A Glory of Unicorns
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 11, 2016

Author: Collected by Coville. Summary: A beautiful collection of unicorn stories. Clean and sparkling for little girls, to be sure, but these are not namby-pamby rainbow pets. These unicorns blaze like fire and run like the wind, and humans who dare touch them burn and bleed, taste heartbreak and loss, and are changed forever. Content Review: Sexual content: None. Language: None. Violence: Low, non-graphic.

Elijah of Buxton
Middle Grade / Juvenile / June 9, 2016

Author: Christopher Paul Curtis. Summary: Eleven-year-old Elijah is the first child born into freedom in Buxton, Canada, a settlement of runaway slaves just over the border from Detroit. He’s best known for having made a memorable impression on Frederick Douglass, but that changes when a former slave steals money from Elijah’s friend, who has been saving to buy his family out of captivity in the South. Elijah embarks on a dangerous journey to America in pursuit of the thief and discovers firsthand the unimaginable horrors of the life his parents fled–a life from which he’ll always be free, if he can find the courage to get back home. My Thoughts: This is an excellent historical fiction in the juvenile section, and I should think older readers will also find it interesting. The child’s voice is consistent and believable, and because of the setting in a freed-men’s town, it manages to portray some of the treatment and horror of slaves without overwhelming the younger audience it is aimed at. Content Review: Sexual content: School-children misread a board that reads “familiarity breeds contempt” as saying “family breeding contest” which leads to some interesting speculation. Language: 1 d***, 1 derogatory term Violence: Man…

Dragon Run
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 28, 2016

Author: Patrick Matthews. Summary: Testing Day is supposed to be a day of celebration for Al Pilgrommor. Born into a wealthy family, he expects to follow in his successful father’s footsteps. Of course, that all depends on the rank number Al receives at the testing. The higher the rank he has tattooed onto his neck, the better his life will be. To his surprise and horror, Al is revealed to be rank zero, the lowest of the low. He’s now not only an outcast — he’s also a danger to his entire family. So Al goes on the run, fleeing the brutal Cullers, men who hunt down zeroes . . . and put them to death. Cast out of his home, cut off from his friends, and armed with only a sword and his wits, Al is reduced to just surviving. As he meets other outcasts, however, he begins to suspect that he is a pawn in a larger game — and that he might have the power to tip the scales in a high-stakes struggle between man and dragon. Content Review: Sexual content: Rank ones are not allowed to father children. Character wonders what it would be like to…

Bad Magic
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 20, 2016

Bad #1. Author: Pseudonymous Bosch. Summary: Magic is BAD. As in fake. Cheesy. Unreal. At least, that’s what Clay, who has seen one magic show too many, thinks. When words from his journal appear mysteriously on his school wall as graffiti, he never imagines that magic might be to blame. And when the same graffiti lands him at Earth Ranch, a camp for “troubled” kids on a remote volcanic island, magic is the last thing he expects to find there. But at Earth Ranch, there is one strange surprise after another, until Clay no longer knows what to expect. Is he really talking to a llama? Did he really see a ghost? What is the scary secret hidden in the abandoned library? The only thing he knows for sure is that behind the clouds of vog (volcanic smog), nothing is as it seems. Can he solve the riddle of Earth Ranch before trouble erupts? (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: Character says “Well, she’s got a good looking side, anyway. Two of them, front and back.” Language: There is some talking about “bad words” and some use of symbols (@#$$%!) but beyond one use of ‘bloody’ there is no actual…

Island of Dragons
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 18, 2016

Unwanteds #7. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Head mage Alexander Stowe and his friends successfully fended off the latest threat to their magical world of Artimé with the help of a surprise ally. But old enemies have secretly been plotting against them. Now Alex must lead his people in a final epic battle, one they can’t hope to win alone. Will Artimé finally know peace or will all they’ve fought for be destroyed forever? Content Review: Sexual content: Some brief kissing. Language: 2 crud Violence: An eel attacks a sea-dragon and whale, and after some fighting a head is bitten off. A boy caught in the fight is nearly drowned. There is one battle where all the rest of the violence takes place; there is flaming tar balls flung at an inhabited island, hand-to-hand fighting both with swords and with magic spells, more fighting with eels, and some characters burned alive, dead in seconds, by dragons.

