Among the Red Stars
Young Adult / March 6, 2018

Author: Gwen C. Katz. Summary: World War Two has shattered Valka’s homeland of Russia, and Valka is determined to help the effort. She knows her skills as a pilot rival the best of the men, so when an all-female aviation group forms, Valka is the first to sign up. Flying has always meant freedom and exhilaration for Valka, but dropping bombs on German soldiers from a fragile canvas biplane is no joyride. The war is taking its toll on everyone, including the boy Valka grew up with, who is fighting for his life on the front lines. As the war intensifies and those around her fall, Valka must decide how much she is willing to risk to defend the skies she once called home. Inspired by the true story of the airwomen the Nazis called Night Witches, Gwen C. Katz weaves a tale of strength and sacrifice, learning to fight for yourself, and the perils of a world at war. My Thoughts: Great historical fiction! Among the Red Stars is set in Russia, World War II and heavily based in historical fact. Valka and Pasha, teenage friends separated by the war, are both heading off to fight for their country….

The Storyspinner
Young Adult / March 4, 2018

The Keeper’s Chronicles #1. Author: Becky Wallace. Summary: Drama and danger abound in this fantasy realm where dukes play a game for the throne, magical warriors race to find the missing heir, and romance blossoms where it is least expected. In a world where dukes plot their way to the throne, a Performer’s life can get tricky. And in Johanna Von Arlo’s case, it can be fatal. Expelled from her troupe after her father’s death, Johanna is forced to work for the handsome Lord Rafael DeSilva. Too bad they don’t get along. But while Johanna’s father’s death was deemed an accident, the Keepers aren’t so sure. The Keepers, a race of people with magical abilities, are on a quest to find the princess—the same princess who is supposed to be dead and whose throne the dukes are fighting over. But they aren’t the only ones looking for her. And in the wake of their search, murdered girls keep turning up—girls who look exactly like the princess, and exactly like Johanna. With dukes, Keepers, and a killer all after the princess, Johanna finds herself caught up in political machinations for the throne, threats on her life, and an unexpected romance that…

The Innocence Treatment
Young Adult / February 15, 2018

Author: Ari B. Goelman. Summary: Lauren has a disorder that makes her believe everything her friends tell her–and she believes everyone is her friend. Her innocence puts her at constant risk, so when she gets the opportunity to have an operation to correct her condition, she seizes it. But after the surgery, Lauren is changed. Is she a paranoid lunatic with violent tendencies? Or a clear-eyed observer of the world who does what needs to be done? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Yet another story fails to live up to a great premise. I do really like the format; some readers don’t like framing devices, but I’ve always felt like a good one can add a lot to the atmosphere and to the story. The Innocence Treatment is both a series of diary entries written by the main character, and a book annotated and published by her sister, which provides for some cool footnotes. And the ambiguous ending. But the actual story? So-so. Lauren is a bland personality. The dystopian aspect is hugely important to the overall story, yet we have very few details there. The side-characters she interacts with are even flatter, up to and including her boyfriend. The whole…

Enter Title Here
Young Adult / February 12, 2018

Author: Rahul Kanakia. Summary: Reshma is a college counselor’s dream. She’s the top-ranked senior at her ultra-competitive Silicon Valley high school, with a spotless academic record and a long roster of extracurriculars. But there are plenty of perfect students in the country, and if Reshma wants to get into Stanford, and into med school after that, she needs the hook to beat them all. What’s a habitual over-achiever to do? Land herself a literary agent, of course. Which is exactly what Reshma does after agent Linda Montrose spots an article she wrote for Huffington Post. Linda wants to represent Reshma, and, with her new agent’s help scoring a book deal, Reshma knows she’ll finally have the key to Stanford. But she’s convinced no one would want to read a novel about a study machine like her. To make herself a more relatable protagonist, she must start doing all the regular American girl stuff she normally ignores. For starters, she has to make a friend, then get a boyfriend. And she’s already planned the perfect ending: after struggling for three hundred pages with her own perfectionism, Reshma will learn that meaningful relationships can be more important than success—a character arc librarians…

Everfound
Young Adult / February 5, 2018

Skinjacker #3. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: While Mary lies in a glass coffin aboard a ghost train heading west, her minions are awaiting her re-awakening by bringing lots of new souls into Everlost to serve her. Meanwhile Jackin’ Jill has met Jix, a fur-jacker—a skin jacker who can take over the bodies of animals, most notably jaguars. Jix serves a Mayan god who collects Everlost coins, and has his own agenda. In the concluding volume of The Skinjacker Trilogy, Neal Shusterman reveals new sides of the characters of Everlost, who are pitted against each other in a battle that may destroy all life on Earth. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I’ve been thinking a good bit about this series, since finishing it. What makes it really fascinating is that Shusterman writes a morbid premise (dead children) into the whimsical world of Everlost, into an absolutely engaging story, tucks in a number of interesting reflections on death and life and the differences, and does it all without moralizing. See, the thing is, the children of Everlost consider themselves dead, but I don’t think they really are. They’re not dead, but not alive. (SPOILERS AHEAD for Everlost and Everwild) For one thing, there…

