The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan

The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan
The Trials of Apollo by Rick Riordan
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion Publishing
Genre: Action/Adventure, middle grade, Sci-Fi/Fantasy
Length: Full Length (384 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated: 4 stars
Age Recommendation: 10+
Review by Lupine

How do you punish an immortal?

By making him human.

After angering his father Zeus, the god Apollo is cast down from Olympus. Weak and disoriented, he lands in New York City as a regular teenage boy. Now, without his godly powers, the four-thousand-year-old deity must learn to survive in the modern world until he can somehow find a way to regain Zeus’s favor.

But Apollo has many enemies-gods, monsters, and mortals who would love to see the former Olympian permanently destroyed. Apollo needs help, and he can think of only one place to go . . . an enclave of modern demigods known as Camp Half-Blood.

Once again, Rick Riordan has come out with yet another book exploring the ancient history of the Romans and the Greeks. He has done an excellent job incorporating more of the historical facts that we all love to learn through his humor and his silly attitude.

Through the voice of Apollo, who has recently fallen from Olympus due to something he did against Zeus, Rick narrates a tale full of Apollo’s ego, woe, and general confusion as to being almost, if not fully, mortal.

A new problem has arisen for the camp, yet something is different about the timing of it. Mr. Riordan’s books have mostly all taken place in the summer, when all the cabins are full and all the demigods are at camp. This time, it’s the dead of winter, and there’s hardly anyone there. Apollo gets to know some of his children a little more, including Will Solace and his boyfriend Nico di Angelo.

Being at camp kind of opened Apollo’s eyes up a little, which I really liked. He showed vulnerability and a kind of confusion as to why he wasn’t just as great as he used to be. Having an ego completely crumble like that was both interesting and exhausting as Apollo had to work through (sometimes complaining the entire way) teenage issues that a millennials old god wouldn’t have to deal with such as: hunger, hair, acne, clothes, sleep, hormones, and the like. Coming from someone who also has to be the best at everything, I understood his frustration when he couldn’t do something that he was supposed to be good at, like shooting a bow or playing an instrument. Even losing his supernaturally good looks took a toll on him, and overall I liked how being as small as he was made him realize the impertinence he had with the rest of the world. Previously, he would kill or destroy whole cities without the blink of an eye. I loved the character development he went through, including the relationship he had with Meg.

He grew past the first impression of irritation and really started to like her as a small child, and then had to deal with the problems of betrayal and heartbreak. The whole book was an excellent character development wrapped up into a funny plot and historical fact, and was well worth the read.

The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima

grey wolf throne
The Gray Wolf Throne by Cinda Williams Chima
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult, Romance, Action/Adventure, Suspense
Length: Full (528 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Lupine

Han Alister thought he had already lost everyone he loved. But when he finds his friend Rebecca Morley near death in the Spirit Mountains, Han knows that nothing matters more than saving her. The costs of his efforts are steep, but nothing can prepare him for what he soon discovers: the beautiful, mysterious girl he knew as Rebecca is none other than Raisa ana’Marianna, heir to the queendom of the Fells. Han is hurt and betrayed. He knows he has no future with a blueblood. And as far as he’s concerned, the princess’s family as good as killed his own mother and sister. But if Han is to fulfill his end of an old bargain, he must do everything in his power to see Raisa crowned queen.

Meanwhile, some people will stop at nothing to prevent Raisa from ascending. With each attempt on her life, she wonders how long it will be before her enemies succeed. Her heart tells her that the theif-turned-wizard Han Allister can be trusted. She wants to believe it – he’s saved her life more than once. But with danger coming at her from every direction, Raisa can only rely on her wits and her iron-hard will to survive – and even they might not be enough.

The Gray Wolf Throne is an epic tale of fierce loyalty, unbearable sacrifice, and the heartless hands of fate.

The Gray Wolf Throne is the third installment in the Seven Realms series. It’s full of action and romance as the paths that Han and Raisa have twisted around each other finally converge in an epic and large collision of hurt, betrayal, and love. Though Raisa stepped on Han’s trust and feelings for her, he still repeatedly helps her and is always the shadow behind her when she needs a shoulder to lean on.

