Silksinger
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 26, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #2. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: One faerie, the last of her clan, must fight to complete her sacred duty Whisper Silksinger is the last of the secret guardians of the Azazel, one of the powerful Djinn who dreamed the world into being. Relentlessly pursued by bloodthirsty devils, she flees to the city of Nazneen to restore the Azazel to his temple. At the same time, Hirik Mothmage is also on a secret quest, to find the Azazel and restore his disgraced clan’s ancient honor. And behind them all flies Magpie Windwitch, first champion of the new age of faeries, desperate to rescue Whisper and the Azazel alike before they fall in the clutches of a sinister hidden enemy. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Much more dynamic and fast-paced than the first one! When multiple new point-of-views were first introduced, I was confused and none too pleased. Who are all these random people, and why am I watching them mess about when Magpie obviously has important things to do? As it turned out, Whisper Silksinger and Hirik Mothmage turned into my two new favorite characters. (There aren’t even that many characters, but trust me – I really, really like…

Mr. Lemoncello’s Great Library Race
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 14, 2017

Mr. Lemoncello’s Library #3. Author: Chris Grabenstein. Summary: Everyone’s favorite game maker, Mr. Lemoncello, is testing out his new FABULOUS FACT-FINDING FRENZY game! If Kyle can make it through the first round, he and the other lucky finalists will go on a great race–by bicycle, bookmobile, and even Mr. Lemoncello’s corporate banana jet!–to find fascinating facts about famous Americans. The first to bring their facts back to the library will win spectacular prizes! But when a few surprising “facts” surface about Mr. Lemoncello, it might be GO TO JAIL and LOSE A TURN all at once! Could Kyle’s hero be a fraud? It’s winner take all, so Kyle and the other kids will have to dig deep to find out the truth before the GAME is OVER for Mr. Lemoncello and his entire fantastic empire! (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I loved the first two books, enough that I almost feel bad saying this… but the Great Library Race is distinctly mediocre. It feels like Grabenstein had a good thing in the first book, so he just kept writing, but at this point he doesn’t have enough new material for the book to stand out. There was none of the fast…

Blackbringer
Middle Grade / Juvenile , Young Adult / October 13, 2017

Faeries of Dreamdark #1. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: When the ancient evil of the Blackbringer rises to unmake the world, only one determined faerie stands in its way. However, Magpie Windwitch, granddaughter of the West Wind, is not like other faeries. While her kind live in seclusion deep in the forests of Dreamdark, she’s devoted her life to tracking down and recapturing devils escaped from their ancient bottles, just as her hero, the legendary Bellatrix, did 25,000 years ago. With her faithful gang of crows, she travels the world fighting where others would choose to flee. But when a devil escapes from a bottle sealed by the ancient Djinn King himself, the creator of the world, she may be in over her head. How can a single faerie, even with the help of her friends, hope to defeat the impenetrable darkness of the Blackbringer? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I was afraid from the cover that this would be a YA version of the Pixie Hollow stories, but was pleasantly surprised. They are still the tiny, pixie-ish version of faeries, not my personal favorite. And I don’t think the writing here was quite as lovely as Laini Taylor’s more recent stuff,…

The Serial Garden
Middle Grade / Juvenile / October 11, 2017

Author: Joan Aiken. Summary: The complete collection of twenty-four charming and magical Armitage family stories. Includes a prelude by the author and introductions from Garth Nix and Lizza Aiken. My Thoughts: The best kind of silly is delightful, clever, straight-faced silly. (Not the straight-faced silly where you realize suddenly “Oh, no, they mean it. How. What. Someone, help,” but the extravagant ever-growing tall tale carried off to such perfection that there’s someone credulous in the back trying to figure out if it’s real or not.) Joan Aiken creates a world of magic, whimsy, and ordinary tea-time. Some of the stories were funnier than others; in fact the first couple of tales tasted bland to me, but there were two or three truly delightful ones, and most of them were fun. Seems to me like it might make a good read aloud for kids. Content Review: Sexual Content: None. Language: None. Violence: Witch ties a child up and tries to cook him, but through a series of mishaps no harm is done and he ends up escaping. Boy accidentally shoots man in the foot with a dart. There are multiple magical duels, but no one ever seems hurt – the worst…

Darkness of Dragons
Middle Grade / Juvenile / September 13, 2017

Review by Marietta. Wings of Fire #10. Author: Tui. T. Sutherland. Summary: Qibli knows Darkstalker must be stopped. And he knows he could stop him — if he had magic. With even a sliver of the ancient dragon’s all-powerful scroll, Qibli could rewrite history the right way: end war forever; make every dragon happy; perhaps even cast a very small spell so that everyone would like him . . . Instead, as Darkstalker’s dangerous influence spreads across Pyrrhia, entrancing or killing every dragon in the seven tribes, Qibli can only grasp the small animus objects he’s borrowed from Turtle. With some clever thinking, Qibli’s talons finally hold the power to make a difference. But prophecies are not easy to rewrite. Can Qibli be the magical force Pyrrhia needs, or will he be the one to bring Jade Mountain — and his family, his friends, his whole world — crashing down? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: 2.5 stars which I rounded up after a fierce deliberation. I’m so sick of being disappointed by books that I’ve really looked forward to. In general it wasn’t so bad – I would have liked a more epic ending, and maybe a little bit less of…

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…

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…

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?…

M.C. Higgins the Great
Middle Grade / Juvenile / August 6, 2017

Author: Virginia Hamilton. Summary: Mayo Cornelius Higgins sits on his gleaming, forty-foot steel pole, towering over his home on Sarah’s Mountain. Stretched before him are rolling hills and shady valleys. But behind him lie the wounds of strip mining, including a mountain of rubble that may one day fall and bury his home. M.C. dreams of escape for himself and his family. And, one day, atop his pole, he thinks he sees it — two strangers are making their way toward Sarah’s Mountain. One has the ability to make M.C.’s mother famous. And the other has the kind of freedom that M.C. has never even considered. (Published summary) Content Review: Sexual content: Boy remembers trying to steal a kiss from a girl. Boy kisses a girl against her will. Language: Shoot. 1 d*** Violence: Character cuts a rabbit’s throat. Character is kicked in the forehead. Girl punches a boy when he tries to steal a kiss. Character cuts another slightly in the back with a knife during a fight.

Flame of Olympus
Middle Grade / Juvenile / July 28, 2017

Pegasus #1. Author: Kate O’Hearn. Summary: When Pegasus crashes onto a Manhattan roof during a terrible storm, Emily’s life changes forever. Suddenly allied with a winged horse she’d always thought was mythical, Emily is thrust into the center of a fierce battle between the Roman gods and a terrifying race of multiarmed stone warriors called the Nirads. Emily must team up with a thief named Paelen, the goddess Diana, and a boy named Joel in order to return Pegasus to Olympus and rescue the gods from a certain death. Along the way, Emily and her companions will fight monsters, run from a government agency that is prepared to dissect Pegasus, and even fly above the Manhattan skyline—all as part of a quest to save Olympus before time runs out. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Flame of Olympus is definitely on the lower end of middle-grade age ranges. It was too simplistic and obvious on all counts to really appeal to me; I saw the plot twist coming within about two sentences of the first lead-in, and all the character development was laid out very explicitly. More, while I do enjoy a good story with Greek/Roman mythology, I didn’t really appreciate all…