Bad Magic
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 20, 2016

Bad #1. Author: Pseudonymous Bosch. Summary: Magic is BAD. As in fake. Cheesy. Unreal. At least, that’s what Clay, who has seen one magic show too many, thinks. When words from his journal appear mysteriously on his school wall as graffiti, he never imagines that magic might be to blame. And when the same graffiti lands him at Earth Ranch, a camp for “troubled” kids on a remote volcanic island, magic is the last thing he expects to find there. But at Earth Ranch, there is one strange surprise after another, until Clay no longer knows what to expect. Is he really talking to a llama? Did he really see a ghost? What is the scary secret hidden in the abandoned library? The only thing he knows for sure is that behind the clouds of vog (volcanic smog), nothing is as it seems. Can he solve the riddle of Earth Ranch before trouble erupts? (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: Character says “Well, she’s got a good looking side, anyway. Two of them, front and back.” Language: There is some talking about “bad words” and some use of symbols (@#$$%!) but beyond one use of ‘bloody’ there is no actual…

The False Princess
Young Adult / May 19, 2016

Author: Eilis O’Neal. Summary: On Princess Nalia’s 16th birthday, the king and queen summon her to the throne room, where they reveal that she is neither the princess nor their daughter, as she has believed all her life. She’s nothing more than a stand in for the true princess, of whom it was prophesied would die before her 16th birthday in the palace. Her true name is Sinda, and she’s being sent away to her only living relative, her aunt. Sinda tries to bury herself in her new life, but it’s not working – especially after an old friend comes to see her and she sends him away with acid words, than bitterly regrets it. When she discovers that she has magic, the decision is made. She’s going back to the city. Little does she know, she’s going to be pulled back into the royal problems once again, almost as soon as she returns. My Thoughts: A good, solid combination of fantasy and detective story. There’s a lot of character growth in Sinda, our protagonist, and the secondary protagonists are interesting and engaging. I fully related to Sinda – I’ve been in that position of speaking, knowing I’ll regret it…

Enchantress from the Stars
Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Sylvia Engdahl. Summary: Three young people from different planets, at different levels of civilization, each wonder about their place in the world and what will become of mankind. Each is intimately mixed up in the fate of this one planet – Elana, the most advanced, because she is a key figure in the scouting expedition that tries to save the Youngling planet without interfering too much; Georyn, native of this planet, for it is he who must trust Elana to teach him to fight the dragon; and Jarel, a medical officer of the invading force, who has begun to doubt their right to enslave these people. Together, they will change the fate of the world. My Thoughts: This is a lovely, contrasting, reflective science-fiction tale. Whether or not you agree with the views finally presented, Sylvia gives the reader much to think on, as each of her characters face down decisions that have no right answer. The three-way pov is intriguing to me in the way she tells the same events through such different minds. Elana’s story is straight forward first person, and often introspective; at many points in the story she pauses to give her own thoughts or…

Island of Dragons
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 18, 2016

Unwanteds #7. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Head mage Alexander Stowe and his friends successfully fended off the latest threat to their magical world of Artimé with the help of a surprise ally. But old enemies have secretly been plotting against them. Now Alex must lead his people in a final epic battle, one they can’t hope to win alone. Will Artimé finally know peace or will all they’ve fought for be destroyed forever? Content Review: Sexual content: Some brief kissing. Language: 2 crud Violence: An eel attacks a sea-dragon and whale, and after some fighting a head is bitten off. A boy caught in the fight is nearly drowned. There is one battle where all the rest of the violence takes place; there is flaming tar balls flung at an inhabited island, hand-to-hand fighting both with swords and with magic spells, more fighting with eels, and some characters burned alive, dead in seconds, by dragons.

Black Unicorn

Unicorn Series #1. Author: Tanith Lee. Summary: Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could fathom the mystery of the fabled beast. But Tanaquil, Jaive’s completely unmagical daughter, understood it at once. She knew why the unicorn was there: It had come for her. It needed her. Tanaquil was amazed because she was the girl with no talent for magic. She could only fiddle with broken bits of machinery and make them work again. What could she do for a unicorn? My Thoughts: Black Unicorn has the taste of a fairy tale; with dreamy landscapes, magical creatures, and set-piece characters intermixed with interesting dimensional characters. It has a simpler story line, with much detail on immediate settings but little over-all world building. While many of the minor characters are undeveloped set-pieces, the main character is an independent multi-dimensional girl with a will of her own and the perseverance to go after what she wants. A good tale for younger readers, as it is quite clean and fairly straight forward, with a fun world and strong protagonist. I think older readers with an inclination to fairy-tales or a certain type of fantasy…

