The Lost Kingdom of Bamarre
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 31, 2017

Author: Gail Carson Levine. Summary: Peregrine strives to live up to the ideal of her people, the Latki—and to impress her parents: affectionate Lord Tove, who despises only the Bamarre, and stern Lady Klausine. Perry runs the fastest, speaks her mind, and doesn’t give much thought to the castle’s Bamarre servants, whom she knows to be weak and cowardly. But just as she’s about to join her father on the front lines, she is visited by the fairy Halina, who reveals that Perry isn’t Latki-born. She is Bamarre. The fairy issues a daunting challenge: against the Lakti power, Perry must free her people from tyranny. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Given that I’ve loved Gail Carson Levine’s other works, I was very disappointed. This didn’t work at all for me. It’s not just a ‘teaching story’, that’s blatantly focused on particular issues (racism and prejudice) and putting forth morals about them instead of telling a compelling story that leaves the reader with new thoughts on those issues. No, it’s also a teaching story that, unwittingly I’m sure, brushes away the very points it’s trying to make. Peregrine, the main character, spends a lot of the book first overcoming her own prejudice…

August Monthly Roundup
Outside the Reviews / August 31, 2017

Hey all! August was a bit of a fragmented month for reading, what with school coming up and family visiting and the solar eclipse – all sorts of exciting life events. There was only one non-review post, which introduced a new co-blogger, Marietta. (She’s a busier gal than me, so don’t expect a ton of reviews, but there’ll be some upcoming.) ~ Rereads ~ Oathbringer, the latest book in the Stormlight Archives, is coming out in November, so obviously I had to reread The Way of Kings. And as long as I was reading Sanderson, I hit up The Rithmatist again too, and finally posted reviews for both of them. Etiquette and Espionage is a fun steampunk-fluff read for back-to-school vibes; more back to school books further down the list (but sadly not ones I enjoyed!) I loved the middle grade Summerlands trilogy from several years ago, so I started reviewing them back in July and finished during August. The flaws were more obvious to me this time, but Rook was just as awesome as ever. Book One, Book Two, Book Three. And… there was really no reason to reread Red Rider’s Hood except that Neal Shusterman does great quirky retellings. ~ New Books ~ I…

The Rithmatist
Young Adult / August 28, 2017

The Rithmatist #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: More than anything, Joel wants to be a Rithmatist. Rithmatists have the power to infuse life into two-dimensional figures known as Chalklings. Rithmatists are humanity’s only defense against the Wild Chalklings. Having nearly overrun the territory of Nebrask, the Wild Chalklings now threaten all of the American Isles. As the son of a lowly chalkmaker at Armedius Academy, Joel can only watch as Rithmatist students learn the magical art that he would do anything to practice. Then students start disappearing―kidnapped from their rooms at night, leaving trails of blood. Assigned to help the professor who is investigating the crimes, Joel and his friend Melody find themselves on the trail of an unexpected discovery―one that will change Rithmatics―and their world―forever. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Great fun. How often do we get a magic-school story where the main character is one of the “muggles”? And this unusualness leads to an awesome partnership, our two main characters combining their strengths to work together. More, the magic system itself is quite unique. Magic circles have, of course, been around for a while; and we’ve seen moving drawings before. But combining them into a two-d magic system based…

Say Hello!
Outside the Reviews / August 27, 2017

Hello there everyone! I’d like to introduce a close friend and book buddy of mine: Marietta Mortensen. We’ve practically been a book club of two for years now, and I’m delighted to welcome her as the first co-blogger on x-rayreads. So, a quick introductory interview of sorts for ya’ll seems appropriate. Could you tell all the nice readers a little bit about yourself, Marietta? Hi! I’m Marietta, a Catholic teenager from Green Bay, Wisconsin (and before you ask, yes I’m a Packer fan, it’s mandatory when you live here). I’m a reader, a dancer, a singer, an oldest sister and my Hogwarts House is Hufflepuff. (I’m an elf, too.) I’ve known Bernadette forever (yes, literally) and we’ve been reading the same books for almost as long. The best part about being book buddies is that we generally like and dislike the same things, but not so frequently that we can’t each get a new perspective on what we’ve read! I’m really excited to be co-blogging with her, because it means that I won’t have to leave such long comments on her posts. (They’re all there, if you want to read them.) What sorts of books/genres do you read most? You’ll generally find…

