Tag Archives: YA fiction

The Ruins of Gorlan

The Rangers, with their shadowy ways, have always made him nervous.  And now fifteen-year-old Will has been chosen as a Ranger’s apprentice.  But what he doesn’t yet realize is that the Rangers are the protectors of the kingdom who will fight the battles before the battles reach the people.  And there is a large battle brewing.  The exiled Morgarath, Lord of the Mountains of Rain and Night, is gathering his forces for an attack on the kingdom.  This time he will not be denied…


This book is the first of the Ranger’s Apprentice Series by John Flanagan.  It was recommended to me by a teacher within the school who felt that it would make a great addition to our newly expanding YA boy fiction.  I originally felt that these book were geared for middle-school youth and I was a little worried that the books would be too juvenile for many of the boys here at the Senior School.

I’m so glad I ordered them anyways.

Yes, the books are easy to read… but they kick butt!  I really enjoyed becoming immersed in Will’s world.  The book begins with Will and his small group of Warders within the Baron’s household (ie. orphans) preparing for the Choosing Day when they are apprenticed out to different crafts within the Baron’s household.  More than anything, Will wants to go to Battleschool where he dreams of becoming a knight in honour of a father he knows nothing about.  But as Will will find out, his small stature is much more suited to the craft of spying and blending in than the craft of muscle and sword.

Throughout the book, Flanagan gives you a glimpse of Will’s internal struggle to make a new dream of a life as a Ranger coincide with his feelings of betrayal to his father by not becoming a knight.  As Will becomes more inundated within the Ranger world, this eases off.  In fact, Will pretty much forgets about the fact that he didn’t make Battleschool until the very end (which you will have to read in order to learn more of).  I felt that Flanagan did an excellent job with Will’s character development, mimicking the internal struggles that many teens face trying to make reality fit with their idea of what the world should be.

But the most important thing that Flanagan did with this book, is that he made it readable by tween/teen boys (and girls!) as well as adults. Filling the book with action to balance out the more “I’m such a tool” parts that are inevitably a part of every YA fiction, makes the book engaging for young readers.  They are going to understand Will, and they will be drawn in by the action loving Rangers.  Who doesn’t want to be part of a “secret” (for the most part they are secret as people don’t really know much about them), elite group that can hit an eyeball with a throwing knife from “a few meters” away with his eyes closed??!

Halt was clear of the hiding place now, the small knife sliding free of the sheath almost of its own volition as he ran across the courtyard, dodging and weaving among the scattered rubble.  The Kalkara heard him before he had gone half a dozen paces and it turned back on him, terrifying in its silence as it loped, apelike, to cut him off before he could warn his friends.

Halt stopped suddenly, stock-still, eyes locked on the shambling figure coming at him.

In another few meters, its hypnotic gaze would seize control of his mind.  He felt the irresistible urge to look into those red eyes growing stronger.  Then he closed his own eyes, his brow furrowed in fierce concentration, and brought his knife hand up, back and forward in one smooth, instinctive memory throw, seeing the target moving in his mind’s eye, mentally aligning the throw and the spin of the knife to the point in space where knife and targe would arrive  simultaneously.

Only a Ranger could have made that throw- and only one of a handful of them.  It took the Kalkara in its right eye and the beast screamed in pain and fury as it stopped to clutch at the sudden lance of agony that began it is eye and seared all the way to the pain sensors in its brain.  Then Halt was running past it for the wall, scrambling up the rocks.


Other Important But Boring Info!

Reading Time: I read it in about 2 hours, but I would say that the guys should be able to read this in 4 – 6 hours of interrupted reading.

Re-Readability: 4/5

Rating: 4.5/5

Price: Chapters – $9.00/ Kobo – $3.99/ Amazon – $7.99 USD/ Kindle – $3.99 USD

I would check out the Ranger’s Apprentice site.  Some awesome resources for teachers (including class curriculum and study guide), with other resources for youth.  Very interactive site that would be great as an addition to the book during classroom discussions.


