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HunterHunter by Mercedes Lackey
Los Angeles: Hyperion, 2015
Hardcover, 374.

Years ago, the barriers between our world and the Otherworld were ripped open, and it’s taken centuries to bring back civilization in the wake of the catastrophe. Now, the luckiest people live in enclosed communities, behind walls and barriers that keep them safe from the hideous creatures fighting to break through. Others are not so lucky. Joy Charmand has been a Hunter in her mountain community since she was a child has been summoned to Apex City, where the best Hunters are kept. But she quickly discovers undercurrents that unnerve her including the fact that in the city, Hunters as celebrities and entertainment with nearly their every move broadcast to the people. She’s not about to let that keep her from protecting the people of Apex City though, even if the deeper she gets into the city’s intrigue the more risky her already dangerous life gets.

Hunter is a great introduction to a new world that fans of The Hunger Games, The Maze Runner, and Legend will enjoy. With great pacing and intriguing characters, the story moves along at a good clip, and while the ending will leave readers longing for more stories set in this world, it is fairly satisfying. Joy’s a great protagonist, and her world will definitely intrigue readers. As a start to a new series, it gets thing rolling and holds a lot of promise. Hunter gets four out of five stars.

From a High TowerFrom a High Tower by Mercedes Lackey
New York: DAW Books Inc., 2015
Hardcover, 328.

Giselle has lived most of her life in an isolated tower while she studied magic both for her own protection and for other people’s. Young Air Mages tend to be volatile with their magic as teenagers. Unfortunately, this also leaves vulnerable when a young man arrives while her mother is away and weasels his way into her. Giselle survived the encounter and spent the rest of her adolescence learning how to protect herself. It’s a good thing too, for when her mother dies, Giselle cuts her hair and masquerades as a boy to make a living as a sharpshooter. But she’s still haunted by the man who attacked her then got away, and it seems like her past might be catching up to her.

From a High Tower like Blood Red is set in continental Europe rather than England and mostly in Germany. It’s an interesting take on Rapunzel and a quick read. Rosa from Blood Red is back, and she and Giselle develop a great dynamic over the course of the novel. The story moves quickly and takes some interesting turns, but it is not as complex as some of the other books in the Elemental Masters series. Overall, I give it three stars out of five.

I Am Princess XI Am Princess X by Cherie Priest
Illus. by Kali Ciesmier.
New York: Arthur A. Levine Books, 2015
Hardcover, 227.

Best friends May and Libby created Princess X in middle school with May writing the stories and Libby drawing them. But when Libby and her mom die in a tragic car accident and the comics get lost in the shuffle, all that seems to be over. May’s parents end up divorcing right after, and she moved away to live with her mom. Years later, she’s back in Seattle to visit her dad for the summer when she spots a sticker that can only be Princess X. And as May finds herself drawn into a mysterious online comic featuring her character, she begins to think that Libby is still alive, and May will stop at nothing to find her.

I Am Princess X is a fantastic read combining friendship, mystery, and even a bonus graphic novel inside the novel itself. It’s a fast read as well and definitely a page turner. Priest’s characters are strong and come across as compelling and her plot twists are delightfully unexpected. It’s also a great choice for those who want little to no romance in their reads, and while older teens will definitely enjoy the story, it’s also appropriate for eleven and twelve year olds who want to read YA books. I Am Princess X gets four out of five stars.

I’m a sucker for Jane Austen. And the idea of a modern Austen story appeals to me quite a bit. Claire LaZebnik has written several so far, and for the most part they make for some fun modern romances.

Epic Fail: Elise Benton is the daughter of Coral Tree Prep’s new principal, and she’s not impressed with her new school or with Derek Edwards, the son of Hollywood royalty and prince of the school. However, when her sister fall for Derek’s best friend, she finds herself getting entangled with both Derek and his charming enemy Webster Grant. And the deeper she gets the more Elise wonders if some first impressions are quite wrong. As a modern adaptation of Pride and Prejudice, Epic Fail isn’t bad. It’s not the best one I’ve seen (that honor goes to the Lizzie Bennet Diaries), but it’s a fun quick read and will appeal to fans of Sarah Dessen and Anne Brashares.

The Trouble with Flirting: Fanny Pearson’s summer takes a surprise turn when she gets to work for her aunt, the costume designer at the Mansfield Summer Theater Program. Not only is it better than scooping ice cream or selling shoes, but it also lets her be near her crush Alex Braverman. Unfortunately, he seems to be besotted with his leading lady, and when Harry Cartwright starts flirting with her, Fanny thinks that a causal fling can’t hurt. Suddenly, everything is more complicated than Fanny had planned, and flirting might bring her far more trouble than she expected. To be honest, The Trouble with Flirting was a disappointment. As a light romance, it’s fine, but as a modern version of Mansfield Park, it just didn’t work. I also found it hard to like Fanny, and when you don’t like the main character, the book can be a bit of a slog. Unless you’re just looking for a quick teen romance to read, I’d give this one a skip.