Hex Hall
Young Adult / August 22, 2017

Hex Hall #1. Author: Rachel Hawkins. Summary: Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father—an elusive European warlock—only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters. (Published summary) My Thoughts: Bland. Pretty boring. I may be spoiled by all the epic fantasy I read, but I just wasn’t drawn into the story-world; there’s no particular world-building and the characters seem petty and dull. I do think it’s all right to use a pre-existing set up, like basic werewolves and vampires, without any extra worldbuilding, so that you can jump straight into your story and focus on the action without explaining anything; or even just because you like that world. It does run more risk of being boring, though, especially when the action focuses around a strange on-off romance/attraction and a ghostly grandmother whom we all (except the main character) know is up to no good….

Belzhar
Young Adult / August 21, 2017

Author: Meg Wolitzer. Summary: If life were fair, then Jam would still be living in her house in New Jersey and would be spending time with her cool English boyfriend Reeve. Instead, she’s at a home for troubled, genius teens. This special school is known for teaching a class on one book. Jam is chosen to take this class and the book that will be analyzed is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Additionally, the students have to keep a journal in which they are supposed to confront the truth and resolve issues from their past. Will Jam be able to overcome her traumas? (Published summary) My Thoughts: I wonder what you call this genre… not exactly magical realism, but that almost feels closest. Not fantasy. Not realistic. Hm. Anyway. I like the genre type, and the pacing and suspense throughout the story was quite good, but the main character aggravated me. I don’t want to spoil the whole ending, but I was severely disappointed to find out her real backstory. Content Review: Sexual Content: “Among us only Hannah Petroski had an actual, long-term boyfriend. The two of them were really serious, and had almost had sex.”/ ‘Seth put his…

Etiquette & Espionage
Young Adult / August 19, 2017

Finishing School #1. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. My Thoughts: Total fluff, but really fun. The perfect thing for some really light back-to-school reading to get back into studying mode. In this paranormal steampunk setting young Victorian ladies are going to a floating finishing school to learn proper etiquette, from…

Red Rider’s Hood
Young Adult / August 16, 2017

Dark Fusion #2. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: In this second entry in Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series, he twists the familiar fairy tale “Red Riding Hood” into a brooding story about a city plagued by gangs. Red, a boy famous for cruising around in a bloodcolored Mustang, takes on the Wolves after they rob his grandmother. He decides to beat them by joining them, to learn their weaknesses. After a while, however, he finds himself drawn to the pack. At the next full moon, will Red take up their murderous ways, or will he take them down? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Quite a creepy little retelling of Red Riding Hood. I like the distance achieved, where the story is obviously fairy-tale based but far enough away to be its own story, and I think Shusterman did a good job with the rather dark, gritty city setting and atmosphere. Not sure I agree with the main character’s choices, but it’s not a story where the right/wrong sides are pinned down hard and fast – it’s fairly open-ended for the reader to decide. (Note that the Dark Fusion series is more a grouping than a series… no need to read the books…

Sorcerer to the Crown
Young Adult / August 15, 2017

Sorcerer Royal #1. Author: Zen Cho. Summary: The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s  stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession… At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him in contact with Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large… My Thoughts: Reasonably fun. There were quite a number of side-plots clearly about social justice (feminism, racism) which weren’t bad, but I thought they could have been woven into the story better. Making statements with your story is fine, but when they’re that blatant it does draw attention away from the story. Content Review: Sexual Content: Girl spends night in sorcerer’s room, quite innocently, but her…

Storm Siren
Young Adult / August 14, 2017

Storm Siren #1. Author: Mary Weber. Summary: In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse – and the girl – can be controlled. As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth – meaning, she shouldn’t even exist. Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed. Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons. But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for? My Thoughts: Dreadfully bland. The elemental powers are nebulously defined, seeming to shift in strength…