Nyxia
Young Adult / February 3, 2018

The Nyxia Triad #1. Author: Scott Reintgen. Summary: Emmett Atwater isn’t just leaving Detroit; he’s leaving Earth. Why the Babel Corporation recruited him is a mystery, but the number of zeroes on their contract has him boarding their lightship and hoping to return to Earth with enough money to take care of his family. Forever. Before long, Emmett discovers that he is one of ten recruits, all of whom have troubled pasts and are a long way from home. Now each recruit must earn the right to travel down to the planet of Eden—a planet that Babel has kept hidden—where they will mine a substance called Nyxia that has quietly become the most valuable material in the universe. But Babel’s ship is full of secrets. And Emmett will face the ultimate choice: win the fortune at any cost, or find a way to fight that won’t forever compromise what it means to be human. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Hm… the plot moves at a good clip, never too rushed but fast enough to keep me engaged. The main character was interesting, felt realistic, multifaceted and alive. Everything else was kind of a mess. The plot isn’t particularly original; at this…

Everwild
Young Adult / February 1, 2018

Skinjacker #2. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Everlost, the limbo land of dead children, is at war. Nick the “Chocolate Ogre” wants to help the children of Everlost reach the light at the end of the tunnel. Mary Hightower, self-proclaimed queen of lost children and dangerous fanatic, is determined to keep Everlost’s children trapped within its limbo for all eternity. Traveling in the memory of the Hindenburg, Mary is spreading her propaganda and attracting Afterlights to her cause at a frightening speed. Meanwhile, Allie the Outcast travels home to seek out her parents, along with Mikey, who was once the terrifying monster the McGill. Allie is tempted by the seductive thrill of skinjacking the living, until she discovers the shocking truth about skinjackers. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: So if the first book was a lot of set up, this is the part where that pays off. One awesome bit is how Neal Shusterman embraces the fairy-tale feeling of Everlost itself. Limbo is at war, but this is so much more than a war of numbers – it is a war of propaganda. The Sky Witch versus the Chocolate Ogre. The most dangerous enemy is someone completely convinced they are in the…

Everlost
Young Adult / January 28, 2018

Skinjacker #1. Author: Neal Shusterman. Summary: Nick and Allie don’t survive the car accident… …but their souls don’t exactly get where they’re supposed to get either. Instead, they’re caught halfway between life and death, in a sort of limbo known as Everlost: a shadow of the living world, filled with all the things and places that no longer exist. It’s a magical, yet dangerous place where bands of lost children run wild and anyone who stands in the same place too long sinks to the center of the Earth. When they find Mary, the self-proclaimed queen of lost kids, Nick feels like he he’s found a home, but Allie isn’t satisfied spending eternity between worlds. Against all warnings, Allie begins learning the “Criminal Art” of haunting, and ventures into dangerous territory, where a monster called the McGill threatens all the souls of Everlost. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Everlost is a bit like Alice in Wonderland – if Wonderland made sense, in an internal self-contained way. I mean, our characters fall down a long hole into a strange, often whimsical, new land. A land where how you remember yourself determines your appearance, where falling straight to the center of the earth…

The Last Girl on Earth
Young Adult / January 18, 2018

Author: Alexandria Blogier. Summary: Raised among them.> Li has a father and a sister who love her. A best friend, Mirabae, to share things with. She goes to school and hangs out at the beach and carefully follows the rules. She has to. Everyone she knows–her family, her teachers, her friends–is an alien. And she is the only human left on Earth. A secret that could end her life. The Abdoloreans hijacked the planet sixteen years ago, destroying all human life. Li’s human-sympathizer father took her in as a baby and has trained her to pass as one of them. The Abdoloreans appear human. But they don’t think with human minds or feel with human hearts. And they have special abilities no human could ever have. Fit in or die. When Li meets Ryn, she’s swept up in a relationship that could have disastrous consequences. How far will Li go to stay alive? Will she save herself–and in turn, the human race–or will she be the final witness to humanity’s destruction? (Published Summary) My Thoughts: I have no idea how Li survived all seventeen years before the book opens. None. So she’s the last human, surrounded by aliens who’d kill…

The Language of Thorns
Young Adult / January 6, 2018

Midnight Tales and Dangerous Magic. Author: Leia Bardugo. Summary: Love speaks in flowers. Truth requires thorns. Travel to a world of dark bargains struck by moonlight, of haunted towns and hungry woods, of talking beasts and gingerbread golems, where a young mermaid’s voice can summon deadly storms and where a river might do a lovestruck boy’s bidding but only for a terrible price. (Published Summary) My Thoughts: Oh, this is very pretty. Each fairytale echoes an older, familiar tale, but they’re not retellings. Some of them are set before the story they echo, or after, and some of them just say what if. What if the girl realized that three impossible missions is an uncertain way to choose a husband, and said no? What if the stepmother wasn’t always evil, but assumptions were made and real culprits overlooked? What if the characters looked and saw the truth of life and didn’t believe in happily-ever-after, but still found a happily-right-now? Leigh Bardugo is intimately familiar with fairy tales, with their language and their rules, with their heroes and their villains, with their slide from whimsical to bloody and back again. Anyone can craft a clever what-if twist, can claim to re-write…