Alanna: The First Adventure
Young Adult / July 21, 2016

Song of the Lioness #1. Author: Tamora Pierce. Summary: From now on I’m Alan of Trebond, the younger twin. I’ll be a knight. And so young Alanna of Trebond begins the journey to knighthood. Though a girl, Alanna has always craved the adventure and daring allowed only for boys; her twin brother, Thom, yearns to learn the art of magic. So one day they decide to switch places: Thom heads for the convent to learn magic; Alanna, pretending to be a boy, is on her way to the castle of King Roald to begin her training as a page. But the road to knighthood is not an easy one. As Alanna masters the skills necessary for battle, she must also learn to control her heart and to discern her enemies from her allies. My Thoughts: This reads like a book aimed at a slightly younger age group than YA, (but she may get older over the series?) but still enjoyable. Alanna is a strong, determined character younger girls will enjoy championing, the flip-side of the classic squire’s story. Content Review: Sexual content: Character has periods for the first time, notices breasts for the first time. While talking to healer about…

Across a Star-swept Sea
Young Adult / July 20, 2016

Author: Diana Peterfreund. Summary: Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy. On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever. Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it…

Crewel
Young Adult / July 19, 2016

Crewel world #1. Author: Gennifer Albin. Summary: Incapable. Awkward. Artless. That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail. Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested. Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape. Because tonight, they’ll come for her. My Thoughts: This should have been a good read. It really, really should have. Spinners who weave time and space to create their reality… a girl…

The Truth
Adult / July 18, 2016

A Discworld Novel. Author: Terry Pratchett. Summary: There’s been a murder. Allegedly. William de Worde is the Discworld’s first investigative journalist. He didn’t mean to be – it was just an accident. But, as William fills his pages with reports of local club meetings and pictures of humorously shaped vegetables, dark forces high up in Ankh-Morpork’s society are plotting to overthrow the city’s ruler, Lord Vetinari. Content Review: Sexual content: 6 instances of innuendo. Language: 36 d***, 9 hell, 8 bloody, 5 derogatory terms. One character keeps saying “—ing” as though it were a blanked swear word, but a few chapters in it becomes clear it’s printed as is: “Why does your partner keep saying ‘ing’?” Violence: Vampires punches four men unconscious. Second-hand account of a man being stabbed. A dog bites a man. Burning oil splatters multiple people. One man shoots another with a crossbow. Character accidentally stabs another with a spike, the second man dies.

Shaman’s Crossing
Adult / July 17, 2016

Soldier Son #1. Author: Robin Hobb. Summary: Nevare Burvelle was destined from birth to be a soldier. The second son of a newly anointed nobleman, he must endure the rigors of military training at the elite King’s Cavalla Academy–and survive the hatred, cruelty, and derision of his aristocratic classmates–before joining the King of Gernia’s brutal campaign of territorial expansion. The life chosen for him will be fraught with hardship, for he must ultimately face a forest-dwelling folk who will not submit easily to a king’s tyranny. And they possess an ancient magic their would-be conquerors have long discounted–a powerful sorcery that threatens to claim Nevare Burvelle’s soul and devastate his world once the Dark Evening brings the carnival to Old Thares. (Summary from Goodreads.) My Thoughts: Shaman’s Crossing started out as an interesting, slow coming-of-age story. Somehow, it managed to embody both the noble savage and the dirty savage tropes in the same tribes, which seemed something of an achievement. The straight forward coming-of-age story thread remained solidly interesting, as the main character advances through a military academy, making friends and enemies, and struggling to reach high standards. But the magic plot line just got stranger and stranger as it…