Being in the court rather than out in the world was quite the change, and I appreciated the adaptation of the former street lord to the confines of blue blood life. Alister is just as manipulative and snide as those who live in the court, but he knows better ways to get what he wants. Raisa also has to struggle with the many callings of being a young queen, being pushed and pulled in many different directions, both in responsibility and in love. She’s got many options to marry, but she has to decide if her heart will choose over a political marriage for the better of the country. I like that Raisa has her head on her shoulders, and recognizes the many mistakes and wars that would be a result of an unwise choice in marriage. It’s an unusual thing to see such a high maturity level in someone her age, and I love to see how she takes on the many problems that are presented to her, and uses her mind. She also isn’t completely deterred by the many affections around her, the people trying to vie for her hand in marriage.

The plot thickens with the introduction of the plans to destroy, control, or use the throne. Many people want to have the Fells under their hand for war, for power, or many other things. Raisa has a lot on her plate. I thought the plot overall was good, but slow in some spots. I can’t wait to pick up the fourth book!

Golden by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston

Golden by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston
Golden by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers (Penguin Group)
Genre: Fantasy, Young Adult
Print Length: Full Length (272 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Lupine

Recast the spell. Light the flame. Make the world anew.

With the ruins of New Kandy still smoldering around them and Nat’s bond to her beloved drakon quickly fraying, Nat and Wes are lost amid a sea of destruction—with Wes at death’s door. Wes tried to save his sister, Eliza, and protect them from her cruelty, only to see firsthand just how dark her power had become.

Desperate to escape the dangers lurking in New Kandy, Wes accepts help from a mysterious voice calling out to him from the Blue, leading Nat and his crew into even more perilous surroundings. They quickly realize that their only chance for survival lies with Nat and the quest for a new world to replace their broken one—but at what cost?

In this epic conclusion to the Heart of Dread trilogy, Nat and Wes must put their love to the ultimate test in hopes of seeing their world reborn.

The conclusion to this trilogy by Melissa De La Cruz and Michael Johnston was full of epic adventures, and action packed as expected.

Golden starts off in the fray of battle, and certainly doesn’t leave the reader bored!

Still, I struggled with the disconnect between the reader and the story. It seems too much like a tale that someone tells around the campfire, rather than a story shown through literary devices. I couldn’t really bond too well with the characters because of that, even though they were well rounded and full of unique aspects, they lacked the emotional bond that I crave when I’m reading a book. It may be because I’m a few years older than the age recommendation, though, and younger readers may love the way its written. I did love the bond that Nat had with her drakon – it was my favorite part of the whole series.

I think the story and the plot were also something new that the YA genre hasn’t seen yet, which is one of the reason I’ve kept reading, but it seemed to either full on action for chapters followed by a slow period that drags along. I honestly think that the trilogy would have been better in one thick five hundred page book rather than spread out like it was.  Fans of fantasy combined with a dystopian world full of new technology and different government should enjoy this book and the series.

The Rules of 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern

The Rules of 5050 Chances by Kate McGovern
The Rules of 50/50 Chances by Kate McGovern
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Genre: Contemporary, Young Adult
Length: Full (352 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 3 stars
Review by Lupine

Seventeen-year-old Rose Levenson has a decision to make: Does she want to know how she’s going to die? Because when Rose turns eighteen, she can take the test that tells her if she carries the genetic mutation for Huntington’s disease, the degenerative condition that is slowly killing her mother.

With a fifty-fifty shot at inheriting her family’s genetic curse, Rose is skeptical about pursuing anything that presumes she’ll live to be a healthy adult-including her dream career in ballet and the possibility of falling in love. But when she meets a boy from a similarly flawed genetic pool and gets an audition for a dance scholarship across the country, Rose begins to question her carefully laid rules.

This book highlights the very real struggles of a young girl who has more than her share of concerns. Rose has to live in the shadow of a terrible disease that affects her mother’s motor skills and emotions. She’s watched her mother deteriorate before her eyes in a horrible, slow tornado of events.

Then she meets Caleb. I found him to be one of the most laid back, understanding guys I’ve ever read about in a book and it was refreshing. However, although I really liked him, Rose over-analyzed and overreacted to every action of his, all but disowning him if he didn’t text her back immediately. I had a hard time understanding why he put up with her behavior. Rose was difficult for me to like or connect with. She’s exceptionally self-involved and though we’re supposed to view her as a good person, all she seems to care about is herself. Caleb shows her that she’s not alone, that his family has suffered too, but she doesn’t care. Her life is worse and he doesn’t understand. Truly, Rose loved her mom very much and it was the one redeeming quality I saw in her. It helped me to overlook some of her constant fighting and complaining.

