The Hollow Boy
Young Adult / May 15, 2016

Lockwood & Co. #3. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Danger is escalating in the haunted world. The bloody footprints and murderous ghosts of their one-off cases are nothing compared to the growing mystery in London, as more and more manifestations cluster throughout the city. But Lockwood, George, and Lucy are up to it – oh, and Holly. Old divisions have been healed, but new rifts are opening in the team. Lockwood has hired an immaculate and completely organized new member, Holly Munro. From the start, she and Lucy simply cannot get along, and it’s dissolving their cohesiveness as a team. Can Lockwood and Co. compete with the major companies, avoid living assassins, solve the London mystery, all while torqueing around the internal tensions in their daily lives? My Thoughts: I did not like this as much as the preceding two. Lucy, formerly a dashing agent with a strong personality who can take care of herself, spends much of the book jealous of Holly. Holly is, frankly, ingratiating and irritating at a couple of parts, but for the most part her only fault is being too well organized and attractive, and spending too much time with Lockwood. Lucy lost a good bit…

Island of Shipwrecks
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 15, 2016

Unwanteds #5. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Alex and his friends from Artimé are stranded on a newly discovered island after barely surviving a storm that destroys their ship. And it turns out they’re not alone… Back in Quill, Aaron’s power base grows as he aligns himself with an unlikely ally. Together, the two enact a drastic, risky plan to finally conquer Artimé—a plan that could ultimately leave everyone in both Artimé and Quill in far more danger than Aaron realizes. My Thoughts: Finally, Aaron is getting some deeper characterization. The time after his adviser is killed was at first confusing, but then very gratifying, as our villain finally shows some emotion and motivation. Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss. Some attraction between characters – blushing, glances, talking together – but nothing really happens. Language: One exclamation each of: crud, good heavens, blasted, holy gorillas. Violence: Hook-handed pirate lashes out and cuts a gash in a character’s forehead. A (living) statue is broken into pieces, but then put together again. Character breaks a leg. A woman is dead (action in last book, realization in this) from a panther attack. Character is knocked unconscious by a blow to the head. Mountain gorilla…

Cinder
Young Adult / May 13, 2016

Lunar Chronicles #1. Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: In a futuristic world sleek with hover-cars and androids, yet devastated by plague and threatened by the lunar queen, a sarcastic female mechanic is swept up into palace intrigue against her will. When the prince urgently requests her aid in fixing a droid carrying classified secrets hours before her stepsister falls ill with the deadly plague, the chain of events is set in motion. Cinder will have to fight for her liberty, learn the forgotten secrets of her own past, and confront who she really is. And decide, in the end, whether there is anything she, a cyborg teenager, can do to save her country from the cruel lunar queen’s plots. My Thoughts: Sharp, clear prose is the initial building block of this re-told fairy tale, followed by three-dimensional characters, dynamic dialogue, and a convoluted plot. This is Cinderella as you’ve never heard it before. Cinder combines science fiction, dystopia, and fairy tale into one package, and does it without feeling strained or over-packed. The first convention broken is that it’s set in Europe. The second, that the main character is not beautiful. And for a third, she and the love interest don’t…

Wraiths of Time
Adult / May 13, 2016

Author: Andre Norton. Summary: When Tally Mitford tries to prevent the theft of a recent museum acquisition, she is dragged into an alternate-universe Egyptian battle. She’ll have to take the place of her now-dead double, accept new memories, and help ‘her people’ in a struggle of politics and strange forces. My Thoughts: The idea felt less than creative. An alternate-universe Egyptian culture, where all the pop-culture rumors are true; they’ve got telepathic powers, aliens had a hand in the development, etc. Hand in hand with this, some of the shadier parts are never actually explained, to characters or audience. I was not really engaged. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A character is forced to move, work, by an invisible compulsion – it flings her against a glass case in trying to break it. Second hand military tallies of dead. A character is drugged unconscious and bound. She’s then imprisoned in a cage. Character is mentally attacked by wraiths, then attacked by a crocodile they roused.  

The Kite Runner
Adult / May 10, 2016

Author: Khaled Hosseini. Summary: Amir is the son of a wealthy Kabul merchant, a member of the ruling caste of Pashtuns. Hassan, his servant and constant companion, is a Hazara, a despised and impoverished caste. Their uncommon bond is torn by Amir’s choice to abandon his friend amidst the increasing ethnic, religious, and political tensions of the dying years of the Afghan monarchy, wrenching them far apart. But so strong is the bond between the two boys that Amir journeys back to a distant world, to try to right past wrongs against the only true friend he ever had. (Summary from Goodreads) My Thoughts: My feelings about this book were complicated; no conclusion formed at the moment. I will say that while at first I strongly disliked the main character, I found it very powerful, disturbing writing, with complex characters and vivid description. Hosseini brings multiple themes into play through the book, including yet not stopping at friendship, betrayal, courage, honesty, and love. It would be hard to appreciate how well he weaves these together into a single heartbreaking story until you’ve read it. Content Review: Sexual content: Soldier implies that he raped a character’s mother. One boy sexually assaults another and…