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The Graveyard Book

I can’t believe that it has taken me this long to read one of Neil Gaiman’s books.  I’m a bit embarrassed to tell the truth.  But at least it has finally happened.

I loved this book!  It was so… so… brilliant. A close parallel to The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling, the story of Nobody Owens and his strange family of ghosts and other fantastic beings literally sucked me in.  I didn’t put it down until I had finished it.  My favourite character was Miss Lupescu, although she had a minor role in the story.

When Nobody first came to the Graveyard as a baby after having escaped death at the hands of The Man Jack,  he is given freedom to come and go through the crypts and gates.  But he cannot leave, and neither can the ghosts.  So Nobody is given into the material care of Silas, a man who is not of the living or the dead but can be in both worlds.  For a time, Nobody is happy to wander the Graveyard and play with his ghostly friends.  But children grow up, and as they grow so does their curiousity.

But outside the Graveyard holds dangers that Nobody is unprepared for.  Can Nobody make a life for himself in the world of the living?  Or will he become a permanent resident of the Graveyard when The Man Jack finally catches up with him?

I won’t tell you how the story ends (although any looby can probably figure it out).  Gaiman’s imagination is epic and I cannot wait to start reading Coraline which has been sitting on my “should read” shelf for the last month.

Other Important But Boring Info!

1. Reading Time: 1.5 hours

2. Rating: 5/5

3. Re-readability: 5/5 (I really do love this book)

4. Price: Chapters- $8.99/ Kobo- $5.59/ Amazon- $7.99 USD/ Kindle- $5.59 USD

Check out Neil’s site HERE to listen to Gaiman read the book a chapter at a time.  Some authors you think, “Wow, he really shouldn’t read aloud.”  Gaiman isn’t like that I promise.

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Eon by Alison Goodman

Eona is a young girl posing as a boy called Eon in order to become a Dragoneye, a pairing between human and one of the 12 dragons that keeps the Empire of the Celestial Dragons prosperous and safe.  If Eona is discovered as a girl, it will mean her life, forcing Eona to deny her Moon (female) energy and enhance the Sun (male) energy that is Eon.

Eon is a crippled boy who is Moon Shadow (an eunuch), and is thought to be bad luck.  Facing the threat of failure, and a return to the salt mines that his Master found him, Eon desperately works to overcome his Moon self in order to become the next Rat Dragon apprentice.  For while his body is not strong, his magic is.  Eon is the only one who can see all the dragons except the one that has been lost for 500 years.  The Mirror Dragon.

During the selection ceremony, Eon fails to capture the Rat Dragon’s favour, but Eona reawakens the lost Mirror Dragon.  However, it is only if Eona is able to reawaken herself within Eon that she will truly become the Mirror Dragon apprentice.  And time is running out.

A cleverly crafted YA novel, Eon is a great story of discovering and being true to oneself.  Alison Goodman’s writing is cohesive, allowing the reader to flow through the story.  While the theme is familiar for the genre, Alison Goodman manages to make it interesting.  I found it quite similar to Tamora Pierce’s The Song of the Lioness series with Eona mirroring Alanna.  Fans of Tamora Pierce will probably enjoy this read-alike.   I was a bit worried that it would contain too many emotional scenes that boys typically tend to shy away from, but my worries were for nothing!  Alison Goodman gives us a good balance between adventure and emotion.  ( It will be interesting to see how it is received by the boys at the school.  Perhaps I can get Tamora Pierce’s books in here as well!)

Other Important But Boring Info!

Reading Time: 2 – 5 hours.  For more advanced readers this book will be a cinch to get through in 2 hours (or less!), but for younger readers it may take longer than even the 5 hours.

Rating: 4/5 – lost a point on originality.

Re-Readability: 3/5 – The story is quite simple and doesn’t really require a re-read in order to remember what it was about.  As well, I think if I tried to re-read it, I would find myself flipping through sections which (at least for me) is a huge sign that I’m not into the story at all.

