The Ladies of Grace Adieu
Adult / March 24, 2018

Author: Susanna Clarke. Summary: Susanna Clarke delivers a delicious collection of ten stories set in the same fairy-crossed world of 19th-century England. With Clarke’s characteristic historical detail and diction, these dark, enchanting tales unfold in a slightly distorted version of our own world, where people are bedeviled by mischievous interventions from the fairies. With appearances from beloved characters from her novel, including Jonathan Strange and Childermass, and an entirely new spin on certain historical figures, including Mary, Queen of Scots, this is a must-have for fans of Susanna Clarke’s and an enticing introduction to her work for new readers. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Clarke’s signature, sweeping style plays off better in the long run, I’m afraid. I did enjoy this collection of short stories based in the same world as Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel, but they’re just not as good as the book. Susanne Clarke seems to develop her characters more slowly and gradually, building them up into real people – which can be a great thing. It just doesn’t work as well in a short story. The strange, sometimes dream-like nature of faerie magic also doesn’t fit into the shorter span. Furthermore, the collection is fairly dependent on…

Stupid Perfect World
Young Adult / March 22, 2018

Author: Scott Westerfeld. Summary: In this future-set novella by bestselling author Scott Westerfeld, Kieran Black lives in a “perfect” world. Disease and starvation have been eradicated, sleep is unnecessary, and it takes no time at all to go from the Bahamas to the moon. But now Kieran has to take Scarcity, a class about how people lived in the bad old days. And as if sitting through an hour of Scarcity every day wasn’t depressing enough, it’s final projects time. Each student must choose some form of ancient hardship to experience for two whole weeks. Kieran chooses having to sleep eight hours a night, which doesn’t seem too annoying. Maria Borsotti has never thought much of Kieran, but she decides to take pity on him and help him out with his project. Soon, Kieran is sleeping and having vivid dreams, while Maria, whose Scarcity project is to give up all teenage hormone regulation, is experiencing emotions she never knew she had. As their assignments draw them closer together, they begin to wonder if the olden days weren’t so bad. Maybe something has been missing from their perfect lives after all? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Is this what you call romantic…

Unbound
Young Adult / March 20, 2018

Unwind series: extra. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Connor Lassiter’s fight to bring down Proactive Citizenry and find a suitable alternative to unwinding concluded in UnDivided. Now Connor, Risa, and Lev are free to live in a peaceful future—or are they? Neal Shusterman brings back his beloved Unwind characters for his fans to see what’s left for those who were destined to be unwound. (Published Summary) Thoughts: Unlike most short-story collections added to the end of a series, Unbound is not a random gathering of prequel-material, epilogues, and what feels like deleted scenes. There’s a short story about pretty much every important character, following them for a little while after the last book, plus a couple of short stories following new characters. There are, I think, only two prequel stories bundled in – following Lev and Shark-boy, whose pasts were always the most mysterious. All together, the stories give a comprehensive view of the world moving on from the tumultuous events of the final book. Even though the collection format is very different from a novel, I still finished it feeling like I’d read a whole new book set in the Unwind world! Unwound is not an epilogue, because the Unwind…

The Man Who was Magic
Young Adult / March 12, 2018

Author: Paul Gallico. Summary: A stranger comes to the city of Mageia and challenges its inhabitants with a new kind of magic – a magic that restores innocence and faith. My Thoughts: The Man Who was Magic is a pretty little fable, a little too straight-forward and moralistic to my tastes. Adam is a sweetly naive young magician who assumes only the best of everyone, but still navigates his time in a city of hostile pseudo-magicians without hurt. He befriends a little girl, teaches her the secrets of his magic, shocks the entire city with his dramatic final display, and vanishes from the city before he can be mobbed. The “lessons” that magic is all around us in nature and ourselves, and that the imagination is a powerful tool when well-exercised, seem awfully moralistic as I said; although I don’t disagree with them, to be sure. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: None. Violence: Magician sends ants and wasps to sting and drive off a boy spying on him. One character is found dead of a broken neck – which happened presumably during a mob panic that happened directly before.

Heist Society
Young Adult / March 10, 2018

Heist Society #1. Author: Ally Carter. Summary: When Katarina Bishop was three, her parents took her on a trip to the Louvre…to case it. For her seventh birthday, Katarina and her Uncle Eddie traveled to Austria…to steal the crown jewels. When Kat turned fifteen, she planned a con of her own—scamming her way into the best boarding school in the country, determined to leave the family business behind. Unfortunately, leaving “the life” for a normal life proves harder than she’d expected. Soon, Kat’s friend and former co-conspirator, Hale, appears out of nowhere to bring Kat back into the world she tried so hard to escape. But he has a good reason: a powerful mobster has been robbed of his priceless art collection and wants to retrieve it. Only a master thief could have pulled this job, and Kat’s father isn’t just on the suspect list, he is the list. Caught between Interpol and a far more deadly enemy, Kat’s dad needs her help. For Kat, there is only one solution: track down the paintings and steal them back. So what if it’s a spectacularly impossible job? She’s got two weeks, a teenage crew, and hopefully just enough talent to pull…

Croak
Young Adult / March 8, 2018

Croak #1. Author: Gina Damico. Summary: Fed up with her wild behavior, sixteen-year-old Lex’s parents ship her off to upstate New York to live with her Uncle Mort for the summer, hoping that a few months of dirty farm work will whip her back into shape. But Uncle Mort’s true occupation is much dirtier than shoveling manure. He’s a Grim Reaper. And he’s going to teach Lex the family business. She quickly assimilates into the peculiar world of Croak, a town populated by reapers who deliver souls from this life to the next. But Lex can’t stop her desire for justice — or is it vengeance? — whenever she encounters a murder victim, craving to stop the attackers before they can strike again. Will she ditch Croak and go rogue with her reaper skills? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Blah. There’s an initial premise – reapers – but beyond that, almost no worldbuilding. Where are the consequences of the existence of reapers? How do they change the world? Surely the world isn’t exactly the same as ours except for the existence of hundreds of real Grim Reapers. What details we do get don’t make sense. Some reapers are born with the…

Among the Red Stars
Young Adult / March 6, 2018

Author: Gwen C. Katz. Summary: World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up. Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines. As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home. Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war. My Thoughts: Great historical fiction! Among the Red Stars is set in Russia, World War II and heavily based in historical fact. Valka and Pasha, teenage friends separated by the war, are both heading off to fight for their country….

The Storyspinner
Young Adult / March 4, 2018

The Keeper’s Chronicles #1. Author: Becky Wallace. Summary: Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected. In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure. The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna. With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that…

Deerskin
Adult / March 2, 2018

Author: Robin McKinley. Summary: The only daughter of a beloved king and queen, Princess Lissar has grown up in the shadow of her parent’s infinite adoration for each other—an infatuation so great that it could only be broken by the queen’s unexpected passing. As Lissar reaches womanhood, it becomes clear to everyone in the kingdom that she has inherited her late mother’s breathtaking beauty. But on the eve of her seventeenth birthday, Lissar’s exquisite looks become a curse… Betrayed and abused, Lissar is forced to flee her home to escape her father’s madness. With her loyal dog Ash at her side, Lissar finds refuge in the mountains where she has the chance to heal and start anew. And as she unlocks a door to a world of magic, Lissar finds the key to her survival and begins an adventure beyond her wildest dreams. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I’m not familiar with the fairy tale (Donkeyskin) this springs from, but long before I got to the end and saw the author’s note I knew the story was a fairy-tale. From the fairy-tale epitaphs like “the fairest woman in seven kingdoms” to the dreamy prose, from the conscious tropes to the startling…