The Scent of Water
Adult / June 9, 2017

Author: Elizabeth Goudge. Summary: Mary Lindsay is a born and bred Londoner who has enjoyed her city life–a prestigious job, and friends with whom she takes in the city pleasures of theatre, art and music. But fleeting memories of a childhood visit to her father’s elderly cousin out in the country are revived with the news that the woman has willed her home, the Laurels, to Mary. She makes an uncharacteristically sudden and life-changing decision to leave London for the country. The gradual unfolding of her understanding of herself, of the now-deceased woman who has bequeathed her home to Mary, and of the people of Appleshaw, all weave together in a most memorable story of love’s redemptive power.   (Amazon summary) My Thoughts: Lovely. The Scent of Water is slow-moving and quiet-paced, and it’s meant to be that way. The reading atmosphere is that of a quiet summer day, when you have all the time in the world and are enjoying every minute of it. The POV flips from character to character in a way you don’t see as much anymore, giving the reader a double-view of many minor characters; both how the outside world sees them, and how their internal…

Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix. Summary:  The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic. Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low. My Thoughts: It was funny for the first chapter or so, but then it got just a little bit bland. Everything was just a little too humorous and stylized for my taste, although I realize that the author did it on purpose, and the message was a little too blatant. Mostly, it felt too much like middle-grade magic, not like Garth Nix fantasy. However, the message was good, even…

As Old as Time
Young Adult / June 7, 2017

A Twisted Tale #3. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary:  What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast? Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern. But Belle touches the Beast’s enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making. My Thoughts: The prose was fairly mediocre, but I really liked the changes the author made to the Beauty and the Beast story. It’s not an easy one to pull off as a good retelling; weird enough that outside of the fairy-tale context often doesn’t work at all. But the background she built…

The Girl Who Drank the Moon
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 6, 2017

Author: Kelly Barnhill. Summary: Every year, the people of the Protectorate leave a baby as an offering to the witch who lives in the forest. They hope this sacrifice will keep her from terrorizing their town. But the witch in the forest, Xan, is kind and gentle. She shares her home with a wise Swamp Monster named Glerk and a Perfectly Tiny Dragon, Fyrian. Xan rescues the abandoned children and deliver them to welcoming families on the other side of the forest, nourishing the babies with starlight on the journey. One year, Xan accidentally feeds a baby moonlight instead of starlight, filling the ordinary child with extraordinary magic. Xan decides she must raise this enmagicked girl, whom she calls Luna, as her own. To keep young Luna safe from her own unwieldy power, Xan locks her magic deep inside her. When Luna approaches her thirteenth birthday, her magic begins to emerge on schedule–but Xan is far away. Meanwhile, a young man from the Protectorate is determined to free his people by killing the witch. Soon, it is up to Luna to protect those who have protected her–even if it means the end of the loving, safe world she’s always known….

Jennifer the Damned
Young Adult / June 5, 2017

Author: Karen Ullo. Summary: When a sixteen-year-old orphan vampire adopted by an order of nuns matures into her immortal, blood-sucking glory, all hell literally breaks loose. Yet with every rapturous taste of blood, Jennifer Carshaw cannot help but long for something even more exquisite: the capacity to experience true love. As she struggles to balance her murderous secret life with homework, cross-country practice, and her first boyfriend, Jennifer delves into the terrifying questions surrounding her inhuman existence, driven by the unexpectedly human need to understand why she is doomed by a life she never chose. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Jennifer the Damned was marketed as an anecdote to modern vampire stories. It was supposed to hark back to Dracula and the other original horror tales. I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, at its ‘highschool YA feel’ and writing style. It felt like a YA vampire book + Catholicism, which is certainly more interesting than a straight vampire novel – but nothing like Dracula. To be fair, the Catholic element adds an entirely new layer to the entire story. Jennifer has never been baptized, ​but she learned to believe the Catholic truths from her vampire mother, who could, unlike any human…

Why Vampires?
Outside the Reviews / June 4, 2017

Trends and fashions generally move through books at about the same speed as they do in clothing; perhaps a little slower. And just like clothing trends, most of the time they’re completely harmless, but sometimes they go all weird and pear-shaped, and readers find themselves looking back and wondering “Just how did we end up with seventeen supernatural books following the same angelic plot line published over the same two years?” One of the weirder trends that’s doing a good job of sticking around is the vampire novel. Stories of revenants date all the way back to the 12th century, and by the 16th and 17th centuries they were blood-drinking; these walking dead entered literature through Gothic Horror around the 19th century, and the rest, as they say, is history. Only… it isn’t. Not really. In the first place, the vampire novels are hardly history – they’re still being published. But in the second, the series coming out today are very, very different from the early horror novels. They do still pull their traditions from the same source, though, and the result is what makes them odd. Early vampires were the incarnation of evil. Literally soulless, constantly murdering, driven away…

