A Dragon of a Different Color
Young Adult / August 1, 2017

Heartstrikers #4. Author: Rachel Aaron. Summary: To save his family from his tyrannical mother, Julius had to step on a lot of tails. That doesn’t win a Nice Dragon many friends, but just when he thinks he’s starting to make progress, a new threat arrives. Turns out, things can get worse. Heartstriker hasn’t begun to pay for its secrets, and the dragons of China are here to collect. When the Golden Emperor demands his surrender, Julius will have to choose between loyalty to the sister who’s always watched over him and preserving the clan he gave everything to protect. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts: Well, I enjoyed it, but A Dragon of a Different Color wasn’t as good as the previous books. I imagine Rachel Aaron had all this awesome worldbuilding done that she really wanted to give her readers… so she tied plot twists to each discovery, and crammed them all together. And it was exciting and fun and illuminating, but – it was also crammed. It felt like the entire book was just a series of twists and reveals, with never enough down time to process the new reveal or even to just enjoy the new characters introduced. The…

City of Glass
Young Adult / June 28, 2017

The Mortal Instruments #3. Author: Cassandra Clare. Summary: To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight. As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost? (Published Summary) Content Review: Sexual Content: “Maybe she’s trying to take your parents’ attention off you, since they still don’t know you’re gay.” / Character walks in on two teens “locked in a passionate embrace”. /…

City of Ashes
Young Adult / June 27, 2017

The Mortal Instruments #2. Author: Cassandra Clare. Summary: Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father. To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father? (Published Review) My Thoughts: They’re like dorito chips. No nutritional value whatsoever, and sometimes…

City of Bones
Young Adult / June 26, 2017

The Mortal Instruments #1. Author: Cassandra Clare. Summary: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder― much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It’s hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing―not even a smear of blood―to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy? This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It’s also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know… (Published Review) My Thoughts: I mean… if you like action-flicks with several handsome boys, plenty of monster-killing and explosions, and not much…

Legion
Young Adult / June 24, 2017

Talon #4. Author: Julie Kagawa. Summary: Dragon hatchling Ember Hill was never prepared to find love at all–dragons do not suffer human emotions–let alone the love of a human and a former dragonslayer, at that. With ex-soldier Garret dying at her feet after sacrificing his freedom and his life to expose the deepest of betrayals, Ember knows only that nothing she was taught by dragon organization Talon is true. About humans, about rogue dragons, about herself and what she’s capable of doing and feeling. In the face of great loss, Ember vows to stand with rogue dragon Riley against the dragon-slaying Order of St. George and her own twin brother Dante–the heir apparent to all of Talon, and the boy who will soon unleash the greatest threat and terror dragonkind has ever known. Talon is poised to take over the world, and the abominations they have created will soon take to the skies, darkening the world with the promise of blood and death to those who refuse to yield. (Published Summary.) My Thoughts: Just a fluff-fantasy read because I hate not-finishing series. Simultaneously aggravated and delighted that Kagawa brought one of the characters ‘back from the dead’ (really just a…

The Blue Sword
Young Adult / June 23, 2017

Damar #1. Author: Robin McKinley. Summary: This is the story of Corlath, golden-eyed king of the Free Hillfolk, son of the sons of the Lady Aerin. And this is the story of Harry Crewe, the Homelander orphan girl who became Harimad-sol, King’s Rider, and heir to the Blue Sword, Gonturan, that no woman had wielded since the Lady Aerin herself bore it into battle. And this is the song of the kelar of the Hillfolk, the magic of the blood, the weaver of destinies… (Published summary) My Thoughts: The Blue Sword is a story about three ​wholly different things. It’s a story about the coming-of-age journey of a young woman finding her home; the story of a nomadic culture on the decline; and while not the story of, I think we can say a story about, kelar, the wild hill-magic that pervades the setting. Each of these is a strong guiding force in their own way. Harry, our protagonist, is an astonishingly self-possessed young woman, rising to new challenges with ever-growing courage and walking boldly enough down a path she does not know to an end she cannot see. The unfamiliar culture she finds herself in is written with detail…