Also, readers should be aware that the characters have sex multiple times (which, again I didn’t get because she really treated Caleb badly–and understand, I’m the age of the target audience and still didn’t like that it was included because their relationship just didn’t work for me).

While I think this book realistically covers the struggles a family goes through when dealing with a horrible, eventually terminal disease and I understand teens (especially girls) are incredibly emotional and angsty, Rose was just a bit too much. The author’s talented and really paints a picture with her words. She clearly has researched her topic, too, and I appreciated that. It wasn’t the author’s skill that was in question here–I’ll happily try another of her books.

Still, I think this book would appeal to many teen girls, especially those who might be struggling under similar circumstances. And, if they’re out there, I hope they find their own Caleb. He was truly the shining star of this story.

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick

Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Dangerous Lies by Becca Fitzpatrick
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Romance, Suspense
​Length: Full length (400 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Lupine

A teen is forced to make a fresh start after witnessing a violent crime—but love and danger find her anyway in this novel from Becca Fitzpatrick, the New York Times bestselling author of the Hush, Hush saga.

Stella Gordon’s life is a lie.

She does not belong in Thunder Basin, Nebraska. As the star witness in a murder trial against a drug dealer, Stella is now in the Witness Protection Program. The small town locals can never know who she really is. Not even Chet Falconer, the one boy who makes her want to reveal her true self. She knows that telling the truth will only bring violence to this safe haven.

Despite how hard Stella tries to stay under the radar, danger is fast-approaching. Criminals have a way of getting rid of witnesses, and Stella may have made the one mistake that could lead the cold-blooded men hunting for her right to her doorstep.

A nonstop page turner with a great plot and endless excitement–what else could you want​?

This book was one of the best books I have read this year, and considering I nearly marked Becca Fitzpatrick’s books off my TBR list forever after Black Ice, I’m excited to say I think she has outdone many authors with this particular book.

The heroine is smart, strong, independent, and stubborn, and she can take care of herself and make rational choices on her own, which I don’t always see in YA books. The plot is excellently crafted and keeps the reader engrossed, the “love triangle” is actually interesting, which is odd because I usually hate them, and the book can snap from heart-pounding suspense to carefree life in a few seconds.

Really, I can’t say enough about the protagonist. I think she is in my top five list of people I aspire to be like because of her personality, her heart, and her intelligence. She makes good choices and I applaud her for it, yet it doesn’t take away from the reality of her humanity and she still struggles with some choices. The love interest isn’t sketchy and controlling and obnoxious, which is a relief because I can’t stand that, and he’s actually quite respectable in terms of teenage boy. The plot never takes a break, and right when you think everything’s okay, it’s not.

The only thing i disliked were the few plot holes (if this is going to be a series, that would be forgivable, but I’m not sure it is). The author left a few things unanswered which I didn’t appreciate, and is the only reason this didn’t rate higher.

Overall, though, it was a great book and I can guarantee that I’ll reread it and recommend it to my friends.

Resonance by Erica O’Rourke

Resonance by Erica O'Rourke
Resonance by Erica O’Rourke
Book Two of the Dissonance series
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
Genre: Sci-Fi, Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Teen, Romance
Length: Full Length (448 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 12+
Rating: 4.5 stars
Review by Lupine

As a Walker between worlds, Del is responsible for the love of her life—and the fate of millions—in this thrilling sequel to Dissonance.

Del risked everything to save Simon, and now he’s gone, off in another world with no way for Del to find him.

She’s back at the Consort—training to be a Walker like everyone in her family. But the Free Walkers have other plans for her. This rebel group is trying to convince Del that the Consort is evil, and that her parents are unwittingly helping the Consort kill millions of people. The Free Walkers make Del the ultimate promise: if Del joins their fight, she will be reunited with Simon.

In agreeing, Del might be endangering her family. But if she doesn’t, innocent people will die, and Simon will be lost to her forever. The fate of the multiverse depends on her choice…

I thought this book was much better than the first, which is saying a lot because I really liked the first book quite a lot!

Even better, there were some issues from book one that I disliked with the main character that the author has drastically improved upon with some excellent character development in the plot. There’s a lot of twists and turns in this sequel and it kept the pages constantly turning for me.

Del has gotten over what I consider the “annoying teenager in love” stage and she’s actually approaching the situation with Simon in a relatively mature way without losing her youth, so to speak. She still acts like the headstrong teenage girl that she is, but she’s grown up quite a bit and isn’t as rash or lovestruck or whiny as she was before.

