The Last Girl on Earth
Young Adult / January 18, 2018

Author: Alexandria Blogier. Summary: Raised among them.> Li has a father and a sister who love her. A best friend, Mirabae, to share things with. She goes to school and hangs out at the beach and carefully follows the rules. She has to. Everyone she knows–her family, her teachers, her friends–is an alien. And she is the only human left on Earth. A secret that could end her life. The Abdoloreans hijacked the planet sixteen years ago, destroying all human life. Li’s human-sympathizer father took her in as a baby and has trained her to pass as one of them. The Abdoloreans appear human. But they don’t think with human minds or feel with human hearts. And they have special abilities no human could ever have. Fit in or die. When Li meets Ryn, she’s swept up in a relationship that could have disastrous consequences. How far will Li go to stay alive? Will she save herself–and in turn, the human race–or will she be the final witness to humanity’s destruction? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I have no idea how Li survived all seventeen years before the book opens. None. So she’s the last human, surrounded by aliens who’d kill…

The Tea Master and the Detective
Adult / January 15, 2018

Universe of Xuya. Author: Aliette de Bodard. Summary: Welcome to the Scattered Pearls Belt, a collection of ring habitats and orbitals ruled by exiled human scholars and powerful families, and held together by living mindships who carry people and freight between the stars. In this fluid society, human and mindship avatars mingle in corridors and in function rooms, and physical and virtual realities overlap, the appareance of environments easily modified and adapted to interlocutors or current mood. A transport ship discharged from military service after a traumatic injury, The Shadow’s Child now ekes out a precarious living as a brewer of mind-altering drugs for the comfort of space-travellers. Meanwhile, abrasive and eccentric scholar Long Chau wants to find a corpse for a scientific study. When Long Chau walks into her office, The Shadow’s Child expects an unpleasant but easy assignment. When the corpse turns out to have been murdered, Long Chau feels compelled to investigate, dragging The Shadow’s Child with her. As they dig deep into the victim’s past, The Shadow’s Child realises that the investigation points to Long Chau’s own murky past–and, ultimately, to the dark and unbearable void that lies between the stars… (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Some…

The Princess Bride
Adult / January 9, 2018

Author: William Goldman. Summary: What happens when the most beautiful girl in the world marries the handsomest prince of all time and he turns out to be…well…a lot less than the man of her dreams? As a boy, William Goldman claims, he loved to hear his father read the “S. Morgenstern classic, The Princess Bride. But as a grown-up he discovered that the boring parts were left out of good old Dad’s recitation, and only the “good parts” reached his ears. Now Goldman does Dad one better. He’s reconstructed the “Good Parts Version” to delight wise kids and wide-eyed grownups everywhere. What’s it about? Fencing. Fighting. True Love. Strong Hate. Harsh Revenge. A Few Giants. Lots of Bad Men. Lots of Good Men. Five or Six Beautiful Women. Beasties Monstrous and Gentle. Some Swell Escapes and Captures. Death, Lies, Truth, and Miracles. In short, it’s about everything. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Do you know how long it took me to realize there is no “unabridged” version of this story? It was infuriating. Goldman claims to be writing the abridged version; indeed, this comes up again and again in the footnotes, as he comments on how many pages he cut out here…

Ghosts of Greenglass House
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 8, 2018

Greenglass House #2. Author: Kate Milford. Summary: Welcome back to the irresistible world of Greenglass House where thirteen-year-old Milo is, once again, spending the winter holidays stuck in a house full of strange guests who are not what they seem. There are fresh clues to uncover as friends old and new join in his search for a mysterious map and a famous smuggler’s lost haul. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I really love the author’s voice, which stays consistent from the last book. It’s straight-forward but well-crafted prose, with the third person view point sticking close to Milo, our protagonist, so everyone else is characterized through what he would notice first, then second, and on. Although Milo came to grips with his adopted identity last time, it’s not a struggle that can be resolved through The Power of Friendship or any such thing, and Kate Milford recognizes this. Milo is still very much working on growing up, and that includes such wide-ranging pursuits as learning to balance his emotions, learning to understand other people’s blunders, learning to retain his confidence in his own identity and background even when other people don’t understand. Spoilers for the previous book, Greenglass House: <spoiler> After…

The Language of Thorns
Young Adult / January 6, 2018

Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Author: Leia Bardugo. Summary: Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns. Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Oh, this is very pretty. Each fairytale echoes an older, familiar tale, but they’re not retellings. Some of them are set before the story they echo, or after, and some of them just say what if. What if the girl realized that three impossible missions is an uncertain way to choose a husband, and said no? What if the stepmother wasn’t always evil, but assumptions were made and real culprits overlooked? What if the characters looked and saw the truth of life and didn’t believe in happily-ever-after, but still found a happily-right-now? Leigh Bardugo is intimately familiar with fairy tales, with their language and their rules, with their heroes and their villains, with their slide from whimsical to bloody and back again. Anyone can craft a clever what-if twist, can claim to re-write…

