Category Archives: Arieltopia

Soundless by Mead

SoundlessWith four Young Adult readers in our home, I was very excited to dig into Richelle Mead’s new book series. After all, she is the author of the Vampire Diaries, a series that several of us in my home read and enjoyed. The problem with this book isn’t that Mead did a poor job writing it or that it didn’t have a compelling plot or characters. The issue is that we’ve already read almost this same book – Princess Academy by Shannon Hales).

Soundless
by Richelle Mead
Razorbill
November 2015

The Chinese setting and cultural distinctives are new to YA I’ve read and are appreciated. I also appreciate that there isn’t a love triangle! (So thankful!) But almost everything else is strongly reminiscent of Hales’ Princess Academy. Consider the setups:

Fei lives on a mountain. She wakes up to find she’s the only one in her village that can hear. She has a male friend who she has liked since they were young, but because of her social class does not act on her feelings. She finds out that there is peril because the people who live down the mountain who normally feed her people are not sending as much food as they used to so goes on an adventure.

Miri lives on a mountain. She finds out that someone in her village is a princess (and it may be her). She goes on an adventure to an academy to learn how to be a princess. She has a male best friend who she has liked since she was young but hasn’t acted out on her desire. She finds out that there is some peril from bandits and goes on an adventure.

I’m not suggesting that Mead stole the ideas here. What I’m saying is that almost any YA is starting to sound like another one already written. I was excited to read the Chinese aspects of this but they play very little role in this very straight forward story. And if that’s the distinctive and selling point (other than this author’s fan base,) then I’m left wondering why I would read more in this series.

Unfortunately, I don’t recommend this series. I really thought I’d love it but it fails to stand apart from the dozens of other YA titles that are released every month.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 15 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Kaplan ACT Premier 2016

act premiereI have found that nothing is more stressful to a college bound high schooler than taking the ACT. My oldest is a junior and has taken the ACT and taken practice ACT through her school and each time it’s a lot of prep and stress. I got this book to help with the stress, but I found that this book will intimidated the heck out of her! Adding to the stress, rather than diffusing it.

Kaplan ACT Premier 2016
2nd Edition
Kaplan Publishing
June 2015

This book is gigantic, complex & frankly contains way too much information. It’s several years worth of schooling crammed into one huge tome. If a poor kid tried to read this start to finish, let alone attempted to complete all of the practice tests, it would require most of a whole school year. This is NOT a last minute thing, this should be considered additional tutoring for your student while they are in class every day. For the fastest results, I recommend setting up practice tests once a month with study time in between and even that will take you 9 months.

What I do like about this book and the online portions is that this book will give a good insight as to what to expect as far as what the exam may look like, and provide clear areas of focus to improve scores, but I found that you’re seriously going to freak your kid out even more if you plop this behemoth down in front of them! (Yes, my daughter, 16, who is a high achiever at a magnet school was so intimidated by it that she wouldn’t even pick it up on her own for most of the last month I’ve had it and been working through it.) I would recommend taking one of the practice tests (if your kid hasn’t yet) and then flipping through the book to that portion to do the practice and worksheets to improve that area. Maybe retake once, but I don’t know if I recommend doing this 8 times.

On the whole, I agree with my daughter that this massive book and 8 tests is overkill. But it is useful, even if you don’t use all of it.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 15 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

All Fall Down by Ally Carter

allfalldownGrace may be crazy. She acts crazy. Others tell her she is crazy. She is starting to believe she is crazy. The question isn’t whether she is crazy or not but whether a reader will care enough to find out.

All Fall Down
Embassy Row 1
By Ally Carter
Scholastic Press
January 2015

Grace’s mother died in a fire. Or from a gunshot wound. It was an accident. Or it was a hit by a man with a scarred face. Grace doesn’t know for sure but she swears that it was murder. Moving around with her military father and settling on living with her ambassador grandfather isn’t helping her settle things down. It also doesn’t help that everyone – including herself – believes that she may have cracked. And her reckless, self endangering actions seem to prove that point. But has she?

