Saint Anything
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Sarah Dessen. Summary: Sydney’s life is tumbling topsy-turvy as she has to move, adjust to a new school, and make new friends, all while dealing with the guilt and trauma left from her brother Peyton being arrested and jailed for hitting a child while drunk driving. The charismatic older one, Peyton has always been the focus of her family’s life – and even now he holds the spotlight of her parents’ attention. But for the first time, Sydney is looking away as she tries to make a life of her own. My Thoughts: Dessen certainly tackles an interesting and lesser known topic, as she considers what it’s like to be related to a juvenile delinquent. For the most part the story was well-written and interesting, with Sydney’s problems and friendships believable and moving, but at times the drama felt overdone. Not every coincidence has to be against the main character. Content Review: Sexual content: An older boy/girl couple are supposed to stay with a teen girl while her parents are away, but only the boy shows up, and makes romantic gestures. At a party, a character sees a girl and boy heading to the back of the house where…

Coraline
Middle Grade / Juvenile / April 30, 2016

Author: Neil Gaiman. Summary: Coraline’s often wondered what’s behind the locked door in the drawing room. It reveals only a brick wall when she finally opens it, but when she tries again later, a passageway mysteriously appears. Coraline is surprised to find a flat decorated exactly like her own, but strangely different. And when she finds her “other” parents in this alternate world, they are much more interesting despite their creepy black button eyes. When they make it clear, however, that they want to make her theirs forever, Coraline begins a nightmarish game to rescue her real parents and three children imprisoned in a mirror. With only a bored-through stone and an aloof cat to help, Coraline confronts this harrowing task of escaping these monstrous creatures. My Thoughts: Told through the simple voice of a fairly young girl, this is a shivery horror story. It combines elements of various fairy tales together in a child’s telling, creating a story with moral without moralizing. Top marks. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A child is locked up in a cupboard for a little while; two rats are killed; a child is chased around by a hand.  

Island of Silence
Middle Grade / Juvenile / April 30, 2016

Unwanteds #2. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: The battle is over. The magical barrier between the dreary land of Quill and the fantastical world of Artimé is gone. Now residents of both places are free to mingle, but tensions are high. The artistic warriors of Artimé struggle to forgive those in Quill who condemned them to death, while the Quillens attempt to recover from the shock of Artime’s existence, the loss of their leader, and the total collapse of their safe, orderly world. 14-year-old Alex Stowe has recovered from his physical wounds since his death-defying role in Artime’s victory, but his confidence is shattered. He battles self-doubt after Artimé’s beloved mage, Mr. Today, makes a stunning request, which is further complicated by the mysterious arrival of two silent, orange-eyed teenagers. Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron is devastated by his fall from grace and seething with anger toward his twin brother Alex. Spurred by rage, Aaron recruits a team of Restorers and devises a masterful plan of revenge that will return him to power…if no one gets in his way. My Thoughts: Lisa McMann has ratcheted up the tension another notch, bringing Aaron in much more prominently and giving us a little more…

Ariel
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Grace Tiffany. Summary: Ariel is a dream escaped from a dying man’s mind. She’s ruled her island alone for centuries, trapped within the Bermuda Triangle. The first human who lands on the island refuses to help her escape the Triangle, and indeed Ariel ends up trapped. It is centuries more before a man and his daughter land on the island, and Ariel is freed. Now she has her chance all over again, with a human to strengthen her again. My Thoughts: Tiffany made some interesting choices in writing this book. For starters, our female Ariel is an inhuman character – she’s the protagonist, and yet unrelatable for us, for she has no understanding of love or death, no ability to work or capability for loyalty and affection. Secondly, as a sprite representative of imagination or art, she is static. Where almost every protagonist will have a character arc, Ariel has no redemption story. She is what she is, what in the fae would be soulless, and there can be no progress or regression. I can’t say right now whether I agree with Tiffany’s metaphors or her representation of imagination/art in Ariel, but Ariel is certainly an interesting reimagining of…

Anna and the Swallow Man
Young Adult / April 30, 2016

Author: Gavriel Savit. Summary: Anna Lania lives in Krakow in 1939, and she’s only seven years old. She doesn’t understand what’s happening, or why her father is gone. But she does understand that a little girl needs a father, so when the Swallow Man goes past she’s ready to follow him. The Swallow Man is an enigma, but he’s in danger, like her father, and he is a speaker of many languages – like her father. He may be reluctant to take on a little girl at first, but she’s a very intelligent child, and there’s nowhere else for her to go. Together, Anna and the Swallow Man will travel for leagues, slipping between the cracks and corners of war. My Thoughts: Anna and the Swallow Man opens in the perspective of a precocious seven-year old girl. Through the story, she will grow and mature, but right now she’s just a little kid lost in a world gone mad. There’s a lot of reading between the lines to be done, because of the view point, and even then it’s confusing in several places. The writing is beautiful, the characters and dynamic compelling. On the one hand we have the girl,…

