Like the Red Panda
Young Adult / May 22, 2017

Author: Andrea Seigel. Summary: Stella Parrish is seventeen, attractive, smart, deeply alienated, and unable to countenance life’s absurdities. She is not nihilistic; she is prematurely exhausted. Since her parents OD’d on designer drugs when she was eleven, she has lived with well-meaning but inexperienced foster parents, while her grandfather, her only living relative, tries ever more ingenious ways of committing suicide in his retirement home. Here are the last two weeks of Stella’s senior year in Orange County, California: the intensive AP final exams; the childish, celebratory trips; the totemic importance attached to graduation. Beneath Stella’s mordantly funny take on her life is the decisiveness with which she disengages from it, planting clues and providing explanations for those who will try to understand the act she is about to commit. (Published summary.) My Thoughts: As the story of an atheistic girl’s loss of hope for meaning in life, and subsequent slide into clinical depression and suicide, Like a Red Panda is certainly well-written in terms of believability and depression on the reader. It was not the type of story I meant to pick up, and I didn’t enjoy it. Content Review: Sexual content: Young girl asking a neighbor if he…

Life On the Edge: Bookworm Edition
Outside the Reviews / May 21, 2017

Confession time: I’ve always been one of the dare-devil bookworms. Despite years of ingrained caution from my parents’ repeated warnings (“No library books at the table.” “Please don’t eat and read.” “Have you washed your hands since eating? Don’t pick up that book yet.” “Watch out! Move that stack of books away from the food”), there’s just something so cozy about curling up with a good book and a snack. Or better yet, a big mug of tea. C.S. Lewis said “You can never get a cup of tea large enough or a book long enough to suit me,” and it’s so true. And what about indoors vs. outdoors? Even hard-core readers need to get some fresh air and sunlight from time to time, but the outer world is a dangerous place for books. They can fall in the mud. Get dropped in the street. Be seized by some ruthless relative to squish a bug. And, worst of all, what if you somehow left one behind? I’ve seen too many painful casualties in the middle-grade books my sisters would abandon outside to the merciless hands of weather. On the other hand, a good shady bench or a patch of thick…

Hello, Goodbye, and Everything in Between
Young Adult / May 21, 2017

Author: Jennifer E. Smith. Summary: On the night before they leave for college, Clare and Aidan have only one thing left to do: figure out whether they should stay together or break up. Over the course of twelve hours, they retrace the steps of their relationship, trying to find something in their past that might help them decide what their future should be. The night leads them to family and friends, familiar landmarks and unexpected places, hard truths and surprising revelations. But as the clock winds down and morning approaches, so does their inevitable goodbye. The question is, will it be goodbye for now or goodbye forever? (Published summary.) Content Review: Sexual Content: Light kissing. “They’d waited more than a year, until they were both ready. And then one night, […] it had happened right here on this couch.” Characters “end up tangled together” – they’re engaging in sex, but it’s no more explicit then that. Language: 6 scatological terms, 3 hell Violence: Two boys fistfight, and a nearby girl gets accidentally hit in the eye. Other: Some under-age drinking.

Gemina
Young Adult / May 20, 2017

The Illuminae Files #2. Authors: Amie Kaufman, Jay Kristoff, Marie Lu. Summary: Moving to a space station at the edge of the galaxy was always going to be the death of Hanna’s social life. Nobody said it might actually get her killed. The sci-fi saga that began with the breakout bestseller Illuminae continues on board the Jump Station Heimdall, where two new characters will confront the next wave of the BeiTech assault. Hanna is the station captain’s pampered daughter; Nik the reluctant member of a notorious crime family. But while the pair are struggling with the realities of life aboard the galaxy’s most boring space station, little do they know that Kady Grant and the Hypatia are headed right toward Heimdall, carrying news of the Kerenza invasion. When an elite BeiTech strike team invades the station, Hanna and Nik are thrown together to defend their home. But alien predators are picking off the station residents one by one, and a malfunction in the station’s wormhole means the space-time continuum might be ripped in two before dinner. Soon Hanna and Nik aren’t just fighting for their own survival; the fate of everyone on the Hypatia—and possibly the known universe—is in their…

A List of Cages
Young Adult / May 19, 2017

Author: Robin Roe. Summary: When Adam Blake lands the best elective ever in his senior year, serving as an aide to the school psychologist, he thinks he’s got it made. Sure, it means a lot of sitting around, which isn’t easy for a guy with ADHD, but he can’t complain, since he gets to spend the period texting all his friends. Then the doctor asks him to track down the troubled freshman who keeps dodging her, and Adam discovers that the boy is Julian—the foster brother he hasn’t seen in five years. Adam is ecstatic to be reunited. At first, Julian seems like the boy he once knew. He’s still kindhearted. He still writes stories and loves picture books meant for little kids. But as they spend more time together, Adam realizes that Julian is keeping secrets, like where he hides during the middle of the day, and what’s really going on inside his house. Adam is determined to help him, but his involvement could cost both boys their lives… (Published summary) My Thoughts: I’m not going to comment on the content. But focusing on the other parts of the book… Chapters go back and forth in viewpoint between the…

