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…

Moonkind
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 12, 2017

Summerlands #3. Author: Sarah Prineas. Summary: As the Lady of the Summerlands, Fer has vowed to serve her people without the deception of the glamorie, and she had trusted other leaders to fulfill the same promise. But not all of the Lords and Ladies want to keep their oaths, and they’ve unleashed the consequences of their betrayal onto the lands. Only Fer, with the help of the puck-boy Rook, can fight the stillness invading the realm. But can she trust Rook? And can she protect her people before it’s too late? My Thoughts: The implications going on with Humanity, Change, and the Summerlands confuse me. On the one hand, change is definitely shown as a good thing; the stilth would kill them all without it. And again and again we are told that Fer’s humanity spurs her power to change. But… there were no humans in this alternate world before Fer’s father. How did it survive for hundreds of years? There was corruption among the Lords and Ladies, but what would have happened if humans didn’t show up? And what’s up with the Elders, who are unchanging and constant, and yet quite definitively on the good side? Content Review: Sexual…

The Way of Kings
Adult / August 11, 2017

Stormlight Archives #1. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: Roshar is a world of stone and storms. Uncanny tempests of incredible power sweep across the rocky terrain so frequently that they have shaped ecology and civilization alike. Animals hide in shells, trees pull in branches, and grass retracts into the soilless ground. Cities are built only where the topography offers shelter. It has been centuries since the fall of the ten consecrated orders known as the Knights Radiant, but their Shardblades and Shardplate remain: mystical swords and suits of armor that transform ordinary men into near-invincible warriors. Men trade kingdoms for Shardblades. Wars were fought for them, and won by them. One such war rages on a ruined landscape called the Shattered Plains. There, Kaladin, who traded his medical apprenticeship for a spear to protect his little brother, has been reduced to slavery. In a war that makes no sense, where ten armies fight separately against a single foe, he struggles to save his men and to fathom the leaders who consider them expendable. Brightlord Dalinar Kholin commands one of those other armies. Like his brother, the late king, he is fascinated by an ancient text called The Way of Kings. Troubled…

Strange the Dreamer
Young Adult / August 10, 2017

Strange the Dreamer #1. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries–including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? (Published summary) My Thoughts: There was a strange, awkward contrast in Strange the Dreamer for me. I…

Summerkin
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 9, 2017

Summerlands #2. Author: Sarah Prineas. Summary: In Summerkin, the sequel to Sarah Prineas’s fantasy-adventure Winterling, Fer now the rules the magical realm as Lady of the Summerlands. Although Fer defeated Mór, the dark queen who terrorized the magical beings of the world, there are those who do not trust her. To prove herself, Fer, aided by her deep connection to the natural world and her healing arts, must enter a grueling contest. If she loses, she will be banned from the realm and all those she has come to love. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I appreciate the fairy-tale trope of a competition which is not as it seems, where showing compassion and kindness are more important than winning and the real test may not be what you expect. However, I found the whole argument about oaths and their rightness somehow irritating; I think because it’s clearly suggested that Fer’s on the right side. I don’t have a problem with the premise that a ruler should serve the people, instead of the other way around, but that the half-human newbie Lady who only came into rule a few seasons ago should know better than the Elders and all the peoples around her?…

Tongues of Serpents
Uncategorized , Young Adult / August 8, 2017

Temeraire #6. Author: Naomi Novik. Summary: Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life. Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of…