Life has been a little crazy over the last few months, and while I’ve been reading ALL of the books, I haven’t had a chance to write about any of them. That makes me sad. So, below are some of the YA books I’ve read and enjoyed recently.
Among the Red Stars by Gwen C. Katz
World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up.
I really loved how the story was told from Valka’s POV, mixed in with letters to and from her best friend Pasha, also off fighting in the war. The character development of both was done really well, and I really enjoyed the depth given to secondary characters in Valka’s squadron. I especially enjoyed the portrayal of all the female relationships throughout the book. Not everyone got along all the time, but there was a strength and unity to their relationships that I don’t often see in books.
This was also a great way to learn more about the real-life squadron the book is based on – The Night Witches – without getting bogged down in “boring” facts (although I am now going to find some time to read more about those badass ladies).
The Last Namsara by Kristen Ciccarelli
In the beginning, there was the Namsara: the child of sky and spirit, who carried love and laughter wherever he went. But where there is light, there must be darkness—and so there was also the Iskari. The child of blood and moonlight. The destroyer. The death-bringer.
I was pleasantly surprised by The Last Namsara. It moved past the “all dragons are evil beasts” trope nicely, and while I don’t want to spoil anything, I thought the way they gain their power was intriguing.
I would like to see more development of secondary characters – there are a few that serve more as convenient ways to shift the plot along than actual people, but it’s a solid start to the series and I’m looking forward to reading the next book.
Nevermoor: The Trials of Morrigan Crow by Jessica Townsend
Morrigan Crow is cursed. Having been born on Eventide, the unluckiest day for any child to be born, she’s blamed for all local misfortunes, from hailstorms to heart attacks – and, worst of all, the curse means that Morrigan is doomed to die at midnight on her eleventh birthday. But as Morrigan awaits her fate, a strange and remarkable man named Jupiter North appears.
There has been a lot of hype about Nevermoor, and mostly it lives up to it. I don’t read a huge amount of middle grade-type books, but this one was a delight. The world building is really interesting, and I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to experience Hotel Deucalion first hand. I really enjoyed the characters, especially Hawthorne and Cadence. I do hope they’ll continue to play a large part in the rest of the series.
In all, it’s a delightful read, one that I did have trouble putting down, and I’m really looking forward to seeing how the rest of the series develops from here.
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater
Here is a thing everyone wants: a miracle.
Here is a thing everyone fears: what it takes to get one.
Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.
I have to admit, I felt a bit let down by this one, especially as I’ve really enjoyed Maggie Stiefvater’s previous books. It has such an interesting premise, and I love the way she weaves fantasy elements through reality, but I just couldn’t connect with any of the characters, so the whole thing fell flat for me. That said, the world building and sense of place throughout the story was very well done and worked really well to ground the characters.
If you’re a Stiefvater fan, maybe give it a go, but really I’d recommend skipping this one.
Invictus by Ryan Graudin
Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-travelling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-travelling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past.
Things I am 100% here for: heists and time-travelling shenanigans.
This was a really fun book. I loved all the different time periods visited and I really loved the character’s interpersonal relationships. It was just such a delight to see them all interacting, and watching them grow throughout the story. I confess I would have liked to see more of the heist shenanigans, but the main plot was just so interesting that I’m not terribly disappointed with how the story went – it just makes way for a prequel or twelve, right? (Hint, hint, please Ryan).
It’s well worth your time to pick this up, if only so you can help me plot how to get a pet red panda.