Belzhar
Young Adult / August 21, 2017

Author: Meg Wolitzer. Summary: If life were fair, then Jam would still be living in her house in New Jersey and would be spending time with her cool English boyfriend Reeve. Instead, she’s at a home for troubled, genius teens. This special school is known for teaching a class on one book. Jam is chosen to take this class and the book that will be analyzed is The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Additionally, the students have to keep a journal in which they are supposed to confront the truth and resolve issues from their past. Will Jam be able to overcome her traumas? (Published summary) My Thoughts: I wonder what you call this genre… not exactly magical realism, but that almost feels closest. Not fantasy. Not realistic. Hm. Anyway. I like the genre type, and the pacing and suspense throughout the story was quite good, but the main character aggravated me. I don’t want to spoil the whole ending, but I was severely disappointed to find out her real backstory. Content Review: Sexual Content: “Among us only Hannah Petroski had an actual, long-term boyfriend. The two of them were really serious, and had almost had sex.”/ ‘Seth put his…

Etiquette & Espionage
Young Adult / August 19, 2017

Finishing School #1. Author: Gail Carriger. Summary: It’s one thing to learn to curtsy properly. It’s quite another to learn to curtsy and throw a knife at the same time. Welcome to Finishing School. Fourteen-year-old Sophronia is a great trial to her poor mother. Sophronia is more interested in dismantling clocks and climbing trees than proper manners–and the family can only hope that company never sees her atrocious curtsy. Mrs. Temminnick is desperate for her daughter to become a proper lady. So she enrolls Sophronia in Mademoiselle Geraldine’s Finishing Academy for Young Ladies of Quality. But Sophronia soon realizes the school is not quite what her mother might have hoped. At Mademoiselle Geraldine’s, young ladies learn to finish…everything. Certainly, they learn the fine arts of dance, dress, and etiquette, but the also learn to deal out death, diversion, and espionage–in the politest possible ways, of course. Sophronia and her friends are in for a rousing first year’s education. My Thoughts: Total fluff, but really fun. The perfect thing for some really light back-to-school reading to get back into studying mode. In this paranormal steampunk setting young Victorian ladies are going to a floating finishing school to learn proper etiquette, from…

Red Rider’s Hood
Young Adult / August 16, 2017

Dark Fusion #2. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: In this second entry in Neal Shusterman’s Dark Fusion series, he twists the familiar fairy tale “Red Riding Hood” into a brooding story about a city plagued by gangs. Red, a boy famous for cruising around in a bloodcolored Mustang, takes on the Wolves after they rob his grandmother. He decides to beat them by joining them, to learn their weaknesses. After a while, however, he finds himself drawn to the pack. At the next full moon, will Red take up their murderous ways, or will he take them down? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Quite a creepy little retelling of Red Riding Hood. I like the distance achieved, where the story is obviously fairy-tale based but far enough away to be its own story, and I think Shusterman did a good job with the rather dark, gritty city setting and atmosphere. Not sure I agree with the main character’s choices, but it’s not a story where the right/wrong sides are pinned down hard and fast – it’s fairly open-ended for the reader to decide. (Note that the Dark Fusion series is more a grouping than a series… no need to read the books…

Sorcerer to the Crown
Young Adult / August 15, 2017

Sorcerer Royal #1. Author: Zen Cho. Summary: The Royal Society of Unnatural Philosophers maintains the magic within His Majesty’s lands. But lately, the once proper institute has fallen into disgrace, naming an altogether unsuitable gentleman as their Sorcerer Royal and allowing England’s  stores of magic to bleed dry. At least they haven’t stooped so low as to allow women to practice what is obviously a man’s profession… At his wit’s end, Zacharias Wythe, Sorcerer Royal of the Unnatural Philosophers, ventures to the border of Fairyland to discover why England’s magical stocks are drying up, an adventure that brings him in contact with Prunella Gentlewoman, a woman with immense power and an unfathomable gift, and sets him on a path which will alter the nature of sorcery in all of Britain—and the world at large… My Thoughts: Reasonably fun. There were quite a number of side-plots clearly about social justice (feminism, racism) which weren’t bad, but I thought they could have been woven into the story better. Making statements with your story is fine, but when they’re that blatant it does draw attention away from the story. Content Review: Sexual Content: Girl spends night in sorcerer’s room, quite innocently, but her…

Storm Siren
Young Adult / August 14, 2017

Storm Siren #1. Author: Mary Weber. Summary: In a world at war, a slave girl’s lethal curse could become one kingdom’s weapon of salvation. If the curse – and the girl – can be controlled. As a slave in the war-weary kingdom of Faelen, seventeen-year-old Nym isn’t merely devoid of rights, her Elemental kind are only born male and always killed at birth – meaning, she shouldn’t even exist. Standing on the auction block beneath smoke-drenched mountains, Nym faces her fifteenth sell. But when her hood is removed and her storm-summoning killing curse revealed, Nym is snatched up by a court advisor and given a choice: be trained as the weapon Faelen needs to win the war, or be killed. Choosing the former, Nym is unleashed into a world of politics, bizarre parties, and rumors of an evil more sinister than she’s being prepared to fight . . . not to mention the handsome trainer whose dark secrets lie behind a mysterious ability to calm every lightning strike she summons. But what if she doesn’t want to be the weapon they’ve all been waiting for? My Thoughts: Dreadfully bland. The elemental powers are nebulously defined, seeming to shift in strength…