Black Unicorn

Unicorn Series #1. Author: Tanith Lee. Summary: Nobody knew where it had come from, or what it wanted. Not even Jaive, the sorceress, could fathom the mystery of the fabled beast. But Tanaquil, Jaive’s completely unmagical daughter, understood it at once. She knew why the unicorn was there: It had come for her. It needed her. Tanaquil was amazed because she was the girl with no talent for magic. She could only fiddle with broken bits of machinery and make them work again. What could she do for a unicorn? My Thoughts: Black Unicorn has the taste of a fairy tale; with dreamy landscapes, magical creatures, and set-piece characters intermixed with interesting dimensional characters. It has a simpler story line, with much detail on immediate settings but little over-all world building. While many of the minor characters are undeveloped set-pieces, the main character is an independent multi-dimensional girl with a will of her own and the perseverance to go after what she wants. A good tale for younger readers, as it is quite clean and fairly straight forward, with a fun world and strong protagonist. I think older readers with an inclination to fairy-tales or a certain type of fantasy…

Island of Graves
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 16, 2016

Unwanteds #6. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Alex and Aaron Stowe are at a crossroads. Everything Aaron has worked so hard to build in Quill has crumbled. Fallen from the height of power and influence and left for dead in a foreign place, Aaron has lost everything, and now he must humbly beg for food from those who saved his life. In Artimé, Alex chooses his people over his brother and abandons his search for Aaron, closing the door on that relationship forever. The Artimeans need his focus now more than ever as they face the terrifying power of a new enemy who has taken control of Quill—the notoriously evil Gondoleery Rattrapp. Desperate to stop her, Alex embarks on a risky mission to enlist help from an unlikely ally, and along the way he’s determined to rescue a lone sailor from monstrous beasts with mysterious origins—a sailor who just might show Alex a different world. As he prepares for an epic war with all of Quill and Artime hanging in the balance, Alex must place his faith in a reckless plan…and hope that he and all of his friends make it through alive. My Thoughts: The most interesting part of this…

Island of Shipwrecks
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 15, 2016

Unwanteds #5. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: Alex and his friends from Artimé are stranded on a newly discovered island after barely surviving a storm that destroys their ship. And it turns out they’re not alone… Back in Quill, Aaron’s power base grows as he aligns himself with an unlikely ally. Together, the two enact a drastic, risky plan to finally conquer Artimé—a plan that could ultimately leave everyone in both Artimé and Quill in far more danger than Aaron realizes. My Thoughts: Finally, Aaron is getting some deeper characterization. The time after his adviser is killed was at first confusing, but then very gratifying, as our villain finally shows some emotion and motivation. Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss. Some attraction between characters – blushing, glances, talking together – but nothing really happens. Language: One exclamation each of: crud, good heavens, blasted, holy gorillas. Violence: Hook-handed pirate lashes out and cuts a gash in a character’s forehead. A (living) statue is broken into pieces, but then put together again. Character breaks a leg. A woman is dead (action in last book, realization in this) from a panther attack. Character is knocked unconscious by a blow to the head. Mountain gorilla…

Island of Legends
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 9, 2016

Unwanteds #4. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: As Alex grows more confident in his role as the mage of Artime, he expands his skills and brings his first creature to life with results that are both painful and wonderful. A team from Artime heads out to rescue Sky and Crow’s mother from underwater Pirate Island and discovers there are more creatures than they ever imagined in the ocean surrounding the islands and not all of them are friendly. Meanwhile in Quill, Aaron faces threats to his leadership as Gondoleery hones her rediscovered magical abilities and Eva and Liam form a secret alliance against him. But Aaron’s distracted with a discovery of his own, a hidden jungle that holds a dangerous secret. His time there yields a startling truth about himself, and a potential opportunity to increase his power. My Thoughts: There’s a little less of the lovely world-building here in a sense; no new spells, no more exploration of Artime. However, we get to venture out into the surrounding sea and get a glimpse of what’s in the ocean around them. The character building is as steady as before, perhaps even stronger; I appreciated how she shows the difficulty of relationships…

Island of Fire
Middle Grade / Juvenile / May 1, 2016

Unwanteds #3. Author: Lisa McMann. Summary: The magical world of Artimé is gone. The Unwanteds have no food, no water, and no hope. And everyone is looking to Alex Stowe for answers. Overwhelmed and feeling totally helpless, Alex knows it’s up to him to find a way to restore Artimé, rescue his captive friends, and free Megan from her voice-stealing necklace of thorns – three impossible tasks. But could help lie with the silent, orange-eyed newcomers? Meanwhile, Alex’s twin brother Aaron continues to build his army in the stark land of Quill, preparing for the ultimate showdown with the Unwanteds. But a shocking twist reveals that Alex and Aaron share a common enemy more dangerous than either could have imagined… (Goodreads summary.) Content Review: Sexual content: One kiss, some talk about whether a character ‘likes’ specific girls. Language: 4 crud Violence: Two men snatch food from a boy and run. A prisoner is kept tied up in the cupboard most of the day. A girl who was captured is dragged away and the boy has to be kicked down to keep from following them out. High priest sends his own father to be executed, but then rescinds the order. A…