When she seems to spot the scarred man, her friends (other ambassadors’ kids) help track him down. Sorta. In the end the question of the scarred man is not answered but rather leads to more questions. This is a theme of the book – constant uncertainty. Both the main character, her “friends,” and even the death of her mother. Nothing is certain. And when you put the book down in the end you’ll be no closer to an answer. In this way it is not so much a full book but the start of a book. A prequel chapter at best. A normal ending of a book would have certain aspects cleared up and the challenges set up for the next book. This one ends with questions and nothing resolved. Not satisfying.

But young readers will like it. My teen reader (15 and also a fan of Carter’s other series) loved it. It was adventure and intrigue and she looks forward to the next one. I blame this on the Netflix effect where instead of watching a weekly show we instead now binge on episode after episode. The kind of expectation for sequels that now exists in a trilogy-filled Young Adult section has taught younger readers to accept and look forward to what many readers would have previously expected to be only the first part of a novel; not a completely separate novel.

In the end, it’s not a great book in itself. There is very little story. Very little development and very little to recommend. But once the whole trilogy (or whatever number in this series will be) is completed it will likely be a fan favorite. And of course, Carter fans will be predisposed to enjoy it. My recommendation: either wait till they are all done and read them together or avoid this series and go for something more complete.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Infected by Littlefield

infectedCarina’s uncle just died of an “accident.” That wouldn’t be very suspicious except for the fact that her mother also died of an accident and they both worked for the same shadowy secret project. Lot’s of smoke, but is there fire?

Infected
By Sophie Littlefield
Delacorte Books for Young Readers
January 2015

Alone, Carina is forced to rely on the only person left in her life, her boyfriend Tanner, who we quickly meet in the first chapter as the two underage kids have sex. (Both of these characters are in high school. Even if it isn’t statutory rape, which it may be in some states by legal definitions, it’s definitely not something I want a 12 year old – the age suggested by the book – to read as normative.) Tanner and Carina then go on a quest to find out the truth about the secret project and the death of her Uncle and Mom. The book lasts all of like two total days. The end.

In my opinion this is a mess of a book. Sure, it’s fast paced and a lot happens during the two days but very little is fully explained and the characters aren’t memorable. By the end of the book what I was struck with most was how the characters were doing things that only adults should do (sex), speaking like bikers at times, and didn’t inspire the reader to care very much about the situation.

Let me get on my soapbox here a little bit. Society recognizes that children – read under 18, which is the legal definition – are vulnerable and should be protected. Anything that sexualizes children is rightly frowned upon and likely illegal. But for some reason books are allowed to do this all the time with no questions asked. How many “young adult” books have underage protagonists – 15, 16, 17 years old – who engage in sexual relations and other risky behavior and are sold and marketed to other children who then learn the lesson that this is normal and safe? There is rarely talk about the dangerous repercussions of these activities. No one gets STDs, pregnant, emotionally or spiritually damaged. It’s all presented as good fun with no downside. That isn’t reality though. And books the promote children having unprotected, possibly illegal sexual relationships with no expectations about the very real dangers involved in those activities do children and society a disservice.

While the above was a part of the book, this isn’t the only reason not to recommend the book. It’s short, shallow and not that interesting in my opinion.


@ashertopia is the Managing Editor of BookGateway.com. He is an avid reader and a lifetime learner. His favorite genres include science fiction, fantasy, as well as theology and Christian living. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Louder than Words by Plissner

This is a story of an underage high schooler who learns to speak again after a terrible tragedy through intense physical contact. Read: sexual acts.

Louder than Words
by Laurie Plissner
Merit Press
December 2012

The young lady loses her whole family in a car accident, loses her memory and loses the ability to speak. A young man who can actually read her thoughts comes along and wins her heart and in the end her ability to speak back for her. Along the way, she also learns about the truth of the accident.

This isn’t your normal love story. This is smut with under age characters.

[SPOILERS]

This is not a book for teens. Not only does it have violence (Sasha is saved from imminent sexual assault), and massive quantities of cussing (including all the way up to many, many F words), but also includes explicit sexual activities up to and including oral sex. In the end, she learns to speak BECAUSE of the sex. This is an awkward chapter of the current sex-solves-everything book fad, along with the 50 Shades series, Twilight’s non-stop lust-a-thon in books 3 and 4 and so on. Sex is so degraded by the way it is inappropriately lifted up that readers can’t possibly be satisfied with real world love. When you find that sex is abusive, like in 50 shades, or doesn’t heal all wounds, like in this book, you are left more empty than before.