The Last Best Kiss: Anna Eliot made a mistake freshman year. She dated Finn Westbrook in secret then ended it because her friends’ opinions. She’s regretted it ever since. Now suddenly in her senior year, Finn is back. But it’s clear that he hasn’t forgiven her for how she treated her, and he seems more interested in one of her friends. Anna knows she still loves him, but she’s not sure that he’ll ever give her a second chance or if she should even try, but despite that, she can’t give up hope just quite yet. The Last Best Kiss is a solid story if not quite as strong as Epic Fail. It works well and is a fast read. It works quite well as an adaptation of Persuasion and makes for both a great little love story and a fun romantic read.

Wrong About the Guy: Ellie Withers can’t help the fact that her stepfather is a well know singer and TV star, and she’s not spoiled, not really. So she wishes that George Nussbaum would stop implying that she is or making her think that she could be a better person than she is. Still, she’s got her friends Heather and Aaron who either don’t care or have parents just as famous are hers. So, it gets a little awkward when her mom hires George as her tutor after she gets her SAT scores and everything around her seems to start coming apart. But when she begins to see George might be right about some things, maybe she can fix the mess she’s in with everything else. Like the heroine of the book Emma which Wrong About the Guy is based on, Ellie is one of those characters that some readers will never like. The spoiled sweet main character doesn’t work for everyone, and Ellie isn’t as charming as Elise or Anna (though she’s better than Fanny in my mind). Still, it’s a fun read with a little less romance than the previous books, and the messiness of Ellie’s life definitely feels like reality. Overall, its an average read but still fun.

These books are great for fans of romances and romantic comedies. Fans of Jane Austen might find some of them hit or miss, but if you’re being introduced to Miss Austen’s works for the first time, these aren’t bad modern versions. I’d definitely give them at least a try.

Prairie FirePrairie Fire by E. K. Johnston
Minneapolis: Carolrhoda Lab, 2015
Hardcover, 298.

Siobhan and Owen survived both their adventure on Manitoulin and high school. But graduation means it is time for Owen to join the Oil Watch, and Siobhan will be joining him, the first bard to do so in quite some time. However, they both are in the government’s bad graces, and Owen’s first posting is not at all what either of them expected. But there are still dragons to slay and the two plan to make the best of a bad situation. But things have a way of getting complicated for Siobhan and Owen, and they have been known for doing what needs to be done, even when it cause trouble. Maybe even especially then.

The sequel to The Story of Owen immediately draws the reader back into the world and keeps them on the edge of their seats. Siobhan’s voice dominates the story, and the short chapters work very well to both tell the story and provide relevant background information on the world Johnston has built. The expansion of the world works very well, and it’s nice to see the wider world that Owen and Siobhan live in. The story itself takes a number of unexpected twists that will surprise the reader and keep them guessing. The pacing is great and moves along at a good clip without feeling rushed. Prairie Fire is a fantastic read, and it gets four out of five stars.

Sometimes you don’t want your supernatural novel to be about romance. And these days that can be hard to find. Below you will find a couple of novels that are more about the supernatural than the romance.

The Reformed Vampire Support Group Catherine Jinks. Being eternally fifteen is a pain in the neck. Nina’s not thrilled about being a vampire or her weekly support group meetings. However, when one of their number is murder, the motley crew will have to attempt to unravel the mystery themselves, and even if being a vampire is not the glamorous, sexy life of books, they at least can try to solve a murder and save the world. This is a great read. While there is a romantic subplot, most of the focus is on the murder, and between the humor and the plot, it’s a good antidote for those sick of the vampire romance novel.

The Abused Werewolf Rescue Group by Catherine Jinks. Toby’s life has gotten strange since he woke up in the hospital. He can’t remember anything from the night before, but apparently he was found naked in a dingo pen. It isn’t long before a mysterious man named Reuben shows up talking about Toby having some sort of condition. Toby doesn’t exactly take it seriously until he gets kidnapped, and now he’s finding out just what paranormal means. This is a great book with a good sense of humor. Toby makes for a great narrator and his coming of age story is a great one.

Vodnik by Bryce Moore. Life has changed for Tomas since his house burned down. It’s actually the second time Tomas has survived a fire. When he was six, he survived both drowning and a fire. Or at least, he thinks it was a fire. His arm is scarred from being burnt at least. His parents decided to move back to Slovakia, and Tomas has to admit that things don’t seem that bad. At least until he finds out that he’s the target of a number of supernatural creatures native to the area, and most of them want to kill him. With his cousin Katya, Tomas is going to have to get to the bottom of this, even if it does mean risking his life.

Shadow ScaleShadow Scale by Rachel Hartman
New York: Random House, 2015
Hardcover, 596.

As Seraphina sets out to find others like herself (half human and half dragon), she is pulled deeper into intrigue and lies. With dragons and humans on the brink of war, Serephina finds herself trying to sort of who is friend and who is enemy amongst so many other questions. Pulled in different directions by duty and her heart, she may hold the key to bringing about peace or setting the world on fire.

The sequel to Seraphina is well worth the wait. Hartman has taken the world she created and expanded it, providing readers with even more to explore. With both familiar characters and new ones, the story immediately pulls the reader in and keeps them hooked with unexpected plot twists. The book often zigs where you’d expect it to zag and the surprises are both fresh and keep the reader on the edge of their seat. The only downside is that even when you’ve finished the book you’ll still be hungry for more of the phenomenal world and characters. Shadow Scale gets four out of five stars.

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