Serpentine
Young Adult / February 5, 2017

Author: Cindy Pon. Summary: Skybright has been a handmaiden her entire life, and as far as she can see she’ll stay right there for the rest of it. But as she and her mistress come of age, things begin to change. Her mistress is acting strangely, hiding things from Skybright and excluding her from her new friendship. For Skybright, this is only the tip of her problems as she begins to undergo strange nocturnal changes. Something’s happening to her, and she doesn’t like it. As things begin to escalate, tying into the growing problems of the monster-infested world outside, the real question is – how far will it go? Is Skybright really who she thinks she is? My Thoughts: First, you should know that the content numbers may be a tiny bit off – I skimmed large parts of the book, including the end. It just kept getting worse. Skybright is the perfect devoted handmaiden. Which means she’s quiet, fairly lackluster, and thinks her mistress’s opinion is all-important. Unhappily, these qualities aren’t quite as good in a protagonist. She’s reactive instead of proactive for most of the book, and even when she does something of her own accord it’s in…

The Night Circus
Adult / February 4, 2017

Author: Erin Morgenstern. Summary: Since youth, Celia and Marco have been trained to compete, even if in what they don’t really understand. Now the Night Circus has manifested, a magically beautiful travelling circus that enchants and dazzles spectators at night and vanishes in the morning. It is the unusual battleground for these two – but they have different ideas than their masters. Celia and Marco think collaboration might be better than competition, and that love is always better than hate. But they’ve been locked into this competition for too long… and everything, from the circus to the lives of its workers, hangs in the balance. My Thoughts: This is an unusually styled story. Not only does it span two decades, but it quite deliberately moves back and forth between showing and telling. Much is hinted at, outlined by a silhouette, but even in the end left untouched. In the end, I liked it. Although she may have an odd style, Erin Morgenstern has a skilled hand on the prose, and this became a dreamy beautiful work. The lack of information at times could be frustrating, but the book in itself was like the night circus; moving from one act to…

The Mysterious Disappearance of Leon (I mean Noel)
Middle Grade / Juvenile / February 3, 2017

Author: Ellin Raskin. Summary: Glub! Blub! Mrs. Caroline “Little Dumpling” Carillon isn’t quite sure what to expect when she sets off to meet her husband, Leon. After all, she hasn’t seen him since their wedding when she was five and he was seven. But their reunion is cut short when a storm knocks him off their boat, and he disappears completely, leaving only one very waterlogged clue (Glub! Blub!). Will Dumpling be able to find Leon (or is it Noel) again? And just what is a glub blub? (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: A light-hearted, humorous affair full of ridiculous riddles and quirky characters. Content Review: Sexual Content: Kid says: “Mavis Bensonhust’s mother always wears lace underwear in case a truck hits her and her dress flies up in the air” … “That’s why I never wear any underwear,”. A little further on she explains that instead she always wears a purple bathing suit under her clothes. Language: None. Violence: Building blows up and bodies of people inside it are never found. Girl bites her governess, who dives down a laundry chute. Man trips, hits his head on a table, and needs stitches. Man falls off a boat and seems to…

The Lie Tree
Young Adult / February 2, 2017

Author: Frances Hardinge. Summary: It was not enough. All knowledge- any knowledge – called to Faith, and there was a delicious, poisonous pleasure in stealing it unseen. Faith has a thirst for science and secrets that the rigid confines of her class cannot supress. And so it is that she discovers her disgraced father’s journals, filled with the scribbled notes and theories of a man driven close to madness. Tales of a strange tree which, when told a lie, will uncover a truth: the greater the lie, the greater the truth revealed to the liar. Faith’s search for the tree leads her into great danger – for where lies seduce, truths shatter . . . (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: The Lie Tree was an intriguing fantasy-mystery set solidly in history (about the 19th century); an interesting combination I thoroughly approve of. I thought the author did a good job of combining all her different themes (the lie tree with all its attached metaphors, the feminism/social-commentary theme, the whole mystery side) without being muddied or confusing. Content Review: Sexual Content: Rumors that a woman is courting a married man. Language: 1 d***, 1 derogatory term Violence: Boy is caught in a…

Illuminae
Young Adult / February 1, 2017

The Illuminae Files #1. Author: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff. Summary: This morning, Kady thought breaking up with Ezra was the hardest thing she’d have to do. This afternoon, her planet was invaded. The year is 2575, and two rival megacorporations are at war over a planet that’s little more than an ice-covered speck at the edge of the universe. Too bad nobody thought to warn the people living on it. With enemy fire raining down on them, Kady and Ezra—who are barely even talking to each other—are forced to fight their way onto an evacuating fleet, with an enemy warship in hot pursuit. But their problems are just getting started. A deadly plague has broken out and is mutating, with terrifying results; the fleet’s AI, which should be protecting them, may actually be their enemy; and nobody in charge will say what’s really going on. As Kady hacks into a tangled web of data to find the truth, it’s clear only one person can help her bring it all to light: the ex-boyfriend she swore she’d never speak to again. (Goodreads summary) My Thoughts: Illuminae was quite a breathtaking ride. With much of the interaction taking place between soldiers and…