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YA Book Review: Haven by A. R. Ivanovich


Haven by A. R. Ivanovich

I have to start by saying this a really good book.  Sure, there is a believable world created here as a backdrop.  But what I loved was that it was really well-written in a strong female voice.  Katelyn Kestrel is the kind of hero a girl can believe in.   She lives in a mountain valley called Haven–and I mean a valley completely surrounded by towering mountains through which there is no way out.  Supposedly.  No one has been outside of Haven in over 700 years.  It’s sort of a steam punk meets epic fantasy kind of place.  Mechanical carriages to help the horses out.  Running water.  Weather men.  In a land where things are simple.  I like true fantasy, where the setting is more medieval, but I have found that I also enjoy the modernized take on the old standby.  Ms. Ivanovich pulls it off with vigor.

Katelyn is a curious girl, and she wonders what lies outside those mountains.  So one night, after a particularly humiliating experience among her school peers, she decides to try to find her way out.  And some strange pull inside her leads her directly to the only path out of the mountains.  She finds her way Outside.  What awaits her there makes high school look like a day at the park.  A war is waging Outside and she gets caught up in the middle of it.  Her allies Outside are Dylan and Rune, two very different young men who affect her very differently.  Dylan is charming and flirtatious while Rune is distant to the point of cruelty.  What’s cool here is that Katelyn isn’t a gullible girl.  She sees through to who the true good guy is, even from the beginning.  Though she grows to trust Dylan, it takes him a while to get to her.  She trusts Rune from the start.  I liked that I wasn’t supposed to be believing that this girl just trusted and threw herself at everybody.  Believing that anyone could be so… stupid.  There are books like that out there.  You know it’s true.

But that’s not the main story.  Oh no, the main story is that Katelyn has to find her way back to Haven without leading all the crazies from Outside to her home.  Because the Outside world has been searching for Haven for centuries, and it has sinister plans for its inhabitants.  And Katelyn is a prisoner, one way or another, from the moment she reaches Outside.  Super sinister bad guys, untrustworthy good guys, new friends, and bitter disappointments pepper Katelyn’s action-packed adventure, but she stays true to herself and her motives and fights back even when there seems to be no fight left in her.

I can’t say much more without giving too much away, so I’ll leave it at this–this book is kind of epic.  I can’t think of a single protagonist who made a foolish mistake that made me want to put the book down (that happens, too.  You know it does).  They all made right choices.  Human choices.  Believable choices. It rocked.  And the last paragraph… Let’s just say it punched me in the heart.  Pick up this wonderful book for yourself your teens and tweens if your looking for something to truly engage them.  Read it with your littles if they love adventure and you want to teach a lesson about loyalty and courage.

Happy reading.

Love wins,


YA Book Review: Qualify by Vera Nazarian


Qualify (Book 1 of The Atlantis Grail) by Vera Nazarian

Gwen Lark is a heck of a hero.  And her story is full of excitement and adventure, kind of The 100 meets the Hunger Games.  See, there’s an asteroid hurtling toward Earth and in 18 months, it is all over.  Fortunately for a select bunch of humans, the ancient Atlanteans have returned to Earth in their spaceships.  It turns out the citizens of Atlantis didn’t die out or sink, but took to the stars during a similar world-ending catastrophe.  Now they’re back, and they have room for a small percentage of the world’s teens to return with them to their new home planet.  Problem is, the teens have to Qualify to go.  And Qualification takes intelligence, skill, creativity, and athletic ability.  Gwen has some of those things, but athletic ability?  Not so much.  She gives her all, though, and makes friends along the way.

I had a few problems with this book, but they weren’t so bad that I wasn’t engrossed from the first page.  There were some grammar issues.  While I am a huge fan of correct grammar, I’m also a fan of creative grammar–think Stephen King’s 1-sentence (or even 1-word) paragraphs, or using slang outside of dialog–but there are some things newer authors do that drive me batty.  Overusing adjectives.  Example: It was an over-sized large dome.  Um, doesn’t over-sized mean large?  Even bigger than large?  Don’t do that.  It’s redundant.  Also, if you really want to drive me nuts, put a comma in the wrong place.  Don’t they teach this stuff in school anymore?  Even in the middle of an otherwise brilliant scene, I will get hung up on that missing or misplaced comma for a good 10-30 seconds, consider not only how I would make it right but what I would say if the author and/or editor were right in front of me, and plot the myriad ways in which I could kill them.  Only after I’ve done all this can I read on, and I will still be thinking about it 3 pages later.

So yeah, there were a few issues, but they were mostly grammatical.  Because even with these gaffs the story was totally riveting.  Action-packed and mysterious, it kept me turning the pages.  Qualify is a good, long read, too.  It probably could have been broken up into two books, with a little more emphasis on the Finals part of Qualification, but since I don’t know where the story is going in the next book, who am I to say?  If you have a teen or pre-teen who loves adventure, apocalypse, and outerspace, I definitely recommend this one.  And the awesome part it, it’s free right now on Kindle.

Love wins,