Lioness Rampant
Young Adult / November 28, 2016

Song of the Lioness #4. Author: Tamora Pierce. Summary: “I’m not sure I want to be a hero anymore.” Having achieved her dream of becoming the first female knight errant, Alanna of Trebond is not sure what to do next. Perhaps being a knight errant is not all that Alanna needs….But Alanna must push her uncertainty aside when a new challenge arises. She must recover the Dominion Jewel, a legendary gem with enormous power for good — but only in the right hands. And she must work quickly. Tortall is in great danger, and Alanna’s archenemy, Duke Roger, is back — and more powerful than ever. In this final book of the Song of the Lioness quartet, Alanna discovers that she indeed has a future worthy of her mythic past — both as a warrior and as a woman. Content Review: Sexual content: Some flirting, some wondering by a character if she and a man are right for each other. Language: 2 derogatory names, 1 d*** Violence: Character dies of magical illness, character dies from a sword imbedded in his chest. Plots to kill the king. Various hand-to-hand fighting. Other Issues: A man was raised from the dead (this is…

The Sun Trail
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 27, 2016

Dawn of the Clans #1. Author: Erin Hunter. Summary: For many moons, a tribe of cats has lived peacefully near the top of a mountain. But prey is scarce and seasons are harsh–and their leader fears they will not survive. When a mysterious vision reveals a land filled with food and water, a group of brave young cats sets off in search of a better home. But great dangers await them. In this unfamiliar world, faced with loners and fierce rogues all vying for territory and power, the traveling cats must find a new way to live side by side–or risk tearing one another apart. My Thoughts: It was interesting to see the arrival of the first cats. Even before they got there, the foreshadowing of the clans was clear to those watching for it, as I was. However, the characters are not as relatable, and the love-trianglie-stuff with Storm/Grey Wing/Clear Sky and Turtle/Grey Wing was weird. Background enough that younger kids wouldn’t notice, but a little weird. Content Review: Sexual content: Over the course of the book, three cats are pregnant. Two give birth, one off-screen and the other very low detail. The cats do not marry or have…

Skinny
Young Adult / November 26, 2016

Author: Donna Cooner. Summary: Hopeless. Freak. Elephant. Pitiful. These are the words of Skinny, the vicious voice that lives inside fifteen-year-old Ever Davies’s head. Skinny tells Ever all the dark thoughts her classmates have about her. Ever knows she weighs over three hundred pounds, knows she’ll probably never be loved, and Skinny makes sure she never forgets it. But there is another voice: Ever’s singing voice, which is beautiful but has been silenced by Skinny. Partly in the hopes of trying out for the school musical—and partly to try and save her own life—Ever decides to undergo a risky surgery that may help her lose weight and start over. With the support of her best friend, Ever begins the uphill battle toward change. But demons, she finds, are not so easy to shake, not even as she sheds pounds. Because Skinny is still around. And Ever will have to confront that voice before she can truly find her own. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: I think Skinny is supposed to be very inspirational, and I understand it is sharing an experience the author has gone through herself, but I just found the situation very unlikely. Ever talks about how she isn’t…

The Jewel
Young Adult / November 25, 2016

The Lone City #1. Author: Amy Ewing. Summary: The Jewel means wealth. The Jewel means beauty. The Jewel means royalty. But for girls like Violet, the Jewel means servitude. Not just any kind of servitude. Violet, born and raised in the Marsh, has been trained as a surrogate for the royalty—because in the Jewel the only thing more important than opulence is offspring. Purchased at the surrogacy auction by the Duchess of the Lake and greeted with a slap to the face, Violet (now known only as #197) quickly learns of the brutal truths that lie beneath the Jewel’s glittering facade: the cruelty, backstabbing, and hidden violence that have become the royal way of life. Violet must accept the ugly realities of her existence… and try to stay alive. But then a forbidden romance erupts between Violet and a handsome gentleman hired as a companion to the Duchess’s petulant niece. Though his presence makes life in the Jewel a bit brighter, the consequences of their illicit relationship will cost them both more than they bargained for. (Published summary). My Thoughts: You know, I thought the dystopia dichotomy was doing quite well, if a little trite, until the completely unnecessary romance…