Dread Companion
Adult / July 16, 2016

Author: Andre Norton. Summary: Kilda has always wanted to travel in space, but was unsure what career she could pursue; for the time being she has settled on governess, travelling with a fairly wealthy family to take care of the children. The two children are polite enough charges, but there’s something odd about the oldest, Bartare… When Bartare opens a doorway into another world, to follow and protect her charges Kilda will have to survive an inhuman world of old legend and law, clinging to her true nature as she searches for another door. My Thoughts: Although set in a clearly sci-fi world at the beginning, Dread Companion steps through into the world of fae. The rules were recognizable as soon as Kilda and the children appeared in the alternate world: Don’t Eat The Food, Running Water Stops Them, Don’t Trust Your Eyes, etc. This was an interesting and creative, if strange, combination of genres and formed the basis of the story. The characters were not as filled-out as they could be, and many things were never explained (as often happens in Andre Norton’s books), but overall it was good. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: There is…

Keepers of the Labyrinth
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 15, 2016

Author: Erin E. Moulton. Summary: Lilith Bennette runs at midnight. She scales walls in the dark and climbs without a harness. She hopes that if she follows exactly in the steps of her strong air force pilot mother, she’ll somehow figure out the mystery of her mother’s death—and the reason why her necklace of Greek symbols has been missing ever since.  (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Worse than it sounds – I found it confusing, lacking in character development, and overall boring. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: Hell, ‘God’ as an exclamation, 2 d*** Violence: Near-drowning, rope-swinging over automated arrows, and getting through a number of death-traps for which it was never specified what would have happened. Other issues: The bad side is a cult dedicated to the Greek gods and the good side may or may not think they know the secret to immortality. (It was confusing.)

Leviathan
Young Adult / July 14, 2016

The Leviathan Trilogy #1. Author: Scott Westerfeld. Summary: An alternate-world retelling of the beginning of World War I. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans rely on steam-driven iron machines known as Clankers. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weapons. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most powerful beast in the British fleet. My Thoughts: I enjoyed it. It’s a little slower-paced than some, but this wasn’t a problem for me. The atmosphere is clean steampunk. Both protagonists are interesting – one a midshipman on the Leviathan, a position she’s dreamed off; the other a nobleman’s son, who doesn’t quite understand the powerful forces around him, but he’s climbing rapidly out of childish innocence of the war. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: No colloquially recognized language – scattered instances of made up words recognizable as counterparts, e.g. clank, diddle, sparks. Violence: A number of airplanes are shredded by fletchetts, a flock of bats is killed by a plane, there is a sword fight and one of the fighters is killed.  

The Mystery of the Wandering Caveman
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 13, 2016

A Three Investigators Mystery. Author: M. V. Carey. Summary: Three young sleuths investigate the disappearance of a caveman’s bones from a museum and uncover skulduggery at a science foundation. My Thoughts: Like all the Three Investigator books, in both a good and bad way. The books tend to blend together, all following the same pattern; but each is individually interesting. Good for younger readers, while slightly older fans of the detective story would enjoy them too. They are always completely clean, and rather than always a who-dunnit, often experiment with a more nebulous mystery. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Some people are put to sleep with anesthetic against their will. There is a short scuffle with a thief, who is picked up by the police and brought to jail.  

Swing Sideways
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 12, 2016

Author: Nanci Turner Steveson. Summary: Annie has always wanted to be a country girl, and now she finally has her chance. The doctor has prescribed a summer of freedom. Out go the spreadsheets, the schedules, the rules that bind Annie’s life – she’s ready for adventure. California lives right down the road, and she seems to be everything Annie has ever wanted to be. More, she wants Annie’s help; she’s hatched a plan to bring her own mother back to the farm, by finding her mother’s old horses and returning the farm to its old state. Annie is delighted by this chance for adventure, but she’ll have to lie to her mother – California’s family is looked down upon in Annie’s family. The truth comes out in unexpected ways and from unexpected places, and this will be a summer Annie’ll never forget. My Thoughts: A well-told, tender story. The friendship between Annie and California, misunderstandings and reconciliations and all, was believable and interesting, the back-and-forth friendship more true to life than many. The relationship between Annie and her parents was also fine-tuned and tender as Annie learns to understand both her mother’s love and need for control and safety. Too…