The Whispering Skull
Young Adult / May 10, 2016

Lockwood & Co #2. Author: Jonathan Stroud. Summary: Lockwood & Co. hasn’t made much progress, for a rival agency keeps swooping in on their cases. Finally Lockwood makes a deal in exasperation – the next time they have a case in common, whoever solves it first will win, and the other must post a public declaration of inferiority. And soon after, they’re both called in to help excavate a suspicious coffin. Things get strange when it’s robbed the night after and a dangerous mirror stolen – looks like they’re on the hunt. But the team is pulling in different directions, as Lucy is distracted by the whispers of the skull, George has found a new comrade in obsession, and Lockwood is irritated with them both. Can they pull together in time to solve the robbery before more people die? Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: 5 hell, 5 bloody, 2 d*** Violence: Mention of past events where a ghost killed five people, then was destroyed. Character slaps a little girl. Characters find corpse of recently murdered man. Characters open the door at urgent knocking, a man with a knife in his back falls in. Brief sword fight. Explosion set in…

Island of Legends
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 9, 2016

Unwanteds #4. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: As Alex grows more confident in his role as the mage of Artime, he expands his skills and brings his first creature to life with results that are both painful and wonderful. A team from Artime heads out to rescue Sky and Crow’s mother from underwater Pirate Island and discovers there are more creatures than they ever imagined in the ocean surrounding the islands and not all of them are friendly. Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron faces threats to his leadership as Gondoleery hones her rediscovered magical abilities and Eva and Liam form a secret alliance against him. But Aaron’s distracted with a discovery of his own, a hidden jungle that holds a dangerous secret. His time there yields a startling truth about himself, and a potential opportunity to increase his power. My Thoughts: There’s a little less of the lovely world-building here in a sense; no new spells, no more exploration of Artime. However, we get to venture out into the surrounding sea and get a glimpse of what’s in the ocean around them. The character building is as steady as before, perhaps even stronger; I appreciated how she shows the difficulty of relationships…

A Whole New World
Young Adult / May 8, 2016

Twisted Tales #1. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary: What if Aladdin never used the lamp? When Jafar steals the lamp and begins maximizing his wishes for world domination, Aladdin and Jasmine are going to have to unite, bringing rich and poor, royalty and thieves, together to take down the tyrant enslaving their city. My Thoughts: Meh. The characters were flat and the story-line, despite all the promises, was predictable and didn’t explore any of the exciting possibilities. There’s nothing inherently wrong with this re-telling, it just lacks depth and tension. Content Review: Sexual content: Scantily clad dancing girls in parade. Some light kissing. Language: 3 d*** Violence: Monkey attacks a man with claws. A thief is roughly arrested and dragged away. One character shoves another of a balcony, killing him. Magician hurls a tame tiger across a room, smashing him into a wall. Character crushed by a falling column. One character stabbed. Magic twists a man’s head around until his neck snaps. Character knocked out with a blow to the head.  

Truthwitch
Young Adult / May 1, 2016

The Witchlands #1. Author: Susan Dennard. Summary: Threadsisters Safiya and Iseult are in trouble, yet again. In attempting to hold up a thief on the road, they caught the wrong wagon and antagonized the wrong person. With a Bloodwitch on their trail they have to flee the city, for Safiya’s talent of truthwitchery is a dangerously rare secret, and there are men who would kill to possess her. Safiya flees to the Court, where her relatives should shelter her; but instead they use her in their plans, declare her betrothed to the emperor, and send her off again. The ship she and Iseult land on may help them escape the Bloodwitch, but Safiya and Iseult are still going to have to push their limits to survive the hot-tempered prince, the seafoxes, and the determined assassin who’s still on their trail. My Thoughts: This rich new fantasy weaves an intriguing world of diverse cultures on the brink of war and a magic/mythos system to be explored without a single info-dump, allowing things to come up naturally and trusting, for once, the reader’s capability of putting things together. There’re still many questions unanswered, but this is only the first book. I loved…

The Siren
Young Adult / May 1, 2016

Author: Kiera Cass. Summary: Years ago, Kahlen was rescued from drowning by the Ocean. To repay her debt, she has served as a Siren ever since, using her voice to lure countless strangers to their deaths. Though a single word from Kahlen can kill, she can’t resist spending her days on land, watching ordinary people and longing for the day when she will be able to speak and laugh and live freely among them again. Kahlen is resigned to finishing her sentence in solitude…until she meets Akinli. Handsome, caring, and kind, Akinli is everything Kahlen ever dreamed of. Falling in love with a human breaks the Ocean’s rules. But for the first time in a lifetime of following the rules, Kahlen is determined to follow her heart. Sexual content: Girl wears revealing dress, a couple men stare at her in bar. Character is aware that a friend-siren has “affairs” with men on land. One kiss. Character reveals to another that she has a daughter, although she was never married. My Thoughts: A kind of cute romance story with an interesting character in the form of the Ocean, but it takes the trend of insta-love over the top. Kahlen has only…