Cloaked
Young Adult / May 31, 2016

Author: Alex Flinn. Summary: I’m not your average hero. I actually wasn’t your average anything. Just a poor guy working an after-school job at a South Beach shoe repair shop to help his mom make ends meet. But a little magic changed it all. It all started with the curse. And the frognapping. And one hot-looking princess, who asked me to lead a rescue mission. There wasn’t a fairy godmother or any of that. And even though I fell in love along the way, what happened to me is unlike any fairy tale I’ve ever heard. Before I knew it, I was spying with a flock of enchanted swans, talking (yes, talking!) to a fox named Todd, and nearly trampled by giants in the Keys. (Summary from goodreads.) My Thoughts: While it was fun to notice all the fairy-tale references, especially the less-common ones, there were so many I felt they blended together. The book felt like stone stew, with everything hode-podged together until it was hard to keep track of the main conflict. The main character was something of a doofus, and didn’t notice what was right under his nose. I.e., it was clear from the beginning that the…

Dragon Run
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 28, 2016

Author: Patrick Matthews. Summary: Testing Day is supposed to be a day of celebration for Al Pilgrommor. Born into a wealthy family, he expects to follow in his successful father’s footsteps. Of course, that all depends on the rank number Al receives at the testing. The higher the rank he has tattooed onto his neck, the better his life will be. To his surprise and horror, Al is revealed to be rank zero, the lowest of the low. He’s now not only an outcast — he’s also a danger to his entire family. So Al goes on the run, fleeing the brutal Cullers, men who hunt down zeroes . . . and put them to death. Cast out of his home, cut off from his friends, and armed with only a sword and his wits, Al is reduced to just surviving. As he meets other outcasts, however, he begins to suspect that he is a pawn in a larger game — and that he might have the power to tip the scales in a high-stakes struggle between man and dragon. Content Review: Sexual content: Rank ones are not allowed to father children. Character wonders what it would be like to…

The Spirit Eater
Young Adult / May 27, 2016

Legend of Eli Monpress #3. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: With the pressure on after his success in Gaol, Eli Monpress, professional thief and degenerate, decides it’s time to lie low for a bit. Taking up residence in a tiny seaside village, Eli and his companions seize the chance for some fun and relaxation. Nico, however, is finding it a bit hard. Plagued by a demon’s voice in her head and feeling powerless, she only sees herself as a burden. Everyone’s holiday comes to an untimely close, though, when Pele arrives to beg Eli’s help for finding her missing father. But there are larger plans afoot than even Eli can see, and the real danger, and the solution, may lie with one of his own and her forgotten past. If only Nico could remember whose side she’s on. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 8 derogatory names, 3 d*** Violence: Second hand account of demon killing many men. Character strangles a woman to death. An assassin falls out a window to his death. Three sword fights. There is a demon trying to take over a character’s body. Men fight demon in a swordfight slash hands-and-feet type thing.

Atlantia
Young Adult / May 27, 2016

Author: Ally Condie. Summary: For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose. Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths. My Thoughts: Rio was a strong, determined main character. Most of my favorite scenes revolved around her strength of will – the tests she sets for herself and the plans she comes up with. There are also some evocative descriptions that really pull you into the underwater world of beauty. The premise caught my eye; sirens aren’t often the main characters, especially with only a…

Drink, Slay, Love
Young Adult / May 27, 2016

Author: Sarah Beth Durst. Summary: Sixteen-year-old Pearl is a vampire. She’s got a sparring partner/boyfriend in one, a favorite human source of blood, and the Fealty Ceremony, her introduction to the adult world, coming up. Everything is great. It all starts to go downhill when she meets a unicorn one night, which stabs her through the heart. Of course nobody believes her; unicorns are mythical, after all. But the facts are unavoidable. Pearl can walk in the sunlight now, she’s starting to have a flicker of a reflection, and worst of all, a pesky thing known as conscience seems to be awakening in her. Her new abilities only bring more trouble. Now that she can walk in sunlight, she can go to the local high school and locate enough humans to feed the king and his retinue when they show up. The only problem is… Pearl’s beginning to like these exasperating humans. My Thoughts: A very light, fluffy read with a touch of redemption. The development of Pearl is well-done; we don’t see the main character as a pure vampire for very long, but it’s just long enough that we can see her transform over the course of the book…