Just Listen
Young Adult / June 19, 2017

Author: Sarah Dessen. Summary: Last year, Annabel was “the girl who has everything” — at least that’s the part she played in the television commercial for Kopf’s Department Store. This year, she’s the girl who has nothing: no best friend because mean-but-exciting Sophie dropped her, no peace at home since her older sister became anorexic, and no one to sit with at lunch. Until she meets Owen Armstrong. Tall, dark, and music-obsessed, Owen is a reformed bad boy with a commitment to truth-telling. With Owen’s help, maybe Annabel can face what happened the night she and Sophie stopped being friends.   (Goodreads Summary) My Thoughts: Realistic-fic has never been my personal preference, especially not in YA, but I do read it from time to time. And as par for course, Just Listen wasn’t a favorite from the books I’ve read recently, but I did like it. The main arc for Annabel is learning to speak up, to tell the truth but almost as importantly just to say something, anything at all. And I know that’s an important lesson to learn. I know because it’s something I can always stand to hear again, because I have friends who could stand to hear it…

Frogkisser!

Author: Garth Nix. Summary:  The last thing she needs is a prince. The first thing she needs is some magic. Poor Princess Anya. Forced to live with her evil stepmother’s new husband, her evil stepstepfather. Plagued with an unfortunate ability to break curses with a magic-assisted kiss. And forced to go on the run when her stepstepfather decides to make the kingdom entirely his own. Aided by a loyal talking dog, a boy thief trapped in the body of a newt, and some extraordinarily mischievous wizards, Anya sets off on a Quest that, if she plays it right, will ultimately free her land—and teach her a thing or two about the use of power, the effectiveness of a well-placed pucker, and the finding of friends in places both high and low. My Thoughts: It was funny for the first chapter or so, but then it got just a little bit bland. Everything was just a little too humorous and stylized for my taste, although I realize that the author did it on purpose, and the message was a little too blatant. Mostly, it felt too much like middle-grade magic, not like Garth Nix fantasy. However, the message was good, even…

As Old as Time
Young Adult / June 7, 2017

A Twisted Tale #3. Author: Liz Braswell. Summary:  What if Belle’s mother cursed the Beast? Belle is a lot of things: smart, resourceful, restless. She longs to escape her poor provincial town for good. She wants to explore the world, despite her father’s reluctance to leave their little cottage in case Belle’s mother returns—a mother she barely remembers. Belle also happens to be the captive of a terrifying, angry beast. And that is her primary concern. But Belle touches the Beast’s enchanted rose, intriguing images flood her mind—images of the mother she believed she would never see again. Stranger still, she sees that her mother is none other than the beautiful Enchantress who cursed the Beast, his castle, and all its inhabitants. Shocked and confused, Belle and the Beast must work together to unravel a dark mystery about their families that is twenty-one years in the making. My Thoughts: The prose was fairly mediocre, but I really liked the changes the author made to the Beauty and the Beast story. It’s not an easy one to pull off as a good retelling; weird enough that outside of the fairy-tale context often doesn’t work at all. But the background she built…

Jennifer the Damned
Young Adult / June 5, 2017

Author: Karen Ullo. Summary: When a sixteen-year-old orphan vampire adopted by an order of nuns matures into her immortal, blood-sucking glory, all hell literally breaks loose. Yet with every rapturous taste of blood, Jennifer Carshaw cannot help but long for something even more exquisite: the capacity to experience true love. As she struggles to balance her murderous secret life with homework, cross-country practice, and her first boyfriend, Jennifer delves into the terrifying questions surrounding her inhuman existence, driven by the unexpectedly human need to understand why she is doomed by a life she never chose. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Jennifer the Damned was marketed as an anecdote to modern vampire stories. It was supposed to hark back to Dracula and the other original horror tales. I was surprised and disappointed, therefore, at its ‘highschool YA feel’ and writing style. It felt like a YA vampire book + Catholicism, which is certainly more interesting than a straight vampire novel – but nothing like Dracula. To be fair, the Catholic element adds an entirely new layer to the entire story. Jennifer has never been baptized, ​but she learned to believe the Catholic truths from her vampire mother, who could, unlike any human…