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YA Author Rendezvous

Creativity Unleashed: Books for the young and the young at heart

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YA Book Reviews

Book Review and Rating Myths

Book Reviews - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by L. J. Higgins

The book review. Something every author needs and wants. They can simultaneously drive them crazy and make them want to cry and have them smiling from ear to ear. But while reviews are important to authors, I don’t think readers realise how vital they are to not only authors but also themselves. Reading reviews and ratings can help you gauge if a book is worth your money and time, and if it’s the right book for you.

Reasons you should leave a review:

  • For your fellow readers – Reviews are a way for readers to help other readers. By reading through them or glancing over a books star rating you can decide if it is a book you are interested in or not. If every reader gave a quick star rating and review of each book they read, then it would make it much easier for others to find their next favourite book.
  • Meet other book lovers – Through sites such as Goodreads, reviewing books and sharing your love for them can help you meet readers and authors who enjoy the same books you do.
  • To thank the Author who wrote it – Authors not only need reviews, they love hearing what you honestly thought about the story they put so many hours, weeks, months, even years into.

Myths about Reviews:

  • They have to be long and detailed – No they don’t. The only thing they NEED to be is honest. Even one to two lines can be enough to let people know what you thought of a book. Yes, you are more than welcome to write a review that breaks down characters, plot etc. But you don’t have to. It’s your choice.
  • Reviews have to be nice – Reviews are the one time you can ignore the saying ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are there to not only help readers decide if it is the book for them, but also to help authors learn what their audience loves and dislikes about their books. This helps them grow and learn as writers, so really your HONEST review is helping your favourite authors become the best they can be.
  • You can be mean in reviews – Okay, now I have to take back my words and remind you of the saying, ‘if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.’ Reviews are meant to be honest, not mean. There is no need to personally attack the author or the morals you don’t agree with in the story. Remember, just because the author wrote it, doesn’t mean it is their opinion. Stories are made up, as are the characters, and sometimes characters do or say things that we don’t necessarily approve of as an author, but feel it helps the story in some way.
  • 3 Stars mean a book is bad – For many authors, anything over 2 stars is great. Accompanied with an honest review a 3 star rating can show an author that although you liked their book there were a few things that could be worked on. Here is a rough idea of what star ratings mean on Amazon.

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So there you have it. Writing reviews and rating books isn’t as scary as many people think. You don’t need to be a writer yourself to leave one that is helpful, and you are not only helping an author when you leave one, your helping other readers like yourself. So next time you read a book take ten minutes to head to Amazon or Goodreads to let them know what you honestly thought about their book. You will make an authors and possibly a readers day!

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The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson

The Girl Who Owned a City by O.T. Nelson - Young Adult Author RendezvousWritten by Tracy Lawson

At a recent talk, I cited The Giver by Lois Lowry (1993) as the first YA dystopian book, but at the time I hadn’t read The Girl Who Owned a City by O. T. Nelson. First published in 1975, it has been in the curricula in elementary and middle schools for years, and many adults of my generation cite this book as their first taste of the dystopian genre.

A book about post-apocalyptic Chicago might first bring to mind the Divergent series by Veronica Roth, but The Girl Who Owned a City might best be compared thematically to Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. I don’t say this lightly–Atlas Shrugged is one of the heavy hitters of the genre, but consider the situation in this children’s book:

A great plague has swept the country, killing everyone over the age of twelve. Without public utilities, services or adult supervision, children band together in family groups for protection, and must forage and steal in order to get the food and supplies they need to survive.

Though it doesn’t fit my stated definition of a dystopia as a twisted version of perfection, it’s an excellent example of post-apocalyptic science fiction. Lisa, the ten year-old protagonist, makes some interesting observations about human nature as she struggles to survive and defend her home and the other children in her suburban Chicago neighborhood against marauding pre-pubescent gangs. In doing so, she becomes aware of her desire for liberty in a way that makes this a very timeless, and timely, read.

In one scene, Lisa discusses a group of children who’ve been adopted by her friend Jill. The children whine and bicker over their few communal toys, and Jill is constantly admonishing them to share. Lisa thinks the children will be happier if they are given jobs, and the opportunity to earn new toys that will belong to them, and only them. Out of earshot of the children, Lisa says, “I’ve been watching your children for days, Jill. Just watching and thinking about them. They do too much sharing and it isn’t working at all. They have nothing of their own—no real duties, no real way of helping. It’s nice to share things if you want to, but it’s stupid to force people to share or be nice. These are things people have to do on their own. Otherwise it’s no good.”

Jill argued that the children are frightened. They’ve lost their parents and their sense of the world. They need coddling, not jobs.

Lisa replied, “I don’t think they’ll ever be happy if you do everything for them. They need to work and be proud of themselves. They need to be able to say to themselves, “I worked hard and did a good job and earned my toy.”

The narrative goes on to say, ‘Lisa wanted to say something about how she had lost her own fear by solving problems and staying busy. It seemed to her that fear was what you felt when you waited for something bad to happen, and fun was what you had when you figured out a way to make something good happen.’

Despite Lisa’s attempts to create a neighborhood militia to protect the children on her street from the Chidester gang, and her idea to learn to drive a car so she could go to a grocery warehouse for food and other supplies, the gangs stage multiple attacks. She despairs until she notices a school building which has a wall around it, like a fortress. She decides to move everyone from her neighborhood into Glenbard and make it into a walled city. Everyone is enthusiastic about the plan, but after they move in and organize the school according to Lisa’s vision, some of the children begin to grumble that she calls Glenbard her city. Lisa’s response is a response worthy of a young Ayn Rand protagonist:

“Lisa, why do you keep calling it your city—saying it’s your property?”