The plot is just amazing and I have to applaud the author on the complexity of what she’s written because it’s just beautiful and she’s done it in a way where you can appreciate the plot and have a connection with the characters as well. I’ve seen too many books focus too much on the world building side of the spectrum and leaves the emotional bonding with the character in the dirt, but she hasn’t done that and I think that’s why I like it so much. It’s a great read and so worth it.

The romance is even better and that’s coming from a teenaged girl (me!) who can’t stand most relationships in books because one or both of them is stupid in some way. Granted, Del and Simon are both teenagers and they’ll have their moments but no one is perfect and I like where their relationship has gone over the span of the two books.

I’d totally recommend it to anyone because it should appeal to just about any reader of any age.

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins
Publisher: Disney-Hyperion
Genre: Contemporary, Paranormal, action/adventure, romance, Young Adult
Length: Full length (352 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: ​4 stars
Review by Lupine

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

Hex Hall is actually an excellent book, though the blurb doesn’t do it justice–I nearly skipped over reading it because I wasn’t intrigued. Don’t let yourself be fooled. It’s a worthwhile story!

The book combines romance with humor and the seriousness of life problems. It’s a great read for the young adult. Sophie is a little bit naïve but she grows in her character well through the book and she has something that some female protagonists don’t: A brain. Shocking, I know. She’s sassy and a quick learner, who stands by her friends and doesn’t make unneeded drama about her life or angst over a teenage boy. She seems like a regular, normal teenage girl, except the fact that she’s a witch.

Even the usual hot love interest was a new spin on the usual. Archer was just a usual teenager who struggles with his life and the choices he’s made, but he doesn’t use that as an excuse to be sad and broken and “too bad for you” and Sophie never feels the need to “fix him”. I thoroughly enjoyed the setting and the plot, and though it never really picked up a lot, it never slowed down. It was steady enough to keep me turning pages, and though I usually like some more action in my books, I thought the author did a good job with the low key setting.

The ending was a bit of a slap to the face for Sophie, and I usually make fun of female protagonists longing for their crush, she actually has a legit reason to be confused on how she feels. I didn’t really like the stereotypical mean girls and the hot bad boy and the new girl and her awesome sidekick cliche that happened, BUT I would like to give the author kudos on making it better than usual. The bad boy isn’t a broken wreck, the mean girls aren’t stupid, the sidekick has a great friendship with Sophie that needs to be admired by the reader, and Sophie isn’t a dingbat. It’s a well written book that deserves all the credit it can get.

The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy

The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy
The Glass Gauntlet by Carter Roy
Publisher: Two Lions
Genre: Action/Adventure, Fantasy, Contemporary, Middle Grade
Length: Full Length (261 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rated: 4.5 stars
Review by Lupine

Ronan Truelove barely survived his first encounter with his father and the Bend Sinister. Now, he’s determined to become one of the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect thirty-six pure souls crucial to the world’s survival.

Eager to prove he’s got what it takes, Ronan is sent on his first mission with his friends Greta and Sammy to visit a weird-sounding school and take a series of tests called the Glass Gauntlet. Paper and pencils and nerdy scholarship—where’s the life-or-death challenge in that?

But the Glass Gauntlet is actually something much more dangerous: head-to-head competitions against ruthless opponents. Nothing and no one are what they seem. Who can he trust, and who will kill him? Ronan has to figure it out fast because his enemies are multiplying, and soon he will have to pass the ultimate test: facing his father again and standing up to those who threaten not only him and his friends but also the world.

This is the second book in the Blood Guard series by Carter Roy. It’s a middle grade, action packed adventure story perfect for middle grade readers ready to be inspired by fantasy.

Ronan and his friends are back in the sequel for more adventures, starting with…training? Though it sounds boring and not worth the time, Ronan has to pass the tests they offer with the Bend Sinister and his dad still on his heels.

Though this book still has the author’s humor and excellent writing skills, it’s a bit slower than the first and a little hard at the start, but it picks up in the middle and offers another great story for the fans of the first book to hook onto. Ronan still has a lot to learn and I’m glad to see his character maturing a little bit with this new plot introduced, and I hope to see him develop more in books to come. His friends are growing closer, with Greta being a pure, Ronan has to learn to protect her. Greta herself is outspoken and headstrong and a excellent role model for younger girls to look up to.

