Orbiting Jupiter

Author: Gary D. Schmidt. Summary: When Jack meets his new foster brother, he already knows three things about him: Joseph almost killed a teacher. He was incarcerated at a place called Stone Mountain. He has a daughter. Her name is Jupiter. And he has never seen her. What Jack doesn’t know, at first, is how desperate Joseph is to find his baby girl. Or how urgently he, Jack, will want to help. But the past can’t be shaken off. Even as new bonds form, old wounds reopen. The search for Jupiter demands more from Jack than he can imagine. (Published Summary). My Thoughts: A story of bad decisions and worst consequences, told through the straight-forward, simple voice of a boy. Or, more optimistically, a story of love and responsibility and overcoming prejudice. Joseph made a very bad choice or two – at the age of thirteen, with only an abusive father to support him – but his response is multiple levels above many real-life men in similar situations. The moment he finds out that he’s a father, his one goal becomes finding his baby daughter, to love and care for her. Jack, his foster brother, must find bravery in a…

Nyxia Unleashed
Young Adult / July 28, 2018

Nyxia #2. Author: Scott Reintgen. E-copy provided by publisher for review, through Netgalley. Summary: Emmett Atwater thought Babel’s game sounded easy. Get points. Get paid. Go home. But it didn’t take long for him to learn that Babel’s competition was full of broken promises, none darker or more damaging than the last one. Now Emmett and the rest of the Genesis survivors must rally and forge their own path through a new world. Their mission from Babel is simple: extract nyxia, the most valuable material in the universe, and play nice with the indigenous Adamite population. But Emmett and the others quickly realize they are caught between two powerful forces—Babel and the Adamites—with clashing desires. Will the Genesis team make it out alive before it’s too late? My Thoughts: Usually I’m all here for power couples, but in this case the main problem with the book is Emmett and Morning. In a book of complex characters and fleshed out friendships, it’s both strange and jarring to have such a flat romance – as if the author had everything all worked out and put together, and then went “Oh, but we need to put some sex in” (Spoiler alert: No. You…

Voiceless
Young Adult / July 26, 2018

Voiceless #1. Author: E.G. Wilson. E-copy provided by publisher for review, through Netgalley. Summary: Adelaide Te Ngawai was thirteen when Maunga Richards stole her voice. Addy is plunged into silence when a high school bully inflicts her with an incurable disease that leaves her unable to speak, write, or create. Vox Pox—a man-made malady that’s been terrorizing the city for months. Resilient, Addy fights to survive. To not be silenced. But then her brother, Theo, is infected as well. Desperate for any information that might help cure Theo, Addy follows Maunga into a newly developed virtual psychoreality simulator and discovers a conspiracy deeper than she’d ever imagined. How far will she go to save her brother? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Yikes. Vox Pox, the artificial disease Addy is infected with right at the beginning, is a truly alarming illness. One touch of a needle, and Addy loses her voice, her creativity… and effectively, her life. She has no idea where to go from here or what she’s going to do with the rest of her life. Whether or not such a disease is realistic is beside the point of Voiceless, I think. Although it’s a sci-fi setting, the focus is…

Uncommon Criminals
Young Adult / June 23, 2018

Heist Society #2. Author: Ally Carter. Summary: Katarina Bishop has worn a lot of labels in her short life. Friend. Niece. Daughter. Thief. But for the last two months she’s simply been known as the girl who ran the crew that robbed the greatest museum in the world. That’s why Kat isn’t surprised when she’s asked to steal the infamous Cleopatra Emerald so it can be returned to its rightful owners. There are only three problems. First, the gem hasn’t been seen in public in thirty years. Second, since the fall of the Egyptian empire and the suicide of Cleopatra, no one who holds the emerald keeps it for long, and in Kat’s world, history almost always repeats itself. But it’s the third problem that makes Kat’s crew the most nervous and that is simply… the emerald is cursed. Kat might be in way over her head, but she’s not going down without a fight. After all she has her best friend—the gorgeous Hale—and the rest of her crew with her as they chase the Cleopatra around the globe, dodging curses, realizing that the same tricks and cons her family has used for centuries are useless this time. Which means,…

The Sight
Young Adult / June 13, 2018

The Sight #1. Author: David Clement-Davies. Summary: In the shadow of an abandoned castle, a wolf pack seeks shelter. The she-wolf’s pups will not be able to survive the harsh Transylvanian winter. And they are being stalked by a lone wolf, Morgra, possessed of a mysterious and terrifying power known as the Sight. Morgra knows that one of the pups born beneath the castle holds a key to power even stronger than her own power that could give her control of this world and the next. But the pack she hunts will do anything to protect their own, even if it means setting in motion a battle that will involve all of nature, including the creature the wolves fear the most: Man. (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: I’ve never before read a book that managed to combine middle-grade writing, bloody slaughter, and a slightly disturbing mix of different classical and religious references. To be fair, the first of those is a personal thing. Lots of readers don’t care much about writing style. But the flow of the prose, the author’s voice, is an important part of my own reading experience. And The Sight has rough, simple prose that tells rather than…

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…