“Because it is! I thought I told everyone that on the very first day.”

“But we’ve all helped build it, haven’t we?” argued Jill. “The kids are starting to call you selfish. They don’t like it when you call it yours.”

“Selfish? I guess I am. But there’s more to it than that. Don’t forget, it was my discovery. The place was sitting here empty…I found it. I planned it, filled it with my supplies, now I run it.

“I know you like to share things, but it just doesn’t work the way you’d like it to. In the first place, nothing would ever get done. With no one in charge and no one to make decisions, the group would argue all the time about whose property should be shared. And then …they’d be too busy to accomplish anything.

“I do own this place. I didn’t force anyone to come here…Call me selfish if you like, but I don’t want to own anybody. I don’t want anyone to own me…Freedom is more important than sharing, Jill. This is my city. I plan to run it well and build it into something good. But I have to do it the way I think is best.”

Lisa decides the best way to run her city is to offer something better to her citizens than they can find anywhere else.

A Review of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child

Written by Lauren Mayhew

***I’ve tried my hardest not to put any spoilers in this, but if you don’t want to know anything about this play, it’s probably best not to read my review!***

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J.K. Rowling - Young Adult Author RendezvousHarry Potter and the Cursed Child – J.K. Rowling – 4 Stars

Blurb: It was always difficult being Harry Potter and it isn’t much easier now that he is an overworked employee of the Ministry of Magic, a husband, and father of three school-age children.

While Harry grapples with a past that refuses to stay where it belongs, his youngest son Albus must struggle with the weight of a family legacy he never wanted. As past and present fuse ominously, both father and son learn the uncomfortable truth: sometimes, darkness comes from unexpected places.

I was so excited to read this, and though I tried to hang on in the hope that I’d see it on stage first, I couldn’t. Tickets are almost impossible to get, and when it comes to Harry Potter, I have no willpower.

The fact that I managed to read this in the space of a few hours is a testament to how good it is. I couldn’t put it down – I just had to know how it would end.

I’m not going to spoil anything, so this may be a bit of a cryptic review.

However much I loved this play, I couldn’t give it 5 stars. It had nothing to do with the format, I quite enjoy reading plays. You get to skip a lot of unnecessary description, and the story moves along a lot quicker.

It was the actions of certain characters that docked a star. I won’t name names, don’t worry. One character in particular, one of my favourites, seemed very dumbed down and a bit of a loser. This was not what I was expecting from them and I was disappointed that my favourite character had changed so much.

A few other events take place with two other characters that were so unbelievable to me. I refuse to believe that one of the most good-hearted characters would ever turn bad. I can’t think of a way to describe the other characters’ actions without giving anything away.

I loved the appearance of the original Harry Potter characters, even though a few of them seemed a little different than before. I especially loved Draco’s appearance in this. He’s still the same old Draco, but there’s definitely some good in him too.

Overall I loved it, and would definitely recommend it to anyone who can’t make it to see it performed on stage. Hopefully I can get tickets one day!

Now I live in hope that J.K. Rowling will write something about the Maurauders. I’d love to know what they got up to at Hogwarts!!

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The Fate of Ten – Pittacus Lore

The Fate of Ten by Pittacus LoreThe Fate of Ten – Pittacus Lore – 5 Stars, by Lauren Mayhew

Blurb: For years the Garde have fought the Mogadorians in secret. Now all of that has changed. The invasion has begun. If the Garde can’t find a way to stop the Mogs, humanity will suffer the same fate as the Lorien: annihilation.

There is still hope. When the Elders sent the Garde to Earth, they had a plan-one which the Garde are finally starting to understand. In the climax of The Revenge of Seven, a group of the Garde traveled to an ancient pyramid in Mexico known to their people as the Sanctuary. There they awoke a power that had been hidden within our planet for generations. Now this power can save the world . . . or destroy it. It will all depend on who wields it.

I cannot even begin to explain how much I love these books! As far as I can remember, I have been reading them since the first one – I am Number Four – came out, so I’ve had a lot of patient waiting to do. And guess what… It’s still not finished!

I don’t mind there being another book because I’m really not keen for this series to be over, I just can’t believe the cliffhanger that it ended on.

I think I was supposed to be a bit more upset than I was at the ending of this book, but the character that we say goodbye to just seemed to be a bit of a spare part to me. I’m more worried about the impact this is going to have on a certain other character that I love!

This book was action packed from page 1. This one didn’t swap between too many different characters either, it was only John, Six and Ella occasionally. It made it a lot easier to read because I wasn’t having to try and remember which font applied to which character! The previous books had a habit of doing this and it got really confusing.

I think the whole book takes place in about 48 hours or so and a LOT happens in that time. I really don’t want to give too much away with this one, unlike some of my other reviews.

I’m loving the development of humans getting Legacies, though I do see this backfiring at some point. Maybe I’m too sceptical.

It was interesting to see some of the back story of Setrakus Ra. And one of my favourite lines during this sequence came from Six to the big bad himself – I would write it here, but it’s a little bit rude!

Ella really grows as a character in this one and I love her to pieces. There was a heart stopping moment involving her in this one. I’m not even joking, if Ella doesn’t make it, I will not be happy. Same goes for Sam, Marina and John. Six too. And Nine. Basically, no more Garde are allowed to die – apart from Five. I still haven’t quite figured him out.

I’m eagerly awaiting book 7. Hopefully it doesn’t take longer than a year.. This is definitely going onto my all time favourite books list.

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