Invictus
Young Adult / January 5, 2018

Author: Ryan Graudin. Summary: Time flies when you’re plundering history. Farway Gaius McCarthy was born outside of time. The son of a time-traveling Recorder from 2354 AD and a gladiator living in Rome in 95 AD, Far’s birth defies the laws of nature. Exploring history himself is all he’s ever wanted, and after failing his final time-traveling exam, Far takes a position commanding a ship with a crew of his friends as part of a black market operation to steal valuables from the past. But during a heist on the sinking Titanic, Far meets a mysterious girl who always seems to be one step ahead of him. Armed with knowledge that will bring Far’s very existence into question, she will lead Far and his team on a race through time to discover a frightening truth: History is not as steady as it seems. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Every bit the exciting romp it purports to be in the description. Now, I did come in with high expectations, because it’s Ryan Graudin, and those were rather disappointed. It’s nowhere near as good as Wolf by Wolf. I couldn’t figure out exactly what was missing until I saw someone else’s review where…

House of Many Ways
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 4, 2018

Howl’s Moving Castle #3. Author: Diana Wynn Jones. Summary: Charmain Baker is in over her head. Looking after Great-Uncle William’s tiny cottage while he’s ill should have been easy. But Great-Uncle William is better known as the Royal Wizard Norland, and his house bends space and time. Its single door leads to any number of places—the bedrooms, the kitchen, the caves under the mountains, the past, and the Royal Mansion, to name just a few. By opening that door, Charmain has become responsible for not only the house, but for an extremely magical stray dog, a muddled young apprentice wizard, and a box of the king’s most treasured documents. She has encountered a terrifying beast called a lubbock, irritated a clan of small blue creatures, and wound up smack in the middle of an urgent search. The king and his daughter are desperate to find the lost, fabled Elfgift—so desperate that they’ve even called in an intimidating sorceress named Sophie to help. And where Sophie is, can the Wizard Howl and fire demon Calcifer be far behind? Of course, with that magical family involved, there’s bound to be chaos—and unexpected revelations. No one will be more surprised than Charmain by…

Castle in the Air
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 3, 2018

Howl’s Moving Castle #2. Author: Diane Wynn Jones. Summary: Far to the south of the land of Ingary, in the Sultanates of Rashpuht, there lived in the city of Zanzib a young and not very prosperous carpet dealer named Abdullah who loved to spend his time daydreaming. He was content with his life and his daydreams until, one day, a stranger sold him a magic carpet. That very night, the carpet flew him to an enchanted garden. There, he met and fell in love with the beauteous princess Flower-in-the-Night, only to have her snatched away, right under his very nose, by a wicked djinn. With only his magic carpet and his wits to help him, Abdullah sets off to rescue his princess…. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Hm… it’s okay. I’m not sure if my reaction of “meh” is actually from the book, or just because I’ve read a lot of Aladdin retellings, and Aladdin isn’t even one of my favorite stories. The insta-love is a strike, even in middle-grade. But on the plus side, Abdullah is an engaging main character, and the magic carpet is always good. Always. The story’s mostly set in “the Sultanates of Rashpuht”, a land far…

We Have Always Lived in the Castle
Adult / January 2, 2018

Author: Shirley Jackson. Summary: Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiosity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Merricat is eighteen years old, but sounds more like ten sometimes. She lives alone in a huge, old house with her sister Constance and her Uncle Julian, where nothing ever changes… and she likes it that way. So the day her protections fail and Change arrives in the form of Cousin Charles, she buckles down to fight. The real power of Shirley Jackson’s writing lays not so much in the plot as in the character. Not that there’s any problems with the plot, which is creepy enough as it is, but you have to hear it in Merricat’s matter of fact voice. It’s that straight forward, childish voice…

The Knights of Crystallia
Middle Grade / Juvenile / January 1, 2018

Alcatraz Vs. the Evil Librarians #3. Author: Brandon Sanderson. Summary: In this third Alcatraz adventure, Alcatraz Smedry has made it to the Free Kingdoms at last. Unfortunately, so have the evil Librarians–including his mother! Now Alcatraz has to find a traitor among the Knights of Crystallia, make up with his estranged father, and save one of the last bastions of the Free Kingdoms from the Evil Librarians. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Alcatraz has a few moments of seriousness for once. (Only a few. No worries.) They’re so quick, almost throwaway, that how you take them is entirely up to you: ignore them because he’s just messing with you, consider them to reveal a deeper side to Alcatraz, take them as morals – you can do anything. It’s very non-preachy, despite the bits on “the dangers of fame” and all that, which is great. I love the self-aware narrator trope. And Alcatraz is one of the best. With his evil manipulations of chapter breaks, which he’s not at all shy of explaining to us, his wandering monologues – how dare he malign fish sticks, by the way, what a flaw in my hero – and his overt, blatant foreshadowing, he becomes…