Traitor to the Throne
Young Adult / May 18, 2017

Rebel of the Sands #2. Author: Alwyn Hamilton. Summary: Rebel by chance. Traitor by choice. Gunslinger Amani al’Hiza fled her dead-end hometown on the back of a mythical horse with the mysterious foreigner Jin, seeking only her own freedom. Now she’s fighting to liberate the entire desert nation of Miraji from a bloodthirsty sultan who slew his own father to capture the throne. When Amani finds herself thrust into the epicenter of the regime—the Sultan’s palace—she’s determined to bring the tyrant down. Desperate to uncover the Sultan’s secrets by spying on his court, she tries to forget that Jin disappeared just as she was getting closest to him, and that she’s a prisoner of the enemy. But the longer she remains, the more she questions whether the Sultan is really the villain she’s been told he is, and who’s the real traitor to her sun-bleached, magic-filled homeland. Forget everything you thought you knew about Miraji, about the rebellion, about Djinn and Jin and the Blue-Eyed Bandit. In Traitor to the Throne, the only certainty is that everything will change. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts: I think this actually got better than the first book (although that might have been prejudice, because…

The Wish Granter
Young Adult / May 17, 2017

Ravenspire #2. Author: C.J. Redwine. Summary: The world has turned upside down for Thad and Ari Glavan, the bastard twins of Súndraille’s king. Their mother was murdered. The royal family died mysteriously. And now Thad sits on the throne of a kingdom whose streets are suddenly overrun with violence he can’t stop. Growing up ignored by the nobility, Ari never wanted to be a proper princess. And when Thad suddenly starts training Ari to take his place, she realizes that her brother’s ascension to the throne wasn’t fate. It was the work of a Wish Granter named Alistair Teague who tricked Thad into wishing away both the safety of his people and his soul in exchange for the crown. So Ari recruits the help of Thad’s enigmatic new weapons master, Sebastian Vaughn, to teach her how to fight Teague. With secret ties to Teague’s criminal empire, Sebastian might just hold the key to discovering Alistair’s weaknesses, saving Ari’s brother—and herself. But Teague is ruthless and more than ready to destroy anyone who dares stand in his way—and now he has his sights set on the princess. And if Ari can’t outwit him, she’ll lose Sebastian, her brother…and her soul. (Published…

Od Magic
Adult / May 16, 2017

Author: Patricia McKillip. Summary: Brenden Vetch has a gift. With an innate sense he cannot explain to himself or describe to others, he is able to connect to the agricultural world, nurturing gardens to flourish and instinctively knowing the healing properties each plant and herb has to offer. But Brenden’s gift isolates him from people – and from becoming part of a community. Until the day he receives a personal invitation from the wizard Od. She needs a gardener for her school in the great city of Kelior, where every potential wizard must be trained to serve the Kingdom of Numis. For decades the rulers of Numis have controlled the school, believing they can contain the power within it -and punish any wizard who dares defy the law. But unknown to the reigning monarchy is the power possessed by the school’s new gardener – a power that even Brenden isn’t fully aware of – and which is the true reason Od recruited him… My Thoughts: I just finished reading(and raving over) The Changeling Sea , also by Patricia McKillip, and while this story has the same whimsical touch to its description and magic, it’s rather lighter on the awe-inspiring description…

Bellwether
Adult / May 15, 2017

Author: Connie Willis. Summary: Sandra Foster studies fads – from Barbie dolls to the grunge look – how they start and what they mean. Bennet O’Reilly is a chaos theorist studying monkey group behavior. They both work for the HiTek corporation, strangers until a misdelivered package brings them together.It’s a moment of synchronicity – if not serendipity – which leads them into a chaotic system of their own, complete with a million-dollar research grant, caffe latte, tattoos, and a series of unlucky coincidences that leaves Bennett monkeyless, fundless, and nearly jobless. Sandra intercedes with a flock of sheep and an idea for a joint project. (After all, what better animal to study both chaos theory and the herd mentality that so often characterizes human behavior?) But scientific discovery is rarely straightforward and never simple and Sandra Bennett have to endure a series of setbacks, heartbreaks, dead ends, and disasters before they find their ultimate answer… (Published summary) My Thoughts: I really enjoyed this somewhat quirky, humorous scifi story. Well, I think it’s technically sci-fi (?), but it reads much more like realistic fic. Sandra practically stepped off the page, much more unique than all the “special snowflakes” that try too…

The Changeling Sea
Young Adult / May 14, 2017

Author: Patricia A. McKillip. Summary: Since the day her father’s fishing boat returned without him, Peri and her mother have mourned his loss. Her mother sinks into a deep depression and spends her days gazing out at the sea. Unable to control her anger and sadness any longer, Peri uses the small magic she knows to hex the sea. And suddenly into her drab life come the King’s sons—changelings with strange ties to the underwater kingdom—a young magician, and, finally, love. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Gorgeous. I love a good book-length fairy tale, especially when it doesn’t even try to hide that that’s what it is. The Changeling Sea is short and sweet, with vivid descriptions both of sea-side life, sea-magic, and the human heart. Like any good fairy tale, I think it’s good for both younger and older readers, as long as they’re old enough to appreciate the prose. Peri is a relatable, enjoyable protagonist and Kir is one of the only examples of ‘dark brooding LI’ that I have ever found acceptable. He is, after all, the sea’s son – I loved the way this was portrayed, the way the sea and its power was shown, and above…