The Well of Ascension
Adult / May 27, 2016

Mistborn #2. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: The Lord Ruler has been vanquished. But Kelsier, the hero who masterminded that triumph, is dead too, and now the task of building a new world has been left to his young protégé, Vin, the former street urchin who is now the most powerful Mistborn in the land, and to the idealistic young nobleman she loves. She is now venerated by a budding new religion, a distinction that makes her intensely uncomfortable. Even more worrying, the mists have begun behaving strangely, and seem to harbor a vaporous entity that haunts her. Stopping assassins may keep Vin’s Mistborn skills sharp, but it’s the least of her problems. Luthadel, the largest city of the former empire, doesn’t run itself, and Vin and the other members of Kelsier’s crew must learn a whole new set of practical and political skills to help. It won’t get easier with three armies now vying to conquer the city, and no sign of the Lord Ruler’s hidden cache of atium, the rarest and most powerful allomantic metal. As the siege of Luthadel tightens, an ancient legend seems to offer a glimmer of hope. But even if it really exists, no one…

The Spirit Rebellion
Young Adult / May 25, 2016

Legend of Eli Monpress #2. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: Eli Monpress is brilliant. He’s incorrigible. And he’s a thief. He’s also still at large, which drives Miranda Lyonette crazy. While she’s been kicked out of the Spirit Court, Eli’s had plenty of time to plan his next adventure. But now the tables have turned, because Miranda has a new job — and an opportunity to capture a certain thief. Things are about to get exciting for Eli. He’s picked a winner for his newest heist. His target: the Duke of Gaol’s famous “thief-proof” citadel. Eli knows Gaol is a trap, but what’s life without challenges? Except the Duke is one of the wealthiest men in the world, a wizard who rules his duchy with an iron fist, and an obsessive perfectionist with only one hobby: Eli. It seems that everyone is hunting for Eli Monpress. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: If anything, the second installment of the Legend of Eli Monpress got better. Eli is still an idiot, but at least we have more background on him. In fact, we have more background on all the characters, tantalizing hints about an even larger plot line at work, and an unusual…

The Ring of Solomon
Young Adult / May 23, 2016

Bartimaeus trilogy prequel. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: King Solomon rules Jerusalem with an iron hand, but his true power comes from the ring on this hand – it allows him to command unending djinni, and right now a multitude are engaged in building a new temple. Unfortunately, one of these djinni is a certain scoundrel known as Bartimaeus, and no work project will stay on track for long with him around. Soon enough he’s been expelled from the job and set to hunting bandits in the desert, but even here he’s not about to give his commanders rest – why would anyone do that when they could team up with the Queen of Sheba’s chief guard to destroy Solomon? My Thoughts: This seemed a little more violent than the rest of the series; perhaps because of the time period, when the djinn are, if anything, even wilder. Still really good, if you enjoyed the Bartimaeus series you’ll love this one. Content Review: Sexual content: Sheba refuses to become Solomon’s consort. Language: 3 d*** Violence: Unruly djinn punished with flame/ some more punitive but non-lethal spells. Character killed by knife between eyes. Some travelers are attacked by djinn, but instead the…

Summers at Castle Auborn
Young Adult / May 22, 2016

Author: Sharon Shinn Summary: Coriel Halsing has been visiting Castle Auburn during the summer every year for most of her life – and throughout her childhood, it has formed happy memories and excitement to carry her through the quiet life in her small home the rest of the year. But as Coriel reaches marriageable age her own maturing understanding changes everything around her at the castle, though now she knows it has always been this way. My Thoughts: Summers at Castle Auburn is set in classic medieval fantasy setting. Don’t worry, there are no dragons or elves; but much of the tale takes place in the castle and court, and the basic structure is very familiar. I loved this coming-of-age tale, and was highly impressed by the author’s light hand. Coriel starts out a giddy teenager, swooning over the handsome prince, but even then she is bold, adventurous, and kind. It was these traits that kept me reading even when I was rolling my eyes over her infatuations, and I was rewarded. Once past the first quarter of the story Coriel is coming into her true understanding, and the plot is far more interesting. The half-noble daughter must weave her…

The Spirit Thief
Young Adult / May 21, 2016

The Legend of Eli Monpress #1. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: Eli Monpress is a classically charming, cock-sure thief with a past. Unlike other thieves, however, he has honed his escape technique with an unusual tool: he just asks. The door was happy to oblige. Right now, his goal is to raise his bounty. He started off by kidnapping a minor king, who shouldn’t cause too much trouble. As might be expected, everything went wrong. The question now is not merely whether Eli can fix it… but whether he is honorable enough to try. My Thoughts: Disclaimer: I read this book in the Legend of Eli Monpress omnibus, which encompasses the first three books. I think that alone, it would not have been as good; Aaron hints at character background without fulfilling, has a few quick expositions on the magical world but doesn’t fully explain, and leaves us rather unsatisfied at the end. Still, I loved it. Fast-paced and humorous, The Spirit Thief is chock-full of fascinating characters (and aggravating characters) and an interesting magic system. Eli fits quite well into a certain stereotype of cocky thief, but he has his own character which sets him apart from others. For one,…