Snow
Young Adult / May 18, 2016

Author: Tracy Lynn. Summary: The Duchess Jessica’s childhood began with a tragedy: her mother’s death. Her father, heartbroken at the loss of his beloved wife, could not bear to raise the child. Largely ignored, Jessica spent the first eleven years of her life running free on the family estate, cared for only by the servants. Then her father decides to remarry, bringing an end to Jessica’s independence. At first her new stepmother just seems overly strict. But as Jessica grows into a beautiful young woman, it becomes clear that her stepmother is also wildly — and murderously — jealous of her. Jessica escapes to London. Going by the name Snow to hide from her family, she falls in love with an odd band of outcasts who accept her into their makeshift family. But when her stepmother appears in the city, repentant and seeking her forgiveness, Jessica will have to decide whom to trust…with her life. My Thoughts: A short, fun, rather inventive retelling of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It’s completely recognizable, although the author is quite loose with the connections – there aren’t even seven Lonely Ones to match the dwarfs. It wrapped up very quickly, and I…

Theft of Swords
Young Adult / May 17, 2016

Riyria revelations # 1-2. Author: Michael J. Sullivan. Summary: THEY KILLED THE KING. THEY PINNED IT ON TWO MEN. THEY CHOSE POORLY. There’s no ancient evil to defeat or orphan destined for greatness, just unlikely heroes and classic adventure. Royce Melborn, a skilled thief, and his mercenary partner, Hadrian Blackwater, are two enterprising rogues who end up running for their lives when they’re framed for the murder of the king. Trapped in a conspiracy that goes beyond the overthrow of a tiny kingdom, their only hope is unraveling an ancient mystery before it’s too late. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: Theft of Swords is set in a very comfortable, familiar fantasy setting. Castles and kings, elves and dwarves; there’s little dramatic worldbuilding here. At first I was turned off, both by this and the simple, plain prose. However, the story starts almost immediately, and continues at a smooth, swift pace. Compelling characters and the dynamics between them keep the reader hooked as this adventure story unfolds, and from the unsolved secrets and hints I suspect continuing books will have an even more twisty story line. Content Review: Sexual content: Girl is accused of “having a secret affair” with a commoner….

The Girl With Borrowed Wings
Young Adult / May 16, 2016

Author: Rinsai Rossetti. Summary: Controlled by her father and bound by desert, Frenenqer Paje’s life is tediously the same, until a small act of rebellion explodes her world and she meets a boy, but not just a boy–a Free person, a winged person, a shape-shifter. He has everything Frenenqer doesn’t. No family, no attachments, no rules. At night, he flies them to the far-flung places of their childhoods to retrace their pasts. But when the delicate balance of their friendship threatens to rupture into something more, Frenenqer must confront her isolation, her father, and her very sense of identity, breaking all the rules of her life to become free. My Thoughts: This romance contrasts adventure with familiarity, freedom with safety. It’s not deep, nor life-changing, nor epic. It’s just the story of a boy and girl falling in love, intertwined with the story of a girl trying to escape the walls of abusive authority even as she struggles to understand who she is without those rules. I loved Sangris, wild and laughing and caught, through every aspect. I enjoyed Frenenquer’s voice, with her knack of description and lovely quotes. And I enjoyed the slow development of the romance. Too many…

Island of Graves
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 16, 2016

Unwanteds #6. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Alex and Aaron Stowe are at a crossroads. Everything Aaron has worked so hard to build in Quill has crumbled. Fallen from the height of power and influence and left for dead in a foreign place, Aaron has lost everything, and now he must humbly beg for food from those who saved his life. In Artimé, Alex chooses his people over his brother and abandons his search for Aaron, closing the door on that relationship forever. The Artimeans need his focus now more than ever as they face the terrifying power of a new enemy who has taken control of Quill—the notoriously evil Gondoleery Rattrapp. Desperate to stop her, Alex embarks on a risky mission to enlist help from an unlikely ally, and along the way he’s determined to rescue a lone sailor from monstrous beasts with mysterious origins—a sailor who just might show Alex a different world. As he prepares for an epic war with all of Quill and Artime hanging in the balance, Alex must place his faith in a reckless plan…and hope that he and all of his friends make it through alive. My Thoughts: The most interesting part of this…

Alas, Babylon
Adult / May 16, 2016

Author: Pat Frank. Summary: “Alas, Babylon.” Those fateful words heralded the end. When a nuclear holocaust ravages the United States, a thousand years of civilization are stripped away overnight, and tens of millions of people are killed instantly. But for one small town in Florida, miraculously spared, the struggle is just beginning, as men and women of all backgrounds join together to confront the darkness. (Summary from Goodreads) My Thoughts: A compelling post-apocalyptic survival story. More than the inferno and devastation men have brought to the world, this is a story about character and personality. A story about men who harden and adapt to a new world, and men who would rather die when everything they know is gone. There’s no quick, easy solution. No cavalry to come to the rescue. Their world is irrevocably changed, flung backwards in time, and Survive or Die is once more the motto. Content Review: Sexual content: Character thinks she catches another character spying on her with binoculars while she’s changing. “Everybody knew that Randy dated lots of girls, and not all of them virgins.” A couple of kisses. Describing a woman, character says her ‘hobby was men’. One unorthodox marriage. Language: 26 d***,…