Magonia
Young Adult / November 24, 2016

Magonia #1. Author: Maria Dahvana Headley. Summary: Aza Ray is drowning in thin air. Since she was a baby, Aza has suffered from a mysterious lung disease that makes it ever harder for her to breathe, to speak—to live. So when Aza catches a glimpse of a ship in the sky, her family chalks it up to a cruel side effect of her medication. But Aza doesn’t think this is a hallucination. She can hear someone on the ship calling her name. Only her best friend, Jason, listens. Jason, who’s always been there. Jason, for whom she might have more-than-friendly feelings. But before Aza can consider that thrilling idea, something goes terribly wrong. Aza is lost to our world—and found, by another. Magonia. Above the clouds, in a land of trading ships, Aza is not the weak and dying thing she was. In Magonia, she can breathe for the first time. Better, she has immense power—and as she navigates her new life, she discovers that war is coming. Magonia and Earth are on the cusp of a reckoning. And in Aza’s hands lies the fate of the whole of humanity—including the boy who loves her. Where do her loyalties lie?…

Jackaby
Young Adult / November 23, 2016

Jackaby #1. Author: William Ritter. Summary: Newly arrived in New Fiddleham, New England, 1892, and in need of a job, Abigail Rook meets R. F. Jackaby, an investigator of the unexplained with a keen eye for the extraordinary–including the ability to see supernatural beings. Abigail has a gift for noticing ordinary but important details, which makes her perfect for the position of Jackaby’s assistant. On her first day, Abigail finds herself in the midst of a thrilling case: A serial killer is on the loose. The police are convinced it’s an ordinary villain, but Jackaby is certain it’s a nonhuman creature, whose existence the police–with the exception of a handsome young detective named Charlie Cane—deny. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: The premise is rather hackneyed. An eccentric detective and his clever assistant, off to solve the crimes even the police fail on? It’s been done before. Kind of a lot. But the paranormal aspect is new, and Ritter’s grasp of mythology is admirable. Rather than going with the cliched paranormals that are everywhere right now, like vampires and werewolves, he’s taken in their lesser-known cousins to weave an unusual murder mystery. And even if cliched, Jackaby was an interesting, amusing, and…

Heartless
Young Adult / November 22, 2016

Author: Marissa Meyer. Summary: Catherine may be one of the most desired girls in Wonderland, and a favorite of the unmarried King of Hearts, but her interests lie elsewhere. A talented baker, all she wants is to open a shop with her best friend. But according to her mother, such a goal is unthinkable for the young woman who could be the next queen. Then Cath meets Jest, the handsome and mysterious court joker. For the first time, she feels the pull of true attraction. At the risk of offending the king and infuriating her parents, she and Jest enter into an intense, secret courtship. Cath is determined to define her own destiny and fall in love on her terms. But in a land thriving with magic, madness, and monsters, fate has other plans. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: Set in a Victorian Wonderland, with a delightful mix of history, whimsy, and just the right amount of references to Carroll’s books, Heartless is the story of the girl who would become the Queen of Hearts. I delighted in it. To be sure, the romance was fast-paced (Flirting at their first meeting? Come on.) and the final chapters were rushed (how do…

Dragon’s Blood
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / November 21, 2016

Pit Dragon Chronicles #1. Author: Jane Yolen. Summary: Jakkin is a bondboy, a situation similar to indentured servants of old – right now he’s basically a slave, but he’s paying off his debt piece by piece. But the quickest way to make enough gold to do that is by stealing a dragon egg from the nursery where he works and raising it to fight in the rings. If Jakkin wants his freedom he’s going to have to steal a dragon egg, hide and feed it, bond to it, and train it to fight – all without being discovered. My Thoughts: Well, the tone was strange. I believe it’s considered both ya and middle grade, but the constant references to prostitutes seem out-of-place for such an age range. I liked the concept of dragons bred and trained to fight in ring-fights: not one I’ve seen before, but quite logical. But I really hope Jakkin is going to get his come-uppance from Akki, because the attitude towards girls is quite strange – the final scene where Jakkin determines to ‘master Akki’ threw me off more than anything else in the book. Since Akki is determinedly independent, I can see this going different…

The Two Princesses of Bamarre
Middle Grade / Juvenile / November 1, 2016

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: The two princesses of Bamarre couldn’t be more different. Princess Addie is fearful and shy. Her deepest wish is for safety. Princess Meryl is bold and brave. Her deepest wish is to save the kingdom of Bamarre. They are sisters, and they mean the world to each other. Then disaster strikes, and Addie – terrified and unprepared – sets out on a perilous quest. In her path are the monsters of Bamarre: ogres, specters, gryphons, and dragons. Addie must battle them, but time is running out, and the sisters’ lives – and Bamarre’s fate – hang in the balance. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: A girl is attacked by an ogre, rams him into a tower to escape, and ends up with a dislocated shoulder. She is subsequently attacked by griffins, who gorge themselves to death, then by a dragon who carries her off. There is a battle scene in which a dragon dies, as well as various and sundry griffins, specters, and ogres. Other issues: A human girl marries a hundred-year old sorcerer, who will live to 500. Due to the heavily fairy-tale feel the contrast is not jolting or problematic…