Overall I really enjoyed the book and can’t wait for the third. 🙂

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy

The Blood Guard by Carter Roy
The Blood Guard by Carter Roy
Publisher: Two Lions
Genre: Action/Adventure, Contemporary, Suspense/Mystery, Fantasy
Length: Full length (279 pgs)
Age Recommendation: 10+
Rating: 4 stars
Review by: Lupine

When thirteen-year-old Ronan Truelove’s seemingly ordinary mom snatches him from school, then sets off on a high speed car chase, Ronan is shocked. His quiet, nerdy dad has been kidnapped? And the kidnappers are after him, too?

His mom, he quickly learns, is anything but ordinary. In fact, she’s a member of an ancient order of knights, the Blood Guard, a sword-wielding secret society sworn to protect the Pure—thirty-six noble souls whose safety is crucial if the world as we know it is to survive.

Now all those after-school activities—gymnastics, judo, survival training—she made him take, make sense. For suddenly Ronan is swept up in a sometimes funny, sometimes scary, but always thrilling adventure—dashing from one danger to the next, using his wits to escape the Bend Sinister, a posse of evil doers with strange powers. Falling in with two unlikely companions, Greta, a scrappy, strong-willed girl he’s never much liked and Jack, a devil-may-care teenage pickpocket, Ronan is left with only his wits and his mom’s last words of advice: Trust no one.

That’s a lot for an ordinary kid to deal with. But then again, maybe Ronan’s not ordinary at all.

The Blood Guard is a middle grade fantasy book that is packed with action and comedy. I really enjoyed it and though I usually find middle grade books to be underwhelming, I laughed through the whole thing, and thought it was stupendous.

The main character Ronan reminds me of your average kid, and I thought it was great that the author could get into the character’s head and really make him realistic. I thought the plot was well rounded and the ideas were simple and yet complex at the same time, mostly the concept of the Blood Guard. The Bend Sinister was hysterically funny and I really couldn’t take them seriously because they were just so evil, but it’s perfect for the age group. The over exaggeration really does add character.

I did struggle a little bit with Greta because it seemed like she could do everything and it was a bit difficult to think that a girl her age could drive a motorcycle and pick locks and be skilled in everything. That really didn’t take away much from the plot though and it was nonstop action.

I really appreciated the author’s sense of humor and wit in the writing itself. I think having comic relief brings the story alive because it reminds you that this is a person you’re reading about and they think these silly things. It’s one of the best middle grade books I have read in a long time.

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano

Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
Nearly Gone by Elle Cosimano
Publisher: Speak
Genre: Contemporary, Mystery/Suspense
Length: Full Length (416 pgs )
Age Recommendation: 14+
Rated: 4 stars
Review by Lupine

Nearly Boswell knows how to keep secrets. Living in a DC trailer park, she knows better than to share anything that would make her a target with her classmates. Like her mother’s job as an exotic dancer, her obsession with the personal ads, and especially the emotions she can taste when she brushes against someone’s skin. But when a serial killer goes on a killing spree and starts attacking students, leaving cryptic ads in the newspaper that only Nearly can decipher, she confides in the one person she shouldn’t trust: the new guy at school—a reformed bad boy working undercover for the police, doing surveillance. . . on her.

Nearly might be the one person who can put all the clues together, and if she doesn’t figure it all out soon—she’ll be next.

Nearly Gone is a story about a young teenaged girl fighting to get out of her life, or at least what appears to be a life.

Nearly has so many life problems when the book starts. Usually when the protagonist is in a bad situation at the beginning of the book, it seems like they have everything going wrong for them, and it’s just not believable. But Nearly has realness and authenticity about her, with her mother being an exotic dancer to scrape together just enough money to live in a crappy trailer. Plus, Nearly has goals in her life to get up and away from what she’s been placed in. She tutors with the end goal of a scholarship and she thinks all is well until one by one, people begin to die right in front of her.

I enjoyed the game the killer played, since most serial killers treat their victims like game pieces. There’s no intrigue when you have a sociopath who doesn’t try to play with the living around him or her. The friends Nearly has rarely make contact with her throughout the book though, except for Reece. I wish we could have seen more of a connection between Nearly and Anh, because their relationship (though rough to begin with since they are fighting for the same scholarship) didn’t feel like it had been emotionally developed enough for my satisfaction. Perhaps that is what the author wished to convey, since it was a rocky relationship anyway.

The kills are what tied everything together for me, though, because without them the reader wouldn’t have gotten a deep insight into what Nearly’s world was like. She converses with people she never would have before, and it struck a depth of sadness to see how much emotional pain she carries around for herself and struck there by other people.

Nearly Gone was a very in depth read with a good ending.