Strange the Dreamer
Young Adult / August 10, 2017

Strange the Dreamer #1. Author: Laini Taylor. Summary: The dream chooses the dreamer, not the other way around–and Lazlo Strange, war orphan and junior librarian, has always feared that his dream chose poorly. Since he was five years old he’s been obsessed with the mythic lost city of Weep, but it would take someone bolder than he to cross half the world in search of it. Then a stunning opportunity presents itself, in the person of a hero called the Godslayer and a band of legendary warriors, and he has to seize his chance to lose his dream forever. What happened in Weep two hundred years ago to cut it off from the rest of the world? What exactly did the Godslayer slay that went by the name of god? And what is the mysterious problem he now seeks help in solving? The answers await in Weep, but so do more mysteries–including the blue-skinned goddess who appears in Lazlo’s dreams. How did he dream her before he knew she existed? and if all the gods are dead, why does she seem so real? (Published summary) My Thoughts: There was a strange, awkward contrast in Strange the Dreamer for me. I…

Tongues of Serpents
Uncategorized , Young Adult / August 8, 2017

Temeraire #6. Author: Naomi Novik. Summary: Convicted of treason despite their heroic defense against Napoleon’s invasion of England, Temeraire and Laurence—stripped of rank and standing—have been transported to the prison colony at New South Wales in distant Australia, where, it is hoped, they cannot further corrupt the British Aerial Corps with their dangerous notions of liberty for dragons. Temeraire and Laurence carry with them three dragon eggs intended to help establish a covert in the colony and destined to be handed over to such second-rate, undesirable officers as have been willing to accept so remote an assignment—including one former acquaintance, Captain Rankin, whose cruelty once cost a dragon its life. Nor is this the greatest difficulty that confronts the exiled dragon and rider: Instead of leaving behind all the political entanglements and corruptions of the war, Laurence and Temeraire have instead sailed into a hornet’s nest of fresh complications. For the colony at New South Wales has been thrown into turmoil after the overthrow of the military governor, one William Bligh—better known as Captain Bligh, late of HMS Bounty. Bligh wastes no time in attempting to enlist Temeraire and Laurence to restore him to office, while the upstart masters of…

Little Brother
Young Adult / August 5, 2017

Author: Cory Doctorow. Summary: Marcus aka “w1n5t0n,” is only seventeen years old, but he figures he already knows how the system works–and how to work the system. Smart, fast, and wise to the ways of the networked world, he has no trouble outwitting his high school’s intrusive but clumsy surveillance systems. But his whole world changes when he and his friends find themselves caught in the aftermath of a major terrorist attack on San Francisco. In the wrong place at the wrong time, Marcus and his crew are apprehended by the Department of Homeland Security and whisked away to a secret prison where they’re mercilessly interrogated for days. When the DHS finally releases them, his injured best friend Darryl does not come out. The city has become a police state where every citizen is treated like a potential terrorist. He knows that no one will believe his story, which leaves him only one option: “M1k3y” will take down the DHS himself. (Published summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Character hears girl shout “Pervert! Get your hands off me!” Character’s half-listening to a call-in radio show about sex problems (but this is stated, the actual text not shown). Two teens are kissing,…

The Impossible Knife of Memory
Young Adult / August 4, 2017

Author: Laurie Halse Anderson. Summary: For the past five years, Hayley Kincain and her father, Andy, have been on the road, never staying long in one place as he struggles to escape the demons that have tortured him since his return from Iraq. Now they are back in the town where he grew up so Hayley can attend school. Perhaps, for the first time, Hayley can have a normal life, put aside her own painful memories, even have a relationship with Finn, the hot guy who obviously likes her but is hiding secrets of his own. Will being back home help Andy’s PTSD, or will his terrible memories drag him to the edge of hell, and drugs push him over? (Published summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: Passing two boys, “Others would stick out their boobs, push their butt high and swing it side to side to say ‘check it out. Like it? Want it?’ Some girls are stupid.” “When he dumped some girl named Zoe she blasted a disrespectful description of his man-parts on the internet. Topher responded with photographic evidence she was lying.” Advices boy going on date to “keep your pants zipped”. Character finds out her father was…

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Young Adult / August 2, 2017

Author: Holly Black. Summary: Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown’s gates, you can never leave. One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself. My Thoughts: I picked this up at the library just a little while after writing a blog post marveling at the prevalence of vampire novels, which struck me as funny. The story was fast-paced and flowing, the characters interesting enough to keep me reading; I admired the MC’s determination and strength of will in her battle to stay human. Beyond that it had some distinctly weird sub-plots, from the somewhat-insane vampire (who may or may not be in love with MC) to the…