Up to this Pointe
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jennifer Longo. Summary: Harper has been training with her best friend for most of her seventeen years for one day. The day they’ll audition for the San Francisco ballet and be accepted. She’s starved, sacrificed, and worked herself to the bone for this. When things start to fall apart a few weeks before, Harper keeps going… she just has to get past The Day. Now she’s in Antarctica, trying to figure out what went wrong, why it went wrong, and most importantly, what she’s going to do about it. My Thoughts: This was a disappointing read for me. First of all, the characters weren’t engaging. I never quite connected with the main character; this may be because her solution to failure is running away to Antarctica. Her best friend is underdeveloped: she seems the perfect dancer, simply to offset Harper. She’s the best dancer at the studio, has a fast metabolism that lets her eat whatever she wants, doesn’t have to work as hard as Harper, etc. The first love interest was actually kind of sweet, being a genuinely nice guy. The second – I won’t spoil it for you, but we have no explanation for certain things, leaving…

Mostly Harmless
Adult / April 23, 2016

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #5. Author: Douglas Adams. Summary: It’s easy to get disheartened when your planet has been blown up, the woman you love has vanished in a misunderstanding about space/time, the spaceship you are on crashes on a remote and Bob-fearing planet, and all you have to fall back on is a few simple sandwich-making skills. However, instead of being disheartened, Arthur Dent makes the terrible mistake of starting to enjoy life a bit and, immediately, all hell breaks loose. (Summary from Goodreads) My Thoughts: So here you were, breezing through the series and laughing wildly, delighted to have found such a humorous series. Then you reached this book and began to slow down, churning through a swamp of new-found deepness and actual thought. But after the four preceding books, there was enough momentum left to slam into the ending like a brick wall. Douglas Adams has finally taken the dark side of his story – the bleak outlook that says Life is truly random and means nothing – and carried out the promise started in the first book. It may have had deep inner meaning. I wouldn’t trust myself to judge, because I’m still traumatized. Content…

So Long and Thanks for All the Fish
Adult / April 23, 2016

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #4. Author: Douglas Adams. Summary: Back on Earth with nothing more to show for his long, strange trip through time and space than a ratty towel and a plastic shopping bag, Arthur Dent is ready to believe that the past eight years were all just a figment of his stressed-out imagination. But a gift-wrapped fishbowl with a cryptic inscription, the mysterious disappearance of Earth’s dolphins, and the discovery of his battered copy of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy all conspire to give Arthur the sneaking suspicion that something otherworldly is indeed going on. . . . God only knows what it all means. And fortunately, He left behind a Final Message of explanation. But since it’s light-years away from Earth, on a star surrounded by souvenir booths, finding out what it is will mean hitching a ride to the far reaches of space aboard a UFO with a giant robot. But what else is new? (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Definitely of a lower quality than the first one. There’s a lot of time spent on Earth, some of it on an unnecessary, ‘adult’ romance line that doesn’t even make sense. Content Review: Sexual content:…

The Forbidden Wish
Young Adult / April 23, 2016

Author: Jessica Khoury. Summary: Zahra, jinni of the lamp and prisoner of old, is released from her lamp for the first time in centuries when Aladdin finds it. Haunted by the death of the only friend she ever had, Zahra must try to keep herself from growing too attached to Aladdin as she waits for him to choose his wishes… especially when the jinni king offers her freedom in return for help rescuing his son from the humans. But as the two go through trial and hardship together, hiding Zahra from the flautists who would imprison her and moving Aladdin into place to start a revolution, Zahra begins to realize she has failed in the worst way possible. And her king is coming to exact his payment. Zahra must make her decision, give her alliance and risk her life for one side or the other, once and for all. My Thoughts: A fluffy, rather middling retelling of the story of the lamp. It is set in a desert/kingdom type, but not Arabia; it is clearly a new world by the author. This actually seemed a good choice. Had Khoury gone ahead and set it in Arabia the potential for failure…

Life, the Universe, and Everything
Adult / April 22, 2016

Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy #3. Author: Douglas Adams. Summary: The unhappy inhabitants of planet Krikkit are sick of looking at the night sky above their heads–so they plan to destroy it. The universe, that is. Now only five individuals stand between the killer robots of Krikkit and their goal of total annihilation. They are Arthur Dent, a mild-mannered space and time traveler who tries to learn how to fly by throwing himself at the ground and missing; Ford Prefect, his best friend, who decides to go insane to see if he likes it; Slartibartfast, the indomitable vice president of the Campaign for Real Time, who travels in a ship powered by irrational behavior; Zaphod Beeblebrox, the two-headed, three-armed ex-president of the galazy; and Trillian, the space cadet torn between a persistent Thunder God and a very depressed Beeblebrox. How will it all end? Will it end? Only this stalwart crew knows as they try to avert “universal” Armageddon and save life as we know it–and don’t know it! (Summary from Goodreads) My Thoughts: It’s like a popular television show that just can’t stop. New things happen every time, old plot lines may even be accidentally advanced, but nothing really…