Thick as Thieves
Young Adult / June 4, 2017

Queen’s Thief #5. Author: Megan Whalen Turner. Summary: Deep within the palace of the Mede emperor, in an alcove off the main room of his master’s apartments, Kamet minds his master’s business and his own. Carefully keeping the accounts, and his own counsel, Kamet has accumulated a few possessions, a little money stored in the household’s cashbox, and a significant amount of personal power. As a slave, his fate is tied to his master’s. If Nahuseresh’s fortunes improve, so will Kamet’s, and Nahuseresh has been working diligently to promote his fortunes since the debacle in Attolia. A soldier in the shadows offers escape, but Kamet won’t sacrifice his ambition for a meager and unreliable freedom; not until a whispered warning of poison and murder destroys all of his carefully laid plans. When Kamet flees for his life, he leaves behind everything—his past, his identity, his meticulously crafted defenses—and finds himself woefully unprepared for the journey that lies ahead. Pursued across rivers, wastelands, salt plains, snowcapped mountains, and storm-tossed seas, Kamet is dead set on regaining control of his future and protecting himself at any cost. Friendships—new and long-forgotten—beckon, lethal enemies circle, secrets accumulate, and the fragile hopes of the little…

A Conspiracy of Kings
Young Adult / June 3, 2017

Queen’s Thief #4. Author: Megan Whalen Turner. Summary: Sophos, under the guidance of yet another tutor, practices his swordplay and strategizes escape scenarios should his father’s villa come under attack. How would he save his mother? His sisters? Himself? Could he reach the horses in time? Where would he go? But nothing prepares him for the day armed men, silent as thieves, swarm the villa courtyard ready to kill, to capture, to kidnap. Sophos, the heir to the throne of Sounis, disappears without a trace. In Attolia, Eugenides, the new and unlikely king, has never stopped wondering what happened to Sophos. Nor has the Queen of Eddis. They send spies. They pay informants. They appeal to the gods. But as time goes by, it becomes less and less certain that they will ever see their friend alive again. Across the small peninsula battles are fought, bribes are offered, and conspiracies are set in motion. Darkening the horizon, the Mede Empire threatens, always, from across the sea. And Sophos, anonymous and alone, bides his time. Sophos, drawing on his memories of Gen, Pol, the Magus and Eddis, sets out on an adventure that will change all of their lives forever. My…

The King of Attolia
Young Adult / June 2, 2017

Queen’s Thief #3. Author: Megan Whalen Turner. Summary: Eugenides, no stranger to desperate circumstances, has gotten himself into difficulties he can’t get out of. Used to being treated with a certain measure of wariness, if not respect, he suffers the pranks, insults, and intrigue of the Attolian court with dwindling patience. As usual, nothing is as it appears when he rescues a hot-headed young soldier in the Palace Guard. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: The point of view progression away from Gen continues. Now we are relegated to a secondary character, circling in Gen’s orbit. Poor Costis. Really, that’s exactly what he is – even to the readers. He’s quite likable; loyal, brutally honest, possessed of some sense of humor (despite Gen’s opinion), and totally trapped. But he gets only minor character growth, and what plot/arc of his own that he does get also revolves around Gen (coming to understand Gen better, finalizing loyalty to his king). Eugenides too is trapped. It is his misfortune that the woman he fell in love with is queen, and along with her he must accept the crown. This book is a length of struggle and personal growth for Gen, as he is forced to…

The Queen of Attolia
Young Adult / June 1, 2017

Queen’s Thief #2. Author: Megan Whalen Turner. Summary: Revenge When Eugenides, the Thief of Eddis, stole Hamiathes’s Gift, the Queen of Attolia lost more than a mythical relic. She lost face. Everyone knew that Eugenides had outwitted and escaped her. To restore her reputation and reassert her power, the Queen of Attolia will go to any length and accept any help that is offered…she will risk her country to execute the perfect revenge. …but Eugenides can steal anything. And he taunts the Queen of Attolia, moving through her strongholds seemingly at will. So Attolia waits, secure in the knowledge that the Thief will slip, that he will haunt her palace one too many times. …at what price? When Eugenides finds his small mountain country at war with Attolia, he must steal a man, he must steal a queen, he must steal peace. But his greatest triumph, and his greatest loss, comes in capturing something that the Queen of Attolia thought she had sacrificed long ago… (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: When was the last time you saw a main character this wounded? Come this close to broken? Not as a one-time, see how the poor brave kid handles his affliction, aaand…