While the twins’ physical condition may not be something that everyone can relate to (after all, the condition is rare), the story’s implications are definitely universal. Division highlights the struggle between the comforting and confining nature of familial closeness, and the natural adolescent urge for personal space and independence. A YA/adult crossover novel recommended for Ages 16-Up.

Ruth 66

Source: Author Website
Ruth 66 by Elizabeth Barlo (Self-Published, 2014, 576pp.)

16-year-old Charlie’s normally austere Dutch grandmother surprises his family when she screeches up in their front yard in a vintage 1960s VW bus. She’s let down her hair, forsaken her Botox treatments, and has donated the entire family fortune to charity. An even bigger surprise? She wants Charlie to give up his summer job to accompany her on a cross-country trip. Together, they trek across America in a tale filled with rock ’n roll, family secrets, and humor.

For the most part, Ruth 66 is an enjoyable, offbeat road trip filled with an appropriate amount of quirkiness. Although the novel is a little on the long side for a YA novel, the action unfolds smoothly and consistently. On the downside, the novel sometimes resorts to crude moments of slapstick humor, which the reader (depending on his sense of humor) may or may not appreciate. In addition to this, the novel’s closing act contains elements that I felt I had seen many times before in Hollywood films, and pivots on a major misunderstanding that, I feel, could have been easily cleared up had certain characters not resorted to melodrama. On the whole, though, it’s a pretty solid novel, recommended for Ages 16-Up.