This book is smut. Teens should not read it because the violence, language and sexuality is inappropriate for their age and adults should not read it because reading about two under age lovers is also inappropriate.

This is the second book I’ve read from Merit Press and it’s clear to me that they are interested in pushing the boundaries of books about children and teens. The language, sexuality, and violence in the books they publish are simply unexplainable. I recommend you keep your teens (and yourself) far away from this publisher.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 12 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Scott Asher is the Editor-in-Chief of BookGateway.com. His personal blog is AshertopiA – a land flowing with milk and honey… and a lot of sticky people where he turns real life into stupid cartoons, writes on Christianity, Zombies, and whatever else he wants and posts Bible studies from his classes at church.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Tempestuous by Askew and Helmes

Popularity is conditional. We’ve all seen them fall. Miranda Prospero, is one of those fallen.

Tempestuous
A Twisted Lit Novel
By Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
Merit Press
January 2013

After her social life’s tragic demise, former “IT” girl Miranda is left working the “Hot Dog Cabob” with her new dweeby coworker: Ariel. During yet another awful shift at the food court of the local mall, a ginormuous snow storm sweeps in, trapping everyone in the mall overnight. To make matters even better, they’re trapped in with a thief who has broken in though the computer store! Miranda is left with a quiet and sarcastic loner named Caleb all night- literally. The two are handcuffed together. Again making things worse: the “IT” crowd, that used to practically worship Miranda, is locked in with them. This is going to be a loongg night…

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, and had a great time romping around the mall with these unforgettable characters. One thing parents may be concerned about are the usage of curse words. For instance, the “s-word” frequently and an example “her hellish s___s” are used in the book. Other than that the book is wonderful.

Unlike in Exposure, another twisted lit novel (see my review of it here) I have not read the Shakespeare play that this novel is based off of. I plan on reading The Tempest soon though, so that I can find all the little allusions and similarities that are sure to be there, like they were in Exposure.

I would recommend this book to middle schoolers and up to read, based on individual maturity and parent’s discretion. This book was wonderful to read and I hope to be seeing many more twisted Lit novels published In the future.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 12 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Exposure by Askew and Helmes

Skye Kingston, a shy girl who hides behind her camera more often than not, is a typical teen novel protagonist. She’s gorgeous, but doesn’t know it. She’s terrified by the high school “royalty”, and even has the common crush on the hot, jock, Craig. Everything seems like the happy, mundane usual high school life for Skye, until a boy named Duncan dies at a party.

Exposure
A Twisted Lit Novel
By Kim Askew and Amy Helmes
Merit Press
January 2013

During a game of flashlight tag in the woods, he goes missing, and the police find his body the next day- with signs of foul play. After Skye overhears a suspicious conversation between Beth, Craig’s crazy girlfriend, and Craig, her whole world is turned upside down.

This book is a modern retake on Shakespeare’s play, Macbeth. As one of the few youth who have read Macbeth, I found this book hilarious. Small hints and allusions to Macbeth made this heart-stopping mystery even more enjoyable. Such cleverly placed similarities include: Craig Mackenzie, called “Mac” by his team mates, to Macbeth himself. There are obviously many others, but part of the fun of reading this book is finding the allusions and comparisons. This book does include cussing. EX: the “S-word” appears very frequently (at least once per chapter, and that’s being conservative). Taking that into mind I’d recommend this book to teens, depending on maturity levels of the individual, maybe sophomores and up for most parents. However, considering g the fact that worse conduct in books has been discussed and read by my peers, 8th grade or 7th grade may be more feasible. Again, parent’s discretion.

I also would highly recommend reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth before reading this so you can find those hidden laughs throughout the story. If it seems too “old timey” or “lame” then read this first, and then the play. You’ll want to after you read Exposure.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 12 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Sketchy Behavior by Mangum

This is a story about a young sixteen-year-old girl named Kate Carter whom spends most of her free time sketching those around her. When asked to sketch someone in her art class by having a description read to her, she unknowingly sketches a wanted murderer and is what causes authorities to be able to bring him in.

Sketchy Behavior
by Erynn Mangum
Zondervan
August 2011

Afterwards her once normal life is turned upside down. She is now followed around by two police men and the detective that came and read the descriptions. Now Kate is a celebrity, and hiding from any of the murderer John X’s friends. Who would have thought a simple project in art class could cause so much trouble, and assassination attempts?