Price:  Chapters- $12.50/ Kobo- $8.79/ Kindle- $8.92 USD

Note: The second book in the series, Eona, will be coming out in April 2011.  Amazon is currently taking pre-orders.


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Reading is fun… right?

As I was browsing the latest in new fiction this morning, it struck me how much of new YA fiction is geared more towards girls.  And when you’re shopping for books for guys, this can be a bit of a problem.  Why are so many authors gearing their products towards girls and leaving the boys with nothing to read except girl drama and heartbreak over that hunky vampire?

Because girls read more than boys do.  And apparently the problem is not with the boys themselves, but with the material they’ve been told is “good” to read.  According to an article from the Wall Street Journal, the way to a guys literary heart is through farts and brains.  Get them through their sense of humour!  That’s a great strategy for young boys.  But I’m wondering how to get teen boys back into reading.  I’m not one hundred percent sure… but I don’t think that teen culture would not allow a 16 years old boy to read Captain Underpants and the Preposterous Plight of the Purple Potty People.  I could be completely wrong on that, and could end up buying the entire series of Captain Underpants.  The world is a strange place.

Looking at our own fiction section, I realize that many of the books we buy for these boys to read, are books that we think they should read.  Now, many of them do get taken out for various English projects or for ten minute silent reading.  I see quite a few boys grab a book from the shelves to help kill time during break.   But I see many more boys on their new iPad surfing YouTube or Facebook.  And that book they borrowed for 10 minute reading?  That’s all it was.  It ends up back in the drop box as soon as bell goes.  Hopefully this year, with more recommendations from students themselves, I’ll be able to fix that with the help of bestselling author James Patterson’s young reader page called ReadKiddoRead which has books for all ages. I’ll also be checking out the Vancouver Public Library Recommends page as well as Guys Read, a website dedicated to books for boys.

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Cory Doctorow and Little Brother

Cory Doctorow is a Canadian born writer who currently lives in England.  His book Little Brother first brought to my attention by a YA (young adult) book site.  Dealing with youth and technology/technology security I figured that it would be relevant and interesting for everyone here at Saints, and I was excited to see for myself what all the hype was about.   So, I ordered the book and then promptly forgot about it in the craziness of the last couple of weeks.  I still haven’t got around to reading it yet, but luckily I’m not the only one who thought that this book would be great for creating discussion in the classroom.

Centered around seventeen years old Marcus, a.k.a. “w1n5t0n,” this is a story of a fight for freedom.  Caught in the wrong place at the wrong time during a terrorist attack on San Fransisco, Marcus and his friends are captured by the Department of Homeland Security and taken to a secret prison to be interrogated.  After they are released, they find themselves in a police state where one wrong look can label you as a terrorist… and in this new world, that’s definitely not what you want to happen.  With no one around who will believe his story, Marcus does the only thing he can.  He turns to his technology and begins his mission to take down the DHS.

This book addresses many issues with today’s technological world.  From intellectual freedom and access to the misuse of technology disguised as “protection”, Cory Doctorow shares his views and knowledge with his readers.  A promoter of open source, Cory actively engages the reader in questioning their own thoughts on copyright and technology.  Recently he was in Melbourne, Australia at the Melbourne Writer’s Festival where he talked about how copyright does not necessarily help or protect creativity, specifically in relation to digital resource management locks (DRM).  It is all recorded if you want to watch/hear the entire lecture.  As you will figure out quite quickly from this, Cory is pretty unorthodox in his opinions surrounding copyright and intellectual freedom/access.  Which any teacher wanting to use his book should be forever thankful of.  It is on his website (click here!) as a free e-book (this link is a definition link only) with multiple formats for you download with.  Including one for the Kindle (yay!).  So, it’s free… it’s supposedly brilliant… I will definitely be reading this book soon!

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