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes a mysterious fun-filled read. Kate’s spunk and sarcasm will leave readers smiling, and her friends’ and parents’ dramatic antics will make you appreciate your more than likely less dramatic parents a little bit more. (It did for me anyway) Teens and young adults alike will enjoy this book and all of its unexpected twists and turns. I enjoyed this book a lot and hope that any other readers do also.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 12 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.

Waterfall by Lisa Bergren

The book, Waterfall by Lisa Bergren, is a salient story about the Bettarini sisters.

Waterfall
River of Time Series
by Lisa Bergren
David C. Cook
February 2011

Gabriella and Evangelia Bettarini have been spending their summers Italy following their Etrusian Archelogist parents for years. After the girls’ father dies (before the book starts) their mother finds the site that she has been spending her whole life searching for, meaning the girl are going to be stuck in the middle of no where all summer again. Shortly upon arrival, the girls discover handprints inside one of the tombs that fit their hands and are transported to 16th century Toscana. Gabi wakes up to find that she and Lia have been separated, and that a gruesome battle is taking place outside the tomb. Upon the end of the battle, Gabi exists the tomb and, mascerading as “Lady Bettarini of Normandy” is taken into the care of Marcello Forelli, the future lord of a nearby castle. Will she be able to locate her younger sister, Lia and escape this crazy place of corsets and war, or will she be stuck here forever? Read this book to find out.

Waterfall is an intriguing tale that has every element I typically look for in a book. With its nonstop spunky feel, the reader is lead through 16th century Italy in the middle of the great wars between Siena and Florence through the eyes of a quirky 17-year-old girl from the 21st century. The book is humourous. An example is Gabi’s thoughts as she exits the tomb and spies Marcello for the first time, “He was certainly the first man I’d seen holding a real sword and in full-on knight gear-tunic, tights, breastplate, the whole enchilada. Somehow he made the look work.” The book does have some grotesque scenes in it, they are in a war after all, but not to the extreme were it would interfere with the story. I would recommend this book to high-school boys or girls still because of those few scenes and higher level vocabulary used by Bergren. This book states the idea that something that at first seems horrible or strange may come to be one of your favorite things, or places, of all.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 12 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

Poison by Zinn

Who would have thought trying to kill someone would end a friendship.

Poison
by Bridget Zinn
Hyperion
March 2013

Through many twists and turns, Kyra, a potions master, is on the run from her former fiancé and palace guards because she attempted to assassinate her former best friend, Princess Ariana. She has to do so in order to save her kingdom, on the verge of destruction, regardless of conflicted feelings over hurting her friend and saving her world. For the first time ever, during the assassination attempt, Kyra’s poison dart misses its target. Kyra, now on the run for 3 months, has been looking for an opportunity to try again. She may have found her chance, if only little Fred would get lost. After trying to ditch her hilarious sidekick numerous times, he always finds her again and “forgives” her hasty departures. So now Kyra is stuck with a traveling companion who has no idea the danger they are both in or who Kyra really is. How can Kyra save her kingdom by not only killing Ariana, but also dragging Fred down with her? If He is caught with her, he will also more than likely be hanged for being an accomplice.

Poison, by Bridget Zinn is an amazing book now that I’ve finished it. However, reading the first several chapters was difficult and confusing to follow. It is a clever and quick-witted tale about a courageous heroine that will win the hearts of many readers, after they figure out what in the world is happening. I would recommend this book to any adventurous reader up for a guard-ditching, wood-romping tale about loyalty to one’s home compared versus self-preservation. I agree with the teen/tween rating because there are some scenes where people are knocked out or killed. (Not in a way that would cause parents worry; more in a Harry Potter style “Stupify!” and they fall over, in this case poisoned darts instead of wands.) By the end of the story even the most unemotional readers will be laughing out loud at Fred, and cheering Kyra on as she dodges former friends and unwanted reunions with her fiancé.


Arieltopia, Young Adult Editor, is an 12 year old avid reader – usually going through a book a day – who gives readers a unique perspective on Young Adult, Teen Fiction, along with adult fiction: an actual teenager’s perspective.

This book was provided by the publisher as a review copy.